Crudeness and Creoloe
Creole is crude. it's harsh and loud, more like a drum beat than a melody. The slaves came up with it, just like they came up with Vodou. It makes me wonder about the kind of shit that they'd say to each other, the kind of shit they'd say about their masters. Creole, like Vodou is aggressive and unholy. Earthy and dirty. There is a saying in Haiti: "JPP or Janl pase lpase." It'll be how it'll be. It's a necessary philosophy when you're 18 and can't feed your four children or when you're a maid and your employer is a rich business owner that treats you like shit and doesn't pay you your Christmas bonus even after you've been cleaning his dying father's diapers. I'd qualify as a lower middle class Haitian. I've never been starving or without shelter even when my parents were struggling. I've always been relatively comfortable. I came back to Haiti after having lived 10 years in the States, struggling with retail jobs and I had almost forgotten what my homeland was like. In the states' everybody is equal and I had forgotten about the two sides to this place. On the one hand there is the side you see as someone drive's you around. You'll see the narrow roads crowded with cars and motorcycle drivers all thinking they own the place. You'll see businesses and a façade of things viable to a city. You might visit the mountain or the coast and see the beauty in those. It'll look like a third world country like you might have thought of a third world country, but nothing to spill your guts over. You'll dine in pretty good restaurants even though your hotel and the stink of the street might disappoint you. What you won't see are the corridors where poor merchants gather and the slums and the little places downtown that really show you what kind of shithole you're in. If you're lucky enough to have someone guide you, or if you are apt enough to ingratiate yourself with the people, you'll walk through those tight spaces packed with merchandise and people, and trash and feces and piss like one big indistinguishable, immutable lump. I'm not sure what'll get to you first, the eyesore or the smell. The lumps of trash or the indescribable stink. Blame colonialism. Blame Government corruption. Blame Bill Clinton and his half-hearted apology for destroying the rice production in Haiti in favor of exporting the commodity from his farmers in Arkansas. Blame Papa Doc. Blame Aristid. Blame Sweet Mickey and all the other shitheads who've robbed this place blind on the backs of an ignorant population whose only crime is not knowing any better. Yes, Haiti is a shithole. The shithole I was born in. The shithole I thought I had run away from. I had forgotten about the children spending their days on piles of trash, digging for food or toys or whatever it is you can find in there. I had forgotten about the slums that contrast with the big cement houses with barbed wires on the walls and armed guards at the front, bullet proof cars comfortably parked inside. I had forgotten about the dust, like a cloud of ashes on the city. If the earthquake didn't destroy this place, I don't think anything will, for better or worse.
On a balcony in an apartment my grandfather had built years ago, past some vines that cover a streak of walls to a supermakert that overlooks the ashy, dusty street, I have a view of the slums that have invaded Morn Calvere, like a colorful fungus. It wasn't there 10 years ago and now you can see its parasitic spread. Everything is weird here to me now, except the whores. No Dominoes or Arbys for my sad nights. Nope. Not even liquor being that I’m broke and in therapy. Just this laptop, Amazon video and the whores when I can afford them. I've already run my credit short here.
Downtown Port-au-Prince, Portail Leogane. I'm not sure where the traffic is going. Cars, mostly trucks and motorcycles seem to be coming and going whichever way they want. There's that same coat of dust everywhere and trash floating in small swamps of stagnant, stinking water before the sidewalks, silent nests for mosquitoes, parasites and bacteria. They are called rigol. As we park, a drunk in rags asks me in his version of English for 10 dollars. I say I'm broke. "Whatever" he says. I'm glad that we're both like minded. I get out. I'm with my uncle. He is setting up a lottery business. The irony here is that people still count on luck. Lottery shacks are everywhere and have names that start with "Papa or Lion, or Confiance (trust)", names that make you feel like you'll be blessed if you play. To get to the business, we have to cross a rigol, with water in a color I'll call "gang green." There is a man smiling as he washes his face in it as I take his picture. That he can smile while using this water is altogether mind blowing and mind boggling. He's lost some teeth and his disheveled and derelict appearance echo the entire area. It's the voice of the country. "We've been fucked in the ass with no vaseline, but we can still smile, sing, shit and fuck." As I smile back to him because, what else am I going do, a young girl comes up to me and asks me why I'm taking pictures. I say I'm doing journalism work. She says it's for money. I say not exactly. I ask her her name, and she says it shyly, with her head slightly bent. The man washing his face in the "gang green" water says it's her real name, that she doesn't give it to everyone. I've already forgotten it but I'm afraid to ask again. What is clear is that for this moment, she and I are friends and the man loving his dirty water next to us, is our chaperon. His shirt says: "Let's Get Weird." I take it as a sign and take the girl around with me as I take pictures. I tell her that she's bringing me luck because of Erzulie and she keeps looking at me in a way that makes me not know what to do. She is 18. She is pregnant, maybe 6 months, probably from a drunk son of a bitch during carnival. More than likely that man will never be in that child's life, a child doomed to be a bastard, maybe like his/her father. She is wearing a dirty blue dress and something wrapped around her braided hair. We walk around and she asks me to grope her for money. I say I won't. She says for free. I hug her. She smells like a body that hasn't bathed in days, but it still smells sweet, like a woman. I am now lost in mix of pity, disgust, awkwardness and shame. Who will help her with this child? I doubt that she can even read and I can't keep entertaining her. I'm happy enough my uncle took me here where I can photograph… Nothing has gotten better from my childhood. My civic achievement here was that I participated in GNB, at least how I could. I was a teenager then, and for those of you who don't know, it was the second time Hatians overthrew Jean Bertrand Aristide (well the first; his first ouster was a forced exile on US orders). GNB stands for "Dick in the ass, let's do it." It was the resistance. I remember the excitement at hearing the rebels nearing, the final protest, during which, I must admit, for the first time in my life, I had witnessed Haitians of all walks of life united against a common enemy, chanting: "Grenn nan Bounda ann ale" and there was a general glimmer of hope in everyone's eyes that things would get better. Even after the protest was broken up by armed thugs who shot at us, there was a uniting hope that the new government would be our salvation. Where are you now GNB? Where are you now Andy Apaid? Apaid was the leader of GNB, and when the interim government came he turned his back so quickly on the movement, you'd think he had jerked us for a smile then picked us with an aids needle while we weren't looking. He sold out, like they all do. Most of the men in our history are sellouts and our history is broken history.
My friend and I drive around at night looking for something to do. At this time the streets corners are filled with whores. They've replaced the motorcyclists of the day as the streets' most prominent eye sores (to those who don't like them at least). From not being able to make any turns without worrying that some guy will just rush by you on his bike, at night, you will not be spared at cat call from the Petion-Ville prostitutes packed at every street corner, even at one next to my grandfather's, or I should now say, my apartment. Some club is hosting a DJ, we go. I am pleasantly surprised to see mixed classes intermingling, gays and lesbians coming out and dancing freely. Something I that I'd have never witnessed in my younger days. I have really completely lost touch with this place. My friend and I go to a dancing club, or I should say, somewhere that's not exactly a strip club. It's a Kompas Bar and while you get some drinks there, girls come and dance with you and sometimes grab your dick. It's our version of Hooters. I talk to the girls. One is newly pregnant, the other has kids and tells me she is not making enough money to know what to do with them. I get all this information because I have curly hair and friend is light skinned. We're "upper class." I was here to have a good time. America had made me look at all people from an equal plane and I forgotten the distance exists between myself and the average Haitian. America had made me feel free, but you learn that freedom varies on location. People here can see that there is something naïve about me, and I get mostly smiles, like I'm funny. Even when I can't get it hard after my friend and I take this whore. He's fucking her and she's going at my junk like she can suck gold out of it and I feel like nothing. She can tell, she still calls me sweetie. I am altogether amused and baffled to see that this is where I've ended, getting my limped dick sucked after breaking up with my girlfriend, and leaving everything I had to start a "new life." My place, my dogs, my cats. I lost everything on the account of a nervous breakdown. And now I'm counting on medication, whores and liquor. Everything in Haiti is done out in the open, even the ugly stuff. You don't have to feign decency like in America. I will be here now for the better part of a year. This is not where I saw myself ending up.
They once called Haiti the pearl of the Islands. It was the cream of the Carribeans. Why else would Columbus rape, murder and torture naive Tainos. Columbus day is like Robert E. Lee day is like Hitler day... It doesn't make any fucking sense. Some places here are nice enough. I can see the beauty and the potential beauty with my industrialized and commercialized American eyes. If the infrastructure was good, there could be tourists and shops and accessible restaurants. How much better for the locals. They'd be more educated, instead of these rough manners I had forgotten about, like people whipping their dicks out and pissing in public like it's normal. Something in me strongly believes in manners, even with the whores. I make them sandwhiches and listen to them talk and kiss them. Yes. Even when the condom pops and I get shit scared. I kiss Mireille's hand and look at her as she washes her pussy with a bucket of water next to the bed in this tiny room my pimp of a housekeeper advertizes as fuckshack. She reassures me. Don't worry she says then sighs. The other time it happened, there wasn't a bucket and we had to use drinking water. I'm crossing my fingers. It's a sorry jungle here. Things grow wild and it's not such a good thing. I'm getting there too, slowly putrefying. It's a mountainous island, and the hills are like brown elephants. They curve into each other and sometimes split in such lovely organic molds and cracks, like ass and pussy, like the earth is fucking itself. Towers like big frozen, brown and green oceans, liquid that froze, dried, crusted and unmoving. Lava or whatever, I’m not a geologist. And you can't smell the piss from the mountains. That acrid smell of uric acid stays in the city in exchange for this smell of red earth and conifers and horseass. And I love it. I see a big tree that fell from the hurricane, and I wonder what'll happen if a natural catastrophe strikes again. Erosion is a real problem both politically and naturally. The poor cut trees and make charcoal, the rich drill sand and sell it, all to the detriment of the land. People don't think about the future here. Haiti is in its essence all about the day to day struggle. Fuck planning. People here believe that it'll all work out somehow and back to my new apartment which now feels like home, I feel like I've regained a lost edge. It's raining, thunder flashes and lights up the slums. They have a perverse beauty from the candles and cheap bulbs twinkling like stars from whatever electric highjack the residents managed. That's when I remember all the toilet workers in the Miami clubs, and the clerk at the gas station in a racist Fort-Lauderdale area who told me that he cried like a baby the first day he worked there. Haitians really do take being fucked over gracefully.
Darryl Wawa: "I am a a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. I enjoy chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. I love to work with images and words and their pairing."