Sunday, January 11, 2009

Haiti Day 10

Jouer 10
Le 11 Janvier, 2009

The day started out b the beach again, where we haggled with some salesmen to get a few trinkets to take home with us. We relaxed and I got more sunburned especially on my face. We then headed for the airport. I swear, I almost peed my pants the entire drive there. It’s scary driving in Haiti. There are no rules of the road. I could have sworn we almost died about twenty times. Luckily, we made it through the hustle and bustle and somehow ended up at the airport.
I swear, there are about 50 security checks in the Port au Prince airport. I have never felt so uncomfortable flying in my entire life. Normally, I just ease and breeze through it, but here I was, stumbling the entire way. I am no longer used to chaos, crowds, and being stressed.
I’m torn. Since being in Port-Au-Prince and not at the orphanage, I have just felt anxious to get home. The main part of my heart, however, is still at the orphanage. They say home is where the heart is. What if your heart is stuck with a hundred orphans thousands of miles away? They say just follow your feet, they will lead you home. I know I’ll be back one day soon. The orphanage still has a ton of work that needs to be done on it.
This trip has changed my heart in many ways. They don’t need teachers in Haiti, they need doctors. I feel called by the Lord to do so…to become a doctor, but it scares me because I’m terrible with science… Anatomy and biologoy… whatever! I’m just terrible. I then thought of my favorite quote, “if God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.” God has brought me to it. The road will be difficult and long and I’ll really have to work hard and sacrifice a lot, but I will get there. I know I will, there is not a doubt in my mind.
Haiti has changed my perspective on a lot of things in life. For one, my patience has more than doubled after everything there. I also appreciate more of what I have and realize just how little I really do need. I think, no, I know Haiti will change the way I go about my life. Everything I do, the money I earn, the subjects I study, all will go towards returning to and helping Haiti. I used to groan and moan about homework or work. Nothing compares to what I just did in Haiti. Everything is better if you allow yourself to enjoy it, which I think is the opposite of the general American way of thinking. We all think pessimistically about so much in life. Yes, if you are going to think something sucks, it will suck; but if you constantly try to look for something fun or positive about your situation, then life will breeze by and take you with it with a smile on your face.
We made it to the airport after breaking off the ‘oh crap’ handle. Adam: “so that’s how the other one broke off!” Sudden stops do not work so well with them.
We had to wait twenty minutes on the ground before we got in our Miami gate and we were running late. We pushed forward as much as we could through a security and dead out sprinted to our next plane. I had an asthma attack in the process.
We would have made it with just five minutes before they shut the door, but our plane had not even come yet even though the monitors all read ‘on time.’ The plane boarded a half hour late, and then the fuel gage was broken. The maintenance guy was on break and all they needed was a five minute stick test. We ended up leaving an hour and a half late and did not land in Minneapolis until 1 a.m.
Saying goodbye was hard. We discovered just how small a world it is when we found out Andy and my mom were in the same divorce class. I can already feel the stress of the world around me cave in. The culture shock is intense as I return to the world in which I live; bidding goodbye to the world I now call home.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Haiti Day 9

Jouer 9

Le 10 Janvier, 2009

I woke up this morning around 7 or so and brushed my teeth. I then just wandered around and joked around with the Haitian workers and the group. The group was mixed in feelings with all those heading home today. Some were excited and some were not, then there was me: I’d rather curl up and die than leave Haiti, but I have to go. I need to go to school.

Breakfast was solid pancakes, pineapple, and oatmeal once again. I sat next to Ronnie whose presence just seems to calm me. We had a lot of fun and it was easy to see just how close the group had become.

After breakfast, Jerry and I checked his e-mail to find that Steph had sent us the names of the two kids the orphanage was sponsoring. The boy was Tiken who was a part of the first group. The girl was Judencie!! I could not believe it when I heard. My favorite girl in the orphanage was the one the youth group was sponsoring! I had Wilfred help me find them, got our picture taken, then loaded my stuff on the bus. (Couldn’t find Tiken L)

The worst part of the entire trip came next: saying goodbye.

The goodbyes started with Ricardo who just hollered ‘Megrit!” then gave me a huge hug. It was like saying goodbye to family. We exchanged emails because he wants to practice his English and I want to practice my French and we both want to keep in touch. Next was Marcello; (Marco) more hugs and he gave me his number. Then Emmanuel- who refused email address exchanges because I have to come back again to get it. It’s hard to say goodbye. Then we all took some pictures. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Ronnie. I almost cried! We exchanged hugs and email addresses, then I headed towards the bus and had almost made it when I got a ‘hey, hey!’ from Jerry, “you forgetting your own fellow roof team!?” I ran back and gave them all a hug. I already miss Jerry. He makes me smile so much, he’s such a friendly guy, and really took such good care of me. I finished with hugs and hopped on the bus to Port-au-Prince.

We dropped the Texans off at the airport then our group crammed into the Kia with me, Andy, and Annie in the back. It was a fun, semi-bumpy ride as we passed through a few stereotypical Haitian towns with everything built on piles of dump. The ride lasted and hour and a half and I got a little sunburned, but we made it safely to ____ bay. It’s easy to forget we’re in Haiti while we’re in this place. It is like being in a hotel in the Bahamas again. The rooms are gorgeous and we had an amazing lunch with a ton of bread and butter. Right after lunch, we swam in the ocean, which felt amazing, bought some jewelry from the beach vendors, laid in the sun, watched the sun set, then took a nice warm shower before meeting up to talk for a while before dinner. Exhaustion came quick. I finished my book, now it is time for sleep.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Haiti Day 8

Jouer 8
Le 9 Janvier, 2009

This morning was a slow morning. I stayed up too late reading because I had a lot of difficulty putting my book down. We had devotions around 6:30 and I just felt like lead. I did not want today to start because I did not want it to end. It’s my last day at the orphanage. Tomorrow morning we head to the hotel and are on the plane the following evening. I love this place. I don’t want to leave; I can’t leave, and yet, I may not stay. I have to go… The day has to start.
We went right to work on the roof. I have found a new meaning to the show title, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ That roof was HOT. I think I burned my legs several times over. The sun and humidity were enough to make me cringe
Breakfast came right on time and, like usual, the roof team made sure to sit in the shade. Breakfast was good and I got in a fun conversation with God, the kitchen help, in French.. We’ve had fun with her because she has taken an obvious liking to Adam. She’s 16, he’s 29 and has a girlfriend, so it is fun to tease her in French about her affections.
After another amazing breakfast, it was back to work. Annie and I couldn’t touch ground without being attacked by people. Son and Annie got in a conversation, which I interpreted. (Mike used me as an interpreter this morning with the workers too…nerve wrecking but I did alright) The gist of the conversation was that Son supports his family of seven siblings and his mother. Annie asked about his education and the end result is she’s going to sponsor him for school, which is really cool. I swear though, now every worker knows I speak French. I made about ten new friends today because they all started talking with me in French. It is almost unbelievable just how much my French has improved and how much more comfortable I am speaking/ conversing in French. I got a ton of compliments. Even Wilfred told me I speak French really well. It is a good feeling.
At one point, some of the older orphan girls (like the ones we took swimming) got a hold of me. Naomi and Judencie (especially Judencie) are easily my two favorites. Judencie calls me Mama and she is just so adorable yet, at the same time, she’s more mature than most 10 year olds here; same with Naomi. We took some cute pictures and then I hopped back on the ridiculously hot roof until lunch.
Lunch was good, once again, and afterwards we went to the Wozo to cool off. We took the bus and sang ‘the wheels on the bus’ on the way. I was surprised when the kids sang along. Jerry tried to get a hold of Tim to find out which kids the youth group was sponsoring for me, then I used the phone to call my mom and Dan. Left a message with mom and talked to Dan for about 5 minutes, which was really awesome, before swimming with the kids. I did not get as into this group as the last one, but that was probably mostly because I was beyond tired and hot. We finished up with the swim and returned to the orphanage.
They were doing stuff on the roof that was closer to the edge than I was comfortable with so, instead, I played with the orphans. Gabriolla and I kept exchanging just… understanding looks. I was surrounded by so many kids-all they want is attention. They have people caring for them, but attention like that is rare. As I was sitting there I almost started to cry because it hit me like a brick wall as to just how much I love this place. I don’t want to go home. I want to stay and work with this team and play with the orphans and use my French all day. I’m in love.
I went to check on dinner and was taken by a bunch of Haitian neighborhood kids who sat me in a circle and we played duck duck goose. It was so much fun! I played a few rounds with (Abbe and Odeal included, of course) then I went inside the orphanage to see if they needed my help.
Naturally, of course, they did not because they were just cementing. I just sat and talked with Son for a bit and, when he left, I talked with three other workers who were done for the day and were just visiting. Two of them were brothers my own age and they are so funny at work. When they use the wheelbarrow they make car noises, which all the guys in my group get a kick out of. Now my group makes the noises as well, any time the brothers go by- wheelbarrow or not. It has established a connection where real words are stopped by language barriers.
Dinner came a little later than usual at around 9 pm and afterwards we all gathered all of the old wood and trash in a huge pile and burned it. It was such a blast! As I was walking to the fire, I passed Ronnie and asked him if he had an email so we could stay in touch. He was really glad and is giving it to me tomorrow along with his phone number, but he has to do so carefully because giving out a phone number to people you do not know in Haiti is dangerous. (We’re good with each other though) I thanked him, gave him a hug, and together we went to the fire.
The guys, being the pyros they are, made the fire big in every way possible and were entertained by the cement bags burning (empty ones) because they turned the fire green. After a while, we let the fire die, took our showers, and headed for bed.

It’s my last night here
I don’t want to go

I wish I could stay like this forever.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Haiti Day 7

Jouer 7
Le 8 Janvier, 2009

I woke up earlier than the rest of my tent again this morning. It was a hot day right off the bat. We did our morning devotions then I joined Jim and Andy in the basement to hook up the waste pipes. (huge 3 inch pipes) It was a slow process and I often times found myself rather bored.
I wandered outside, at one point, and was attacked by Odeal and his friends. It was lots of fun and I rather enjoyed myself. They pretended to be knights with some type of metal tripod-like thing. It was fun playing along. At one point, one girl accidently hit my elbow pretty badly. She looked so afraid and sorry as her brother checked to make sure I was okay. I did everything I could to reassure them that I was fine and gave her a hug. They then switched their game a built a castle out of rocks. It was really cute and I couldn’t help but to take a picture of it.
At around 8:30 we had breakfast and I really did not feel like being awake. Mike had invited the Haitian workers who normally eat after us to eat with us which turned out to be a mistake because they ate EVERYTHING. (and I mean everything) As much as I love breakfast, I really didn’t mind that much, but a few of the guys were pretty annoyed so they scrapped that idea. We had issues with them drinking our Culligan water too because that is expensive and they’ve already had the bacteria in the tap water their whole lives. The tap water is just as cold and just as convenient, but oh well.
After breakfast, I continued to do virtually nothing for Andy and Jim except hand them bits and run to the far tool shed to get certain sixed bits. On one of my runs I ran into one of the women from the Texas group carrying around the smallest girl from the orphanage. Let me tell you, she is the most adorable thing ever!! She is no older than two years old, extremely small, and she has just the biggest brown eyes anyone will ever see. I commented on how adorable she was and the woman shot me a desperate look. “Yeah, and we’re taking her to the hospital because she drank bleach.” All I could think was ‘Dear God, please, not her, she’s too young and too adorable.’ She’s being adopted with her brother too! Yves, (head of the orphanage) and two of the Texan ladies rushed to the hospital and I had to return to work.
I continued to do nothing until lunch came at 12:30. We had buttered bread and salad again, and then we packed up and took six new kids to the Wozo. We walked them this time, four girls and two boys, and they were extremely cute. When we got there, I was in charge and had to play translator, so I led them to the bathrooms where they could change into their suits.
They were all excited to go swimming except for one girl. We got her in eventually and, by the end, she was jumping in by herself and having a blast. Judenci was the girl I played with in the water the most. She was sweet and adorable and extremely light. I jumped in with her on my back dunked her, and had her jump in and swimming to me. At one point, she asked me if I’d be her mama while I’m here. (I’m surprised I understood) I told her I would and she just gave me the biggest hug ever. The girls and I went for a walk through the garden. We gave all the kids their own soda, which they loved, but what they loved even more was shaking it and making their drink fizz all over. It was extremely adorable.
When it came time to return I was exhausted. I sent them to the bathroom to change and waited with the group by the pool. There was a well-dressed woman laying at the pool the whole time and she called to me asking me if I spoke French. It was extremely easy to talk with her because her accent was so simple in comparison to the typical Haitian accent. She’s French Canadian so French is her first language and the pronunciation was like I learned in school. (It’s difficult with the Haitians because French is a second language for them too) I learned she was here visiting her fiancĂ©’s family and I told her about the orphanage. It was a short conversation, but it increased my confidence in my French speaking skills
The walk back was long and hot and three of the four girls decided they liked me best and wanted to walk with me. I was worried because drivers in Haiti don’t care about pedestrians, but we all made it back in one piece, though we were extremely tired.
I joined the roofing team again for the evening and we started out just setting up the rafters at a different part of the roof. I didn’t participate in that because it was just set up stuff; instead, Jerry taught me how to juggle. The various Haitian workers, neighbors, and orphans alike all seemed amused and curious as they watched me learn. I can only imagine how it looks to anyone who doesn’t know what juggling is.
We got set up by dusk and I climbed the ladder to the thin board platform. We got one channel screwed in without me hyperventilating, but that wasn’t enough for Jerry. He was determined to get me to go higher. I was nervous, but, I don’t know, something just clicked and soon I was climbing up and down like it was nothing. The whole group got a kick out of that and they took a lot of fun pictures. I was excited because the roof is my favorite place to work. You can see everything and all the Haitians look at you in such a funny way it’s awesome.
I looked over the wall and had to do a double take. There were four Chickens way up in a tree!! Jerry said he saw them fly up; since when can chickens fly that high?
I couldn’t ponder it for long. We were on the roof for two hours before it started to sprinkle. We went to dinner early and just waited about 45 minutes before eating. We found out the little girl who drank bleach was going to be fine and ate our fill, then did our usual night talks, showers, and closed up shop; another day gone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Haiti Day 6

Jouer 6
Le 7 Janvier, 2009

Today started out right on time. I was the first one up from my tent, so I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, all of that fun jazz. Jan was already there, so she did my hair and, by 6:30, we did devotions. Today’s devotions were about God’s plan and trusting God to lead us even if the plan may not be what we think best.
After devotions, I joined Andy and Jim in the ‘to be’ orphanage bathroom and acted as their assistant for setting up the pipes for the plumbing. It was a fun job, in the shade, and I caught on quickly. At one point, they noticed that I had caught on to the part names quickly. (e.g. the elbow, t, etc) Andy tried going into detail saying how the elbow had the male and the female. I asked which was the male and he just said “well…” Everyone laughed and it has been the butt of every joke today!
Breakfast came around 9:30 and Jan made pancakes for us once again. It was a fulfilling breakfast and it made us less homesick for American food.
I went back to plumbing for a little while, then Jan came to get me and we went to the market with Wilfred and two of the women who work in the orphanage. It was extremely hot and was an outdoor market, but it was really cool. I felt like a side show again, but I really didn’t mind anymore. There was not anything interesting to buy. Everything was just imported goods and a lot of random stuff you could normally find in the dollar section of Target. Jan and Wilfred shopped around for various things the orphanage needed and Wilfred bartered with the sales people until an agreeable price was found. People were all around and I had fun making them laugh by taking pictures then showing them.
While Wilfred went to find some butter, Jan and I sat in the car and waited with the windows down. People walked by with baskets on their heads and leading horses. Some carried chickens around, which amused me quite a bit. One adorable boy came up to our window and started a conversation with us. He spoke amazing French with me and his English (which he used with Jan) was just as good. We found out his name was Sammy, he was fourteen, he knew six people in Colorado (his cousin lives there), he hated snow, and he loves Jesus. I was amazed at his innocence and was surprised he never asked for anything. He was simply curious. I was sad when it was time to go , but we said goodbye to Sammy and returned to the orphanage. (Jan plans to see him again next Wednesday and now Mike wants to hire him!)
When we arrived, I changed back into my work clothes. As I walked past the complimentary boy from the day before and his friend, they said ‘bonjour Mademoiselle intelligente!” I just laughed and replied my own, “bonjour.”
Andy, Jim, and I continued to work at the plumbing. I became the small task girl, but it was cool because it wasn’t just busy work, it was actually a system that incorporated me. We got both the hot and the cold linked to all eight shower spots and the tubing for the two urinals and two toilets in the boys’ bathroom as well as all six sinks in the girls’ bathroom hooked up. Andy and I had fun joking back and forth and I just had a blast working with them. I swear, Andy can make anyone laugh even the Haitians just by being crazy and goofy, but he also knows what he is doing and gets the job done. I have a lot of respect for both him and Jim after today.
Lunch came around 12:30 today and consisted of the usual sandwiches. We then all walked over to the Wozo and took six Haitian orphans with us. It was so much fun to have them there; three girls and three boys. We played with them in the pool and, rather successfully, taught them how to swim. (This was surprisingly with the language handicap) It was a ton of fun. The girls kept calling for Adam. (They seem to have developed a crush on him) We were all the perfect temperature, but the kids were shivering when they got out. It is the cold season for them! The kids saw me writing in my journal so I had them all write their names for me. They seemed to enjoy showing off their writing skills.
We returned to the orphanage at three and got right back to work. We worked until about six, and then I ran around with the kids for a while. Annie was surrounded by a rather large group with Rony and Emmanuel. The boys were exchanging bets on pushups and other physical tests. It was funny because Annie beat most of the younger boys. It then became just a physical-feat contest. It was so much fun and I couldn’t stop laughing. I wasn’t able to participate because of my neck, but it was still fun. I got to speak in French with Rony for a bit too!
At one point, the kid who calls me ‘intelligent’ (Annie says his name is Son) came up and started conversation with me. I showed him pictures of my family and friends and got a little group gathered around me of people who all wanted to see. We continued our conversation in French and at one point, I don’t remember what lead to it, he told me he preferred watching me over working. I laughed it off saying ‘it’s because it’s different, is it not?” He agreed, it is weird for a woman to work in Haiti so it really isn’t a creeper thing or anything. We continued our conversation with few problems. I’m getting better at conversing, so that’s good! After we wrapped things up, I went back to work.
Dinner came around 7:30 and was the usual spaghetti with random chicken bones mixed in. We got a surprise visitor when a spider the size of my fist climbed up a nearby column. That thing will haunt me for weeks.
After dinner Jim, Andy, and I finished the tubing for the new showers before taking our own showers. (We finished around 9:30 pm) As usual, it felt good to get clean, but I was extremely spider paranoid the entire time. It is currently about 10:30 p.m., and I am beyond exhausted and, therefore, ready to sleep through the night.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Haiti Day 5

Jouer 5
Le 6 Janvier, 2009

Today started out the same as yesterday. We had quick devotions at 6:30 a.m., then on to the roof. Right away it was already a scorcher. We were practically dying of heat.
The second side of the roof went twice as fast as the first side because we knew what we were doing and we had a good system. We were able to finish half of the side by the time breakfast rolled around at 8 a.m. I must say, I could eat Haitian bread and butter and pineapple all day. I just absolutely love it! After breakfast, Jan braided my hair for me and we ran into some old Haitian friends of hers on the way to do so. She has me translate conversations with them as she did my hair and when she was done I asked them, “comment c’est?” (how is it) and they were all explaining “Oh! C’est jolie,” or “oh! C’est belle!” (pretty and beautiful) It was fun and I liked playing translator, but it was time for me to get back to the roof.
We did another two rows on the roof before we were right up to the edge and that was height-phobe-me just had to get down. Instead, I joined Jim, Adam, and Chelsea in the basement to see if they needed my help. They first set me to work with Marcelo and another translator filling in the brick columns against the wall with cement. It was dirty work, but it was fun and soon it switched so I was doing the same work with Adam.
As we were working, this one adorable kid wearing overalls picked up a broom and just swept the area for us. We rewarded him with a jolly rancher before going back to work. Soon enough, the kid brought back two friends who asked for candy. We didn’t give them any at first, but then once our wheel barrow was empty of cement, they stole it and brought it to the mixer for us. We couldn’t help but reward them, but this time we put our fingers to our lips and said “shh!” They copied, seeming to understand, and left. We went back to work. Then, about ten minutes later, we had about fifteen kids hanging around where we were working; all asking for ‘bonbons.’ Marcelo scared them away and they all left except for that first, ridiculously adorable, little boy in the overalls.
I paid him no mind and just went upstairs for water, passing the translator Ronny on the way and exchanging our usual smile. He and I have grown an understanding of each other since he and I spoke in French extensively on Sunday. He is our best translator, has worked for us before, is extremely loyal, and is probably the person I most respect out here.
Up stairs one worker, about seventeen years old, stopped me. I had seen him standing around occasionally watching when I talked with the little kids. “Tu es tres intelligente,” he said. I replied, “parce que je parle Francais?” His answer followed, “Ouais, tu es tres bonne a ca aussi!” That was our entire conversation, but it was still fun.
We took our lunch break around two to avoid the harshest part of the day. Sandwiches were just as amazing as always and the half liter of coke, just as refreshing. We then went to the Wozo (gated community) and swam for a bit to cool off. I had cement caked on my skin and had no idea if I’d ever get it off.
The break lasted until we decided to walk back at four. I heard my name everywhere from kids, it is as if the entire neighborhood knows me. The kids say it more than ‘you!’ (They say ‘you’ when they want your attention because they want something) It really is cool and I love just being able to say ‘bonjour’ to people I pass followed by the unexpected ‘ca va’ that just lights up their faces simply because I speak French. I just plain love it!
Anyways, when we got back, it was straight back to work. As we were shoveling sand in the cement maker our little overcalled friend (I learned his name is Odeal) picked a shovel up (twice his size) and tried to help. I got some cute pictures on Adam’s camera of them together.
That kid followed me everywhere and just did the most adorable things. He didn’t talk or say the annoying ‘you’ that had me beyond irked at this point of the trip. I fell just absolutely in love with the kid! He made me smile so much. It was fun even as we cemented the columns in the kitchen where it was beyond ridiculously hot. I was so worried about that kid getting hurt, but he was fine.
We worked right into the dark and, at around 6 p.m., we were done in the basement so I went upstairs. Odeal found me again, so I picked him up, cradled him, and hummed to him a little. He practically fell asleep right there as I watched the men finish the roof in the powered lighting.
Odeal woke up and pointed towards the basketball court saying “allez la.” I tried letting him go by himself, but he would not let me put him down and insisted that I go with him. He led me to four girls and three boys sat in the grass. I later found out that three of the girls were ages 17, 24, and 12. The Haitians always laugh when I say my age. I am not entirely sure why.
I started talking to the girls in French and they asked the usual; my name, age, dad’s name, mom’s name, number of siblings, etc. They then became more curious about my love life. They asked if I had a ‘petit ami’ and “tu es dans l’amour?” So I told them about Dan. (Not easy to do in French) I stole my camera back from Adam (He’d been holding onto it for me so I could always have it handy) and showed them pictures from new years and the picture I saved on there of Kyle and me, and explained to them what he does in Hinche. Then I showed them a picture of the Williams cousins that I also have saved, being sure to point out my brother and zoomed in on him. They all exclaimed that he was really good looking, really cute, etc. (Yes, Ian, even Haitian girls think you’re cute) I showed them pictures from snowboarding then they taught me a hand game (like those song games girls learn in the U.S. such as ‘say say oh play mate’) and that was it. It was like talking to girls in the U.S. I loved it and I liked feeling normal. (Minus the fact that they kept touching my white skin and shaved legs) I don’t mind it too much, but it gets tiring feeling like a parade every time we walk down the road, so feeling normal, not being asked for my clothes, and just watching little kids play was a great feeling.
Dinner came at 7:30 p.m. and we finally stopped our work. Solid rice, plantains, and french fries along with a little good conversation and the understanding smile exchange with Ronny made up our meal. I was tired and my neck hurt so much, but all of it was worth it. I took a shower, but I can guarantee there is still a suntan lotion like layer of cement on my skin. Oh well, I can be clean when I get home. I am just glad I am not sun burnt!
Marcelo wanted to practice his English and my French with me, but I couldn’t find him after dinner, so now I am just going to go to bed and dream, hopefully, good dreams. (I almost forgot to mention that the roof was scary today because the platform wood we stood on before removing was slippery from the rain) I am over half-way done with this trip and, if nothing else, today has only made me fall more in love with this place.
Jerry wanted to make sure I added in my journal his favorite line of mine from yesterday. “He looks 45, that’s really old…” which is not really what I said, he just didn’t let me finish! (I meant to add ‘for a Haitian, but instead Jerry took it as me calling him old)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Haiti Day 4

Jouer 4
Le 5 Janvier, 2009

I slept like a rock last night, but woke up to the Haitian prayer service that started at 4 a.m. and their speakers are anything but quiet. We had our daily devotions at 6 a.m., which felt so early. I was excited because the devotions surrounded one of my favorite verses. The verse was the one where God asks, “Who will go?” and the reply is, “I will go, send me.” I absolutely love that verse and happily devote my life to what it stands for. After devotions, or rather as a part of them, we each stated a talent God had given us to help for this trip. Mine was that he’d been letting me learn French in school so I could communicate here.
We finished devotions around 6:30 a.m. and immediately set to work. I was on the roof with Annie, Jim, Bill, and Jerry. We started by unscrewing the old roof boards, which took a while. We were grateful for the clouds that shaded the sun. We took a break for breakfast at around 8 a.m. It was the usual bread and butter, heavenly pineapple, and oatmeal, but, in addition, we got the most delicious blueberry pancakes I have ever eaten. I was oh so every happy! (We had good syrup too)
After breakfast it was back on the roof, except there were no clouds to keep the intense sun off our backs this time. Even at 9 a.m. it was hot. By noon, or two, it was ridiculous. We would remove a row of the wooden shingles, then roll out this insulation foil stuff and tape some of it down. We would then put two long metal bars across them (t was actually several across) which we would then screw into the roof’s already existing metal frame. (the wood was just temporary from previous trips) The problem with the foil was, although great for keeping the inside cool, it just intensified the sun’s already ridiculous amount of heat.
After we finished a row, we’d take one of the wood boards and reattach it to the metal bars so we would have a bridge from the still attached boards to the other side of the roof where the ladder was. We then moved down and did the next row, tossing all but one board in each row off the edge so we could make a ‘bridge to Tarabithia.’ By the time the whole side of the roof was foiled and clamped it was hot. We took a lot of water breaks, but it was ridiculous no matter what we did.
Around 5 p.m. the clouds returned and we put down large steel sheets over the foil and screwed them in to finish. As they were doing so, Adam went to get some supplies and met an older man who had written a letter which he asked Adam to pass around. The letter explained in English that he was a teacher, has been sick for twelve years with Shingles and wants money to pay for medical help. I wasn’t going to give him money, (we were advised not to) but I told him about Kyle in Hinche and the man told me to ask my cousin what he could do for him and gave me his friend’s phone number and his own e-mail so he could be contacted by either me or Kyle. (I refused to give out any personal information for both me and Kyle other than that Kyle was in Hinche.)
I returned to the roof as they attached the last sheet and were about to start on the other side. We felt a raindrop, then another. We cleared everything off as quickly as we possibly could. Just as we finished, it started to down pour.
I was running my sunglasses to the tent when three small boys called me over. We had seen these three boys around a lot and one was notorious for always being hungry. I got into a French conversation with one, found out he was twelve was from town, etc. He was very polite. He asked if I could give him a cat. I thought that was rather funny as it was a different request from what most kids ask for. I told them they should go home or they would get sick, but they stood with me using me as their rain shield against the wall of the orphanage. I didn’t mind and promised them a chicklet (gum) tomorrow simply because they had been so nice and adorable. I felt bad when I had to leave them to hide from the rain in the orphanage.
We sat downstairs for a while and the group from Texas came back and told us about their day giving out love bags. It was warm in the basement and we stayed dry so that was good.
Dinner, as usual, was around 7:30 p.m. and our porch stayed dry, so we still ate there. It was the same rice and beans and fish as other days, but it was good. (I didn’t have the fish, of course, but I heard it was good) We were all tired and still wet after dinner, so I hopped in the shower, cleaned, shaved (had yet to shave all trip) and changed into clean clothes. It felt great. We all turned in early to a perfect temperature night, thanking God for granting the Haitian people the much needed gift of rain. Day four, and I am still absolutely in love with this place.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Haiti Day 3

Jouer 3
Le 4 Janiver, 2009

We had an adventure last night; I went to the bathroom and saw something huge hop across the floor. I walked back to where the men were talking and asked, “would one of you mind getting rid of the giant toad in the bathroom?” They all got up to see it. Jerry’s comment was, “nothing should get that big in Haiti!” The thing was the size of a softball! They pushed the heavy lump out o the bathroom and left; crisis averted.
Today started out hot. We woke up at 8 a.m. and could just feel the humidity. We got dressed in our ‘Sunday best’ and wandered around for a bit. I took some cute pictures of the orphan kids getting ready for church. American contemporary Christian music could be heard blaring from the building construct. I couldn’t help but sing along.
While Annie and I were sitting and taking pictures, one little girl came up to me and grabbed my hand, pulling me inside the kitchen. She was so ridiculously beyond adorable. She just held on to me and showed me to all her friends. Soon I had about ten little Haitian girls climbing all over me.
We left when it was about time for breakfast and joined the group for an outdoor meal of oatmeal, the most amazing pineapple ever, and some bread with butter.
Church began after breakfast so we went back into the orphanage and took our seat. As more people joined it became more and more exhausting. I had one little girl sit on my lap and she just fell asleep leaning against me and Adam. It was a long service, but it was really cool to see the Haitians praising and worshipping God with all their hearts.
After church Jerry swung a bunch of kids around while I yelled at them to wait and stand back so they didn’t get kicked. We then changed our clothes, hopped on the bus, and prepared to go see a dam in a nearby town. Problem was, the bus needed gas. We got back off the bus and hung out in the orphanage.
Our best translator, Ronny, found out I speak French and it became one question after another. It felt like a test, but it kept getting easier and easier. Finally, we decided to just fill the bus up in Mirebalais and continued on, after doing so, to the dam.
The road was typical Haitian with all the bumps and potholes. It really hurt my neck trying to brace myself throughout the ride. We arrived at our destination (Adam drove the bus and did quite well too!) We were amazed. We’d expected something similar to a beaver dam, but this dam was huge and cement and put even American dams to shame! With the help of our interpreters, one of the locals explained how the government forced an entire village to move from the valley the mountains then flooded the valley using the dam. Now there is an entire village underwater. It’d be cool to visit such a place via scuba diving!
We drove back to the orphanage after exploring for an hour and I had Marcelo and Emmanuel playing language games with me the entire bus ride home. Marcelo needed to work on his English and I need to work on my French and Emmanuel was efficient at both. So first Marcelo would ask me something in French and, if I could not understand or could not hear because of the bus noise, Emmanuel would repeat it for me in English. I could then reply to the question in French. We then got the idea where Emmanuel said something in Kreole, (usually some sort of a question for me) Marcelo would translate in English, and I’d reply in French. Ronny just smiled as he watched it all. Eventually Emmanuel got tired and it became just me and Marcelo conversing in French. I got a headache and we stopped for the last eighth of the two hour trip
After returning, it did not take us long to decide to go back to the gated community and swim in the pool there. The water was cold, but it felt good on sore bodies (plus we all got free cokes!)
Dinner was good and we were joined by another group of eight people from Texas. They are here to pass out love bags then they are moving on to other places in Haiti to do the same thing.
After dinner, we all decided to just sit on our little bluff and have conversations that were way too complicated and thoughtful for my French and heat exhausted brain to handle. I think it’s time for bed!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Haiti Day 2

Jouer 2

Le 3 Janvier, 2009

I ended up sleeping rather well last night after waking up and coughing up some huge blood clot the size of a golf ball. It also took some courage to get out of the tent and walk to the other end of the site to use the restroom, but eventually I had no other choice. I woke up around 7:45 a.m. to an already noticeable amount of humidity. (It was ironic because I’d spent the entire night shivering in the cold) We ate our breakfast of delicious bread, oatmeal, and some papaya. We then did our daily devotions before setting out to work. Annie, Adam, Daniel, and I started out by clearing out the storage trailer and getting the large beams out so we could later build shelves. The heat was apparent, but durable. We built the shelves, found out they wouldn’t work, and unbuilt them. Tim made the comment that we’re the Army because we put everything up then tore it down.

After that task was complete, we set to work pilling huge concrete cement bricks onto a platform so the fork lift could bring them down the hill where a second group would unload them. I had two Haitians, Emmanuel and Marcelo, working with me. They were both translators for our group and were excited when they found out I speak French. They had a fun time speaking both English and French with me. It was difficult at first, trying to understand what they were asking me, but I caught on and we had a good conversation as we broke our backs packing blocks. We took a lunch break of hot dog sandwiches (veggie me had bread with ketchup and mustard) then it was back out to loading bricks. It was just me and Chelsea for the last few loads. A group of young boys were watching us and kept asking questions- giving me time to practice my French. Then 3 girls joined them and stood by and watched us work. It almost made me feel like some sort of a side show. They asked us for our names and continued to watch.

After all the bricks were loaded, Chelsea and I went down and helped make cement. To do so, you put in twelve shovels full of sand, three of white sand, and half a bag of cement. Mix those together like dry ingredients when baking and then add a ton of water and mix that in. In between making loads, we sifted sand into a wheel barrow to get the rocks out for making cement. The three girls came to watch and, when they figured out I spoke French, it was question after question in French. Conversing quickly became easier for me. They just wouldn’t stop and constantly speaking in French was quickly exhausting me. In between mixing cement loads in wheel barrows, they’d call me over to speak. Eventually, like every other child in the area, they were asking for various articles of clothing, or for a ‘cadeau’ (gift). I kept trying to tell them I needed my clothes, but they could have my clothes when I left. At one point they asked me for my number and I had to explain that, because of international costs, I couldn’t. They weren’t too happy about that, but they made me promise not to forget them and called me their ‘friend like a sister.’ I felt honored. J

“I love working constantly and feeling like I’m doing something with my life.”

Some other Haitians heard me speaking French and were amused enough to come over just to listen, asking the girls in disbelief if I spoke French. It didn’t take long before I had a whole bunch of groupies. Emmanuel was amused by my groupies and my attempts to communicate with them. Apparently having a white person communicate with them was a huge deal. Emmanuel handed me his phone at one point and told me to speak French. Unfortunately, the other end was too quiet in comparison to the noise around me.

The day’s work continued in the scorching sun. Adam and I laid out then folded up some tarps with the help of about six very small, but eager Haitian children. I’m at an extreme advantage by speaking French because I can tell the kids to move or to give something back or to stop doing something. It’s cute, they never listen when you tell them you’re tired and they instead want to climb all over you. I suppose that’s similar with American children though. We wrapped up the night with some of the guys playing futbol (soccer) with the kids while others discussed what we’d be doing tomorrow. Dinner was extremely filling; consisting of rice and beans with some red sauce, French fries, and lettuce with the ranch dressing Daniel brought.

Annie and I hit the showers after dinner. I already miss warm showers, I can tell you that. One shower (we have four) consists of one stream of water that is just cold enough to take your breath away. The group then walked over to a nearby gated community where all the men jumped in the pool. (the community acts as a motel most of the time) It is where the women usually stay and will be staying next week. It looks like some fancy place in Florida, it’s gorgeous!

Mike then drove us all back and we prepared for bed. Tomorrow is Sunday- meaning church and exploration because the Haitians don’t like it when we work on Sunday. I’m still madly in love with this place and I love working constantly and feeling like I’m doing something with my life. Good luck to anyone who wants to tear me away.