Friday, July 30, 2010

Day Six

April 26, 2010

Well today is the day. We are going back to PaP. It was sad to say goodbye. Many came to wish us farewell and safe travels.

The ride back was crazy. We took tons of people with us. We had Lucas. I held him for a bit until Domo made his mom take him. We found out his dad was the ref at the soccer game and his mom was here the whole time. She and Lucas were going to Orlando the next day. But his dad lives in PaP. We took the two dental boys back to PaP and Fabian to a city to visit her uncle. We had a few others too. After we dropped a few off I got in the bed of the truck. It was full of luggage and a chicken and people. But I like it back there better then inside. Amber about killed the chicken by stepping on it a few times. It is hard to say stop when you see it. All I could say was ‘chicken chicken chicken chicken!’ I think she got the point. But the poor chicken was in a bag with only his head sticking out. We had blown the spare tire the other day. We stopped in Les Cayes to get it fixed, that didn’t work so we had to stop again in the next city. That time it worked. This fixing of the tire was nothing like I have ever seen before. Using a crow bar to pry the tire off the wheel, hard manual labor, no fancy machines. The did have a compressor that they used old string to start it. The took the part that gets filled with air and put the part that was punctured over a flame and put something over it to melt to back together. Then putting it all back together. I was so impressed that these things got done by hands, we are so spoiled in America. And to think this is what these people (there were so many places to stop for this) that do this work every day. We also saw a few of the big wheel barrel looking things, (it is more of a trailer of a semi size) made of wood without a top full of heavy things that men walk from place to place. They make so much money but that specific job takes years off of their lives.

We stopped a bunch again. The ride back was quicker by fifteen minutes. The river that was too high before was now ok to cross. We went through a bunch of markets, scary! We about hit a bunch of people and that continued throughout the trip. People, cars, motorbike. I swear Doorville is one crazy driver. I heard Domo was even mad about it. We stopped again at Domo’s cousin’s. They had cherry juice and a gingerbread cake. We got to see the students there in school. They all yelled ‘blan blan blan!’ when they saw us. It means white. They were riled up. I felt bad for disturbing the lessons. They have cute pink uniforms. We were back on our way. Riding in the open air on top of the luggage through the dusty roads. We saw pieces of road destroyed from the quake. We also saw a couple huge boulders down. He found out a car was under them until a few weeks ago. There was someone in it. Wrong place at the wrong time. Story of the Haitians life that day for too many. I got a lot of pictures of destruction.

Once we made our final drop off in PaP Amber and I went inside the truck – the sun was so intense we were starting to burn and the smell in PaP is just horrible. We saw the palace, it was starting to be torn down. We saw the cathedral, what a sad sight. I found out later that Domo shared a story of where he was when the earthquake happened. He was driving and there was a little girl, nine he thought, was walking on the sidewalk. They have walls between the homes and sidewalks. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wall fell on her right next to Domo’s truck and all he could see of her was her head and an arm. How awful that must have been to witness.

We made it back to PaP safe and sound. It was a relief to be back at M25. But I still missed Chateau. We put all our stuff where it belonged and claimed tents. Then we decided to go to the Sisters of Charity orphanage. We weren’t even sure if it was still operating but we wanted to see and try.

What an awful sight. When we got there we had to bang on the door. Someone came and Domo asked if we could help. She said no one has since the earthquake has volunteered but she would ask if we could. After that we were let in. We got there at 3:30 and we were going to have to leave by five. We walked through to the babies and children.

I can’t imagine letting children live in these conditions. We were told that their main building was damaged during the earthquake. All the kids were gotten out, but the building had to be torn down. Many kids were sent back to parents, another orphanage or started adoptions were expedited. They were down to about 60 from 150. Two tents (the ones you sell food out of at a fair) came into view. You saw men working on the ruble of the old building. I figured it was shade for the men. I was wrong. As we got closer you could see cribs in the tents. These kids were living in tents with no walls in blistering heat.

As we walked into the tents all you could hear and see were crying babies. It was mealtime so we got to help feed a few. There were older children in cribs too if they were hooked up to an IV. The older children that could feed themselves and were not hooked up to anything were at a small plastic table. John, Brian and Fr. Dave went to play and talk to them. They found a football so John and Brian were tossing it with the kids. They were running around men working on top of ruble with bare feet. How unsanitary. Most of these kids are sick. How can this be safe? How can anyone let kids live like this? I know they are fed and cleaned here but beyond that they get nothing. No love, no attention, no safety measures. No one is looking out for them. It breaks my heart to see these kids. The older ones are all smiles to see us and play. There was a little boy there who wouldn’t ay his name. The little girl said his name was Blan (white) – he was very pale. How sad that he is ostracized because of his coloring.

I went back into the tents. I was handed a bowl and told to feed a little girl. She was the only one not sitting up. I didn’t understand until I looked closer. This girl was nine months old, her bracelet told me. She was as skinny as my son was when he was born nine weeks early. She couldn’t even sit. I picked her up and held her as I fed her. She wouldn’t look at me, she didn’t make a noise, she was blank. Clearly neglected and malnourished. She only ate a little bit. The bowl was finally taken away from me. The little boy next to her was screaming his head off the entire time. He had one leg over the rail. Every time I went over to talk to him he backed away. I figured he was terrified of me. After a while of holding the little girl and not getting a response out of her I put her down. I looked around. There was a little girl across the way without a diaper on. She had open wounds and I saw the diaper was off to let some of the wounds breathe. She had over twenty flies swarming her. We all were scared to pick her up, not knowing whether we should or not and there was a language barrier with all the women working. I feel so bad I never picked her up. She needed it most. There was a little girl hooked up to an IV. I asked her what her name was. I can’t remember, but her smile lit the entire room. She was so happy to be asked a question, to have someone to talk to. She didn’t ask me anything and I couldn’t ask her anything. But we shared a moment and I pray it made a difference.

That little boy was still screaming so I grabbed him. Before I lifted him, as soon as my skin touched his the screaming stopped. He just wanted to be held. To feel loved. His name was Edison, he was a year and a half. He clung to my shirt for dear life and I broke down. How do these kids thrive without this? Without being held? I am crying with all the other babies because I can’t give them what they need and they aren’t getting it anywhere. Before I finished my thought Edison was asleep. He felt safe and loved, I am sure he hasn’t felt that good in a long time. I cried at the thought even harder. It is really hard trying to hide that much emotion from everyone. Every time I tried to put Edison down he woke up and would scream and cry again. He wouldn’t let me put him down. It broke my heart. I want to take him home so bad. I finally put him down to hold others. They all need to be held. Edison followed me with his eyes, the stink eye, as he cried watching me hold others. I went back to Edison a couple times. I was so pulled to him. Sue handed me a little girl. She was a year old and maybe nine pounds. She was blank too. I hate to see kids like that.

I went to the other tent (I couldn’t handle Edison crying, it hurt me too much), these kids were more sick, most hooked up to IVs or too sick to do much of anything. How horrible to see. Tiny babies, skinny kids, you could see the sick through their eyes. They need so much help. I went back to the other tent because there weren’t a lot to hold. I went back to Edison and spent the rest of my time with him. When it came time to leave I was bawling. I didn’t want to leave Edison, or any of these kids. They need our touch and love. I had to put Edison down and the tears fell from his eyes again. I kissed the top of his head and told him I was sorry. I bawled as we left the tents. John put his arm around me and told me I needed to stop, that the whole van would be crying.

I pulled it together until we started driving again. Seeing the camps and people living in the medians. I can’t understand how anyone can accept this as their life. But they don’t know any different and they don’t have a chance to make it better. I cried again. I can’t even comprehend what they go through. I can’t even process what I am feeling right now.

We made it back to M25 and I cried again remembering everything. People kept trying to talk to me but I couldn’t speak. I was going to start crying again. I couldn’t get those faces out of my head. I took some time to decompress. I went to the roof to try and get a picture of the sunset but I missed it. The moon was up and beautiful. It was right about the camp and I snapped a picture of that. A little girl came up and grabbed my hand. She was one of the cook’s daughters. I wanted to cry all over again at this gesture and looking at the camp. We exchanged names. Her name was Lovely. She was so sweet and just wanted to be near us. I wish I could have had a real conversation with her.

I called home then to let my parents know we were back and to start the phone tree. It was good to hear their voices but I was still so emotional. I couldn’t talk long.

We had dinner, lasagna. It was a treat in the cook’s eyes. After that we all bought stuff to take home. I bought a lot, but next time none of it will be there. It only took almost five years but I had plans of putting them up on my empty walls. All my walls are empty, I have tons of empty picture frames. It only took Haiti to give my walls a plan.

After that there was this guy who cornered all of us. He just wanted to talk but he isn’t the best communicator and I think has a seniority complex. We went to bed early, sort of, to get away from him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day Five

April 25, 2010

I slept so well last night! I am so relieved and no extra bug bites this morning. I still don’t itch. We all got up and showered and dressed in our Sunday best.

We got in the truck and went to mass. It was in the main chapel. It is a beautiful chapel. I noticed streamers and decoration, it reminded me we missed the people the other day. But in many churches there were flowers and streamers decorating the room, that is a big deal for them, to go as far as to get streamers and ribbon. I feel honored we are respected so much. Mass was packed and, of course, it didn’t start on time. But Fr. Dave, Fr. LaVoud and the retired bishop (who jokes Fr. LaVoud is his boss now) gave mass. It rained for a bit during mass. The bishop gave the homily, mentioning the rain, calling it a sign from God that we are the water that will help Chateau flourish. Domo was great translating the sermon and telling us when to give out offerings. Men first, but Sue and Janet made it up there before Domo could stop them. Then women, the women outnumbered and out-offered the men. Sometimes it seems things are so separated but then there are so many powerful women in charge.

We found out the sermon for Easter alone was an hour and a half. This one was quick, for our sake I am sure. They still thought we were leaving after breakfast. So it was sped along. Fr. Dave gave communion. His line was double the line the bishop had. It was neat to see people rushing him.

It was neat to see all the kids in the choir dressed in uniforms that were pristine. And there were different uniforms for different ranks and boys and girls had different uniforms, some might be for helping with mass. There was a guitar player and drums and maybe something else too. The men and women sat behind all the kids. We never saw a family together. I rarely saw women. Men would work the fields and the kids would swarm the rectory. I have to wonder what their families are like.

I know they take the ‘it takes a village’ saying seriously. Kids run around and everyone knows them and will take care of them if needed. Everyone is there to help and lend a hand and love. It is neat to see so much caring for people. We don’t get that here in the states.

Once mass was over we went back and had breakfast. There was so much food. A pumpkin soup, bananas, bread, sour sap juice. That juice is so good. John and I decided we were going to market it in the states with vodka or rum in it and call it Haitian Sour Punch. It would sell so well I think.

We had a little down time to change and figure out what we were leaving and what we were taking home with us and then we ate lunch. I wasn’t even hungry but there was so much food again. We had another soup and bread, chicken legs, rice and a bean sauce. It all is so good. I want these recipes.

We had more down time. We played with the kids and Sue wanted me to record her singing the song Magnificant. It is a beautiful song but took so long. And poor Domo was there to help too. He didn’t enjoy it and neither did I. And he was called so many things, Romo by John and Dumo by Sue. The poor guy, he works so hard and then is pulled even farther then required.

At three we had a meeting with Father. He gave us proposals on what it will cost to finish a few buildings, the rectory and church and we talked about funding for schools and a new chapel for the one that had no walls. It is a lot. I hope we can help. Some of the projects are over 300,000 goudes, but in American dollars it is a little over 9,000. I know people would man up to that. Lord knows they need it. The rectory is Father’s main mission. It is the central place for the entire community. It is a gathering place and a social service center. It represents the heart of the community. But it might be hard for people who don’t see that understand why that comes first.

We left for the soccer game after that. It was supposed to start at four, which in Haitian time means 5:10. Our team won! Amber scored three goals, but none of them counted for one reason or another. We were bombarded by people wanting money to go to school. And smiling kids. This soccer game was as big as Monday night football, and just as serious. After the game we went back to the rectory. Tons of kids piled into the bed of the truck for a ride. Donut (John’s bud) was throwing people off and got yelled at by John. One kid fell off during the ride. Domo was not happy about that. And Brian and John said that the kids (and really non of the Haitians do) have personal space. They were grabbing body parts just to stay aboard the truck. The kids love to touch us, our arms, our faces, our red noses, my mosquito bites (everyone noticed those today, I was a little embarrassed but there was nothing I could do about it), and our hair. They love to touch our hair and play with it. It is so different from theirs and thy love to touch it.

We had dinner, some pasta casserole thing. We weren’t sure what kind of meat was in it but it was good. We had wine and Haitian rum and coke and beer. There was so much fellowship that night. We all came together and became so close through this trip. There was a baby girl that we were passing around. I held her and put her asleep. She was so precious. I was sad when her mom came to get her. She definitely needed a diaper change. That was evident by the wet spot on my shirt. It is funny how things like that don’t gross you out after being in Haiti for a while.

The two dental students came in to talk about what they would like for the clinic. They even had eBay items to show us what they want and how much. It is all so expensive but at least everyone we have talked to has had proposals and plans. That is encouraging. We made sure they knew we couldn’t do it all and maybe nothing.

We got to check e-mails again. I accidentally sent mine to my dad’s work e-mail so I forwarded it along with another small message to my dad at his home address. I miss them all so much. The people of Chateau have become my second family though.

We talked about what time we are leaving in the morning. What a bittersweet conversation. I am so sad to be leaving. The other day Domo offered to build me a house and I could live there in Haiti and I seriously could. But I am so excited to see Carter and my parents. And I am so nervous about adjusting back to American culture. It is so easy to adjust to Haiti, but I have a feeling getting back into the swing of things will be very emotional.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day Four

April 24, 2010

I couldn’t sleep last night. I had the meal prayer in my head ALL night long. Plus the bugs ate me alive last night just on my left arm and I was so hot and sweating. I was woken up by cockfights, I think, or maybe it was dinner being killed? :) I got maybe 2 hours of sleep total. But there is something about the air here that fills you up with energy.

I finally have to use the restroom but I can’t. I don’t want people in the other room. I want a little privacy but any time we do have to relax and use the restroom we are all near it. One of these days I am just going to have to woman up and do it.

The roosters were crowing, three of them all morning. I wonder if they were the ones fighting earlier and they are just yelling obscenities to each other. Ha!

We did so much today. It is all running together, I wish I wrote more about what we saw. I think we saw two more chapels and two private schools that are not run by the chapels or church. I hate to say it, but after visiting so many places all the requests and chapels and schools run into one big jumble.

I know one of the chapels we visited was a building and there were people. We got more fruit and Fr. LaVoud gave it to Domo to take home. You can only take so much fruit. And we had even more coconuts. I think I am going to poop whole coconuts if I have anymore. I know they are a good snack and in abundance there but man am I sick of them. Brian has been such a champ taking what we can’t. The upside of getting all this fruit is that we get juices all the time with meals. We had real lemonade, sour sap juice and there was a few others that I can’t think of. We also have tons of fresh fruit every morning for breakfast too. I try and only drink and eat a little because I am allergic to fresh fruits. But some of it is hard to resist.

The second chapel, I am not sure you can call it that. It is four posts and a roof with a cement floor. It is right at the edge of a mountain. There were a few people there and a couple small children playing at the edge. I couldn’t help but worry about their safety, but it is normal to them to play there. I also couldn’t help but wonder if they ever lost any children that way. These people here were on the ball. A man from Chateau that lived in PaP came back after the earthquake and wants to run for an office but until then his mission is to help his home community. He has big dreams for Chateau and I hope for all of the people there that at least some of them come true. They also wanted a new building by their feast, August 15th. But like we did everywhere, we told them that right now we couldn’t promise anything except prayers right now. It kills me to see how much these people need. I wish I could bring them all home with me.

At one of the chapels, either today or yesterday, we heard pigs used to be used as a means to make money and barter as well as food. The government came in a while ago and had all the pigs killed because they were carrying a disease. New pigs were brought in but they all died because they couldn’t survive in the Haitian environment. And now the skills they have or products they sell are things others are growing or making themselves so there isn’t a lot of opportunity to make it. And if you are skilled you won’t be paid what you deserve and you go to the city. It is sad. You are stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

Fr. LaVoud took us to see a private school. And kids were playing soccer. Their ball was a little flat and many were barefoot. Amber and the guys all played. Fr. LaVoud even played. The first time in his six years there that he played with the kids! Fr. Dave plotted against Fr. LaVoud because he was a great goalie. Fr. Dave knocked him down so Amber could score. Fr. LaVoud ended up cutting his finger and getting one of those really tiny band-aids. It was so cute. We walked through the school, I am still not sure if it is really shut down or not and we met the man in charge.

We then went on a drive to Jean-Bertrand Aristide's villa. He was president a few times in the '90s and '00s. He was booted out of the country in 2004 and looters raided his villa. He had sisters and a school with the villa. It was sad to see what was left. It was looted as soon as he was gone. The building was beautiful. I would have loved to see it in its prime. The tile and the doors and balconies, it was all so amazing. You have to see it to believe it and sadly you have to imagine it furnished and in its glory as it sits empty and unlocked.

We went from the villa to a private school where a gentleman asked for help. He wanted his school to continue but needed help. He had a proposal. Janet and I toured his home. That was hard to see. It was maybe ten feet by ten feet – that might be an over-estimation. And I think it had about four rooms. There were raised mattresses to sleep on and what seemed to be a room used to cook possibly. Clutter was everywhere. But with such a small place, where would you put it. It makes me realized how blessed we are, not only at home but the area of Chateau. It doesn’t seem as bad off as I was expecting. But that also makes me wonder if we are really seeing it all or just parts of it. The poverty here must be so horrible to live through and yet there are smiles on everyone’s faces. We looked at the school and saw clotheslines in it and a couple women making purses out of gum wrappers. If nothing else these people know how to use everything available to them. I was so mentally exhausted by this point in time. I could barely listen and I hoped that there would be no coconuts, I don’t think there were. If they weren’t so messy to drink I don’t think they would be so bad on occasion.

I don’t think I will ever get sick of the views though. The mountains are all so beautiful and different. I love riding in the back of the truck. My butt does hurt though, I don’t think I will walk normal ever again. Ha! But the rides are amazing and you get to see so much more then when you sit inside the truck. I absolutely love it here. I am still here and can’t wait to come back. I hope I can make this into something I do on a somewhat regular basis. The roads were even worse today. It rained this morning, the first rain we have seen so the roads were a little muddy and so bumpy. Our tires were slipping a little but I have complete faith in Domo’s driving. It is weird that I am not scared. I hate heights and riding on the edge of the bed of a truck was never on my bucket list, but I am completely calm. Maybe it is because we have two priests to give me my last rights or maybe it is because I am where God wants me to be. Either way, I love the calm I feel.

Fr. LaVoud has been riding in the back of the truck with us most of the time. I swear he is a celebrity. Everywhere we go people say hello and run up to him. Kids are pulled to him like a magnet. Women will hug him and walk arm in arm with him. You can see how much he is loved and adored by everyone and you can see how devoted to them he is. It goes above and beyond anything I have ever seen. In his eyes you can see his faith and love and you can feel the servant’s heart he possesses. I am proud to know him. He is a faith-filled man who lets God guide him, he isn’t guiding his life in any selfish ways. Domo even said he would sign his life for him. Fr. LaVoud is a man of character and integrity and character and had taken this parish and made it into a God-centered, loving people. He told us in the beginning it wasn’t like this. People were standoffish and didn’t want a lot to do with him. But he earned their trust and when he gets moved to a new parish (which might be soon) it will be a sad day for all, even for us.

And Domo is another amazing person. He is funny and a great interpreter. He is so down to earth and laughs easily. I think he is having fun with our group. He has shared a lot of personal stories with us and I consider him part of our group, not just an interpreter. But he is great. We asked him to, no matter what we said, to make sure the message conveyed is that right now all we can offer is prayer and this will be a long process and I trust he did and is doing just that. I am proud to call him a friend. I do worry about him though, being in PaP during the earthquake, I am sure he witnessed a lot. He won’t even sleep in the rectory. He sleeps in his machine. I fear that the entire population of Haiti will forever be changed and scarred. No one knows how to build anything that can withstand a hurricane and an earthquake. I fear that they will make mistakes out of fear, only causing more damage and heartache. Haiti has become a home to me. Slowly I am leaving pieces of my heart with people here, with memories. I will always consider these people family and when they hurt, I will hurt right along with them.

Over the last day and a half we have seen so many pleading faces and heard so many needs and requests. I want to help them all and I hope someday we can in one way or another. I hope they don’t get discouraged or angry because it will take time, a long time, to get anywhere with as much as they need done. Most of it is fixing schools and chapels or building new. Funding for school is another big one. I would like to see them find work, but they need to learn trades. But when they learn something, what can they do with it. They are far away from tourists (Who won’t came now because of the earthquake) and everything they grow, so does their neighbor. It has to be hard to wake up every day and feel so helpless. I can’t even begin to understand what they feel. I am so lucky. I have a job and a house and a support system. These people have nothing but love for and from others. How do they do it?

We got back to the rectory for lunch. Is it really only lunchtime?? I swear time moves so slowly here. It is Haitian time I guess. I fell like it is four in the afternoon. But I guess when you wake up at five in the morning and are on the go, it does make for long days. They are long wonderful days. I couldn’t stop thinking of how much I have and how much I take for granted. As we ate lunch today I felt so sick. I wondered what the people we have been meeting with were eating or if they have food to eat today. We are eating like kings. It makes me feel so guilty. This is a reoccurring thought and it makes me sad that I can’t do anything right now. But we are seeing what we can do in the future. It will be too late for some but hopefully we can make a difference for others.

I am so exhausted today. That is what I get for not sleeping. I am just glad my bites don’t itch. I need a nap but we have a full afternoon of meetings and the art exhibition and then mass and a concert for us before dinner.

We ended up having a little bit of free time after lunch. It was so nice and relaxing. Except for my sore butt it was refreshing. We sat out front and Fr. Dave fed ants some of the candied nuts we received the day before from someone. We did a few of the afternoon prayers with Father and played from the front balcony with the kids out front throwing a ball back and forth. Once it got close to the art exhibition we went down and played some more with the kids.

As we walked to the new unfinished church for the exhibition we saw Lucas – he had had a haircut and I almost didn’t recognize him. I wonder about where he came from or who his parents are.

I was disappointed in the art exhibition. First off we were told they don’t deal with American money so many of us were sad about that. We really want to spend our money here in this area and we were told before leaving to not get goudes. We walked in and everything was in American dollars! I was so relieved. Until I looked around. There was Creamase, a liquor we all tried the night before they make in Chateau (each area makes their own, it is sort of like a strong Baileys) the gum wrapper purses, two skirts, two men’s shirts, some table clothes and a few baskets with a few other odds and ends. Nothing like what I was expecting. I was looking towards paintings and carvings and pottery or more variety in baskets. And everything was over priced. They have no idea what an American dollar is worth there so that is understandable. And I would rather pay more for an item there in Chateau. But there wasn’t much to get really. I bought some Creamase, a little thing made of reeds that said Haiti on it and a basket for forty-two dollars. Not bad, but not cheap.

When we were done we went back to the rectory and prepared ourselves for a meeting with the women chapel directors who wanted to plead their case for their requests. I felt bombarded and a little uncomfortable. I felt so bad for Domo who knew what was going on. He even looked so uncomfortable and as if it pained him to ask these questions to us. We had to reiterate that we can only prayers right now and any project we take is long term, nothing will happen quickly, and that Fr. LaVoud needs to be the one telling us what we need to focus on. The daughter of one of the women was there too. She looked mad the whole time. She said she wanted to talk to us with just her mother. So after all the requests and a few pictures of us all together we went back inside. She wanted us to send her to college in the city for nursing. She said there are no opportunities here and she needs to get out so she can come back and help here. We broke her heart, we can’t do anything yet and nothing without Fr. LaVoud’s say. She cried once she got outside. I hate letting people down, but I guess it comes with the territory here. They have nothing so they will ask for everything in case we say yes.

Mass was at 5. Many came. The children’s choir sang. Mass in Creole is so beautiful. Theresa, Amber and John spoke, with Domo’s help, of course. It was a special time with the people. And in Haiti you don’t touch the host, you let the priest put it in your mouth. I didn’t know that. But I will remember Saturday.

As soon as mass was over the kids set up for their performance. The new church is a circle and one side is stacked and the other half is open for seating. They must have brought the benches in from the main chapel. They had troubles getting the microphone set up, and it never worked. They needed to put the mic behind the speaker so it squeaked a lot. Finally they had someone hold it for all the kids. You know when you have a favorite song and you can’t get it out of your head. You just repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. That is Haiti. The songs are short but they repeat it so much. Too much. After a while we found out that the songs were a little provocative. The dancing should have tipped us off. We finally had to leave before it was over. We were expecting Christian songs. We left in two groups and once we were all back to the rectory we ate dinner. It is so nice to eat with everyone at every meal. It was some bullion soup with veggies and goat. I haven’t had a meal I disliked yet and goat seriously is so good.

We presented Fr. LaVoud with the chalice that was donated. We had it inscribed but you couldn’t read it. It has to oxidize. I hope it does that quickly. It says with prayers and support. He was so grateful and the girl in charge of the sacristy was there too at that moment. They had no idea it was a perfect moment and in God’s plan that she was there as she is in charge of it now. They loved it and were so thankful.

We asked Fr. LaVoud if he minded if we stayed Sunday night. He didn’t. Brian said another night here beats the hard rock hotel. We all were glad to be here another day. And Amber would be able to play in the soccer game Sunday.

I am so glad we have Domo, he is such a trooper. It has to be hard to go back and forth between languages and be so far from his family for so long. He is an amazing translator and man.

We prayed the rosary before bed with Fr. Dave. I lead a decade again. Then we all were tired and called it a night. It amazes me how tired you are but once you lay down to sleep, your mind races at the day you just had. It happens every night. There is just too much processing to do to fall asleep quickly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day Three

April 23, 2010

So the sun comes up early and the chickens are up even earlier with help later from the goats. That equals getting up at five or five-thirty. But once you open your eyes, at least for me, I am so ready to go. I slept so well. I found out the hard breather was a lizard as were the chirping bird noises too. They were a beautiful chorus to fall asleep to last night.

Once we were all up and showered we had mass – at seven – in the small chapel within the rectory. It was all in Creole but you could tell the different parts of mass. It was beautiful. Fr. LaVoud is an amazing man. You can see in his eyes and in the way he celebrates mass that he is faith driven and not self-driven. There were only three other women in the mass with us and they led the songs. They all had beautiful voices. Strong and beautiful. It seems like their voices embody the Haitian people. For anyone who endures such hardships in life has to be strong and to still have faith and smile every day makes them beautiful.

We ate breakfast. Fruit and bread with jelly or peanut butter or cheese. And I enjoyed their coffee. It was better then American coffee. We discussed our plans for the day over our meal. Today and tomorrow were going to be crazy busy with visiting chapels and schools and the clinic.

The clinic was our first stop it was across the street and down just a little ways. They shut down Friday afternoon as many of the workers live in Les Cayes. So we wanted to get the supplies to them before that. And Fr. LaVoud worries of the day they will ask to be paid more because he can barely pay them now. There are four workers and the two dental students. The four main workers would be similar to an RN a LPN and two lab techs. They give out bandages and simple medications. Anti-acids, anti-inflammatory meds, antibiotics, medications for Typhoid and worms and malaria. They don’t have much of anything and people pay only ten goudes a visit and sometimes pay for certain meds. It doesn’t cover costs at all. They work off of batteries and solar power and have a fridge hooked up to a LP tank. They don’t have any good medical or dental tables, chairs, tools – nothing that we would ever see.

They were so grateful for the supplies we did bring for them. And we saw the dental boys working on a man’s mouth. They have a home hooked on that the workers use during the week, M-F and they go back home for the weekends. No major medical problems are taken care of. What is done is usually a band-aid fix. If anything major needs to happen they have to find a ride into the nearest hospital. And that is at least a few hours away. There was a couple there waiting and one of the worker’s son was there. He was maybe two and he had a little kickball. He wanted to follow us all over, inside, outside, through all the rooms. He was adorable. And he loved getting his picture taken. He was more interested in see it so he would walk to you as you were taking it but he loved it. How cute it was to see such excitement over what we take for granted. I am constantly reminded of how we don’t even realize what we have.

We were on our way after that. We walked to the national school, which wasn’t too far. We met the principal, but he wouldn’t let us see a classroom. He didn’t want to disrupt classes, and when thee kids see a white person chaos happens, so I could respect that wish. There are 480 students from ages three or four until they finish and depending on when they started or how well they are learning it may be eighteen to twenty – and that isn’t high school. The principal was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions. Anything run by the Haitian government is a little scary to me, but this man seemed in charge and his own person. I did get the feeling he wasn’t really excited to see white people come to the community. I felt that around the school too. The little kids were so happy to see us. They love to gather around and see the circus – I swear that was what we were to them, a sideshow. Many have never seen a white person before. And while the younger kids wanted their picture taken and to talk to us the older kids wanted nothing to do with us. I can understand skepticism. I am sure others have promised to help before and nothing came from it. But they are entitled to their feelings no matter where they come from. I just hope next time they warm up to us a bit.

The truck met us at the school and once we were done spending time with some of the kids we were off again. Two chapels were on our list to hit before lunch. Fr. LaVoud seems worried because we are running behind. But then again, it seems time doesn’t exist in Haiti.

The first chapel we went to was amazing. Not the building, of course, although it was beautiful in its own way. But we walked in and there were children on one side and adults on the other. The kids were all in school uniforms. We learned this chapel runs an elementary school. But as soon as we walked in the kids started singing. They sang a few songs and the Madame who is the head of that chapel and also in charge of the school and teaching talked to us for a while. She is a strong woman. She stated their needs/wants and told us all about the area around the small chapel. We took questions from the adults and the kids sang again. I wonder if the kids had learned anything in the last month or so or just practiced those songs. But the Madame was amazing, making us feel welcome and like royalty. She talked to us and was appreciative of the prayerful support we offered. I wish we could do more right now but we can’t, not with out a lot of funding and backing from the parish.

The second chapel we visited was locked. Fr. LaVoud said they where there earlier but must have had things to do. I felt bad, like we were disappointing the people. We did get to look inside the windows at the school there. It has been shut down, but the building looked to be in good shape.

Back to the rectory for lunch. We had fish and vegetables in sauce with rice and beans. It was so delicious. There was a small boy of a year and a half maybe that came into the rectory. He ran up to Fr. LaVoud and sat on his lap. He stayed there until we all took turns holding him. We thought we heard he was sort of adopted by the priest because his parents were gone. How sad. He is the sweetest boy the cutest mile.

After lunch we were on to three more chapels. All with the same requests. New chapels, new schools. Help in any way. Again we could only promise prayers, I truly hope they understand. They are very appreciative of just prayers, I hope we can get something to someone here.

The first chapel of the afternoon had flowers everywhere. They had a strong female director. I am so impressed with the way these women take charge. Maybe they need to be in charge of the country. They had a few songs for us. A little girl ran up to Fr. LaVoud and sat on his lap. She ended up falling asleep in his arms. How wonderful to see a priest so involved with his people and not constrained by the stereotypes of priests. We were given so much fruit. And coconuts to eat and drink there. The chapel was very small and they needed and wanted so much.

The second chapel was closed and locked. We were going to have mass there Sunday so we would see it then. It also had a school not in use and this one looked ok to me too.

The third chapel was newer and bigger. It seemed newer. They were so worried about me sitting in the sun, I wasn’t burnt, but they didn’t want any of us to burn. Here we heard more requests. A man talked about his bakery crumbling. We saw it, an area that they used for dancing, and then they showed us the school.. It was sad to see so many schools shut down. As we walked through there was a pile of school workbooks. It pains me to see resources wasted and it serves as a warning that what we give them we need to be sure they will use it. There was one book sitting on a table, just like someone was coming back for it. It was sad to see it go unused. After that we walked back to the chapel and on the way a man had his son climb a palm tree – so impressive – barefoot with ho help and throw down coconuts. And then we were given so much fruit again.

I haven’t ever eaten so much coconut jelly and drank the water. I’m not really a fan but they offer and you cannot refuse. It was encouraging to see how grateful everyone was for us and how much people offered us – so many fruits. It was sad to hear how long they had been waiting for us to come, since December. We shouldn’t give them dates until we know for sure. But they all were so glad to have us now.

Throughout the travels of the day I saw views beyond belief. Post card worthy. The Haitians are sitting in paradise. For what they lack in things, they have in excess of beautiful land. The mountains are amazing to look at, we don’t get to see that much in Indiana. The palm trees are gorgeous. I did feel so bad for the animals. Most were tied up to trees or rocks and they were all so terrified of the truck. And then there were the dogs. All stray. But many had fur missing and parts swollen, it was so sad. The rides in the truck were so much fun. We were making turns at mountain’s edge with 500 to 800-foot drops. Crossing paths with edges on either side, bumpy roads of big rocks. It was fun and scary, but I never felt completely in danger. John started saying “OH MY!” and giving Domo directions to make himself feel safer. It turned into a joke after a while and Domo loved it too.

We made it back in time for dinner, goat, and these things that looked and tasted like thin crescent rolls with meat (I think) in them in circle shape, there was yams and even fries! And there was the spicy cabbage again! I love that stuff. This one had some lime juice in it too. I am beginning to seriously LOVE the food here.

After dinner we all went out front and played with the kids. We taught them a couple songs like ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ and they taught us a few too. They were teaching us words and learning our words. We were counting and some even knew some Spanish! These are smart kids. I did wonder if they ever go to school though as they were around the rectory ALL the time. The guys were teaching them tricks and the hand slap game. A few of them know “I love you, baby!” HA! They are so funny. Some even tried to trick Brian and I into saying bad things, but we caught on. One of the guys kept laughing at my name. No one could say it right and I am wondering if it means something bad. I guess I will find out later as it is getting late. I am so glad I took a lot of pictures and recorded things. I don’t want to forget any of this. We were also told Lucas, who was there last night again, was living with his dad and that his mom was in New York or Miami or Washington DC. That just means she is in the US because those are the only cities they know – unless you talk about basketball. They love American basketball. I have no idea how or where they see it but they knew a lot of teams and players. I was sad for Lucas but glad he still had his dad. I would take him home in a heartbeat.

Oh, we got to use a computer tonight! The Internet works when the generator is running so I e-mailed home. Just a quick one. It reminded me of everyone back home, not that I forgot, but you do get wrapped up in everything here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day Two

April 22, 2010

I have to admit that sleeping in a tent, on rocks, is easier then I expected. I slept so well. It did take a while to fall asleep. I heard there was a man from the camp who was walking in the street who had a seizure. The Haitians believe seizures (and really any deformity or retardation or illness) are a curse, usually from voodoo that was put on them or their parents. The camp was loud and scared and no one could calm down as they feared a demon was in the man. He had to be taken to his parents’ house to calm the camp. It is so sad to realize this is a reality here, this way of thinking. We all were woken up at five this morning to beautiful singing coming from the camp. I guess they sing songs of praise and have a mass every morning. I guess in reality we were all up earlier then that. The chickens start at two and the goats chime in at four. You get used to it and it is almost soothing. And there are guards that stay up all night too to make sure everything stays under control – that made me feel better.

I peed this morning. I think the first time since arriving yesterday. It is so hot you just sweat it all out. I remembered the rules, if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down. And all toilet paper, unless it is brown gets thrown into the trash.

I showered, but now ten minutes later I am drenched again in sweat. And showers here are so different. You have to take a military shower and there is no such thing as warm water. Turn the water on and rinse off and wet your hair and turn it back off. You suds up and wash your hair. Turn the water back on and rinse off again and rinse your hair out. Maybe 45 seconds of water usage. But it is the best 45 seconds of your day when you are hot and dirty.

At six a few of us went into the camp to help pour milk for the children. There are a few guys who mix milk, all milk is in powder form in Haiti due to the lack of refrigeration. I took pictures as Amber and John did the work. It was great to see the men in charge making sure the cups were clean, and if they weren’t they were vigilant about cleaning them for the kids. It was good to know they kids are getting some milk every day. They line up from smallest to biggest with boys on one side and girls on the other. And if any small children show up late the older kids will make sure the smaller ones get in line before them. I couldn’t stop and hope that they eat today. The men running the camp are very self sufficient, wanting no help from M25. It is nice to see them take charge, and they really seem like they know what they are doing.

As we waited for Domo and Fr. LaVoud to arrive we had time to gather our things and reflect. Amber and Fr. Dave were going up to the roof to do his morning prayer and invited anyone that wanted to join to follow. I figured I would see what it was all about so I followed. Fr. Dave even let me read some. It was a neat experience to do this with Fr. Dave. I never realized how much priests pray. But I enjoyed it. While it might be that the prayers aren’t understood, but Fr. Dave said you do it anyway for the good of the parish, not for your understanding. We had mass out front with anyone who wanted to join in. Fr. Dave presided and we all got to pick songs to sing. It was beautiful.

We waited a while longer for the driver from Chateau. Finally a truck pulled up with three people in it. We were so confused. The two were from PaP we found out, only tagging along to see if they could do any job for a few dollars. They loaded the truck for us and wouldn’t leave for the longest time. We finally had to pay then five dollars to get them out of our hair. The other gentleman sat off to the side, didn’t smile at us, didn’t say hello. He was on his cell phone the whole time. Theresa had talked to him a bit and she told us he was Fr. LaVoud. We all were so worried. He didn’t seem like a priest. He didn’t seem like anyone we wanted to associate with. Finally after talking to him again Theresa found out he was a hired driver Fr. LaVoud sent with his truck. We were so relieved. Domo showed up shortly thereafter and we were on out way.

Theresa, John, Amber and I with the driver Fr. LaVoud sent and everyone else with Domo. Doorville (spelling?), our driver is crazy on the road. And the roads are even crazier. We stopped at a grocery store to pick up odds and ends Theresa wanted. And we were on our way. In the city, everywhere you look, you see Digicel billboards, stores and vendors on the streets. Now that Haiti has cell phone service it is a must have item. And you see how ripped of we are when it comes to phones. They cost around $40 there but minutes are pretty expensive.

Once we were on our way again my stomach started turning. I was feeling so sick. Not because of food or illness. It was because of the destruction. Beautiful buildings, homes, people’s entire lives are down all around us. And it is random. Some buildings had no damage where the building next door is completely leveled. It made me sick to see the division between the rich and the poor. It made my heart break to see how many camps there are. Everywhere you look, on the medians, in parks, wherever there is free space there are tents. Rubble is being collected but it is being put in the parks. So now kids who lost everything have no lost a place to escape and play without worry too.

We picked up two people in PaP. I figured it was random, but it was planned. They are two boys in dental school from Chateau. They go back once a month to do extractions and such.

Once out of PaP, I am surprised we made it out alive. There are cars passing and playing chicken. Honking and flashing your lights are the only way to get around there it seems. But I thought we were out of the worst. I was wrong. We came into Leogane and this was the true epicenter. That didn’t get across in the media. It was horrible there, the damage. It was so horrible. The people of Leogane are upset that aid barely made it to them. The people, even with aid coming in are still pretty much on their own.

I also noticed throughout the drive where damage was greatest had these banners hanging in the air. I kept thinking of Lake Wawasee, they always had banners during the summer talking about events. I found out these banners told survivors where the makeshift morgues were. Where to look for you loved ones. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be told on a banner where to take dead or search through the dead for someone.

Seeing the cities fade and the countryside come into view, destruction was less and less but poverty was even more prevalent. I can’t imagine living like thee people. Rusting tin or leaf roofs, tarps or rusted tin for walls, maybe five by five. Children without shoes or clothes, parents who just looked defeated but determined.

We made many stops on our way into Chateau. Our driver had to get gas – we stopped near a woods and Doorville disappeared and then came back with a few people and a few gallons of gas, the boys from PaP helped with a cut in half plastic Sprite bottle to be the funnel – I have never seen it done like that, talk to his girlfriend, pay some kid some money, eat, and we stopped at Domo’s cousin’s place. She is a sister and they run a school. We were able to use the restrooms and see a couple kids who hadn’t been picked up from school yet, a little boy and a little girl. The little boy was fast asleep and missing a shoe. They were so precious. And their uniforms were pristine.

The views were beautiful as we drove even further into the mountainsides. There were new roads being built (form what I heard someone in the government’s mistress had a brother who builds roads so that was why they were being built, I also heard Preval was having many roads built to help him get re-elected – who knows) but they men building the roads were digging trenches with pickaxes and shovels. The roads were only stone and very dusty but also very nice. We were so lucky that we had nice roads until the last thirty minutes.

Theresa looked back at us as we turned onto a shady looking road and said, now we make our ascent into the mountains. John, who made the sign of the cross so many times throughout the trip as we hit chickens, almost hit people walking, almost hit motorbikes and almost had a few head-on collisions, started praying. The drive wasn’t as bad as I expected but I think John was really nervous. We crossed one river but had to take a detour around an area where the next river we had to cross was too high. As we pulled past the main chapel I got excited.

We pulled closer to where we were staying and I heard this music and singing. I was thinking, man who is having a party and didn’t invite us. I figured we still had a while before we arrived. Then all of a sudden we pulled into the drive to the rectory (we didn’t know they had one – all the information we had was from 2004, many changes had taken place since). There were tons of people there with flags and instruments. The instruments were mad of PVC pipes and gas funnels, it seemed anything they could find they made into an instrument. We danced and smiled for a while. All the kids were to one side and the adults, most of them, stayed behind the flags. They were so careful not to get too close too fast. I was fighting back tears as we were welcomed so warmly. They were taking pictures with their phones and someone even had a camera. It was crazy to be fussed over so much.

Fr. LaVoud, whom is nothing like Doorville thankfully. Welcomed us into the rectory and showed us around. He showed us the small chapel inside, the adoration room, the bedrooms and the balconies. Well the balconies were nice but there was no railing. I was a little nervous of that. Once we had set down our backpacks and personal items we grabbed the suitcases and took them to the dining room to store until we needed to hand things out. Men came to help us. I felt like I needed to be doing this, I came to help them or at least to see what we can do. And then here they are helping us. Once all that was taken care of it was time to eat dinner. I was hungry as I had a power bar for lunch over six hours ago.

We stood behind our chairs and sang our meal prayer. “Manje sa, ou voye ban nou an papa, manje ki bay lavi. This food, you send for us our Father, it is the food of life. Amen. Bon app├ętit.” And we ate. We had meat and veggies in sauce and rice. There was also fruit, or I thought it was. It turns out that they take green bananas and boil them and use them as a starch with breadfruit and yams. I was shocked when I took the first bite of what I thought was a normal banana. Some of us had a beer (John, after a swig, finally said he was having fun and he was excited – we even have it on video) and we all drank a lot of water. I enjoyed the meal. I thought we had beef roast. You saw bulls out every now and then. But I was corrected. It was goat. It was really good though. I could eat it all the time. I bet I will be.

After dinner we went back out to the front where the people were still singing and dancing. We found out they had been waiting on us since noon, we didn’t arrive until a little after six. It was darker now and they took us up the road to dance in the street. It was fun to be with the people and see their joy and relief as we were finally there. There was a man, apparently they all had been hitting the bottle, called us girls beautiful and started dancing with me. He was a little handsy. Even with locked elbows he still tried to grab my butt and succeeded a couple times.

Fr. LaVoud found us and told us to get in the truck. We were going to see the retired bishop of Jeremie who was from Chateau. He helps out with masses here now. His house was huge and so nice. I had to wonder where they money came from to get that house built. His name was Willie and I can’t remember his last name. It’s Romulus, his last name. He introduced us to his family – all of them were in their 80s and 90s! He told us of his service, one of the youngest Haitian bishops when he came to that title. In the early nineties the government was killing the poor, hundreds of thousands were killed. He was the only bishop in Haiti to speak out against the injustice. And from 1991-1994 he ran under the radar because he was to be killed. Many times God was with him as he evaded the military after him. He was in a car and he hadn’t changed his plates yet so his was not stopped as they barricaded streets in search of him and some military personnel who believed in his statements warned him. I can’t imagine, for four years, to be in fear of my life and being on the run. During this entire time there was a bat flying around the room we were in.

We discovered that the info we had about this parish was not accurate. Six years later and so many things have changed. There is now only one dispensary/clinic and only one national school and a couple chapel schools. Many had shut down for lack of funding to pay teachers. It is sad to hear and a little disappointing as we could have brought other things instead of tons of teacher bags. But these are lessons we need to learn and keep in better contact with our sister parish. Riding in the back of the truck to and from the bishop’s home was fun. I hope I can do that in the daylight too.

The singing outside followed us to the bishop’s home and stayed for a while. They didn’t stop until maybe nine. They were so excited for us and so grateful for our presence. Once we got back we were all a little tired. But we realized at night when the generators were running there was a radio station. It serves as their bulletin, announcements, dates, they even pray the rosary at night. We finally called it a night. Once we got to our rooms we realized how much they had done for us. We all had mattresses and a pillow and sheets and towels. They had soap and toothbrushes and toothpaste for us. We looked into the bathroom and there was a toilet and shower for us! We are so lucky and they have worked so hard for our coming. The bathroom was even tiled partially. We are so blessed.

Before I feel asleep, which took awhile, I heard all these noises. I thought someone was having trouble breathing and it sounded like birds chirping all night. And there was a wood bar running across my hip. But it is better then the floor or out in the open. Finally I fell asleep.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day One

April 21, 2010

Oh Lord, the dreams I had last night. I might have had a lot on my mind. John kept talking about not going. I dreamt he left the Chicago airport and said he couldn’t do it. But I also dreamt we made it safely into Haiti. I hope the latter is the only true part. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep, the dreams, the nerves or the excitement but it was so easy to wake up. Heaven is a Place was the song that woke us up. Amber and I chatted about the meaning of it – I remember hearing that story but didn’t know that was the song. We all took quick showers to rinse off (we weren’t sure when we would shower again). I washed the remnants of my makeup form the day before off. (I never go anywhere without makeup – a whole week is going to be a long time, especially in airports.) I even repacked my personal item to a smaller bag that morning. It was a little after 6 when we left Dave’s for the airport. His friend came to help take us and our luggage (seven people, fourteen suitcases, seven big backpacks and seven personal items) there wasn’t much room even with a conversion van. Security was easy at the airport. We breezed through completely unexpectedly. All of our luggage weighed fifty pounds or less – only ours was thirty some pounds which was hard to see – wasted weight that could have housed supplies. And only a few had things looked through or taken away when they scanned out carry ons and personal items. We got settled at our gate and waited to go to Miami. John kept telling us that the other flights to Cancun and such were calling his name and he would meet us in Chicago in a week. Ha! He was so reluctant to go. Not sure if it was just for attention or if he really had reservations about the trip. I am really nervous. Not about Haiti, about the flights. I have turned into the most nervous flier. Maybe this trip will help me. I remember what Adam had told me about the nerves. I hope it works.

The first flight was easy. Smooth, long, but it went a little faster then expected. I need to remember to bring a credit card if I fly American again. They played The Blind Side and the earphones were two dollars and they only take cards. Same for food. Sue and I talked about a few books on the flight as we sat next to each other. We also talked about The Blind Side. We made it to Miami without a hitch. We didn’t have a long layover and Amber was worried that we had to go grab our luggage and get them to customs or something. She lost a bet about that to Fr. Dave. She owes him ice cream at Zesto because she was wrong. We all grabbed a bite to eat. Nine dollar sandwiches. Fr. Dave bought mine. I need to send a thank you for that. He said he needed to break a fifty and I need not worry about it. But I still feel bad.

When we boarded the plane for Port au Prince we had to talk to customs/border control people. Asking a few questions like why are you going how much money do you have how long are you staying. Then I got a weird one. He looked at my name and asked if I was famous because of my name. I said no and he asked if I ever googled myself and I said yes and I assured him I never popped up on those searches. The second flight I sat by Janet. It was a huge plane. Seven across, two-three-two. There seemed to be over forty rows and even a business class section - that part was pretty empty. There were many mission teams from all over the US. A lot had matching shirts. That is something to look into for next time.

As we backed away from the gate all the nerves left me and what bubbled to the top was joy and a lot of it. I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I wasn’t going on this trip to change my heart. I was going because I felt called by God and because I want to know how I can help. My heart changing is a side effect, an added bonus. I felt God reassuring me that I am doing the right thing. It all seemed surreal that it was really happening. I was two hours away from my calling. I am so excited and calm for this flight. Smiles kept creeping onto my face as I knew this was right.

It was a bit bumpy out of Miami but above 10,000 feet it was a little better. We got free snacks on this flight. Crackers with cheese spread, raisins and chocolate. And we got a few papers to fill out for customs. It was confusing and I copied from Sue all but my name, address and passport number. I think I got it right. Hopefully.

WE MADE IT!!! I cannot believe we made it and are here. My paperwork was right or at least ok because I made it through customs. I even kept a page I was supposed to turn in. I guess they didn’t look to carefully at anything. Oops. I asked Amber where I needed to put it or if I keep it until we leave and she was like – AH how did you get through without giving it??? I told her I just walked through saying I was with those people (them).

Flying in was amazing, I had Janet take pictures as she was in the window seat. I hope they turn out ok. It was beautiful everywhere I looked. The mountains were beautiful, boats were in the water spotting the ocean – just knowing I was there. The roads were visible and the main ones looked good, but that is from the air. You could see damage and rusted roofs of homes too and a lot of tarps and tents. I was unsure if there was construction or destruction looking from above. It is amazing how much devastation and destruction you see from the sky. I fought back tears as we landed. I didn’t think I could feel anymore right in where I was and what I was doing but I did. I also felt like I was home. In a strange way, I think I am. I think Haiti will always be my second home from now on.

Going through the airport was interesting. Off into a jet way, then down an escalator and onto a bus to travel a short, walkable distance. Then through immigration. Getting our bags was a mess. The room was so hot and crowded. I got a few carts since we had so much luggage and we waited and waited and waited. I was afraid our luggage was stolen or we would have to pay someone for it but it came on the last truckload. All 14 pieces were there! And going through the second part of immigration, claiming our belongings was where I forgot to turn in a paper, oops. But minus the waiting and gathering of luggage immigration took a smile and about 45 seconds. Way easier then I ever imagined it to be – way too simple. But I won’t complain.

As soon as I thought about how easy it was the mob began. Men surrounded us trying to take our carts. Not to steal but to walk them for us. They know they will get tipped and are just desperate for money. I don’t think I can count on two hands how many men I had to say no merci to. There were people yelling trying to get through and to get your attention to try and get tipped. We found two men who were there as representatives of Matthew 25 and I felt so relieved. But we still had to push the carts a ways and turn down a few more guys trying to get them. We got to the van and waited about ten minutes for our driver and Theresa. Once they arrived we loaded the van and were on our way. I had never been so relieved to get out of an airport.

Meeting Theresa was something else. For someone on her 90th trip, someone who works for bettering Haiti, I expected a down to earth style and personality. When I first realized who she was I thought there had to be some mistake. She had makeup and jewelry on. Her hair was done and she was dressed very nicely. She seemed very high maintenance. It gives me hope though. I appear to be high maintenance, at least my love of makeup does, but I can still have love and hope and do things for Haiti without it interfering. (*but she did say a few days later that with all the time you have in Haiti why not make yourself pretty. – Ha! Not quite the point.)

The ten to fifteen minute drive from the airport to Matthew 25 was so amazing and so very horrible at the same time. There were people everywhere, cars everywhere. It was pure chaos. No traffic laws, no lines on the roads to divide the lanes. The sights were amazing, our first real look at Haiti eye level, But it was so horrible and devastating. You could see how beautiful the buildings, now down, were. You could feel the sadness of the people walking. The markets were pitiful, people selling anything and everything. There were tent cities everywhere, even the medians of roads. There wasn’t a person there that wasn’t affected and it showed. There isn’t a way to process everything you see on that first drive. I have a feeling this whole week will be the same.

We arrived at M25. It is a gated house with a few guys guarding the front. We were let in and we unloaded the van. Laura, Dave’s - from Chicago - wife, greeted us and showed us where to put our personal belongings – in a bedroom – our luggage stayed out doors under an awning. The bedrooms are empty, except for backpacks, no one is allowed to sleep in the building, there was some damage and the building is not safe to sleep in but you can sit in there all day and eat inside. Laura then showed us our tents. And told us that the rocks on the ground were new. It had been raining a lot and the ground was too wet so they brought rocks in to keeps the tents from sinking. Brian dubbed it the hard rock hotel. Ha! Everyone had at least a sleeping bag to sleep on for padding, a pillow and a sheet. The girls had a huge tent and the boys split between two small ones. John slept along – I hear he snores. Once we all knew where we were sleeping we had some time to get acclimated. Laura showed us the ‘camp’ out back. It was set up where a triage center was established after the earthquake. It used to be a soccer field for kids to come and play. Now it was dirt and tents housing 1,300 people. Laura showed us the sick tent which was just built. We met two amputee victims, their surgeries were done on the table we were going to eat supper on. Good thing I can push that aside. We saw the new toilets that were just put in. The kids came running up to us as soon as they saw us. They were so happy. All smiling. How can they be so happy living like this? They were climbing all over us, I didn’t mind being a jungle gym at all. They all wanted a kiss and to hold hands. Again I couldn’t see how just holding my hand made them so happy – they have nothing. They wanted to know our names and for us to know theirs. I was in heaven. But my enjoyment turned to guilt. I have so much and yet I can be so unhappy and unsatisfied. We then walked to the roof where two rooms stood, there were two others that had to be torn down. Laura and Theresa talked about the plans for the future of M25, where to go now or to build. As of this moment they are renting this building and land. I am so amazed at Theresa, she is a wealth of information.

Dinner was amazing. Rice, chicken and veggies in sauce, beets, tomatoes, lettuce with dressing, plantains. There was a spicy cabbage slaw (not like our cole slaw) – it was SO good and SO spicy. I wish I had the recipe. We ate like kings. I wanted more, not knowing what we would have in Chateau. But a moment shared between a mother of a little girl, Theresa and I in the camp came to mind. The mother had a little girl, maybe two, and she stopped eating. Nothing they do can get her to eat. I wanted to cry at that moment. After dinner we all sat at the table and shared stores and tips and talked about all things Haiti. One guy scared us with a projected 12 hour drive. There was such an eclectic group with one thing in common, Haiti. M25 is such a great place and I hope everyone that helps it run smoothly realizes how wonderful it is. It is a perfect way to ease into the Haitian culture from the American. My goal upon arriving home, to learn Creole – for real.

John and I had a beer – they have beer and coke products – the old style bottles here at M25. The beer, Prestige, is so good. Maybe a mix between Carib and Kalik? I could drink it on the lake back home I think.

I have loved being in Haiti so much so far. It hasn’t been 24 hours yet but I can feel it in my bones that this will forever be a huge part of my life. I was really scared that once I arrived I would rethink my calling. But landing in Haiti, seeing it and feeling it, has made it clear that this is where I belong.

I called home to start the phone tree. It was good to hear my mom and dad’s voices and Carter’s too. It brought me to tears. I will miss them so much. But I have to remember that God brought me here for a reason.

I had Laura hold back a tray for me, they have so many beautiful pieces of artwork here. I hope there is some in Chateau too.

It is early, maybe 10, but I am calling it a night. I am so exhausted from such an emotional day.