Thursday, September 30, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip Recap - Tuesday (Day 4) Part 1

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Jacmel, Haiti hotel rooftop deck

Waiting for breakfast...

Good discussion this morning at devotions about God's purposes for each of us and doing our work here HEARTILY.

I am tired and feeling dehydrated this morning.  I woke up around 3am feeling gassy and have been going to the bathroom hourly since then.  The first time it crossed my mind that I might be sick and I actually had a panic attack.  Middle of the night, sick in a shared bathroom with "will it work or won't it" plumbing, in a country with pretty much no doctors or hospitals. Visions of being air-vacuated to Miami...  Patti woke up when I went to the bathroom and talked with me until I calmed down.  It was pretty scary because my hands and arms got all hot and started tingling from adrenaline.  I literally felt like I was crawling out of my skin.  This experience was the one that first made me realize that it was God's perfect plan that led to Patti and my roommate-ship.  She reminded me a lot of my mom (similar age, likes to talk, tells it like it is) and we have almost the exact same medical history in terms of stomach issues and anxiety/panic.  When I have panic attacks, it really helps me to talk about how I am feeling and what is causing the panic, even if I'm only talking to myself. Patti was a willing and receptive listener, even at 3am, and really helped me put things into perspective and calm down.  I didn't feel like I was burdening or bothering her, which also helped lessen my anxiety.  Thank you, Patti!

I am really worried about getting sick, but I think I am not.  I think I'm just having some changes in my normal bathroom schedule because of the change in diet, stress, etc.  I haven't really had any fiber since we've been here. No fruit or vegetables. No whole grains. It's kind of gross because you never know if the toilets in the hotel will flus, so it's "risky" to be sick in the bathroom. One of the first things we were told when we got to the hotel was that we should really consider not flushing our toilet paper in the toilet because it would give us a better chance for it to actually flush. Nice! Anyway, no stomachache, no cramping, no fever.  I'm going to hold off on the Imodium until it is really needed.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to make myself eat or not. 

In hindsight, I was correct about this stomach episode. Almost everyone on our team experienced something similar somewhere around the 3-5 day mark because of the change in diet.

Back at the hotel for our break

I ended up eating a banana at breakfast in hopes of getting some "bulk". I figured the chance of foodborne illness was minimal enough since the banana was in a peel.  Hopefully the banana will help.  I felt fine, tired, for most of the day at the church.  I had a few times where I felt a little crampy, but didn't go to the "bathroom" (read: rock with a hole in it) at the church.  In fact, despite drinking 100oz+ of water a day, I never went to the bathroom at the church during the entire week. One nice thing about the heat was it limited the interaction with disgusting bathroom experiences! Our team leader agrees with me that it's probably not actual sickness at this point. Done worrying about it.

We took our tap tap to church around 9am.  I worked in the kitchen again with Patti and Gina. We were supposed to work at the medical clinic but Wendy (nurse) is sick.  Gina and I washed dishes from last night and this morning.  I was the plate scrubber. It was pretty gross.  When I got finished, I helped Patti and Julie peel potatoes for french fries.  There is only one potato peeler so I ended up using a carving knife to peel the potatoes.
Patti and Julie peeling potatoes
The dishwashing process was actually really interesting, but gross. Water is at a premium and nothing there is wasted. There were 3 pots used in the washing of dishes - a large pot with clean water on the left, a large pot with clean lemon water in the middle, and a smaller pot with soapy water on the right.  I used a (started clean but soon very dirty) rag to clean the dirty items in the soapy water. Dunk into the lemon water.  Gina then basically washed the dish again with the lemon water. Dunk into the clean water.  Then when the dirtiest water was full of food and disgustingness, one of the kitchen ladies would toss out about 1/2 of the dirty water and move some of the other water to the right (lemon water into the soap water, clean rinsing water into the lemon water).  It took a few hours to wash all of the dishes each morning - about 200 plates from the meal program lunch, all the pots/pans/spoons from making the meals plus whatever dishes we used for dinner and breakfast. 


After dishes and potatoes, I saw one of the ladies cleaning fish behind the kitchen and went to watch, so she put me to work.  She cleaned the fish and I rubbed them inside and out with lemon, then put them into a lime and watercress marinade.  The whole time they had an English praise song playing on a tape player over and over again.  It was nice that they were trying to make us feel comfortable by playing songs we know.

In the time between my fish, I just relaxed in the shade and enjoyed the green and peacefulness. I also got to watch the chickens running around. They just come right up to you! In a lot of ways, it would be nice to live this way - no electronics, no worries about time, no "stuff" to worry about or maintain - of course there are other, more immediate concerns instead. But, truthfully, I don't think the people here admire us or want to be us/American - they like the life they have and would like some changes, but here with these people we are with, they probably wouldn't want major changes like the ones that might be made to "Americanize" Haiti. 

After the fish, I spent some time talking with people from the team for a short time before lunch.  I didn't even look at the food today, I just had a protein par instead.  Then I passed out 88 DumDum suckers to people at the church (before all the kids came for the meal program). 

I let Clifford and Ricardo use my IPod.  Clifford showed me some pictures from a previous team's visit.  He was very proud of them.  Then a couple of younger girls (7? 8 years old?) took out my braids so they could do my hair. It ended up looking hideous, but I left it they way they did it. Here are couple of pictures of Clifford... 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kreyol Words, American style

While I was in Jacmel, Haiti, I kept a list of Kreyol words I was learning as part of my journal. I have no idea how to spell the words I learned and just recorded them phoenetically. Here are the words I learned on my first "working day". You'll notice some patterns.

Shat - cat
Chen (shee) - dog
Kabri - goat
Poul - chicken
pwa - beans
Manje  - food/eat
Aromme - love
soleil - sun
cho (shale') - hot
Komo ou eyeh? - How are you?
Bien - good
bon - good
glo - water
Mwen fatigue' - I'm tired
chita - sit
Merci - thank you
Pa dekwa - you're welcome
Si vou ple - please

Haiti Mission Trip Recap - Monday, Part 2

Monday was our first "work day" in Jacmel.  Yesterday I blogged about the time we spent working in the morning and during the early afternoon feeding program for the kids.  Today I'll finish up with Monday...

Monday, July 12, 2010
Loving Light Hotel roof deck, Jacmel, Haiti

After lunch, I sat with some of the teenagers and let them listen to my IPod.  A few of the girls braided my hair.  I don't know if it will stay in while I sleep or not. They were out of "elastique" to tie the ends. 

There was a women's clinic information meeting put on by Wanda for the women in the community. Wanda decided to have the meeting because many of the women she was seeing at the clinic were coming in with common ailments, many of which could be treated with ingredients they may have in their own home.  There were about 20 women there. They started off very shy - the translator was a 17 year old (Reggie) who translates for the missions teams and at the clinic as his job, so I don't blame them for not wanting to speak up about "lady problems".  Reggie did a great job though. I was surprised by how basic the information was, but the women didn't seem to know most of it.

Women's Health Info Session Topics
* Bladder infections -- wiping front to back
* Vaginal infections -- how to self treat (I won't go there right now)
* How to clean "female areas"
* Head lice in children -- what it is, what causes it, how to treat
* Dandruff -- what it is, how to treat
* Cold and cough transmission
* Fertility and birth control
* Handwashing
* Ringworm & other fungus -- medications available at clinic, what causes it

Women's health information session
One of the things I haven't written about yet was the strange mixture of Haitian culture and 'third world-ness' and American/Western culture. For example, few people have radios or Ipods in Haiti (the kitchen had a crank radio that played Gospel tracts in Kreyol), but the kids knew classic Michael Jackson songs when I played them on the Ipod, and also current Beyonce songs.  Also, Coca-Cola was everywhere! Huge billboards in Port-au-Prince, storefront signs in Jacmel.

Our hotel restaurant had a cooler where we were able to buy cold, bottled water, some unfamiliar juices (like Tampico, but not called that), an off-brand Sprite type drink called "Teem!", or glass bottles of CokeWe had access to a water cooler, but that water didn't stay cold long (and let me tell you that after using the same reusable water bottle for water and gatorade for a week, it was pretty gross by the end!), so it was a nice treat to be able to buy a cold drink for $1US after we got back from a hot day of working.  Keillen (an FEI missionary who stayed for 3 weeks and had been there a week already when we got to Jacmel) and I had multiple short conversations in the first couple of days I was in Jacmel about how it was funny to see Coke signs everywhere in the middle of such a poor area. But, Coke only, no Pepsi. We are both Pepsi fans, but we dealt with Coke because it was cold and available!

During our break, Patti and I went to get a Coke from the restaurant.  It's nice to have a cold drink after the super hot work day.  It turned into THE BEST DAY EVER!!! --- There was Pepsi today! No one here that speaks English has ever seen Pepsi here. It's a miracle! =) I made Patti take my picture with my beloved Pepsi. Seriously, beyond excited!

I am not even kidding about how excited I was to see this Pepsi. The top of the cooler opened and I saw that blue bottle cap and was like "Waaaaaaah!" I ran right up to Keillen's room to show her and she got one right away too! This was the only day there was Pepsi during our entire stay in Jacmel. I am convinced that God was sending me a pick-me-up.

Dinner was white rice and macaroni and cheese, which was a little spicy.  We "debriefed" and talked about our highs and lows. Each day there were 4 or 5 different work jobs at different sites, so we would debrief and share a little about the work that was done at each site.  On Monday the jobs were: Painting at the widow's house, set up the ceiling at the church, checking vitamin packages and medicine inventory at the clinic, sanding at the Restoration Center, helping in the kitchen.  Gary (team coordinator) tried to get someone to mention the "Texas vs. the world" tension but no one spoke about it.  He said a quick word about including everyone, but I think it fell on deaf ears.  I am done worrying about it. That's not why I am here.

Hotel Room

I called Eric during the time everyone was up on the roof deck singing praise songs.  I was able to borrow Tim's phone again.  It was fun to tell him a little about the trip so far.  It sounds like everyone is doing ok there. 

When we came back down, I found a 2 inch cockroach on our dresser.  It was big, and fast enough to freak me out.  It is now under the dresser, but I am praying it is dead.  I sprayed it with Patti's 100% DEET because it was so big I was scared to squash it (plus it was on the dresser crawling around on Patti's stuff). It fell off the back of the dresser and disappeared. It hasn't come back out.  That was made more interesting by the fact that Patti is seriously, extremely phobic about spiders and large bugs.  Enough that she apparently can't even see a picture of a spider. So when I walked into the room and saw the cockroach, I blocked her from coming inside and sent her back upstairs, just telling her she "didn't want to see" what I had to do in the room.  When she came back down I just told her it was "taken care of" and prayed that cockroach didn't come back out alive. But, of course, it was still alive. It was on death's door but dragged itself out from under the dresser and was under Patti's bag (next to the dresser) when she went to get her pajamas out. She screamed at the top of her lungs. Luckily, the cockroach was already knocking on death's door because of the DEET - legs flailing but not able to move - so I squashed it. Then I had to take it all the way outside of our room so Patti wouldn't worry about it. I ended up throwing it over the balcony and out into the street. 

I'm going to read now.  Hopefully I will sleep better tonight.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip Recap- Monday Part 1

I've been trying to write a daily blog recap of the mission trip I took to Jacmel, Haiti in July.  I am still using my journal as the primary source material.  I was on "disability" at the end of last week as I took off most of my left pointer fingernail with a potato peeler and haven't been able to type. Still uncomfortable, so we'll see how far I get today. I'm starting in on Monday, which was our first real "work" day. This journal entry also starts with an episode that I did NOT tell my husband about during my occasional and brief phone calls. I didn't want to freak him out too much.

Monday, July 11, 2010
Loving Light Hotel roof deck, Jacmel, Haiti

Last night ended up being very interesting.  We went to bed around 9pm and I was having trouble falling asleep.  From 9:30 until about 11pm, there were some men shouting (Kreyol and English) and banging on doors outside of our room.  About every 15 minutes, someone would bang on our door really aggressively and shout and wake us up.  Eventually Jennifer (long term missionary who was also staying at our hotel) came upstairs from her room to find out what all the noise was about and yelled at them and told them to leave.

It was scary.  There is no peep hole in our door.  The lock is minimal (I could probably break into the room by throwing my body against the door if I wanted to) and there is no 2nd way out of the room.  I laid awake for quite awhile praying for safety and thinking of what I had that could be used as a weapon if needed.  It was not a good feeling.

Patti and I agreed there was no way we were going to open our door.  Our room was in a little hallway nook so it was not out in full view of the rest of the hallway. And if we had opened the door and someone had rushed in at us, there would have been no place to hide in that small room.

It's 7:15am now. Devotions were supposed to start up here at 7am, but no one is here except me and Patti. Hmm... (It turned out that our only clock, on Patti's IPod, reset itself to a different time zone in the night, so we were  actually up on the roof deck at 6am waiting for devotions, thinking it was 7am.)

While I'm waiting up here, 2 other things from yesterday. There were quite a few kids who tried to bite/pinch/scratch as a sign of affection.  I can't quite figure that one out.

After church yesterday, some of the kids took down the welcome banners and rubbed the glitter from the signs off on to each other.  They rubbed some on my arms and it still isn't off all the way.

It is overcast today with a slight breeze.  Praying it will be a little cooler today.

Typical pre-devotions morning time, journaling and watching Jacmel start their day
Monday, July 12, 2010
Loving Light Hotel room

Home from our first word day! We talked to Gary - team coordinator- and Jennifer and found out what happened last night with the people banging on our door.  Apparently another relief group staying here finished their work assignment and left today, so they spent last night celebrating.  They got pretty drunk and then couldn't find their interpreter.  They thought our room was his room and that he had passed out in there, so they were trying to wake him (us) up.  So, it was scary, but not actually dangerous.

LLH roof deck

After breakfast, we divided into work teams.  The Texas teams basically took the jobs they wanted and then said, "You can come if you want, too." There is a lot of tension in our group right now because they have totally separated from us and have made it clear they couldn't care less if the "non-Texas" people are even here. (They were never mean, just focused on their own little mini-group within our whole team.)

I ended up on the kitchen team because I'm a woman.  =) I didn't mind being on the kitchen team, but didn't like the fact that most of the rest of the people had a choice and I really didn't.  Patti and Gina were also on the kitchen team.  I think tomorrow we will be at the medical clinic with Wanda. 

We spent the morning under the tree by the kitchen working on watercress with Marjorie and Erika.  Erika taught children's church yesterday and is Pastor Roderick's wife.  It was fun to sit in the shade and listen to the ladies talk.  They taught us the Kreyol words for the foods.  They grow an amazing amount of food: watercree, carrots, onions, cabbage, beans, coconuts, cucumber, some kind of melon/pear fruit, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes.  I don't eat any of it unless it is cooked, but it looks wonderful!

The never ending watercress bowl

Julie, sorting beans

Michaela, the brave soul to tackle dishes the first day

The women cook over 2 or 3 small coal fires in big metal pots.  There are also come gas burners inside the kitchen hut.  There is no refrigerator or freezer, no oven, no dishwasher.  They make all their food from scratch every day. If they don't grow it themselves, they trade at market for the food they need.  They get money for the children's food through the child sponsorship program of Restore Haiti, and then our team's food is paid for with our team fees.  White rice is handed out by the government, but I haven't quite figured out how much or how often it comes.  They eat a LOT of white rice.  They start cooking around 5am and don't stop until 8 or 9pm every day.

View inside the ktichen
After kitchen work -- it took me all morning to deal with that bowl of watercress! - we had lunch, which was a weird "spicy ham" sandwich on a hot dog bun.  It tasted like a hot dog that was ironed into a flat shape.  I think now maybe it was Spam? (What exactly that meat was is a mystery that I never solved.)

In the afternoon we were at the church, but it was pretty unstructured.  We played with the kids.  I walked with Jennifer and Patti to see the medical clinic. It opened the week before we got here. I wanted to see the inside since we're working there tomorrow and I brought so many medical donations.  At a house next to the clinic, they were playing loud music and dancing in the street (path), so I danced a little too. They thought that was funny.  The clinic is tiny, dark and hot.  There is a medication room, a check in room, a waiting room a vitals room and an exam room.  The whole building is probably 400-500 sq. feet. It is small.

Outside of the new medical clinic

Neighborhood kids peeking into the clinic to see the white people

Medical supplies shelf

Other medical supplies
It rained this afternoon and wasn't as hot.  I didn't sweat through my clothes! Rain apparently stops everything here, the water for the kids wasn't delivered because of the rain.

The kids lunch (through sponsorship program) was supposed to be around 1pm, but it was served until around 2:30pm.  They make a big line and pass plates down one at a time until they are all in the meal tent.  Today the kids had a full plate of white rice (3C each?) and a big spoon of stew with beans and vegetables. It smelled really good! Only the kids who are sponsored get to eat.  It was around 200 kids today.  The rest just hang around and play. (The unsponsored kids also asked us periodically if we could sponsor them RIGHT NOW so that they could eat. It was sad.)  The adults who are around at first and I guess at any other meals they may have the kids only eat if tehy have enough, otherwise they go without. We have been told that most kids only eat one meal a day. 

Food line - passing the plates into the meal tent

Food Line
Waiting to pray so they can eat. Yes, every single child
completely cleaned their plate every day we were there.
We helped a little girl this afternoon who had severely burned the top of her feet a few days ago.  Patti, Jennifer and I cleaned and bandaged her feet for her. Luckily I had my hikers first aid kit with me so we had all the supplies we needed, and I had an extra pair of socks. I gave her my extra socks to protect her feet because she had no shoes. (That was pretty cool actually because it was the only day I had extra socks with me!)  We learned later from Wanda (nurse missionary) that this girl had been to the clinic the day before with no parent and Wanda had cleaned and dressed her burns. It is a problem for the health workers there that kids are often sent to the clinic alone which means that the children have to understand, remember and communicate to their parents information about treatment or medication. Usually that info doesn't make it all the way home.

Girl with burned, bandaged feet
Tomorrow: Find out how God lifted my spirits after our first hard day of work!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip - Sunday Recap Part 2

In yesterday's post, I wrote about the first half of our first full day in Jacmel, Haiti with the team from Forward Edge International.  Our FEI team was partnered with Restoration Ministries, an arm of Restore Haiti.  Restoration Ministries started the church and meal program that we worked with during our time in Jacmel.  Their aim is to minister to communities in Jacmel by providing needed services like construction, the meal program, church programs, English classes and a medical clinic.  Most of the work in country is being done by Haitians with a few long term missionaries. Forward Edge has been providing short term teams to come in and provide extra support for projects that need it, as well as love and service to the people of Jacmel.  Our goal on Sunday was a simple one: attend church, meet the children and families being served at the church "compound" (this word wasn't used but it's the easiest way to describe it since the church, adult educational opportunities and meal program are all in the same location), let the Haitians get to know us a little bit.

Sunday, July 11, 2010
Loving Light Hotel room, Jacmel, Haiti

After lunch we took a tap tap back to the hotel.  There aren't really clocks here.  I think it was around 1:30pm.  I changed clothes and cleaned up.  Six of us walked about a half mile through town to get ice cream.  We were not allowed to leave the hotel alone or without someone familiar with Jacmel, so on this occasion, Jennifer, who had been in Haiti a few months at this point, offered to take us out to walk around.  White women get a lot of notice on the street here, but everyone was nice and not inappropriate.  We had been warned that men might blow us kisses, but that did not happen.  There weren't many people out. The World Cup final was on TV and the streets were pretty empty. There were about 15 people in the ice cream store watching the game in Spanish while we were there. 

The normally crowded streets of Jacmel, during the World Cup soccer final.

I've been taking a break in our air and fan conditioned room.  There is so much here to see, smell, experience - I am a little overwhelmed in an over-stimulated way.  I needed a mental break.

We are having dinner at 6pm-ish (we pretty much were surprised every evening when it was time for dinner. We ate whenever dinner was ready and someone could drive the food and serving ladies over to the hotel. Sometimes that was early, sometimes later. On all the nights except our last night, we ate dinner at the hotel).  After dinner we will get info about our work jobs for the week (hopefully).

Things in Haiti change a lot as a rule.  Things aren't fixed or structured the way they are in the States.  Just because our tap tap drivers came today doesn't mean they will tomorrow.  Just because they plan jobs today doesn't mean it will turn out to be those jobs tomorrow.  It makes things more difficult logistically, but I sort of find it fascinating.

Sunday, July 11, 2010
Loving Light Hotel room, Jacmel, Haiti

Dinner was good. Rice, some kind of meat (beef? goat? wild turkey?), noodles with carrots and peas.  It is funny that I am definitely in the "old" group of our team.  I am not the age of the other "old" women (who have college aged kids), but I am also not a college aged kid. Weird.

After dinner we got our itinerary.  Mornings will be hard - painting and sanding buildings, it looks like - and then in the afternoon we will help with the feeding program.  Evenings there will be meetings or debriefings.  I was so sweaty (and dirty!) today, I can't even imagine how gross I will be tomorrow when I actually do some work!

So far: 4 mosquito bites (which turned out to actually be ant bites) on my right ankle, sore right knee (lots of hotel stairs), otherwise feeling good!

After our meeting, we broke into small groups for prayer.  It was cool to do all of that on the rooftop deck with lightning flashing in the distance.

   We had a great time singing praise songs on the roof deck after prayer requests.  The Texas group brought a guitar and bongo.  Ben is the worship leader of their church and has a really nice voice.  More than once I got goosebumps, even in the heat. 

Up tomorrow for 7am devotions!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Haiti Mission Trip - Sunday Recap Part 1

The story of the mission trip I took to Jacmel, Haiti in July 2010 with Forward Edge International continues...  I have been using the journal I kept during the trip as the source material so that I can finally share all the details of my trip. Additional "current" notes and extras are also included. It's like a DVD Bonus Section!

Sunday, July 11, 2010
7am local time (US Central)
Jacmel, Haiti - rooftop of the Loving Light Hotel

7am and it's already hot enough to be sweaty.  There is a burning smell here all the time - burning rubber or overheating cars? Turns out that the garbage and sanitation plan in Haiti is to throw all the trash out on to the street and then burn it when it becomes overwhelming. That is the smell that pervades the air.  Waiting to start 7am group devotions.  It is hard to want to eat or drink when it is so hot!

One of the things I was really confused about before I left for Haiti was the time zone situation.  If you look at a map...

There is Haiti (in purple) in the middle of the map. And, up to the left, northWEST of Haiti, is Florida/United States.  So, if Haiti is East of Florida, how is it in the central US time zone? I read that online and thought the answer had to be one of two things:
1) The internet is not always correct and Haiti is really in the Eastern time zone, or the next one earlier. 
2) Haiti isn't actually East of Florida, it just looks that way because of the way the Earth's geography is warped when stretched into a flat map.
Turns out neither of my two theories was correct. Yes, "Haitian Time" is with the US Central time zone even though it is further East than Florida. The reason seems to be agricultural.  The sun rose around 4 or , allowing people to be up and working by .  In a place where electricity is spotty at best, this is an easy way to take advantage of more hours of sun.


It was really difficult to sleep last night.  We have a fan and it is creaky.  Our bed was also creaky and Patti got up twice to pee.  We could hear ALL of the street noise in our room - honking, people shouting, music playing, trucks banging up the road.  I feel like I didn't get much sleep. Not to mention sharing a double bed in a tiny room with a stranger! =)

Still waiting for devotions.  I'm picking up a "them and everyone else" vibe going on here.  There are 15 of us, and about half are together from a high school/college youth group in Texas.  They don't interact much with the rest of us and I don't really even know their names.  There is a longer term missionary here named Jennifer who has been here are few months.  She is here to teach English and lead a women's ministry at the church.  Jennifer ended up being one of my very favorite people in Haiti.  She will be there at least until November, so please pray for her.  She left her world behind to move to Haiti and change lives.  The list of things that have been accomplished since she arrived is huge. And she has an amazing spirit of generosity. 

Change of plans! Instead of devos and breakfast here, we are going to church right now.

Changes in plans and wacky things coming up were pretty common while I was in Haiti. It was more rare for their NOT to be a change in plans.  We went places when our ride was available, which sometimes was and sometimes wasn't the time we were "scheduled" to go do something. If it rained, those plans changed.  If someone was sick, plans changed.  If supplies on one task ran out, plans changed. Etc. Our group quickly picked up two sayings from our Haitian translators and the long term missionaries we spent time with: "Haitian style", which is similiar to the slang use of "that's ghetto" in the US only without the negative connotation - being late, putting 20 people into a car that should (by US standards) seat 6, doing something in a totally strange way because it has to get done and that is the only way. Haitian style.  The other saying, "It's Haiti!" was said in resignation. If something went wrong, "Oh well, it's Haiti!"

July 11, 2010

Loving Light Hotel Room

We are back at the hotel and have a break for dinner. 

This morning we rode in a tap-tap to church, which is about a 10 minute drive into the "country".  I got to sit on the top, which is a little more scary but also allowed for a nice breeze.  I had sweated through my shirt by the time we got there!

First tap tap ride - I'm on the top left in my stylin' sun hat
Tap tap view on the way to the church
The church is cinderblock with a new roof the last FEI team finished last week.  They hang streamers and balloons in green and white to make it more festive.  There is a generator for some electrical stuff - keyboard, projector for songs. 

Church building, being prepared for services
View from front "doors" of church

Children's church is first.  The kids came from all over for church, alone with siblings.  There were very few adults around other than those involved with worship.  We helped the kids carry in chairs, then our team had breakfast (prepared by the kitchen ladies, some of whom are actually trained cooks apparently).  We sat in on children's church.  There was some kind of sermon or Bible reading. Some question and response, a lot of singing. 

There were about 250 kids there and the service lasted about an hour and a half.  All the kids were in their "Sunday best" which mostly involved second hand holiday dresses, fancy socks and whatever shoes they have.  The boys were in anything from jeans and t-shirts to school uniform type clothes.  Some of the toddler aged kids were scared of us because they haven't seen many white people before. 

The kids seemed anywhere from disinterested to suspicious of me at first.  I later learned that this had a lot to do with the fact that I have light blue eyes, which they find frightening and some think is connected to Voodoo in some way.  There were a few other team members who almost instantly had kids around them.  I felt bad, like I lost that ability to connect with kids that I used to have.  But then we were called up in church and through a translator we told our names. Right after that, I had a few kids holding my hands, high fiving me repeatedly, calling my name: "Ah-mah-DA". 

I sat on the floor in the corner of the front row of kids for the rest of the service, swinging hands with a few of the kids.  Very few of the people speak English at all.  The ones who do know a little English tend to be teens and young adults.  I had an English-French dictionary with me - you can't just walk into a Barnes and Noble and get an English-Haitian Kreole dictionary - and quickly realized it would be next to no help in Jacmel.  The Kreole dialect there is not very similar to French and I usually did better pantomiming than trying to piece something together in French and basic English.

After the kids' service, I asked the girls if I could take their pictures. It is amazing how kids are the same everywhere.  It reminded me a lot of the kids at St Paul.  They LOVED having me take their picture and show them on the screen. I could have done that all day long and they would have been happy.  I let a few of the older kids use the camera to take pictures too.  Even the adults liked having their picture taken and then looking at it.  After the service there was a little break before the adult service, which lasted more than 2 hours (sermon and singing).  The kids just play outside during that time. 

It was probably about 95 degrees. It was ridiculously hot.  Actually, it was partly cloudy and doesn't SEEM that hot. There isn't that "take your breath away" heat like in Phoenix or the hottest days at home, but I don't think I've ever sweated so much in my life.  Everyone was sweating through their clothes.  I drank 50oz of water by and felt like I was dying of thirst. (Only peed 1X today so far)

During the break and for most of the service, I spent time playing with the kids.  They showed me some goats (for food, occasionally milk).  We practiced some Kreole vocab.

Forgive me for what is probably horrendously inaccurate spelling. I wrote these down based on VERY limited French pronounciation and what the words sounded like to me. So, let's just call these phoenetic!

Koumo ooh rele? ------ What is your name?
Adume! --------------- Until tomorrow
Bonswe --------------- Good afternoon/evening
Bonjour --------------- Good morning

A few girls played with my hair.  There was one girl who kept pinching me in a way that was supposed to be loving or playful, but it really hurt! I ended up having to hide from her! One girl made me practice saying the name in the back of her Bible over and over and over. (I thought it was her name for a long time but then realized it was not.  In Haiti, they say last name first.)
Pierre Jean Rene' (Pierre Jsohn Ree-knee)


I handed out Bible stickers I brought from the Dollar Store.  I had 1 pack with me.  I drastically underestimated how many kids we would be seeing when I was buying little goodies to bring along with me for the trip.  I had to be very careful to not hand anything out unless I had enough for all the kids who were there at the time.  You would have thought those Dollar Store stickers were diamonds! They were putting their hands out, in my face, tapping me, pushing each other for a sticker.  I just kept saying, "I have enough. Please don't push!" I got really hot during that time with about 30 kids gathered around me in the sun, pushing for stickers, no chance to get a drink of water.  They were really interested in what the stickers said, so I would say the words outloud and some of the older kids would repeat them. (Jesus, love, joy, grace, etc.)

Passing out stickers

I also gave out beads and string for bracelets.  I should have brought more beads! Some kids tried to hoard the beads, but would share if I pressed them to.  Most of the kids got at least 3 beads, some as many as 20.  They had fun making the bracelets, but it was pretty chaotic. 

There were occasionally kids who would take my hand and lead me to shade, offer to carry my backpack, offer me water (which comes in little plastic bags).  I tried not to let them "serve" me unless it would be impolite.  I did let them lead me around sometimes to show me things. 

Carrying my backpack

There was a little girl, Mikaela, who kept using my sun hat to wrap up "gifts" for me to open, just like Little Man and Sister do.  I let her flip through my Bible and she found the pictures I brought of the kids.  She showed them to everyone she could find.  They were very interested in Little Man's light features. 

Not a flattering picture, but what do you want? It's 100 degrees!
Eventually I got so hot from the sun and kids crawling all over me (sitting on me or very close) that I retreated into the hot church for a break! I had avoided going inside because we had been told that it gets so hot in there during the adult service.  But there was a seat open right next to the door frame (no door) so I listened to the last 15 minutes or so of the sermon and saw how they take communion.

After the service, I spoke to some of the adults.  A student in Jennifer's English class practiced speaking English with me ("What is your name?", "How are you?", "What is your occupation?") with her help.  He did well considering they just started class yesterday!

We ate lunch at the church compound.  They tarped off the area where we ate, which made me feel bad.  We are here to visit and help but receive special food, etc.  For lunch, we had hot dogs, fried plantains, hush puppies and salad (which I didn't eat because of fear of disease from the uncooked veggies). 


Tomorrow: the rest of Sunday in Jacmel...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Arriving in Jacmel - July 2010

Continued from yesterday. The team has arrived at the airport in Port-au-Prince and are ready to depart for our drive to Jacmel.  Even though the two towns are only about 30 miles apart, we were told the drive could take "2 to 5 hours" and that car sickness was a real possibility...

July 10, 2010
6:30pm local time (coinciding with US Central time)
Jacmel, Haiti - rooftop of the Loving Light Hotel

When we got to our vehicles, we divided into two old vans.  I sat in the first row back next to the window.  As predicted, it ended up taking 4-5 hours to get here.  There are "rules of the road", but they are NOT the US rules.  Basically people drive as fast as they can on either side of the road and honk when they pass (or want to pass) a pedestrian or motorist.  There are lots of scooters and people walking. When I learned we'd be going to Jacmel, I did a search online to see pictures and found a youtube video of "the road to Jacmel" which was a video out a car window.  I watched it and thought "that isn't really a big deal", but came home with a new respect for the craziness and my own short video. This is actually not the "road to Jacmel", but the road from the beach back into town on one of our last days there.  We are on the back of a tap tap, which is an open truck with benches in the back.  Eric's response was the same as mine before I was there, so it obviously doesn't truly show what it was like, but here it is...

Lots of people were in the streets trying to sell things.

Wild dogs, goats and cows were randomly walking around, even in the urban areas of PaP.  Lots of waste and garbage.  The smell went back and forth between smelling like fried carnival food and a port-o-potty.  The amount of garbage was unbelievable.  There were people everywhere: walking, sitting, bathing, selling things. The earthquake damage was so extensive that even seeing it in person it was hard to comprehend.  It made my brain stop working to try to take it all in.

A woman in Jacmel getting water out of the sewer

 It was very hot, probably 90F and humid with no air in the van.  We ended up basically stopped for about an hour in Carrefour and I had pretty much sweated through my clothes by the time we got going again. 
We also passed quite a few tent cities on our drive through PaP and Carrefour.  These ranged in size from a few tents to true "cities" of tents.  A few of the larger "cities" we saw had port-o-potty stations, but many don't have any resources at all for sanitation or clean water. 

Once we made it through Carrefour (a suburb of Port-au-Prince), we crossed a small mountain range on a very "interesting" mountain pass. It was wide enough for 1.5 cars/vans but accomodated 2 way traffic as well as an almost constant presence of people walking or sitting on the side of the road.  The mountain area was very beautiful, like other tropical islands.  It made me think a lot about how close Haiti is to the United States (1.5 hour plane ride) and how much like Hawaii it COULD look there, and yet the history of Haiti has been so troubled.  Some pictures from the rest of our drive to Jacmel. 

Our hotel, the Loving Light Hotel, is on the main street to Jacmel.  Apparently it is a safe place.  There is usually water and electricity, but there was no water when we got here.  There was bottled water available in the lobby even when there wasn't water in the bathrooms. Even when there was water in the rooms, it wasn't potable.   I am sharing a room with a double bed with Patti.  There is basically only room for our bags and to walk around the bed.  It is tiny and mentally the biggest downer so far.  I guess I was expecting my own twin bed.  Oh well.  Patti seems nice enough. Our only room light bulb is burned out.  I ended up spending about a half an hour that evening stalking the hotel manager to get him to change our light bulb. 

Loving Light Hotel

Beautiful rooftop view

Hotel Roof Deck

We had a little time to unpack and then met up on the rooftop deck.  You can look down and see quite a bit from up here.  We had dinner made by women from the church.  It was white rice with a stew type soup (boulet) - potatoes, some kind of red meat, seasonings.  It was my only real meal all day and it tasted WONDERFUL. 

We had an orientation that I thought was pretty lame.  I don't remember most of the people's names.  8 of the 14 people who arrived today are from the same church in Texas, and pretty much everyone just said, "I want to help and meet people."  I don't know, maybe everyone was just tired.  There wasn't much guidance and I still only know that tomorrow we will have church all morning.  Apparently last week it was hot enough inside that one of the team members passed out. 
Evening debrief
I got to borrow someone's phone to call Eric.  He is disappointed that I probably won't be able to call again.  I just wanted him to know that I am safely here and he doesn't need to worry. 

Man, it is HOT. I am HOT. Did I mention IT IS HOT? If I had my own room, I would go to bed now.  Almost everyone else is sitting together talking out on the dark balcony. I should go join them.

That evening, before I realized the bug situation, I got 4 of the 5 bug bites I suffered during the trip.  I had super max bug spray - I think it was 45% DEET - and figured I'd put it on multiple times a day, which I did. But I was thinking about mosquitos and didn't think about ants on that first night.  I ended up with 4 ant bites on my foot/ankle. They itched like crazy but didn't hurt. 

Another thing I didn't mention on that first night, we were actually blessed to have AIR CONDITIONING on and off during our stay. How pampered were we? The air conditioning switched on sometime mid-afternoon (while we were out working) so we'd come back to a nice, cool room. The air stayed on until somewhere around 2am and then switched off.