In the town of Port-au-Prince – there was no use calling it a city though it had the population of one, though it was the largest on the French speaking part of the island. The main businesses were importing from the rest of the world, and managing how it was to be directed. It was of course a pillaged economy, where imports were vastly more than exports. But the government did not have any control over exports – that was largely in the hands of corporations. So not only was it in debt, but it had no way to manage the debt. They had driven in to the bowels of a pastel shade of buildings, which were new and were directed by the government. The purpose was to provide some semblance of government, and with few trees except around the capitol, what was noticeable was the lack of government which was actually done. Their work you people entering or leaving any individual building.
He recognized some of the buildings – partially because they were up here the UN building, and though she did not mention it, also near the Gulf club - where she suspected he did most of his real work. His eyes searched through the buildings has if he recognized some general structures, but that would almost certainly be at illusion.
They were going east, the airport was far north. The Seaport was West where they had managed to deposit the boxes which were now being distributed – some to their right place, the others to the places where they now would be going. After all, there were numerous places that medications would be needed. There was no pattern to the streets, and she recognized that there would be no pattern to how the city was laid out – though in fact there was a tradition, or rather traditions which said what was to be where.
“Are we going to the UN first?” He was trying to find out what her objective was.
“No we are going to want of the small buildings, the one which he is working in. I thought it would be better to announce your presence, then go to the UN missionaries and do those things that needed to be done.”
“I see, you know of course that stopping by the UN will take much of today.”
“That is what I expected, yes.”
“There are individuals which feel that they must have a report, both in writing and with words. And being the man on the spot, they would naturally want other details than the ones they are interested in.”
“I hope there is nothing illegal about this.”
“Not illegal, but questions which do not actually pertain to their area in question.”
“Do not they have others to do this?”
“If someone is stationed here, he is part of some UN mission. Therefore he is bound to his director, and the first thing that will happen, is an agreement – either silently or bluntly – as to the exact delimiters of the information which will be led out. It is because of this, that my presence as an outside observer is so key.”
“There will then be back and forth between you and your superiors, and between you and others will be interested.” she motioned her hands for him to turn left at intersection, though this was hard to do. It was obvious that the motion of cars and pedestrians did not actually work by moving with the lights.
But things ran differently in tropical regions, there was no winter, nor spring nor fall – just a hazy kind of wet and dry seasons during the year. Right now it was January, and here that meant the end of the dry season. It was only a few more days until the rains poured down during the wet season – starting some point in May. But realize there was no temperature variance to this. She could feel the sweat coming from his body, and the odor which came from his pores – again she realized that he was not acclimated to the region, yet. But there was something about his fragrance which told her that he would be attuned rather quickly to this, there is something about being acclimated which leaves a mark on its bearers.
She directed him to a small building, which was distinctly old and of the classical style. There were three levels, and though it was distinctly dirty, it had the patina of a building which saw some sort of repair. The arches and pillars had particular attention paid to them – to her eyes they said that a single person had devoted his life to just keeping them alive. The arches were extraordinarily narrow, though not as narrow as the Gothic style. Nearby them were buildings much newer, and much cleaner – who announced to the world that they were important. Or as important as anything could be in Haiti. She reminded herself that this world was forgotten except when something disastrous happened.
At this point the motor stopped, and they got out – though the white man collected a bag that had been well used in its travels. She noted this, and drew the correct implication that his job had been just this for a very long time – and perhaps had always been this since he left with a diploma. She guessed that the diploma had been in international affairs, or something related to that. She also guessed that there were at least two diplomas, because of his air. How she often wished that she could run her eyes of and down his frame, and glean something about him from his physicality. But that was not her gift.
She then remarked: “You have not told me what your college major was.”
“My Masters degree was in international affairs, though in my youth I was actually in architecture, I wanted to design buildings. Do you have a college degree?” There was a hint of reproof, as if she might not have a degree at all – most people in Haiti did not.
“Yes, in nursing. But I have not done a good deal of nursing in a very long time.”
With that, they went into the building with its air of importance known to only those who looked – but there were two there that saw the importance in the world of small scale politics.
When inside, they were Enraptured in a different kind of space than the one they had immediately departed – as soon as they opened the door, they were greeted by a long corridor, with four doors which were side chambers, and another door which led down to what seemed like a larger room. Perhaps it was the area we are things were sorted. The walls were ivory colored, or perhaps liked yellow – it was hard to tell. Their were to sets of chandeliers, gathering dust and clearly not the usual style. Everything seemed serene, even sepulchral – like a tomb wear everything was prescribed by certain rituals contained in a tome. But this was a lie, because first of all she knew that at least one new person was ensconced here, and there were things that screamed newness. For example there were in little piles maps in bold colors. With a motion of her hands, she directed them to the stairs which began very near the door. They were richly colored in the local pine tree of Hispaniolan – which were extremely narrow in width, and were not covered with anything. But even a floor made of wood was unusual – because most floors were stone. The steps turned 180°, and presented three doors on either side, with names painted on them – she immediately knew which tore they would go to, because of all the doors that one was fresh. Again with the small detail glaring out through the rubble. By each door there was a large container filled with more of the maps. One of the things that he noticed was that the time honored tradition of wainscot on such a corridor was not present – one of the many things which told him that he was not in a safe space. It was almost as if there were dragons of minute size waiting to snatch a hand, because everything was old, but everything was also strange. As if beings which were not human lived there.
Then she opened up the door, and saw a space with a wooden desk – it was clearly made from abroad, with every nook and cranny filled with a filing cabinet which had papers strewn about it. There must have been five at least. From the ceiling hung a plant, which was draped with leaves which signaled it to be some sort of palm tree – though she did not know which. That the rooms accouterments were the first thing, signaled that man hunched over the desk was drowned by them said a great deal about his lack of character. Or perhaps that is character was so entombed that he was reticent to display it.
Of course the man was black, for he was distinctly part of the Haitian culture. He was thin, and wore a short sleeve shirt of light blue. She noticed – which was rare for her – stands on his wrists which said that he was drawing maps most of the time.
Then he stood up, and it was obvious that he was not old, but not young either. He also had a grip which extended outwards – and he spoke with a soft tone:
“I was not expecting anyone, I am identified by the name on the door – Dr. Emanuel Kenold. Who might you be, and which agency to you come from?” because of course, a white man would have come from one of the agencies, and it was unusual unless there were problems with the buildings.
“Please let me introduce you to Mr. Jean-Claude Laboissonnniere, from the sanitation department of the UN.”
With that the white man interrupted just a moment to clarify some of the details: “It is my great privilege to represent the UN, but with a special mission. There has been an outbreak of cholera, and I am supposed to distribute special packages and drill to find out where it is coming from.”
This had the exact opposite effect of what it was intended, instead of being terrified by his mission, the doctor was mystified.
“I am afraid I do not understand how this relates to my function.”
It was at this point that Lucy interrupted.
“One of the problems with distributing aid, is that a great deal of the aid disappears – and I was advised that would be a supreme candidate for telling which men would actually receive the aid, and which ones would siphon it off. I have a note for you, which will explain things.” At this moment she took out from her satchel a single page of paper and unfolded it from its neatly trifold package. It was obvious that it had been ready for this moment.
He read it, twice:
I know this comes as a shock to you, but there is no one else that I can command to do this. The man in front of you is to distribute packages for the relief of cholera, and it is imperative that most of the packages actually go to his objective. Do not worry about expense, because I know that you will be frugal.
With sincere regards,
Then came a smile to his face – because Odney was both a dear friend, and someone who would take charge. And once he took charge, his success was better than average. He was also willing to stand up and take the damage when it did not go as well. Normally this would have been the end of someone such as Odney – but he had a stiff resolve that meant that he did not fold – but survived. He also counted Emmanuel as one of his friends. Friend who he would protect – and people who protected others were very rare in Haiti. Though he did not know either of the two strangers, he trusted that there was some reason why he had been selected. It was true that he knew a great deal about the inner workings of Haiti – but that could be to of any number of people in Odney circle of people. Thus he knew that there was something specific which he did. It might have been no more than speaking English and French, but he doubted that. He looked at the woman – and saw that she was one of the people who could get something done, and ignore the unguarded – indeed fresh – remarks that most of the men of Haiti cast her way. Then he looked at the white man, who was just a bit showing his age, though still younger then most. Of what he saw however, was that he had something specific to hide – but Emmanuel could not decide what. If his friend trusted them, then he would to. He looked one more time at the lady, and he saw how beautiful she was to his eyes, but immediately restrained any hint that he had done so.
At this point there was nothing else to do but hand over the paper, and with a silent prayer, command himself to their mission. Because of course, as well as the formal training as an architect – he was very first with the regions of the land which were in the hands of both and formal and informal gangs, and who you had to talk to to get permission. While his formal title meant nothing to this, informally he was known to be someone who could manage the delicate proposition of getting things done.