Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Places I Loved

It's hard to be in two places at once, your body in one and your heart in the other. I know something about this already because I'm a TCK. For TCKs, there's always somewhere to miss. But now I feel this with a new intensity. I need to be where I am, for my children, but I want so much to be there, in Haiti, for my husband and my students and my friends.

It is impossible not to wonder about places and what has happened to them. Today I started to do some Googling and found out some things I didn't really want to know. Of course places are not as important as people, and we grieve most for the human lives lost and changed forever. But there are also some places I loved that I wanted to know about.

Apparently some people think that Port-au-Prince wasn't much to start with, but it had many beautiful buildings in it and one of those was the Episcopal Cathedral, Sainte Trinité. What I loved most about it were the murals on the walls, scenes from the Bible set in a Haitian context. Jesus' Triumphal Entry into - not Jerusalem, but Port-au-Prince. The Wedding at Cana with women in the background hanging up laundry and pigs running around. Here is a photo of the crucifixion mural. This blog post contains some before and after photos of the cathedral.

Here's an article about the main art museum in Port-au-Prince, and here's a report from the ICOM (International Council of Museums on the state of other museums.

Shortly after the quake I got an email about damage to libraries throughout the city, including priceless collections from the early years of Haiti, some dating back to the 16th century. An organization called Bibliothèques sans Frontières is trying to offer aid to help with this. I haven't ever been to most of the libraries listed in the email, but the loss of documents and history and books makes me sad.

I found this post about what happened to the Cyvadier Hotel in Jacmel, where we spent many happy days.

None of these places, I repeat, is as important as the loss of human life, but to put it in perspective, imagine the National Cathedral in Washington DC leveled, the Smithsonian gone, the Library of Congress destroyed. Think of the place you last had a vacation, half fallen.

And then imagine being a thousand miles away, wondering and looking for photos, hoping you'll see that everything is all right, and then finding out that it's really not.


Among Worlds said...


I understand - totally.


Janet said...

I don't like going back to visit places that have changed. To find them destroyed or badly damaged would be so much worse.

They did a piece on Jacmel on NPR, saying that before the quake it had good possibilities for tourism.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Margie.

Yes, Janet, Jacmel was a beautiful town and there were big plans in the works for tourism. I read yesterday that Jacmel is 50-60% destroyed.

Jenny said...

Hi Ruth, Jenny from Sharon CT Daily photo here. I'm so glad you and your family are safe. (I had guessed a while back that you were in Haiti from various things you'd said over the years!)
I hope it isn't an imposition to ask you this: So many people I know here are organizing projects to help - do you happen to know of groups (orphanages, schools) that want or need donated children's clothes? They would be used, but we'd cull out only exactly what is wanted. Feel free to email me directly at jahansell@gmail.com (or ignore if you have too much on your mind/plate right now!
Best wishes for you and everyone you love in Haiti!

Among Worlds said...


I like how she wrote about her feelings and why she was writing.

Ruth said...

Margie, thank you for sharing that beautiful article.

Tricia said...

Those murals are beautiful - how sad they were destroyed. Let's pray for many new places of beauty to rise up out of the rubble!

strawberry soda said...

I love paintings of Bible scenes, with non-white human subjects.

This is my favorite painting of all time:


I've seen it, in person, in Viseu, Portugal -- travelled there just to see this painting. One of the three magi is an indigenous Brazilian.

Painted in the early 1500's, it is a representation of the European's early struggle with fitting indigenous American peoples into Biblical history. Yet, there are still European vestiges on the indigenous Brazilian, namely the clothing.

Because of the discovery of gold and silver, and the ensuing greed to have it all, slavery and mistreatment of indigenous Americans meant that the Europeans needed to adjust their view of indigenous Americans: no longer an equal member of Biblical history, European depictions of indigenous Americans quickly devolved into something quite the opposite, representing indigenous Americans as devils, demons, tormenting Europeans in hell. This change in POV "allowed" Europeans to feel justified in their mistreatment of native Americans.

It all happened very quickly -- within less than 30 years, which is a remarkable transformation in an age before instant news.

I like the Adoracao dos Reis Magos piece so well because it is a piece of brotherly love, a moment of acceptance of "other" as equal and same and honored before God.

A rather long-winded response...