The ‘Paradise of Quebec’ – Auverbege nan Quebec – is the nearest hotel to the hospital. It’s an outpost just four kilometers up the road. So, we – a pack of volunteers from the hospital – descend on Auverbege with the intent of using their TV – a TV, any TV – to catch the Super Bowl. But all the Auverbege had access to was CNN, CBS, local stations Tele Ginen and TNH, the government-run cultural channel, but we didn’t think to reason that the Super Bowl would only be shown on FOX – not available at the Auverbege. We settled in around the bar, trying to connect with someone in the States to ‘skype’ us the game. Randy the hospital electrician and Sam from hospital maintenance located a night club in Pétion-Ville, a suburb east of Port-au-Prince, that agreed to let us use their VIP room for the evening. We hoped Richard, the official hospital driver, would drive us up to Pétion-Ville in one of the hospital’s roomy SUV’s, but it being the rumblings of pre-carnivale, Richard submitted a curt ‘no’ and dismissed himself from the equation.
So. We piled into Sam’s Mercedes – a beacon of ingenuity in the late 70’s, a dusty reminder in present day. With Sam at the wheel, Marc, a Haitian –American nurse from California, claimed the front seat, forcing my entire 6’3” frame up against the gear shift. Lynn, an orthopedics nurse, Randy and Sherrie, Randy’s wife, along with Brian, the architect, and Terry an orthopedic surgeon – split the backseat that was mostly dusty interior and not enough seat. In Haiti, one quickly becomes familiarized with the bony, knobby aspects of co-workers, friends and strangers. My thighs still echo the enthusiastic nail digging perpetuated by Marc on the drive from Port-au-Prince to Pétion-Ville.
The VIP room, all 200 square feet, at was little more than worn red velvet and tarnished bronze. No stools, only couches. I spied a large satellite dish erected on the roof of the bar, and felt confident enough to stake out a slice of the couch based on screen views and access to a small patch of fuzzy velvet to pick at during the game. Except, we had full access to the Magic – Heat basketball game, CSI and an old rerun of ‘Home Improvement’; we flipped through channels with a Korean game show, a rugby match covered by a German news station, and some sort of Scandinavian home shopping network (“And to your left, a Swarovski crystal-encrusted sabre”), yet no FOX and no Super Bowl.
The screen dedicated to FOX had a few somber white letters on a black screen, “Unable to acquire signal. Please check satellite.”
I briefly considered somehow scaling the walls and scrambling onto the roof to physically restart the giant satellite myself, but then we happened upon the ESPN channel – which although it caused a stir and a rippling of excited murmurs, was actually just a radio feed broadcasting highlights of the Super Bowl.
We piled onto the couches swathed in worn red velvet, bald patches throughout, and sat to listen to the Super Bowl. After ordering rounds of fried sweet plantains and large glasses of cool water, we sat to listen. I caught Marc studying a humid patch of ceiling rot as kickoff began. Lynn picked at an especially sparse piece of velvet as the Super Bowl got underway. Listening to the radio broadcast of the Super Bowl, we slouched into sagging couches, as the VIP lounge manager brought through a trio of “experts” to try their hand at fixing the satellite. Sam – who had disappeared after halftime – suddenly returned with a stripped piece of electrical copper wire. He deftly jammed it into the back of the TV with a practiced ease, fiddled with the remote, and there it was – the Super Bowl.
The channel hosting the Super Bowl wasn’t actually FOX; it was some sort of Haitian subsidiary dedicated to gyrating females in neon swimsuits – otherwise understood as artful music videos. Mostly unrated. The more unrated videos, the faster we all picked at the velvet couch covering.