Thursday, August 5, 2010

it's the peanut butter

I found out what is slowing my shipment down. Peanut butter. Not surprising. Peanut butter is by nature slow. It sticks to the roof of your mouth. The two 3 gallon buckets of organic peanut butter that was donated at the last minute to send to the orphanages is creating a sticky situation. That and hiring a dude that apparently doesn't know how to fill out customs documents despite his extravagant claims of a seemingly magical ability to get your stuff through in 48 hours. Now three weeks later and $260 poorer he has disappeared. When I call him he screams at me. I quit him.

You might be thinking, "she is failing, she really didn't plan that well for customs" You are sort of right. I am flailing a bit. It's Haiti, though. There is no systematic protocol for customs. They change on you willy nilly. Even large NGO's have had shipments stuck in customs for months and months. The failure is of epic proportions and it's across the board no matter what size org you are. I would have been wiser to build the domes here, but I had no funding whatsoever. I did what I could do within the means available to me. Nothing in my experience is a waste of time. All the mistakes are lessons to do it better next time.

It was another hard day. I woke up not feeling positive. Just going through the motions. Wake up with the cock a doodling doo doo, look at the clock on my ipod, get a bucket of water out of the cistern, dump it over my head, make mate, drink mate, eat spagetti and hard boiled eggs, got on the bike to go meet Phanio at the Duone. I had a meeting with Madame Decsolines at the Protection Civil at 8:30 am and so I had arranged to meet Phanio at 8 at the Duone and drive us up there. I got there and he was not there. It was 8:05. This was the beginning of a long hard hot day.

I called Phanio and he said he was at the garage where the car he crashed yesterday was being fixed. Nice. So I called up Julian who really is my ace the hole. He is totally dependable. He said to meet him at his place on Delma 18. He gave me directions. I got lost. Surprise! Haiti is Hard.
Even getting lost is not easily solved. I called Julian. "I'm lost" he said, "give the phone to someone on the street so I can ask them where you are" Genius. Julian is awesome. He moved to NYC when he was 14. We have a symbiotic relationship. I pay him to be my guide and translator. He is learning how to be a good translator with me. I am very attentive to conversations. Sometimes I make him say things he is too polite to say. He also has my back in ways I cant even describe in words. I love this guy. He was furious with me today for not calling him yesterday to help navigate the customs shit because Phanio royally screwed it up by creating a second folder. He wanted to help but it made matters worse and it gave Madame a headache.

I went back to the traffic circle with the giant globe and the three hands holding it up. I stopped the bike in the shade and waited for him. I was already drenched with sweat, my appearance was not crisp and clean for my meeting with the Madame and I was terribly horribly late. Staying clean and presentable in Haiti is impossible. You are filthy and sweat drenched within a half hour of pouring buckets of water over your noodle. I call them Mercy Buckets

He got on the bike and directed me. To the ministry of finance. The wrong one. I told him, this is not where we were yesterday. We called Phanio and he magically appeared a few minutes later. I dont know how that happened. I was annoyed with him but he kissed me on the cheek. He gave us directions and I made Julian write them down.

We drove off. We went to see the Madame. She was not pleased. We have two folders. She had a headache. We did everything backwards and we have peanut butter. It wasnt looking good. She got annoyed when I told her that I knew Anderson Cooper and he was very interested in my story. She didn't know who that is so I said I was going to call up CNN. Not a good idea. She got pissed off. I was told last night that I never listen to people's advice. It's not true, but I decided to listen to someone's advice and pull the Anderson Cooper card. It was bad. Maybe I dont listen to people's advice because it usually sucks. Just saying. I listen when it's good, though.

So she cooled out, I apologized, she told us what we needed to do, there was a certificate that needed to be re-made as well as one of the documents. The dude I hired didn't make them right the first time and the one that the guy under the tree by the air duon was just the same. It didn't list peanut butter! or Liquid Soap! Or Tools! Or Leather! Holy shit!

So we drove back to the Duon and the typewriter dude was still there! I love that guy. He is so calm and efficient with his pens in his shirt pocket and his manual typewriter and rusty stapler. What else do you need? A fax machine? Dare to dream. He has a fan club too it seems. A bunch of guys were hanging out with him. We called up the Madame to make sure that we got the words right this time. She was not happy that we were not using her guy. Apparently she had a guy we were supposed to be using. So we left Mr. Typewriter and decided to grab a bite to eat across from the airport.

There are a bunch of food venders set up across from the airport. It's a kind of an outdoor restaurant situation. I ordered vegetarian food, salad and rice and beans ha ha. It was really good. There were a bunch of street kids begging aggressively and then a couple kids sitting quietly at the end of our table, patiently waiting for us to get full and give them the rest of what we didnt eat. The patiently waiting tactic pays off better than the agressive begging technique. The lady serving food looked exhausted and tres cho. She tried to hit the aggressive beggar kid with a wicker chair. There was a lady making smoothies of like fifty different fruits. I could not resist, it smelled so good. It was amazing. I am totally starved for fruit. The smoothies were enormous. We couldn't drink them all. A tiny somewhat aggressive kid came up to us with a styrofoam cup and stared longingly at my smoothie. We filled up his cup

We paid up and drove back through the hairy est traffic on the planet and went to the other Duone the boat one and met another dude. He was in an air conditioned Truck. We got in. He poured over our dossier and asked alot of questions about the peanut butter and the machete.

He got it all figured out and then he brought up the payment. He was going to charge 80 bucks! American! To type up a couple documents. He didnt even have a manual typewriter. Just a real office that we were sitting in a truck in front of. I told him that the guy under the tree charged 6 bucks. We bartered back and forth. It was merciless. I told him I'd rather spend the money on buying 3 mattresses for the orphans. He finally relented and agreed to do it for free.

He went back up into his office and left us sitting in his truck. I got out and went across the street and bought a couple drinks from a guy making fresh squeezed orange juice. It was so DELICIOUS.

I had Julian call the Madame and tell her we would be back in a half hour to get her signature. She said she was done for the day. Maybe she had a migraine or cramps. I'm sure it was unbearable, whatever it was, to make her end her day at 3pm

We got the documents and hit the dusty dirty treacherously garbage covered streets, There is a stretch of road by the Duone that is just hideously bad. People are sorting through enormous piles of clothes by the side of the road. I asked Julian, "whats up with the clothes?" He said "those are the clothes other people are finished wearing' Oh, I said, used clothing sale. It was nothing like the bargain barn in santa cruz, though.

I told Julian I needed to get a nice shirt and pants to wear to customs. My shit is dirty and not presentable at all. I brought work clothes and short shorts. It's all I wear. This shows how tolerant Julian is. He took me clothes shopping. Shopping on the street is like going to war or something. People assault you physically. Or maybe they were just assaulting me because I am white. It's rare to see other white people. When I do, they are usually whizzing by in an SUV with all the windows rolled up.

I just wanted to get a simple button up blouse with short sleeves. and some linen pants or light weight ones. The woman's clothing market was an outdoor doo dad. The shirts were so frilly and lacy. I cant represent that. I managed to find one cotton blouse for under ten bucks. Woman venders were yelling at me and actually hitting me with their shirts and dresses. I have never understood this tactic of selling shit. Do you really think I am going to want to buy something with you standing there yelling at me?
Chill out, ladies. I found a blouse and then bought a couple men's wife beaters and a special little washcloth sweat rag. Everyone carries them, to mop the sweat off your face.

I'm super sleepy. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow is a new day. Thanks to everyone for commenting. I love feedback and it's a real boost to hear from folks.


  1. I know you will achieve success! You have great sticktoitivness! Greater than peanutbutter! Go Domes For Haiti!!

  2. I am reading every day!

    Chill Out Ladies!!!!!
    Lopi in Haiti!

    From here it looks like you are doing amazingly well with the non stop challenges. Please ride well on your motorbike! You have already survived the face plant though amazing. I am rooting for you 100% Take your time and make it work.

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  4. This has the makings of a great flik. You are going to adopt Julian and Live happily ever after!

    And never eat peanut butter again!

    One Love,

    U. Sam

  5. why would i adopt a full grown man?