Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Day with a View

Being on a military base means waking up at military time.  They were ready for us for breakfast when we woke up.  We were not ready.
Breakfast in Colonel Rojas' container office.  Today Colonel Rojas and Colonel Casco are going to take us to a special place up the mountain to see a view of Port-au-Prince.  These are the head honchos, highest ranking officers of the Paraguayan company here in Haiti.  We took two trucks and split up - Kendra, Andersen, Colonel Causco, a driver and myself.  Colonel Rojas and the others in another truck.  We left about 7:30am during the morning meeting. 
It took hours to get up the mountain.  The view was spectacular!  From where we were the airport, UN Base - Camp Charlie and more were visible.  The ocean looked beautiful with the backdrop of the mountains.  Haiti actually looked calm even though I know better from being down there in the thick of things.

When Colonel Rojas said it was time to go, everyone moved.  A few minutes down the road the Paraguayans wanted to stop for a coffee and chepa break.  Pulling over on the side of the road, everyone got out to sip coffee and enjoy chepa (a typical Paraguayan bread made of corn and eggs).
Back down the mountain and to the base around 1:30pm.  Long drive.  Lunch of the same thing we had for dinner and breakfast - weird fried meat, empanadas and sopa (a dry corn bread made with onions and cheese).
While walking to the market, we were heading towards the entrance to the Paraguayan area and saw Chris (Pastor Rod's son) and Dr Suarez.  It was the weirdest thing!  Dr Suarez has friends here and he came to pick up some medicines for his free clinics.  It is always fun seeing people outside the typical places you see them.  This is also one of those times that the world feels a little smaller.
Each Saturday there is a market inside the base.  Vendors are chosen and sell a variety of things to the different UN military personnel near the entrance.  It is huge!  These people are good!  Most of the vendors know Spanish and with most of the UN here speaking Spanish, they make out great.
Captain Florentin escorted us around.  His assignment this weekend is to stay with us.  I had all my creole phrases ready for the market such as:
  • I don't need it.
  • I don't like it.
  • How much?
These were very useful and the Haitians would say Wow! You speak creole. It was interesting.
One guy spoke English and asked me a bunch of questions.  Then he asked me where I work and I told him I am a volunteer.  He called me a liar.  If he only knew the money I have personally (with some help too!) put into my trips here and the work it has been.

I helped Kendra with one shoe sale and a guy tried to give us back a fake US $5 bill.  He wouldn't exchange it (I know that in creole too) so I shoved it back in his apron and asked for another.  He ran somewhere to exchange it and brought us back a real one.  We were very skeptical after that and only paid with exact change.

The boys loved the market.  There were so many things - Haiti souvenirs, perfume, watches, used clothes and toys, sunglasses, and lots (and lots) of tennis shoes.  A few things still had tags, but probably 97% was used.  I couldn't believe all the used stuff the UN people were buying.  It was like Goodwill, but the quality was much higher here.
I bought one thing.   A MINUSTAH t-shirt (looks like the official shirts) for $3.  The tag even says "Made in Haiti".  People couldn't understand why that made me so happy, but it did.
Walked back to the base about 4pm when the market was closing.  Relaxed while the boys played soccer.  Talked with the Deacon on the base and then Colonel Rojas got out his laptop.  The two of us sat outside his office while he showed me pictures of his family and video of his daughters at their dance recital in Paraguay.
Dinner was at 8pm and it was another special event.  I didn't catch all the details but that meant steak for dinner - wow!  The boys were sent to eat at another table so we sat at the head table with the two Colonels and Major Rodriguez.  Afterwards there was...karaoke!  (Their favorite thing on special occasions, which means it feels like we are only ever here on special occasions.)
I always get asked to sing, then the second song was New York, New York by Frank Sinatra.  My first thought was - Wow, there is a Spanish version of this?  Oh no, the microphone was passed to me and the words on the screen were in English.  I was sitting between Colonel Causco and Major Rodriguez, so I made Rodriguez try to sing all the parts I didn't know.
After awhile they stopped the music and Colonel Rojas made a presentation to us.  The boys got blue hats, Samuel a shirt, and Kendra and I got plates with the Paraguayan crest on it.  After first visiting their base in March, I can't believe it is December, that I have known them this long, and that now they are leaving!
A fun night had by all.  Everyone is in good spirits because they are leaving soon.  In bed by midnight. That military wake-up call is going to come too soon!

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