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The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-Year Journey into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti
would sing a line, and the other four would respond in chorus. It was a happy, joyous song, like gospel music, except in Creole rather than English. Earlier in our trip I had noticed the head wraps—the twòkèt—all the women in Haiti wore. They were suggestive of turbans, and the group coming up the hill demonstrated to me their purpose: It made it easier to balance heavy loads on their heads. I thought back to Ginette and her seminar on Voodoo and the zombie curse. Now it was becoming clear, as I listened to the women singing. Here the French god and the older African gods lived side by side, but the old gods were closer to the people and maybe even more helpful to them.
“Haiti is a land of contrasts,” Danny T. had warned us on the airplane. How strange to be in a place only an hour and a half from my home that seems like it’s on a different planet, a place where not even water can be taken for granted. I had noticed women carrying water into Cité Soleil. When washing their children, they would have the children stand in a basin and pour the water over their heads so they could collect the water and use it again. Now as I watched the women climbing the hill, it was clear that even in Pétionville water was a very valuable commodity. Yet in a country where no one had collected the garbage for the past three years, everyone was washing their clothes by hand and then hanging them out to dry on shrubs or tree branches. People worked and played, suffered, and enjoyed life simultaneously.
At 4:30 the roosters began to crow. Oddly, this reminded me of home, since I lived within earshot of Little Haiti and always arose early. At 5:00, the church bells began ringing and the scent of freshly brewed Haitian coffee permeated the air. It was Sunday. I had lost track of time. The new god was calling. In Haiti people go to church not once but twice on Sunday—once in the morning and once in the evening. Of course, the second ceremony could be Voodoo.
At 6:00, I decided to leave the hotel to watch the sunrise. Even at that hour there already was an old, toothless woman standing just outside the door, begging. To the right, about a block away, a foot-