Water Colours

10 Mar


Last week I put this photo up on Facebook. It’s an early morning shot of the hillside just beyond the terrace of the Port au Prince hotel where I am staying, and where I spend a lot of time reading, or writing, or transcribing interviews I’ve done here in Haiti. A few people commented on the fact that it looks rather nice with its rainbow of colours and it does. The populous community on this hillside, which stretches well to the left of the photo and then around the side we can’t see, is called Jalousie. Its houses were painted last year by the government so that the views of it from Petion Ville’s newest luxury hotels would be more pleasant than the grey cinderblock geometry we used to see.

But for the residents of  Jalousie, a settlement established a few years ago by people either fleeing the violence of Cite Soleil, or else newly arrived in Port from rural areas, the paint job was at the very bottom of their long list of concerns. At the top, according to a lady I met last Saturday named Marie Elise Fleurantain, is water, followed by public schools, followed by stairways to get to the hundreds of houses along its summit.

Hard as it seems to believe, there is no piped water for the approximately 50,000 inhabitants of Jalouisie. It has to be purchased instead. “You have to pay 12 gourdes for just one bucket of water,” said Marie Elise; that’s about 25 cents. Not only is the water expensive, she said, but it is salty and if you wait a day, you will see small insects emerge from almost invisible eggs in the water. She and other women like her have to get up at dawn to fetch their water before the supply runs out.

So they are not too happy with the government spending money on colourful facades, instead of something useful. “They just paint the houses,” she said, “they don’t do anything else.”

So now it seems that the women of Jalousie have organized and plan to build a cistern themselves, to be filled by a combination of filtered rain water or trucked-in water, and sold for just five gourdes per bucket. Marie Elise is one of the coordinators of this group, and in her view, it is the only way get anything useful done in Jalousie.


2 Responses to “Water Colours”

  1. Megan March 18, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Hi Augusta. It is like so many things in Haiti . . . a facade and underneath something else entirely. I have been following your writing for some time and I wondered if I might bother you with a personal interest of mine. I wondered if you might be interested in reading a pre-publication version of a memoir written by Vilmond Joegodson Deralciné. Joegodson, born in a small village, moved with his family to Port-au-Prince where he fell victim to much of the same hardship that plagues all the poorest inhabitants of the ctiy. It’s a first-person telling (with the help of Canadian Paul Jackson, an activist and historian) of his life in Haiti in the years that followed the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, and the heightened crisis brought on by the earthquake in 2010. Joegodson’s perspective gives a heightened awareness of the real struggle that Haitians face every day. If you’re interested there is more information about Joegodson and his writing partnership with Paul Jackson on their blog http://heartofhaiti.wordpress.com/.

    • The Global Kiosk March 19, 2014 at 5:34 am #

      Hi Megan, I would be happy to read Vilmond’s book. I will get in touch once I am back. And thank you for your kind compliments about my blog.

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