Finally- elections in Haiti, and a vacation to Jamaica

Haitians jump in pool at hotel Montana in Haiti

Haiti continues down its path of general destruction, and we continue our lives here. Elections were scheduled for October, then November, then December, then January, and now for February 7th. The list of candidates has been narrowed down to 35 or so. The kidnappings continue and UN peacekeepers are still being killed as well. We had a strike day in January, and it happened peacefully, but with no visible results. After two high-profile kidnappings over Christmas break (one of them a Union School mom), some of our families have left Haiti with their kids and gone to Miami. We hosted a baby shower for Sue, who will be leaving for Miami soon to have her baby.

On the day of the election, February 7th, I went with Monica and her friend 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. We got to the election site around noon and stood in line for almost two hours. At last both Monica and Diggan had voted in what we hope will be a fair and free election.

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 took one of our students home, encountering several road blocks- one at the top of Petionville, blocking the route up 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 drove around and got some photos.

The next day, nearly a thousand Haitians 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 in the 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.

Lisa and I decided to go down to Chris’s house and stay there. We knew we wouldn’t have school for most of the next week. 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, made breakfast, worked out, and 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, which of course she did.

Chris was able to go in to work late on Wednesday, and the embassy told them all to go home 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 raucous 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 work on Friday, but the board voted to keep us all home one more day.

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 with Chris. Out of Haiti at last!  Margaritaville, jerked pork, ATV riding…. Jamaica rocks!

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