Monday, December 7, 2009
A Day in Haiti Lasts Three Days
At 4pm today, I was hiking down a rugged dirt path, gazing at dry blue mountains rising above bright green sugar cane fields. We had just viewed a rural school that our interpreters started this year, partly with funding from US donors like us and volunteers from their own community.. The school consists of blackboard, benches, a latrine and a thatched roof. At the 4pm moment, I dodged a cow coming down a path, with a kid following her on a string, not exactly in charge, but hanging on…. I looked at my watch, turned to my travel partner midwife Sharon Ryan and said “We’ve almost been in Haiti 24 hours.” Her eyes widened; she sighed, and she agreed…in regular time, we have only been here one day. It feels like 3. Maybe 4. But they have been 3 really good days, and we should sleep great tonight.
Our arrival in Port au Prince was a brief, intense overnight stay. The short drive through the city was almost as disturbing as my first time; the gigantic potholes! The dusty, hot streets! The minimal sanitation! and lots of pedestrians trying to avoid motorbikes and trucks. Our hostess, BethMcHoul fed us a lovely dinner, and showed us her women’s center and birth center, which is saving the lives of the poorest women in Port au Prince. Her program teaches women sewing skills to foster financial independence, provides basic education (reading, writing, math), prenatal and classes on health care, breast feeding. They even feed these severely malnourished women high protein meals by raising their own tilapia! Then Beth and other volunteer midwives attend these women’s births with dignity and kindness in a place where very little of that exists. And as a bonus, they give Midwives for Haiti volunteers a safe overnight when we’re coming into the country. God Bless them!~ heartlineministries.org. We donated some baby clothes medical supplies salvaged from the US hospitals, meds that she can’t get in Haiti, and she gave us advice and wisdom on working with Haitian women and culture.
Today has been a day of gladness and pieces falling into place. I had such joy to reconnect with the friends I made last March…our interpreters, Theard and Manno, and Ronel, our driver., Danise, our Haitian nurse-midwife teacher. After the 20 minute lflight in a 4- seater plane, we landed with no plan at all, other than to start making phone cell phone calls to all the people that we need to meet with. But, then the sun, moon , and stars all lined up… Father Jacques , our primary Haitian contact and advisor, said “come on over, I will be happy to see you now!” Within an hour of landing, we were sitting on his balcony with our group and both the M4H teachers, Danise, and Marthone, talking over many of the issues we current issues for the program and goals for the week. Then things just kept moving—we got to the orphanage where we will stay in the guesthouse. Ate dinner (Beans! Rice! Goat stew! Surprise!) with all staff and Brother Harry and Mike. We visited the homes of Theard and Manno, saw their kids and wives…I am getting re-accustomed to kissing on both cheeks as a greeting. We examined a friends’ wife and will try to find the right meds to help her severe abdominal pain. (We think she has an ulcer.) We saw the rural school (ie, paragraph 1!) that Theard and Manno have built simply on believing that they should, and friends have funded in random and generous manners when they can. As a result, since this past October, 72 children in Naral are learning to read and write who have never been to school before.
We looked at the house that MH could consider renting to have a “permanent space” that’s ours. I don’t think that particular house will work, but it’s an idea. This little non-proft currently lives out of closets in about 4 builidngs and pays room and board for 2 Haitian teachers in 2 different places. A “home of our own” in Hinche could save money and logistical energy. But for now, we’re “home”—the Maison du Fortune Orphange. A soccer game of about 30 kids was going in the courtyard when we returned at dusk. The boys are sweet and shy, but love it when we speak English with them—or join in their games. We brought them shoes, clothes, and medicines. Wait ‘til they see we brought them a soccer ball and a basketball.
I think I’m in an emotional honeymoon phase…I do find that as a “second voyager”, I’m now less traumatized by the poverty, and can really cope better and feel more normal than the first time. (I have high hopes that I won’t wake up crying at all!—we’ll see.) The bigger and harder issues of the week have not yet even begun. We need to spend some special teaching time with our students, have some meetings about getting the new graduates jobs, travel out to see some former grads at their practice sites, and oh yeah, Stephen lands Tuesday and we’ll start to make a film! But tonight, I’m just happy.
Happy to be in Haiti. The mountains and fields are spectacular. The people are incredible. They just keep trying, and they show that it’s true—we should never, ever, give up. You never know when things will go exactly right. Like today…these 3 days that we just lived in one.