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199 Plumbing October–November 2012 “It’s times like this when Haiti deserves its position at the bottom rung of the world.” The temporary bulb strung across the ceiling casts my body in a giant shadow that lurches across the floor as I pace the office that Gama and I now share in the new building. My temper ricochets off the walls. “How can adults just leave children to fend for themselves?” Gama listens patiently, but I intuit he’s keyed into my frustration . “You cannot understand how self-centered people are in this country until you live here and observe it, and even then, it is hard to accept.” His quiet words of truth offer no comfort. Though I don’t need comfort as much as those two boys sitting in the next room do. It’s 8:00 p.m. on my first night back and they have no proper place to sleep tonight. Despite my worry, Jerry and Dieunison have gone to school every day. Huguener and Gama kept tabs on them and they’re making progress. They arrived at BLB about three this afternoon and announced their tutor was sick. We can’t verify their claim; maybe they skipped out to see me again. In any event we celebrated my return by spending the afternoon together. They ate leftover spaghetti and made drawings. I created an intense collage of black lines; an unsettling Rorschach. I brought them new clothes; we carried them down the hill to drop at Pierre Richard’s after visiting MoHI. Halfway down the boys pointed to a shack “Pierre Richard habit la.” I was confused. “Do you live there, too?” “Non, nos habit calle granmere.” As usual I understood enough to know that their 200 Architecture by Moonlight equilibrium was skew but not enough to fully grasp the detail. We detoured to visit Michelle. She sat on a chair next to a man I didn’t know, taking in the afternoon view. Is Pierre Richard here? No. Do the boys live with him? No. She was placid, seemingly unconcerned by the latest domestic upheaval, yet withholding. Michelle looked defeated, disengaged from the world on this perfect afternoon . Poverty had finally ground down the industrious carpenter I knew from our Samaritan’s Purse days. Dieunison, Jerry, and I didn’t linger; I could get a full translation at MoHI. As we descended, the man called Jerry back. Dieunison and I continued on. In a few moments we heard the man upbraid Jerry, fierce and loud. Even my rudimentary knowledge of Creole could decipher that Jerry was being scolded to keep blan out of their business. The man galled me, yet another so-called adult claiming authority over these boys without taking any responsibility. Renee untangled the tale. Pierre Richard broke up with his girlfriend and moved to a shack on the hill. The girlfriend remains at her house in town. The boys moved into their grandmother’s place, where they share a room, but the grandmother is in Portau -Prince. The girlfriend doesn’t feed them; they get what they can from school and from Gama. I didn’t like them living alone, but the boys appeared unconcerned. Destitution has sharpened Dieunison’s wit. The Artful Dodger in him joked: We have been living by ourselves forever! Sadly, he spoke the truth. By the time we sorted things out it was evening. I couldn’t just let the boys disappear into the twilight, so we trudged with our bundle of clothes back up the hill, and they sat quiet while I finished MoHI’s electrical conduit estimate. Fortunately, three other volunteers are staying in BLB’s apartment so Len has a full-time cook who made all of us dinner, diri et sus pwa with grilled chicken. But the food did not satisfy. Now I’ve finished my daily report and am venting my frustration to Gama, desperate for understanding. Intellectually I know that Haiti is full of kids their age turned out on the street, but when it comes to Dieunison and Jerry I cannot simply shrug off Haitian indifference; the whole lot of grown-ups who have abandoned them disgusts me. Gama’s words calm me, but my stomach still gnaws from stress and discomfort rather than from actual hunger. I retrieve two choc- 201 Plumbing olate bars from my backpack, give one to Gama and split the other between Jerry and Dieunison. Giving the sweets away satisfies my craving better...


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MARC Record
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