Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Shaken . . .

I was shocked and saddened to see in the news just now that Haiti has been hit by a major earthquake, centered not far from the capital, Port au Prince.
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Haiti, jewel of the Caribbean
Haiti, dear sister of my heart
You did not need another calamity
Your history has been far too hard already
My heart goes out to you
In this latest of tragedies
Why has the world abandoned you
For so long
Because you dared to declare your freedom ?
Two centuries ago ?
And since then you have wallowed
In the mire of chaos, anarchy, greed
But poverty for most, dire poverty
And the world looks away
While day in and day out
Your people starve
Just a short flight
From the richest country on Earth
You lie abandoned
A nightmare in paradise
And now another chapter of horror
Has opened in your ongoing saga
Haiti I cry for you
And I know not
What to do
Other than write
These hopeless words
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Like a raging bull the earthquake tore down whole streets. Haiti holds a soft spot in my heart after a visit there in February, 1997, at Carnaval time. This photo of bull masks was shot in Jacmel, on the south coast of Haiti. The Carnaval parades are full of colorful, and sometimes terrifying figures . . .
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Haiti is a country with many demons, past and present. Some of them come out for Carnaval. . .
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I read in the news tonight that although the presidential palace was damaged, President René Preval was unhurt. The gentleman at the center of this photo in the white hat is none other than President René Preval. When he saw me taking a picture of him, he very kindly reached into his personal cooler of beer, and handed down a cold can of Heineken to me. Now that was hospitality to appreciate. Mr. Preval, I wish you all possible courage in dealing with this latest catastrophe. You hold one of the hardest jobs in the world today. At least as hard as President Obama's job.
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Across the street from the president's platform, one of his guards was visible with a sub-machine gun . . . Haiti remains a dangerously violent place. One cannot be too careful there. So many sad stories can be found if one digs a little. Perhaps better not to dig.
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Yet Haiti is a country of beautifully proud people, like these three women photographed in a remote river valley where I walked three hours to go see the family of a man working for the people we stayed with there . . .
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Haiti is densely populated, perhaps a bit like India, with people everywhere one goes . . . This shot is of Kenscoff Market, in the hills above Petionville. Not far from Port au Prince. I hope these good people were not too hard hit.
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Haiti is a desperately poor nation. This corrugated metal shack was not by any stretch of the imagination an unusual sight. In a hand-bound book of photos I put together after the trip to Haiti I gave this one the caption : Brokedown Palace . . . in reference to the Grateful Dead song by that name. "Gonna leave this brokedown palace, on my hands and my knees . . ."
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44 comments:

Catherine said...

I too am watching with shock and horror the breaking news there - living in a major earthquake zone myself - the devastation is all too familiar...

Lydia said...

O, Owen, this is beautiful. I'm so glad you shared your wondrous poem and these marvelous photos and memories. I will donate online this evening but not sure to whom at this point. I heard an ambassador interviewed and I think he mentioned WorldVision, but I'm not sure if that was the organization he mentioned as receiving some early on site reports from. ...

I'm working on my weekly post with the old postcard and have not had my heart in it; it feels so trite. I will refer to your post so others can find this serious place of contemplation.

desi said...

Good Morning Owen..
I was JUST reading my daily portion of world news and about Haiti when i saw your post too. This is so sad. We can listen to news, but you give us an insight to matters in Haiti.
ill pray for everyone there!

Aaaaand, you must feel well honoured by that special Heineken..wow. mustve been the best! :)

desi

St Jude said...

It is very sad and a place that is often overlooked. Thank you for the insight.

AmyR said...

I just heard the news about Haiti, very sad and tragic.

Thank you for posting these striking photos!

Steve said...

Awful news. Should make us here in the West count our blessings.

cinner said...

First it is very sad news. Your poem is beautiful, thank you for sharing your photos and info with us. my prayers are with them.

Anya said...

Wonderful touching words written
YES
its very sad news :(

Maryh K. said...

Hello Owen, I'm so sorry too, and I share your beeing shocked and sad at the breaking news. Your poem is very heartrending. Haiti is a very poor country as I can see in your photos and when I went to Africa (Niger)(I am by now the president of a very very small Lorraine NGO - about 10 members),I saw lots of metal shacks, or clay shacks, or "paillotes" (mill shacks), and starving people, and disabled ones (blind, poliomyelitis,..)and I can all the more understand what you want to share here.
When starvation fell on Niger as in winter 2005/06 and made thousands and thousands of dead people, we can say too they didn't need this additional plag but nobody reacted at this time (barely the media or tv shows : it's not a very touristic country) or very scarcely. It was X-mas time in France and our European plates were well fulled.

Nadege said...

I am so sorry for all the tragedies and misery Haitian people have been going through and hoping with all my heart that Haiti will recover.

Adam said...

Lovely photos Owen and a very well-timed reminder of all the positive aspects of this nation. It's so sad that we only ever hear about the negative and tragic things.

Deborah said...

Terrible news. I'm so sorry for your diistress, Owen.

Gwen Buchanan said...

A Nightmare... we are only hearing a few things now.. Your photographs show more of Haiti than I know..

this is a very difficult situation...

Nevine said...

Leave it to you, Owen, to have been to Haiti and to have the photos to share with us... and the tender words. I know the feeling of dejection that is felt when we've been somewhere and something terrible happens. And an earthquake is something terrible indeed. Your photos are especially haunting at this time. I feel for Haiti because in 1992, we had an earthquake in Egypt, and it was devastating... not to mention the tremors that we experienced for years... and the never-ending fear that comes with that. I think an earthquake is devastating no matter where it hits, but when it hits a country that is trying to pull its head out from under eons of rubble, that is another matter entirely.

Thank you for sharing your sadness and your beautiful artful expression with us, Owen. We all need to at least feel something when others are hit... we can't just hide our heads in the sand.

Nevine

amatamari© said...

Thanks.

TechnoBabe said...

Hubby and I have been talking about Haiti this morning and then I opened your blog to this beautiful post. Hugs to you, Owen, for your loving and caring heart.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Thank you for sharing your personal connections to this place which has been tragically devastated -- as if Haiti had not already had enough on her plate, eh? Your words and photos bring this "closer to home" for me. Thank you for doing that.

My thoughts are with all touched by these events.

The Sagittarian said...

A wonderfully touching and personal take on this tragedy. Living on a fault line ourselves, it is all too real to contemplate! I saw Hillary on TV last night stating their support for the place, just the cynic in me was wondering at what cost it would be the the Haitian people!

Great photos, and I bet a Heineken never tasted so good!!

Nadege said...

I am waiting for the LA Times tomorrow to give names and addresses for donations but UNICEF would be a good one as well as Habitat for Humanity. Maybe this last horrific tragedy is the end for the bad luck of this nation and from now on, good things will happen to Haiti and its brave people.

ρομπερτ said...

Agree with you that earthquakes are the worst.
During the five years here, a four point nine was the strongest and able to leave me nearly without sleep for two days.

Janie said...

Thank you for these images of Haiti before the quake. The disaster at hand is indeed horrifying, especially for a nation that is already so poor.
Your poem says it all.

The Sagittarian said...

Oh and a couple of Kiwis are amongst those missing. God bless.

BLOGitse said...

Thank you for sharing...

.:: Karine ::. said...

mon cher et adoré owen je passe un peu en coup de vent (pardonne-moi mais je reviendrai lire ton message dès demain) pour te remercier pour ton dernier message qui m'a vraiment touchée !

je te retourne les compliments et comme toi suis si heureuse de t'avoir rencontrer même virtuellement :-)

je te souhaite une douce journée, plus belle encore demain et encore plus belle les jours d'après !

avec toute mon amitié

clo said...

minute de silence............ pour tous ceux qui sont partis dans cette nouvelle tragédie...
meme si on sait que le devoir de memoire n'a jamais rien changé au malheur de ceux qui ont souffert...
c'est dramatique Owen...
bises...

French Fancy said...

Owen - I really do hope that creative writing can be used in your paid job because your poetry is gorgeous.

What a shame such a tragedy inspired it though.

Bill Evertson said...

Great post - wonderful capture of the spirit and pulse you found.

J said...

As always, I'm delighted by your Haiti photos - such as fascinating country, and wondeful to see the prime minster being so friendly...I can't imagine the PM of the UK ever behaving in a similar way.

Your photos also make a good contrast to the gory disaster photos in todays paper - sad that many people will now forever retain those as their image of Haiti

Lille Diane said...

Your pictures and words are haunting. The poem read like a song, a sad song, but perhaps someone needs to sing about this country to bring joy back to its people. Thank you, Owen for a beautiful post. It's been nice catching up with you. I haven't been out reading any one for a long time. I've been on more of an inward journey. I'm working to get out more. I've missed your thoughtful posts. And You~

Roxana said...

Owen, the most wonderful and touching tribute... though i sometimes think: it doesn't help, art is useless in such moments - i know it is not, and we become better by making it - also, we fight oblivion, and this is more important than everything...

thank you, i don't find my words now, just contemplating, silently...

Owen said...

Dear All,
Thank you for these lovely, thoughtful comments here. I am reeling, stunned by this story, the horror of which just grows as it unfolds... Will be back when I'm able. Just saw more pictures in the news today which showed that Jacmel, on the south coast, was also hard hit... a place I have the fondest memories of. The photos of René Preval here were taken in Jacmel, and now it appears that much of Jacmel is shattered, along with Port au Prince, Carrefour, Cité Soleil, Petionville, and no doubt more places that haven't been covered yet by whatever press have been able to get there. Peace to all...

Loulou said...

Dear Owen... Words are poor...
Horrible images could reach India too as you can well imagine.
I could see that Google Earth had published the latest images of Haiti island "from the sky"... a way to check whether some houses are down or not... that's horrible....

Last month I could meet some people in Sri Lanka who experienced Tsunami in 2004, I'll tell you on Indiaphragme soon...

In the meantime, let's think positive, let's hope those nice people on your shots were not hit (needless to say I loved the 3 women-portrait....)
Bises, take care
Loulou

la Bell's said...

What a nightmare ! Few days ago we were watching "Haiti : Killing the dream". i hope that the carnaval will one day come back to Jacmel which is destroy at 65% ! Thank you for the beautiful photos. Will Haiti always be a nice "souvenir" ?
Bizoux de Beyrouth

louciao said...

The best one can say is that the world is rallying to help. Haiti can no longer be forgotten or ignored. From the ashes...

I'm sorry that it has also caused an earthquake in your own heart and soul. At least your memories and photographs preserve some of what was, good and bad alike.

We watch and listen to the reports coming out. Pierre walked those streets as well...He says nothing, but he doesn't turn away.

Lyn said...

I too wrote some hopeless words..nature stuns me, what a wipe-out!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Too awful for words (the disaster that is, not your poem!)

I don't really do travel, but had I been to Haiti I'm sure I would feel even worse than I do now. The TV is staying resolutely off at the moment as I just can't bear all those ghastly newsreaders trying to make us feel that it's our fault somehow. I'm happy to contribute to appeals, but don't kid myself I am any more use to the Haiti people than that.

Deidre said...

I can only hope that as the country rebuilds itself it can build out of the poverty it is in.

This was a beautiful post.

AnSa said...

Beautiful post, beautiful words and photos ..
I no words to express his pain and sadness..

.:: Karine ::. said...

dear owen

tes photos sont magnifiques et tes mots aussi ! on sent que tu aimes ce pays, que tu l'as regardé, scruté et qu'il est encore présent en toi.

je suis désolée de la peine que tu ressens, je suis de tout coeur avec toi et les haïtiens !

Owen said...

For all who commented here, thank you deeply for your warm thoughts... I am still speechless as this tragedy unfolds...

Trillian said...

Lovely photos...thanks.

ALeks said...

What a wonderful,warm,thoughtful and beautiful post Owen,Im glad I met you on this blog world streets.Thank you for sharing this.
Greetings,Aleksandra

secret, fragile skies said...

heartbreaking, beautiful post. exquisite blog...and from paris. thank you.

Christine Robinson said...

Thank you, Owen. I have purposely steered clear of the news this week. We know all too well the human tragedy of such an event. But it was very meaningful to read your thoughts. You wrote, "I hope these good people were not too hard hit." Surely, though, you know that some of those good people likely perished in the destruction. I felt similarly after Katrina (being a native of the New Orleans area), but the destruction doesn't begin to compare.

How terrible to watch for those of us who have no connections there. How awful to see and hear of the devastation if there is any personal connection to the place. How desperately destroying to the spirit if you are there living the nightmare. It's overwhelming to imagine.

Blessings to you, Owen, and all those you've encountered in your travels. You're a good spirit of the world.

Much affection,
Chris