Sunday, April 4, 2010

This part of the village of Colladere. This is a section of the market in Thomassique.

This is the same market in Thomassique. These are houses along the road, not in a town or village.

This is a storage house for grains, rice and other harvested food. It is up on stilts to keep the rats away. The white sacks underneath are full of "charbon" This is coal and is used to cook. It is an industry all of its own and is the reason why the country is experiencing soil erosion. People cut down trees which they burn to make charbon. Charbon is then sold as an energy source. The result is deforestation and poor soil for agriculture. It would be great to end this practice, but then an entire industry would disappear and thousands would be unemployed. That is why "Public Works" projects are needed. If electricty becomes the norm, then chrabon is not needed. Some of the people traditionally making charbon can be trained to move to the installation and maintenance of electricity. It should be solar as this is on a micro level, the majority of it will be outside of government control and will require local expertise in it's installation and maintenance. Ownership would be local (individual homes or Community Centers and public streets and roads maintained locally.

So, I covered water the other day. I may think of more things about water and make comment about them later.... I think I'd like to talk about food.

From what I see, rice seems to be a really big element in the Haitian diet. There are large 50 pound bags for sale along the sides of streets in towns, not so much in villages. Let me stop and try and make a distinction between towns and villages.
There really is only one city I have been in and that is Port au Prince, which is a story all by itself. One of the big differences between larger towns and smaller ones or villages is that the price of goods in larger towns is about 10% to 15% less than in smaller towns and villages. The reason for this is the poor condition of roads, the wear and tear on vehicles that ride these roads, the time it takes to get to these villages. It then makes sense that most everything is less expensive in Port au Prince.

A village is like Colladere located about an hour to an hour 15 minutes north of the large town of Hinche. Colladere has a church, a school, a water distribution point and 10 to 15 homes.

I guess there are maybe 50 to 60 people in the village. Small homes outside the immediate village have another 100 to 200 people. Out of a couple homes, or in the front of them, the owners sell small items (gum, twine, some candies, evaporated milk, canned corn, canned peas, soft drinks, bars of soap, dishwashing liquid, toilet paper, aspirin). Don't think Target here (LOL), think a few bars of soap, several cans of corn, etc. It's displayed on shelves made in the backyard out of whatever material is available.... This village has a solar lamp. Just one. It was installed a couple years ago by the government. It has 6 lightbulbs and only three work. I wanted to change the ones that did not work, but there was no way to get up there. The lamp is probably 15 to 20 feet in the air. I suggested to the local Priest that we could ask a dump truck driver (I'll try to explain these dump trucks later ... again I must take pictures...) if he could stop for a few minutes under the lamp and I could climb up and see what was needed to replace them. Once we knew, we could get replacement ones (and required tools) and then hail another dump truck as it passed later to stop and we could replace them. I think he thought I was nuts, but in two weeks I'm going to attempt this again.

Needless to say, with only one solar lamp and only three bulbs burning, this village and many more without lamps are virtually pitch dark at night.

So that's a village (pretty much). Towns are bigger. They could be 20,000 to 60,000 to 100,000... it really is hard to calculate how many people there are. I have been told that Thomassique has 60,000. I suspect 30,000, maybe 40,000. Hinche is bigger than Thomassique and I guess if Thomassique has 30,000, then Hinche has 75,000. If Thomassique has 60,000, then Hinche has 100,000. Sorry if that sounded like a statement on an SAT exam.

Towns have more activity including the sale of food: bags of rice, vegetables, milled corn, flour, cooking oil, cane sugar, canned fish (sardines and mackeral). There is an outdoor market where goods such as plates, utensils, tampons, knives of all sizes (remember people slaughter their meat: Pigs, goat, chicken.. it's fresh kill), deoderant, plastic food covers, flip flops, tin cups, tin pans, tin plates, various plastic storage containers, etc. are sold.

Plastic Food covers... Gotta digress yet again. These are large plastic netted covers which are placed over the food when it is on the table prior to eating. It also covers uneaten food or food that has been cooked and is being stored for the next meal. Remember, there is no refrigeration so food is left on plates on counters or tables and these plastic net covers keep insects off before the food is served again. They are everywhere; for sale and in people's homes. No shortage of these.

In villages, people pee and crap (sorry, that's how it is...) in ravines, on the ground towards the back of where they live, in shallow holes they have dug. In towns, there are usually toilets in the houses (at least in the houses along the bigger streets). The sewage then flushes into a channel which runs along the side of the road between the house or store and the street. This means that you have to step over this sewage ditch to get in the house or store... And flushing these toilets is with a bucket of water, not pushing a handle.

Towns also have some paved streets; not asphalt, but blocks (not bricks) laid out over the road.
It is common to be on a rutted dirt street and suddenly pass onto a "paved" street for a few blocks and then back onto a rutted dirt road.

Towns also usually have a money changer, numerous stores (selling cooked food, sodas, miscellaneous items), hair cut places, pharmacies, concailleries (small poorly stocked hardware stores), etc..... I realize I have to take more pictures on my next trip.

There are also people who live in what we would call a "rural" environment. These are small single dwellings away from towns or villages. They can be made of mud and straw walls, thatch roofs, open windows with cloth covering them (no glass or wood). Other buildings are made of hand made mud blocks, scavenged wood planks, sticks woven to create walls, sheets of tin (either as walls or roofs). Some have doors and some do not. Floors are usually compacted earth. These homes you see along the road or off in the distance from the road. They are usually individual dwellings or maybe two or three of them clustered together.

Wow, I started out to talk about food and I digressed to towns, villages and rural dwellings... I guess I'll get around to food tomorrow.

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