Editing and formatting the book have taken up a lot of free time, so tonight we'll resume with posting. Thanks for still visiting, despite the silence on our part the past few days.
In going back over a lot of the posts, it was interesting to read about two stories that were discussed at length: the earthquake in Haiti and the World Cup in South Africa.
Haiti, a nation that was on the verge of a major tourism boost prior to that deadly earthquake, is having a difficult time emerging from the rubble. Despite the billions of dollars in aid sent to Haiti and the billions of tears shed by white people for the sorrowful state of the people in that developing nation, those who we call Haitians have done little to remove the debris:
From the dusty rock mounds lining the streets to a National Palace that looks like it's vomiting concrete from its core, rubble is one of the most visible reminders of Haiti's devastating earthquake.One has to ask: how much of the debris that hasn't been cleaned up was there BEFORE the earthquake? The nation was one big shanty town before the earthquake and you have to wonder if the debris resting untouched isn't a foreign sight to those Haitians who dwell in its midst.
Rubble is everywhere in this capital city: cracked slabs, busted-up cinder blocks, half-destroyed buildings that still spill bricks and pulverized concrete onto the sidewalks. Some places look as though they have been flipped upside down, or are sinking to the ground, or listing precariously to one side.
By some estimates, the quake left about 33 million cubic yards of debris in Port-au-Prince – more than seven times the amount of concrete used to build the Hoover Dam. So far, only about 2 percent has been cleared, which means the city looks pretty much as it did a month after the Jan. 12 quake.
Government officials and outside aid groups say rubble removal is the priority before Haiti can rebuild. But the reasons why so little has been cleared are complex. And frustrating.
Heavy equipment has to be shipped in by sea. Dump trucks have difficulty navigating narrow and mountainous dirt roads. An abysmal records system makes it hard for the government to determine who owns a dilapidated property. And there are few sites on which to dump the rubble, which often contains human remains.
Also, no single person in the Haitian government has been declared in charge of the rubble, prompting foreign nongovernmental organizations to take on the task themselves. The groups are often forced to fight for a small pool of available money and contracts – which in turn means the work is done piecemeal, with little coordination.
Projects funded by USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense have spent more than $98.5 million to remove 1.2 million cubic yards of rubble.
"There's not a master plan," Eric Overvest, country director for the U.N. Development Program, said with a sigh. "After the earthquake, the first priority was clearing the roads. That was the easiest part."
Overvest said the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission – created after the earthquake to coordinate billions of dollars in aid – has approved a $17 million plan to clear rubble from six neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. The neighborhoods have not yet been selected, however, and it's unclear when debris will be removed from other areas...
It's not for lack of trying. The nonprofit organization CHF International spent about $5 million of USAID money on heavy machinery and paying Haitians to remove rubble from specific sites.
Dan Strode was the rubble-removal operations manager for CHF for three months; some dubbed him "the rubble guy" because of his enthusiasm for the job.
"Rubble isn't sexy," the Californian said. "And clearing it is not as simple as people think."
Strode's big worry: that debris won't be cleared fast enough and that the piles of rocks and garbage and dirt will be overtaken by tropical growth."If we don't clear it, what we will leave behind is something that is worse than before," he said. "If you come back in a year, and the rubble hasn't been cleared, it will be grown over, subject to landslides and unstable.
Maybe the debris remains untouched and unmoved because of the presence of gangs, similar to the ones that kept aid workers from helping many in devastated areas right after the earthquake hit in January.
The Christian Science Monitor has written numerous stories on Haiti's attempt to emerge from the rubble of both the earthquake and its 200-year history of consistent stagnation and reliance on foreign aid and sympathy to endure.
If -- if -- all cameras, outside organizations and foreign influence were to depart from Haiti today and the great experiment of a nation becoming a "time capsule" experiment was instituted, what do you think researchers returning a year from now would find? What would the cameras show the world upon landing in Port-au-Prince?
Would The Christian Science Monitor still write stories about that nation's inability to rise from the debris? Would the debris miraculously be moved or would it still be in the same place?
Worse, without the massive amounts of foreign aid to Haiti to keep that island nation afloat, what would become of the people?
No amount of aid - in terms of dollars, tears, prayers or time - could lift that nation from the state it has been in since the glorious revolution that started in 1791.
The blessing of eradicating the white colonialists from the island to create the first Black Republic in history is Haiti's ultimate curse.
It was assumed that the World Cup in South Africa would turn out to be a disaster, based on the empirical evidence of crime and astronomically high murder rates present there. We were wrong, as for one glorious month South Africa put its best face on for the world to see.
That makeup is now running, showing that the true face of South Africa is still the same it was before the World Cup:
The farewell supper at a church in this city's northern suburbs had just begun when two men burst upon the small gathering of parishioners. They demanded jewelry, cellphones, cash and car keys from the pastor and his dinner guests. After corralling the group into the clergy vestry, the men drove away in a stolen Mercedes Benz.
The Aug. 25 church robbery lasted no more than thirty minutes. It was made public not in newspaper headlines the next day, but in a two-paragraph note at a Sunday church service.
But hey, at least South Africa has Crusading White Pedagogues intent on uplifting those intellectually crippled by nature and inexcusable neglected by those who could provide nurture.
Yet the incident is one of many, small and large, playing out in communities across South Africa, that has re-awakened a sense of national unease following the World Cup.
In the weeks since the soccer tournament ended in mid-July, jubilation has turned to jitters; self-congratulations to self-analysis. Sublime confidence in South Africa's future has, for many here, morphed into blind hope that the country will ride out another turbulent period with minimal damage to the economy and social psyche.
The month-long World Cup brought out the best of South Africa. Heavy police presence on the streets curbed crime. Big unions refrained from debilitating labor strikes. The world heaped praise on South Africans of all stripes for hosting a spirited sporting event.
Consider what's happened since.
Soon after the World Cup ended, the ruling African National Congress touted plans for a media watchdog, empowered to punish transgressing journalists with undefined penalties and overseen by a parliament the party controls. That proposal, along with a controversial "Information Protection bill" before parliament, has ignited an acrimonious national debate and attracted criticism world-wide from free-speech advocates.
The ANC's war of words with the media was still in full swing when public-service workers walked off their jobs. The wage strike emptied teachers from public schools, nurses from state hospitals and workers from government offices. On Tuesday, unions suspended the three-week strike to weigh a government salary increase.
The spotlight has also returned to South Africa's violent streets, now that a well-known white rugby player has been put on trial for killing a black police officer. The rugby player claimed he was a victim of a robbery—by the police. There's an investigation into the alleged use of his credit card at a McDonald's after the incident.
That's not all. The ANC itself appears in disarray as leaders jockey ahead of policy conclave later this month. The party's youth wing has criticized President Jacob Zuma's leadership and promoted its agenda of nationalizing South Africa's mines.
Most South Africans are trying to shrug off the post-Cup gloom and predictions of doom. Many harbor a deep belief that South Africa, like democracies elsewhere, can self-correct, that politicians and unions can be reeled in, that a collective survival instinct will save the nation once again.
"We've walked up to the brink before and looked over," said a Johannesburg-based mining executive. "We always manage to walk back."
That's not an unreasonable assumption, given what South Africa has come through in the past two decades. It's gone from an apartheid state pariah with a broken economy to a well-lauded host of the World's largest sporting event. But if the World cup fueled aspirations of what South Africa can accomplish at its best, the weeks since have shown what can go wrong when it's not.
The shaken churchgoers, robbed during the going-away party of a friend, suggest a sense of perspective will be needed in the days ahead. The church letter expressed gratitude that nobody was hurt; noted the recovery of the abandoned Mercedes; and explained a few new security measures.
"Beyond that," the letter summed up, "we are not going to get paranoid about this."
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Though you might not like it, life is about change, progress, innovation and ultimately evolution.
These concepts are foreign and alien to Haiti and South Africa, places that are in a constant state of devolution.
The update on Haiti and South Africa? There is no hope for either nation.