[Editorial note: Operation Uphold Democracy, lasting from September 1994 to March 1995, was a military mission authorized by the United Nations Security Council to return elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide had been overthrown by a military coup in 1991.]
Operation Uphold Democracy (part 2)
It had been three days of not being able to shower. This usually would not have bothered most of us, but because of high humidity and dust, it was causing some irritation.
Then the eve started to slowly come upon us and the rain began.
A sergeant and I started to discuss how to use the water to clean ourselves.
I noticed the water coming out of the corners of the bay across from us, and we decided to see this as an opportunity.
Keeping our PT (physical training) tops and shorts on, we went with our shower gear and started cleaning up under the falling water spouts. This caused others to do the same at various locations at the corners of the buildings.
The morale boost led to talk about creating make-shift showers in our “new” bay.
Another situation was the latrines. I found a sergeant from another company building a simple toilet. I asked if I could use it. He responsed, “I am making it for ‘our people’.” I nodded and turned to my buddy and said, “Well, it looks like you are standing guard while I take a sh*t by the wall down there,“ pointing to the bottom of the hill. Which, I unfortunately did.
The realization that being on the same team though does not, for some, mean we take care of each other caused sadness and anger within me. I set the feelings aside.
Shaking it off, we moved on to go check on our parked equipment at the front gates of Port-au-Prince.
Later on that day, a colonel came by to speak with us troops. We had just come back from chow and were chilling out in our bay playing scrabble.
He asked us how we were and I quipped up about the latrine incident. He looked solemn. We talked more about good and bad issues and he left eager to get to work on fixing what he could.
That evening, an announcement was made: “No one will say no to another soldier for their basic needs–latrine, food, bed, shower or water.”
The sergeant who turned me away was dealt with.
The experience was good in a place of bare necessities, which we take for granted in a rich country like the United States.
By the end of the week, the make-shift showers were ready. Simple wood boards with 5 gallon drums up top of each stall and a shower head coming off of the drums.
We each grabbed a water jug and filled it up with treated water (the ocean area was full of human and animal feces). That wasdisheartening, no hope where that resides, frightening, the cause of the sickness and no one educating the masses how to keep themselves healthy.
We climbed to the top of the open wood planks, picked a stall, filled up a drum, climbed down and took a cold refreshing shower.
What was interesting to note, there was not a covered wall. No one cared. We just wanted to be clean and were thankful for the opportunity to have water, clean water.
April Adams, an Evergreen alumna, is a member of the Inter-Tribal Warrior Society, the secretary for Veterans For Peace Rachel Corrie Chapter 109 Olympia, journalist, photographer, artist, and political activist.