Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End

July 17/18
Up at 5:30am.  Left at 6:15am.  Up the mountain to meet JB's sister Shnieda to have her keep food and a few toys for all his sisters.To Pastor Abne's church in a garden of palms trees- completely tropical.  It was the anniversary of their church so they rented a sound system and had a party.  We told him we could only stop by.  The music started off rough and JB had a hard time.  During the greeting time, the Pastor came over and Johnbern asked him if he could give him a gift.  The Pastor agreed, so JB spoke and then played a song for Haiti.  I always forget how talented he really is.  The people loved it, then we went to leave and the Pastor chased us out with two styrofoam containers of food for lunch.  I just love his attitude and openness.  We've really bonded with him over the last week.  He keeps telling us how sad he is that we are leaving.

Straight to the border.  I was a little nervous to go in to the buildings and talk as I usually wait in the car while Kendra goes in.  Saw our new police officer friend, Jimmy.

Haitian side was a piece of cake.  Dominican side was tough, but at the last check point they were very friendly.

Long drive to Santo Domingo.  Stayed with JB's friend.

Next day we drove around SD, had breakfast, drove to Boca Chica to swim in the ocean!  Yes!  Clear, warm ocean water - incredible.

Went to see Columbus' house, Hard Rock Cafe and the touristy area of the city.  Saw the park, walked around the shops.  Dinner at Pasta and Pasta with his friend Patrice and Patrice's "girlfriend".  That's another story.

To visit their old roommate, then the house where his drums have been stored since April.  Back to Patrice's to sit outside with his neighbors.  Bed late.

Woke up early to pack van, breakfast at a sandwich shop, dropped Patrice off at school, then got Joquin (guy driving the van back to Jarabacoa) from the bus station.

To cybercafe to exchange photos and then to the airport. JB helped me take my bag in.  We hugged and cried.  I hate leaving.  After spending so much time together the last 7 months, I feel like he has become such a great friend.  We've had each other's backs during this completely insane experience.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Last Full Workday

Up, started to pack.  Left before 8am.  Drove all the way into town to print pictures for Yonel and Wilnise (parents of the new baby).  They asked me to take some pictures and print them to keep for the future.  It took awhile to drive into town and we waited over an hour for 12 pictures to print.  The place was actually a photo studio...so I had to take a picture.

Johnbern and Laurel
Yonel and baby Elby.

Back toward Croix-des-Bouquets to stop at Marassa Market.  Changed money and got ice cream to eat at 10:30am.  Sang Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and Backstreet Boys songs.  Even JB new the beat and words!

Drove downtown CdB because Laurel and I really wanted to buy Haitian honey at a grocery store (it's delicious!).  We stopped and JB asked for directions - an off duty police officer was hanging with his friends and was bored enough to help.  He got in Floyd and away we drove to the market.

The market is down a very narrow road - it was crazy!  Laurel took a good video of it (see below).  The guys got out to buy the honey so they didn't charge the "blan" or gringos a fortune. We waited for what felt like an hour so I called Johnbern and he said the lady was washing the bottles.  I thought he meant the outside, but I soon found out he meant the inside as they brought us honey in old pop bottles.  We thought they were confused so Laurel opened one to see a dead bee in the honey, sitting at the top.  Wow were we surprised.  The police officer liked us so much he wanted to take us home to his wife to introduce us.

Straight out to land to take care of business.  Passed out final supplies and tools.  Took care of extra house.  Sat down with the Pastor since the President wasn't around.  It was nice to talk to him only.  He is such a sweet man.

The three of us moved under the pavilion to talk to the people.  Johnbern started first by telling them that we were leaving and we weren't sure if or when we or someone else would be coming back.  He started to cry as he shared his heart.  People were more upset than I thought they would be about us leaving.  Laurel spoke next about all God has provided for the them - all the possibilities they have and how this shouldn't be a sad time, but a happy time as this is the beginning of new things for them.  I wanted to share, but I decided to hold in my tears instead until Madame Dutes asked me to speak.  I instantly started to cry but started from the beginning about how each home was made with a lot of love, about the group that came and how there are people all over the United States praying for them.  I also told them I love them.

A few people shared deeply moving things about us.  They were even the ones to suggest a group photo!  Even with the language barrier, I could feel the love.  The Pastor wanted to talk, but he got choked up, so he waited a minute and prayed for us.

Some of the families.
We took a few pictures and Molive Mesifort pulled me aside without Johnbern to exchange phone numbers while she pointed to her stomach.  She is the one who is about 3 months pregnant and I was there when she found out.  Molive was upset because her husband is abusive and they are in the middle of separating.  We thought she had taken an abortion pill, but JB and I talked to her and were relieved when she told us she hadn't.  Thank you, Lord.

I sat on the top of Floyd (the van) while Johnbern drove around so we could get a video.

The people of the village helped Johnbern check the oil, we hugged everyone and away we drove.  A few people wanted a ride to the main road, so we had Johnbern tell them we needed to jam to our 2 favorite songs - Call on Jesus by Nicole C Mullen and Stomp by Kirk Franklin.  We all sang and danced as JB drove us to the entrance of LaTremblay 5.

Stopped to see Pastor Abne' to give him the money for the first 2 months.  He is such an inspiration.  I can't understand him, but I see God in him.  Amazing.

To Victory Compassion base to unload all of the car and get it washed inside and out.  In the little park in Font Parisen there was a man with a power washer - good enough!  Laurel, Johnbern, and I sat in the park and dreamed of what it could be.  All the kids came up and we talked with them and relaxed.  This area has such potential.

Back to Victory Compassion - packed a little in the van.  Dinner of turkey, potatoes, and garlic bread. A beautiful last supper with the VC folks.  In the middle of dinner, Pastor Rod got up and gave me a send off speech.  I was overwhelmed with joy.  He said I enriched their lives simply by being in it.  I truly feel like part of their family now and feel so blessed that I am welcome back anytime.  They had everyone give me "three cheers" and then Mary made chocolate cake!

Played 2 games of Dominos with the Dominicans.  Finished packing up the tent with Johnbern and Laurel.

Tents at Victory Compassion.  I stayed in the one on the right.
We stayed here full-time after we left Juju's house.
Inside the sleeping quarters/workroom (my tent).
Stayed the night in Mary's trailer, Laurel came over for the sleepover as well.  We stayed up until 1am!  I've loved spending time with her.  We are on the same page but still learned a lot from one another.  At one point she told me she actually felt guilty for having so much fun with us as most of her days haven't been in town adventures like ours.

I am so grateful we stumbled across this group of people.  They have enriched my experience in Haiti and I really feel like because of them we were able to do more.  Victory Compassion's team took us in and their compound was definitely our safe place.  I can see how God is using them in Haiti and I feel honored to have been able to experience it too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Random Days Between

The Paraguayans spent the whole day at our site.  The workload is to prepare a better fence for security around the village and doing another around the agriculture land.  They are also helping to move five temporary shelters to make room for our ACTED plywood homes.

The UN Paraguayan's truck knocked a power line down.
We were in the middle of the caravan, so we waited.
They moved shelters first.

On their breaks, the Paraguayans took turns taking pictures with
the new baby, mom and grandma.
The kids helped me put dirt and gravel at the bottom of the shelters.
We passed out medicines prescribed by Dr Suarez.

There are four men carrying from the inside.
The fence was four feet tall and had three strands of barbwire across the top.
On another day, we got the agricultural land going.

The guys working hard!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 28

Devotions with Victory Compassion were good this morning. I enjoyed mingling with the group over breakfast too.

Out on the road Johnbern, Laurel and I went. We headed to downtown to buy rice, beans and other items at a depot so that the people could add it to the donated clothes Kendra brought to start a small store.

On the way we stopped at a gas station with a Western Union inside so Johnbern could send his apartment rent to Jarabacoa. $50 US a month for a big place - must be nice. Johnbern got spaghetti for breakfast and Laurel got a hot sandwich. Laurel was a little nervous to go in because of a story she heard from Miguel from the Dominican team from Barahona about a bank. Banks in Haiti are dangerous! While JB was in line, Laurel and I sat on the restaurant side to disassociate ourselves. We didn't want them thinking JB was taking out money for us, etc. Apparently we were so caught up in our conversation that we didn't even see the group of 5 guys who walked in and b-lined it to our table. Johnbern called us over to go outside to get away from them. He is so protective and good to us.

Downtown was crazy this morning on Jean Jacques Boulevard (a famous market area in PAP). I felt fine there but because of all the people and how just one thing happening can make things turn south quickly, he made Laurel and I stay in Floyd (the van). It was his first time in a market like that so he came back laughing with a story to tell. Today he shared a lot with Laurel about his past life experiences.

We get a little concerned about taking pictures in crowded places, so this is Laurel's attempt from the van...trying to be secretive...

Drove back toward Croix-des-Bouquets and the village. Dropped JB off for band practice. Met the Hoffmans at our village. One of the ministries they do is to show a movie about Jesus. It is set in Haiti and goes back and forth between real people and animation. Even with it being in creole, I could still understand the bible stories they were telling through the animation. Everyone who was around sat with us in the new house - eyes glued to the sheet projecting the video. It was only 50 minutes long.

After the movie we gave the President and Pastor the donated clothes and food we bought with the explanation that they needed to pay back 2,000 goudes or $50 and we would give that to someone to start a small business, then they pay it back and someone else can use it. This is something that another lady working in Haiti suggested that we do because it holds the people accountable.  Immediately they started discussing as a group what should be done, so Laurel and I left to go pick ip Johnbern from practice.

Everyone had asked where JB was earlier, so when he arrived he agreed that he actually missed the people since we hadn't seen them since Friday. It was perfect. He explained everything about the store to them. Joked with them. We told them Haiti had the best honey, they told us they would make us homemade peanut butter if we brought the supplies. Yum!

Laurel played with the kids - that's where her heart is. Johnbern and I lounged in the back of a pick-up truck with the men of the village. They made jokes and talked about job hunting.  I didn't understand hardly anything, but it was fun to feel included.

Back to VC before dark. A fun day today! Pastor Rod is back from being gone about 2 weeks. He adds a different energy to the group and to the teams that come. Dinner, then had birthday brownies for Brian. We sang Happy Birthday in English, then the Dominicans sang it to him in Spanish, then the interpreters sang it in Creole. It was amazing!

Later, Brian sang with his guitar, then Eduard D did a rap.  They were both really good and very fun!  Everyone enjoyed just hanging around and doing something different tonight.

Sherry and John Zimmer

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 27

Up at 5:30 am to head back to Victory Compassion from the hotel. Dropped off JB's bass player friend, Johnson. He is a cool guy.

Back to VC after the hour drive. Napped for 30 minutes, showered and to church at CAD, an orphanage down the street. They do kids church every Sunday and today talked about the Holy Spirit to all the little kids.

Had a good lunch and rested. Napped for a few hours because I was so exhausted from last night. Woke up and had a little misunderstanding with JB. We decided to drive out to the entrance to grab a coca cola and sit in the "park" or "square". Talked with a few people, then drove down to the Love a Child Village. It was nice to be out, but not too far from the base and to just be hanging around instead of rushing somewhere.  People (especially the kids) end up gravitating toward you.  Its fun to see them so curious about some white girl hanging in the square.

Before we headed back, I asked Johnbern if we could stop at the car wash across the street to correct my wrong. Awhile ago I asked JB why they had coins and bills for some goudes and he said that they just did. So I assumed the coin that said 50 was the same as the 50 goude bill... I got a carwash with Laurel and last time Kendra gave a tip, so I gave a tip this time. It wasn't until 3 days later when we were in the Marassa Market that we realized I had given them 50 cents... Only half a goude!  That is a tip of 2.5 cents in the US. Whoops. We drove up and the guy was working. He saw me and laughed - Johnbern translated and we gave him a legit tip. I had been embarassed for a few days until we fixed it today. Yikes.

Back to VC for dinner, tried to plan tomorrow. A new group arrived today so there are people everywhere.  Washed dishes with Sherry.  I enjoyed spending some time talking to her.  JB helped me sort medicines and then to bed I went.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 26 - A Day of Rest

A day of rest.  We get to relax and see Johnbern (JB) perform at a nice restaurant tonight!

Laurel and I dropped JB off so he could go to practice this morning, then we headed back to Victory Compassion's Compound (VC) to relax. We spent time with Mary in her trailer talking about Haiti business and spiritual history. I think she is so wise.

Lunch with the Dominicans from Barahona, then I finally looked up a flight home. Played dominoes with Laurel and 2 of VC's interpreters.

Johnbern watched the Brazil soccer game after practice, so Laurel, her sister Erin and I got our stuff together and headed to pick him up. Victory Compassion has a rule about driving after dark, so since we are staying with them, we have tried to adhere to it since Kendra has been gone and Laurel has been with us. Instead of driving all the way back, we got a hotel by the airport. One room for the girls and one for JB and his friend Johnson, the bass player from his trio.

JB got ready while Laurel and Erin flipped through the TV for the first time since they arrived March 10.

On our way up the mountain, Johnbern stopped to help the girls shop. Erin's husband's birthday is coming up and they wanted to shop on the street where JB likes to shop to find him a shirt. I stayed in the car while JB helped them barter the price. He even ended up getting a shirt for himself. We had a little bit of time so JB also gave them a van tour and had us stop at La Reserve - a beautiful restaurant. It looked like Hawaii with trees, hanging lights, candles and lots of greens. Laurel wants to have her wedding reception there. We sat for a few minutes so Laurel and Erin could have a cappuccino, their first in Haiti. I liked seeing them bond as they are 11 years apart in age.

Erin Hoffman and Laurel Steffen
To the place JB was playing - another beautiful secret of Haiti. Absolutely gorgeous! The 3 girls sat to the left of the stage. Erin and Laurel were very social and chatty. We had some good conversation!  Johnbern played amazing - as usual. I'm really liking the jazz music more and more. It is so soothing. After the show, Laurel and I talked to JB and his friends. They were explaining that jazz isn't like other music because you need to connect to the audience. "It's very spiritual."

Left about 11:30pm to head to the hotel. Laurel and Erin stayed up to talk late. I stayed up until about 1am.

Slept under the sheets and woke up in the middle of the night to wash my arms from what I thought were bedbugs - gross!

In the morning Erin mentioned something similar. A nice place, but gross!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 23

I'm so tired I've slept through breakfast and morning devotions the last 3 days.  Went to ProHuerta for our agriculture meeting at 9am and the guy is actually coming tomorrow.  Rescheduled.

Saw our Paraguayan friends in a caravan heading to the border as 6 of them leave on break for 5 days today.  It was fun to see them waving like maniacs to get our attention.

Realized we forgot the printer to copy ID cards at the camp today.  Oops.  Turned around and drove all the way back to the compound - about 25 minutes each way from where we were.

Went to the village to pick up the President to take him with us to the camp to interview the last of the families.  He wasn't there even though we called him 15 minutes before we arrived and he said he would be around.  Took Ruth instead.

Drove the back way.  Floyd started making a noise.  I got out down a back road to see a pipe dragging.  Lord have mercy on us is all I could think!  Johnbern and I tied it up until we could get it to a "garage" that wasn't in a garage.  Used my shoelaces to tie it up.  Hey - you have to improvise in Haiti.  Just needed to be welded back together - 250 goudes or $6.50 US.  Not bad!  We think it rotted at the seam from all the saltwater we have been driving through at the border.

Back on our way to the camp at Lilavois 6.  Less tents than when I first visited.  I wonder if people are around because they knew we were coming or if they are actually living here.  Interviewed 4, only taking 1.  We asked them to show us the tent they have been living in at the camp.  One lady showed us one with nothing in it, the others couldn't show us because their tent didn't exist, and one lady was legitimately living there - we only took her.  Ask President about other people who were around washing clothes, bathing, and getting water.  He said they are bad people and will cause problems at the new village.  We told him we wanted to give everyone a chance and interview them anyways because we knew he just wanted to only take his friends.  He didn't like that.  We started walking around to realize almost none of these people were actually living there.  After 2 hours of lies, we decided we were done for the day.  By this time it was 2:15pm.  The President and I went back and forth because I saw a lot of people from the village there.  I kept asking him why people would travel so far in a taptap to visit people in a place when they just said they didn't like the people.  He didn't gave a good answer.

On our way out we drove 4 of the guys from our village to the street to get a taptap back to the village. Saw Ernst (one of the guys that ACTED said had a "good" house) at a car place.  Showed me his tent.  Asked him where his girlfriend and 2 daughters are.  He said they were at the village today even though yesterday we told him he had to move out.  Apparently he moved them in yesterday afternoon even though he has had almost 6 weeks to move them in.  I decided I was too tired to battle for the truth any longer.

Dropped the guys off in Clercine and JB took Laurel and I to a nearby restaurant for lunch.  It was Laurel's first time in a restaurant in Haiti and she has been here since March!  Upstairs was a very nice salon for women and downstairs was a barbershop. It was cool to see.

At the barbershop.
Toward Victory Compassion base, made phone calls and stopped at the HELP clinic that Johnbern's sister was at.  Apparently his mom left the medicines we bought for his sister there instead if taking them to give to his sister for her to get better.  I don't understand.  Johnbern hasn't talked about the situation much since Monday.  Today he told us his other sister took the sick sister to a private hospital.  Ok, fine.  I'm proud of Johnbern for saying enough is enough - I'm sure it wasn't easy for him.  No one was there, waited a few minutes and headed "home".

As soon as we got in Johnbern went to take a nap and Laurel and I ended up talking in the car for over an hour.  She is so fun and I love talking to her about what we are doing and the books we've read.  I think we are learning a lot from each other.

Dinner, shower, and bed.  Lots of meetings tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 22

To land this a.m. to meet with the President and Pastor about ACTED houses.  Finally touched base with both of them.  Overall good conversation and they understood.

Visited HELP to help with last minute details before the Inauguration.

Back to VC compound to have lunch and get ready as the dress code is "sexy chic".  Found a car wash.  250g to wash outside and inside.  Took JB back to make lunch for us, Mary and the kitchen helper.

Laurel and I took the van to the car wash across the street.  Sat outside with the guys.  Laurel knows a little more creole than I, so she practiced - then the guy started talking to us in English.

Back to the compound for lunch and the 3 of us got ready.  Supposed to start at 2pm, we got there at 2:40pm and it still hadn't begun.

School had tables with fancy linens and a sound system.  Viva Rio was getting warmed up in one of the "classrooms".  The desks from USAID had just arrived and were being unloaded.

We sat with the others and Dr B introduced us to his doctor friends and others from the US.  Viva Rio did their karate/dance performance, then the Dr. spoke and someone explained the biodigester.

Fed us from a beautiful buffet.  Saw Eduard, our old security.  He was dressed in his best! Khakis and a white, long sleeve button up - he even shaved!

Sat with some of the HELP workers.  Got up to take some pictures and Miss Coutard asked me to help her serve food to the kids.  The simple process turned into a madhouse because kids would wipe their faces and then ask for another plate.  It got to the point that kids were yelling at me and pulling my clothes, so Johnbern made me quit.

A dance party with the kids came next.  Some of our villagers helped Dr Br with preparation of the land, so he let them eat and dance with us.  They were very funny.

Ended at 4pm, left about 5:30pm.  On the way back to the compound we listened to Kirk Franklin- continuing our dancing and singing from earlier.

Dinner of BBQ chicken.  Sat with the Hoffman family.  Talked with Sandra, Quinten, and John afterwards. Called Mom and bed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 21

Happy Independence Day!

I woke up today to the Americans in the group singing the National Anthem before breakfast.  The Hoffman Family (Andy and Erin with their 4 girls - Hannah 13, Audrey 11, Ellie 7, and Ava 3) are all wearing American Flag shirts today.  They are the Camp Directors and Erin's sister Laurel will be hanging with JB and I since Kendra is gone.

Headed to the village to talk to the President and Pastor about the decisions ACTED made about the plywood homes. Out of our 25 families, 6 are No's and 1 is being investigated further. They were helping Dr Brutus clear land since the Inauguration of the school is tomorrow.

Talked with Brutus for awhile. Met a few of his friends who were watching our villagers work. Aye.

Headed to ProHuerta to see their agricultural project - people who have used their gardening methods no longer suffer from anemia and other illnesses.  After we told him our whole village suffered from anemia, the project manager was excited to get us connected with more information.  He gave us a tour of his personal garden and we set an appointment for Wednesday morning to meet with another representative.  He was sure to clarify 9am Haitian time, NOT American time.  That basically means we shouldn't be on-time, but adopt Latin American culture and take it easy.

Into town to pick up money from Lubens - Kendra's former truck driver.  He is repaying some of the loan today.  Stopped for Haitian food off the street on the way and ate it at JB's Dad's work.  His Dad runs the security at the police academy in Woodfair.  The area was fenced in and looked like a park on a college campus with trees and green grass.  We ate rice, bean sauce, and beef from our styrofoam containers as we listened to music from Laurel's iPod.

Back on the road and up the mountain toward Petionville.  On the way we stopped at JB's Grandma's to see his other smaller sisters.  It is the house he lived in from when he was born to about 8 years old.  Only stayed for 5 minutes and one of his little sisters got upset when he went to leave.  He really does a lot for them.

Met Lubens for the money.  Stopped at the grocery store for items for s'mores and possibly firecrackers of some kind.  Since Petionville is the rich area - they have amazing American-like grocery stores.  Stopped at 3 - only got s'mores supplies.  Johnbern didn't bring any clothes for Dr Brutus' school inauguration tomorrow, so we dropped him off on the street to go shopping.  After much negotiating, he came down to tell us what he got.  He knew the price would be better for him if we weren't around. Smart!

Back down the mountain - stopped at one last store and got small firecrackers fit the 4th of July party.

At the base we had burgers, potato salad, and baked beans.  Dessert of s'mores and we lit the firecrackers.  Not that cool, but made noise like a firework.

John told Johnbern about the clothes people from teams had left behind.  He said JB could go through and keep any he wanted.  He found a few shirts, flip flops, and a hat.  I think he liked getting a few things, even if they weren't his style.  Who doesn't like new clothes?

Talked with everyone in the kitchen over s'mores.  Bed later than I wanted, but it was a fun night.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 20

Enjoyed last night at Paraguayan base.  They threw Kendra a Going Away Party in conjunction with a birthday.  The Colonel invite us and all the Majors and Captains - about 20 people around the table.  I sat between Kendra and the Colonel (or Commander - the highest rank here anyways).  After dinner and ice cream, they broke out Spanish karaoke.  Wow!  Right before we left they conned me into singing the Backstreet Boys' song - Quit Playin' Games with my Heart in English.  How many people can say they sang karaoke with the Paraguayan military on their base in Haiti?

With today being Kendra's last day, we ate breakfast with everyone at Victory Compassion so that she could say her goodbyes.

Straight to the airport to drop Kendra off. Quick goodbye.

Johnbern wanted to watch Brazil play soccer, so we went to La Maison restaurant to have lunch and watch the game.  Then, we went up the mountain to visit his Dad.  His Dad was excited to give me a tour of his small home that he and Johnbern built together.

Afterwards, we visited his sister Marie Danie at the hospital.  This is our second visit.  We spent the rest of the day driving her around to different places to try to find treatment.  A very difficult situation that I would love to share if you are interested.