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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Haiti on my Mind

Haiti is in the back of my mind most of the time.  So glad I went back again.  The second experience was not so overwhelming as the first time, so I could enjoy individuals more, and on a more relaxed atmosphere.  It was good to see some faces and names from before, DiDi, the security man who helped me last time on the Tom's shoe drop; Paige the wonderwoman, Peter, Wilson, Samy, etc.   A number of the little children I remembered from last time, as well, and was good to see them growing and thriving.
The changes in Haiti are evident, too.  Subtle, but there.  There isn't so much rubble in Port-au-Prince.  Tent cities are fewer. At the airport, I was handed a magazine promoting tourism in Haiti.  Yes, I wrote that correctly.  There are some beautiful areas in Haiti, and there is hope (Espwa).  If it can happen in some places, it could happen in more--in time.  See for yourself at 
I'm adding pictures to the blog today since the wifi was intermittent and slow.  Hope your enjoy my pics and let me know if you want to talk about Haiti or have any questions.    If you'd like to view a few more pictures, please follow this link    
Au Revoir!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tees, donkey hunt, balloons & play

This morning after breakfast, we had the last group of little boys come in and do handprints on their tees. Like all the others, they enjoyed it as well. They also got to mark them up with indelible markers if they chose. Soccer heros are big for this age group.

Leah coerced us into going on a donkey hunt this morning, as she has been craving a ride on one. Luckily, Samy went with us. He has been wonderful for us this whole week. He's worked with the children, interpreted for us, ran interference with the locals, and has a great sense of humor. Anyway, Samy led us to a friend, who thought he knew someone with a donkey. They both led us astray--into the jungle overgrowth to a tiny path that wound around into the bananas, palms, mangos and plantain trees. We saw some interesting homes. Children followed us, yelling at us but then hiding. Finally we came to a home where a man was building, and we found a shade tree to stand under while negotiations were under way. We hadn't thought of bringing money along, so hopes were dashed when the man wanted 1,000 gourdes (about. $25) to sit on his donkey. We declined and went back for lunch.

Siesta time, but some of us instead (the three guys and me) filled up coolers and tubs of water balloons for some of the kids. We thought they would arrive about 2:00, but there was another activity at the school, so we didn't see anyone until about 4:30. We all climed on the rof of the guest house, and as soon as the boys saw their cooler of balloons on the ground, you know what broke out. These kids can throw. Everyone was soaked--on the ground, and on the roof. It was great, and they enjoyed it a lot.

 Lori met with her young men again again, and brought them to the guesthouse for cokes and chips after they were finished with their meeting, and we all got to say goodbye and mingle a bit, and took a full staircase picture of all of us together. Hugs and kisses, and au revoir.

Supper, our favorite Haitian spaghetti. We some of us took a last visit to the children's village to play and visit. So hard to leave some of these children. Now preparing for an early night and very early departure. We will leave by 2:30 in the morning for the return drive to Port-a-Prince, for a 9:00 flight to Fort Lauderdale.

It's been awesome, but I think we are ready to come home and process some of what we've experienced. Poor Haiti, there is so much potential. There has been some improvements, but they have so far to go.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Carribean Holiday

Today was a slower day. After breakfast, I took Keeley and Doris with me to see Sony and Sonice. We took turns holding, rocking, and taking lots of pictures. The four girls that live in the same house confiscated our cameras and took a LOT of nothing pics--blurs, photos of other cameras, etc. They had a ball.

We were going to do more tees for the boys today, but most of them were in the elementary school building. We went over to see what was going on, since school is out, but I couldn't find anyone that spoke English. I found my way to the principals office and had to sit there for a few minutes. Surprise, surprise! Finally, Bertony came by and explained they were having a special session of health talks--hygiene, health care, safety, etc.

We climbed on the roof of the quad while Greg, Darrell and Dillon flew kites, and I heard a commotion just beyond Espwa land. I could only assume it was a fourth of July celebration, perhaps a hot dog and hamburger BBQ. Just kidding. So, several of us walked to the tailors shop (in the general direction) and out onto the road. When we got close enough, we stopped and watched. Some of the rara band members, and the flag bearer, waved us in, and the group opened up a circle in the middle. Greg was first, and I went second. They wanted us to dance. They were also singing, so of course we couldn't follow along, but many of the women outside the band circle were also dancing. I think they were amused at our white dancing. But we kept it up. Finally, more of us got brave and joined in. What fun it was!

Late in the afternoon, we boarded two vans and went to Port Salut further up the coast. It has beautiful beaches,and several resorts. We had a delicious dinner, walked on the beach, and waded. The lucky men had swim trunks/shorts and jumped from rocks into the gorgeous blue water. So jealous. Hard to believe some of Haiti could be like this. If only the rest could be the same, the Dominican Republic could have a run for their money.

 Another good day in Haiti.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mother Teresa and more tees

This morning we had a wonderful breakfast of oatmeal, passion fruit juice, and mango. Then we went to the Mother Teresa orphanage. Again, we had to wait a bit to gain entry, but it was nothing like the prison fiasco. First we met Sister _______ from India. She explained that lepers make the cloth and material and sew their habits, then the nuns purchase them from the lepers in India. This gives them an income, and a skill.     This is the only picture from inside the orphanage.
First, we were shown where the sick babies are--malnourished, HIV, TB, you name it. They were not handicapped, but in dire straits. Picture 30 babies in metal cribs, row after row. One cries, you pick her up and she wraps her little frail arms around your neck and lays her head on your shoulder. What would you do? We cried. We stayed a few minutes, cuddling and loving these beautiful little creatures. I could barely stand to put her down. A few older children wandered around in this ward, very happy to see us, clinging and laughing and holding our hands. Again, sick children that most likely will not get well.

We were then taken upstairs where the handicapped children are. We were handed over to Sister Guadeloupe, a spitfire from Costa Rica. And what a place this was. We were totally unprepared for this visit. Everywhere we looked we saw happy children, much loved and very well cared for. There we're a variety of ages in there, from infants to a few teenagers. There was a blind boy less than two who was practically doing gymnastics in his crib. We were fearfull of him falling, but Sister G explained this is his fun, and he never fsls out. He was standing in his head, with his toes curled around the top of the crib. There was also a tiny girl grotesquely bent out of shape. I would have guessed she was 2 or 3 years old, but we're told she was 13, and has menengitis. Very sad. The rest of the place was amazing. Children in wheelchairs, deformed, retarded, etc., all with smiles and handshakes or yells and giggles. Sister G touched or spoke with each one as she walked by. They have sensory rooms, a very cool massage area, physical therapy daily, wonderful play rooms. These, truly, are very lucky children.

Often, when children like these are born, they are given odd names, such as ones that mean crippled one, or something similar. They might be kept in a corner and fed and cared for but that would be all. Their potential is never tried, and they dot know the care of a loving family. This was a great place to visit, and very uplifting. We'll all remember Nadia, who picked one of us at a time, particularly Leah, hugged on us like Velcro and lugged us around the whole time we were there.

Lunch was grilled cheese and ham with tomato, and wonderful fried potatoes.

After lunch, we had girls and some medium size boys come and decorate tees. Then we went to the children's village while some of our men played bongos, guitar, and rock for their entertainment. I don't know how impressed they were, but we were entertained by antics, cartwheels, and a homemade kite. Leah made one little boy dance with her, but after that, they all ran away when she approached.

Supper was rice with a salmon sauce, so I had rice. Believe me, I won't starve.

After dinner, some of us took a walk up the road. I had taken pictures of a family last time I was here, and I wanted to give them copies. So, on the way, we passed a circle of men, 2 and 3 deep, yelling and carrying on. We walked quickly past and contemplated returning by a different route. They sounded angry. Found the path to the house I was looking for, but no one was home! I left the pictures on their door, and hoped they wouldn't blow away.

Then we found out the "angry mob" was a cock fight, and it had broken up by the time we went by on our return. Important enough to have a permanent ring installed!  Again, another busy day, full of surprises.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Today’s varied activities-trash, prison, and tees

It was my turn to blog for the Schweitzer team, so I've copied it below. No way I was going to relive this morning again so soon.

 This morning, after waking a bit early, I had my first cup of coffee and went to see the twin babies, Sony and Sonice.  I held and played with them for about a half hour, and it was a great start to a beautiful day.

Still before breakfast, many of us joined the medical volunteers in helping the children pick up trash in the children’s village.  This is a chore they take turns doing.  I believe there were about 20-30 children, and several adults.  Everyone donned rubber gloves, and we swooped the area, filling several yard size trash bags.  Although in my book it would be much easier to put trash in a trash can the first time around, that isn’t the way here.  Someone would find many other uses for the trash cans, and bags, so they can’t be left out.  This way also teaches responsibility, gives the children chores, and a health lesson, too.

After breakfast, we loaded the vans with the items for the prisoners and went to town.  There is a certain protocol in this endeavor, and it has taken Fr. Mark and Paige several years to have the kind of relationship with the Chief Inspector to enable these visits.  Once there, we had to wait about 30-45 minutes for the Inspector to arrive.  When he did, he pulled up in a heavily armored car, windows darkened and reinforced glass.  Although there were others there in highly decorated uniforms, the Inspector had a Hawaiian shirt on.  He came over to meet each of us, talked to Paige, looked at the picture of her baby, and had our bags inspected (cursory).  He then called for Paige to meet him in his office, where he proceeded to give her a hard time for not being there for the last 7 months (she was in the U.S. having her baby) and wasn’t going to let us in.  Paige used her powerful art of persuasion and managed to get us in in two groups.  So the first group went in, and the rest of us waited in the car for about 45 minutes.  When it was our turn, we walked into the main courtyard and saw what we had been warned about.  It is not indescribable; the conditions are deplorable, dreadful, miserable, reprehensible, disgraceful, and woefully inadequate.

Cells surround a central courtyard.  There are probably 10-12 cells, 10x 15 feet or so.  In these cells are anywhere from 25 to 47 men.  One cell had only 5 prisoners, who were isolated because of chicken pox.  Prisoners are allowed time in the courtyard once a day for 30 minutes each, maybe.  We saw men bathing in the courtyard, soapy water from a bucket, with their underwear on. None of the men I saw had more clothing than that on, most likely because the heat would have been unbearable.  Some men were clinging to the iron bars on the doorway, struggling for fresh air.  Others were sitting on a bunk bed,new additions to the cells.  Some were eating some brown slop from a tin bowl. The courtyard was strewn with freshly laundered clothing, drying on the 100 degree concrete.  We were told how many men were in each cell, and that exact number of packets were handed through the cell opening to the “cell leader”.  Hierarchy exists in prison, too.  As we moved from cell to cell, we noticed a variety of emotions among the inmates– despondency, to a few smiles.  I was told once, “Bless America,” and another “Thank You”, in English.

The women fared a bit better.  They had an enclosed area in front of their cells, where drying laundry hung above their heads.  They sat and talked, as women tend to do, some combing or braiding hair.  They were happy to see Paige’s picture of Lydia.  We handed their packets to the cell leader–washcloth, soap, sports bra and panties. We concluded our visit by leaving enough packets for the prison workers, as well, to ensure everyone was happy.  As we left, we had to wash our hands with chlorinated water.  I was happy to do so.  No pictures were allowed. 

Some of these inmates are guilty, some not, some have done more time than they could possible imagine for petty crimes.  Some have been incarcerated for months or even years without being formally charged or seen a judge.  It really doesn’t matter in the log run.  No one should have to suffer the inhumane conditions here.  Like Keeley said, God loves us all, and we are all his children.  Pray for Haiti, please.

Lunch was ready upon our return, and after siesta, we had a  more happy afternoon.  The oldest boys came to the guesthouse and decorated tee shirts.  Some are true works of art, and the boys were VERY particular about how they wanted to work.  We could barely pry the paint and markers out of their hands!  

Dinner, and a walk in the area near Espwa.  Baby goats (one was rescued from a ravine (thanks, Kiwi), and lots of neighbors had to come see the crowd of Blan’s (whites) coming down the road.  I’m sure we were a sight.

Good night, all, and remember us as we try to continue good works here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday night

We are all so tired tonight. I think the adrenalin has been keeping us going until now. Plus, the heat is cumulative.

This morning some of the team went to mass, but three of us (Lori, Kayla and me) went to help with Sunday School. The young men leading SS are on Lori's team, and after some prodding, used the puppets to tell the story of Zacchaeus. Dillon drew an awesome tree for Z. to climb up in. The children loved it. Also, gotta love the upside down crowd of people around Zacchaeus during one of the classes.  Afterwards, we made puppets from lunch sacks with googly eyes. Then they received cool wristbands and stickers. They are like boys everywhere, they hid their stickers and acted like they hadn't received any. They wanted them to wear as tattoos, as well.

 Afterwards, we met with Lori's young men,and listened as Lori explained what was planned for the team Jeremiah. Each introduced themselves, then so did we. It was fun, there was laughter, then we all took pictures together.

After lunch and a siesta, we had the girls come to shop. A wonderful donor from the northwest sent 50 pillowcase dresses, so we let the girls, and their housemothers, pick the ones they wanted, with their own personal shopper (us). They also received a flower for their hair, a comb, and a pair of panties. The girls were as picky as we were when there is a choice. pretty funny. It was a good time, and we all got kisses and hugs afterwards.
Dinner was garlic toast and a delish eggplant Parmesan. And yes John, I ate it and was glad to.

Some are out on an evening walk now, but I am pooped. Ttyl

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Night Fever

Well, it is Saturday night, and I'm hot, so I guess that counts.

I forgot to mention, on the way down here, we passed a group of people (more of a friendly swarm) and discovered that President Michel Martelly was speaking with citizens.  Not a big deal, but kinda interesting.  Wasn't surrounded with secret service or anything like we would have.  I'm sure there were body guards, though.

Also Bill Clinton is somewhere near by, but he hasn't called on us.  We just saw where the Clinton-Bush Foundation released a bunch of aid money.  Yea.

This morning after a breakfast of toast, strong Haitian coffee and omelets, we unloaded our duffel bags and started a production line making packets for the many prisoners in the Les Cayes prison.  Conditions there are terrible.  There are currently under 600 men, and about 30 women.  For the men, we have boxers, tees, soap and a washcloth.  For the women, we have panties, sports bras, soap and a washcloth.  We will be going to visit the prison on Monday.

Mid-morning, we took a van into Les Cayes, and went to a huge open market "farmers" market.  This isn't the usual Les Cayes market, but beyond the city.  The parking lot was really a donkey lot, with the longest stretch of tied up donkeys I've ever seen.  You could buy anything here, including  sugar cane (which we did), hand woven straw hats (that I didn't but now wish I had), hoofs,sausage, rice, corn, clothing, used shoes, sundries, whole live hogs, and they even had hot dog carts, Laura.  However, they didn't look too sanitary, so we didn't partake. I really was intrigued by the butchered animals.   I'm sure they were delicious after sitting in the hot Haitian sun for a few hours!

The beautiful little girl in the hat (with lower arm amputated) and her brother followed us around the market the whole time.  I gave her some money after we took her picture.
Back for lunch, which was a delicious rice dish (see facebook photo).  Then I took copies of photos I'd taken on my last trip and went to see the Espwa cooks.  They make over 2000 meals per day, and seem to have a great time!   They loved the pictures, and laughed at each other and showed them around.  Made it worthwhile.  They may let me come "help" them cook again later, perhaps.

I took a real nap today, slept and everything, and awoke refreshed. Then two groups of little boys came in the guesthouse and colored pictures.  The first group was about 7 years old, the second probably 9 or 10.  There are some really good artists.   

Dinner time, and we had wonderful home made pizza.  And, we had a surprise cake for pastor Lori, since this is her last day as a Schweitzer employee.  As of tomorrow, she works for Espwa.  So, we had a nun on top, with "Congratulations, Sister Mary Lori", since Espwa is run by a catholic organization.  I don't think she'll convert, but just wanted to cover our bridges.  Also gave her a ruler, as that's my understanding how nuns kept discipline in the good ol' days. Please note the writing was done by our Haitian cook.  Pretty good!

Tomorrow is going to be a fun day, full report then.  Au revoir!