Mark & Steve – Haiti

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Mark and Steve discuss the Haitian earthquake and the massive international response.

Mark: Hello, again.

Welcome to another episode of EnglishLingQ.

Mark here with Steve, as usual.

Steve: Hi there, nice to be here.

Mark: Yeah.

Oh, the sun is shining today, which is a bit of a departure from the weather patterns we’ve had for the last couple weeks.

Steve: Well, we’ve had very warm weather here, most of it wet.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Which is not good, because we need cooler weather and we need snow for the Winter Olympics.

I think it’s less of a problem for the downhill events at Whistler, but for the local mountains where we’re going to have the freestyle, I think there’s a real problem or there could be.

Mark: I think there could be.

We got a lot of snow before Christmas, but then since Christmas I don’t think we’ve had a lot.

And then the last 10 days or two weeks we’ve had what they call “The Pineapple Express”, which is the weather system that comes in off the Pacific like, I don’t know, drop from Hawaii or wherever it comes from, which brings a lot of warm rain and washed away a lot of the snow on the local mountains for sure.

Steve: You know I went up there to have a look, because I go up there cross-country skiing.

Then I went and visited and chatted with some people and apparently they’re stockpiling snow all over the mountain.

They have been doing so for quite a while and then they cover this snow with a tarpaulin.

And the idea is that if you get a great mound of snow that that creates sort of a refrigerator effect and, of course, you cover it with something so that the rain can’t melt it.

And so they claim that, regardless of what happens with the weather, they’ll have enough snow for the freestyle events.

Mark: Oh, I think that’s the case.

They’ve been stashing snow, they say, at the higher elevations.

Plus, I mean today you look up the hill, I mean the tops of the mountains it snowed up there.

Steve: Right.

Mark: Even though it rained hard down here it did snow up there.

Steve: Right.

Mark: And they don’t need that much snow for the freestyle events.

Steve: No.

Mark: I mean nothing there is very long; the runs aren’t that long.

Steve: No.

Mark: They have the mogul competition and then like the…

Steve: …half pipe or whatever it’s called.

Mark: Well, that’s the half pipe.

Steve: Pipe? I don’t know.

Mark: Yeah, I guess.

That’s a snowboard event.

Steve: Yeah. I don’t know what all those things are.

Mark: And then they have the, whatever they call it, the aerial?

Steve: Yeah, aerials.

Mark: Aerials?

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: That doesn’t need much snow either.

Steve: No.

Mark: So, I mean, I don’t think it will be a problem, it’ll just be too bad.

Steve: No.

Mark: Because most of the time there’s plenty of snow up there, so it just won’t seem very wintery as they won’t have a lot of snow.

Steve: Well, that’s right.

It will be pretty bad, too, if everybody is standing around in the rain watching Winter Olympic events.

Mark: Yeah, that would be bad.

Steve: But, I mean the whole Olympics, I must say, though, you know I was just thinking about this.

You know the Olympics are so commercial.

It’s so commercial.

I mean I think they’ve got a lock on the use of the name “Olympic”, so some local Greek guy who had a pizza parlor called Olympic Pizza had to change the name of his pizza.

Mark: That’s true, isn’t it?

Steve: Something like that.

Mark: Something like that.

Steve: I mean that’s just ridiculous.

It’s so commercial.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: It’s so commercial.

And it’s interesting because they have lots of volunteers, but it’s a big money business.

Mark: I know.

Steve: Big money. Anyway…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Kind of too bad, but I guess it’s unavoidable.

I don’t know.

Mark: I don’t know. I mean, yeah.

It’s maybe not a business; they’re not trying to make money at it.

Steve: The athletes make a lot of money.

Mark: But the athletes do well, yeah, for sure.

Steve: And, obviously, the sponsors feel that it’s in their commercial interest to be sponsoring.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And they sponsor on television and they sponsor their beer hall.

You know Heineken has a pavilion.

Mark: And, obviously, the TV companies obviously make money at it or they couldn’t afford to pay as much as they do.

I mean does the Olympic Organization or whatever it’s called, International Olympic, they must make money?

Steve: Well, they need to make money to pay, because I don’t think many of their people, first of all, I don’t think they travel in ones and twos.

Mark: No.

Steve: And I don’t think they stay at the YMCA.

Mark: No.

Steve: I don’t think they travel by, you know, the lowest possible…

Mark: The lowest buggy.

Steve: No. So they obviously live pretty high off the hog.

I don’t think they go back home for a bowl of noodles every evening either.

Mark: No.

Steve: But, no.

And then, of course, whenever you see the athletes interviewed they’ll always hold up their skis so that you can see the name of a manufacturer and so it’s a pretty commercial event.

Mark: Well, that’s not specific to the Olympics, though.

Steve: No.

Mark: In any of those downhill or skiing events, those guys have their sponsors.

That’s their livelihood.

I don’t have a problem with them promoting their sponsors.

Steve: But, you know, this makes me think of something.

Here we are in the world today where we are so closely connected through the Internet, through television, through whatever.

We’re all living in the same time, almost in the same space and here we are talking about the Winter Olympics.

And we’re talking about weather and we’re talking about the money that’s all sort of flowing around the Olympic Games and at the very same time you go down to Haiti and we’ve got… We don’t even know the number, is it 50,000 people dead?

Is it 100,000 people dead?

How many people have nothing to eat, have no water?

Apparently it seems as if there’s marauding gangs and total disorder down there.

Mark: Sure and dead bodies everywhere.

Steve: Dead bodies lying around.

Mark: And injured people and, yeah, I mean it’s…

Steve: Unbelievable.

Mark: I mean I think it was pretty bad before the earthquake, so since the earthquake… Because I think last year they had some kind of serious flooding…

Steve: They had a big tsunami or…

Mark: A tsunami or something happened last year.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: …that they’re still trying to recuperate from and then this happens.

Now, I mean, I guess because of the whole interconnectedness of everything the international response has been pretty big.

Steve: But, again, it’s such a rapid response and so you have this sudden arrival of all kinds of airplanes and boats and hospitals.

And, of course, the UN is there and there’s all kinds of, apparently, regulations.

You can’t have a military hospital because it’s a peacekeeping thing.

Well what does it matter?

If a person is dying on the street he just wants access to medical care.

Mark: Well, yeah.

I was reading an article where some of aid organizations were complaining that there’s no efficient way of getting the aid out to people.

People are dying, even though the aid is there.

People are there ready to give it and the problem is you’ve got the Americans there, you’ve got the UN there and they’re pretending that they’re operating on orders of the Haitian Government, which is essentially…

Steve: …nonexistent, if it ever was existent.

Mark: So nobody is really stepping forward and taking charge, which then makes things not work smoothly.

These people were saying that the U.S.

should just take charge.

Not that they were Americans, but they were saying they’re the ones that can make it happen they should just make it happen and the UN is not going to do it.

Steve: But the difficulty there is and I saw some complaints.

I think the French were complaining that their aid planes weren’t coming in and the Americans, having taken over the airport, were giving priority to the American planes.

And that insofar as evacuating citizens, the Americans had taken over the airport with a single landing strip and that they were giving priority to their own citizens, which is kind of almost hard not to do.

I mean if the French, say — we’re talking about the French here — or the Russians or the English or anyone had taken over the airport, they probably would give priority to their own citizens, so it raises a lot of difficult questions.

Mark: Yeah. I mean I guess you would.

I mean you shouldn’t.

Steve: You shouldn’t.

Mark: It’s not your airstrip; you’re just coming in to manage it.

Steve: I know.

But it’s easier to lean on someone, you know, that you know where you have connections and so forth and so on.

So, yeah, it’s quite a mess, quite a mess.

And then you read about…I mean the people are upset, the Haitians are upset.

They’re demonstrating in the streets and creating barricades and stuff and, yet, the planes and the boats are not being unloaded.

I mean why don’t they go off and help unload and carry?

Each person carry.

Of course, the poor person that grabbed the first bit of supply from an airplane probably won’t get very far before he would have his throat slit, you know?

Mark: Well, yeah.

I must say, I never quite understand the people protesting in the streets when there’s been a disaster.

Like I think the same thing happened in New Orleans when they had that disaster.

People are trying to help, but nobody owes you anything, really.

Steve: Right.

Mark: I mean these are other countries coming in to help you, just appreciate whatever they can do for you.

Steve: Exactly.

Mark: How can you possibly be protesting?

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: I mean at a certain level you have to look after yourself.

Steve: Well, exactly.

Mark: And these people are coming to help you.

Wow, is that ever great.

Steve: And, and, yeah, there will be problems and imperfections.

I mean do you think a group of angels have arrived that all operate perfectly like robots?

Mark: Yeah, right.

Steve: The other thing, if you’re talking about that, is if the same magnitude of earthquake had happened just about anywhere else there might have been 5,000 people killed.

Mark: Well, exactly.

Steve: So, to some extent, the people there have to take responsibility.

Now it’s not the fault of the poor person that they’ve been governed by a corrupt, you know, people over the many, many years.

But I understand, too, that the colonial buildings built by the Spaniards – I haven’t confirmed this, but I heard on Russian radio where I was listening — that those buildings are still intact.

It was a 7.2 on the Richter scale and there have been other places where they had an earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale and there was no where near the…

Mark: But then they showed like the government buildings collapsed.

Presumably, those were built by the…

Steve: No, no, those are more recent.

Mark: Oh, is that right?

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: Yeah.

They showed some old cathedral that collapsed that looked like it was fairly ancient.

Steve: Oh, well, maybe, so then I can’t…because, as I say, I can’t vouch for it.

Mark: I mean I don’t know.

I did read that, I mean, Haiti is one-half of the Island of Hispaniola…

Steve: Right.

Mark: …and the other half being Dominican Republic where the standard of living is, I don’t know what, 10 times what it is in Haiti, so it suggests that they have doing a lot of things wrong there over the years.

Steve: Well, that’s right.

Now that’s not fair then to sort of visit the sins of all the previous governments on the people who are there right now.

Mark: Oh, absolutely not.

Steve: And there must have been some shocks felt in the Dominican Republic.

But I was reading actually in the paper today comparing the two places and one of the things is that in the history of course, Haiti, they revolted against the French Crown.

And, of course, there was a pretty severe sort of plantation economy there so, obviously, there was a lot of resentment on the part of the Black, you know African slaves and so they basically got rid of their Europeans.

Whereas, Dominican Republic remained a Spanish colony for longer and they actually opened themselves up to immigration.

So they have people there from different countries, you know, whether it be from Europe, I gather there’s Koreans and Japanese and people from the Middle East, so it’s more of a mixed community there.

Whereas, you almost have the impression that in Haiti, more than anywhere else in the western hemisphere, you’ve got some kind of a sudo, voodoo, almost, you know, anti-modern culture going there.

I know nothing about the place.

I know no one from Haiti, so I can’t, but from what I read, not a very constructive, you know, environment it seems.

Mark: No, obviously not.

I mean they don’t have much going in the way of industry.

Steve: Apparently there’s 2,000,000 Haitians living in the States.

There’s 100,000 I know just in Montreal.

So there is quite a diaspora of people, but I don’t know if those people eventually go back and try and improve things there.

I don’t know.

Mark: I don’t know.

I mean it’s tough when it sounds like nobody is in control.

Not just now during the earthquake, but most of the time it’s pretty lawless there and pretty tough, probably, to get things done and turn things around.

You wonder whether something like this couldn’t be used to help turn things around.

But I guess it’s centered in Port-au-Prince, which I don’t know how many people live there.

Steve: Nobody knows, probably.

Mark: Nobody knows, probably.

It sure is built up.

I mean I don’t know how big Haiti is, but you picture a Caribbean tropical island.

But there’s not much in the way of trees and greenery that you see in the pictures.

Steve: No.

Apparently, I was reading that Dominican Republic, which is two-thirds of the Island, has a better climate, more rainfall.

Mark: I saw that too, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, so it’s not an ideal environment.

Is it likely that as a result of this terrible disaster they’ll suddenly be able to sort of sort things out?

I tend to believe that the reconstruction will take a long, long time.

I think it’s pretty desperate there.

Who knows?

Mark: Who knows?

Steve: Who knows?

But we’re all vulnerable.

I mean we could have an earthquake here in Vancouver.

They had that terrible earthquake in China, but I mean China has greater means, is a much better organized society.

Still, there was a tremendous loss of life there and there were also similar issues of substandard buildings.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And I think in China I think there’s a greater likelihood that… Maybe in Haiti they’ll start building a better quality of building, but there’s no economy in Haiti.

In China there’s an economy.

There’s wealth, there’s money, there’s educated people, a greater number of them then in Haiti.

So I don’t know what the future holds for Haiti.

Mark: No, pretty tough.

And there are a lot of people there; there’s 9,000,000 people in Haiti.

Steve: Wow, on a basically very poor…I mean there’s nothing there.

Mark: There’s nothing there, amazing.

Steve: It’s amazing.

Mark: So I think they still have a few issues to sort out, even once reconstruction gets going.

Steve: Yeah.

I mean it is extraordinary that the world can respond in this way to a disaster.

So you would say, well, it would be great if the world could respond on an ongoing basis to help places like Haiti.

But then you say, okay, but there are a lot of places like Haiti.

And the record in Africa, for example, if we look at places that have developed, China has gone from being very poor to having probably the highest rate of economic growth in the world; they didn’t do it through foreign aid.

You know India is now developing.

Now they’ve received a lot of foreign aid, but I don’t think the development there has been, you know, based on how much foreign aid they’re getting.

Africa has got a lot of foreign aid and hasn’t done very much with it.

So, I mean I don’t think there’s any normal-thinking person in the world that wouldn’t want all of the poor countries in the world to be better off.

Mark: Right.

Steve: That people have a decent living there.

That those countries can operate and function property with economies and jobs and proper health systems and education systems and so forth.

The question is how do you achieve it?

And I’m not sure that massive foreign aid is the way.

Mark: Yeah, I don’t think that’s proven to be the way.

But what’s also true is that we’re unlikely to solve it here on an EnglishLingQ podcast.

Steve: This is true, this is true.

We don’t solve much here.

Mark: No, but we’re happy to hear any of your thoughts on this issue.

We’re going to end things here, but what are your thoughts on Haiti or developing nations or really anything else that comes to mind?

We’re always happy to hear from our listeners.

Steve: Well, one thing I was going to add is that people going to Haiti have to learn how to speak Creole.

One day we should maybe have Creole on LingQ.

Mark: That’s a good idea.

We’ll get to work on that.

Any of you Creole speakers, get in contact with us.

Okay, bye-bye for now.

Steve: Bye for now.

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