Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts of Haiti

A luxury can mean so many things when you are in a world of few luxuries at all. It could be the ability to use a hair dryer or flush toilet paper down the toilet. Or it could be a breeze on a hot day, or no rain while riding on the roof of a bus.

Sustenance – food – also has very different value. To be in an impoverished country like Haiti, it’s clear that every morsel of every meal had the biggest significance. It was important for Dina to detail everything she ate – and in the case of some questionable local food, what she didn’t eat. It goes to show how much we take for granted, and how automatic our lives are that every Coke we drink is cold and full of ice. What luxury!

No matter how poor, you can still be rich in pride. The observations that women would sweep dirt floors and kids would wear the whitest of white clothes shows that in a world of chaos, people still can pursue and – with the Grace of God – achieve some sense of order and pride. It is by seeing these most precious gifts in the light of disaster that one measures possibilities.

The details of the hot, sticky, sweaty nights…not even a breeze..and the constant bark of dogs….makes me almost feel how tired and uncomfortable Dina and the entire group must have been at times. And yet, Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge when a breeze comes along or a steady rain washes away the grit and grime. That is simplicity and complexity all rolled into one. It reminds us that we are only human, and Nature rules supreme. That is what Haiti has witnessed at the most severe level. It is a beautiful place suffering some ugly times. Nature offers pleasures and perils, both. It is up to the human condition how we accept the two that will always go hand-in-hand.

I love the rituals that Dina shares about the constant playtime with kids whenever there was a break in giving medications, exercising, going to church and the other activities. It achieved in very few words a sense of the innocence of youth, no matter their surroundings. They know no other way of life than the devastation in which they live, and they find total refuge in the act of play with others. How important it is to value “Having Fun in the Process.” These kids prove that. It’s their release. And it reminds me that no matter color, race, gender, status, religion, country, or any other kind of label we put on people – I can’t think of a kid in the world who would not enjoy play time. Too bad we grow up to have opinions and be exclusive in our love for others. Dina has reconnected with that when she describes the happiness in their smiles and the joy in their laughter.

Ceremony seems extremely important. Whether it’s the time the church service starts or the exchange of wedding vows, or the celebration of a birthday. It shows how similar we can be as creatures in the role of ceremony.

In a land of poor people, you often times must take what you can get….the survival attitude can be seen all over. Whether it’s finding an extra 10 people (not in your group) sitting on your bus, or concocting some story about money for a grandmother from the mouth of an orphan…you see a real desperation and their need to act or else suffer the consequences of no action at all.

I much suspect that these rich, Western strangers who rode into town were embraced for their short stay and missed beyond belief when they left. They brought medicine, affection, and a sense of outside interest. And the locals probably relished every minute, hung on every word, competed for their attention. Like all high-profile causes, I read Dina’s journal and wonder what happens when this very needy part of the world loses the spotlight? It already has. The oil spill has taken over our interest. 12 people died on an oil rig and we’re consumed with saving birds and beaches (all very important to the long-term ecosystem and, by default, to our own existence). What about the thousands who died in Haiti? It’s already becoming a memory.

Dina's Journal - 2010 Haiti Trip
Reflections- only a few TVs so many go to church at night and sing/dance, the villagers mostly took great pride in their homes, they swept the dirt yards/ streets, kept fairly clean clothes- especially the whites and uniforms, most of their smiles were beautiful with a lot of white, straight teeth, they want to work, the kids loved to play and acted like kids with some more pushy, especially some of the teenagers, the older kids want to be lawyers, doctors, physiatrists etc.

5/18- 7:45 am we left Waco in a cute, square bus loaded down with bags and about 10 of us. I learned that Steve Raley was husband of Trish and that Donny Buster was joining us.

Dani and I shared the Amish Friendship Bread Cinnamon muffins with the group; they didn't mind that we put too much sugar on top. Daily readings were very clear to me today-

"I am our message, Lord. Throw me like a blazing torch into the night, that all may see and understand what it means to be a disciple." St. Maria Skobtsova

Acts 20:17-27 Paul says "I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God"

"The greatest misfortune is to live and die without knowing God." St. Claudine Thevenet

Spent the first night at a guest (team) house run by Theresa and Jim. The house was very clean and had rooms with bunk beds for all the girls. The guys slept upstairs on cots. We had dinner on a balcony with nice tent cover; we ended up being able to buy a tent from the local tent maker in Santiago for 500.00. We had street chicken, twice fried plantains, potato salad, pineapple and key lime juice-- delish! We slept with sheets and fans and did fine. We all shared 3 bathrooms; this is where we learned that you cannot put toilet paper in any of the toilets. Breakfast was eggs, toast, some funny grape jelly, papaya, bananas and sausage. We had Rica OJ and passion fruit juice.

A van showed up instead of a truck to carry our luggage to the border and somehow they managed to fit all our luggage, except the boxes. We ended up with the new tent in the floorboard of the bus. Dani, Steve and I sat on the containers in the back of the bus- we got a little air when we hit some nice bumps in the road- ouch!

Day 1- It's 5:00 am and as I write a lady across the street is sweeping the dirt in front of her home, what pride. We played with the kids for a while, clap games- double-double- this-this and just tickled, talked and swung them. We had twice fried plantain, stew (I think goat and chicken but Dani and I bypassed goat), rice and beans and dessert for a late lunch. There's no ice for the drinks so a cool coke was a treat. We went back out and played for hours with the kids. They loved getting hugs and being tickled. It rained and they wanted to jump rope so we did and got nice and muddy. I had the bright idea to give the kids gum and almost started a riot. The kids were pushing and the gate keepers helped control them. The adults wanted gum just as much. The children loved Dani and were gathered around her for hours. I think I was one of the last ones out spinning the kids- from the naked little boys to those dressed in their Sunday best. One little boy wanted all the attention so he hung on to the back of my shirt to swing behind me. The teenage girls were different- they wanted my sandals, hats and earrings and one girl really wanted my attention and was swatting the back of my legs with some grass as I was walking back into the house. I had to make it clear to her that her behavior was unacceptable. Dinner was porridge, too hot for me, and bread. We got the mosquito nets up and the therma cells going and the night went quite well. I stayed up until about 10:00 helping lay out the wedding goodies for Eade to review. I slept until about 4:30- the generator, chickens and dogs were all going at that time- no wonder Janet had earplugs on the packing list. I am getting ready to run/walk with Kathy and Donnie.

Day 2- we spent most of the day traveling by bus to the Haitian border. Dani and I volunteered to sit in the medicine containers at the back of the bus since we were out of seats. The back takes the greatest bumps and one pot hole (they call them Wacos in Spanish) bounced Dani and me 4 feet up. I banged my face on luggage rack and roof and Dani banged her head on roof. The driver seemed to be a little more careful after that :). Cassie (BU student) was nice enough to swap with me after 2 hours and I got a real seat- awe! Janet got us thru at the Dom Republic border without us getting off the bus. Thank goodness she paid for us to drive across without having to unload everything, which would have been an amazing feat. We spent close to 2 hours at the Haitian Immigration trailer. We all had to get out and they inspected our medical boxes. Jackson met us and we were going to switch from our bus/van to his pick up. Janet whined/negotiated enough that she got our DR drivers to drive to Ferrier. We arrived at about 2:45 and the people's faces were lighting up as they watched the bus pass. Many villagers greeted us as we drove up to Jackson's. We got the luggage unloaded and went out to play with the children on the dirt street (much cleaner than the dirt streets we played on in Mexico.)

Day 3- Kathy, Donny and I walked about. 1 .5 miles, ran 1 and worked out on playground with some locals. One guy put 2 heavy rocks on the see-saw and pushed one side for his tricep work out. Jimmy gave us a tour of where world hunger started and then we walked to the land where they are going to build the new school. Jackson's dwarf daughter, Dah, is the one who bought the land with him. We worked in clinic in pharmacy counting meds- everything from IBP to diabetes meds and antibiotics. We saw over 90 patients from 8-12. On our walk home to lunch there were guys playing dominos and those who had the clothes pins on their face where the ones loosing. We had white rice, beans, chicken soup and... Twice fried plantains for lunch. We also had a deep fried donut for dessert- like a cookie. The cold coke was so good- all the other drinks are room temp. Jimmy gave us a short tour of Zanus' church and new clinic. The little kids always come up and hold our hands and want to hang around us. The clinic was slow this afternoon. Dani took over my job of using the pill counter. BTW- we were dripping with sweat all day long. There was a nice breeze when we went back to the house at lunch. God please bless these people and help us to help them to know you. We did treat the mayor today for high blood pressure and an 82 year old man who said he will see us in heaven. We learned that people can get worms that burrow in the feet- eek.

Please bless the Dwyer group team and my family. I had a conference call at 4:30 followed by a 40 min call with Tom to review the pp presentation. All the time as I was sitting on the stairs to the roof there were little girls trying to get my attention- one still stood in the rain and we played a mime game while I was on the phone. A family of 12 little ducks also marched thru the puddles proudly behind their mother in the street below. We had a bday dinner for Eade, consisted of what Janet calls "cookie dough pudding", like a porridge and was pretty good with a little sugar. We also broke out the extra crunchy Jiff and our team loved it with some soft white bread. The bday cake was good but I only had half a piece. We quieted down for the night and I read and was asleep by 10 or so.

Thank you Lord for our blessings and help us to be your light.

Day 4- up at 4:30 again, the light of day begins then and the generator comes on about 4:45. Donnie, Kathy and I went to exercise at 5:15, we walked approx 1.5 and ran maybe 1 and then did a 15 min cross fit work out at the playground. Young people gathered around at 6:00 to watch us- I'm sure Kathy and I looked pretty funny doing squats. We had spicy sausage spaghetti, pineapple, pineapple/lemon juice, bread and PB, mayo, strange jelly for breakfast. We went on a tour to Jackson’s farm and to the school to see how the kids started their day. The clinic opened again at 8:00 and served over 120 people. Some of the translators were sneaky in that they let people pay them to get them to the front of the line. Janet, Jimmy, Kathy, Dani Julie and I went to meet with Zanus and Dasney. Their 10 adopted kids found their way to Dani and she ended up going out to play. We discussed the micro-loan program and agreed Dasney would be paid monthly for her part-time work to oversee the loan program. They will have 5 groups of 5 women where only 2 loans will be given by group. The loans will start at $50 and the interest rate will be 3%. They will pay something back weekly until paid off. The prg will end unless all paid back so the loving pressure of the group should hold everyone accountable. Janet shared some bus ideas like shoe sales, reader glasses, pillow case dresses for kids (Carelie was our model). We talked about having a clear code of values for them women to be in a group along with their commitments for kids 6 and older to go to school, have 75.00 in savings plus put profits in savings etc. Janet announced that the woman's group had made 147.00 off their world trade items, they we thrilled. We presented the money to the coop that afternoon and discussed the idea of making 1,000's of plant baskets. Lunch was fried patats (they gave me a taste test when they were hot and delish). We had rice and beans, twice fried plantain, spicy chicken soup and shared only 4 cold cokes today- every sip was a treat. The guys put the tent on the roof while I entertained the kids below by doing aerobics, line dances, macarena, and chicken dance with Janet. We are all looking forward to the thought of sleeping on the roof tonight with a breeze- oh ya! We had a celebration party with the coop group- cold sodas. The kids keep asking us to come and play jump rope so we will tonight. Dinner was thick hot chocolate and pb sandwiches. We went to Zanus' church to worship with the members and then did a hygiene lesson. Janet came up with the idea of spreading her 'glitter' germs to everyone so she can show how germs spread. They did a skit on germs at the water well and how they travel. They show a Debbie doll with clean water in her tummy and then dirty water. The people sing so joyfully and loud. I met the public teacher who has 300, 7-9th grade students. She was very nice. We got to bed after 10 and it was a balmy night with no breeze at all. The dogs had a party all night barking their heads off. I probably slept for a total 3 hours. Jimmy asks us at dinner if we are still solid, happy to say that I am:). Dear God please bless us today to do your will and be our best. Bless our families, friends and businesses in Jesus' name Amen.

Day 5- we hung around the house after breakfast since we weren't heading to Cap until 1:00. I did ask Janet if it was silly to ask if they'd turn the generator on for 10 min so I could dry my hair, she responded honestly that it was too much to ask (I knew it was selfish) and offered her inverse battery and that worked fine. It took longer to dry my hair due to the 100± humidity. I took a short nap on the concrete floor on a blanket, the floor is cooler (we slept bad that not, no air movement and dogs barking alllll night.) I worked with Ricky, the interpreter, to give the girls some magazines. I wanted them to know to share them, they did good. I went down later to show them my photo book of our family. The kids loved seeing the pics of Dani as a baby and child. They knew my mother was my mom by the resemblance. We had chicken stew for lunch, platat, twice-fried plantains and no cokes. We loaded up the bus with about 12 extra people coming to the wedding. 3 of our team rode on the top and said it was great. We stopped at Jackson’s town home in Cap and watched the wedding party and relatives run around and change etc. People were crossing the courtyard in their towels-no place for modesty. I had to stand in the bus since we added another 12-15 people. It was an interesting 45 min ride to the building (a building with a/c). The wedding started late and went for 2 hours. They had 4 groups sing 2 songs each. There were 4 preachers that preached and we actually recognized the wedding rights. They had to be out of the church by 6 so they served the hor'dourves in a small styro box. I only ate a few items since we had no idea how long the food was sitting. They brought out cool bottles of coke and sprite- nice treat. Janet was the maid of honor and sat in the front with the bride looking like a Greek goddess. The cake was iced with cool whip and they had a white couple as decoration instead of a Haitian looking couple. They did not cut the cake because people had to get out for the next wedding. We got out to our bus and it was half full already with people we did not know who wanted a ride. We ended up squeezing in- probably 50 people in a 30 capacity bus and 11 of our team ended on top. It was raining and there was lightning. It was a wild night going thru Cap- people and cars everywhere with their own organized chaos. Our driver scrapped right against a taxi truck and peeled off its side mirror- no stopping to exchange info. We were relieved when we stopped and unloaded about 15 people. The rain started pelting those on top but most wanted to stay. We put our side flaps down but the rain still found its way in. Denise (funny nurse) said she'd get hit by a tree and then yell to the others "tree"- she's a nut. She has a schnauzer that’s getting a bday gift when she gets home. We were thrilled to turn the corner on the dirt road since we knew we were getting close to Ferrier. Many of the children were waiting in the rain for us to come home. The cooks had cookie dough porridge waiting for us. I stuck to a PB (no jelly) sandwich. Most of us slept really good. I wore ear plugs and even put the sheet on part of me in the night. Dani slept like a rock. Thank you Lord for a great night's sleep.

I got up at 4:30 and fell back to sleep, Cathy woke me up at 5:10. Donnie, Kathy, Chris and I went for 45 min "Kathy Cross- cultural/cross fit program." We ran, sprinted, did 200 reps, 50 squats etc.

Day 6- Sunday- Cathy and I decided to walk instead of work out. We went about 2.5 and took time to visit with the people; many are up at 5:30. We met a man sharpening his machete, talked to a boy on his chivalle (horse) and walked to the river down a muddy trail with some guys holding machetes- thank God it is safe here. We meet 3 teenage girls who really wanted to try to speak to us. Some kids were walking and studying- the study orally and walk around outside where it's light. We are getting ready for church and people of all ages are carrying 40lb water buckets on their heads. I tried to carry one and it was neck/shoulder breaking. Please bless Mary, Derek, Chris and our 3m guest to have a safe journey here. We played with the kids for hours today out in the field. We did wheelbarrow races, foot races, red rover etc. The kids did much better with games that didn't have objects- they like to hoard. Two kids ran off with the volleyball. We jump roped and tried to fly kites but they tore them up trying to get them. We rested and went back out to play. There must have been 60 kids by the house. I taught them the macarena, chicken dance etc- they love saying wiggle/wiggle and hop. I had to break up a fight- one hurt boy was about to throw a small bolder at the kid that hit his head. I got him to calm down while getting the other kids to back away. Some wanted to get in the middle. The girls braided Dani's hair and wanted Cassie and Zach to get married. We had empanadas for dinner- one was enough since we did not know what was in them. Some of us went back to church for 75 minutes and sang away. We got out early because a storm was brewing. We made it back just in time. Thank you Lord for the storm, it made for a cool night that required a sheet. The ladies were drying rice on tarps in front today. Got to bed about 10.

Day 7- got up at 4:30 after a great rest. The sky was beautiful, the mountain range was clear. Kathy, Donnie, Chris and I went for a walk/run and did Donnie's work out of the day- 21/15/9/ reps of dips, pikes, pushups- my arms were shaking bad on last push up. Finished off with 10 knee/elbows and 20 bicycle sit ups. Inquired about the Catholic church by the playground and mass is at 6. Chris and I are going Tuesday before we leave to the Citadel. He's been going to St. Joseph's and wants to convert. I offered to sponsor him at RCIA. Dani is helping woman with crafts today while I work the children's clinic. The kid’s clinic was non-stop. One little girl, maybe 2 was our little mascot coming around to hug us throughout the morning. The people come to the clinic very clean. The school children came for wellness check ups, we gave all multi-vitamins (mv). We were to close at 12 and ended up working until almost 2. Some of the kids that we played with showed up late saying their tummies hurt, their ears hurt or they had infections- we checked those that were serious and gave the rest mv. Derek came into the clinic to let me know they arrived and he was sweating like a pig, I told him to get used to it. I saw Chris filming in the distance. On the way back to lunch I cut my big toe on a sharp rock and was bleeding a lot- happened to be walking with Doc Crawford and I had an alcohol swab and he had band-aid. We meet everyone for lunch and I got to see Mary and Satish (3M rep). I gave them a tour of the house- no toilet paper in the toilet bowls. We went for a tour of Jackson's land and he gave us his vision. The children took to our home team right away. Derek was trying to process it all; his mind seemed to be wandering. Chris borrowed Janet's guitar and played/sang- awesome songs from the balcony. We played with the kids; Mary was teaching them hand games. Dinner was porridge- this time we added some of our granola stash- yum. We found sleeping spots for the guys on the roof and Mary got a foam pad to put on her metal bunk frame- comfy:). Many did not sleep well that night due to dogs barking- Kathy and Julie tried to scare off the dogs with flash lights but they kept coming back.

Day 8- got up at 4:15 and went for a walk with Mary at 5:00- we thought it was 6. Mary, Chris and I went to mass at 6 and the singing was beautiful. The priest acknowledged we there and the elderly woman greeted us as we left. Dani made Chris and I some peanut butter sandwiches to take on truck to Citadel. 14 of us left at about at 7:15 and stopped 2 blocks up to get fruit champagne- orange soda. Riding in the back of truck was quite comfy, the breeze and scenery were great. We stopped in one town to get ice (glasse) that's bedded under straw. One young teenage boy flipped us off and Terri told me some kids are told that if they are bad the boogie man will get them- we are the boogie man- that made me sad but then I recalled all those that seemed joyful to see us. Dear God- please help us show them that we are their brothers/sisters and are caring and respectful. We dropped 2 men at the drilling rig in hopes that they'd drill a well that day yet on the way home we learned that it was still not working. We arrived at the Citadel and were the only tourists of the day. We paid to use toilet and were bombarded by men trying to make a living that day with their horses and tour guiding. Tatiana's guide really whipped his horse and we were vocal that we did not like that. Ricky's horse was pretty fast. Chris went up the hill on foot and beat the horses by 50 yards. He made it in an hour and we took 2 hours- incl 5 breaks. That was the hardest hike I've ever made- 7k one way. The structure was amazing as well as the story of Christoff. We explored for an hour and were in the clouds on some sides of the palace and other areas the view was so clear and high that I got dizzy and sat down. Denise aka Juanita was sitting on the edge swinging her legs and I told her she made me nervous. The walk down was tough on the steep parts but I got to enjoy the scenery more, it was very pretty. My un-hired guide was now my friend and he needed money to go to school- 60 us per year and to help his grandma. We ate spam like empanadas- pretty good after a long hike. We arrived back before 4 and Mary had Chris captured me- stinky and all- for the taping. They taped many people that day and Eade's interview was so nice. The ladies brought out a late lunch for us hikers. I went out to play with the kids. 2 of the girls took me to their Maisons (homes) to meet their families. They were very kind but wanted help from me for school etc. We had a meeting over dinner (I skipped this meal) and then gave gifts to the workers and Jackson/Eade. We packed and made a pile of clothes etc for them to keep. I finally got in the shower and cooled off, now sweating clean :) bullets of sweat.

Day 9- the generators came on at 3:50 am our last day and I was the first girl up. I sat on the balcony and read and journaled. Mary was next up. We had breakfast at 6:15 and Jimmy gave me my Happy Anniversary message from Mike- I teared up of course. I was looking forward to feeding the orphans who ended up being many of the kids we played with. Most came dressed in their school uniforms. Eade did not have enough utensils so the kids politely shared. I think they recycled all the styrofoam plates/spoons. We finished packing and cleaning and visited with the villagers until the bus came. Mary and the team filled the back of the truck with their suitcases etc- there were 10 of them traveling in the pick up to Port au Prince. Dear Lord please bless them to have a safe and productive trip and for all to stay healthy. They did not know where they would sleep. We said goodbye to everyone and it was sad to me when I looked at a few kids faces. We all had a seat on the bus and tried to sleep. Jimmy did a great job of getting us thru customs with any of us getting off the bus. Someone made an interesting comment that we could have had a bunch of kids in the bus with us and immigration would have missed it. We arrived at our hotel about 3 and it was much nicer than expected, very clean. A transient guy was wondering around us as we unloaded and within minutes fell to the ground in the lobby and had a seizure- foaming at mouth etc. The doctors and Denise monitored him. Doc Steve was surprised by his quick recovery. Usually they are so wiped out that they want to sleep for hours. He got up, drank water and came to us begging for money. We walked to the Mercado for a late lunch. Dani and I had a cheese pizza, salad, mango and chocolate- yum! We got back to the room and I was ready to sleep. We watched TV and I was out by 8:00. The ac was great but a little chilly when I awoke to no dogs barking, generator cranking or roosters crowing. The last few days readings have really spoken to me, I suppose the experience brings clarity to the message God has always sent. "Be generous not just with material wealth but with our gifts of the Holy Spirit" “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore, the servant of God ought to ALWAYS be in good spirits"" He sent me to bring good news to the poor and heal the broken-hearted".

Day 10- I was up at 4:45 to get ready for our ride to airport. Dani and I really enjoyed a Burger King meal for lunch. I spent some time with Jimmy talking about scholarships etc, there's so much to be done. Our travels went well and we slept a lot on the plane. We heard from Mary that it took 12 hours to get to Port au Prince- with flat tires and heavy rains. I still don't know where they stayed. God bless their travels and thank you for an amazing trip. Please bless the people of Haiti to find strength in you.