Christmas, Mexican Punch, Jambalaya!

I skipped the traditional Haitian meal this year and instead got treated to some Mexican and Louisianian traditions at my neighbor Michelle's.

Her friend Carmen made my day with the traditional Mexican punch of her childhood which in her words, "smells like Christmas". A feast of cinnamon, green apple and tropical apple, guava, orange, sugar cane, sorrel and tamarind. Carmen skipped the ginger for fear it might overshadow the other flavors.

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After a simmering boil, the vivid tea-like infusion invited splashes of rum or could be savored sweet and warm.

Michelle's jambalaya, equal parts hot and tomatoey, was a nice complement:

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Thanks to Carmen, I also got to taste home made tamales for the first time. Carmen (who had rolled 150 of those the night before with her nieces and nephews!) had them nicely color-coded: green for cheese and mole, red for cumin and pork, pineapple beek for the sweet ones.

View the slideshow.

Xmas goodies 07 014

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Ndesanjo Macha on Citizen Journalism

Ndesanjo Macha is Global Voices'Africa Regional Editor. Hopefully what he describes as the beneficial effects of citizen journalism for Africa can serve as an inspiration for would-be Haitian and Haitian-American bloggers. Apparently, he gave the interview while at a citizen media meet in Dakar, namely the 3ème atelier régional sur les médias et les enjeux des TIC en Afrique de l'Ouest : Nouvelles technologies, nouveau journalisme, renforcement de la gouvernance.

For those who are reading via feed or aggregator, here is the video's link.

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Haiti Now! Film Festival at U.W.I.

An interesting review of the Haiti Now! Seminar which happened earlier this year at the University of the West Indies' St-Augustine campus in Trinidad. This is not the freshest news but there have been some misunderstandings between anglophone West Indians and Haitians over Caricom and its role in Haiti so this kind of cultural effort for mutual understanding is worth noting. The seminar, which appears to be recurring, credits itself partially for the post-2004 surge in films on Haiti. Note the bredth of haitian filmmakers presented: the roster actually includes filmmakers who reside in the country.


Redefining Christmas ... three weeks from Iowa

Sting's voice came on during a radio commercial today personally inviting me to visit the site http://www.redefinechristmas.org/. I loved the idea--to ask loved ones to donate to a charity of your choice instead of shopping for a present for you-- and thought I'd share it with you. If you, like me, dread having to shop during the holidays, but mostly dread all the contrived hype that surrounds them, you'll probably be redefining christmas this year.

This solves one problem for me (having to hint at what I do or don't want or having to act happy when I don't like a present) but opens another can of worms. Three weeks from the Iowa primary, the "charity" I would most like to "sacrifice" presents for is actually a presidential campaign. Can I, in good faith, ask friends, loved ones and relatives to donate to the campaign of a candidate that they may or may not themselves be supporting? ... I'll have to try it and let you know what happens. My gut instinct is that if the holiday's spirit is one of generosity and hence self-effacement, then the least those closest to you can do is honor your deepest wishes, especially when they are free to choose the price tag.

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Lights, Camera, OTT'07 video documentary!

This video explains what it is I was doing in Zagreb, Croatia at Open Translation Tools 2007.

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Should citizen efforts by Haitians to help Haiti incorporate blogging?

Excerpts from an interesting Miami Herald article by Jacqueline Charles :

Few Haitian immigrants have the cash or the A-list roster of friends -- and the ability to rally them to Haiti's aid -- as Haiti-born hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean. Nevertheless, South Florida's Haitian-American community, after decades of growing a solid, if still struggling, middle class, is increasingly engaged in helping its Caribbean homeland.

In addition to hometown associations, Haitians have also tapped church and professional groups, and organizations like the Florida Association for Volunteer Actions in the Caribbean and Americas (FAVACA). Formed by former Florida governor and retired U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the state-funded organization allows Haitian professionals to donate their time and skills on short-term missions.

There is always more to do, though, and political differences sometimes get in the way.
''We have been too political,'' said North Miami councilman Jacques Despinosse. 'Every person treats Haiti like a battlefield. They would like to help, but their people need to be in power.

Despinosse has led two separate delegations of Haitian and non-Haitian elected officials to Haiti this year. A few days before Jean arrived in Haiti to help inaugurate a computer lab that his Yéle Haiti Foundation helped equip at a public school in Croix-des-Bouquets, northeast of Port-au-Prince, Despinosse and his delegation delivered a $10,000 check to Haiti's Ministry of Education on behalf of another public school in Port-au-Prince.

It's good to know that all of this is taking place in South Florida (where I recently attended the 2007 Haitian Studies Association Conference) but it would be nice to see those efforts mingled with citizen media that might hold the government accountable for the money it receives for these efforts. Feedback about the current Préval government from all sectors (I've even heard this from some good Dominican friends) seems to be that there is an openness to his government. But who knows what happens to a check you hand one of his ministries? Can you really trust that it is going to go to the school it was intended? Not that it won't. And not that I want to add to all the politics that usually go hand in hand with so little as sneezing in Haiti. (The largely US-based Haitian Studies Association's main issue in organizing their conference there next year is not to "step into any political potholes" so as to maximize local academic attendance.)

So could we start thinking about implementing citizen-media-based monitoring of the government as a remedy against corruption? One good example is Mzalendo, a blog co-started by an American-educated Kenyan lawyer, Ory Okollow to "keep an eye on the Kenyan parliament". To quote Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman, it is 'a site increasing transparency of the Kenyan Parliament, for little more than $20 a month plus creativity and sweat. It’s evidence of “the power of ideas, the power of sharing knowledge.” '

You could say Kenya's blogosphere at this point is way past the embryonic stage of Haiti's whose evolution since I last surveyed it in 2006 is not clear. But corruption blogging and government monitoring by bloggers may be a needed tear dropped into the sea of what can and should be done to increase government transparency. Wouldn't we all sleep better at night if we knew for sure that that $10,000 check given to the Ministry of Education would actually go towards the school we sought to help? To make a long story short, Haiti needs many more Collectif Haiti de Provence who are doing as much monitoring as they can, mostly through commenting newstories, from .... France.

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Sausage Making in Fort Greene

As with all writer's block, I constantly thought about this blog and its readers during the time I was away. And I meticulously documented events I imagined sharing here. Over the next few posts, I'll fill you in on some of the most remarkable moments.

Like this sausage making party I attended back in May at my good friend JP's house. JP is a long time friend and Williamsburgh refugee who came to the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area when she got married and got tired of loft/communal living in Willyburgh. She essentially left a real loft shared with a bunch of people for a two bedroom in brownstone land with a backyard.

The pictures should tell you the stories for themselves but in a nutshell sausage making and barbecuing quickly gave way to hoola hooping. Makes sense, right? Okay, maybe not.

Sausages and hoola hoops at JP's 002

See the full slideshow.

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"Dubiously" Caribbean Musings in Big City Salsa: the kiskeacity come-back

I'm back to blogging, sort of. I have good excuses for the 6-month hiatus: work which has been quite intense lately and GV Lingua which I am proud to say now translates Global Voices in 10 languages including Malagasy and Bangla and processing my not-so-recent breakup. But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't also add that I was also struck by writer's blogger's block.

The by-line to this blog so far has been "Caribbean Musings in Big City Salsa." I first started it when I thought I'd apply for phD programs that might allow me to study aspects of the Caribbean that don't have to do with big drunken tourist buses on resorts. Aspects like its long history involving agents and commercial flows to and from four continents, islandness, creolization, mulattoization (i.e race mixing) etc. But though I live in a Caribbean metropolis located outside of it (Brooklyn, NY, USA), I no longer live on one of its islands (Kiskeya aka Hispaniola aka Haiti/Dominican Republic). Hence the ''in Big City Salsa" part of the by-line.

As Brooklyn itself (where I have now lived 10 years!) and Fort Greene, Brooklyn in particular is quite a creolized and creolizing place (I have taken to calling some of my native Brooklynite friends Brooklyn Creoles), I have an infinite amount to say about it and my experiences here. And my old refrain that "Brooklyn is part of the Caribbean", though true, is no longer enough to "excuse" musings about Brooklyn which you should expect to see many more of here. So I am adding "Dubiously" to the by-line and I hope that marks the punto final to my writer's blogger's block.

PS: Expect to see a whole lot more about GV Lingua as well and translation and translation tools in general. Should I rename this blog Global Creole? :-)

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