Sunday, May 15, 2011


A few friends have patiently asked where I've been over the past year.

I think I vaguely reported on my Asian travels (Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Myanmar) which were interrupted by an invitation to support the 2010 flood response in Pakistan. I never closed the loop by returning to Afghanistan.

I worked nine months in Pakistan and expected to continue until May 31 but a government reshuffling left me out of a job (with IOM) and I returned to Canada.

Recently I accepted an opportunity to volunteer for a month with a small NGO in Haiti and I arrived this morning. Getting here was quite a self-imposed adventure because I did as much of the route as possible by train.

Ottawa to Montreal was easy, and it gave me my first night in that lovely town since about 2000.

Montreal to New York was slow because of reduced speed limits along the shores of the record-high level of Lake Champlain. We got about two hours behind schedule but caught up a lot on the dash from Albany to NYC.

I had a wonderful night in NYC and then started what should have been a 27 hour, 40 minute ride. At about 2am, however, a freight in front of us had a minor derailment and we had to wait three hours for it to be re-railed and the track inspected. Then we had an even more bizarre delay.

Apparently, an impatient motorist was in a hurry to get to work and drove around the crossing barriers and we hit the back of her car. The engineers slammed on the brakes and the first thing I knew was the conductors storming back down the train to see how bad things were at the grade crossing. Apparently they were flummoxed to find ... no car. Soon though they found the rear bumper and part of the trunk and deduced that she had driven off. The police took the prize evidence - her license plate - and within half an hour she had been brought from her office back to the scene of the investigation. The train crew calmly explained that had it been a fatality we would be stuck for at least three hours but in this case, once the police report was submitted we were back on our way. But we got to Miami over four hours late.

The best things that happened in Miami were:

1) floating in my motel pool;
2) discovering the Miami arts scene (and watching a great art house movie);
3) realizing I was staying in Little Haiti, where the hurricane alert signs are in English, Spanish and Creole, and, best of all,
4) discovering a restaurant that I will add to my World Favorites List: 'Anise' ( which has the best of food and atmosphere and service.

And then I flew to Port-au-Prince.

Not allowed to use Facebook - a blessing in disguise

Hello Blogosphere,

I'm volunteering for a month in Haiti and just learned that we are not allowed to use Facebook (not only while on duty but at anytime in the compound). This comes at a time when I've been feeling increasingly guilty and remiss because I have not been blogging regularly in months (and never really did a good job ever). As many of my friends know (but as certain others pointedly don't know), Facebook makes communication so easy but it is too exclusionary. While the majority of the world are unconnected, at least those who are online can see most blogs without signing up to anything evil.

An additional issue is that I thought I had no means of explaining this to my Facebook friends.

After lamenting this for a while I suddenly realized that a) my blog forwards to Facebook and b) this is a good kick in my Internet-ass to update my blog.

So... my next post will be a brief update on the last year or so.