People are an Important Resource and Power Outage Reminders

It's 5:50am and I've been awake since 4am, resting and relaxing on my mattress under the mosquito net and listening to the sounds of the morning – first the roosters and dogs, then the people and motorised vehicles. At 5:18am it was getting light outside and my skin was already feeling a bit sticky. I feel happy and grounded.

Yesterday, at the airport in Montreal, I met a man who founded a non-profit in Haiti more than 20 years ago; he grew up in Haiti and now lives part of the time in Canada. The non-profit's office was destroyed in the earthquake. His staff asked him soon after “Where will we meet?” He told them to meet under a tree. For the first three months after the quake, he asked all of the staff to volunteer their time to help get things started again. All of them stayed on and volunteered. The computers had also been destroyed and all they had left was what was in people's heads. They were more or less starting from scratch. He said to me that he learned from this that people are the most important resource.

I`m staying at the apartment of two friends who work for AMURT. Soon after my arrival, one of their neighbours, a little girl, about 4 years old, walked right up to me and gave me a hug. As I bent to down to talk with her, she gave me a kiss on the cheek. At the school a block from here, while sitting in the AMURT office, three little girls came up to me and gave me hugs and kisses. It warms my heart and spirit to be welcomed immediately with so much affection and interest from these little girls.

My friends didn`t have power in the apartment for about 36 hours. Usually they count on having power for a few hours a day, enough to charge up their batteries, computers, cell phones, etc.; this time the outage was longer. Dinner was cooked under a battery-powered torch and on a gas stove. We talked and ate with candles and flashlights. Yesterday, there was no running water during the power outage. There is a big bucket of water in the bathroom and another in the kitchen. Even though the power came back on after dinner, I was still looking forward to bathing myself from the bucket in the shower. The water in the bucket seemed a good temperature; I used about 10 cups of water.

I felt comfortable and at ease. It felt good to slow down and appreciate the food and water. This is a really helpful reminder for me as I think of what life could be like without all the infrastructure on which we rely in developed countries – the electrical grid, running water and fuel for transportation. Once before, I bathed with a kettle of boiling water and a bucket of cold water. Last night, it was maybe 20 or 25C, so it was comfortable without heat and comfortable bathing from a bucket. When I think of the cold climate we have in Perth, Ontario, I realise again the importance of a redundant source of heating that doesn`t rely on electicity (both our gas furnace and wood pellet stove require electricity to run) and other ways of cooking. If we had a wood stove, we`d be able to keep ourselves warm in the winter, do some basic cooking and boil water. A home-made 'rocket stove' would offer a simple back-up stove; a cob oven would be nice option too.

It`s 6:10am and there`s a resounding echo of uplifting music coming from somewhere in the neighbourhood. 6:27am and there`s a man`s voice coming over a loudspeaker in the distance and a chorus of voices in the background. I wonder if folks are already at church. Wow. I`m already feeling hot and I`m not even outside.

We talked last night about plans for the two 5-day trainings I`ll be giving. We`re also planning for me to visit the AMURT sites in the Northwest and to coach the team in the NW through a permaculture design for one of their sites and the projects that could be based there.

I`ll be joining Larry Santoyo and Hunter Heaivelin`s Permaculture Design Course for the next 14 days. Looking forward to more inspiration and going deeper with all of this work.

I`ve been here for less than 24 hours and it seems already like a couple of days. The energy and vibe feel familiar and comfortable to me in this moment. Just surrendering to the sounds of the motorbikes and trucks, and amazed by the church music which sounds more like a pop-rock concert now. It's not even 7am. Greetings and blessings on this day and this morning, from here in Haiti, to you, wherever you are.

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