Interlude: A Leaving Haiti Soundtrack/The Crazy Preacher Lady/The Buddy System

I’ll Be At Lost & Found: A Leaving-Haiti Soundtrack

Stuck in Florida with way too much time and the horrifying realization that my laptop was not going to Haiti with me, I made playlists. Playlist after playlist after playlist. I made a playlist for every occasion. Not only did I make them, I numbered them with the idea that I would listen to them in order. Sort of a way of keeping things interesting without having to depend on ‘shuffle’ which I am way too obsessive about music to feel good about.

The playlists were an amazing act of faith on my part. My iPods get stolen with enormous regularity when I travel. Despite everything else that happened in Haiti, nobody boosted the iPod. Nor did it get jettisoned for stench reasons. Thus I found myself on the bus back to the Dominican Republic curling up with College/Alt Playlist Number Four:

  • It Can’t Rain All The Time –  Jane Siberry
  • Yes – Morphine
  • I’ve Heard – Dag Nasty
  • Talk About The Passion – REM
  • Turkish Song of the Damned – The Pogues
  • Bellyfulla – Ramona Falls
  • Missing Link – Del The Funky Homosapien w/Dinosaur Jr.
  • Ocean Size – Janes Addiction
  • Independence Day – Ani Difranco
  • See A Little Light – Bob Mould
  • Conversation Via Radio – Blue October
  • Toadvine – Ben Nichols (live – thank you Fuckin’ Dan)
  • Sin Exagerar – Calle 13 w/Tego Calderon (nothing to do with college or alt but they’re brilliant. If their lyrics were in English Calle 13 would be considered one of those innovative crossover success-story bands. Instead they get pegged as reggaeton and shuffed off under ‘latin music’.)
  • Something Fast – Sisters of Mercy
  • Omission – Quicksand

Since I was sleeping for most of the trip this meant I kept waking up to odd things. The bus would hit a bump and I’d wake up to Shane McGowan slurring in a thick Irish accent. When they stopped the bus to get us food it was Puerto Rican hip-hop. At one point I got up to take another anti nausea pill and the random Haitian guy sitting behind me asked to listen for a second. I gave it to him – which makes it even odder that this one didn’t get stolen as handing your iPod to strangers you’ve never spoken to is a bad idea – and he handed it back to me with a weird look on his face and asked me what the hell I was listening to.

I didn’t even bother trying to explain why Bob Mould was a seminal figure in American punk/alternative music. Think the language barrier would have been a bit much for that one.

In short, it made this whole surreal little bombed-out-of-my-mind-on-antibiotics-and-fever journey that much more surreal. Gave it a funky little soundtrack. Every time I listen to that playlist I feel vaguely queasy in a nostalgic sort of way.

The Crazy Preacher Lady

The trip back in to the Dominican Republic was mostly uneventful. At least I think it was since I slept through most of it. We had to pull our stuff off the bus for searching at the border. I walked up to the table with my bag, now half full, and the customs official just looked at me and told me to put it back on the bus. Maybe he was lazy, maybe I looked half dead, maybe he was more concerned with the American female preacher behind me that was probably the first person ever to come OUT of Haiti with six suitcases, I don’t know. But it was the first piece of decent customs luck I’ve had in my life. Except the preacher would not shut up, couldn’t handle her baggage on her own and picked me out to help with her bags. Everyone else on the bus clearly saw this chick was a train wreck, preacher or not, and cleared out. Being sick I wasn’t moving as quickly as the rest of the passengers so she managed to corral me. Despite barely being able to carry my own bag I slung one of her bags back under the bus for her and then skulked off to bum another cigarette before the bus left.

Instead of going back to Santo Domingo the plan was to go to Santiago, DR. A much quicker trip, cheaper, and quite frankly I didn’t give a crap as long as it was out of Haiti and had access to a shower, aspirin and a bed.

Once we got over the border it was two hours – devoid of mud piles and mountains of litter – to Santiago. T. had come through here on his way into Haiti so he knew a cheap, clean hostel. He was going to a friend’s house but both my new friend Stephane and the female preacher were going so we decided to split a cab.

The Santiago bus station had coffee. Nescafe, yes. Shitty Central American coffee but coffee. Because of my kidneys I wasn’t supposed to do caffeine or alcohol. The alcohol wasn’t an issue but the caffeine was. Particularly as my staying-awake record thus far had been about twenty minutes and quite honestly I just wanted to bathe in coffee. They also sold cigarettes. Stephane negotiated with cab drivers and loaded the preacher’s armory of crap into the cab while I delightedly sucked down a Dixie cup of coffee and smoked my very own cigarette.

I fed the monkeys on my back, the bags got stuffed into the impossibly tiny taxi and off we went. The open trunk bounced precariously from the preacher-lady’s luggage, threatening to dump everything onto the city streets with each pothole. She jabbered the whole ten minute ride to the hostel, verbally flying all over the place about Jesus, Los Angeles, Haiti, Hell, whatever. Either she had some sort of Haitian coffee connection that I never managed to tap into or she was batshit crazy or she was on drugs. I have no clue. Coffee aside, I was falling asleep again. The cab driver spoke no English and Crazy Preacher spoke no Spanish. Stephane was trying to talk to me. So Crazy Preacher was sort of talking to herself but it made her happy.

When we got to the hostel Crazy Preacher, who had stayed at the hostel before, strode up to the desk and asked for the owner. When he came out she announced she had no intention of staying there – she didn’t want to pay for the room and the church across the street had offered her a place to stay – but she needed to leave her bags at the hostel. Without paying. Oddly enough he smiled and said sure, no problem.

When she flounced out the owner, a younger Dominican guy who had grown up in Brooklyn and had a wicked New York accent, looked at me. “We’ll watch the luggage, no problem. Let the church watch her. And listen to her, too. God bless ‘em”.

The Buddy System

A word about Stephane/my male friends in general. There are a couple of defining characteristics that molded me:

  • I spent a lot of time in the punk/surf/skate scene growing up. This is a sausage party. Not a lot of girls. As a result most of my friends were guys. 
  • I travel alone a lot, usually to places that have bad reputations. Again, sausage party. The women you do meet tend to be travelling with friends or boyfriends. Women with their boyfriends think you want to steal them. As for chicks with their friends, well, women in groups can be like hyenas. They pick one and tear it apart.*
  • I grew up the youngest daughter in a house full of women. I have three amazing, awesome, strong sisters and no brothers. In my formative years I learned girls are the ones that kick your ass, throw Kleenex in your crib and pick on you.

The point is I tend to make friends more easily with men than with women. I have some amazing female friends that I’ve been friends with for years. I also have a lot of platonic male friends who are like brothers to me. My buddies. And Stephane, like so many of my male friends that I’ve met travelling, had no ulterior motives. He was just bored, had been on the road for months and was looking for cool folks to hang out and talk to. He wasn’t out to hook up with anyone. This had to be explained to some of the other volunteers who showed up in Santiago the next day on their way back to the US. At this point Stephane’s name became Stephane-who-is-honestly-just-my-friend.

*I do have to say this didn’t hold true in Cabarete, DR, which we will get to eventually. Not only did I meet some amazing women who were travelling alone, there were also The British Girls who could not have been more cool and friendly or less hyena-esque.

Photo notes: #1) That’s not really my iPod but it looks just like it. 2) Caribe bus station in Santiago, boosted photo. 3) Sausage Party Exhibit A – The Anthrax club in Norwalk, CT circa late 80’s. Note the predominant gender. There actually were girls there, we just stayed the hell away from the stage to avoid getting accidentally pummelled by stage divers, etc. And we definitely were a minority compared to the males. But I needed a picture for symmetry purposes. Unknown band, unknown photographer.

Another important note: I did not actually have typhoid – the Typhoid Finn thing was just a reference to the whole Typhoid Mary thing. And if you don’t know what that is, well, wikipedia is often useful for these sorts of things.