Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Today I feel like I really accomplished something major. I woke up absolutely determined to take control of the customs situation. I was done with Mr. DB and his eternal cloud of the hopeless tomorrows. Just so done with it, completely over it. So I got completely determined to get it done myself. Today.

I got on the bike and drove over to the amerijet warehouse. I figured if I brought all the copies of the documents there, the lady who speaks perfect english would at least let me lay eyes on my shipment. I thought that would be a good starting point. When I asked her where she was from she said "all over" new jersey, new york etc

She said she could certainly let me look at my stuff.

I walked back into the warehouse and a nice dude named Julio showed me to them. There they were! I nearly wept with tears of joy at our reunion. Actually, I am lying, I was not ready to cry joy yet and I was more swept over by an intense urge to steal a fork lift and drive the shit all the way back to base on it. But I calmed down and took some photos.

I went back into the office and had a conversation with the lady from all over. I asked her what the order of events would be if my stuff was already in inspections as DB had claimed last thursday. She informed me that the Duon downtown which we had went to the other day to find the expedited customs orifice is the Duon (customs) for Ships. The airplane Duon is the one across from the airport. Oh! The sweet taste of discovery filled my taste buds.

She told me that there is a little mini customs office right there in her warehouse. We went back there and had a little chat with them and I took note of the meticulous order of the place. Folders were stacked in every corner of the room and there was several log books which look like they had not only survived the earthquake but also a few million years of erosion. They were the first of many of the exact same type of books I was to see today.

They poured over the logbook with their eyes, using their hands as if they were massaging the pages of the books. As if they were written in Braille. Their entire data base had crashed when the earthquake happened. Their data base was stored in the minds of the men and women who died. That explains much of the confusion among the customs workers on how things should work. Add to that the displacement of offices and normal protocol just flies out the window. Normal was ill functioning at best, I am pretty sure.

The folder was not there. She told me to go to the customs office across from the airport about two blocks away. So I jumped on the bike and went over there. I went into the office and was welcomed by a cool blast. I looked around and recognized the lady I "spoke" with last time. Spoke is used very generously in this instance. Mimed would be more accurately used.

I gave her the bundle of papers I had in my hands and made a gesture like I was praying. She smiled. "We will looking" I needed the originals to get my shipment out. She handed my papers to a young man sitting at another table. I watched keenly from across the room to see what would be done with the papers. The woman sitting next to the young man was totally crashed out with her head down on a pile of folders. This was not the first person I saw today totally unabashedly sleeping on their desks.

I watched the guy listlessly move the paper this way and that, saw him staring off into space for a while, I tried to look to see what he was staring at and it was a point somewhere up near the air conditioning unit. He then started to fan himself with my papers. That's when I caught his eye. He said something, I dont know what, but I vigorously nodded my head yes.

He signaled me to come over. That was my introduction to the guy that was to become my savior today. His name is Phanio. He spoke very little English but enough to communicate with me. He said, "we going to amerijet warehouse now" we went outside and I asked if we were going to walk he said yes. In creole you would say ale nan pye which means to go by foot. I said I have a motorbike. We got on and drove over. We went into the same small room, this time they had the tv on with what looked like a telenova playing on it.

They did more folder sorting and log book massaging to no avail. He asked me again if he could call the guy, Mr. DB. I said no, he is very angry. Finally I agreed to call him. He went from zero to 200 in less than a minute when he realized it was me. "I really dont like you" he yelled. I said "I dont care if you like me, where is my paperwork??" He screamed "It's at the Minister of Finance and I will call you when he calls me!!!" I hung up. I told Phanio, "It's at the Minister of Finance" He said, "we will go there and get it" There was another man standing there, who I later learned was a Pastor named Cange Victor. He has a school called "College Bird" He told me this later, so I will come back to it, but I will say that I recognized the name because one of the orphanages I visited said he gives them food. I asked the both of them if they thought I was dressed properly for the Minister of Finance. The answer was pretty clear. No. Cover your legs. Wear a button up shirt.

So I dropped him off back at the Duon and headed back to camp to get presentable. I was sorely tempted to wear a tutu and ballet slippers but damn if there were none available at the base. So I borrowed a nice white button up blouse from BZ and put on my only long pants, some army green doo dads. I showered before I got dressed. It works better that way. By "shower" I mean, I poured a bucket of cold water over me.

I went back and picked up my new friend and we drove off. We went further than I've driven yet. Some of the roads were actually better than the streets in Brooklyn. I was impressed. Not for long as we drove up the side of a mountain and down the other side in brutal traffic and mid day sun. We drove and drove and then drove some more me weaving in and out the mad loom of traffic.

We arrived and went inside the building. Found more sleeping workers at their desks. I said "muy fatigue" and pointed to one of the sleepers. He laughed.
We went to another location. I waited and nearly became a sleeping waiter. Better than a sleeping policeman, at least no one runs you over.

We went all over the place back and forth and up and down and finally Phanio walked out of one of the offices triumphantly holding up the elusive original airbill. Victory!

We made our way back to the Duon by the airport. I bought a new folder from a lady there. Watched more people sleep at their desks and then we went outside to get this old dude sitting under a tree to type some forms for us using a manual typewriter.

He had a rusty stapler and a beat up looking satchel to carry his mobile office inside of. He had old fashioned carbon paper. This guy was slick. I paid him 250 goudes. ( about $6.50) and he gave us the documents to complete our folder.

We went back over to the warehouse and met Pastor Dude again and waited for some officials who didnt come. There was a giant shipment of strawberries though and cold grapes from California. My eyes lit up when I saw them and the guy whose shipment is was noticed. He said some thing to me in Creole. I didnt know what he said but I knew what he meant, I say Oui! he gave me a bag of cold grapes and a generous helping of fresh strawberries. That really made my day.

I shared them around with the pastor, his friend and Phanio. We ate them and we talked. Turns out the Pastor had been waiting for four months for his shipment to clear. Sounds like he went through a whole lot more than me to get what turned out to be shelter systems domes! For a school he runs. . Buckminster Fuller strikes again! He shared with me that this morning when I arrived on the motorbike it made him very happy to see me. He showed me an amazing looking scar on his knee he got from a motorcycle accident.

The orphanage I went to visit last week when I drove through the crowded market was one of his. He asked where my office is. I told him. He asked if he could come visit me there. I said, Of course.
the view out on the warehouse yard, many orgs shipments are stalled here........

So, we waited for them to find crate number five which happened to be the dome covers on their palette. The guy, Julio, told me "we cant find it" He looked like he was joking. But he wasn't unfortunately. It was closing time. He said, "come back in the morning and we will find it' Not my favorite solution, but do able.

As we were walking out of the warehouse, my eyes were scanning every package on 4 or 5 levels of shelves. I suddenly spotted it! "It's there!" I shouted. It was on the very top shelf. They confirmed the correct number. Phanio said "You have snake eyes!"

As we were leaving I saw a whole stack of boxes being forklifted and there was this sound emanating from it. I looked over and realized that it was a shipment of chicks! I was excited until i realized that at least 60 % of the little guys were dead. Ug. Who ships chicks anyway?

I drove Phanio home. As I was turning the corner on the way back, a car cut me off and I put on the brakes. The bike I was riding has shitty brakes. I wiped out. I did a full face plant on the street. I landed on my chin and my arms and legs were akimbo like super man trying to fly on the ground. I rolled over and looked up. There was a bus load of Haitian people staring at me. All traffic had stopped. Everyone was watching me. A MINUSTAH dude ran up. His name was Hubert Gonzalez. He helped me to my feet as I was saying over and over, I'm ok I'm ok and he said in English "where are you from " I said New York City. His face changed with some sort of realization. He said where do you live? I said "across from Jedco" He picked up the bike which was still running. I got on. A car full of women were looking back at me with concerned looks on their faces. I gave them the thumbs up and patted my chest as if to say I'm really all right. I felt incredibly cared for. I drove off, kind of trembling and tearing up a bit. Just so much to process and so much effort put out and some real results coming back made me feel a whole lot of gratitude.

I drove up the dirt street to the base and saw some of my people sitting four against a wall drinking sodas. I pulled up. Lifted my helmet visor and said, "guess who's getting her shit tomorrow morning?" Aaron gave me the finger. That means "Fucking fantastic" apparently.

I am in my tent. It's a big tent that the Give Love people gave me. I can stand up in it. I have a table in it now, a small end table. I have the RYOB fan going on me. I am listening to the Books on my ipod. A little while ago a voice broke through the earplugs saying Lopi Lopi did you loose your phone? It was Sam. He was on the phone with the MINUSTAH dude who apparently found my phone on the street where I crashed. Sam said "someone found a phone after a motorcycle accident" and Did you crash on the bike? I sheepishly said, "yeah". I just got on the back of Les's bike and he drove me to the intersection and picked up the phone. Hubert Gonzalez is a real sweetheart.

The domes are almost here! Funny that the whole time they've been sitting in a warehouse a little over a mile away. Funny ha ha. Oh the hurting.

I'm tired! I have a bruised chin.

On Thursday, we will be building two domes in one day. That is the plan. I can't wait!


  1. you're like so fucking great. love these little stories.

  2. Di,

    Much love.

    Your blog will go down in histoory as a classic. The whole world should see it. Maybe bishop Tom can help spread the word.

    I will hold you and your domes in the light today.

    U Sam

  3. wow! this blog is very entertaining. i know that's not the intended purpose but not a horrible side effect. I can't believe you go thru all this during the day and then write thru all this every night! It's impressive. Good luck and keep up the humanitarianisticalism! you are awesome. See you back in NYC when you're done.


  4. snake eyes! that is great, arielle & robyn & i were just singing a victory song and it turns out it's for you too. YES!! xoxo! -anna

  5. not victorious yet. I got the rug pulled out from me again today. thanks everyone for reading and commenting!! love from Ayiti, Lopi Di