Friday, October 21, 2011

Day of Flights

Flight delayed upon arrival at airport from 8:35am departure to 9:30am.  Automatically rebooked from Miami to DC.  Went through three (3), yes three different security checkpoints.  This is interesting because the US Travel website says that the Aviation Standards for the Port-au-Prince airport are not up to code.  Hmm.

Not much room to wait.  Upstairs was a food court.  Most of the people waiting were church mission teams in matching t-shirts or UN/NGO organization workers.  Many of the latter were drinking beers in the food court balcony 8am.

Boarded flight, took off, 30 minutes in the captain came over the speaker to tell us the fuel gauge wasn't working so we had to go back to Port-au-Prince.  Waited for mechanic, mechanic arrived, ran tests for 30 minutes, more waiting, ok to take off.

Arrived in Miami, waiting at customs, rebooked on different flights twice.  Finally arrived in Washington DC at 8:00pm instead of 3:40pm.  I had a rough time at the airport.  The guy checking me in when I was at the Miami airport got to watch me cry.  I couldn't help it - no one would help, I'd been up since 4:45am and I hadn't eaten anything when I got to speak with him at 4pm.  I was over it.

In DC, I visited my dear friend Bonnie and we went to the Red Wings game!  A crazy transition from Haitian life to life in the big city for a weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Humbling Day

Picked up Pastor Abne' and our translator, Jose' all the way out in the country.  Left at 5:30am and picked them up about 6:30am, then headed back into town and up the mountain to the FAO office.

Pastor Abne' volunteers for an Argentina agricultural program in the area and arranged a meeting for us with FAO, an organization that sponsors their project.

Arrived at FAO and met with three people. All their money is already allocated, so no help for us.

Back down the mountain toward the US Embassy.  Dropped off Pastor Abne' on the way.  Priscka, Kendra's friend from the old camp, works there.  She helped us navigate the system.  I was looking forward to seeing inside this giant - too extravagant to be in Haiti -building, but alas we didn't actually go inside this time.

Pastor Abne'
The US Embassy.  This picture doesn't do it justice.  It is HUGE and a lot of
the building is further back behind huge walls.
Took Jose' up the mountain to our "friends' house".  We don't really know him, but we wanted to check/send email and have lunch at the house.  Omar and Jose watched TV in Spanish while Kendra and I talked in our bedroom.

Omar made rice with beans and hot dogs for lunch. The four of us sat at the table and ate together. This is the first time we have actually had time to all sit together. In my head I wanted to ask about his family. Kendra asked him about his family and my question for them to translate would have been "What do your parents do?". Then I realized that was a bit inappropriate since most people here don't work.  We were eating so Kendra asked what his favorite food was, he said rice. Omar clarified - no, your favorite for special occassions. Jose' answered rice with chicken, because they don't have the possibility to eat "special things".

Wow.  I'm not sure we realized the extent of the life he lives.  He has never been to Petionville...ever.

Enjoyed the rest of lunch and headed out to the village.  Yonel's two kids have fevers so we bought the amoxicillin the doctor from the Cuban clinic recommended.  190 goudes or $4.75 for a whole bottle.

To the village.  Spoke with Miss Coutard.  She wants me to teach the kids English and for Alonda to come back and teach them about teeth since she used to be a dental hygienist.  Very cool!

Did a little paperwork in the mobile office.

The people were in great moods today, very tranquil. We started to do interviews with each family.  I wrote out the questions for Kendra, so she would ask Jose in Spanish who would ask the person in Creole - then back down the line to Kendra to me in English.  I wrote the notes, then asked a question, then back up the chain it went.  It was funny because a few times I would say, ask them this and she would start to ask in English and I would say "Spanish", so she would switch back.  It felt a little crazy with so many languages going.

We were interviewing the families again to find out more details about school for their children, commerce and to give them some one on one attention so they know we care and want to hear their ideas and concerns.

To hear even more about them now that they trust us is so interesting.  We started with 5 and Kendra and Omar will continue the rest with Jose.  The picture that was painted by these stories was an incredible one.  Each family so unique, yet completely bonded. One mother confessed that she lost her 4 month old baby in the earthquake.  Another told us her 16 year old son has only completed the third grade because they can't pay for school.

Nelldella is a new lady to the village, so we were looking forward to interviewing her to get to know her better.  After all of the questions, we ask the people if they have any questions, concerns, or if they want to tell us anything.  This lady blew us away.  She told Jose' in Creole, who told Kendra in Spanish, who told me in English that this lady is a new Christian.  We were very excited about this and she continued to tell us that the reason she became a Christian was because God met her needs through us and she saw how we were treating the people and how much we cared about the village.  I was so grateful she would share this with us. It felt like a word from God to confirm the God work we have done.

Emily, Nelldella, Kendra
After our conversation with the President last night, we were encouraged when Nelldella also told us that the people held a prayer service for us last night.  We always pray for them, but they prayed for us! Amazing.

It started to get a little dark and since it was my last night, I told Kendra I wanted to play with the kids for awhile. I brought a few basic kid books that we were going to donate to goodwill anyways and read to the little girls. They loved it! These are old, old books but the pictures are pretty. I read in English and every time I turned the page they said "bel, bel" about each page, which means beautiful.

After, I got out a few crayons and white paper. Instead of coloring something, they all wanted to write my name.  Omar made a beautiful picture of a shelter with a big tree next to it.  I think he is an artist and didn't tell us!  When we were leaving, all the kids were so good and returned the books and crayons.  In my best creole, I told them they could keep them for "tout moun" or for everyone to share.

Jose' (our translator) knew it was my last day, so he asked to get a picture with me.  Even though he isn't smiling in it, the picture was his idea.

Kendra, Jose', Emily, Omar
It's weird to be leaving.  I don't feel like I did everything I wanted to do.  Then again, it's impossible to plan when you are here.  Everything is so crazy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Fencing

Up at 5:30am, out by 6.

I've been having a tough time today. One thing I didn't report on yesterday was something we saw on the drive back from Cori (co-rye). On the side of the road we saw a woman just laying there. She was lifeless and alone. No one was around or even nearby. We were following Alain's driver and weren't sure what to do. What do you do? In the States you stop and call 911. Its not the same in Haiti.  I keep thinking of all the other people who drove by and didn't stop.  It was on a main road and out in the country. No hospital nearby, no translator with us. If she is dead, you aren't allowed to move her anyways until the "official" person comes and pronounces that she is in fact dead.  If she is alive and we put her in our car, then she dies on the way to the hospital, they blame us for her death.  At the hospital way in town, they might not even help her.  Don't get me started on this healthcare system.  I know the right thing to do was to stop, but we didn't and now I can't go back.

Open road where we were driving.
Picked up our translator, Jose' past the village in La Trembly.  He lives right next to the taptap (Haitian taxi) accident we saw the other day.  Jose' was there when the accident happened, so he could give us an eye witness account.  Apparently a big truck from the DR hit a taptap from behind going dangerously fast.  The taptap flipped over killing 3 people and injuring many others.  The driver and another man got out of their truck but they are Dominican and the people from the community were very mad.  One man swung his machete and sliced the drivers throat!  Fortunately, an older man from the community came and rescued the Dominicans, taking them to his home until the anger died down.

Arrived at the garden to find everyone working.  This is good!  The Paraguayans arrived a few minutes later.  They will be helping us by fixing the fencing.  The Paraguayans had completed the work, but people from the community let their animals inside and that destroyed the fencing.  Today they are moving the fencing so the well is on the outside.

The people gathered, mostly to watch the Paraguayans work and their fellow villagers who are preparing the land for planting... again.

Kendra and Omar walked to the village and were gone for quite some time, so Jose' and I went looking for them after awhile.

Back at the village, we saw our old security guard, Eduard hanging with the villagers. School was in session for the kids. Walked toward HELP to find Kendra and Omar hanging out with the Peru and Japanese UN militaries. Both companies are helping to demolish and provide security for the HELP hospital. The Japanese were enlisted to help us cut the additional metal poles we need for our fencing. The Japanese taught me how to say thank you in Japanese ありがとう, pronounced "airy-got-ou".

Back to the land, then into town to buy re-rod to put in the poles with cement so they last longer. Everything you do ends up taking twice as much time in Haiti, so while Jose' and Omar waited at the hardware store for the people to finish cutting the re-rod every two feet (by hand), Kendra and I went back to the village to drop off the first batch.

Lots of people keep telling me how hungry their babies are. We had decided earlier that we would give them some leftovers from Kendra's last trip since they are working today with the Paraguayans. Unfortunately, the food wasn't in the house so we gave them food we had to distribute later, now. Spaghetti with tomato sauce and cans of sardines. That's what they usually eat for breakfast, not for lunch. They were so happy about the food that it made me wonder again how much they really eat. For all the time I've spent at the village, Ive only seen them make and eat what we give for the most part. I wonder if that means they hid it from each other too. Since school is in session at our village, all the students are given one meal and one snack a day during their class. This is great for the kids in our village who are in school. For the adults and kids who are not, it can't be easy to watch the kids eat. Wilnise Fayette is taking the cooking responsibility since shecwas the last perso to complain to me about food.

Back to the hardware store to pick up the boys, then to Pastor Abne's house to talk with him. It was so nice to see him!  He is such a sweet, kind hearted Pastor.  Pastor Abne showed us his garden, then we took him to the land.  All the things that he thought would be to ProHuerta's standards are now in place, including the well and proper fencing.  (The Paragauayan's just finished!)

Dropped him off and back to the land we went.  IOM Shelter was driving by so Kendra flagged them down and had them visit our village.  She talked with them while a few Moms showed me skin problems on their babies' bodies.

Pastor came over and wanted to show me his small garden on the perimeter of the village.  Melons, beans, etc.  I thought he just wanted to show me, but instead picked a big one and gave it to me!  It was a kind gesture.  I really connected to these people!

Kendra was still talking with the IOM Shelter guys, so Omar and I went to pick up Pastor Regis, a friend of Kendra's who lives in LaTrembly 4.  We are having him visit the village because we feel like he may be a good fit to be a community organizer while we aren't in the country.  Pastor Regis is a good man and would act as an on-site extension of us.

Kendra gave him a tour, then we all looked through the medicines I left with our Pastor in the village during my last trip.  We were looking for special soap for the babies with skin problems.

The President wanted to talk to us about his "concerns".  He and Kendra went back and forth through Pastor Regis, everyone got a little riled up.  We ended in prayer.

I'm not sure the President's "concerns" match up with the people's.  I decided I am going to start calling him by his name, Richard instead of President.  His leadership came built in with the group, but he needs grooming.

The kids of the village sure know how to make things bright again.  They wanted their pictures taken!  (Some adults too.)  I'll take a picture, then they will run over to see how they look.  Usually lots of laughs follow.

Back to house, Ramen Noodles for dinner.  Omar said they put lime juice in their soup.  I tried it and it was good.  Bed early.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stayed up too late...

Up early to write UNFPA email/proposal for solar lighting after our meeting yesterday. We needed to submit in French and English. Since we are translator-less this morning, we were forced to resort to that has been known to translate crazy things at times. I felt a little uncomfortable hitting send, but alas it is off in cyberspace.
Yesterday morning on our drive we read Psalm 86. It is a very humbling verse, so we read it again today.

Drove to the UN Warehouse to pick up the second load of supplies. We were able to secure cholera treatment supplies for the Dessalines hospital. Dan and Dee Synder (who are staying with us at Russ and Sherry's) have worked with the hospital for many years and are taking another team up on Friday. It is nice to be able to help others through our connections.

We waited about 2 hours at the IOM Warehouse. Aye. Slow, slow. The girls I tried to speak to yesterday were there and waved to me before I had the chance to say hi to them.  Yesterday a few guys were talking about me and I said "Ki sa?", which means "What?" and they all stopped and looked at each other, then started laughing. They were pretty surprised when I had a few other phrases to say in creole too.

Kendra used her time wisely by talking to
her mom (Cheryl Trepus, who is in the DR) on her iPad.
Headed to the Mayor's office for our meeting with Alain from IOM. 45 minutes from IOM Warehouse. When we arrived, Alain informed us that the Mayor was in Cori (co-rye) for the opening of a new World Vision school. Alain said we should go up there with him to see the Mayor, so we followed him up the mountain. Cori is in the middle of nowhere. You basically drive 30 minutes further into the country and finally come across a village of 15,000 people. All of these people are from Port-au-Prince and fled here after the earthquake - most making tents out of sheets.

On the way we bought a phone card and I have been acting as the unofficial translator. I can buy phone cards, ask for simple directions and entertain small children with my creole skills. Even though my creole is not good, the phrases I know make people do double takes, which is always fun.

In Cori, we drove down many streets through IOM built houses and around a corner to see a mob of people waiting outside the new school. It was chaotic - I'm glad the UN had people nearby. We slowly drove through the people where we just stopped so Kendra and Alain could go inside. Omar and I waited in Floyd. Finally, the people began to gather around the door so we could drive to park.  We parked next to Alain's driver and between two UN military vehicles. Very smart.

Omar and I stayed in the car because when they finally let the other people in, it was a madhouse. Everyone was pushing and shoving, so we were glad to be out of the way. Here is a picture of the end of the mob... from afar.
Omar and I have been teaching each other English and Spanish, respectively. Sometimes conversations end in blank stares or we say "Understand?" after everything. Then we joke about which lesson we are on. "Lesson Number 3". It's been fun getting to know him. He has such a heart for God and recently started dating the girl he has been pining for for quite some time. It is very sweet the way he talks about her. They've been dating for 2 months.

When the coast was clear, we got out and talked to Alain's driver. He only speaks creole. He did agree to watch Floyd (the van) for us so we could go inside.

There were lots of UN military police. The first group we came to were from Jordan. Oh my. They were very forward and invited us to their base. We won't be visiting there. They each wanted a picture with me. I felt like a movie star. I finally got my camera out for the 8th picture.

Inside, the school was very beautiful. Painted yellow with a full size outdoor basketball court, picnic tables, and at least eight different large block buildings.  Alain and Kendra talked to the Mayor before the ceremony. The Mayor said the paperwork for the other land has been submitted and we are only waiting for the Minister of Finance to approve the city's donation. Yay!

Kendra, Alain from IOM, Emily

Afterwards, Alain took us to the other sections of Cori. The whole community is completely self sufficient now. It is pretty amazing.

Down the mountain and back to Vivy Michel to drop off the medical supplies for Dan and Dee. They head to Dessalines today, so securing these items came just in time!

You can always count on us to make trips interesting!  We were almost to our turn to go back up the mountain when we went over a speed bump and our spare tire hit the bottom and fell off halfway. Of course! Omar and I got out, stomachs to the ground, to try to take it out until we got back to Russ and Sherry's. Then, a Haitian who spoke some English stopped to help. One UN vehicle stopped and asked if we needed help, then drove away. A few cars later our old friend Amadu from Mali (in Africa) drove by and stopped to help us. He is the one who is a UN police officer and told us he is allowed to have four wives in his country... It was fun to see him in passing.

Post-Tire Celebration Photo:
Kendra, 2 good samaritans, Amadu, Omar
Dropped off supplies to Dan and Dee, showered, late lunch, filled out IOM Report and sent emails.
Back in the car to the US Embassy. Person wasn't there. To MSC (hardware store) to buy poles. The Paraguayans are fixing the fencing of the agricultural land tomorrow to close it in with the well on the outside. Walked around to find someone to help us and ran into a Korean UN military man. He is about my age, was born in Korea, lived in New York for 8 years and get this - went to Michigan State University. Small world!
MSC - Hardware Store
We are meeting Alain from IOM for dinner at La Maison Restaurant, so we went early to make some calls and rest. It also gave me time to write about my day.

Alain is a very cool guy.  We were able to get to know him on a more personal level.  He is a Christian and shared with us his testimony about how the earthquake was also when he re-commited his life to Christ. Alain has always helped to steer us in the right direction with the project, so we enjoyed our time with him tonight.

Got back to the house about 9:45pm and I have now stayed up too late posting about the last 4 days.  Time for bed.

UN Trucks and To Do Lists

Each morning, Kendra and I enjoy watching Omar attempt to take pictures of the UN trucks on our commute.  He tries so hard and then at the last minute misses the truck.  A little comical.  Check out these attempts...

The rest of this post is more like an agenda or to do list....

Visited IOM Shelter office.

IOM Warehouse to pick up tools, medical supplies and emergency shelter kits.

Went to Log Base for meetings including:
  • UNFPA - ran into Reggie (from Haiti)
  • IOM Camp Management - Alain (from Africa)
  • Lunch in the cafeteria with Nicole from IOM WASH (She is from Germany)
  • Back to UNFPA
  • To UNICEF to check on request
To US Embassy

To land to drop off IOM Warehouse supplies. The people wanted to show us the work they did on the land. Two guys were showering. Aye. I chased a small goat out of the area.

I was going to crop this picture,
but I decided I liked the randomness of it.
Yonel, Donkey, Emily, Pastor

Walking back to the land, I use the small hand sanitizer I keep hooked on my bag.  I offered it to the three guys who were with us.  It was getting dark and the mosquitos were bad, so they started rubbing it all over their legs and arms.  I can speak a little Spanish to the one, so we all laughed when I told him it was only for his hands...and not to be used as mosquito repellent.

Took Molive Mesifort (for her finger), Wisline (for baby Elby) and Yonel (to protect the women on their ride back) to the Cuban clinic. It is free and they speak Spanish, so Kendra is able to communicate with them. They have taken good care of the other people we have taken there, so we feel good about dropping the people off. 100 goudes (about $2.50 US) each so they can get home. It might even be enough with extra for a little food.

Back to Russ and Sherry's for dinner in our mini-apartment. Pizza.  Read emails from family and friends, chatted with Dad and bed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My notes from yesterday and today are not very good, but I will try to make up for it with a few pictures.

Went to the Free Methodist Church near Delmas 6 today.  We got the times a little confused, so ending up socializing with some of the missionaries during Sunday School.  Larry Judy lives up near the church and hosts plenty of team who visit Haiti and that is where I got to meet Katie.

Katie is a very cool girl.  She was 24 and working here in Haiti when the earthquake happened.  Katie and Jack were two people trapped in the Friends of Haiti Organization (FOHO) building during the earthquake.  FOHO is a Free Methodist organization and they have both returned to Haiti this year.  I enjoyed getting time to talk with her and to hear about her recovery process.  The whole idea of what actually happened still boggles my mind.  I just can fathom it.

Katie, Baby Jeanie, Edwani, Vanderline, Jack
To save getting bogged down with details, let me briefly explain the significance of this picture.  It isn't the best picture, but these people are amazingly connected. Edwani's husband was a Pastor who was killed in the FOHO Building.  Jack and Katie were trapped in the same building, but rescued and medically evacuated due to injuries.  Jack's wife Jeanie died in the building during the earthquake.  The two children are Edwani's - Jeanie and Vanderline.  Edwani was pregnant during the earthquake and when she gave birth named her new daughter Jeanie in honor of Jack's wife.  Incredible.

Back to house so Kendra could go to Vanderline's birthday party. It was $30 US a person because they went to a hotel with a buffet for lunch and pool, so Omar and I enjoyed free time!  We went back to Russ and Sherry's where I took a 2 hour nap and then did more office work.  Omar watched about 3 hours of TV in Spanish.

Kendra returned and at 4pm we decided to visit Juju's house.  This is the house we stayed at before until they stole some of our belongings.  We took a pineapple and just wanted to visit to see how they were doing.  For many of our trips, they were very gracious hosts to us.  I was a bit nervous at first, but very excited to see the kids - Karina, Deborah and Radal.

When we arrived, only Madam Thomas (the Grandma), Deborah and Karina were there.  Juju speaks Spanish, but she wasn't there, so we practiced our creole and Karina translated since she knows English.  Madam Thomas kept asking if we were staying.  Deborah was very cuddly.  She held my hand and talked with me like I hadn't been away for so long.  We stayed for only a few minutes, but it was a nice visit.

Zami mwen (my friend) Deborah, and Emily
To Paraguayan UN Base at 6:30pm for Catholic Mass outside. Yes, you read that correctly.  Dinner afterwards. Jorge Diaz is an interesting story teller. Being friends with the head honchos is interesting because you can always figure out the pecking order.  The also told me, in Spanish, that I had abandoned them since I hadn't visited in so long.  They are throwing a big party on December 2nd when their "mission" is finished in Haiti.  I wonder if I'll be able to visit.

Home to visit with missionaries Dan and Dee Synder who are FM with a focus on the Dessalines hospital.  Then bed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Visiting Friends

Spent time organizing items at the house, emailing and making phone calls at Russ and Sherry's guest house.  It is Saturday, so not many organizations want to hang out with you on their day off.  I wonder why?

Omar made lunch for us of rice and beans with hog dogs. After completing our office work for the day, we made our schedule for the week and headed to Victory Compassion to visit.

The drive is over an hour. On the way we saw an overturned taptap (taxi) that had been in an accident and a separate incident where a lady was laying dead on the street - yikes! 

Victory Compassion was so fun tonight!  We had a few things to drop off and they invited us to stay for dinner.  Mary was there with the Hoffman family, the Dominicans (who are on a crusade) and Dr Swarez.  Pastor Rod wasn't around, but his son Chris was there - wearing a Tigers hat!  I had no idea their family was from Detroit!

On one trip (in June I think), I met a guy named Nicholas who was on a team from Arizona.  I think I wrote a short blurb about him before. At any rate, when I first met him we had a great conversation about dating, etc and I suggested the book "Boy Meets Girl" by Joshua Harris.  (Its really good!)  I took down his address and ordered it off for him.  Well I never sent it, I have no idea why, I just never did.  Come to find out, it was a good thing because he came back to Haiti after I left anyways.  I'm excited he is back and spending time with such amazing Christians.  I know I have grown so much and I am sure he will too.

Since we weren't staying the night, we had to leave early.  I was really sad!  That was not enough time to catch up with everyone.  I've really missed these people.  My friend Laurel arrives on Thursday afternoon, so we made plans to return Thursday night.  I'm looking forward to it.  These people have enhanced my experience tenfold.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Homes, School, Farms

Out at 4am.

Slept in backseat, Kendra needed a nap about 7:30am, so I drove to the border. Easy crossing, I can't believe how much the water has risen. We even saw rocks in the middle of the road from a landslide.

The border crossing is always an experience!
Whenever I cross the border, my heart sinks a little and I ask myself why on earth I come back to this place.  This time I was especially nervous because my Dad had me read the US Travel website's warning on Haiti.  Oh wow, don't read it!  Any document that two paragraphs in says "If you still decide to travel to Haiti despite this warning...", you know they are serious.

My fear quickly subsided after some extra prayer and when we arrived at land by 10:45am to meet ACTED. I was really anxious when we were driving the 2k down the dirt road from the main road to the village entrance. I was so excited that I almost shed a tear. It was a weird feeling not knowing what to expect since this has been my longest time away since the people moved in. A lot can happen in 2.5 months.

When we pulled up, ACTED had already arrived. They are a french organization that has agreed to build better temporary housing in the form of plywood for the people. I hugged the Pastor first, then shook hands with the ACTED staff. All the kids were yelling my name and I wanted to say hi, but we were already late to the meeting, so I waved from afar. While we were meeting, all the kids kept yelling my name "Emily, Emily!"

ACTED said they could build all the shelters in 4 days and will start staking out the land in 2 weeks. The head of the organization came out because of all the trouble we've had getting things going.  Praise the Lord for progress and better shelters for our villagers!

When the ACTED representatives left, the kids ran up to give me hugs and kisses on the check. It was very sweet. Since the Japanese UN Military (engineers) are demolishing what's left of the hospital and removing rubble, the children from the school are not allowed to be down there and are having school at our village under tarps.  It's very fun to see all the kids running around and a little discouraging to see what school is really like.

Lunch time.
I went around with Kendra and Omar to say hello to all the groups of people. Lots of "Bonswas" and people hugging and waving. We didn't have a translator, so they laughed at my attempt at speaking creole. I visited my friend Molive Mesifort who is pregnant.  She is so beautiful!  Yonel wanted us to take another photo of his new baby, Elby and we visited the newest addition to the village, Denise's 3 week old son. The new baby is so small and was left under the mosquito net crying.  Yonel knocked and took me in so I could hold the baby. It did not look lively, eyes a little glazed over. I'm concerned.

Yonel and our DR friend, Omar
Molive Mesifort and I
I loved seeing fruit on all the trees we planted! Alain from IOM visited the site this week and the people even offered him a melon. What an amazing gesture from people who have little to no food.

A few of the men and Josline went with us to walk and see the agricultural land. Apparently after they planted, people from the community let their animals in the fence to go to the well for water...then the animals ate all the food.  Aye.

The Land
The culprit.
On the way, I pulled out my creole cheat sheet to practice my phrases with Josline.  The two of us were walking at the back of the group and she could understand me! She could understand the creole I taught myself! Then everyone wanted to teach me something and that's when I could use my favorite phrase "Mwen pa compren" or "I don't understand."

The closer I get to the people, the more I see that their guards are down a little further. Even with the language barrier, it is a little easier to read their body language and understand who and what they are about.

By the time we walked back, school was out and we could say hello to Miss Coutard. She was excited to share details of the school and how things are going. I think she is so wise.

Afterwards, we walked down to HELP to see Dr B and what the Japanese UN are doing to demolish the rest of the hospital and pharmacy that was destroyed in the earthquake. It was crazy! The doctor had mixed feelings too, 18 years of work to rebuild. We walked around the rubble with him and he gave us a tour of the new plan so we could see his vision.

The Peru UN Military men are guarding his land as security for the next month. They are there 24 hours a day and while Kendra and Omar spoke with them, Dr B and I spoke about the people and his family. He then informed me that as a doctor he always looks at women's weight when he hasn't seen them for a few months and assured me that I hadn't gained any weight. Gee, thanks?
The Peru UN has been staying the night in the clinic at HELP.
Check out those guns on their beds!
Back to the site to meet Julio and Artistil from Water Missions International. They are putting a water  treatment system in at the site. It will serve the surrounding area as they have done extension research to find that all the wells in the greater area have too much bacteria to be deemed "safe, drinkable water". Wow. We are out in the country, but that is pretty bad. The people of the village will be able to use it as a small enterprise, selling 5 gallons of water for a small price.

Met a translator Dr Swarez recommended. Seems nice enough. The hard part for me is he only knows Spanish and Creole. Kendra knows Spanish and English, Omar - Spanish and minimal English, Emily - English, minimal Spanish and a few creole phrases. At one point, Kendra was negotiating a rate per day for the guy and he didn't understand, so Kendra said it to Omar in Spanish who said it to the translator Jose' in Spanish who asked a question in Creole to his friend and then it went all the way back down the line. This may be a little crazy. I already know it will drive me nuts not knowing what's being said, and it is usually bad enough translating English and Creole and now we have English to Spanish to Creole. Talk about lost in translation!

Dropped off our new friend and headed to the UN Log Base to meet Alain from IOM. Good meeting.

About this time our stomachs started growling because we had only had 1 muffin each in the Dominican Republic at 4am and a few handfuls of trail mix before we got to the site. I absolutely will not eat in front of the people and I think it is good that we feel what people go through daily here. In high school, I did a 30 Hour Famine event with my youth group. There are kids in our camp who have gone longer without eating and that is just not ok.

Dinner at Log Base "Bar and Grill". Met a great couple who work in the Log Base and agreed with our thoughts on the Haiti rebuild and even gave us some ideas and insider info on the Log Base. I even had my first coca cola in over 2 months to toast my return to Haiti and a good first day. We might have toasted to going to bed early tonight too.

Arrived to Russ and Sherry's place in Vivy Michel (pronounce ve-ve Michelle) about 8pm. Gorgeous house, amazing bedrooms, HOT showers, compassionate people and we arrived to fresh cookies from the oven. Whoa.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Administrative Work and Spanish Lessons

After arriving in Santiago, Dominican Republic late Monday night, I spent two days working with Kendra on administrative stuff, driving her around in Jarabacoa to do errands and relaxing.

Today we planned to leave early to head to Haiti, but a few road blocks came up.  One such roadblock required me going to the bank to pay a credit card.  I love testing my spanish and am happy to report that they understood most of the words I was saying, or at the bare minimum, my motions and hand gestures.  It has been a little difficult reviving my Spanish and learning some Haitian Creole while maintaining my dignity as a foreigner. With so much animosity between the Haitians and Dominicans, it's amazing I don't start a war when I confuse we and si (both mean yes, respectively, in their own languages).

Hours later, we were on the road at 6pm. The biggest test of my Spanish came with our new team member, Pedro Omar. He is the son of Kendra's pastor friends from Santiago. Johnbern was supposed to come with us, but he had some things to do in Santo Domingo. Pedro obviously speaks Spanish and a little English. This should make things interesting!  That's what I get for not practicing my 3 years of Spanish in school. Aye.

We picked up dinner at my favorite placein Jarabacoa - the Columbian foodstand. An Empanada with chicken and rice - delicious! Kendra drove to Santo Domingo and we were too tired from getting up so early, then working all day to leave that we decided to stay in town with her missionary friends, Kent and Janet Norell.

The Norrels have a beautiful home and were extremely hospitable. It is so refreshing!

Bed by 9pm as we are leaving here at 4am because we have a meeting at the Village in Haiti at 10am - yikes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


For those of you just joining us, I wanted to do a short recap since my entire adventure in Haiti isn't here online.  This experience has been one crazy ride, but one I will never forget or take lightly.  It has already changed and molded me into someone new.  You can't see these things and forget.  You can't see these things and believe people actually live this way in this day and age.

Haiti is unlike any country in the western hemisphere.  With many issues revolving around poverty and corruption, Haiti is the poorest country in this hemisphere and it seems many suffer a very serious lack of integrity.  Then again, some may say that about most Americans too.

One person I met here actually referred to Haiti as the closest thing to Nineva.

The longer I stay, the more closely I see how much Haiti is really hurting.  I would have loved to be there at the beginning, immediately after the earthquake, when I hear stories of how everyone was working together for the betterment of Haiti.  Now it seems like a distant memory as many organizations have pulled out of the country and have forgotten these people who need some sort of hope to hold on to.

My work in Haiti began at the end of January when a group from my hometown church was planning to visit for a little under two weeks to build temporary shelters.  On that trip, the group of 14 constructed 19 temporary structures and one permanent foam core home as a sample of what we would like to work towards.

During my second trip, my dear friends Alonda and Danny joined me as we traveled with Kendra around the Dominican Republic and Haiti for 3 weeks. We finished the odds and ends on all the temporary homes (rain gutters, stretched blue tarps, buried hurricane straps), supervised the water well drilling, solar security light installation and latrine construction, and began work on digging holes for a pavilion to provide refuge from the hot sun.

Then, for four weeks in May, I traveled with Kendra on my third trip to network with other nonprofits, interview potential families to move into our community, and research ways to improve the quality of life of these individuals who have been living in refugee camps for the last 18+ months.  We worked with the UN military to spread gravel, then actually moved in 21 of our 25 families.  What a glorious day that was!  Check out my post "Moving Day" for more on that.

The fourth trip was for part of June and July (4.5 weeks total) and focused on the community and how they are adapting to their new residence.  We provided micro-enterprise and agriculture opportunities and had an organization interview families to build better temporary homes made of plywood - for free.  The To Do List was very long, but we were able to move the group to a better place with some long term solutions.

People will ask if Haiti is fun or if the people are nice.  In my experience (remember, this is only my opinion and many other people have had very different experiences than I), my answer is usually no. The environment there is harsh and intense.  I've never seen anything like it and there is nothing I can compare it to.  We have met some amazing Haitian people, but the vast majority can be lumped into the unfriendly category.  In their defense though, I'm sure I'd be on edge if I had been through what they have and if I had to constantly be watching out for my family to protect them from all the bad.  They've also been taught that the white people have money and food.  While we try to give when we can, our intention is to give them the tools and allow them to do it themselves.  This is about self sustainment and sometimes tough love.

My experience has been very different from others who have helped in Haiti this year.  Most groups come down to stay on a compound or in a guest house.  This means running water for showers, beds with air conditioning and no bugs at night, and usually Internet and a good meal too.  Its always the same - they start early in the morning when it is cool, quit before dinner, and have free time before bed.

Kendra and I have been living very differently.  On top of the stress of project completion and having a short number of days to move the project forward, we work most days 14+ hours, seven days a week, eat meals of snacks when we have a spare moment/remember, sleep in mosquito nets and are lucky if our fans work to keep us cool at night.  Did I mention the no running water thing?  Usually a bucket shower, unless we are lucky.  The experience has proved more grity than many people could or would want to handle.  What's hard to grasp is that even though it isn't ideal, we are still living better in Haiti than most Haitians.

Some relief for us has come from a random friendship formed with a church from Tulsa, Oklahoma - Victory Compassion and wow, are they compassionate!  We have loved getting to know them and are so grateful they continue to invite us to stay with them when space is free for a real shower, hot meal and air conditioned dorms!

This trip is my fifth and we will focus mainly on reconnecting with organizations who have made promises that have not been fulfilled.  The unfortunate thing about this country and the help that organizations are here to provide - is that it is not easy to secure the help.  We have been gone for two and a half months from the people to find that the organizations that were supposed to provide a variety of things are in fact waiting for us to return before providing them.  Isn't that backwards?  The people who provide for Haiti won't give to the Haitians without a liaison organization to bridge the gap.  It's crazy.

Haiti needs love.  Haiti needs Christ.  That is the ONLY way this country will ever heal.  While I can't help fix everything, I can help to see this project through and pray that these families see the potential of what their lives can be.