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.

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