Saturday, November 03, 2012

Amy Wilentz on Sandy

I just recently found out that Amy Wilentz, author of the gorgeously written and controversial The Rainy Season, has a blog. I know I will be reading it regularly, because she writes so wonderfully and apologizes (in the post I'm quoting below) for being so Haiticentric. "I can't help it," she admits. Here she is on Hurricane Sandy. This is just a short excerpt from a much longer post, and she's also provided (in a separate post) the photo she refers to. Click on the link at the end to read the whole thing.  

"So when I look at the picture of a crowded gas station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ... I feel that I have been here before; I’ve been in that gas station so many times, only it was always in Haiti, and no one ever cared. In fact, no one really minded: in Haiti, gasoline shortages are habitual, just part of the program of underdevelopment — Haiti can run out of gas nationally because a tanker is delayed. One becomes rather insouciant and even fatalistic about it. It’s perfectly normal to say that you couldn’t get to an appointment because you ran out of gas or because you were delayed at the gas station for hours. Often you borrow someone else’s car that has more gas, if your meeting is really urgent.
And in Haiti, people who are standing in line picking up gas for distant empty cars don’t have those nice handy red gasoline holders to fill up; they have old vegetable oil bottles or dilapidated white buckets. (Did you know some gasoline is pink? I learned that in Haiti.) Also the cars that converged on gas stations in Port-au-Prince or in the provincial towns (in inefficient circles and wedges resembling the pattern at the Brooklyn station above), are not recent models. Suffice it to say that it is not surprising to look down while riding in a Haitian “taxi” and see the roadbed passing beneath your feet as if you were the aptly named Barney Rubble.
Also, by the way, hospitals have always had huge power problems in Haiti, all the time. I loved reading about how Bellevue hospital dealt with Sandy; it was so Haitian — the bucket lines, going up and down stairs on foot, without elevators, rushing oxygen tanks first to one bedside and then the next.  Welcome to the world as it is."

Here's the whole post.

And here's an article from the Atlantic on the hurricane damage in Haiti.


Linda at teacherdance said...

Thank you for sharing this Ruth. I've sent it on to a couple of my friends, too. I will read more of Amy's blog. I have a former student who has started a school in the Kibera slums outside Nairobi and have spoken with her when she visits about this very discrepancy of getting the news out! I've seen that President Clinton has tried to keep Haiti in the news. Is he still in evidence there?

God's Plumbline Ministries said...

Good post Ruth. I have been playing a CNN clip in my mind of this lady saying, "she has been with out power for three days and she was going to die." I rolled my eyes and felt the need to punch her. Meanwhile Haiti is on my heart so much and I have had to post pone my trip to India because they are all living in water knee deep with no help in site. Period.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Hello, Ruth--

You know, I had been wondering about this exactly when one of my kids asked how many people were killed by the storm. I'd heard a figure early on about damage and death in Sandy's early days, but that information had been completely wiped out by the torrent of correspondents reporting from wind-whipped beaches where they attempted to calculated the economic costs of the storm. Thanks to you and Amy Wilentz for some straight-up perspective. I hope you and your family are well.