The Man

Blog entry reposted from http://www.acic-caci.org/blog/category/internships

Wilfrid or as some call him “TI-Cabeau” or “Ti Son” is the most famous Handy man in Terrier Rouge. Marie and I frequently joke that he would be able to do absolutely anything, but we are also not really joking. I saw graffiti on walls calling for him to run as Mayor. He is, objectively, the hardest working person I have ever met (followed closely by my grandfather). He is 42 (he sometimes calls me ‘son’) although he looks 25, he has two daughters, Malou and Wilsa, with his wife, Ange-Getty, and would soon like to have a son.

The office where we work opens around 8:30, but I quickly realized that this was way too late for Ti-Cabeau. 7:30 is usually the time he comes in, meaning it’s the time I chug my coffee and start working, mostly out of pride. He sometimes comes in earlier, rarely later, the record is when he knocked on my room’s window at 6am to wake me up, rightfully so, as we had many things to do in the morning.

I was told before I arrived to stay away from daily wage and pay for piece work instead. Just like in Canada, people paid daily/hourly wage have less incentive to work faster, especially in construction work. I am sure everyone knows someone who would work just as hard if s/he was paid hourly or piece work for the very simple reason that they are hard workers. Wilfrid is one of those. After our arrival in September, we promoted him, and he now has to manage worksites, with a lot more responsibilities compared to his regular job he had for the past year. He has delivered and has been completing jobs way short of the deadlines, over and over.

Interesting enough, although he is a certified carpenter AND mason, he always refused to do any mason work. I was puzzled at first, since it would only mean more money for him but later realized it was due to a more profound cultural difference. A majority (obviously not all) of people don’t necessarily want to enrich themselves alone, but want everyone around them to have a chance to do so as well. Wilfrid’s rationale, as I understood later, was that by not doing mason works, he allowed someone else to be employed and make some money. It makes me think that although people were joking when asking him to run for mayor, politics in Haiti would certainly benefit from having more of these true Haitian cultural traits Wilfrid personifies.

Wilfrid also helps me a lot to find reliable contractors to do different type of work and negotiate with these contractors to ideally get more reasonable prices. The prices I’m getting are probably somewhere in between “Blanc” prices and Haitian prices, probably closer to “blanc”, but getting closer and closer to Haitians’ (at least I like to think so). He has also shown to be very protective of our projects and has no patience for contractors that propose ridiculously high prices, or try to re-negotiate contracts halfway through.

Work aside, Wilfrid and I always have fun hanging out. I met a ridiculous amount of people in Terrier Rouge because of him. I am insisting more and more for him to run for mayor and tell him I would help. As a joke, he told me that the main thing he would need to get votes is to stand by him and be white. I am very happy to have had the chance to meet and work with Ti-Cabeau, I consider him a great friend. This is a friendship that will continue way past this internship and will come back to Haiti to hang out and catch up with him without hesitation.

Jean-Christophe Taillandier is working as a  Value-Chain and Agri-Business Coordinator with ISCA in Haiti.