That's just Haiti

Apr 24, 2012

Hey y'all.   The internet cafe down the road (about a mile we think) from the school had issues all week so we never made it down there.  We are back at the Guest House now with internet access.  We are all taking a day from the week and will sum it up for you in the coming days. This is Tracy and I have Tuesday. 

We had a great breakfast before heading out and loaded up the truck.  1 truck for provisions, supplies and luggage; 1 truck for us. We first met our interpreters:  Leonard and Rodney.  Leonard was added to the team late as our other interpreter (that was with the team last year) had a family emergency. 

We left the Guest House Tuesday morning around 9ish maybe. I say 9ish because as the week went on, it became very apparent that time was irrelatavent.  We laughed because we would think it was super late at night only to find out it was only 8. 

We took the long way to the site because there were demonstrations in the city and surrounding areas and we were avoiding them as an added safety measure.  Motorcycles have taken over the city -- it is much easier to weave in and out of traffic on a bike than in a taptap (like a local taxi -- but is basically a pick up truck with a shell that you sit in the back of.)  It is my understanding that last week, 3 police were killed by motorcyclists, so the police went on strike so then the people went on strike so there were demonstrations -- people burning tires in the street.  We just avoided them.  I'm sure it sounds crazy, but after being here for a week, the only thing to say about it, is "That's just Haiti."

By taking the side roads, we got to see so much more of the country that we would have otherwise.  It was beautiful and ugly all at the same time.  You would see a beautiful field of flowers that was littered with garbage.   A little girl hugging her mom for all she was worth while her mom danced next to a shack make of sticks and mud that was their home.  People selling anything they could get their hands on on the side of the pothole ridden road next to gorgeous houses that hid behind cement walls topped with barbwire to keep everyone out.  But as I learned, that's just Haiti. 

We stayed at a school about a 2 minute walk from the church.  When we pulled into the school, my first thought was you want us to stay here?  Seriously?  They showed us to the second floor and pointed out a large empty classroom. This was to be our kitchen.  A makeshift kitchen in a school with no electricity.  The next large empty room was to be the girls room.  Then a smaller classroom for the boys.  Then the bathroom.  An incredibly  small room with a toilet and a sink.   But, it did have running water and you could flush the toilet so this was a luxury. 

We locked the bathroom door 2 times in the first 10 minutes of being there, requiring us to find Monique, the principal, to come unlock it.  Each time, rolling her eyes.  On the 3rd time, she put a cement block there so we couldn't close it without first moving it.  That did the trick.

Our first task was to unpack the supplies.  As American's we started to grab a bag and walk up the stairs.  Leonard and Rodney laughed at us. They pulled one of the trucks up to the school, jumped on top and started passing it up to the 2nd floor.  Eight incredibly smart American's and we would never have thought of that.  It saved time and energy.  It was just one of the many things we learned from the Haitian people that week.

We unpacked and were going to set off to the job sight, but the kids recess started at that moment and playing with the kids became much more important.  Ben took a soccer ball out and soon a gaggle of boys were running and playing with him.  Then we brought out the frisbees, and soon every child wanted their turn playing frisbee with us.  I personally was passing 3 frisbees with about 6 different kids at one point.  The courtyard was filled with joy and laughter.

At the same time, there was a team of people in the courtyard giving out vaccinations.  Once the kids went in, we even got them to play frisbee with us.  What made me laugh about the vaccination team, is that other members of the team were in a pick up truck driving all through the area with a bullhorn yelling to the area to come to the school for their free vaccinations.  We got to know them well enough to wave whenever they went by blaring about where the vaccines were that day.  They would wave at us and motion like they were throwing a frisbee. 

After a simple lunch of sandwiches and chips (which I thought would be the norm for all our meals, but Ramone (our cook) was a miracle worker and there are many recipes of hers I want) we went to the job site.  We were dismayed to find that there were only two workers.  But we were told what to do and went at it with gusto.  We had to clear the rubble out down the left wall of the church.  We had to move the rubble to the pathway by the road.  We tried to fill in the area that was all muddy, but were told quickly by the locals that we could not fill that area in.  That was where the rain would run through and if we filled it in, we would flood their homes. 

Instead we began what seemed to be a futile effort of building up the path by the road.  1 five gallon bucket at a time.  I could not understand why we would want to put pieces of cinder block here with dirt and rubble, but this is what we were told to do and Rodney and Leonard said it was ok and to trust them. By the end of the week the road was covered with dirt and the path was nearly level with the road; what started as a sunken mess became a very walkable path.

A little boy named Jeff, who was in 2nd grade at the school, came and insisted on helping.  We were worried he would want to be paid but as it turned out, he just wanted to be around us.  While Matilda entertained the kids (and many adults) inside with drawings, we had Jeff and a few girls outside who just wanted to help and ride in the wheelbarrow.

The caretaker of the church, Felix, thought Megan and I weren't picking the rubble good enough so he took the pick-ax out of our hands and showed us how to do it.  Then as I was digging, a little snake popped out.  Being scared to death of snakes, I screamed, dropped my shovel and ran for cover.  Felix picked it up and laughed at me.  Then he started to chase me with it.  It was all done in good humor and for the rest of the week he would pretend to chase me with the snake.

After work, we went back to the school for our first shower.  A bucket shower.  There was a huge barrel filled with water.  We were to scoop the water into a 5 gallon bucket and then use the scoop to pour over us.  I believe our translators thought we were crazy when we asked for a lesson on how it worked.  I called dibs on the first shower.  The only word to describe my first bucket shower was decadent.  A word I never in a million years thought I would use to describe a bucket shower.  But given where I was, how dirty I was, and how good I felt afterwards...decadent.

The final thing that surprised me  that day was at bedtime, Rodney said there would be some guys staying in the room next to us.  We didn't know who they were or what they were doing there and we all became a bit worried.  What would happen if we had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  We would find out the next day, these were young men put there by the preacher (all members of the church) to watch over us at night.  We became great friends with them and looked back on that first night's fears with laughter.

That's just Haiti and we were so very American. 

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