Bourik with Andrea the Florist
In the wake of the “food riots” the details of subsidies and international aid are still being hammered out and parliament still can’t get past determining if the prime minister elect’s grandmother’s birth certificate is in order as everyday Haitians go on living. And as the outside world looks in with the perception that all Haitians are eating mud pies amidst a global food crisis, 3 Dominos pizza franchises exist in the capital, numerous retail banks operate normally, and 1000s of SUVs careen through traffic. As well thousands of street vendors crowd the roadsides and corners in a scramble for space among new city government plans intent on containing the overflow of commerce in the capital. And life for the infinitely compressible Haitian goes on in all forms including that of a door-to-door florist. This is the story of Bourik BOS who gets the lowdown on Andrea the florist, a man with a talent in floral arrangement but without a line to 1-800-flowers. As the masterpiece is arranged they talk.
BOS: Andrea, tell me again what time you get up to sell the flowers.
Andrea: I get up at 1 am.
BOS: Friday, yes?
BOS: But tell me how do you prepare the flowers.
Andrea: I clean them on Thursday, like this.
BOS: You remove the dirt and stuff and trim them?
Andrea: Yes, because when I buy them I buy them with the dirt and all!
BOS: How do you buy them? Where do you buy them?
Andrea: People come to my house to sell them to me.
BOS: That means people know you buy flowers to resell downtown?
Andrea: Yes, I have 5, 6 people that come to my house to sell me flowers.
BOS: How do you buy them?
Andrea: That depends. You don’t want to buy only one color because that’s not good. It doesn’t make sense to do that. You can make a beautiful bouquet with only one color.
BOS: Do you have a favorite flower you like to buy?
Andrea: No, I buy what is in good shape and fresh. But normally I buy from those 5 or 6 people only.
BOS: And they come directly to your house? On what day?
Andrea: Yes, they come Thursday and my family helps me prepare the flowers.
BOS: That means you have children?
Andrea: Yes, I have 6 kids. But only one is mine and the other 5 are for my wife. But they are mine too. That which is the oldest is 18. He is for me.
BOS: Is he in school?
Andrea: Yes, thanks to Martine.
BOS: Who is Martine?
Andrea: One of my clients.
BOS: How many clients do you have?
Andrea: Including you I have 5. But I sell in the street too. But with Martine, she gave me money to pay for my child’s school. And I give her flowers at a discount. That means I have a debt with her to pay. But she knows I’m a good man and so she gave me the money because life is expensive.
BOS: Yes, life is expensive. How much do those flowers cost?
Andrea: Those? They used to cost… 20 dollars Haitian. But now they cost 30 - 35 dollars Haitian because fertilizer is expensive. Do you know fertilizer?
Andrea: It used to sell at 120 dollars Haitian a bag but now it costs more than 160 Haitian dollars.
BOS: Yes, that is expensive. Has the price of transportation increase as well?
Andrea: It can go up but we have people in my area that have an arrangement with the driver.
BOS: What does that mean? What arrangement?
Andrea: We have a team that goes to town to sell on the same day. And we make a price with the driver. Like when I wake up at 1 am, I have someone that waits for me to take me near the orphanage. And there we call the driver. He comes and gets us immediately because he knows he’ll make money guaranteed. And we go express. That means the truck doesn’t stop for other passengers.
BOS: You aren’t afraid the flowers will get ruined in the truck?
Andrea: No, I put leaves around them. I put leaves under them and then cover them with leaves.
BOS: What time do you arrive at the orphanage?
Andrea: I arrive at 3 am in the morning and then we arrive at 5 am in Petionville.
BOS: Then you sell all day and Saturday too?
Andrea: Yes, I return to my house Saturday night. And in our group we have someone with a flashlight so we can see the road to get to our home in Furcy.
BOS: That’s a nice bouquet. How much?
Andrea: 250 goud.
BOS: Andrea, di m anko a kile ou leve pou vini vann flè yo?
Andrea: M leve a 1 di maten.
BOS: Vendredi, wi?
BOS: Men di mwen kouman ou prepare flè yo.
Andrea: M netwaye yo jedi. Kom sa a.
BOS: Ou retire kras sou yo e chase yo?
Andrea: Wi. Paske lè m achte yo m achte yo ave tout tè net!
BOS: Kouman ou achte yo? Kote ou achte yo?
Andrea: Gen moun vin lakay mwen pou vann yo.
BOS: Sa vle di gen moun ki konnen ou achte flè pou desann vil la pou revann yo?
Andrea: Wi, m gen 5, 6 moun ki ka vin lakay mwen pou vann flè.
BOS: Kouman ou achte yo?
Andrea: Sa depan. Ou pa vle achte nan yon sel kolè paske sa a pa bon. Li pa fè sans pou fè sa a. Ou paka fè yon bel bouke avek yon sel kolè.
BOS: M eske gen yon flè ou achte plis nan men yo?
Andrea: Non, mwen achte sa ke yo genyen ki anfòm e fre. Men nòmalman mwen achte nan men 5 ou 6 moun sa yo Selman.
BOS: E yo vin direkteman lakay ou? A ki jou?
Andrea: Wi, yo vin jedi e fanmi mwen ka ede m prepare flè yo.
BOS: Sa vle di ou gen timoun?
Andrea: Wi, mwen gen 6 pitit. Men yon sel pou mwen e senk lòt se pou madam mwen. Men pou mwen yo ye tou. Sa a ki pi grann gen 18tan. Pou mwen li ye.
BOS: Eske li lekòl?
Andrea: Wi gras a Martine.
BOS: Kiyes se Martine?
Andrea: Li se yon kliyan.
BOS: Konbyen kliyan ou genyen?
Andrea: Avek ou sa a fè senk. Men mwen vann sou lari a tou. Men avek Martine li te banm kob pou peye lekòl pou pitit mwen. E m bay li flè ave yo pri ki pi ba. Sa vle di m gen yon det pou peye l. Men li konnen m se yon bon neg epi li bam kòb sa a. Paskè lavi chè.
BOS: Wi, lavi chè. Flè sa yo konbyen yo koute?
Andrea: Sa yo? Gen lè flè sa yo ka koute… 20 dola. Men kounye a yo koute 30-35 dola paskè sache agre vann pi chè. Ou konnen agre?
Andrea: Li te vann 120 dola pa sache kounye a li vann plis pase 160 dola.
BOS: Wi, sa a chè. Men eske pri machin monte tou?
Andrea: Li ka monte men gen moun nan zon nou ki gen yon aranjman ave chofè.
BOS: Kisa sa vle di? Ki aranjman.
Andrea: Nou gen yon ekip ki desanm lavil pou vann chak menm jou. E nou fè yon pri avek chofè a. Kom lè m leve a 1 di maten, m gen yon moun kap tann nou pou mennen nou bo kote òfelina. E la nou rele chofè nou. Li vin jwenn nou touswit paskè li konnen lap fè kòb garanti. E nou prale express partout. Sa vle di machin sa a pa kanpe pou lòt moun.
BOS: Ou pa pè ka gen yon bagay rive sou flè nan machin nan?
Andrea: Non, mwen mete yo avek fey. Mwen met fey anba yo e mwen kouvri yo ave fey tou.
BOS: Kilè ou rive a òfelina?
Andrea: M rive a 3ze di maten epi nou rive a petyonvil a 5er di maten.
BOS: Epi ou vann tout jounen e samdi tou?
Andrea: Wi, mwen tounen lakay mwen samdi swa. E nan ekip sa gen moun ki gen flash pou nou ka wè nan wout la pou rive lakay nou Furcy.
BOS: Sa a yon bel bouke. Konbyen li ye?
Andrea: 250 goud.