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164 Curing August–September 2012 My flight to PAP is uneventful. Neither MoHI nor BLB wants anything hauled in, so instead of picking up checked bags I collect the airport’s newest attractions, flyers. One young woman distributes advertisements extolling a local restaurant; another hands out sheets for modular homes complete with air conditioning, though a similar ad in the United States might not promote a prefabricated orphanage for forty children. A third lady shoves Magic Haiti magazine in my hand, a glossy number with four-color photos of art, resorts, and food that resemble nothing I’ve ever seen in this country. I gather these offerings like an anthropologist collecting data on his subject culture and appreciate this new form of hucksterism , a step up from panhandling. I don’t see anyone from Mission of Hope when I reach the end of the secure walkway, so for the first time I step across security’s threshold alone and join the crowd on the far side. I’m the only blan, but I don’t feel anxious. Port-au-Prince Haitians look different than people from Grand Goave, they have rounder bellies but deeper scars. Eventually Ricardo arrives along with Alexis, who is dressed in hip-hugging jeans and a bodice-gripping top that test the outer limits of what her mother, Renee, allows. Alexis is sixteen now, and remarkably beautiful. Lex’s older brother Raymond and his son, Tanyo, are with them, along with Fabi, Alexis’s friend. We exit the airport, turn left instead of the customary right, and motor to the National Convenience Store for a snack, which turns into a full lunch. Ricardo and Fabi flirt. He’s drawn no doubt to the 165 Curing alluring blue extensions woven through her tiny braids. Lex calls. When he learns that we’re still at the airport he gets me on the line and tells me to hustle. I tell him I have no control. I don’t mention that I’m in no particular rush; this is the first time Port-au-Prince has seemed anything other than an ordeal to be endured. Ricardo drives a circuitous route through the city, higher into the hills than I’ve ever been. The streets might be considered middle class. We pass houses with small courtyards. There are even a few trees. It’s dense but ordered. We descend back into the center of things. The azure sea fills the voids in the cathedral’s shattered rose window; what’s left standing appears more sculpture than ruin. We scoot around the palace, still toppled. The tent city has disappeared; the trees are leafy and the ground is raked. Within two months rows of port-a-potties have been replaced by an openair bookstore, Bibliotec Universal, which is Parisian in ambiance as well as name. Port-au-Prince is improving, or perhaps it’s simply that our summery mood soars above the corrugated shacks, piles of garbage, and sewer pigs. We’re on a joy ride, and we only absorb the joy. We stop at a roadside stand to pick up sodas and sugar cane from a sidewalk vendor. Everyone in the car chatters in Creole, which sounds like bird warble to me. The Bay of Gonave shimmers, its color that sparkling aqua tint I associate with Bermuda, gorgeous and refreshing to behold. We deposit Raymond and Tanyo in Leogone, wave to all of Alexis’s cousins, and finally pull into Mission of Hope about 4:30 p.m. Lex bristles because we’re so late, but nothing’s so pressing it cannot wait until tomorrow. Marieve greets me at Mirlitone with a large bowl of bananas; I’m supposed to feed my still-sketchy intestines two a day. Her thoughtfulness triggers a rush of blood; my cheeks glow with the warmth of beach sun. I am in summer’s thrall, relaxed and loved. We make good progress on both projects until, on Thursday morning, Tropical Storm Isaac enters our consciousness. Internet pop-ups, US National Weather Service bulletins, and radar tracking maps show a swirl of clouds coalescing along the line of ocean between Africa’s horn and the Caribbean arc. Yet the day is calm 166 Architecture by Moonlight and fair. We finish laying out the detailed rise/run template for MoHI’s second staircase. At noon all the bosses convene to assess what we’ll complete before the storm. “Everything, concrete on both stairs and the guardrails; we...


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MARC Record
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