Making do with next to nothing is the way of life in Haiti, though many earthquake survivors now have less than that. But while Port-au-Prince has been knocked flat, it hums day and night. There is too much work to do, and too many things to make. Some are clearing rubble. Others are collecting aluminum or lumber, other making shelter with materials and bricks.

The Haitian boy’s kite starts with thin sticks — woody reeds or straight twigs scraped smooth with a razor blade and cut to equal length, about eight inches.

These are lashed in the middle to make stars of six or eight points, sometimes more. Thin plastic, ideally the wispy kind from dry-cleaning bags, is stretched over the frame and secured with thread.

Rag strips are knotted for the tail, then tied with thread to two of the star’s lower points: a Y with a long, long stem. More thread is tied to the kite’s taut chest, the rest spooled on a can or bottle.

The kites are beautiful: some have layers of black and clear plastic forming diamonds and stars. Some have decorative edges, the plastic razor-sliced into piñata fringe.

But they work, catching the breeze and jack-rabbiting into the smoky air. Small kites are notoriously hard to fly, but these are perfectly engineered.

A boy I met in a camp down the block from the ruins of the Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince pointed to the sky. Blinking into the sun, I took forever to find his kite: a darting black dot far above the shattered steeples.


Relief agencies gave out the tarps that now house tens of thousands of families, but they didn’t frame them.


The Pétionville Club, once the capital’s only golf course, has clinics, toilets, tents and classrooms, gifts of outside charity. But it also has a homemade cinema, a market district, nail salons, barbershops and a disco.

One way to resist is to fly. The kite makers dance through the camps with rubbery exuberance, trailed by younger children, all lost in the moment, the most important in the world.

The kites made, fighting kites begin. Suddenly they cut lines and other kites cut swirl and spin. When one of them cut a kite and win the battle, is an explosion of joy.

This is one of the few signs of joy you see in Haiti.

Credit text : Extract of Los Angeles Times by Lawrence Downes

Credit photos : Logan - Brian Vander Brug - Lawrence Downes