Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip Recap - The Last Day

Finally finishing up my way-too-lengthy recap of my mission trip experience in Haiti in July 2010.

Sunday, July 18, 2010
Miami International Airport
6:20am Eastern

I'm going home today! Excited, but exhausted.

I slept hard on the Ambien from 8pm-5am (eastern).  Woke up with soft, clean skin! Clean hair! A real toilet! My intestines are pretty rumbly but so far... nothing.  I am persistently thirsty.  I had about a 5 minute wait for the shuttle to the airport and realized, "Hey! I can drink out of that water fountain!"

It's pretty early here and people seem really crabby.  I am not crabby, just intestinally compromised apparently.

Off to Charlotte. I didn't have to check my bag and they also let me carry on my art canvas.  I stopped and bought a Gatorade and a Dave Eggers book (Zeitoun) before I boarded. Can't eat.

Empty middle seat! =)

Charlotte Airport

Easy flight. We got in 20 minutes early.  [Content edited for intestinally related TMI] after I ate a muffin as we landed. But I feel ok. I am REALLY tired.

We were warned about feeling displaced upon re-entry (from Haitian to US culture).  I am noticing it in small things.  How impatient people were about waiting to get off the plane, how everyone seems to be in a rush, impersonalness/not making eye contact with people.

It is still "early" here, so it seems every third person or so walking by is carrying a Starbucks coffee. My initial reaction: COFFEE!

But almost as immediately that was followed by nauseated disinterest.  I was going to text Eric to let him know I got here, but then realized it is only 5:30am at home.

10:30am Eastern
On flight from Charlotte to Denver

I just realized that I don't recall ever seeing a woman driving a car or moto the netire time we were in Haiti. I wonder if it is illegal or if driving is viewed as an aggressive thing there and so inappropriate for women. I will have to ask someone. (I did ask one of my Haitian friends in an email when I got back and found out that women are allowed to drive in Haiti but usually drive vehicles.)

I also realized I never described Haitian funerals.  We saw 2 during our time in Jacmel, one in passing on the road back to PaP that looked like it was just starting. But the first, much bigger, one was around 8am on Monday or Tuesday.  We were on the roof deck eating breakfast and heard the sounds of an approaching brass band.  Funerals in Haiti are a time for sadness but also celebration.  We think it was a funeral for a teacher or possibly a student because the processional through the streets was led by children and teachers from a local school.  Behind them was a 5 piece brass band playing an upbeat marching song.  Behind that, a hearse covered with flower wreaths.  That really surprised me because there aren't many cars at all in Haiti.  I would have guessed they'd carry the casket.  Immediately behind the hearse walked the family of the dead.  Traditionally they all wear white.  Then, behind the family were other mourners.  In this case, they came up the street where we were staying (a main road through Jacmel) and filled up the street.  Counting the school kids there were probably 300 people involved.  Everyone at breakfast, including the Haitians, went to the balcony to watch.  I didn't take a picture because I didn't want to seem disrespectful, but I wanted to. (One of the other members of my team did take a picture and posted it on Facebook. So I have stolen it to put it... here:)

11:30am Eastern
Denver International Airport

I have about an hour before my last flight.  Called my dad and texted Eric.  Made a bathroom trip.  I could probably spend all day in the bathroom, but thankfully I still have the ability to "hold it".  I ended up having to walk the entire B terminal to go from one gate to the next.  I just bought an enormous BLT from the deli. I am attempting to finish half of it. All I can say is...


TEEM! - I already mentioned in a previous post that Coke was everywhere in Haiti and on that one blessed day I was able to find a Pepsi. There was not Sprite, 7-Up or Sierra Mist that I saw in Haiti. Instead, there were gigantic glass bottles of a knock off called Teem.  It became a group rallying cry.

Last flight!

On my way home! We've got just under 2 hours to go.  It can't go fast enough! I hope Eric doesn't think I look tired and sick and that I have enough energy for my homecoming with him, his mom and the kids!


Still on the plane

I thought I'd make a list of the books I read while on this trip:
"Mrs Kimble" by Jennifer Haigh
"Baker Towers" by Jennifer Haigh
"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
Now I'm reading "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers

I bought it at MIA this morning and am a little more than half finished with it.  It is really good so far. Good reading this week!

30 minutes to go!

2:30pm Pacific Time

We landed! I am home!

Monday, July 19, 2010

It was weird to be home yesterday and this morning.  I smell our house's smell, which is weird.  My body is very tired and my mind is trying to process things so I feel very distracted or confused or something.  Getting back into my normal routine seems really overwhelming right now.  All I want to do is take everyone outside for walks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip Recap - Saturday

And, finally, we get to the end of the enormously long retelling of my mission trip to Haiti last summer. Well, not exactly the end because the travelling took 2 days and the last day will probably take more than one post, but I can see the end in sight. Happy to return to normal randomness in the near future.

When we left off (too long ago), I was heading to bed on my last night in Jacmel, Haiti and battling the onset of my first real digestive system related illness symptoms.  I have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome most of my life and fear related to it (especially getting sick in a situation where I don't have bathroom access) has been a struggle for me on and off. At it's worst, I became almost agorophobic because of it.  These days, I have a much healthier attitude, and eat in a way that minimizes flare ups, but one of my biggest concerns going into this trip was intestinal disease. And so, the story continues...

Saturday, July 11, 2010
Port-au-Prince Airport

Well, this morning was pretty much my "nightmare scenario", but I handled it (mostly) well.  I was pretty much up all night having diahrea every hour or so.  Around 4am, I thook the initial dose of 2 Imodium when I realized the time for our 4-6 hour road trip to Jacmel was drawing near.  5am, no change at all - 3rd Imodium.  6am, no change - 4th Imodium. 

Luckily, I packed last night.  I ended up leaving about 1/2 of my clothes, and almost everything else (flashlight, poncho, food, bug spray, medicines, flip flops, etc.) for Restoration Ministries to hand out as they see fit.  Patti took my bag down to the vans for me this morning. I was so nauseous that I couldn't stand up straight or even drink water, let alone carry my bag down 3 flights of stairs.  I made it down to the team and let Gary know I was sick.  He, Patti and Gina prayed for healthy travel for me.  They made sure our driver knew I wasn't feeling well and made sure I got to sit in the front seat. The driver and everyone in our van knew I may need to stop. I was equipped with a bottle of water and what was left of the roll of toilet paper from our room.  Jennifer and Reggie rode in my van too (with other people) since they could translate or help out if we needed to stop or if I got worse.  Gary told me to start taking my Cipro antibiotics ASAP. So, antibiotics came in handy after all! I took one before we left for the trip. 

Team Picture before leaving for the airport. I'm in the back middle trying not to puke on anyone. Patti, my roommate, is just left of me as you look at the picture. Jennifer, our long term missionary, is just to the left of Patti in the blue tank top. Reggie, our translater is squatting in the front with the peanut butter.
The ride to PaP went pretty well. The drive is through a "barely 2 lane" mountain pass that makes the amount of time it will take very unpredictable. Add to that the rains from the previous 2 days and there was also a chance we'd come upon unpassable roadways. It took us about 5 hours from PaP to Jacmel, so we were hoping the 4-6 hour estimate would be accurate. We got stuck in the middle of some Saturday morning street markets.

Some sights on the road from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince

Tap Tap - "Haitian Style"

I didn't have a good "ladies carrying gigantic heavy stuff on their head" picture yet.

Trying to get through one of the Saturday markets. The van in front of us is our other team van.
 Port-au-Prince seemed congested when we got there, but overall we made it pretty quick - about 3 hours.  We got to the airport 3 hours early! I felt nauseous on and off in the car, but as long as I just sat still and didn't try to turn around or talk too much, I was fine.  About half of our van got carsick on the mountain road, but Reggie (who is Haitian) was the only one who threw up. We stopped at the earthquake epicenter so he could get sick. The van driver opened up the glove compartment and inside he had: 3 rolls of toilet paper and 3 paper bags.  He was prepared! I joked with him that he was being hospitable and puked so that I wouldn't feel so bad about being sick. 

We used our puke break to take pictures at the epicenter. None of the puking, don't worry.  In general, where you see the red dirt is where the ground broke apart during the earthquake. In the first picture, you can see where the mountain caved in. The blue in the picture is tarps which are being used for shelter now. Kind of scary to think how close these people were living to the epicenter.

First home we saw after passing the epicenter (less than a mile away)

There was a lot of water in the streets of Carrefour because of the rains yesterday.  I am glad that we were in Jacmel because we got to see the urban areas but also the mountains and countryside (not to mention the Caribbean!).

At the airport, there were lots of vendors that swarmed us to buy things.  Then the porters tried to not let us go inside the airport unless we paid them a baggage fee.  We declined and eventually they let us through and we found that the check in area was only about a 2 minute walk away.  Check in was much easier and smoother than coming through the airport last week.  The terminal waiting area looks similar to a US airport, only there are only 2 American Airlines gates, so it is pretty small.  I was able to get a Gatorade (small bottle for $3US!) and took the Cipro, my malaria pill and vitamins. 

Pictures from our terminal area wait...

Patti and Me - this is the tannest I will ever be in my life.  I was feeling a little scandalous in my tanktop but I felt so sick and hot that I could not tolerate wearing more than that.

Gina and Aubrey (mom and daughter)

Most of the younger guys chowed down on burgers or chicken sandwiches as soon as they had a chance

Gary, our fearless leader
We're boarding in 20 minutes.  I'm still not feeling good, but I will make it to Miami!

On the plane, waiting to take off

Window seat on the wing.  Exit row is right in front of me.  The lady already had her seat back before I even got on the plane. Triple travel pet peeve! (Seat back not sleeping + extra leg room + let me get into my seat already!)

We are actually taking off on time! Hooray! My seat neighbor is traveling with a baby on her lap.  I'm trying to be helpful, but am tired and sick and mostly feel "ugh!" about it.  Oh well. To Miami! (And seriously, who brings an infant to Haiti?)

Au revior, Haiti!

Descending to Miami

I didn't check a bag.  The lady next to me has been "baby talking" to her 5 month old the entire time.  It might be the most annoying baby talk voice I have ever heard. (In general, I am not a fan, but this was like an overdramatization of someone using an annoying baby talk voice, only it was real.)

I don't know if the team will wait at the gate to say goodbyes or not.  (

6:45pm Eastern
Miami, Florida
Hotel Room

We didn't end up getting to say goodbye at the airport because of customs, baggage, connecting flights, etc.  Patti and I went out ot the shuttles together and got to say goodbye though. That was good.

I have never felt so exhausted in my life.

It took almost an hour to get the shuttle and get to the hotel. I got in my swimsuit to go to the hot tub and started my laundry right away (It STUNK like the burning Haiti smell) and then realized I had no clothes left. I went to the hot tub and pool, talked to Eric for awhile and then went and checked my email in the lobby.  I am really really tired and weak. Haven't eaten anything today, but am actually feeling hungry now finally.

I took a 30 minute shower!  It was basically a triple shower.  I realized I have a ridiculous number of pimples on my shoulders and bra strap line.  I also actually have a tan! Now I'm watching a hideous movie on HBO - "17 Again" and eating the free popcorn in my room. Popcorn + protein bar = Dinner. My hotel did not have room service (if I did it again, I would pay extra for a hotel that did have it) and I was too tired to leave the hotel in search of food, so I made due with what I had. I only managed about a cup of popcorn anyway, so ordering food would have been a waste.

Going to get my clothes now and get in bed. Wake up call at 5am. (4am Haiti time)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haiti mission trip recap - Friday, Part 2

Friday, July 16, 2010 5:30pm
Waiting outside hotel, Jacmel, Haiti

Still waiting for our tap tap to take us to the party at the church.  We were supposed to leave at 5pm.  I'm getting a little anxious about tomrrow's travel so standing around doing nothing is difficult.
Back at the hotel

Back from the closing dinner/party.  It was Haitian style.  We got there an hour later than planned and waited around for everything to be ready. There were about 100 church people (kids and adults) there for the party. 

Me with Marjorie, before the party started at church. She is holding the dress I gave her.

It was raining, so we ate in the church.  It was dark, so they had the 2 lights on in the room. Still pretty dark and very hot/muggy.  They made "American" food for us- french fries, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, fried chicken, baked chicken, lasagna, blueberry muffins and pop. Quite a spread!

Our American party dinner!
 It was really hot in the church, and crowded, and I got sick to my stomach before I finished eating.  I ended up having go outside to get some air and walk around. Marjorie noticed I was not right and came with me.  A couple of the teenage girls came too.  They kept asking me if I felt bad and sick, I did my best to communicate to them that my stomach was upset but that I would be fine. They seemed very worried.  I tried to reassure them that I was fine.

Before dinner, I gave Marjorie by dress to keep. She was happy. We kind of said our goodbyes them.  Jennifer helped translate a little bit.  Marjorie told me that she is my "Haitian mom" and I am her "American daughter".

Notation at the top of my journal page: 2 Tim 2:3 "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus."

After dinner, the Texas youth group kids brought up all the kitchen ladies and washed their feet as a way to thank them for their service to us.  (Another example of the 'us and them' that happened throughout the week.  I was asked to help make sure all of the kitchen ladies went up to the chairs when the time came, but none of the other "non-Texan" group members - including the other college aged members - were invited to participate in this thank you.) The kitchen ladies were asked to come up and sit in the chairs so that our team could thank them for the work they did for us.  Most of the ladies were uncomfortable being thanked and going up to the front, so I had to walk around and bring them up.  Julie figured out what was going to happen and ran outside. I followed her and found her trying to clean her feet off before they washed hers.  I stopped her and brought her back inside.  I was crying a little because I was happy the ladies got recognized publicly. It doesn't happen often and I know it meant a lot to them.

After the kitchen ladies thank you, a few of the Haitian bosses - Pastors, kitchen leader, praise team leaster - plus a couple of the kids talked about our work this week.  It was very nice.  Our translator (Reggie) said we were "the best team ever".

Reggie (left) translates as Pastor Roderick (right) talks about the work we accomplished during the week
We were supposed to do a tour today of the work sites, but since it was raining that didn't happen. But, there were quite a few:

* Completing work and cleaning up at the widow's house
* Starting work on the new wall at the tap tap drivers house
* Finishing the ceiling of the church, sanding and painting walls of church
* Hauling rubble from inside church where wall was replaced
* Sanding and painting at Restoration Center
* Feeding about 200 kids at the meal program each day
* Stocked medical clinic and helped with check in's for medical visits
* Lots of soccer and other activities with the kids

We were called up one at a time and given gifts. I received a "Haiti" hair clip, a serving tray and a Jacmel t-shirt. Very cool! I think the shirt is too small, but we'll see. (yes, too small)

After the gifts, we said our goodbyes. It was a sad time, but I didn't cry, mostly because I still felt like I was going to puke.  A few of the Haitians - Reggie, Marjorie, Ricardo, David - asked me when I will come back.  We are so rich compared to them, they have no understanding of the concept that it is expensive and not super easy to fly from Washington state to Haiti anytime I want. =)  I told Fedony to email me about supplies they need.  I will also try to send a thank you email when I get home.

We rode back to the hotel in a little pickup truck. No benches. Still raining. We fit 10 people in the back. Haitian style!

Our final debriefing was to talk about what we learned from our experience here. Frankly, I didn't pay much attention because a lot of the answers were irritating me. (I was tired and feeling sick.) Nice attitude, huh? Most everyone talked about diligence and humility.  Here is what I said:

I've been learning lessons for a long time about not seeking recognition for work (as the motivation for doing something) and working with the kitchen ladies reminded me of this becuase their culture rarely recognizes them and yet they work hard and never complain. I saw it first hand because I was, at times, treated that way subtly by some members of our own group. (Like it wasn't flashy or physically tough work, so it didn't count.)  It was a good lesson about doing my "mom job" without moaning for recognition or getting all focused on getting out of the house or needing breaks.  These ladies don't take breaks. They do what needs to be done.  I should be able to live my life that way too, without complaint or the need for recognition that I am doing a great job or am awesome or something.

An hour later...

Guts are still weird. I just finished having some pretty serious diarrhea.   My first since that little episode on Wednesday. This seems worse than that, partially because I still feel like I'm going to throw up.  I took some Tums.  I haven't taken an Imodium all week, but given my current stomach and the early morning (long and winding) drive, I probably will in the morning.

Praying the rains let up.  Apparently the road we are taking to PaP gets flooded or mudslided fairly often in the rain.  If the vans get here when they are supposed to (6am), we will have 6 hours to get to PaP, which *should* be plenty of time.  Last week the team that was here cut it really close to make their flight, so I think we are all a little nervous about that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Haiti Mission Recap - Friday

Friday, July 16, 2010
Jacmel, Haiti - Loving Light Hotel roof deck

I woke up at 3am when the air conditioner shut off and slept fitfully after that.  I couldn't help thinking about the hotel in Miami - clean sheets, a shower, clean clothes, American food!

As a reminder, my roommate (who I got along well with but didn't know prior to this trip) and I were sharing a double bed in a room that was probably about 12X12. Because I feared diseased water, I didn't shower/bathe for the duration of the time I was in Haiti (8 days). Thank goodness for camping wipes.

It will be fun to go through my things tonight and sort out all of the stuff I get to leave here for the Haitians and missionaries. 

Today is supposed to be the day of the celebration so some of the church people are taking us to the beach.  We are apparently staying at the beach pretty much all day.  I'm not really looking forward to it that much since I'm not really a "beach person".  There is also supposed to be a market there to buy things.  I'm going to bring my book and camera.  Later we are going to see all the projects from the week and then go to our send off party at the church.

We ended up waiting out on the street for almost an hour for our tap taps to come get us for our beach trip. Our regular driver was on time, but the second driver they needed for this longer trip didn't show up.  A large group of white people standing out on a busy street in Jacmel can certainly get a lot of attention! There was an older lady walking by us slowly at one point who just stopped and stared at us (from about 5 feet away - hardly disguised!). And then she saw me and was staring at me and got closer and closer to me.  She was mumbling something in Kreyol. Apparently she thought that I was a witch or suffering from a voodoo curse because of the light color of my eyes and hair.  I think she was scared of me.  Well, she definitely freaked me out. So I spent the rest of the waiting time behind the metal gate "inside" the hotel entry area. 

the beach! Carribean Sea, Jacmel, Haiti

Caribbean Sea! We took a tap tap about 30 minutes to the beach.  It was a beautiful drive.  The coast is mountainous and very green and the beach looks like a little resort area.

There are tables set up under the palm trees.  You have to be very careful where you sit because the tables are owned by the food vendors, so wherever you sit, you have to buy something from that vendor.  There were also men who tried to stop our tap tap on the way in to the (free) beach) to make us pay.  Our Haitian guides (including Fedony) got out and they argued Haitian style - loudly and insistently and then all of the sudden hugs and handshakes. Then they let us pass.

Thank goodness we had Haitians with us on this trip to the beach.  Before we left, we had been told that the area where we were going is a resort area and it is quite common for people at the beach to try to take advantage of all the "rich, tourist Americans".  They gave us specific instructions about buying at the market - bartering is common practice, but there is an accepted way to do it. We were told that if we wanted to buy something, we should bring one of our 3 translators or one of the 2 long term missionaries with us to barter for us.  We were also asked not to move along the beach alone, especially the women, but instead to stay in at least pairs. 

View of the beach and (very close together) tables

Another view of the beach and tables
I went into the water for a few minutes.  My face has had some kind of reaction to the salt water. I'm blaming it on the lack of shower and use of face wipes instead of soap for a week.  Apparently I look very sunburned, but it is stinging like CRAZY! I just rinsed it off with some fresh water from my water bottle and am going to stay out of the water from now on. Ouch!

Post facial skin reaction photo with David, one of our translators and a "preacher" at the church. This one was taken after I had time to rinse my face off and give it some time to feel better.
Apparently Reggie and David are on facebook, so they gave me their email address to "friend" them.  Fun!

Taking cover at the beach

It is really raining hard! We did some shopping from the Haitian vendors, but since it started raining, I didn't get everything I was planning to buy.  Mono and David helped me barter.  I got a painting for our house.  I picked one of the women cooking since that's what I did a lot of while I was here.

Sample of some of the canvas paintings

Bartering for my painting! David(center) has the painting I want and is working out a price with the artist (in the black shirt with white stripes).
For the kids, I bought some of the cookies that are pretty common here as snacks and some bracelets.  Necklaces for my mom and Sharon.  Still need to get a few more things.  If it stops raining, I might get myself a necklace too. 

I cannot believe that I didn't write more about the bartering for paintings drama while we were at the beach! Here's the story.  So there were actually 2 painters who were friends or related or something that set up their paintings together.  One of the two painters actually spoke fairly good English and was quite a salesman: chatting us up when we came over, being super friendly and interested in us, etc.  I initially went over to look at the paintings on my own, but then 2 or 3 of the other women came to look with me.  We were initially told the paintings we were interested in were $50US. (Not phased, especially since we had been warned that the initially quoted cost would be quite high.)  I spent a good deal of time looking at each painting and then sort of wrestled with myself about 3 of them. Which did I like best? Did I want to get more than 1? Would anyone on my gift list like one? Etc... After the hand wringing, I returned to safety conscious mode and obediently found one of our translators (David) to help me buy the painting I wanted.  I told him the painter had quoted me $50 and that I was going to buy the painting but I wanted to get whatever price would be fair and seem appropriate to him, knowing more about the cost of this kind of thing.  I basically told him to try to get me the best price he could and I would pay whatever he could get for it.  During that conversation, the 2 other women looking at the paintings with me, decided they were going to go in together to make an offer on the paintings they wanted because maybe they could get a better deal.  Totally skipped the "make sure you take a Haitian with you so that you follow local customs" advice. Apparently, the painter they approached wasn't willing to give them much of a deal.  So Caleb (in the orange shirt in the picture above, Caleb dropped everything and left for Haiti within a month after the earthquake last January and had been living in tent cities ever since trying to help people) stepped in to see what the problem was.  Voices started escalating.  Selfish me, my first thought was to look at David, doing an awesome job of bartering in a calm way, and think "Crap! I'm going to lose my great price on this painting!"  as it seemed that all sorts of craziness was about to happen.  Of course, this is also the moment that the wind picked up and it started to rain... So the next thing we know, David has gotten me a price of $30 for my painting, and the other painter starts yelling at Caleb, in English, "F--- you! I didn't ask for you G-- d--- help! Get the f---- out of here!" etc etc in a totally insane, "there is going to be a brawl" type way.  And then our Haitian guides actually had to come over and hold back the angry painter from Caleb because he was trying to hit him! The guy totally went crazy! And then, he jumped on his little motorbike and sped off and was gone! It was pure craziness. We were joking with Caleb that the guy probably left to go get his machete (because it was pretty common to see people walking around the streets with machetes in Jacmel).

We had a nice grilled snapper and plaintain lunch, but the snapper was too spicy for me.  I ended up giving it to a local girl that was under the same shelter as us with her family.  Since it was raining we were all crowded in and some of the local beggar kids kept coming around asking for food and offering to sell us shells (found walking on the beach) for $1US/shell.

beach party food!

Hillary in the lunch shelter

Each week, some of the Haitians who spent the most time with the team would be invited to come to the beach for the celebration.  On the left is our main tap tap driver, then one of our cooks, then Pastor's wife, another cook, Pastor Roderick and David
Back at the hotel

I had about a 30 minute talk with David at the beach while we watched some of the men playing soccer.  He did a great job speaking English.  We talked about his family, the government in Haiti, soccer, what they do if there is a hurricane, and lots of other things.  It was fun.

On the wet tap tap ride back to the hotel. Look at that gross "I haven't been washed in a week" hair!

Caleb relived the moment where the crazy painting guy freaked out and started swearing at him, a few times.  Then when we got back to the hotel (on wet tap-taps) and the crazy painter rode by and shouted "F--- you!" again at him!

We are on break now and have been packing.  Leaving at 6:30am tomorrow (assuming our rides come) to drive to PaP. Sorting things to be left behind.  I am leaving almost all of the clothes I brought with me, bras, food, towel, bug spray, rain gear, medicines, flip flops. Maybe the Bob the Builder blanket (which I bought at goodwill as my bed blanket), though if I can fit it in my bag I will bring it home with me - that was my promise to Little Man, who wanted to have it. It is looking good for my plan to only carry on... no checked bags for me!

Still upset that I didn't get my dad a painting because of the rain.  Ugh. Gary said there may be vendors at the airport tomorrow where I can buy things if we get there in time.  We'll see about traffic and what time our ride actually comes.  I really thought there would be more vendors - in general, but also at the beach specifically. Oh well.

I've been thinking a little about what I'd like to say tonight at the celebration dinner.  There will be an interpreter.  I know I won't be as eloquent when it happens as I have been so far in my head.  Basically I want to thank the ladies for welcoming me into the kitchen and being SO kind to me.  I want to thank them for their patience and willingness to show me how I could help, and for teaching me some of their language and culture.  I want to share with them that I came to be of service to their community and to build relationships because God loves all of us.  I have really enjoyed learning about their lives and getting to know them a little even though we struggled to communicate at times.

Almost time for Moto... agh!

5 minutes later

Gary just came and said we aren't taking the Motos because of the rain. Hooray! Dodged that bullet twice! Apparently it will be tap taps in the rain instead.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Haiti Mission Recap - Thursday, Part 2

Thursday, July 15, 2010
Jacmel, Haiti - hotel room

This afternoon I helped some of the teenagers practice their English lesson for this week. "How many children do you have?", "What is your profession?"  The kids lunch was REALLY late. The second group (older kids) didn't eat until around 3:30pm - it was supposed to be 2pm.

One nice thing from today was that Gary came to check in while I was doing the dishes this morning and I said, "I'm still changing the world one dish at a time!" He laughed and thanked me for having a servant's heart. That was cool.

Before we left, I talked for awhile to Reggie and he asked me what I did today.  Reggie is a "high school" student and is one of the primary translators we are working with here. His English is really good and he is super helpful and fun to talk to.


When I told him I worked in the kitchen, he laughed and looked sorry for me.  The men (teens and up) don't seem to think much of the cooking jobs.  They stop in and get food and chat, but I haven't seen any men do any work related to cooking, serving or clearing the food. (Other than Jean-Marie, who walks around with a stick during lunch to discipline the kids who are messing around too much.)

We stayed around church for awhile while Ben (Music pastor who was part of our team) led a church worship training for the church's worship team. 

Music ministry meeting

I spent time with Jennifer and some of the high school girls on the porch again this afternoon just talking. 

It has been really hazy here today.  The sun was out this morning but it got overcast by lunchtime.  The bugs were worse today because of it.  My sinuses are struggling a bit with the air here.  Since they burn their garbage and it is very dusty, the air is never "clean".  I took some OTC cold meds this morning to clear up the headache and sinus pressure.  There is an upper respiratory thing going around here (3 people from the team have it), so hopefully I won't get that!

There is probably more, but I can't think of anything else for now.

Mwen renmen ou - I love you
schat - cat
chen (schii) - dog
bet (bevf) - cow

Oh yes, I cannot forget to mention DJ JOSEY SOUND! That is one of the funniest things from here so far.  There is a small cargo truck (like an ice cream truck sort of) that belongs to DJ JOSEY SOUND. It is loaded up with audio equipment and is so loud that when it actually shakes our hotel when it drives by.  Apparently people can pay to have advertisements announced over the sound system, we heard a political one this morning, and when they aren't advertising, they just play super loud Haitian "house" music. I mean, ridiculously loud. And it drives around the streets like an ice cream truck. You can hear it coming from a long way away.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip Recap - Thursday, part 1

Thursday, July 15, 2010
Jacmel, Haiti - Loving Light Hotel roof deck

I really enjoy sitting up on the roof deck and watching the action in town in the morning.  Yesterday I brought up my IPod - which is running out of charge, yikes! - and listened to music.  Nice to hear familiar songs and words.

Today is our last day working at the church.  Tomorrow we are going to the beach and the market and then having a going away party, Haitian style. Apparently they are going to make us ride Moto (motorbike taxis) to the church for the party. Scary! A couple guys from the team tried to take a moto yesterday, but Fedony (Restore Haiti leader at the church) wouldn't let them.

"Moto" - Haitian sit up to 4 people on the back of a motorcycle taxi. We actually saw a family with 3 adults and then two of them were holding children. It was also pretty common to see someone riding on the back of a moto holding a chair or other large items.

At morning devotions Thursday morning, I asked our team if they had prayer requests to share.  These included: health for 3 of our team members, one team member trying to decide if she should stay in Jacmel another week or return to PaP for a week, healing for the aunt of one of the Haitian students we met (she had been taken to the hospital in PaP but the teenager didn't know why), prayer for a teenage Haitian boy living on the street near the hotel who appeared to be very sick and suffering from mental illness (in Haiti this is usually viewed as a voodoo related curse which makes Haitians scared of mental illness),  prayers for one of the church pastor's and his wife who have been trying to conceive a baby.  

Loving Light Hotel

This was our last day at the church.  I wanted to go to the medical clinic, but one of the team members there is very negative and Gina also wanted to go, so I let her go instead. I went back to my ladies again today.  I wish I had brought my journal to camp because there were quite a few times today that I had a chance to do some good thinking and now, of course, I can't remember most of it.

I started the morning washing dishes with Marjorie.  I had my flip flops on and they got very dirty, so did my feet and calves.  After dishes, I was helping to peel potatoes and Marjorie noticed my feet were dirty.  She brought me over by the water and washed and dried my feet and flip flops. 

I realized when she started leading me by the hand back towards the water what she was planning to do, and tried to refuse her.  I had learned by this point that 3 was the magic number of politeness -- for example, if they offered me a chair, I would say no, they would offer again, I would say no, they would offer again, I would say no (3X around).  If the offer was just politeness, they would accept the no after 3 times. I got the sense that if the offer was made a 4th time, then it would be impolite to refuse. This was a "4 times" command by Marjorie. I actually really enjoyed the "3 times game" because Haitian Kreyol and the Haitian communication style is so loud, it was almost like we were shouting at each other, only it was a nice interaction. I thought it was kind of fun.

I felt really bad - I'm here to serve the kitchen ladies and help them and I end up with Marjorie washing my feet for me.  But, really I couldn't say no either or I would have seemed rude. 

I ended up doing lots of cooking jobs today. I helped with: potatoes, onions, garlic, watercress, some kind of greens (collard?), eggplant and cabbage.  I also emptied 30 1lb bags of rice into pots for lunch.  They used 60lbs to feed the kids today! Emptying the bags of rice into the pots was the first time I was allowed to help prepare food in the real (hot) kitchen.  Oh yeah, I also sorted beans.

My rice prep area was on a log just to the right of this doorway inside the kitchen.
Julie, me, Marjorie

Sorting beans

60lbs of rice
 The ladies have been teaching me the Kreyol words for all of the foods and have me practice them, and then I team them the English. I almost never remember the Kreyol, but they like that I try. I also know the names of almost all of the (about 18) kitchen ladies and young girls.

Some of the kitchen ladies

TiTi, Marjorie, Me
 It's funny because even though my job hasn't been as physically demanding as most of our team, I feel like I have really made progress relationally with the women, much more than the rest have done with the Haitians.  I am sort of the command center of the kitchen for the Americans.  The Haitian ladies ask me for help communicating to the Americans and the team comes to me for water, bandaids, to find out what needs to be done around the camp, or if they are trying to find some kind of supplies.

One thing that happened today for the first time is the ladies started offering me food.  They have always tried to keep me out of the sun, get me to sit ("chilta"), give me water ("bwe"), but never food.  This morning when I was doing dishes, Marilou handed me what I thought was a big lime.  I took it, thinking I was supposed to cut it and put it in the middle water bowl (which often had limes squeezed and then dropped into it).  But when I asked, she said it was for me to eat ("manje").  I haven't been eating raw fruits of vegetables, but since I had already taken it, I felt like I had to eat it.  Turned out to be an orange! Hopefully it won't make me sick...

Later, another first, I was allowed all the way inside the (hot as a sauna) kitchen.  That is where I opened the rice.  While I was working, the ladies kept giving me "testers" (as my kids would say) of our lunch - french fries, hush puppies, they even offered me a whole hot dog, but I said no to that since we were supposed to be eating soon.  I am the only American who has been allowed in the kitchen so far.  When I told Jennifer (long term missionary) about the food treats, she said, "They take care of their own." Nice! I'm "their own"!

While we were eating lunch, I finished and was just sitting and thinking. It is hard to not feel tired when it is so hot and humid outside! I realized a little bit what I am doing -- I am in Haiti doing all this awesome stuff I never thought I could do! I don't think I will "get it" until I get home.  That's sad.  But I was thinking about home and how people have been scared for me and I was scared, but it hasn't been scary at all.  Just amazing.

Thank you God for this opportunity!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip Recap - Misc Stuff I forgot

Thursday, July 14, 2010
Hotel room

Misc. Stuff I forgot

Wednesday (yesterday) the Haitian nurses from a relief organization did vaccines out at the church.  I think they were Tetnus/Diptheria shots.  Each person had a little green immunization card to be filled out.  Everyone was gathered behind the kitchen so I went to see what was going on. Some of the kids tried to bring me over to get a green card and get vaccinated.  They were very adamant about it. I did my best to communicate that I already had a "green card" and had my shots before I came.  It was very cute.

When we arrive at church in the morning, the little boys who don't go to school wait and yell "Fi! Fi!" ("Girls! Girls!") when we come around the corner because they are so excited to see us.

There is a small river/creek that goes along the main road into town that is used as the community washing area. We go past every morning around 8am and see groups of women washing clothes and sometimes dishes. Every morning so far I mean to take a picture, but I keep forgetting! When we drive back around 5pm, there are still people there but in the evening it is mostly people bathing! It ensures that pretty much every day we see some naked Haitians. Oh, and they also wash their cars and motorbikes at the river too. I tried my best to get a picture today of the people working/washing in the river without getting too much nakedness.