I haven’t posted in a long time because basically since April and the arson attack I’ve been in kind of a dark mood. A lot of people read and enjoy Leslie’s blog now and I didn’t want to risk scaring people away. The same crowd that comes to the blog looking for cute pictures of our daughter and new puppy and wants to read about rooftop gardening and such probably doesn’t want to read about my frustrating battle as I try to work through Haiti’s justice system.
I’m in a pretty good mood today, so I’ll make a post and just leave out the very darkest parts of the whole business. And I might as well make the grandparents content by mentioning what trouble Olivia is getting into today. Today she is climbing up on the toilet so that she can play with the items sitting next to the sink – her toothbrush, liquid hand soap, and the water tap. For now I’m just letting her play so I can write the blog. She’ll probably fall off the toilet later and hurt herself but that can just be added to her life experience.
For those who haven’t been reading since April, here’s a quick summary:
-Our new van was set on fire during the night by some arsonists.
-We found a death threat note the next morning, saying a bunch of nasty things. It had three different types of writing on it, and thanks to that, we were quickly able to figure out who did it.
-I had arrest warrants made out, and then the Saint Marc police did nothing. After several months went by, I realized they had no intention of arresting anybody without receiving a bribe. We don’t pay bribes because we serve the Lord.
-Some missionary friends introduced us to a high ranking policeman who is also a Christian and is running a crusade to eliminate corruption in the police and justice system. As a side project, he is helping missionaries who have problems like ours.
-The policeman came to Pierre Payen and arrested one of the arsonists. In the process, he found out that two of them had bribed certain Saint Marc policemen not to arrest them. This did not come as a surprise, and it helped to explain the behavior of both the Saint Marc police and the arsonists.
It was a huge encouragement to us to have the first of three arsonists arrested, but it has been difficult for some of our workers. Some of them have been threatened and they are justifiably afraid. The problem is that they KNOW Pierre Payen has no justice. It’s been proven. A perfect example happened back in 2005, and you would have to be crazy to put any kind of confidence in the system after this.
In the early afternoon, a man named Calix came with a group to Yonese’s house and smashed the doors to her house in. He came with a pile of tires. Tires have great significance in Haiti because they are used for necklacing, which is when you shove a tire over someone’s upper torso, fill it with gasoline and set it on fire. Yonese ran from her home crying. Her son Evans came to me and told me what was happening, so I gave him a disposable camera and told him to go take pictures of the act in progress. I called the police and told them they needed to come quickly. They said they would come and then hung up. They didn’t even bother to ask me where the crime was taking place. Yonese and her family left their home that day and didn’t return for over six months.
Yonese got a lawyer and had arrest warrants made out. Calix paid the police, and no policeman ever did anything. Remember, there were photos of the act in progress, and photos we took later fully documenting the damage done to her home. It happened in the middle of the day and there were perhaps 50 witnesses. This was incontrovertible proof that there is no justice to be found in Pierre Payen.
Yonese is one of our workers, and so are her sons Evens and Jean-Renaud. They are very frightened by the threats they are receiving now, understandably. Unfortunately, they are so frightened that they don’t want to be seen helping with the arson investigation. It’s discouraging for me, but obviously I understand why they feel the way they do. Like I said, they aren’t merely skeptical; they KNOW there is no justice to be found in Pierre Payen.
As an aside, the policeman is continuing to help us. If we or any of our workers received any sort of attack, he will come back to Pierre Payen with backup (the kind of backup that carry assault rifles) and arrest half the town if they need to. I don’t think my workers believe it yet though!
For me, I’m starting to see this investigation in a new way. I suspect that seeing this criminal has shaken up Pierre Payen a little bit. Criminals who didn’t think they had anything to worry about may be starting to worry, and the population may actually be starting (just barely starting) to believe that there might be some sort of justice available to them. I don’t think Pierre Payen will soon become a place I could let my daughter run around in, for example, but maybe we can hope to make some tiny steps in that direction.
It’s been difficult to hold things together… I don’t need to go into that. Now I’ll talk about my own personal hobby type project that I’ve been working on.
I used to have a lot of papaya plants growing in the garden, and some of then gave us literally hundreds of pounds of fruit. Then, the plants caught some sort of a disease spread by aphids and I had to pull up every one. I kind of half-heartedly did some replanting, and then most of the new plants died of root-rot after the 2008 hurricanes. Recently I was encouraged to plant papayas again when Yonese brought home some really delicious papayas home from the market (with seeds). I got a bunch of seedlings started up on the roof, and then began preparing different beds around the work yard just in the different corners I found that got enough sunlight. We have lots of compost now so I added that to the beds along with some of the very very fine sand and grit that fills up the canal that comes off of the filter installation sand when it’s washed. So far, the plants I put in the ground are doing quite well. Leslie is already complaining that we will have papayas coming out of our ears. I hope so!
My feelings about gardening are that the garden should work for you, not you working for the garden. In other words, I’m only willing to put in the minimum amount of effort for the maximum amount of fruit. For me, Papayas and bananas are perfect. One good papaya plant will live up to 5 years and can easily give over 200lbs of fruit before it dies. Bananas require even less work because once they give a regime of bananas, a new plant automatically comes up from the roots. In the case of my garden in particular, the bananas are automatically watered and, I’m beginning to think, automatically fertilized. When the workers are washing sand, the wash water goes into a canal which runs into the garden. 5 days per week, the bananas get a nutrient rich supply of water. The bananas are so tall now, and I don’t even know how many regimes are getting ready to come out of the garden. The regimes mostly seem to be huge, too. Nine, ten, twelve hands. The best part is that since the garden is well established, I hardly have to do any work!