Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I have been working on a number of projects in Haiti. Anyone following these infrequent blog posts know what I am doing. I am doing quite a few posts on Facebook simply because it is easier than doing a blog update.

I have been working with an individual in Haiti to get broadband into his hotel for a public access internet cafe. It is 80% public service and 20% for his clientele. I am going to Haiti this week to do the site survey. The logistics are all in place. The provider is set. I have to find a few desktops to set up in the hotel for public access; that will not be a problem at worst case I have an inside source at IBM that gets them for right at $ 200 each.

So the reason for this post: We were emailing back and forth on details. The guy asked me a question about streaming video (the question was actually generated to him by Jimmy Buffet) and I answered the question.

So two things humbled me:

1. Jimmy Buffet (who I admire on all levels) is involved in this discussion. Way cool.
2. Richard (the client/customer/user/friend) asked me "Are you a technology Angel"

The caps were his.

Wow. I am head down working details to get stuff done. Anyone who knows me knows that is what I do. If I was a mule pulling a plow in the Delta I would probably run into the oak tree at the end of the row. I spend so much time in the weeds I sometimes just don't realize that some of this stuff is important on an individual basis.

You can approach the level of sadness despair death and anger in Haiti in two ways. You can get there and lose yourself in the simple fact that many people die every day. Things that we here in the US don't even think about kill people. A scratch on the leg from a piece of reinforcement bar sticking out into the sidewalk. A drink of water from a dirty source. Spoiled food. A mosquito bite. That is if you did not get squashed on 12 January or in the aftershocks in the following 10 days.

A hundred other ways to die. You can lose yourself in this; Sean Penn is doing that right now. I admire him like few people I have ever witnessed but the man is killing himself saving lives. That is one way to do it. The other is to write them all off. Accept that many will die while you working to resolve the infrastructure problems that cause the poverty that is the foundation of everything. That is how I view it. I have to step back and say 'I can't save them all so maybe I can save the next generation.'

That is an arrogant attitude and of course I can't save the next generation. The principle is valid. Most of the humanitarian assistance people I know have developed deep capability to ignore individual suffering. At least on the conscious level. I will never tell anyone of the nightmares. It is the only way to stay sane and do the work.

Then some guy who you have met twice who is trying to do good things for his nation calls you an angel. Wow.

When the day job is killing me and my wife is yelling at me because I am neglecting my kids and grandkids and she is scared I will die in Haiti I don't have a reply for her. This is tough stuff to do. It was tough the first week and it is tough now after four months. We are now into the deep grind period. The media are gone. No telethons this week; some other disaster has taken the stage. I could have gotten on an airplane to Chile or to China in the last two months. Logistics and communications are the closest things disaster response has to a religion and I guess I am a high priest. Haiti is going to be my last. It may be the end of me but that is Ok because in the end we should be measured not by what we put in the bank but what we give away. All the people who love me are reminding me constantly that I am giving it all away and my response is 'go with me and see why.'

It's my blog so I get to pontificate any way I want.

Poverty has been with us forever. My Baptist upbringing says that the poor will be with us always. I reject that statement. We can break the back of poverty. We can end hunger. 1,200 children a day die on this planet from prevantable causes. Tweleve hundred!

When you brush your teeth tomorrow morning look in the mirror and think about the 400 children that died while you were alseep. The 400 who will die while you work at your stamping machine or desk or gas pump or fly your airplane. Another 400 will die while you have your after work drink and your dinner and watch American Idol. 50 will die during the show. If you are disturbed by these facts and toss and turn all night another 400 have died. If you are blessed to be a parent think about the fact that every hour 100 parents have had their dearly loved expire. Died. Gone.

I don't need a zero percent financed new car every two years. Neither do you. 1,400 square feet is fine for a family of five you do not need 3,500. I know people who handle it in 40 square feet of Coleman tent. Turn off the air conditioner. Cook your meals instead of spending a thousand a month eating out. Give to Doctors Without Borders or Oxfam or Salvation Army. Don't give to the others because, despite the posts below, those are the international NGOs I believe have it together.

I am no angel. I am a spoiled narccistic self indulgent spoiled brat. We all are.

Richard you paid me the highest complement of my life but I am not worthy.

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I welcome comments, questions or anything anyone wishes to post on the situation in Haiti.