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.

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