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Posts from the ‘Photography’ Category

Arcade Fire comes to Haiti for Carnival

Sorry for the blog silence.  Plenty has happened since November, and somehow I wasn’t inspired to sit down and write.  But last weekend changed that. Arcade Fire + Haiti + Carnival = once in a lifetime awesomeness.

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Arcade Fire came down to Haiti and played Friday, February 21 in Jacmel, a coastal town in the south known for its art and music. We left work on Friday, made the four hour drive from the capital, checked into our hotel with friends, had dinner and got ready for an outdoor concert that we couldn’t quite believe that was actually going to happen.  Arcade Fire recently came out with their new album, Reflektor, which was partly influenced by Haitian music. Specifically, some of the music on the track Here Comes the Night Time is reminiscent of Haitian carnival music.  Carnival season is music season in Haiti. Many established Haitian bands come out with their special carnival song right around this time, often with subtle (or not so subtle) political messages in the lyrics.  And many Haitians form ad-hoc rara bands that are mostly made up of long, single-pitched metal horns and drums, and play in the carnival parade and during Easter week before disbanding until next year.

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The concert was amazing. After several well-known Haitian bands, Arcade Fire got on stage and performed a mix of songs from Reflektor and several favorites from their earlier albums. It was entertaining to watch Haitians listen to Arcade Fire, who were on stage so full of energy with drums and streamers. Honestly, some Haitians just didn’t get it. Some just stood and stared curiously as the Canadians with crazy outfits went all out. And I understand –the songs are in a different language, and probably very few of them had ever heard of the band before. But as the show went on, the crowd warmed up and soon was dancing and waving their hands; they got into a few of the call and response songs and cheered loudly whenever the band said anything in Creole or French. The crowd had fun, but the expat hipster crowd (if the shoe fits) was borderline euphoric. I mean seriously, listening to Arcade Fire perform “Haiti” in Haiti – I may never be able to top that. I wish I had photos to share of the concert itself, but I decided to leave my camera safely at home. So instead, you should click on this article for photos and the set list.  Also, most of the band stayed at our hotel and I finally worked up the courage at breakfast to say hello.

Saturday was a low-key beach day for us, but Sunday was the big day in Jacmel for Haitians: carnival.  The actual, official carnival is this Tuesday in the central town of Gonaives, but Jacmel always does their own carnival a week or two early.  They are known for their elaborate paper mache masks, raucous parades, and great local rara bands.  A friend of ours arranged for a rooftop spot along the parade route so that we could enjoy pizza and beer while watching the explosion of colors and sounds below.  We ventured into the street a few times to take photos and visit some other friends in a balcony a block away, but mostly were happy to be high above the melee.

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Sometimes Port-au-Prince seems dull and monotone. The dusty gray roads, chalky earth and cement cinderblock houses don’t provide much color. But this weekend we enjoyed a totally different side of Haiti. The streets were full of paper mache versions of every creature imaginable – there were zebras in vibrant colors along with bumblebees, butterflies, parrots, panthers, giraffes, goblins, demons, vodou deities, current and former presidents, dinosaurs and dragons.  There were svelte young women dancing with chicken masks on their heads and men covered in molasses and mud threatening to rub their muck on parade watchers.  After the dancers and costumes, the rara bands with their trumpets and drums began to appear as the sun was setting. The streets went from full to completely packed. The crowd became one solid river of people slowly flowing up the hill.  The occasional fight would break out, but mostly it was a mass of people in full party mode. I’ve never seen anything like it, a complete assault on all the senses.  It was hands down one of the most memorable weekends I’ve had, and definitely the best one in Haiti so far.

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Jalousie: City in the Sky

Uphill from Port-au-Prince is the suburb/neighborhood of Petionville. It’s where you’ll find many swanky restaurants, luxury hotels, and beautiful homes with stunning views. But take a different road and you will end up in a totally different neighborhood: Jalousie.

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Tap-Tap

Our car finally arrived, and we've been navigating our way through Port-au-Prince. It's great to have wheels to go out, go shopping, and run errands. But traffic is pretty awful. There's no way around it. The roads are simply not wide enough (or paved enough) for the amount of cars, trucks and tap-taps that use them.

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More knockers: Cartagena edition

My friend Rebecca has added to the Short Term Memory door knocker collection with some really cool examples from Cartagena, Colombia: sea monsters, lizards, lions, gods, devils and more.

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Old Town Knockers: Part 2

Here's the second batch of door knockers from Old Town Alexandria. This batch has more of an ocean/nautical theme.

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Old Town Knockers: Part 1

Old Town Alexandria: If you were looking for DOOR knockers, you came to the right place.

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Portland, je t’aime

Portland was like Brooklyn, but with nicer people and more rain. All the beards, bikes and small-batch local breweries you could want, except everyone was so friendly and the prices were incredibly cheap.

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Home: ours and George Washington’s

We had our first visitors since we moved into our new house. Although the highlight was visiting someone else's house (estate, really): George Washington's.

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According to What: Ai Weiwei exhibit in DC

This weekend we went to the opening of the Ai Weiwei exhibit, According to What, at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum with some friends. On a cold and rainy weekend, it was a great indoor activity that caught my imagination.

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Home Leave

After every overseas assignment, Foreign Service officers get Home Leave – vacation days to reconnect with America. In August we took a week vacation to Colorado to visit my family, and to take a little time for ourselves.

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