There were two ‘secret’ handshakes I saw in Cange/PIH land.

The first was the exploding fist bump—-which I hope needs no further explanation.

The second I will label ‘medium high five plus zoom.’ Which was a high five (right hand to right hand) at head level. When the five was fived, both participants would then zoom their hands above their heads, sometimes raising up a bit on the toes (maintaining hand contact the whole time). This was sometimes followed by a shoulder slap with the free left hand while the right hands remained raised. 

The drummers from RAM taught me one additional fist bump—-just a normal fist bump, but then you pound your chest twice, gently, and say “ze blud”. I’m not sure on if those are the words or not. But it sounded like that.

Just in case you need to infiltrate PIH or Port-au-Prince society. But this information might even be out of date at this point. So use with caution.


I haven’t talked about our last concert that we played in Cange, but Regine talks about it pretty well over here.

The next day was a fairly uneventful drive to the Port-au-Prince airport, followed by about 8 hours of waiting around the terminal (it always pays to be early for an international flight).

About half of us flew to New York for the final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden. Which could have been horrifying culture shock. But coming on the heels of seeing RAM play and watching Cange go crazy, it actually felt related to see LCD play and watch New York go crazy. It was refreshing to see music not just be entertainment, but be actually meaningful to these wildly different communities. And there was decent dancing at both events. But lah-de-dah.

That’s it! That’s our whole trip. But I’ve still got some rambling on to do about what we saw, never fear.

an article on cambodia

1) Not totally applicable to Haiti. Haiti more suffers from a weak-corrupt-government/strong-corrupt-local-elite kind of vibe, rather than a strong-corrupt-oppresive-government vibe. Also, there’s less of a save-the-environment movement and more of a how-the-hell-can-we-grow-some-trees kind of movement.

2) This is more posted in the spirit of “bringing you down about trying to good in the world.” Because it’s hard to do good in this world. And Haiti, much like Cambodia, suffers from an overabundance of foreigners not quite doing good. 

3) I would encourage suspicion, not cynicism. I mean, for people actually working in NGO world, and even more for people living in these countries where folks come in and help cock things up, well, I won’t try to take away your cynicism. Baby, you’ve earned it. But for observers and supporters like you and me: suspicion or confusion. 


Tap-taps in Port-au-Prince are like yellow cabs in New York. They’re everywhere; they define the street. But unlike yellow cabs, they are f—-ing insane and amazing looking. 

And they’re more like buses than cabs. Well, some are more bus-like than others. Some are more “sketchy bed of a pick-up truck with a painted roof welded on”. 

Sadly, I only documented these amazing beasts with a few crummy cell phone photos:

That last tap-tap references, from the top down: John 14:14 “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” and then Luke 18:25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” And then it says, in English, “The life is hard but keep it up”. 

The rapper on the lower left is Rick Ross, I believe. I really can’t tell who the lady on the lower right is, next to the American flag shield. I also can’t tell what the animals in the middle of the tap-tap are. Cheetahs?

Most tap-taps had religious names—see “La Grandeur du Dieu” in the second photo. Many had some English phrase on them (It looks like “La Grandeur du Dieu” says “I love you, Lula” on the driver side door, but I can’t quite make it out). Tons of stars and stripes motifs. I think Li’l Wayne was the most popular celebrity, but I didn’t keep strict count.

They were stunning.

Here some more info from NPR or Al Jazeera. Take your pick!

michellevisagevevo said: i've been reading Mountains Beyond Mountains (which is, by the way, possibly the most phenomenal book i have ever read) and it really opened my eyes to how bad things really were, not just in Haiti, but all over the world. so my question is: i realized how bad things were (in Haiti, specifically) and i want to somehow do something more then just donate money. i feel as if i should somehow raise awareness about PIH, but honestly, i just don't know where to start or what to do...over the past couple of months, i've developed a care for Haiti (and quite honestly, i've developed that same care for PIH) that i can't even explain, and i feel as if i should so something to help. to summarize all that: i want to do more then donate money to Haiti, but i have no clue what to do....

A follow up to my last post. And let me keep disclaiming: this is my opinion, not necessarily Partners in Healthses’s.

On raising awareness: I truly believe the most efficient way to raise awareness is to talk to your friends and family. You are more likely to find a receptive audience. Your thoughts are more apt to ‘stick’. I wish I had the statistics to back this up—-I’ve been Googling all afternoon, but haven’t been able to find what I’m looking for. Heck, maybe I’m wrong. Feel free to tell me if I’m wrong. 

But my basic thought is this: large scale outreach produces high level commitment in a tiny percentage of the people you reach. Let’s say 1 in every 1000 strangers you talk to will care strongly about PIH or Haiti (note: I AM MAKING THESE NUMBERS UP. And I am ashamed to do so. But on I go…). Maybe 9 people will care a moderate amount. And maybe 25 people will give money. The 15 people who give money who don’t care moderately or strongly about PIH will probably quickly forget about the whole thing (unless they happen upon a story about Haiti in the next couple days, and are like, “Hey, I just gave money to something like that,” and then their interest might rise). The 9 people who care a moderate amount would probably like to learn more, but they will most likely be too busy to learn more. Unless 2 of those 9 people are friends, in which case their interest might develop in future conversations. The 1 person in 1000 who really gets excited will really be excited and it will be totally awesome. 

This isn’t to knock large scale outreach: people won’t know anything about an issue unless it’s really broadcast out there. It’s good for the general public to be aware. I’m just saying it’s not necessarily the most efficient way to get the ball rolling.

Now, if you’re talking to your friends and family, there’s a much higher chance that the person you’re talking to will care about what you’re saying. Because they’ve got a proven track record of caring about what you’re saying. Which isn’t to say that they will totally agree with you, or actually care about the specific issue you’re talking about (in this case, Partners in Health or Haiti), but they are more likely to hear you out. 

Let’s say 1 out of 30 friends and family will care strongly about PIH. Not a terribly high percentage, but a lot better than total strangers. And lets say 4 out of 30 will care moderately. But here’s the thing—-the 1 out of 30 will already be a friend of yours. It will be more fun and easier to talk and think about PIH and Haiti with a friend. And any larger (or mediumer) scale outreach plan you hatch up will have double the personnel already. But also, the 4 out of 30 people who care moderately—-though they might not care that much, if they come across one of their friends who is interested in Haiti, they can connect them to you. And so this little pro-Haiti, pro-PIH ball has a strong core in your close, personal circle. 

It’s about the depth of commitment, not breadth of commitment. 

But, my numbers could be totally whack. Maybe it’s just 1 of 100 friends who would care about Haiti. Who has 100 friends? Heck, who has 30 friends? And talking to friends and family can feel daunting—-it can feel an awful lot like proselytizing, and maybe you’ll feel like you’re being annoying. But—-you’re more apt to annoy total strangers than folks who care about you. And the great thing about friends and family is that you can kind of suss out who might be interested in Latin America and its health care before hand. There’s no need to talk to a racist great-uncle who you only see on holidays, necessarily. But hey, maybe he has a soft spot for island nations….

My example: I heard about Partners in Health from Win. Win heard about Partners in Health from my parents, who gave him a copy of Mountains Beyond Mountains. My parents got the book from friends of theirs, who knew that my parents had a Haitian daughter-in-law and thought they might be interested in this Paul Farmer fellow. So, a very mild form of targeted outreach by my parents’ friends has resulted in a fair amount of large scale outreach and money generated by the Arcade Fire.

So, seriously, talking to people you think might be interested in Haiti totally counts. It is very important, and it yields solid results. The solid results in my case don’t just mean the money the Arcade Fire has helped generate for Haiti—-it means this circle of friends and family I have that care about Haiti and the work being done there. 


Now, you don’t necessarily have to build this circle of friends from scratch.

If you’re in a major American city, or a medium American city, or a college town, there’s most likely some group of people that cares about Haiti. You can find some of those people here. And I’m sure some non-American cities might care about Haiti, too, I guess. 

College kids are into all sorts of crazy stuff. If you live near a college campus, head on over to the student union, and ask if there’s some relevant student group you can be a part of. Now, many college groups are just for students—-sheesh! But as long as you’re not a crazy person, I’ve found that college groups love to connect with engaged locals, be you younger or older or college age. And even if they kick you out, they’ll kick you out with a recommendation of other places to look to help.

If there’s a Haitian population where you live, there’s most likely some form of Haitian civic organization. These groups might not always be 100% in concert with PIH, but they’re still good to get to know, and they’re a sure-fire place to find people that care about Haiti. 


But what about things to do? Marches, book clubs, supermarket sponsorships? I know those things happen, but in my experience the successful awareness campaigns I’ve seen have always originated out of a committed, local core of people. Or out of the hands of one determined kind-of-intense-but-kind-of-awesome dude who can quickly form a core of people. There are good outreach programs—-but they really seem to depend on the locale and the folks involved. Sorry to cop out!

So, yeah, in closing, talk to your friends, and google your neighborhood!


Anonymous said: How can we help PIH exactly??

First, I will point you towards the Partners in Health website. They do a good job of giving you options for helping out.

Second, I will ramble on at length with my own opinions on the subject.

Also, before I begin, I’d like to point out that “What can I do to help Partners in Health?” and “What can I do to help Haiti?” are different questions with somewhat similar answers. Perhaps obviously, one of the best ways to help Haiti is to help PIH. I’m starting with Partners in Health because, well, the question was posed to me in a very direct manner. But I will opine on “What can I do to help Haiti?” more directly in the future.


So, how can you help Partners in Health? I will start with money.

I suspect many (most?) of the folks reading this blog have more time, energy, and goodwill than they do money. Which is all good. It’s good to figure out what to do with all that goodwill and energy.

But if you feel that ‘just sending money’ is inadequate, well, it’s fine to feel inadequate, but, seriously, sending money is awesome. In terms of supporting projects that PIH is working on, money is just so insanely efficient: it travels easy; it’s flexible; it can go where the greatest need is. Also, PIH itself is insanely efficient: 94% of their budget (i.e. 94 cents for every dollar donated) goes to program activities. This includes not just medicines and infrastructure—-it includes salaries for thousands of local employees. In Haiti, PIH employs just under 6,000 Haitians (though it might be more by now; the staff has grown hugely in the last year). So by giving money, you’re putting money right into the pockets of local workers, which does all sorts of good. 

But if you don’t have money, well, you don’t have money to send. Still, I would encourage you to make a small donation—heck, as small as you can afford. Don’t be ashamed to click that “Other amount” option and fill in $2. One, because it will still do good. But two, giving money invests you in the operation. I think people care more when they put money on something. Even when it’s almost just a symbolic gesture, it ties you in tighter to the organization; it gives you a sense of ownership of the results they achieve; you engage your critical faculties a little more. Or so thinks I.


What else can you do? Well:

Partners in Health is very community oriented. They work on a granular level, binding small towns together, getting everyone invested together in the community’s health. They work higher up—-through the local governments and ministries of health, trying to bind together national policies. And they work on an international level, tying together people into one larger community that cares about the poor. 

So here’s my hippy-dippy job for you: join the PIH community. 

"Whoa, man, that’s pretty vague." you might say. Yeah, well, suck it. I mean, let me try to be less vague:

To be an active member of a community, I think step one is to be informed. “Keep your ear to the ground,” as the kiddoes say. Read Mountains Beyond Mountains, if you haven’t. It’s really good. Browse the PIH website in depth. Learn about the different places they work. Now, I don’t expect you to become an expert on 12 different countries. But maybe one of those countries calls out to you. Maybe you’re curious about Lesotho—-it’s weird, it’s totally surrounded by South Africa! Maybe you are interested in their work in Boston. Maybe you care about Haiti. Maybe you want to care more about Haiti. Well, read, I would say. Read more perspectives on the place. 

Also, as I mentioned above, I think that giving a small amount of money makes you feel more like you’re a part of a group. But, regardless of that, there’s just a mental choice: “I want to associate myself with PIH.”

And then, you take your engagement with this larger international community, and you think about it in terms of your actual physical community. You talk to your friends about Partners in Health. This actually counts as helping! The only reason I know about Partners in Health is because Win told me about them, and Win only heard about them because our parents gave him a copy of Mountains Beyond Mountains, and they only got the book because friends of theirs had read it and knew that Regine was Haitian, and they thought my parents might be interested in it.

There is talking that is bad—-talking instead of doing. But there is also talking because you love the thing you’re talking about. Even when you’re not, like, brainstorming solutions for helping the poor—-when you’re talking about PIH, or some article your read about Haiti, you’re strengthening the community.

So, yeah, pay attention to your close community. You can pay attention to what your political representatives say, and vote for people who push good policies (I know, that’s kind of a lame suggestion, but I’m just trying to be thorough). If you’re a student, there’s probably a lot of organizations buzzing around that would be sympathetic to a little PIH-style. These organizations might be full of assholes. But you could try joining them, anyway. Maybe you’ll mellow those guys out. But maybe not. Oh well. You tried. But sometimes assholes can be effective at getting a message out. So cut them some slack.

It’s challenging to give you an actual, concrete list of suggestions of things to do, because it strongly depends on your situation and the folks around you. So I’ll duck the question by saying: talk to the folks around you!

Once again, I’ll defer to Partners in Health itself for some more specific suggestions


But isn’t there some place I can volunteer? Some place where I can do something?

Well, remember, talking to people is doing something. Caring about the work—-as vague as that is—-is doing something. And selling your old books to a used bookstore and donating the money to Partners in Health could more efficiently help the poor than spending money on flying to a site and helping in person. 

That said, PIH has specific volunteer and job openings for qualified people that would want to apply. There’s also a need for skilled construction personnel—-plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc—-to help build the Mirebalais Hosptial in Haiti. That’d be a good instance of helping through talking—-maybe someone has a friend of a friend who works for a contractor, who knows a whole team of licensed electricians who would want to go to Haiti for two weeks. Stranger things have happened. 


Also, one final note: it doesn’t matter if you specifically help Partners in Health. They care about bringing medical care and justice to the poor. Any way you can help that goal is helping Partners in Health. (Once again, a list of organizations that share a common vision with PIH.)

So, if you want to help PIH, but you can’t seem to find an opportunity where you live, why, help out someone else.


Sorry for the lack of updates—-I’ll be back Tuesday.

Just a clip to give you a sense of the scene. RAM playing after us in Cange, Haiti, March 31st. 


Our lovely stage:

stagey stage

That stage was better constructed than some I’ve stood on in Scandinavia (I’m looking at you, Finland).

up closerier

Yes, it says, “Arcade and Fire”.

soundcheckin to the max

We had a decent enough crowd, for a soundcheck.


We had clear skies and perfect weather the whole time we were in Haiti. Except for this soundcheck. Soon after this photo we abandoned ship—-threw tarps over all the gear and went to dinner as the rain started. I guess the dry season had to end at some point.

kiwiwatermelonsupreeze said: I did a service thing in Nola after Katrina...And I was often overcome with this feeling of depression and this "it will never get any better..." sinking pit-in-my-stomach after seeing x,y,or z...But then I was also overcome with this great hope and happiness after seeing little signs like kids playing in the street and smiling. So I was wondering, did you have any moments like that in Haiti? Where you were just overcome?

Because of massive peer pressure, I never felt overcome by depression. I was constantly surrounded by so many active people—-seeing the work, and the results of the work, made hopelessness impossible. They’ve already moved so many mountains (but oh crap! there’s mountains beyond those mountains! well, those will get moved, too.). The default Partners in Health response to catastrophe—-natural or man made—-seems to be determination occasionally tinged with well-deserved anger.

As far as overcome by joy—-well, there were a lot of high fives on our trip. I was overcome by the natural beauty on our drive to Bay Tourib. I was overcome with hilarity by the kids at Zanmi Lasante.

Two moments:

1) When we played in Cange (which I haven’t written about yet)—-but right after we played, and the sound man starting blasting local hits—-Haitian hip hop and the like—-on the PA, and people flipped the f—k out? That was awesome. That whole evening confirmed the faith I have in music being awesome.

2) Hanging out with those kids in Cange, playing guitar late at night under the streetlights. It felt like, well, it felt like being in Louisville, Kentucky. It felt totally normal. It felt like we came across a group of cool locals who liked music and wanted to hang out. It was only after the fact—-when I considered that these totally normal kids that I was just hanging out with lived in the poorest region of one of the poorest countries; when I considered that if I was in a town 10 miles away, why, there’d be no guitar, and there’d be no streetlight. And the kids wouldn’t know the smattering of English and the decent French they knew, and who knows if they’d be healthy or, heck, I don’t know. When I realized how weird it was that it was so normal in Cange, I was overcome by how wonderful it was that it felt normal that it was so normal. To be convoluted about it. Does that make sense? Anyway, it was wicked awesome.