Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Don't Sit Under the Coconut Tree With Anyone Else But Me

"Lessons from under the coconut tree" by James Vaznis Globe Staff  September 12, 2015

L’ASILE, Haiti — He wasn’t there to deliver a progress report. He was there to soak up the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the relationships — indeed, any scrap of information about Haiti — that would allow him to better understand.


Nathan Eckstrom, who teaches English in the Boston schools, immersed himself in Haiti for four weeks this summer and blogged about his experiences. He saw the street markets that have popped up amid the concrete rubble in Port-au-Prince and partially completed houses and other buildings — signs of the country’s painstakingly slow recovery from a devastating earthquake in 2010.

He crossed the Massacre River at the border with the Dominican Republic, enabling him to collect vivid details about the devastating tensions between the two countries that crested with a bloody purge of Haitians in 1937 and have resurfaced since — a critical scene from a book he intends to teach his students this school year.

Scroll through Haiti to see the latest on that refugee crisis.

Being there, he hoped, would help him bring that history alive. And he boarded a wooden boat — similar to one he rode as a kid growing up on Cape Cod while fishing with his father — to reach a small island called Ile a Vache, where he spent a week teaching English to teenagers and hospitality workers.

Throughout his journey, Eckstrom wanted to imbibe all he could of Haitian life. That included dining on spicy chicken legs, grilled goat, and other dishes his students ate growing up, even though this 36-year-old Jamaica Plain resident is a vegetarian. He drank coconut milk directly out of the shell and took in passionate dinner conversations about the upcoming presidential election.

Guiding his tour was Marc Prou, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston who grew up in Haiti. Eckstrom was the only one who signed up for a course Prou teaches each summer in Haiti. Prou carried on with the course — even accompanying Eckstrom on the visits to the families of Mathurin and another of Eckstrom’s students — because he believes once people get Haiti in their blood, they will keep coming back.

For Eckstrom, it was his second such journey. A few years ago, he visited the Dominican Republic to learn more about the backgrounds of his students from that country.

.   .   .

With much reluctance, Alexandrine Theodore packed her bags and left the balmy tropical temperatures of Haiti last Valentine’s Day....

Wearing a Red Sox hat, she was. 

Seems like a good time to bag up this post.


And look where cholera has recently made an appearance:

Amid battle against IS, Iraqis face cholera outbreak

Didn't Halliburton and Bechtel rebuild the systems?

UPDATE: Alvin P. Adams Jr., 73; ambassador to Haiti

Also seeHaiti delays presidential runoff again in electoral dispute