Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Report from Port au Prince, Haiti

I wanted to pass on this email I just received. Before I left, I helped to pack up food to be taken to Port au Prince. Jean Monique Bruno is the person who transported the food to the capital city, and this is a report of his experience. Just thought you might like a follow-up of what he saw while he was there.



Dear friends,

I made the trip to Port-au-Prince and back to Terrier Rouge. Thank you to all of you for your prayers and generosity. Thank you for accompanying the people of Haiti in their moment of trial. We urgently need your continued help.

I left Terrier Rouge on Sunday 17th at 5.00 am with a truck loaded with food for 250 families affected by the earthquake and 10 young volunteers. After eight hours on the road we arrived at the Capital of Haiti. Immediately we started our relief work by visiting the most affected areas. I could not believe what I saw. The City where I grew up does not exist any longer. The Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Church attended by my family, the temple which witnessed my ordinations was completely destroyed. My primary and high school where I had my education was leveled. Most of the government buildings including the National Palace either were severely damaged or do not exist any longer. One cannot describe the scene. One has to be there. TV coverage shows only part of the devastated Port-au-Prince.

I went to one of the Episcopal high schools, named College St Pierre to see the Bishop and saw the damages. This school which was the pride of the Diocese for their academic performance fell down and killed lot of students. In the court yard the sisters of St Margaret, the Bishop and two other priests along with more than a thousand people took refuge there. They live under camping tents. The Bishop was not there but I visited with the two priests. One of them was the Dean of the Seminary, The very Rev. Oge Beauvois who explained to me that they do not have the means to feed the people there. I promised him that I will send food for them this coming Friday.

Everywhere in Port-au-Prince people live in the streets or they use any park or space they can find. They sleep under the stars. Their temporary shelters are made of sheets some of them have recovered from the ruins. Praise the Lord is not raining. Tears came down as I was walking between the bodies of the dead who were still laying on the pedestrian walk way waiting to be picking up by the truck to be buried in a common grave.

As I was walking I visited a community of 300 families gathered together on a small property without water, food and so on.. They were practically dying. I stopped and was watching them. One guy who happens to be their leader approached me and talked to me. He asked me for help for those people. I agreed to provide food to them. Immediately he gathered the community and we discussed how we will proceed. They formed a committee for the distribution. The next day we drove the truck there and they received the food which was going to be distributed. I gave them food for two hundred people but they told me that everybody will find something. They started reducing the packages we had prepared in Terrier Rouge so instead of 200 families, 300 may have something to eat. They show a real concern for everyone.

The remaining 50 packages were distributed in the area where my family lives to the neighbors. With the volunteers we participated in the recovery of the bodies of my cousin and her granddaughter who were under the rumblings. After we found them, we buried them not too far from their destroyed home.

The needs are countless. I felt since the moment of the tragedy that I had to intervene in a way or other to bring my support to fellow citizen. Families are living the Capital and are moving the country. I am helping also in this area. On our way back the truck was loaded with people from Terrier Rouge we brought to their families.

What we are doing is very small compared to the massive aid that the international community is pouring on Haiti. But it is very significant in the sense that in distributing our help we do not need an army to protect us. We use the channel of community leaders. We do it with discretion. Nobody has noticed that we were transporting food for the victims. There was no fight, no riot and everyone we reach had received something. Neither I nor the volunteer ever felt threatened, on the contrary we did our work with joy trusting in the Lord’s power for protection.

When I had to leave for Port-au-Prince, there was no gasoline in the whole country. I crossed the border and talked to the DR authorities in Dajabon and they allowed me to buy the quantity of diesel fuel I needed for the whole trip. The food also is bought there. So I do not have any problem to get the food to Port-au-Prince.

An idea of what I took to Port-au-Prince: rice, beans, corn, charcoal, oil, spaghetti, matches, cassava, bread, biscuits, candles, dry fish and water.

I am going back to Santo Domingo this Saturday after sending the truck again and will come back next week will make another trip to Port-au-Prince.

I urge you to be part of this relief work. You can give to any organization of your choice but believe me any penny you give our Organization “Esperance & Vie” through Bethlehem Ministry will go right away to the suffering people.

For the time being school is closed in the whole country. As I was writing this report, we have received an aftershock in Terrier Rouge and this happen from time to time. Last night, the people in Cap-Haitien experienced the same phenomenon. People are still living in a very panic situation. They do not want to take any chance to stay in their homes.

We continue to count on you prayers and generosity. Please forgive me for the length of this report.

Your servant


Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti - Last entry before returning home

This is the final entry about my actual travels. Reflections may come later, but for now I want to record some of the last interviews I had with people.

I had to scratch and claw my way onto a flight leaving Haiti. So much tumult because of the earthquake and the chaos it produced. My confirmed airplane seat vaporized, but there was still the possibility of this or that. While at the airport, I talked to a long time friend who was still in Haiti. His story is amazing.

I am on the airplane now. What an ordeal! I was on the flight. Then not. Then I am again. But now the plane is too heavy. Can only take 5 not 8. So I stay. But I wait. My friend says he has a possibility. A flight coming in with doctors might have space. So we wait. And while we wait I interview him.

He works at the local airport in a city in north Haiti. I knew that he had married an American woman. Apparently, after they married, they returned to the states and he attends college. But his heart is in Haiti, so he and his family return and build an incredible operation supporting education for Haitians. But his story doesn't start there.

He used to live in a small town in Haiti. A missionary comes and visits for a week. She sees him and likes him, but then she's gone. However, it seems she is not done with her Haitian experience. She decides later that she needs to help him. Just him. He wants to go to school. So she pays for his education. He moves to a larger town with a good high school. I meet him there. I'm there for the summer to see what I can see and do what I can do.

Soon, he is done with school. Eventually he meets someone from the States. They get married and move to the northern US. He is able to attend college because a well-known business man has bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to the college, so that 3rd world people could get an education. So he is able to afford the education! Amazing.

He graduates. I don't remember what he said he studied. Was it business administration? He loves his new life in the States, but he has a heart for Haiti. He is where he is because of generosity of others, and he can't ignore that. So he wants to give back.

Why does he stay in Haiti? What is the draw? He himself says that one must be crazy to stay in Haiti. There is nothing here. N O T H I N G. No exaggeration. But his heart is here. He and his wife build schools, and they support education for over 2000 students. Some of their success stories involve doctors who, now educated, have been able to help with the recent crisis --- traveling to PAP to provide emergency medical care. He supports students in whatever they want to do. Become teachers, doctors, nurses, construction workers, plumbers. He supports them all. And he is amazed.

It takes a special person who wants to stay in Haiti. He encourages his students to stay, but does not obligate them. No one can be forced to stay here. There's nothing to offer. How many decide to stay? About 25 or 30%. That seems low to me, until I look around. Everything is dilapidated. And not because of the earthquake. Everything is a chore -- having a car, a house with running water, lightbulbs that glow from a steady flow of electricity, a job, etc. You have to build it yourself, make it yourself, run it yourself. It gets very overwhelming after a while.

I finally get on a flight out of the country. I have to pay extra to fly on the airline whose plane has just landed. Anything. I need to leave now. I've said my goodbyes. I make it on the plane and feel as if I've just climbed a mountain, it took such effort. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my mom, or to the nice gentleman who helped me so much. I wave at them over the large iron gate as I walk out to the plane.

Many on the plane clap when it leaves the ground on take-off. They had the same experience I did -- having to pay more for a seat. It's worth it. We fly 25 minutes and land in Provo on the tiny island of Turks and Caicos. It's a world of difference, 25 minutes away. The airport is sophisticated. In a modern building equipped with running toilets, warm water to wash my hands, and air conditioning. Air conditioning! I'm shocked that I've missed it as much as I have.

From there, on to Ft Lauderdale. Then Los Angeles. Then San Jose. I'm home. The journey is so long that is helps make the break from Haiti to home. 2 different worlds. Easy to forget one while in the other. But I'm hoping that my writing will help avoid that. Time will tell.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti - Day 7

It's my last day here and I'm sad to leave. There are many, many beautiful things about this place. It's a tropical island, but more than that, the people here are beautiful, interesting and varied. It helps to learn their language and their way of life, so that we can communicate and just talk with one another, sharing experiences and thoughts.

I interviewed the School Manager. He went to school in Business Administration, and worked previously in a bank, and then in the Vocational School here in town. He has been at this school for a little over a year. He is 2nd in charge after the Director of the organization. He guides the curriculum and manages the staff. There is a school Principle, who works with the parents primarily and oversees the pedagogy. At least, this is what I understand given my limited Creole and his limited English. He is shy, though, so I think he understands more than he is able to speak.

What are his dreams, his vision for this school? He has thought about this a lot. The vision is not completely formed in all aspects, but he has some ideas. First, he wants this to be the best school in all of Northern Haiti and then all of Haiti. He wants the reputation to be far-reaching. Anyone who gets a diploma from this school will know to be well-educated and well-prepared to do the next thing in their life. I think that's a good goal.

After that, he is not sure. He thinks that people need to be trained in how to use computers. Not computer science (programming, developing computer programs, hardware or software). Rather, they need to know how to use the computer in their work, no matter what they are doing. They must be able to write letters, work spreadsheets, run databases, etc. There are other work skills that are needed as well around the town.

As an educator, he believes that people must be well-educated and prepared for what they will be doing in life.

The one thing that I haven't heard much about from leaders here that I've spoken with is job creation. How to generate work for those who want it. There are good, smart people who have very little to do. They stand around, sit around. Wander around. Waiting for something to happen. Whenever there is a project -- a building needs building, or a new paint job, or a washed car, or a fixed car, they are ready and willing to help. Some of them have the skills. We have a skilled carpenter and a skilled mechanic, but very little building and very few cars. So they languish.

How can we create good, sustained jobs for them?

I spoke with a local man, who is the mechanic, handyman, yard duty manager for the school, among other things. He shows me around the Jatropha Nursery. I see plants that are 2 years old, with mature pods and seeds. I ask to see the seedlings, so they take me through the mud. As I walk along, the plants get shorter, and shorter, and shorter, til they are only little tufts of green shooting up from the dirt. These are the seedlings, 9 days old. Then 2 months old. The ones I saw when I first came through the gate are 2 years old. I take a picture of the seeds, which are picked, then crushed to create glycerine, biodiesel, etc. Even the pods are crushed and used. Nothing is wasted.

The Handyman says "This is the best project." Why? From this we can make many things. And then we can sell these things. -- He is talking about job creation. More people can grow them. Work with them, sell them, make money. Is that how it works?

How else can we create jobs? I think I need to poke around some more and figure some things out.

That's all for now. I need to eat lunch, so that I can go to the airport (and wait for 2 hours til my flight comes).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti - Day 6

Today has been spectacular and busy. I thought it would be a slow day. Saturday, with school and clinic shut down, it was suggested I take a nap in the middle of the day. Little did I know what was in store for me!

We are starting our official "Disaster Relief" today. We get 1 ton of food (no joke) -- rice, beans, cooking oil, corn -- from the next town over, and we spend the afternoon divvying up the 100 lb bags into smaller rations. We must travel to The Dominican Republic in order to get diesel fuel to make the trip to PAP. How tremendous to help out with this effort, knowing that the food would be in the hands of earthquake victims in PAP in 24 hours. Plus, to see Haitians willing to help their fellow countrymen is such a great thing.

Before we were done packing the food, someone came and said we need to make a house call. Someone has returned from PAP and is injured -- could we come to her home, please? The clinic is closed. Yes, we will come.

We drive through town. Me, the clinic director, and 2 translators who know where she lives. We get there and go into her small hut. She's a girl of 13. In the earthquake, her foot was damaged. She was fixed up by the Red Cross. Afterwards, in an aftershock, a wall fell on her and she was injured some more. She is in terrible pain. Her foot hurts, she can't sit up or feel her leg, really. Her back hurts tremendously. She has a high fever and is dehydrated. She is lying down on all sorts of pillows, towels, etc. Anything to try and make her comfortable. Her back hurts, and later we find out it might be her pelvis. Either one of these is very serious.

We impress upon the family that this is a true emergency. How did she travel all the way from PAP to here in such pain? I can't imagine!

We leave her house and tell her we will return with medicine for her. We rummage through everything we have. Who has pain medication? She needs morphine, but nobody has any of that laying around. We find something for her in the clinic's pharmacy. We make a chart for her, so that she has a record should she return for a follow-up visit. We also take something special to drink for her so she can get quickly re-hydrated. It is hot in her hut, and she has a fever.

We explain very, very carefully, more than once, how to take the medicine. When, which one, how often, etc. The translator translates. We make up some of the special drink, showing her family exactly how to mix it. She must sip on it slowly. We give her a sip. Then rest. Talk with the family some more and explain what needs to happen. She takes another sip of the drink.

We say that she needs to go to the hospital as soon as possible. We need to figure out which one is open. How will she get there? There is one close, but the road is too bumpy. She will be in too much pain, so we think about the other options. We make her take another sip of the drink.

We tell the family what we think is wrong. We impress on her that it is a real emergency. The clinic director takes me aside and wonders if she will live through the night. I really hope so. I tell the girl to take another sip of the drink. We impress upon them the importance of drinking fluid. It only makes things worse if she is in pain with something broken AND she has a high fever AND is dehydrated. They can manage the dehydration.

She becomes incredibly restless, moaning from the pain. We hope she makes it through the night. And then we leave. She must rest now. And the medicine will kick in and help her sleep.

We know that we will see more cases like hers. People coming out of Port au Prince. They are distressed from the earthquake, maybe injured. We will need to treat them. We know they are coming. Thank goodness there is a clinic in the area that can provide care for them, and they know where to go.

The priest goes to visit her after dinner, later that night. Her fever has broken. Obviously the family took our advice seriously and fed her lots of fluids. And we see that they will take her in the morning to the hospital. We will hear tomorrow about her progress.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti - musings of a country in crisis

More musings about the day. We had a baby emergency that took us away from the emergency of the country. I wrote about it below. I've also interviewed other Haitians around here to better understand them and what is happening in the country in general (outside of the general emergency). It's more about the mission work than the country.

There is a woman here who is concerned about educating women in the town. There must be something better than chasing after a boyfriend and having babies. Many girls don't go past grade 6 because they have a kid and have to work. She wants them to have an opportunity. Something to do.

Her first priority is a library. For the school and for the community. A place for people to come and to learn. There isn't much opportunity to learn. The library would offer resources as well as classes, a place for people to gather and to learn. Give them something to do that is constructive.

This is the countryside. There isn't much to do. No mall, no cinema, no places to go and hang out. Not everyone likes to come to the country. Especially not the young people.

A baby came today. The clinic was closed, so they came to the school. The gardener got out a cot to put the baby on. 3 women came, all concerned about the baby. The American doctor (whose speciality is neonatology) unwraps the baby. It's a preemie. Was 1 month old. Dehydrated. Crying. So cute, but so tiny! The legs were like feathers. It weighed nothing.

We send the woman home to get formula. The baby is hungry! He must eat. He cries and cries. We try to placate him, but not much works. He cries and cries. They come with the formula. The doctor wants to talk about dosage. I want to grab the formula out of his hand, mix it in water and quick! feed it to the baby. He's crying and he's hungry! The women don't know exactly how to do it. They mix the formula well, no lumps as the power dissolves into the water. But they make the formula too thin. They want it to last a long time. So the baby eats, but stays hungry. They mix the formula, but don't feed him all of it. They start to put it away. We say no! get it back out! the baby must eat it all! then eat again in 2 hours. Eat every 2 hours, add more formula to the water. He must eat eat eat! We tell them how to do this. Exactly. The mother can't do this, she died in childbirth. So the aunts have taken over and try to save the baby. They feed him with a spoon. They do well. Don't waste a drop. Feed him with love and care.

The doctor says bring him back on Friday for a checkup. We will see if he looks better. After they leave, the doctor tells us he wonders if the baby will be alive on Friday. I can't conceive of anything different. He must live! He must. There are other things wrong with him. He is anemic. He is a preemie. He might have brain damage. But right now, we want him to live til Friday.

Berry says she sees this all the time. She wants to start a birthing and midwife center in the clinic. She can't do this til the basic clinic costs are taken care of. Paying the doctors their wages, as well as the rest of the staff. Paying for medicine, for the lab to be able to do its work. When that is taken care of, she can start training midwifes. They can show new mothers how to breast feed, what to look for, make sure their babies are gaining weight.

The thought of the crisis -- the earthquake -- the massive deaths, just melt into the background. I'm not concerned about that right now. It doesn't touch us. I just want the baby to live til Friday. That's the most important thing right now.


I spoke with an educator today. He loves education. It is the key to making his nation great. It was great once before. It was rich with resources, his people were free, the future was bright. But so much has happened. Now, the nation is poor. It must beg at the feet of other nations, feeding on scraps and beholden to the whims of its rescuer. The life here is hard. We are in the country. There is not much for young people to do. They get bored. They leave. The talent leaves the country. There are too many opportunities elsewhere, and there are none here. Why would someone want to stay when life here is hard? Not enough opportunity. Not enough to do.

I talked to someone who wanted to stay. To help his people. National pride. Heart for the poor.

The Sunday School teacher is remarkable. She loves to meet people. To work with them. Help them however she can. Her favorite thing is to work with the kids. To show them something in terms that they understand, watch when they get it, how it sticks with them, how they keep it as they move on.

For her, we each meet the people we meet, do the things we can do, try our best, move on to something greater. It's good. It's ok.

Haiti - when the dust settles

Day 3. Evidently that is the day that the dust settles and the feelings hit. Panic. Distress. Worry. Fear. Grief. Disbelief. Questioning. It's not an obvious thing. People go about their day. They get up, they get dressed, they do their job, they eat their food.

The clinic is open. People come for their various ills. A man has had a gaping wound on his leg for 3 years, oozing puss. He comes in today to get it seen with the American doctor. A child has a fever, and infant has worms.

But also, you ask how people are doing. Sad. A friend in university is dead. A relative has no home. No one can call. No one can go. The phones are down. The roads are not passable. The planes are not flying. Slowly images of devastation trickle in.

In our camp, the Americans who came down to help are not really doing that. They are scared. They talk to loved ones in the States who see awful things on the news, and fear for us who are here. They don't understand that we are safe. We have food. We have shelter. We have people to look after us and help us. But the fear has settled in, and there's no dislodging it now. "We must get out, we must get out. How can we go? When can we go?" Low grade fear, beneath every thought and every action.

Well, can I blame them? They haven't been here before. They don't know that the wheels here turn slowly. Things get done, but not like in the States. It doesn't always look like progress is getting made. One person talks to the next. The news travels. We know where to go and who to talk to in order to get the best news. The right news. Someone we know is back from the Dominican border, so he gives a report. It's someone we trust. So we know what is happening. But the Americans. They don't understand. Do they need more fanfare? Or does it just need to show up on CNN in order for it to be true?

I am safe and I am fine. Ugh. It was better before the feelings settled in.

Haiti - more thoughts

There is a dentist who comes to the clinic 2 days a week from Ouanaminthe, near the Dominican border. I asked about her studies, how she settled on becoming a dentist. She was interested in agriculture, but failed the exam to get into that school. Dentistry school opened up for her. She attended school in Port au Prince and the government paid for it.

There is a debt that she must repay as a result of this. She doesn't HAVE to repay the debt. There is no signed paper saying so, no requirement. But, she feels the debt.

Why not leave and go to the US to live? "I am Haitian. I must live in Haiti." Haitians should live in Haiti. It should be this way. She has thought this since childhood. I am an American, and I live in America. She is Haitian and should live in Haiti.

She sees what is being done here. We are coming down and giving opportunities to Haitians. Education. Healthcare. Jobs. This is good. It is what Haiti needs. What do we get when we come down? Just the good feeling that comes with helping others? I said much, much more. My life was changed when I first came to Haiti. To see that not all people live the way I live. Not only is there a cultural difference, but there's an economic difference. Not everyone has a home, a car, a job, a free education. We have kids and give them everything. Toys, games, McDonald's Happy Meals. They are not always satisfied. Here, kids are so happy to get a piece of candy. They are happy to have clothes to wear. Seeing this makes me grateful for what I have. And not just gratitude. I see that others live differently. And they are happy. They are fun people to get to know. They feel like we feel. Love their kids like we love our kids. Worry like we worry. They are like us. Some things are the same, some are different. If we get to know them, our lives are better as a result. We are better people.

I think the dentist has not heard this expressed before. Maybe she did not understand that we give and we get. Haitians get and they give.

It is magical to see the hope on their faces. It's contagious. And I need an infusion of hope. Sometimes, I feel like my life can be bleak. It gets that way when I have nothing worthwhile to work on. But I come and I see the difference that a school can make. Getting an education and learning. And a clinic. The ability to visit a doctor and get better. These provide so much hope!

Staying in Haiti and making a difference. Young adults can make the difference. Haitians should stay in Haiti. I want to stay in Haiti. I am grateful for an opportunity to stay. The dentist has a job, this makes it possible for her to stay. Here in a village, it is not the city, but there is an opportunity to stay. The village does not offer movies, shopping, socializing in discos. There's not much to do, so the young people get bored. It's not such a good scene.

Talking with the dentist, she says she is so grateful that missionaries come in and bring hope. Haitians respond to that. There is hope that something could get better. Haitians can participate, and they are encouraged. Missionaries participate and they are encouraged. Hope can be a very contagious thing. What we are doing is good. It is helpful.

Request for help - Haiti

Dear everyone,

As you know, Haiti has been struck by disaster. The 7.2 earthquake has devastated an already desperate country. Who knew when I made travel arrangements that I would be here for such an incredible event! I'm familiar with earthquakes in California, and I survived Loma Prieta. This is different, however. These people are not familiar with the culture of earthquakes. They don't expect them, prepare for them or recover from them well.

We are in North Haiti, far away from the worst destruction. We are all safe here, mainly waiting as news trickles in about our friend & loved ones who may or may not have made it. There is much sadness all around. Right now, we spend time making calls and sending emails so that we can catch a flight out of here. Some flights have been cancelled, others changed. As we prepare to leave, others here are making plans to take relief to those who need it most in southern Haiti.

I'm writing to request help. Many of you may have chosen to give to some international organization already. There are many good choices of those who respond quickly to disasters. If you like, you can give money to Bethlehem Ministry for disaster relief. It's the organization that I'm traveling with and have worked with for decades. The Haitian people we know here are able to get around, gathering supplies to take to those who need it most. We can deliver food, fuel and other supplies, and we have ways to get where we need to go. Our goal is to raise $200,000 for relief.

Last year, when a hurricane devastated Haiti, we were able to do the same thing. Money specifically earmarked for Disaster Relief is used to gather supplies available, transport them and deliver them throughout an established network of people. Haitians have a heart to help their fellow countrymen, and we support them in this effort.

If you choose to give, you can go to and click on "donate". Earmark your donation for "disaster relief".

Thanks for your consideration. Also, thanks to those who have sent emails. I will try to send out updates as I can.

Haiti - Day 4

January 14, 2010

Today has been busy!

We woke up this morning to sunshine. Yipee! The first these people have seen in over 2 weeks. The ground dries quickly here, so there is not so much mud in the roads.

We ate breakfast... yummy fried eggs. Others had pancakes, and we all enjoyed fresh pineapple, watermelon, oranges and bananas. There was Haitian honey to go on the pancakes.

We left and went to the clinic. Finally, people are showing up! It was bustling with activity. We had children with runny noses and coughs. They aren't used to cold weather, and it has affected them. One little girl had an ear infection. A brother and sister came in and both were sick from the rain. I got to hold the little girl while the doctor was seeing the boy. She was tired and slept the whole time, because she had a fever and didn't feel well.

The 2 doctors from the US who are visiting to help in the clinic don't know how everything runs, so they spent a lot of time asking questions.

I've picked up some Creole words that help. Hello. How are you? Please sit here. Wait. Doctor. I'm hungry. What's your name. etc. It helps, and people are pretty understanding, realizing that we can't talk in the same language but try our best.

I miss my family, but all is well here. We are safe. Now we are focusing on healing people who are sick.

The kids still have not returned to school. First, because of the rain, now, because of the earthquake. I may not get to see the school in full session. I know it must be awesome to see 600 kids all in uniforms standing on the porch reciting their pledge or singing a song before school.

We took a break from the clinic for lunch -- stew with turkey, yams, carrots, doughboys (dumplings). Yummy. The rest go back to the clinic, I stay here and work on email and some stuff for mom. Mom is mad because the translator has left, taken the car into town (Cap Haitien) without the list of medicine to get. We need the car, the translator, and the medicine. I don't want to be there when he returns and gets yelled at by the clinic Director!

Her car is a mess. One guy visiting here is familiar with cars and looks it over. He tries to fix the broken window that won't roll down. But he can't without the right tools or the right parts. He says the car needs new tires, new brakes, new shock absorbers. We tell the handyman, Richard (pronounced with a French accent). He will fix the car. There are brakes and shock absorbers in town, and he knows how to install them.

Haiti - Day 3

We are trying to figure the best way to use our time. The earthquake hit, but phones are out, there is no internet, and there is nothing we can do, really. There are some who wanted to paint the clinic, but there is no paint.

1/13 11:00 am email sent out to family member:

Internet access is spotty. We will try to get word out as we can.

We continue to be safe. We were able to see a few patients in the clinic today, but the rain keeps most people away. Aside from the earthquake, the 2+ weeks of rain is the biggest news. Haitians just aren't used to such consistent rain. It has shut things down. And now, the biggest frustration is that people continue to not know much about what is going on, if everyone they love is safe, etc.

We have gotten lots of emails, letters and concerns. We are rich with friends, and feel very grateful for that right now!

We are hearing messages here and there of the damage and the effects it is having on the country. I'm sure you all in the States are hearing more. Rest assured that the trouble is far from us! The banks are closed down. Phone service is out, and internet access is spotty. But, we had a warm delicious lunch, are playing games as we wait for the rain to stop, and talking and getting to know people well.

I saw a couple of pics from yesterday. The presidential palace flattened. I heard from others the UN compound was destroyed. Many lives lost. Very, very sad. And hospital, bridges, etc. Send more via email, because web isn't working too well (don't ask me how email goes out but web doesn't come in...)

Haiti - Day 2

Last night, I brushed my teeth using a cup and some bottled water, since I can't drink from the tap here.

This morning, the roosters started crowing at 4:30. But I didn't get out of bed til 7. No shower this morning, the water is too cold. I'll wait til this evening, to see if the "sun" has warmed it up at all. There's no sun. It's still raining, but there is light all around.

Earthquake hits. Here is my first message out so people will know I'm safe: "I'm fine. The buildings endured with no problem. All is ok. No problem. Except we will be talking about this for a long time..."

After 1 hour:

We have electricity and other amenities. I've sent emails to people to let them know we are alive, well, safe, etc. We learned that the home of our hostess's parents collapsed. They were not in the house, but they did lose the dog and 7 pups they were raising. We learned from a relative that the hospital collapsed, bridges are down and its hard to get around.

There are many people we have yet to hear from, and the phones are down. Many people go to bed, wondering what the next day will bring.

Landing in Haiti 1/11/2010

My first day in Haiti for over 2 decades. Some things are different, some things aren't. Here are my first impressions:

There were cows munching on the side of the runway in Cap Haitien's International Airport when we landed. We get off the plane and go through the door, then wait 20 minutes while they find the right form for us to fill out to get into the country.

At the airport, someone wanted to carry my bag. I thought he was so thoughtful! But then he hounded me for money for the next 15 minutes.
"yes ma'am, I will help. I will help" Give me, please. Give me one dollar. Give me one dollar please miss.
They are persistent and never leave. We get relief only when we drive away and start the journey toward town.

I look out the window as we drive through town. Everyone stares at me. I'm the only white face for miles around. I stick out in a crowd here.

Honking a horn is not just for attention. Here, you honk to say "I'm coming", hello, I'm passing you, please get out of the way. Here I am. Make way for me. Because the roads are unruly. No stop lights (that requires electricity). No signs (that requires some sort of infrastructure). Just people, on the roads, signaling, honking, waving at one another. Stopping to talk along the way. You say hi to those you know.

Little huts. Small. Dilapidated. Constructed with thin cement, boughs from trees around in the area. They look like they groan under the weight of the roof set on top of the walls. They might fall down at any minute. Sometimes they do. But they are homes, and people live in them. In between the homes are cactus hedges that serve as organic fences. The juice from these hedges are used to brand cattle (no kidding).

Snow days are common in many US areas. Here, we have "rain days". It's been raining for 2 weeks. It has paralyzed the town. No one wants to go out in the rain. It is cold. It is wet. It is uncomfortable. They canceled school today, and 600 kids went without a hot lunch. After 2 weeks of cold, wet, overcast weather, the people are depressed. They aren't used to so much glum weather.

You can see Terrier Rouge, Haiti on google maps.

We are on a compound. On the way into town, there is a very nicely paved road. Thanks to the EU. Complete with road signs (cows crossing here, people crossing there, etc). The don't have a "goat pooping in the middle of the road" sign. It would come in handy here. Nor do they have the "stop here and talk with your neighbor in passing" sign.

The signs look funny in this area of the world. The stick figures crossing the street don't look Haitian. They look out of place. Their orderliness looks out of place. This world is haphazard. The buildings are tenuous. They add water to cement to make it go farther, so its weaker. They build buildings, but then they fall down. They paint walls, but the thinned paint fades quickly. Requiring more painting.

But the people. They are so amazing. Smiling, gracious, graceful. Happy to see you. Not the ones that approach you on the street, begging for money, "give me one dollar". But the friends you've made, or have yet to make, they are happy to see you.

We stay on a compound at the school. It's safe. It's orderly. The surroundings look chaotic, but only to the untrained eye. Look around you now. Remembering a time in the past when you went to that store, visited that house, walked down that street. It's familiar to you. That's the way it is here. It may not be familiar to us, but many people walk down these streets, visit these houses, go to these stores.

The most prominent logo around here is Digicel - the Verizon of Haiti

The first night, the group gets together for sorting suitcases: people bring stuff with them on the plane ride down here: meds (ibuprofen, vitamins, etc), clinic supplies, sheets, clothes, embroidery thread. Sort out what goes where. We each find something that has been requested. I was asked for aqua and turquoise embroidery thread. Evidently that's the popular color for those who embellish linens, towels and fancy dresses to be sold in the States.

The sun hasn't come out for 2 weeks. That means that the solar panels are lounging around, unused. Instead, we must start up the diesel generator if we want to keep the lights on to socialize after the unseen sun goes down.

Traveling to Haiti - Monday, 1/11/2010

I'm sitting in the airport of Ft Lauderdale. I've been waiting 2 hours for my flight to leave. They had to weigh my carry-on, my luggage and me. No boarding pass, no security checkpoint. Evidently, this is a flight that few terrorists would be interested in making a statement with. ;)

I'm traveling with my mother, who has been talking non-stop. Thanks goodness she has a cell phone, or we would have to arrange the dormitories in terms of "introvert/extrovert" rather than male/female!