Haiti

The terrible tragedy of the earthquake that hit Haiti has touched us all, all over the world and people everywhere is donating the little they have or volunteering to help. The disaster hit very close to home for me. My younger brother has been in Haiti as part of the UN peacekeeping force since last summer and was scheduled to go back to Brazil this past weekend. After the earthquake hit, we didn’t hear from him for over 12 hours. Something deep inside assured me he was ok and I was relieved to hear from his wife that he had called and assured he was safe and sound. But it was only on Friday that I was able to talk to him on skype and hear from him what happened. That’s when he told me that the building where he lived collapsed. It was a three-story building and he was on the second floor, walking along a hallway when everything started shaking. He ran to the stairs but they collapsed in front of him. He saw a door open, ran through it, saw a balcony and jumped without thinking. He hit the ground at the same time as the rest of the building. He didn’t have a scratch on him but the ordeal had only began. The ground continued to shake for hours afterward. Tsunami alerts were issued and he felt they were all going to die since they were near shore and had nowhere to go. There was also the issue of all those who were not so lucky and remained trapped under the rubble. For the next seven hours he and others talked to one of his close friends, who had been on the ground floor and was now trapped under the building. They were finally able to get him out alive, but he died as soon as they took him out. He was a close friend and my brother is still shaken up by it. He is scheduled to go back to Brazil in the next couple of weeks, but meanwhile he helps in any way he can. During the past two days his unit has distributed 55 tons of water and food. They have also managed to get about 60 people from the rubble and have been busy collecting and burying bodies. He says there are still many people alive under collapsed buildings. They can hear people asking for help. And that’s the most difficult part. Seeing someone asking for help and not being able to help everybody. At least he will be able to go home. Others are not so lucky.

This is where my brother lived:

My brother, celebrating Christmas with some of the locals that work at his base:

The building after the earthquake:

Here in Canada, the disaster has affected many. The Haitian community in Canada is quite large and our own Governor General is from Haiti and still has many family and friends in the place. Her televised announcement is heartbreaking. And she is right. This is not about her, or me, or my brother. This is about the people of Haiti. My heart goes out to them.

2009

This past year was a good one. Academically, I got an article published, got half way through my dissertation, taught my first course (and a course of my own design no less), finished my advanced teaching certificate at TATP, submitted another article for consideration, participated in some great conferences, and gave a workshop on using web 2.0 tools in the classroom. I’ve also became officially involved in a digital humanities project to create resource site for the premodern Mediterranean. Personally, the year was also good. Alan and I celebrated our 10th anniversary, we discovered TBN and got more involved with cycling, our diets improved significantly after we stopped shopping at the large grocery chains and began getting all our food at Kensington and local farmers’ markets. Shopping at farmers’ markets sparked the creative juices and led me to start a food blog and to read more about food and food politics. Alan and I also got back into photography, buying some TLR cameras and have finally got into a regular workout schedule by joining the YMCA, conveniently located practically across the street from our building. Spring and summer 2009 got us close to some dear friends who have since moved to the US but with whom we hope to keep in touch.

In 2010 the plans are to finish my thesis, get another article out, teach some new courses, get a job, make it back to Spain for a visit, read more about digital humanities, continue to read about the environment, human rights, and food politics. Athletically, I would like to cycle more in summer 2010 and run my first 5 or 10k race. I would also like to find some time to do a bit of volunteering work for Kiva doing translations, move this blog to its own domain, revamp my academic blog, and do more yoga.  As Alan always says, life is good.

What about you? What are your plans?