February 2006 in Haiti- Presidential elections

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Almost two years after Aristide left, we finally had elections here in Haiti. We knew we would be missing some days of school, so Tom left Haiti to go to Florida, where he joined Sue, waiting to have their baby. Pia left also, to go to Boston for the job fair. We didn’t want to run the risk of the airlines closing and people not being able to get out of here in time. I spent the weekend hanging out around Petionville and with friends, and then on Monday I went over to Monica’s house to spend a few days. The board of directors decided the week before to have Union School close for the day before, during, and the day after the election.

On the day of the election, February 7th, I went with Monica and her friend Diggan D’Adesky to watch them vote. I felt like since I was here during all the protests against the former government, and living in Haiti during the two years of the interim government, and I really wanted to witness the election process in what we hoped would be a fair and free election. We got to the election site around noon and stood in line for almost two hours, and I took several pictures. At last both Monica and Diggan had voted and we went home for lunch.

We knew it would be several days before the election results were tallied and announced, so we went back to work on Thursday and Friday. By Friday afternoon there were already rumors and reports of election fraud, and the next week seemed as though it might be dangerous. Lisa and I were alone in the house and stayed pretty close to home that weekend. On Monday morning we drove to work, but as soon as we got there we learned that they had just cancelled school. We left work and drove home one of our students, who couldn’t reach her parents. Lisa and I hung around the house for a bit, then ventured out around nine am, hoping that we could find a store that was open, as we had very little water at home. We drove around Petionville but encountered several road blocks- one at the top of Petionville, blocking the route to Kenscoff, one at the bottom, blocking the road down to Delmas, and one on L’Ouverture. We figured there were probably road blocks on Canape Vert as well. Petionville is a small place and it’s not hard to block the city off. We had my camera and we got some photos.

Lisa and I stayed at home, talking to people on the phone and instant messaging with others. The 5 teachers at the other house were all on Messenger so we were chatting with them about what they could see and what they had heard. During the day, a large group of Haitians (about a thousand, I think) decided to march up to the Hotel Montana, where Desmond Tutu was staying and where one of the counting centers for the vote tallying was set up. They overpowered the gate and jumped in the pool, but for the most part it was peaceful. There were some great pictures on yahoo news of the crowd at the gate, in the pool, and Desmond Tutu speaking from his balcony. Later a UN helicopter came in and evacuated him. In other parts of Port-au-Prince, some rioting and demonstrations left one dead.

By Monday evening we were pretty bored, so Lisa and I decided to go down to Chris’s house and stay there. We knew we wouldn’t have school the next day and suspected it would continue. We packed up some bedding and food (seeing as how Chris’s house is totally empty), and drove down to Pacot. It was raining and extremely dark outside- no street lights. Along the way we passed through five fairly nasty road blocks on Canape Vert- burned out cars, small trees dragged across the road, other debris. But we were able to get around them.

We spent Monday night down at Pacot and the next day Chris tried to go to work. Lisa and I stayed at his house, and made breakfast, worked out, laid out by the pool. Chris got halfway to the embassy and had to turn back. We had a good time but we were a bit worried about dinner- all Chris had was ravioli and dumplings. We called Monica and begged her to take pity on us. She invited us over for dinner. We went over around six and stayed for dinner and then hot-tubbing. Around nine we got the call that there would be no school on Wednesday as well. We stayed in the hot tub drinking wine until 1 am and finally made our way the couple of blocks from Monica’s house to Chris’s.

On Wednesday we continued more of the same- made breakfast, worked out, laid out. Watched some movies. Chris was able to go in to work late and the embassy told them all to go early. Protestors were still blocking the streets, demanding that the votes be counted so that Preval could win by 50% plus one. He seemed to be hovering around 49%. Then on Wednesday a bunch of ballots was mysteriously found down at a dump by some reporters. Were they for Preval? Were they fakes? Was it fraud? No one seemed to know.

The week dragged by and we didn’t go to school on Thursday. However, at 3:00 that morning, the group that was counting the ballots declared that Preval had won the required number of votes and was President. Within an hour (thanks for waking me up!), ra-ra bands were out in the streets, singing and playing their horns and drums. By Thursday afternoon the streets were clearing up, and we were able to go to the grocery store and get some groceries and water and go out to eat at Fiore di Latte. We probably could have gone to school on Friday, but the board decided to keep the kids home one more day. The teachers went for a meeting and we discussed how to make up some of the eight days of school we had missed.

One week back at school, and then it was time for Carnival Break. Although I had just had five days off of work, I was more than ready to get on that plane and head for Jamaica. Out of Haiti at last!  Margaritaville, jerked pork, atv riding…. Jamaica rocks!

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