Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trade Embargo

Here is my take on the situation.

1.There is a standing boycott against the entry of agricultural products from Haiti into the DR. As a consequence, people in Azua are eating crummy Red Delicious apples with no nutrition from Washington State.
2.The banana docks at Pepe Salcido are completely unused.
3.There is an embargo on the importation of all poultry products from the DR into Haiti.
3.There is a backlog of trucks coming into at Jimani
4.There is a new town at Belledare
5.There is a beautiful city at San Juan de Maguana
6. There is an open road in from the Cap to Ouanminthe to Santiago
7. The lake at Jimani is flooding over the road

My recommendations are as follows:

The DR lifts the ban on agricultural imports from Haiti and allows Haiti to tranship through the DR
In return, the Haitian mango growers alllowDominican fruit growers access to their USDA preapproval hot water plants.
Haiti will lift the ban on the importation on eggs and cooked chicken products.
In return, the DR will assist and equip the government of Haiti in customs clearance equipment so that everything can be done by computer and wire transfers from Santo Domingo to Port au Prince. Currently Dominican drivers must carry cash for the taxes.

Traffic should be redirected from the flood zone at Jimini around to Belledare so that road crews can begin work on the road. This can be done of course, in no time at all, with very little money as we have about 300,000 workers within an hour who wake up every day with nothing to eat.

There is absolutely no question at all of lifting the ban on the importation of live chickens from the Dominican Republic into Haiti as the Dominican Republic is a cock fighting country and the roosters travel about in the arms of the men. Forget it. Never going to happen.


Bulliten From HAITI

I just returned from 4 days in HAITI.

It is peaceful and calm.

They desperately need translators.

All Haitian Americans are to send one family member home to help protect the homeland.

There is dancing in the streets.

Rise up Singing

Go Obama!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Linking to Friends

I am adding a new link to a Quaker blogger from the San Francisco Meeting -- a green convergent Friend.

And wish to point you towards another friend, who has just arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Settling In

It was a banner day. My downstairs neighbor invited me for a ladies’ luncheon. It is almost a year that I have been in this apartment complex, a small older condominium in the older, no longer quite chic part of the city. I am the only foreigner which makes me feel very safe.

Crime is on the rise here, Ten years ago, Santo Domingo was known as one of the safest cities in the hemisphere but since the US changed its deportation policies, the nation has been plagued with crime. They refer to it as “delinquencia” acknowleging that it is mostly the young men who are at fault. I talk with them when I can, telling them that they must change the word. It is not “delinqencia” when the perpetrators are armed, when they go after credit cards and passports.

But today I felt safe and warm. My hostess used to live in NYC, where she worked for the United Nations. My neighbor from across the hall was there as well and we chatted away, jabbered away in Spanish.

We talked about Quakers (que es eso?) Bush, and Iraq, and racism, and Haiti, and Obama and Hillary. About how most Americans are taught a clean version of history, how they do not know about the number of times the army occupied the DR, and Haiti.

We talked of the African American’s dislike of Latinos, and how these Dominicans could not understand why American blacks had not risen, since they had access to higher education.

I did some shameless campaigning for Barack. How proud I am that he received the majority o the votes of the WHITE MEN in Georgia. Proud of us. How far we have come in only one lifetime.

I reminded them that the United States had a form of racial segregation that was akin to apartheid.

And my hostess remembered. She had been in NYC when Harry Belefonte and Petula Clark held hand, exchanged a chaste kiss on Ed Sullivan – the uproar that ensued.

It is not that “no hay racismo aqui” as they say. Hay racismo. But the racism is a bit softer, a bit easier. For the most part, this is a lovely mixed race nation.

I was almost dancing during my evening walk along the Malecon, feeling the salt water whipping up over the coast line, listening to Wyclef Jean in my Ipod, working up a sweat.

I thought of all the pictures of the winter weather and wondered why more of you are not here.

Seems a pity.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Delicate Balance

There were two ( and here )films recently about the terrible conditions of the Haitian workers on the sugar cane fields. In addition, a local human rights worker was awarded recognition by the RFK Memorial organization in Washington, DC. The US Embassy here has declared first one then another dance club off limits to Embassy employees because of racial discrimination policies.

There was a concerted push on behalf of some international NGO's, decrying the discrimination against Haitians here. There has been a loud scream that there is no racism here.

It is complicated. There is the issue of national sovereignty, of defending the borders against the "invasion" from a failed state next door.

And then there is racism.

But we have seen this in the US. We have had this discussion. We have come through denial.

Last week, 40% of the white males in the Georgia democratic primary, voted for Obama.

You will hear Dominicans talk about Obama. What they will say is, for the most part, racist.

Friday, February 8, 2008

At Arm´s Length

I have the dubious honor of being called anti-Dominican on Dominican lists and anti-Haitian on the Haitian lists. In time, I begin to break through a bit to the more intelligent posters, to those who are really interested in making peace, in having a positive outcome.

It is astonishing to me how invested these two nations are in their historical grudges against one another, how much they delight in nursing their historic wounds, how quick they are to turn their backs on one another, how little they seem to care for one another. Sometimes I just have to stand back and let them throw punches.

They seem to think that one can get along without the other, as if they did not share an island, an ecosystem, a history.

Sometimes there seems to be so much pain on both sides, that neither one is heard.

One thing that they can unite on is that --- it is usually the fault of the United States. Really.... from bird flu to the abuse of the Haitians...

Glad that we could be of use.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bird flu closes border

The was a bird flu outbreak here and Haiti has closed its borders, costing the DR millions of dollars a week. Read my story here

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Living Here

This is a beautiful island, a beautiful country, filled with very loving people. I have been here over three years and still don't know if I am staying. But there are many of you who read this who are wondering if you, too, can pick up and leave your homes and start over again.

I have so much more sympathy for immigrants now. How hard it is to leave your roots, your music, your language, your familiar cuisine, your friends, your church, your neighborhood. It takes years to become fluent in another language. I have an ear for languages, at one time I was almost bilingual in French, dreaming in French, thinking in French. Now I can make myself understood here, can understand when I am spoken to directly. I can read the paper with ease and follow the news on television. But I sink into a sort of whimpering fog when locals start to talk with one another. I used to find myself shouting when they did not understand me... honestly... just saying the same thing louder.. How silly.

Here's what I love most - the climate-- no winter, no snow, no ice. It has dropped down to the 60's at night and I have to put on long sleeves. But August is a long way away now, a dim memory of the paralytic heat, although, truth be told, it is no worse than Washington, DC. It is almost always sunny. Wonderfully, gloriously bright.

And the Fruit. Honestly, you up there in the north have never really tasted tropical fruit. Oh bananas transport pretty well but you have yet to fall in love with the papaya. Every two blocks there is someone selling fresh fruit, little plates of cut up fresh fruit. And guanabana.. you did not even know it existed, right?

The doctors here give you their cell phone numbers. OK, it is true that as a gringo I pay the full price, and am to be treasured but I have never had a doctor call me at home the next day to see if I was alj right. Never. It is hard enough to get them to visit you when you are actually under their care in the hospital. I have only had little things, an intestinal bug, an ear infection, a skin infection, but these doctors are highly educated, very qualified. It is just that they lack all the equipment, the bells, the whistles, the hi tech stuff.

I love that I can put some money directly into the hands of the needy. Around my house there are a few older women who regularly beg, one has a swollen leg, one is just apparantly poor - although who knows, she may do very well.. Whenever I hand them my few pesos, I am grateful that my mother never had to beg.

I love that I am contributing to the developing world. I hope that my work as a reporter is helping but if not, at least all the money that I spend, my rent, my food, my cell phone, goes into this country's economy.

I love that I am living in a furnished apartment and loving it. I believe that my rent is my landlady's major (if not sole) source of income. She has told me that every night when she prays she thanks God for the Pope and for me.

I love that I can call the local colmado to have my water delivered. And give the young man a good tip. Ditto the young man who carries my groceries up three flights of stairs.

I love that I do not know the names of most of the trees yet. They are mostly always green. And suddenly I will look up and one will be in bloom , great orange blossoms I saw today. I cannot yet understand the climate that affects them, how some come into bloom now and others five months from now.

I love that the mango tree outside my balcony already has small fruit on it although they will not be ripe until June.

I love that the people here actually dance with one another. Intricate delicate rhythms, right out in the open colmados, next to their one bottle of beer, shared among them.

I love the way they love their families. Every Sunday, the parking area is packed and the apartments are packed with relatives.

I love that when it is a holiday, everyone takes it. The stores are all closed. The Capital streets are empty and silent.

I love that I can get to a tropical beach inside thirty minutes.

I love that I can swim in an outdoor pool, underneath the sun, with no lane barriers and not come out feeling that I just soaked in chlorine.

I love that they all know the words to the popular songs and sing along with them. The cheaper long distance buses are like a college outing, everyone talking and singing.

I love that they travel with 7 people in a taxi cab and do not complain.

I love that they consider New York part of their own country.

I love their baseball teams and that you can sit in the best seats for $13.

I love that I speak Spanish with Germans and Russians.

I love that I read the Spanish subtitles for the Arabic that is spoken on Syriana.

I love the grass quits, the little finches that swarm the bird feeder on my balcony and keep me company with my morning coffee.

I love the coffee.

I love the tenderness and pride with which the Domincan men treat their fighting roosters, although I have no desire to actually see the fight.

I love that the people are mostly shades of brown.

I love that they are not at war, nor ever have been, except for their own independence.

I love the way that when you ask them how they are they answer:
Fine, thanks be to God.

Quaker Blog

Since I am not an evangelist, I have started a new blog on which I will post matters more related to my spiritual journey, as a convinced Quaker a long way from Meeting.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Whale Songs

It is easy to forget nature sometimes, living in the city.

Friends were visiting last weekend from the Samana Peninsula, and reminded me that the Whales have arrived.

The Dominican Republic is the birth place of the entire North Atlantic family of humpback whales. They travel here from as far away as Norway and Greenland. They do not eat for six months while en route and down here giving birth. They come to the warm shallow waters in Samana Bay and off the Silver Banks to mate and birth. Each year, the males start their journey singing a new song, different songs. By the time they reach the DR, all are singing the same song.

Click here to hear a bit of their singing.

While many people may have been whalle watching, fewer have seen these great mammals in their breeding cycle. During this time, they are closer to the surface more of the time since a newborn whale can only be on the surface a minute at a time. And then must dive down to nurse, drinking, I think I remember, about a gallon of milk a minute. They must learn to swim beneath the waves within their first three months, ready to make their northern passage back to the feeding grounds before the adults run out of strength.

Each whale has a distinctive mark on the back side of her tale, a finger print. Over time, the whale watchers here and in Canada and the States and Europe have been able to collect photographs and complile geneologies of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, tracing them by their tale print.

If I were to draw up a list of the 7 wonders of the natural world, these whales would certainly be near the top. When I first saw one, right next to our boat which must have been about 40 feet long, the whale was just the same size, tears ran down my cheeks.

What a magnificent being. What an honor to share the planet with them.

Come. See them for yourselves.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A small reminder

From a previous post:

Henri Christophe became President of Haiti in 1807. He writes of the French:
Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks,
crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars? Have they
not forced them to eat shit? And, having flayed them with the lash, have they
not cast them alive to be devoured by worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to
stakes in the swamp to be devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into
boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels
studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss? Have they
not consigned these miserable blacks to man eating-dogs until the latter, sated
by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and

Let Them Eat Dirt

Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt
By JONATHAN M. KATZ – 2 days ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.
The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.
"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.
Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. "When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too," she said.
Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.
The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.
The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit in December to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.
At the market in the La Saline slum, two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.
Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.
Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, a maze of tables of vegetables and meat swarming with flies. Women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies in places such as Fort Dimanche, a nearby shanty town.
Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which the slum is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.
The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.
A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.
Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.
Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.
"Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it," said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti's health ministry.
Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.
"I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," she said. "I know it's not good for me."