In Port Au Prince one afternoon, I passed a naked man bathing in the water of an open sewer. In the logic that possesses you once you’ve been there for a day or two, it made sense to me that he would make use of the only running water around. I marveled at his resourcefulness. Only later, when I was safe inside the building where I worked, was I able to absorb the reality of what I saw, maybe not even then.
It is now almost a year since I first went to Haiti, and I experience similar lapses of mind about it even today. Most of the time I forget I was even there, and then a story about an uprising or a corruption scandal will pop up in my feed and I am sucked right back. Today it was the posting by a friend of a cartoon written by Pharés Jerome and drawn by Chevelin Pierre. The writing is basic reportage, but the images are more accurate and evocative than most photographs of the place. I’ve walked down these same streets, past these same tents, felt this same wind coming down the mountains.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of the earthquake, an event that remained distant and Other until I became acquainted with many of the people who survived it somehow. How Jean-Pierre, with the huge laugh and Clark Gable moustache, had to walk over bodies and limbs for miles to pull his wife out of a collapsed office building. Or how Stéphane managed to still come to work the day after he lost his mother and father. Or even Leon, safe somehow up in his villa, who barely felt a thing and saw it on the news before he saw any damage. No such luck down in the heat of Port Au Prince. By the time I got there a month later, the kind of recovery that only a Haitian can know had begun. I realized then, and remember now, that I know nothing about what survival means. That’s good to remember.