Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hinche-ing into the Project

Saturday March 7, 2009

We flew from PAP to Hinche by small airplane. The dry mountains spread out beneath us, then the river, and the one large reservoir and dam that supplies water and some power to Port au Prince. I only got nauseated at the end of the flight, with some bumps and jolts, but by then the spires of the Hinche cathedral were visible. We passed the airstrip once, circled around, and landed. Goats, donkeys, pigs, and horses graze on the airstrip when the planes are not landing.

Transportation in Hinche is bike, motorbike, donkey, horse, or truck. Our driver, Ronnel, drove us all around Hinche in a very old but sturdy pickup truck that has bench-seats welded onto the bed in back. We toured the hospital, the rectory, where they serve 3 meals a day for us, at 7, 12, and 7pm., and the Whitney clinic where the Nurse practitioners will see patients this week. The hospital tour was most dramatic...these people are making do with the most difficult conditions I’ve ever imagined. Family members mostly care for the patients. They bring their own sheets, linens, and food. The hospital care consists of a diagnosis, a plan, procedures as needed...they do have radiology, and a lab, and a pharmacy. But basically, each ward is a large room, without screens, and a concrete floor, and some beds. Water may or may not work in each sink, including in the delivery room. Each nurse checks on 10-20 patients, so the family does most of the care.

We checked into our motel, which is very, very nice for local standards. The huge courtyard is paved, landscaped and shaded with mango trees. The motel provides generator power from dark until 6 am, the rooms are screened with nice windows for a breeze, and each room has its own bathroom, although there is no hot water tank. There's security and a big iron gate that is locked all night. We settled in and I hung my bed-net, and filled my 5-gallon plastic sunshower, and set it out in the sun to warm up; this was a wonderful idea and I'm looking forward to a warm shower eventually! For even more luxury, we took a trip in the truck to th Ebenezer store, one of the largest shops (with actual glass doors!) and bought...ooooh! fairly cold beer!!!
Dinner at the rectory was Beans, Rice, goat stew, plaintains, bananas... thank GOD I love beans and rice!

The Hinche water supply is ok for washing, but not drinking. All drinking water is trucked in, or folks boil it before drinking. My water bottle, which I fill when we eat our 3 meals a day at Father Jacques’ rectory, has become the only thing I drink from. Hinche has no public electricity. Power is on only at night, and only in houses that have generators or large strings of car batteries. My little battery-operated booklight is another best friend. At night, candles and small fires, light some of the homes. Anywhere there is a streetlight, or any light on the street, there are small groups of people, reading, including adults with books and newspapers, and children with schoolbooks.
So we spent Saturday in travel and preparation mode, and on Sunday we'll go to Mass....then Monday, the real work begins. I hope I can do some good.


  1. Thank you so much for taking time to write and share your amazing experience. As I plan my Target trip this morning, check off my to-dos and go forth into my "suburban" day, I am reminded that fullness of life is not measured by the things that I possess or can get done. Through your journey we can get perspective - a much needed gift!

  2. That is one scary looking truck!!! I'm so glad you bought him new tires!!!