Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Vote and Tap Taps

As we were walking to clinic yesterday, and I was thinking, “Gee, I hope we don’t get kidnapped,” a man driving a shiny navy blue SUV rolled down his window and asked us if we wanted a ride. Kidnappers usually aren’t so polite, so we jumped in. Our chauffeur was a minister who had spent 10 years in the U.S. On our five minute ride, we discussed the upcoming elections, which after being postponed several times, will be held on January 8. Thirty-five candidates are running for president. “Most of the people here can’t even read or write. How can they know how to select a presidential candidate?” We hear this from educated Haitians and others.

I asked the nice American computer guy Zach staying at our place what he thought about this philosophy. Here was his succinct and, in thinking about the history of voting restrictions (do you own land? where’s your poll tax? are you a man?), I know correct response. “Whenever you create a barrier the vote, you are undemocratic.” Here! Here!

Today John and I caught a ride to an attorney’s office to conduct a little business. We took tap taps on the way back. Tap taps are small, battered pickup trucks with a top on the back. They get their name by the tapping that riders do to let the driver know he’s reached their stop. In the bed of the truck are benches, where the riders sit. Tap tap transportation is one of the few public services that kind of works in Haiti. The vehicles are cheap and ubiquitous.

Each of the darkened interiors is a small community, kind of like an elevator, only Haitians are far less self-conscious than Americans. Some of the tap taps are quiet or chatty, or staring at the blancs (but not in unfriendly way). People climb in and out of the back of the truck at every corner, ducking their heads and putting their hands on your legs to balance themselves. At one stop, a couple of women with five children dressed in rust checked school uniforms crowded on our tap tap, which already was almost full. I pulled one of the kids onto my lap. She put her hand on mine, with the kind of trusting instinct that children who haven’t been harmed by adults have.

I’ve postponed the tuberculosis tutorial until tomorrow.

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