I’ve decided to post stories/pics. from Haiti in different posts, mostly to help me organize my thoughts on this trip. This one is dedicated to the Olaffson Hotel, featured in Graham Greene’s The Comedians, and all things dark.
Charity and I had drinks at The Olaffson during the week I was there. It’s interesting to actually see the hotel after reading Graham Greene’s novel. In the novel, the Olaffson is alternately a bastien of safety and a den of inquity.
Today, it’s a shabby, rambling hotel that desperately needs a renovation. The paint is flaking, the foliage overgrown, and the tile chipped. It also has the feeling that it’s almost deserted as you walk in, and you don’t see any guests walking the grounds.
There was a Graham Greene room, on the room he supposedly stayed in while he was in Haiti.
In many ways, the hotel reflects the dark days of the Duvalier years, which have morphed into the dark days in Haiti now. The threat is no longer Papa Doc and the Tontons Macoutes, but now it’s kidnappings and all manner of corruption.
While I was in Haiti I learned about many kidnappings, and one of a former student of mine. The girl was in 7th grade when I taught in Haiti, and is now high school age. I was horrified to find out that she had been kidnapped, but even more horrified to find out that people think that she was kidnapped by a former classmate at the school. Though this is all passed by word of mouth (the only reliable means of communication in Haiti), and may be more or less true, it’s very disturbing.
The last Sunday before I left we learned of another kidnapping at church. It’s hard to explain the level of fear that instills in you, to hear that people you know are being taken off the streets. And what’s even more amazing to me, is the dedication of people working there that doesn’t waiver. Though most people understand they’re at risk, it doesn’t stop their belief in making Haiti a better place, though the US Ambassador has as much as admitted that Haiti is a failed state. Interestingly, some Haitian-American friends said that what Haiti really needs is an act of God–an earthquake, hurricane, etc. to just start over.