"Excuse me," I said, knocking on the base's gate. "I'm a reporter with the Associated Press. We'd like to speak with the base commander."
Through gaps in the metal I could see Nepalese soldiers. Evens got back in the car and started honking. Finally a speakeasy-style flap opened and a soldier asked for my credentials.
An eternity passed. One of the village men started singing a song: "Ko-ko-kolera. Ko-le-ra MIN-U-STAH." His friends laughed. Finally a door opened, and a soldier beckoned us through. The base commander, slightly older, with stringy black hair and a camouflage uniform, was standing under a gazebo. He handed back my badges and motioned for us to sit down. He did not look pleased.
I asked him when his unit had arrived at the base.
He paused. "We came in shifts -- three shifts. The first Oct. 9. Then Oct. 12. Then Oct. 16."
The unit had been in country for less than a month, which meant that its members had been in Nepal during the cholera outbreak. And the base would have been in the midst of rotation -- with more personnel on hand than usual -- right before the Haiti epidemic began.
"Could you show us around the base?"
"It is not possible today. You must go." He pointed to the digital recorder I was holding next to my notebook. "Put that away."
"It's not on," I said. It wasn't. I turned it on.
The commander had every reason to be nervous. U.N. peacekeeping is a cornerstone of the Nepalese defense budget. The U.N. pays countries more than $1,000 per peacekeeper per month, eight times the base pay for a private in Nepal. The soldiers are paid so well that Nepal obliges them to pay nearly a quarter of their U.N. salaries into a general welfare fund for the country's soldiers and their families.
Evens and I took turns making our case. Each time the commander grew more insistent that we leave. I told him we had photos and video of the dump pits and leaking pipes, and that an Al Jazeera English crew that showed up after we did was filming too. Evens chimed in with the hard sell: "You'll look very bad today. Today you'll look very bad. Tell us the truth. We'll put out the truth."
The commander shook his head. "What can I do?" he muttered to no one.
"Is anyone at the base sick?" I asked.
"No. You must go."
"Has anyone here been sick? Are there cases of cholera at the base?"
The commander rose to his feet. "I do not know cholera."
"You know cholera. There is cholera in Nepal, right? In Katmandu?"
Now, I will never be able to prove this. But if you ask me, right then, there were tears in his eyes.
"No. There is no cholera," the commander said. "Only dengue."
Because Haiti had never seen the cholera strain before, its people had no immunity to it. Moreover, the country was wholly unprepared: As late as February 2010, the CDC had insisted, "Cholera is absent from the Caribbean" and "extremely unlikely to occur."