Midnight, Give or Take an Hour

It’s been a wild and crazy weekend at our house here in Haiti, a weekend in the US when clocks have surreally sprung ahead an hour, dizzying me even at a time-bending distance in Port-au-Prince.

We’ve gotten 66 boxes of everything from fans to folding screens, pots and pans to patio furniture, shipped on a slow boat from Port-au-Prince to Baltimore, a boat so slow we’re hoping to have our lawn furniture in Lexington before the first snow falls next November and clocks again fall back an hour.

Saturday we spent at the beach, and Saturday evening I literally had a long talk with Baby Doc.  Even I find it hard to believe, but I have what may indeed be the worst photo taken this side of the 19th century to prove it.  For now the story will have to wait until we’re settled safely in Kentucky.

Kate, Jean Claude Duvalier, Fito, and me

Early in the morning we indeed leave on a day long trip from Haiti to home-sweet-home, one that will take us from Port-au-Prince to Miami, Miami to Dallas, and Dallas to Lexington, where we are scheduled to arrive an hour this side of midnight.

But in the meantime, I promise–

Sitting across the table talking to “Baby Doc” Duvalier, felt like an hour on the far side of midnight, an event horizon at my back.

(If you’d like to read a post about my past “adventures” at the Port-au-Prince airport, circumstances we are likely to encounter again on our way home from Haiti, click here.)

Moving as Meditation (and Other Pre-Lenten Events)

As Sara and I prepare to move back to the US next week,  leaving behind in Haiti a year’s worth of work, challenge, periodic victory and sometimes defeat, it’s a time for me to reflect, reminisce, think about where I’ve been over the past year, in an effort to figure out where I am going in the one to come.

In the reflective spirit of Lent* (which begins tomorrow), I thought that over the next week I’d revisit some of my earliest posts to the blog, remembering the lessons learned, even the questions left unanswered.

So–since I’m busy packing up one life and moving into another, and since, at the blog’s beginning, most of you weren’t reading yet, I’ll resurrect the first post below and give you a glimpse of how it all got started 4 months ago:

So–the old blog is reincarnated here under a new name!  It is, indeed, the Vietnam version “reinvented” from yet another edgy location–this time Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has spread to Port-au-Prince–my home for the next couple of years.

But before I address the big issues faced here on the western half of Hispaniola, I should clarify why I’ve chosen this new title.  For my less geeky readers, an “event horizon” is the edge of a black hole, a boundary in the space/time continuum beyond which no light can escape—in many ways, a point of no return.  You’ve taken physics; you know this; you’ve just forgotten.

Bottom line–it seems to me, that the far-away places Sara and I have been over the last couple of years have formed a kind of “event horizon” in my mind–taking me to the outer limits of my own comfort zone, shaping new perspectives in me about both the world around me and about this time in my life–a bending of my personal space/time continuum, if you will—–mind-bending for me, at the very least.

However, Haiti itself offers a kind of event horizon–a comparison I first found when reading Paul Farmer’s book “The Uses of Haiti.”  Farmer begins his chapter of the same name with the following epigraph by T. D. Allman:

Haiti is not simply one more of those tropical dictatorships where to rule is to steal, and headless bodies are found by the road.  Haiti contorts time:  It convolutes reason if you are lucky–and obliterates it if you are not.  Haiti is to this hemisphere what black holes are to outer space.  Venture there and you cross an event horizon. (After Baby Doc, 1989)

Wrap you brain around that statement and you may begin to see why I’ve renamed the blog–because this place, this  location has forced me to rethink my beliefs, not only about myself, but also about big issues such as poverty and hunger–and disease, for god sake!  We’re in the midst of a cholera epidemic!  

But even without cholera sickening folks by the thousands, we had an earthquake here last January, a hurricane last week, and a million and a half people homeless in Port-au-Prince today. 

Was the earthquake an event horizon for Port-au-Prince?  Will cholera bend time and space so there’s no escaping the dis-ease that’s plagued this place for centuries? 

Is there light for Haiti?

Now, fast-forward 4 months. 

Do you think the blog is fulfilling its mission so far?

And, even more importantly, if you have one, what task does your blog accomplish?  What is its purpose?  Tell us about it in the comments and leave a link.  You might attract some new readers!

And don’t forget that tomorrow we’ll have our “Mid-Week Mindy,” tomorrow a reflection on Lent*.  Mindy will be covering for me, answering questions, responding to comments.

* On the Christian calendar, tomrrow, Ash Wednesday, begins the season of Lent, 40 days of reflecting and fasting, leading up to Easter Sunday.  For a beautiful mediation on the meaning  of Lent, check out this post by my friend Jane over at PlaneJaner’s Journey.

News from the Asylum

 I don’t know how to tell you this, but I have some crazy news . . .

Sara and I are leaving Haiti— as in “permanently,” as in “forever.”

I’m just as stunned by this as you are, and frankly it seems hard to believe.   But Sara’s NGO is doing what a number of organizations are doing in Haiti—

They’re scaling back—


Because of funding shortfalls—

The fact of the matter is, merely a fraction of the dollars pledged toward the Haitian relief effort just after the earthquake have been delivered to NGOs, because, in reality, donors are reluctant to hand over funds to a country whose political future is uncertain, a country that has a history of corrupt leadership, presidents who funnel dollars into their own deep pockets rather than passing them along to citizens in need. 


You might wonder what this has to do with Sara and me—————

Quite frankly, Sara is a key disaster response resource for her NGO, especially in terms of her ability to drop into the aftermath of a disaster and get projects moving.  She launched the organization’s effort in Afghanistan after the Taliban fell in 2002 and directed its response to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. 

More recently, she’s worked a year in Vietnam and another in Haiti, without more than 5 consecutive days at home—an effort that has drained and exhausted her.  She needs a break.  She needs to rest.  

And the organization is smart to recognize this.


Sara will have a three-month sabbatical before being reassigned.  This means Spring at home in Lexington—a lovely time of year to be in Kentucky.  And though I’m terribly sad to leave Haiti when there’s so much more of the country to explore and write about, I believe this change will ultimately benefit Sara and her ability to serve more successfully in the future.



We truly don’t know where we will be headed in another 3 months.  Before the earthquake in Haiti, her NGO had planned to send Sara to South Africa.  I suspect that could actually happen this summer, unless in the next several months there’s a massive disaster in another part of the world.


So, how will this affect the blog—a blog that has largely been about Haiti?

Well, it’s ironic that I began shifting the blog’s focus slightly  even before knowing this larger change was coming—addressing the “event horizon” that is my past, while promising to not ignore the “event horizon” that is Haiti.

It could be that I shouldn’t have made that promise.  Certainly, I don’t plan to ignore Haiti even now, but it inevitably won’t be a part of my day-to-day experience.  Inevitably the focus will shift toward which ever country we live in next.

In the meantime, I intend to address the “event horizon” that was “then”—my personal past, whose story, I think, needs to be told.

Actually, going home to Kentucky will better equip me to research my mental health history—to do it in a way I couldn’t if I were in Haiti.  It will give me actual access to boxes and boxes of journals, video-taped therapy sessions, and medical records I already have on hand.

In practical, blogging terms, I suspect this may mean fewer posts and/or briefer posts over the next several weeks, as we pack up our lives here in Haiti and get resettled in Kentucky.  After that, I intend to spend the Spring exploring my past and sharing it here on the blog.

So pad your walls.

Things could get crazy around here.

This insane story’s just beggin’ to be told.

Miscellaneous Monday (and more Mindy to come)

It’s Monday.  And we’re launching another week’s worth of less-than-brilliant (but often, above-average) blogging here at Reinventing the Event Horizon. 

And, in honor of the week’s beginning, I bring you an “inspiring” (at least I’m trying) laundry list of updates:

1.  First, thanks to all of you for your kind and supportive comments in response to last week’s news that I wanted to begin moving my blog in the direction of memoir, not that I would discontinue writing about the event horizon that is Haiti, but that I would also address event horizons from my personal past:  namely my father’s organized crime connections and the black hole that is my battle with bipolar disorder.  (To read these posts click here and here.)

I believe the best writing is inevitably the most honest writing and my not addressing these issues was becoming a form of compositional dishonesty—a way of avoiding the shame associated with my father and the sigma connected to my illness.

One way to lessen stigma is to stop hiding, or, in my case, to boldly address my demons in the blogosphere’s bright light, to share my struggle, to tell my story, both the pain of the past and the hope that is recovery.

2.  Secondly, I’d like to announce an upcoming series of posts from my friend and fellow writer Mindy Shannon Phelps.  (I introduced Mindy last week.  To read her first post click here.)   As she finds time, Mindy will write pieces that address our sometimes serious, sometimes silly misadventures in being human. 

3.  Finally, an update on my dog Lucy’s adventures in Vietnam—her Maltese march, North to South, South to North. 

In last Monday’s post (click here to read) I forgot to include a few of the funniest photos—namely Lucy in Halong Bay . 

(Some of you may have heard of a recent accident in Halong Bay.  A tour boat sank.  12 were killed.  To read about this February 17th incident click here.)

In case you’re not up on the geography of Vietnam, Halong Bay is an UNESCO World Heritage site and hugely popular tourist attraction in northern Vietnam.  According to legend, the Vietnamese were being invaded by the Chinese when the gods sent a family of dragons to protect the bay.  The dragons were said to spit jewels into the water, to build a wall against the invaders, what is, in fact, a series of nearly 2,000 limestone islands that decorate the bay:


In fact, a highlight of Lucy’s adventure in Vietnam included a swim with me in Halong Bay:

And last but not least, a photo of Lucy dressing for her outing on the bay:

The bottom line is this, a lesson I learned from Lucy:

Sometimes the most over-whelming of crises can be ovecome with the most obvoius of answers.

Indeed, sometimes the biggest of problems can be conquered by the smallest of canines in the most amazing of hats.

Hats off to our struggles. 

Hats off to hope.

An Event Horizon for Haiti? Baby Doc’s Mind-Bending Return from Exile

As events unfold here in Port-au-Prince around Jean-Claude Duvalier’s return from exile on Sunday, his being detained and charged with corruption by Haitian prosecutors yesterday, only to be released last night and returned to the Karibe Hotel having had his passport confiscated, I can’t help but repeat how surreal it feels—like living on the edge of a bizarre Caribbean twilight zone where reality contorts itself into a banana republic parody of all things right and just and  good.

In the midst of this twisting of right and wrong, caring and corruption, goodness and greed, I’m reminded of why I began this blog in the first place and why I called it “reinventing the event horizon.” I’m reminded of the quote from T. D. Allman’s After Baby Doc I cited in my first post back in November.  It bears repeating, as Allman associates Haiti with the same “convoluting” of reason we see happening here this week:

Haiti is not simply one more of those tropical dictatorships where to rule is to steal, and headless bodies are found by the road.  Haiti contorts time:  It convolutes reason if you are lucky–and obliterates it if you are not.  Haiti is to this hemisphere what black holes are to outer space.  Venture there and you cross an event horizon. (After Baby Doc, 1989)

Wrap your brain around that statement and you may begin to understand how Haiti feels this week—how this warping of the already absurd, not only wearies me, but worries folks the world over.

Remember, an event horizon is the edge of a black hole, a bending in the space/time continuum beyond which no light can escape—in many ways, a point of no return.

Was the earthquake an event horizon for Port-au-Prince?  Will cholera bend time and space so there’s no escaping the dis-ease that’s plagued this place for centuries?  Will fraudulent presidential elections and now Baby Doc’s return from exile push the Haitian people into further darkness?

Is there light for Haiti?