18 June 2008

Walking Walking Walking

Yesterday I was in Port- au-Prince;

After the delights of the Caribbean islands that, although not without some issues, are relatively stable Port-au-Prince is a madhouse of poverty, crime and desperation (you never got to see this on The Love Boat – Episode 36 Captain Stubbing gets into a knife fight). So bad is the situation that the UN deployed troops here in 2004 after a military coup forced the president to flee. As far as walking goes, let’s rest up a bit here - gang massacres, kidnapping, shooting on the streets and large areas of slum neighbourhoods make a pretty compelling argument to stay indoors. The reason – 80% of the population live under the poverty line and 54% are in abject poverty. HIV AIDS infects and kills at incredibly high rates while deforestation from farming is leaving the surrounding region prone to floods and mudslides.

Today things have impoved (no doubt due to strenuous amounts of walking) and I am now in Hinche (nothing to do with Derryne), still in Haiti, but a much safer place to be. The temperature is 29, so it is a bit hot for me.

The local dish sounds interesting:
Rice and Beans… boring? Well not the way the locals make it, cup fresh parsley, 2 green onions chopped, 2 cloves garlic minced, pinch of thyme, tbsp salt, 2 tbsp oil, 1 cup rice, 2 cups cooked beans, 1 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup water. Using a mortar and pestle, mash the parsley, onions, garlic, thyme and salt into a thick paste. Heat this paste and the oil in a large pot, then add the rice. Stir to coat the rice with the oil, then add the broth, water and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover, cooking until the water has been absorbed. Stir and serve hot. Anyone interested in dinner?

Language: French (official), Creole (official).

This map shows both Port-au-Prince and Hinche
Travel advice:
Malaria, dengue fever and filariasis are all transmitted by mosquitoes and all are common in Haiti throughout the year. Filariasis is a parasitic infectious tropical disease that (rather disturbingly) can find its way into your lymphatic system and cause Elephantiasis (no it doesn't give you a good memory it thickens the skin and underlying tissues in an "I am not an animal" sort of way. Nasty so keep covered, and wear insect repellent at all times.

Some background to Haiti:
Haiti has a historical past that is easy to read or hear but incredible in its courage and importance to grasp. Haiti was the world’s first independent black republic and the only nation to ever successfully form from a slave rebellion. In 1790 the black slaves owned by the French heard about the French Revolution and thought “Ha! Now why didn’t we think of that? Get the boys together we’re going to end this slave business right here, right now... Pete you still got that knife of yours?” (Historical note: I can’t confirm if this is exactly what was said verbatim). By November 1803 the French were defeated, despite Napoleon sending another invasion force, and independence was claimed. Yes, ongoing violence has made Haiti poor and underdeveloped and yes we need to be careful here, but the spirit, the food, the music and the incredible art, particularly painting, really is something to behold.

For more information on Hinche

Today's step count = 12,290

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