Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Talking to Cabbies/My Haitiian Connection

The problem with talking to taxi drivers when I travel to NY is I remember their stories. Anton, as I shall call him, has been here for 30 years. He is from Haiti, devastated yesterday by an earthquake. He told me the difference between his country and the neighboring Dominican Republic is like day and nite. You can stand on the border, he said, and see how one country is thriving and prosperous, while the other is sunk in the worst of poverty.

Why? A history of corrupt politicians to this very day. We all remember Francois 'Papa-Doc' Duvalier. Things are no better today. The government, said Anton, is an oligarchy, I asked what that meant. "Government by an elite few," he said.

A small percent of the population are the elite, the haves, with money and the fine things of life while the vast majority scrabble out a living as best they can mostly on small unproductive farms. No wonder they throng to America.

That very week Anton and his nurse wife were flying back to Port-au-Prince to attend the graduation ceremony of Anton's brother who had passed the medical boards to become a physician.

Now if this same brother has survived the quake he is likely helping bloodied and crushed Haitians recover from this deadliest earthquake in 200 years in our hemisphere.

When I first heard about the quake, reading about it in the Times, various images flooded my brain. Screaming people, screaming children, and then people praying for mercy from a merciful God.

A merciful God.

And what have I done this morning to help my brothers and sisters in Haiti? Uh, er, well, I.... My friend Ann Gaugler went to Louisiana after Katrina and helped out. Said nuffin to nobody.

And here's what I did this morning while they're still reeling from the shocks and aftershocks....brushed my teeth w/my elec toothbrush, drank a glass of delicious freezing cold water from the water dispenser on my fridge, listened to Genesis' Musical Box, turned up my gas fireplace.

O what to do about all them dying Haitians.

Oftentimes after a New Directions meeting, our group drives over to the Jenkintown IHOP to process our emotions after a heavy-duty meeting. Several of the servers are from Haiti. I always order Hot Water in this frigid weather.


  1. Just lost my entire post once. I want to see that I am not surprised you remember the stories of those you meet because you are interested in everybody and in the world and are special in that way.

    It is indeed terrible what happened in Haiti and it is a horribly poor country..I think it is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere but believe me the view about D.R. is a bit skewed. There is an historical rivalry between Haitians and Dominicans and no small amount of bias on each of their parts. I have some experience with this. While the DR has been able to develop tourism and manufacturing, believe me there are terribly poor people in the DR also, who live in shacks in conditions most of us would not want to know about.
    Historically, plantation owner Dominicans have exploited Haitian workers near the border of the two countries, but in both countries, there is wealth right next to unimaginable poverty in many places.

    I am working with a few sister agencies to try to get some help to Haiti but our help is targeted at the orphanages and for kids.

  2. I mean, Ruth, that I want to "say" I am not surprised that you remember people's stories. Sorry for the typo.