Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Random Thoughts


More random thoughts about our time here in Haiti:
  1. On animals:  All animals here serve a purpose more than just companions (as ours are).  Dogs are guards, chickens & goats food,  cats are mousers & donkeys are beasts of burden.
  2. On Tim in Haiti:  Tim is a constant source of amusement for folks here, young & old.  Whether it's playing dominos with them (& winning!), or practicing his creole or dancing like a white man, he makes them laugh - how great is that?
  3. On the children:  Yesterday was our last day as "teachers."  We quickly reviewed, sang "The Hokey Pokey" (it never gets old!) and then handed out gifts.  The room was packed when we got there - close to 200 kids.  I swear as the first kids got their gifts, they would go tell more neighborhood kids & the crowd just kept growing.  In the evening when we wnet to church,  many children came up to us to recite their numbers we tought them & that's when I realized why people become teachers.  During the service, a little girl came up on my lap & fell asleep.  ahhhhh...
  4. On religion:  We attended a baptism performed at the river by Pastor Carsel today.  Many people who were bathing or getting water stopped to watch.  VooDoo is still practiced here although is slowly being replaced with Chritianity.  The people we have met are very devout in their religion.
  5. On water:  The water situation is dire.  There is no running water save for the few community wells.  We rode out to Haiti Outreach on Thursday & talked with Henry, the American who helps run it.  He says no problem with a water will on school grounds.  They are also constructing a new water line in Pignon & will be providing running water to homes here.  Later, we met with past  & current Pignon Rotary Club presidents and they are willing to help.  All sounds promising.
  6. On the market:  Wow!  The tour of the Saturday marketplace (open air) was most interesting.  Several thousand it seemed people crammed into the space with motorcycles cruising through and people pushing wheelbarrows.  One section for meat - pig, beef, goat - & flies were pletiful.  we saw the stockyard where people sold goats, cattle, donkeys, etc.
  7. We got our first Pignon souvenir today.  A very savvy business women sold Tim a handmade embroidered shirt.  She, Tim and everyone else watching knew she had him as soon as she got him to try it on.
  8. We had the priviledge of meeting Dr. Guy Theodore today.  He was pleased to hear I was a Rotarian.

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts/observations from the last two days:
  1. Susan & I have been given the responsibility of being teachers to what has grown to 80 - 100 kids 3 - 15 y.o.  We tried to make paper airplanes today - but much was lost in translation.  I have a grand, new-found respect for teachers in overcrowded schools.
  2. Did I say that the house we're staying in has a moon-shine still in the back?  Burning & brewing 24/7
  3. We're having two meals each day at the Pastor's childhood home.  Lots of rice, beans, plantain, goat & chicken.  Meals take a tremendous effort to prepare for us.  Everything is cooked in wood burning ovens, juice is picked fresh & hand squeezed, salt comes in rocks.  With no refrigeration, everything is prepared fresh and consumed at once.
  4. A very clear & definite division of labor.  Women do everythign involved with meals, cleanup, housework and child care.
  5. Pastor Carsel said the living conditions in Haiti were much better under Duvalier, the dictator that ruled Haiti thru the 80s.  People had electricity & running water, the streets were maintained and the country was cleaner.  Definitely a two-edged sword.
  6. The earthquake destroyed the tax dept in PaP which had the only records pertaining to property ownership.  So now, if you live on the property or work that land, it's yours unless someone disputes it & can prove that it's theirs.
  7. With some of our donations of cash from friends here, we paid $150 for food & transportation of 24 boxes of rice/soy meals provided by a group call Feed My Starving Children.  Today, the women prepared a hot meal for our 100 or so students.  Even the smallest were given portions that filled most of a dinner plate, certainly more than Susan would eat.  And even the smallest ate the entire meal while sitting quietly in the classroom.  This scene was in stark contrast to the near riots we started by handing out crayons & markers.  Seems like the kids were afraid they wouldn't get any, even thought we had plenty for all.  With the help of two young Haitian men, Jean & Josenel acting as interpretors, we have done much better.  The kids are so happy, cute and really seem to be enjoying this time.

Arrived in Pignon

The ride to Pignon from PaP was quite an experience.  We had planned on flying but the only plane available was a 5 passenger.  So, the flight that should have taken 20 minutes turned into a ride that took 4 hours.  The pavement ran out early on & the dirt road for the remainder of the trip was bumpy and muddy after it started raining.  But the sights were interesting - we drove through several small villages, saw chickens & donkeys, cows and some hourse & goats, lots & lots of goats.  The goats were destined to be dinner.  People used the donkeys as beast of burden or hauled their loads on their heads ... always carrying water.

We arrived safely in Pignon and are staying at Pastor Carsel's uncle's home. We have our own bedroom. The house looks and feels a lot like a Baja home - stucco outside, tile floor inside. By Haitian standards I am sure we are living luxuriously. Electricity is provided by a generator a few hours a day. No running water so 5 gal. buckets are used for showers & flushing toilets. After a homemade dinner of rice, fried plantain, fried chicken, salad, we sloushed thru muddy streets of Pignon, slipping, sliding & I'm sure entertaining the locals as we walked to the school. The school is on a 3 acre plot surrounded by a cactus that forms a 4' protective fence. The kids that were there this evening were somewhat shy until we played a version of musical chairs moving nearer to them until we all sat next to each other laughing, smiling & not understanding a word the other spoke. We have decided to try to teach the kids some English this week.

Tour of Port au Prince


Thoughts on PaP. The damage was not as widespread as I had imagined. There are tent cities throughout & the Red Cross has provided 100s of port-o-potties. UN personnel are very apparent in military garb with rifles. Although the earthquake damage has not destroyed the city, there are neighborhoods with blocks of crumbled ruins. Much looks untouched in the 7 months since the earthquake. Lots of traffic with apparently few rules and tap-taps (colorful make-shift taxis) everywhere.

It will be years if not decades before the rubble is completely removed. The efforts we saw today were made with wheelbarrows and five gallon buckets. Where is the massive international cleanup effort? What has happened with the generous donations from around the world?

Thoughts on Haiti

We have returned from our amazing trip & have settled back in.  As there was no chance to blog (Pignon's only cyber-cafe was not working), I thought I'd post some entries from our good old-fashioned handwritten journal:

At the American Airlines gate in Miami ready to leave to Haiti.  Very exciting here.  Feels like we are part of a greater mission.  Haitians here going to see families, others here perhaps on journies like ours.  People seem upbeat as we are and not burdened.

Spoke with Pastor Carsel last night with his wife Jinette.  He will be taking a different flight that will arrive in Port au Prince (PaP) 20 or 30 minutes after us.  We'll wait for him at the airport.  When he & Jinette arrive in PaP we'll take a tour of the city and then a short flight to Pignon on a missionary flight.  Here we go!!! An "E" ticket ride ...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We're Off!

Well the day has arrived. Our bags are packed with as much school supplies as weight restrictions would allow and we crammed all our clothes in a carry-on. Thank goodness we’re not going somewhere cold! We’ll be headed off to LAX in an hour or two. Our flight to Miami leaves tomorrow at 7 a.m.

Leah will be taking good care of things on the home front. We couldn’t do this without her. Although I know the dogs will miss the attention they get from us, they’ll be well cared for.

Thank you to all who have contributed to school supplies for this trip. Your generosity always blows me away.

We don’t quite know what to expect when we’re in Haiti. What is our part in this adventure? I’m sure we’ll find out once we get there and we’ll continue to update you all through this blog, provided we’re able to find internet access.

Lots of photos on our return. We’re happy to make ourselves available to services clubs, churches and other groups who would like to hear about our trip.

Until later …

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Haiti here we come!

Our tickets are purchased, we got our shots yesterday, we’re collecting school supplies and gifts for the kids … Haiti here we come!

A little bit of background for you. About 1 ½ years ago, I (Susan) was in Miami on business, when I met a very interesting gentleman on my way back to the airport. He was my taxi driver. We became instant friends and shared an interest in the importance of education worldwide. When I returned home, we continued to communicate through email and by phone. Pastor Carsel, as he is known, is from Haiti, and I came to find out he had opened a school in his home town of Pignon, Haiti. His school has many needs – school supplies, buildings, food, money for salaries, but mostly water. With about 1 billion people worldwide lacking access to clean water, and 3.5 million people dying from water-borne disease each year, it is truly a global problem.

Since that time, Tim and I have helped where we can, sending school supplies and Christmas gifts with some help from friends and family. But as I said, the greatest need is for water, so that has become our focus. My Rotary club (Oakhurst Sierra Noon Rotary) has become involved and President Fern Facchino and President-Elect Victor Weitzel have made the commitment to raise funds through Rotary’s matching grant program. I have been in contact with a member of the Pignon Rotary Club so that we can make that happen.

So we’re off to Pignon, Haiti in just over a week. We fly to Miami on August 15 to meet Pastor Carsel and then onto Haiti the following morning. The first day we’ll spend seeing the destruction caused by the earthquake in Port au Prince and then fly on to Pignon. Each year, Pastor Carsel has a summer program at his school and we will be lending our hand to that. But more than that, we both feel that to truly grasp the situation, we must see it firsthand. I’m very excited to be making the trip and I understand from Pastor Carsel, that our arrival is much anticipated. I know we’ll be well cared for and that it will be a life-changing experience.

Preparing for it has been an experience in itself. Guess we waited a little too long to get the Tetanus, Hep A & B and any other shots they recommend (rabies, typhoid, etc…). Apparently that should have happened a month in advance not 10 days! Oh well, we’ll have some immunities & we’ll just have to stay away from dogs, skunks & rats.

With any luck, we’ll have internet access while we’re there and continue to update you all through this blog. In the meantime, if you’d like to lend your support, we’re taking as much school supplies as fit in two suitcases and if you’d like to add to that, just leave us a comment below.