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136 Concrete June–July 2012 Aweek or so before I return, I send a “Mule to Haiti” email to my stateside connections asking what they want me to bring down. I usually fill two hockey bags with requested supplies. After this trip, I may reconsider that offer. I’m flying to Haiti with two electricians, John Picard and Greg Smith; they came to Be Like Brit last winter to oversee wiring the first floor and are returning to wire the second before we pour the concrete roof. Len got us an upgrade to first class, which means wider seats and fresh juice, but more important, we are allowed three seventy-pound checked bags each. The Thursday before our flight, we all meet at Granite City Electric in Quincy; Greg’s company is donating all the fixtures and fittings for the orphanage. I bring a collection of hockey bags and the items I’ve acquired thus far for the trip. Everything packs into seven bags; the heaviest one weighs sixty-six pounds. We are good to go. The next day Greg emails me that he has another bag of goods, and Renee tells me to expect a keyboard MoHI needs for an upcoming conference. That brings us to nine pieces, still good. On Sunday the keyboard is delivered to my house, along with piles of work gloves, C-clamps, medical supplies, and two cartons of cleft-palate nipples. The keyboard, swaddled in bubble wrap, is too large to meet the airlines unified dimension requirements, so I repackage it in corrugated cardboard, custom cut for a snug fit and tuck the rest of the items elsewhere. 137 Concrete We convene at Boston’s Logan Airport at 4 a.m. for our 5:30 a.m. flight. John arrives first and checks his three bags. Somehow Greg and I have seven bags between us; we do a quick shuffle to reduce the number to six and take them to the skycap. Someone’s scale is off; our bags now weigh over eighty pounds each. We open the duffels along the curb and start to sort when the skycap informs us that American Airlines does not accept cardboard packages to Haiti; the keyboard cannot go. We shoehorn it into the largest bag, which leaves all sorts of paraphernalia on the pavement. Thankfully it’s four in the morning; at any other hour state troopers would rain down on our pandemonium. The skycap is no longer an innocent bystander; he asks us where we’re going and why; he suggests improved packing techniques. We play our Haiti card and tell him we are building an orphanage. He believes us, as we’re far too disorganized to terrorize anyone. He tells us to toss everything in a bag, checks a huge coil of wire that won’t fit anywhere, doesn’t bother to weigh anything, and hands us a sheaf of baggage claims. John palms the guy a twenty, money well spent. These are the things we carried: 48 Granite City T-shirts 30 pairs of Granite City sandals 8 pairs of safety glasses 6 rolls of blue wiring tubing 6 bags of construction gloves 4 cartons of light switches and receptacles 4 heavy C-clamps 3 rolls of undersurface drainage filter fabric 2 cartons of masonry anchors 2 cartons of cleft-palate nipples 2 cartons of blue tube fittings 2 rolls of insulated tubing for solar panel connections 1 new computer for Gama 1 carton of personal items for Angela 1 keyboard Until this trip I’ve breezed past customs in PAP, but as we load our nine duffels plus wire coil on three carts at baggage claim, I 138 Architecture by Moonlight know my luck is over. Officials rifle through every bag. The Oreos in Angela’s personal box receive the most attention. I consider handing them over in exchange for safe passage, but in the end we strike a deal—$110 for the whole lot. If there is any science to determining that sum, it gets lost in translation. When I get to Grand Goave, the first thing I seek is a status report on Jenison. Quite a bit has changed since the last afternoon of my previous trip, when Gama and I plotted Jenison’s future while the boy gorged. The day I left, Gama took Jenison to the market, outfitted him with new clothes and shoes, found him a place to live with Toto, the BLB accountant, bought him a bed...


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