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GEORGIANNE NIENABER REPORTS FROM HAITI: Haiti Watch: There Are No Loaves and Fishes in This Purgatory

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(All photos by Georgianne Nienaber)

PART TWO of Day Two in Haiti

Writing all of this down has become a dreaded chore every evening, but this is why writers travel--to put experiences into words that describe something the reader cannot see with eyes that are too distant. The first sentence is mightier than the proverbial sword if it can attract attention or elicit curiosity. This writer feels spent tonight, and the mind wanders to loved ones who are missed, hands one would like to hold, friendships that need repairing, and a dog that craves petting back in Florida.

A soft rain has just begun to fall, but it is a terrible event here in Petionville, Haiti. There are 5,000 people with no shelter, food, or sanitation on Highway 1, about an hour from here. Babies are sleeping in dust that is turning to mud alongside mothers with shriveled breasts who are offering the infants paint chips mixed with dirt because they believe it is nutritious. It is all they have.

Meanwhile, clients come and go from this whorehouse where the writer has her bed, and the people shouting and partying on the streets could care less about the 5,000--let alone the 1,000,000 homeless here in Haiti. The rain is pounding harder now.

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Something is very wrong. God is not paying attention.

But the writer has begun with the wrong story. The road to the 5,000 began in Miami last Wednesday-- and it is not the story that the writer promised to Dick and Sharon and the LA Progressive. Since it is long past time for the telling of the promised story, the writer will try.

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The story begins, like all stories do, with serendipity, a chance encounter, and a door that one may choose to open or ignore--doors more often than not open to reveal paths that take one out of one's comfort zone and safety net. Mark Moore was the key to Haiti.

During a lunch break at a conference at Miami's Sofitel Hotel, Mark asked to sit at the writer's table. He had just returned to the States from Haiti, where he is a partner in a security firm. He also runs a small non-profit and happens to be married to a Haitian woman. The white tablecloth was already rumpled from notebooks and maps when Mark sat down with his plate of poached salmon. The writer's map of Haiti slopped into his salad. No matter. Huge hands picked it up and he declared it "a good map." Mark asked about the scribbled phone numbers and arrows written in the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. The writer, who had never been to Haiti, explained that they were contacts and story ideas offered by human rights organizations and web readers at the LA Progressive.

Mark's fingers traced a crescent shape over the map from north to southfrom Jacmel to Cap Haitianand he agreed that the areas the writer had targeted looked good for learning and story telling. Then, he uttered a request. There is a woman named Ginette (he spelled it Jeannette) who was badly injured in the January 12 earthquake. She is related to his wife and he feels she has not had proper orthopedic aftercare for her broken nose, suborbital and arm fractures, and a crushed pelvis. American doctors swooped into Haiti and saved many lives, but time ran out on their clocks, they punched out, and hundreds of patients are still housed in wards at St. Nicholas Hospital in the city of St. Marc.

"Are you traveling with a doctor?"

"Yes, but he is an Emergency Room doc, without extensive orthopedic experience."

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"Will you go? Please."

"Of course."

And so, finding Ginette became the primary mission of the journey to Haiti, and the writer believed that it would truly be the most difficult task she faced. The door opened and the safety net fell away.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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