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122 Rework May–June 2012 With seven billion people in the world I might have guessed that one would be a Hula fairy, but I could never have imagined that I’d fall under her spell beneath the thatched chaconne at Mirlitone . Any adjective short of a superlative fails to describe Carissa. She is tall, blonde, gregarious, charming, effervescent, frivolous, fabulous, utterly useless, and utterly lovely. Every moment in her presence is electrified by the alternating current that she adds no measurable value to the world, and yet she makes the world an immeasurably better place. Carissa runs a nonprofit, Hoola for Happiness, a group that makes Hula Hoops and distributes them to Third World outposts like Haiti, Nicaragua, and India to spread joy and a bit of gospel. The hoops are shipped as five attachable pieces, each one an Olympic color, that snap together. Carissa’s website hawks them for thirty dollars a pop, and she travels the world distributing them to poor children. When Carissa fixes her gaze on me and describes Hula Hoops as the communication bridge between cultures, I laugh at her ludicrous suggestion. When she gets me to try one, I am all bones and no swagger. But when she steps into a hoop and gently sways, when she sends an Olympic ring around her waist and hips, adds another around her neck and arms and a third along an outstretched leg, I convert to her enlightened form of communication . The hoops shimmy up and down her body, unhinged from gravity, innocent as Sesame Street, enticing as Salome. Carissa arrives at the MoHI construction site midmorning with dozens of Hula Hoops over her arm. She alone knows that what a 123 Rework tight construction site burdened with fifty laborers, piles of aggregate , rebar cutters, a concrete mixer, and three hundred schoolchildren needs is to have all those children gyrating in Hula Hoops. Within moments of her arrival the site is a jumble of lithe black bodies in tan uniforms stirring up Hula Hoop frenzy. The girls are good; the boys are amazing. I discover a new force field in the world about twenty inches off the ground, where Hula Hoops attain equilibrium and children can spin them forever. Carissa departs as quickly as she arrived and the hoops vanish. Carissa brings nothing as rudimentary as food or clothing or buildings to Haiti. She brings rings of colorful plastic and she brings joy. The only physical remnants of her visit are a few broken segments of green and red that get kicked into a corner. But the exhilaration she brings lingers. The children return to their studies and the crew to our construction, each of us better for the fairy that anointed us with her circles and her spirit. The next day, Carissa’s bubble of joy bursts. It is my worst day in Haiti. The trigger for this emotional spiral is benign enough— revising the service gate design to accommodate the metal fabricator ’s limited capabilities. The service gate is a recent addition to the BLB project. The road that used to terminate at the corner of the orphanage site has been extended along our front wall, up the steep grade on our west side, and over the hilltop to access the many new houses being built beyond. If we knew the road would bypass BLB I would have flipped the entire building to separate the main entrance from the service entrance, but it’s too late for that now. Len wants a second access, but it relates to nothing. I walk past the far side of the building to verify the gate’s opening dimensions when I notice a first-floor bathroom window half covered with plaster. I stop, I stare, I curse. The guys milling around the concrete trough worry what they’ve done wrong. I wave my hand to indicate this isn’t about them, and go about my dimensioning . By the time I return to the shanty I’ve descended into a deep depression. Depression is my oldest and sometimes dearest friend. I’ve suffered bouts since childhood and undergone years of therapy. When I was in my twenties psychiatrists promised relief if I learned how to conceal my inappropriate feelings about men. So I married and 124 Architecture by Moonlight had children. Then psychiatry changed its mind and counseled that until I embraced my attraction to men, I would never escape my demons. Not a simple thing for a grown...


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