Tomorrow is the big day….ONE YEAR IN HAITI.
Another ode to Port. A picture of the famous statue, Negre Marron, which stands near the Palace. Anyone know if its still standing?
After the first month or so post January 12, I took very few photos. I wasn’t out and about like I had been. Life had settled into a normal routine of….organized chaos and I just didn’t have time. This picture was taken in Port au Prince back in September. Cyber Cafe’s are big in these parts. You pay something like $10 Haitian dollars for something like and hour of time on a computer that crawls though I’ve seen at least one place advertise ‘wade-less’ internet. I think that means wireless. At this particular location looks as if you could make payments on a cell phone, receive money, get color copies,buy Viola phone cards, or use the internet.
I don’t remember exactly where in Port this was, or if it’s even still there.
My friend Lisa came down for a short visit and the friend who flew her in agreed to fly us to the Bahamas for an overnight stay. He was doing relief flights in and out of Haiti and the supplies were coming in through an incredible group called Bahamas Methodist Habitat. They were responsible for hundreds of flights and hundreds of thousands of pounds of relief supplies that were flown into the Cayes area. While in the Bahamas, Paul (the pilot), Lisa, and myself had the privilege of dining with Cameron, Abe, and Matt, some of the folks who have been making ‘it’ all happen. We ate at a great little local place where the music was jammin’, the food was great, and the company was amazing.
While at the hanger on Tuesday, waiting to load supplies onto our plane to fly back to Cayes, there were other planes loading and unloading as well. The Coast Guard was there too. Though, I’m not sure exactly what they were doing.
It was a quick visit so we didn’t get to see much other than the Hanger, the Restaurant and the Hotel. I’d love to go back and visit the backroads- local style. The thing I remember most about the Bahamas? Wishing I’d brought long pants. It was cold and I didn’t bring any long pants...
I made my first visit to the Cite Lumiere Clinic on January 19. That was one week after the earth quake. When I met Migline, her leg was in a cast and I watched the Dr. cutting a window into the cast revealing a large piece of skin missing from her foot. She was crying “Li fe mal” over and over again. “It hurts”. “It hurts”. “It hurts”. That started a very special chapter in my life; almost daily visits to the hospital where I met so many wonderful people and made so many friends. February 26, just a little over a month later, Migline was well on her way to recovery. When I arrived at the hospital she was sitting outside. It was the first day I noticed that she had both of her flip flops on. She’d come along way. Within a few short days, she was discharged.
I talked briefly with her dad late last week and he said she was doing well. I didn’t find out much more than that. He was in Port so I didn’t get to talk with Migline, who lives somewhere around Port Salut.
Sorry again for not posting yesterday. I was too exhausted to care to tell you the truth. I went to be around 10pm. Maybe this whole turning 33 thing is catching up with me.
This man was staying at Gabion, the tent city downtown. I met him on one of my visits. He must have assumed I was of Spanish descent because he started speaking to me in Spanish. He showed me his left shoulder. It appeared to be out of joint although I couldn’t understand everything he was telling me. He was a gentle old man. I wonder if he still down there. My friend Jocelyn, who is living there, told me the folks organizing the area will be closing it soon and the residents will have to find new places to live. Soccer Season is coming.
January 24, 2010. I went with Gary and a couple other missionaries to Port au Prince to bring back some of the Quake Refugees to a camp one of the missionary families, The Wray’s, was setting up just outside of Cayes. We took two pick ups, a large flat bed and a small flat bed set up with benches. We brought back about 80 people. Gary and I had 4 with us in the Ford. The rest of them preferred to ride on the flat beds. We piled luggage in the bed of the Ford and the back of the other pick up. Everything they owned was stuffed inside suitcases, bags, pillow cases and anything they had that could be used. Getting to the church where we were to meet them was also a challenge. The large flatbed Mercedes literally fit through some of the areas with maybe an inch of clearance on each side.What should have two turns off the mail road turned into about 20 minutes of turning around, backing up, and squeezing through streets jam packed with mattresses, belongings, and people sleeping outside.
December 12, 2009. In a month the face of Haiti would forever change. But this day, Haiti was getting dressed up. It was Christmastime. This is the tree in front of the Presidential Palace. At the time I snapped this picture, there were people stringing the Palace balconies with holiday garland and hanging giant poinsettias and bright red bows.
In December I spent a day in Port au Prince being chauffeured around by a couple friends. I had to spend an extra day in Port before flying to the states for the holidays. It was actually quite enjoyable to have the chance to tour the city without an agenda. Usually when in Port, I’m there with our guys and we’re there for a purpose. This day, my friends took me to the Museum which had a great display of artifacts from Haiti’s history; including a crown, lots of old Haitian money, weapons, a large anchor and some of the chains used to imprison the slaves. They also had a hallway decorated by a large display of modern art. The art on display was done by a women and its theme was “Women’s Rights”.
The Museum wasn’t far from the Palace so when we left we took a walk around the area. These guys were found lounging under a large sign in the center of a square which reads “The Constitution of 1801”. I’m not sure what’s going on with that chain. It looks like it’s attached to the guy loosing his pants. Who knows. I didn’t ask and he didn’t oblige to tell.
It’s been days, maybe even weeks since I’ve really put anything of substance on here. Not that the pictures aren’t ‘substantial’. I suppose I just mean its been a while since I’ve put anything up that’s required much thought. I feel like I am often apologizing for absences in blogging. I have decided I am going to stop doing that. Instead I am just going to acknowledge to anyone reading this that I am busy. I am extremely busy. Everybody keeps asking me what I’m doing these days. I’m running the RMI Guest house. There has been a constant revolving door of guests; some here for a few days and some here for long periods of time. There’s been lots of nurses and more recently lots of physical therapists and prosthetists. There’ve been plenty of other sorts of people as well. But the flow of people hasn’t stopped. And an influx of people requires constant attention to every aspect of what happens at the Guest House. From scheduling guests, to preparing lists for market and grocery shopping to leaving whatever I’m in the middle of to go receive guests as they arrive. It’s been so busy that I’m making plans to turn the small apartment (two rooms, a bathroom and a partial kitchen) outback into more guests rooms. And I’ve got a new girl starting tomorrow to help the two ladies who’ve been pulling huge loads these last three months.
In recent weeks all the RMI staff has been preparing for the arrival of our new missionary family, the Thompson’s. Lots of preparations have been going into that; from getting their kitchen stocked with enough supplies to get them started, to planning a welcome party. They arrived Thursday, April 8 and since then I’ve spent a lot of time down at their house translating for them as they’re getting acclimated to their house staff and the guys who have been working on some repairs. I’m so happy to have them here.
In my spare time, I’ve also been trying to keep this blog updated, design a brochure for the Guest House, put together something special to send out as a 1 year anniversary update on life in Haiti and pass from 32 to 33 without much ado. I did get some really awesome packages from family and friends. (Thanks guys!!!!)
As life has returned to a more hectic state of busy, my visits at the hospital have all but come to an end. I miss those days terribly. Rita is still in the hospital. I have a couple other friends I have made more recently who are still there but she is the only original friend I have left there. But I just don’t have the same time to visit them as I had. I have seen many of my other friends briefly, in the last two weeks as they have been returning the hospital to receive their new legs and the physical therapy receiving a new leg requires. Many of them have been sleeping at the hospital again, so they haven’t had to come and go each day. Two weeks ago, when I walked in the physical therapy room (I had heard Frenel was there) I was so surprised to see Rose Marie, Regine, Olivier, Evans, and Roudy (with his mom).
(The succession of pictures- the smaller ones on the sides- was Frenel’s idea. He wanted to demonstrate the process of putting on his leg.)
(This is Olivier. The legs are in their first stages. Once the amputees are ready to begin wearing their prosthetics, they will be made to look like natural legs. Dr. June said almost every single one of the patients pulled her aside and asked her about this. Its an interesting process and she did share with me that once the legs are measured and finalized the patients cannot vary the height of heels they wear. They can change shoes but the heaes have to be the same height).
A day or two later I was back down for a short visit and saw Regine, standing on her new leg. I cried. She’s come so far. From what I hear from the therapists, she’s got a rough road ahead because she’s still struggling with depression and she’s having trouble adjusting to the new leg. The patients haven’t been giving their prosthetics yet. They work with them each day and leave them after each session. Most of the patients (my friends) are sent home each weekend and spend only the week in the hospital. Regine lives downtown so she is able to stay at home and comes and goes each day.
(Regine and me- in the Physical Therapy room at the Cite Lumiere Clinic)
Easter Sunday, Regine had a party at her house. And I was invited. I was a bit nervous about going because I didn’t know what to expect. Regine told me Dr. William was going and that I should call him to see if I could ride with him. I did. He was. And I did. Two of Rita’s daughters went as well. In the car on the way, Dr. William told me he wasn’t staying. As I was getting out of his truck he told me to call him when we were ready to come home. I felt 13. Although he didn’t stay, he sent three representatives; his three kids, and their ‘nanny’. The kids are 6, 4, and 3. There was lots of food at the party. And lots of people. I had met many of Regine’s friends and family at the hospital over the weeks and those I had never met, still greeted me by name. I wonder how they knew which one I was….It wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be and I was so pleased to see Regine just doing normal life. She looked beautiful with her hair pulled back and she was wearing a pretty sundress. The party started at 3, we arrived about 4 and we left at 6. And when we left, everyone else was already gone. I’ve heard that here, once you eat, you leave. It’s good to know that for the future. Regine is supposed to be up at the hospital tomorrow again so I am looking forward to seeing her.
I was supposed to start teaching English yesterday at the “Wonderful University”. It didn’t happen. I was supposed to take a motorcycle taxi and arrive at the school at 7:45am. Class would start at 8. It was pouring rain yesterday morning at 7:15am. I couldn’t get a hold of him by phone even though I tried multiple times because I wasn’t going in the rain. Of course by 8:15 the rain had stopped for the day. He called me about 8:20 and asked me where I was. I told him all of that and he said he suspected it was because of the rain. From what I understand, it isn’t culturally atypical for people not to show up because of the rain. A lot of people take public transportation so when it rains a lot of things just naturally don’t occur. So it' wasn’t taboo for me not to show up. We’ll try again for next week. But before we start there are a few things I need to talk to him about. I need to negotiate my salary a little better. What he is offering me is not acceptable. While I’m not in this for the money, it at least needs to be worth my time. Right now, it isn’t. Especially if I am having to spend part of the money I earn each week on a motorcycle taxi. We’ll see how that conversation goes.
The Thompson’s welcome party was also yesterday. I had the ladies at the Guest House prepare a Haitian feast for the party. Griot (fried pork), banan peze, pikliz, akra (like a haitian hushpuppy), sweet potatoes and yams (two different things-neither of them like what we serve in the US when you ask for those things), macaroni and cheese, diri kole (beans and rice), sauce, and grilled chicken. I hung out with the ladies all after noon as they cooked and I got my first experience making banan peze. I was pretty exited. I can’t wait for the opportunity to try it for myself. The party was a great success. Kudos to the ladies. And Kudos to Rob and Becky and the kids for working so hard to get here!
And today, we went to the beach. It started out as a terribly rainy day. But we got word that where we were going was nice. I wouldn’t say it was sunny but it was just a little overcast and it turned out to be a really lovely afternoon. It started raining again once we hit Cayes. That was around 6. It probably stopped raining about an hour ago. Rainy season has begun.
We’ll see what this season holds.
November 2009. A friend I made while with the team in Boyer took me on a little walk about the village. Boyer is a quant little fishing village about 30 minutes or so from the Mission Center. The roads through Boyer are all dirt and it winds along the coast line. Its a very primitive village in its layout and architecture but quite picturesque and beautiful as well. We took the walk right around dusk.
Oops. Missed one again. I thought about it, again, when I was laying in bed. But this time, I was too exhausted to get up and do anything about it.
Mmmm…Bananas. This was taken in Boyer, the beginning of November. Not much else to say about it other than that. Tasty!
This picture was taken in TIburon in the late fall. The sun was just taking the plunge below the horizon. To the left and right of where I was standing is the beach- or garbage dump- whichever you prefer to call it. Its hard to imagine such a juxtaposition with such a calm and serene image but trash and pigs dot the shore as a mixture of mud and who knows what else lies just beneath your feet.
Phew. Almost missed the deadline.
Not taxes. But posting a pic for April 15….Was laying in bed and realized…I never posted a pic today. So, here it is….
Flowers. Not very exciting? Well, I think its pretty amazing to have beautiful flowers all year round. And I did actually finish my taxes. Yesterday. And I get a refund so I am celebrating by giving myself some flowers. Enjoy!
Sorry I forgot to post yesterday. I think I was really busy. I feel like I was anyway. Yesterday was one of those days that you look back and think, ‘Huh, I don’t feel like I ever stopped going but I don’t feel like I got anything accomplished.” Se lavie.
I snapped this photo on a trip to Port au Prince last fall. It’s not terribly artistic but I was snapping from a moving vehicle so it’s a bit difficult to get great shots that way. Here is an example of public transportation; you can take a bus such as this from Port to Cayes (or beyond) and back. You’ll see them loaded down with almost anything you can imagine. People stack mattresses on top of them, tie sacks of charcoal, and even sit on top (often atop these others things). And these buses move fast. Sometimes it would seem they come around corners on 2 wheels. Before I realized what was happening with the earthquake, I thought one of these had rounded the corner and was passing the church. Seriously. I wouldn’t kid about something like that.
But, they’re fun and colorful and you’ll see any variety of decorations from rappers and singers, and bible verses, to scantily clad women (sometimes painted underneath the Bible verses) and I’ve even seen one with Sylvester Stalone, as Rambo, painted on the back.
These kids are living in an orphanage in the area near Zanglais. We visited the orphanages with one of the teams who was here over the summer. If I remember correctly they feed about 180 kids a day (a few kids sneak in through the gate at meal time) but I’m not sure how many kids stay at the orphanage on a permanent basis. We toured some of their dorms where the kids sleep in bunk beds on foam mattresses that are aired out regularly to dry them out so they don’t smell so much like urine. There was very little, if anything, beside the bunks in the rooms; no toys, no games, nothing that would make it seem like children lived there. At least they have food in their bellies and clothes on their backs. I believe its at something like 14 years old that the kids are released from the orphanage and left to care for themselves.
I don’t see many opportunities to get a shot like this. While it may not seem like anything too special, its hard to get a shot of the women in a moment of stillness as most often its the women of the church who are off cooking and cleaning and making the teams feel at home. This was a lucky moment. We were headed back from Maniche and one of the team members was Haitian so we made a quick stop in his home town. We also visited his home church. This woman was sitting outside a small store the church runs. Every time I see this picture I’m struck by her dignity and poise. I am also struck by the beauty in her face and I can only imagine what stories her wrinkles and grey hairs tell.
I posted this one on Facebook, so it’ll be new to some and not new to others. This was taken in Les Irois (Lays E-wah). This was in July. One of the hottest months I remember. We were packed in our rooms and there was little airflow so each night was H-O-T; the kind of heat that makes it hard to sleep, and when you finally fall asleep you wake up b/c you’re hot. And there is no ‘cool’ side of the pillow.
For years I’d been wanting a DSLR camera and I’d finally been able to purchase one not long after moving to Haiti. The trip out to Chamballen was the first opportunity I’d had to play with the camera so I had so much fun taking pictures of everything and everyone. This picture is from the portrait session for the 14 couples who got married on this day. Some of the ladies didn’t have head pieces to go with their dresses so I love that the Pastors Wife got creative and cut up a petticoat and used it as head pieces. This bride happens to be wearing one of them. I also love that I was able to capture this groom with one eye on the bride and one eye on the camera. Priceless!
Not much to say about this one but that I’m surrounded by tropical flowers; and they’re beautiful. Bougainvillea are in bloom right now. White and Pink bougainvillea twist their ways around trees, fences, and anything else they can wrap around. I can finally enjoy beautiful flowers without spending money on them and then worrying that I am going to kill them.
This is Leila. She belongs to the Moses family, who served here in Haiti, with RMI, for about 7 years. Leila and I bonded when the Moses’ were in the states in May of ‘09 for a few weeks. They actually acquired Leila the same day I arrived in Haiti. They greeted me at the airport in Cayes with cat in tow. Her real name is Leila, but I preferred to call her Small Cat, and when she was in trouble, I called her by her full name, Small Cat with Big Ears. The Moses’ have been living back in the states since July and when they left, they took Small Cat, and their 3 dogs with them. They also had an iguana, which they left in Haiti, though I can’t imagine why…?
Each team wraps up their week’s visit with a stay at Zanglais, RMI’s Retreat Center which is about 45 minutes outside of Cayes. I went out with 14 teams last year, so I spent quite a bit of time at Zanglais. I’m not complaining. Greg (my home church’s Haiti Team Leader) jokingly always tells teams not to show anyone shots from Zanglais because we need people to think we’re suffering, not spending a week in Paradise! This is one of those pics (sorry Greg!) taken from the porch at Zanglais. Where the grass meets the ocean is a small cliff that drops down to the road. Cross the road and descend a few concrete stairs and you’re at the ocean. It’s amazing to sit out at the gazebo (just to the left of the tree) and enjoy the sights and sounds of God’s beautiful creation. And every morning, awaken to the sound of the ocean’s song.
While this doesn’t look very “Haitian”, in fact it is because Coca-Cola (tm) is bottled in Haiti and distributed through out the country (…and because I’ve been looking for an excuse to post this photo because I just happen to like it…). Being diabetic, I can’t drink coke. I don’t even like it. When I first arrived canned Diet Coke was only available in the large grocery stores in Port so when anyone would take a trip in, anyone else who drank Diet Coke would put in an order for a case (or cases) and hoped it would last until the next trip into Port. In a real life example of supply and demand, there were enough of us here in Cayes asking our local store (read: the larger “bourgeoisie grocery store”) owners when they were getting Diet Coke. By mid-summer, Diet Coke was a staple in two of the three stores we frequent. After the earthquake, it took a couple months but it seems Diet Coke is making its way back into the economy. My most recent purchase was made at another of our frequented stores, which has just made Diet Coke available for the first time. There is also a much smaller store in Simon (the village just below the Mission Center) and the owner’s wife told me just the other day she’s waiting on a delivery of Diet Coke from Miami.
People often ask me if I like Haitian food. My response is some of it. When I came back from the states in January, I was actually craving rice and beans, so Iguess that’s a good sign. I’ve had a lot of new foods to adjust to this year, including fruits and vegetables. Abriko is one of the locally grown fruits so when its in season we have it in abundance. A good one tastes like sweet dried apricots. A bad one tastes like sour dried apricots. I prefer the good ones.
April 29, 2010 will mark my one year anniversary in Haiti. I can hardly believe it. Life has been full, to say the least, these last 11 months; from field staff changes, new job responsibilities, a tragedy on the mission field, to floods and even an earthquake, its been quite a year.
I’m a couple days late getting started on this ‘project’ but I’ve decided I’m going to post a picture a day this month. Some of them may be pics I’ve already posted but I’d like to honor the last twelve months by remembering them.
I will try and give them some sort of chronological order but I can’t promise there won’t be rogue pictures from time to time. I’m not that good.
The first Friday I was in Cayes, the Moses’ took me to town to change money and buy groceries. I remember it being quite an overwhelming experience and tried for weeks to blog about it. I eventually gave up, I was in sensory overload, and this normally observant processor was out of words.