|How could anyone hate this guy cuz he's black?|
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
|Looks like a fly doesn't it!|
|Betsy Climbing toward a mosquito.|
|Joyce, hard at work or hardly working?|
- · The “maiden in distress”-butt spider,
- · The “I’m locked out of my car”-butt spider,
- · The “old lady trying to cross the road”-butt spider, and
- · The “little girl who’s lost her mom”-butt spider!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
|This is the man to look out for. Just get out and walk!|
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Play with orphans before they go to school!
Go shower (the sun has finally heated up the water!)
English lesson with nuns
Lesson with T-Jack
Walk around the local area!!!
Go play with kids again!!!!!!!!!
8:15 – sleep
Free Time (Sometimes Lessons With T-Jack)
- · Working on the database,
- · Talking to Aaron about the database,
- · Planning a lesson,
- · Blogging (try to keep this down cuz I don’t really consider it work),
- · Washing clothes by hand, or
- · On rare occasions I take a nap (who said volunteering doesn’t have it’s perks)
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
|And they'll kick your butt!|
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I met Monica at VIDES Orientation. I knew then we’d be great friends. First cuz she’s a giant goof ball. Second, cuz she can be bossy when it comes to health (I got dehydrated at orientation and she force-fed me water instead of letting me help clean up!) Third, she’s a solid source of spiritual advice outside of my family.
|Monica cutting her birthday cake.|
But all that happened was that you got sick, why was it hard for you?
Good question and here’s the answer; getting sick took a lot out of me. It broke my spirit in a lot of ways. It made me want to go home. It made me want my mom. It made me angry at Haiti. It made me angry in general. Anger...
It made me face one question in a very real way, “Do I want to be here?” Well I’m happy to say that the answer to that question is yes. It was tough to realize it and it took a new friend and an old friend to make me realize this. The new friend, Joyce is a Canadian volunteer.
After I recovered she (Joyce) was the only person I could talk to because Monica was still sick (she got way worse than I did.) When we were hanging out I’d complain about the states, Haiti, and life in general. One day she said something that snapped me out of my mental funk. “Eric, you are disillusioned!”
Yes, I was. Disillusioned: to be free from or deprived of illusion, belief, idealism, etc.
Haiti has made me see the world for what it is. Earth is a rough place where privilege is handed out as a birthright. If you don’t have it forget about things like: medicine, McDonalds, welfare, and the American Passport (which allows you to actually leave Haiti).
Doctors suck in Haiti. They don’t know what’s wrong and they like to prescribe stuff just to make you feel better. Doctors here are politicians who try to lobby for their patients by making them “happy” not better. I hate that.
I don’t know why I threw that in there, it’s probably cuz these past few weeks have been such a brain twister. I’m finally starting to unravel the mess. I just found out that Monica is going home. She leaves on Tuesday (today is Tuesday I meant to post this blog a few days ago). I’m really sad about this but also happy that she is going to see and actual doctor.
Joyce (the Canadian volunteer) is leaving the first week of November. Biffy (who is still here) is an 8 hour drive away. The work that I was making progress on (making a Database to help track proposal work) is now pretty useless, and I’m thinking about asking to be sent to Cap Haitian.
I do love the people in Port Au Prince (PAP), but my heart truly is with Cap Haitian. I love the driver. I love the Choir even though they asked me for a Laptop. I love the Nuns. I love the kids yelling, “Ewik, Ewik, Ewik ‘Look’” Hehe. Little buggers. Yet I don’t know that I can leave Port Au Prince.
One thing Cap doesn’t have is the same level of need. Cap did not suffer from the Earthquake like PAP did. For some reason I feel like they don’t NEED me as much. They still have need, the need preearthquake Haiti. Today PAP has desperation. I’ll write you more about the tent cities later but for now suffice to say it’s there.
So I’m lost. I don’t exactly know where I am needed. But I keep going because of my lessons with T-Jack. My work with the database, which I’m not sure is needed any more. Along with some prayer, which is new for me.
Another digression. I’m coming home for Thanksgiving. I’ll be coming back to Haiti but I need a little break and I don’t want to be in PAP for the Nov 28th elections. I think it’d be a really bad idea.
So now that I know I want to be here I know that I’ll come back. When I first came to Haiti I did it for all the wrong reasons: Monica is here, I told everyone so I needed to “prove” myself, the people of Haiti NEED me, and I can do engineering.
When I come back to Haiti again it will be for one reason: I WANT TO BE IN HAITI.
Wow that feels really good to say. Alright I’m going to end this blog here. I’ll probably have another few blogs written over the next few days so keep an eye out. Below is a picture of the four volunteers and Sr. Mary Angela for Monica's 22nd Birthday! Monica on the left, Biffy is standing next to me, and Joyce is sitting in front of me.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
In the states I was cavalier with what I ate. I'd eat veggies off the same board I cut steak on. I'd eat my steak rare. I even got suckered into eating a Korean dish that was all raw (beef and egg included). You know what happened to me with all of this? Nothing. Not a darn thing.
With all the modern medicine and health insurance I could afford I didn't get sick from one slice of american under cooked meat.
In contrast, Haiti has made me careful of what I eat, even a little sheepish. I only eat what the sister's have prepared themselves. Everything is cooked fully and I've started steering away from mystery meats.
Yet here I am lying in bed recovering from salmonella poisoning. It all started after a work out. I couldn't do 20 push-ups which is a strange thing for me. I thought I was just out of shape... really really really out of shape but later that day I was feeling sick and had to go to bed early because of dizziness and a headache.
Little did I know this was just the beginning. On Tuesday my fever broke 104 and they took me to the doctor. This wasn't a happy doctor visit for me. Driving in Haiti is like a roller coaster without the inherent safety of falling 100 feet on a nearly vertical incline. And aren't all roller coasters more fun when you're sick.
For 4 days I was laid up in bed wishing I could just visit the States for a week, a day, an hour. Just to escape the land where reason seems to be a foreign concept and communication is off limits.
Today most of my symptoms have subsided. All I have left is an itch all over.
One thing is for certain. I feel like a freaking salmon.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
OK so I'm back in Port au Prince now. It was a long as heck drive to get down here. 8 hours in the car one way. Bumpy roads make for a sore bum. But it's ok cuz I'm here. Or at least I got here a week ago (most my blogs run a week or so behind).
That isn't cuz I don't love all of you. I do it's just difficult to get really awesome stories to write all of you, edit them (I'm not editing this one), and send them out.
I just wanted to let you all know I'm ok, I'm back in PAP, and I've been given a task I CAN do. My new job is to be the technical advisor to the sisters. I.E. I look at the engineers work here in Haiti and if they're doing something incredibly stupid, I get to catch it. Assuming I'm not feeling stupid that day.
This is better than before because when I told the sisters I wasn't an Civil Engineer they said... But you're an Engineer right? HA. Well I solved that problem, I talked to Sr. Monique and clearly told her that Aerospace Engineers can't do everything. I can build a plane, but a laser on the moon, and even solve world hunger, but building a house in Haiti is going to be a little bit out of my league.
Problem solved. Now I'm working on building a database for the sisters to keep track of their projects, learning Creole, and I'll be looking at any plans that come across my desk (a figurative desk).
Alright so why the heck don't my pictures match up to this at all? Well that's cuz about 2 weeks ago I went to "The Citadel." Today I'm finally telling you all about it.
This place was awesome: No lines, No harnesses, No rails, No boundaries, and Safety is OPTIONAL. Yup I went all over this place. It scared the carp (a fish) out of me. The pic on top was meant to be a joke but that's actually how I felt about the whole experience. The tour was in french so I didn't understand a whole lot.
This place was built by Christof Colom (Not Christopher Columbus) To ward off the french. By the looks of it this Haitian king was a master of overkill. One cannon and a pirate flag ought to do the trick...
I can't gripe about the plethora of cannons tho. I got to run around and ogle at them. I have no clue how they got these cannons up here in the first place. I had trouble walking up the mountain with a backpack full of water... They brought this cannon.
The view is breathtaking. I can't adequately describe just how gorgeous it was so I'll just let you look at the pics. The mountains you see in the pic surround the fort on 3 of the 4 sides. The other faces the plains to the South.
There is a palace at the bottom of the mountain that was destroyed by the last Earthquake to hit Haiti... Irony can be a sad mama jama some times.
Alright Lady's and Gents, this blog is raw but I'm hoping you like the pics enough to forgive me. Maybe I'll go edit it tomorrow or maybe I'll go play with some Orphans. Either way I hope you are all doing well!
|From Haiti Adventures|
|From Haiti Adventures|
|From Haiti Adventures|
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
|From Haiti Adventures|
As most days here start I rolled out of bed to the nuns singing in preparation for mass. Rather than being smoten(?) by a lightning bolt I roll out of bed and take the necessary 15 steps to go to mass. The priest today is my favorite so we’re already getting off to a good start.
My mind wanders to thoughts of Port Au Prince, Pizza, learning to program in Java (I’m a dork), and obviously my lovely girlfriend, Shannon. Why pizza you ask? Well, a few days prior, the sisters had asked me what my FAVORITE food was. I answered like any good America pizza and they promised to make me some before I left!
Following mass and breakfast, I wander looking for children to play with (usually one of the ones in the picture Ose right, or Wood left) or my books to study Creole (notice the capitalization). Renel stopped me to ask, “Eric, you want to go to Cap Haitian with us?” Excited to get off the compound I hurried into the car. The car pulls away as the munchkins grab onto the side repeating their mantra, “Eric Gade’m”.
A lack of the usual near-death experiences made for a pleasant ride. Without my life flashing before my eyes, I’m able to focus learning Creole with Renel and the bustling Haitian market place (which is located in the middle of the street). One of our stops was to get bread and PIZZA!
I admit it I enjoyed it, so sue me I'm no saint and I just love pizza.
Returning to the house I asked Renel (In the pic on the left) if we could go see the orphans again. Smiling he went to ask Sr. Gloria if we could borrow the car. A quick answer and we are off to see the orphans and Smiley-Mc-Smilerton. This time I got them all to make faces “Fe Makak”.
Smiley-Mc-Smilerton (in the other picture with his tongue hanging out) would glance at the pastor to make sure he wasn't looking then give me the best face he could muster. Afterwards we'd all laugh as we looked at the pictures. This process repeated 18 times (yup I counted). I gave the pastor some cash for food and we left.
Feeding 1 orphan for a week: ~$10
Pants from Northface: $60
Plane ticket to Haiti: $400
Camera from that I'm borrowing: Duh free
Pictures of orphans: Also free (see bullet above)
Never hearing this little diddy again: priceless
Later that evening Jean-Robert swung by for a Creole/English lesson. He brought a book with him and would point out words he didn't understand, like blushing. Living in a nation of blacks he has never seen skin that becomes darker due to sun, embarrassment, or anger. For a Haitian to redden their skin they get surgery (Michael Jackson's living legacy). I tried to demonstrate that my face turns red by holding my breath. He looked more baffled than ever but I tell myself he understood.
After our lesson I got the unique experience of watching a Haitian movie. The movie was corny and fun to laugh at, but I actually got to experience life with JR, Sippo, Nata, Ose, and the security guard. For once I wasn't the center of attention and I got to just sit and relax with my friends.
That night the sister's had made a pizza. It was absolutely amazing. They asked if it was the best pizza I'd ever had and unable to lie I said no. However, it was darn good and I told them as much! The sauce was a blend between tomato and buffalo chick sauce. The crust was fresh Haitian bread which is amazing. Only the cheese and and meat needed some attention. Given the situation I could NOT have asked for more. It made that day one of the best and I fell asleep feeling less like a stranger.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I've mentioned Renel previously in my blog (He was previously known to me as Raymond...). At that time I wasn't able to paint you the correct picture of Renel (aka Raymond). I hadn't yet come to know him, his name, or just how much I would come to like him.
A friendship we began immediately, in spite of the language barrier. As far as Haitians are concerned he has been blessed. He plays the guitar for the church, eats on a regular basis, and donates to a local orphanage when he is able. Last week, he was kind enough to take me with him to the orphanage.
I didn't know it at the time but he was giving me a different taste of Haiti. I needed some cheering up and Renel knows I love playing with kids. As we are drove down the road we enjoyed semi-bi-lingual small talk. Our conversation died as we exited the patchy main road to dirt. Parking in a little area next to a local water pump he told me we were at an orphanage.
Usually I like to mentally prepare for these sorts of thing. Put up a little mental barrier and imagine bunnies with wings. I don't know why but it helps. No time to prepare, I just walked right in. The compound was paltry: a small classroom, writing on the chalk board that stretched onto the bricks, and a small house, sized for 1 American or 15 Haitians. I smiled faintly as I passed the two boys sitting in the class room. My brain instantly overloaded and I shut down, I was a walking recorder. Rounding the corner I come face to face with the orphans.
They are the shyest kids I've seen in Haiti, and hesitant to greet the goofy blan. At Raymon's suggestion, I began taking photos of the kids. Trepidations at first they stand and watch. The bait is set and I all I need to do is show them the first picture. The silence was replace with laughter and one of the few words I understand “Gade'm Gade'm” (Look at me!). They would wait for me to show them the picture rather than creating a mosh-pit so as to grab at the camera first.
These children were different from any others I've met. They were all leery of being hurt again. In their eyes I could see a tale of pain. The loss of a parent, brothers, sisters, and family to end up in a shelter with a kind stranger. Hunger, not a thing of the past yet less familiar than before. Deep wounds. The pain in their eyes was only a slight distraction from the smiles that sung a song of hope. One child in particular caught my attention.
I don't remember his name but I'll never forget his smile. The picture can not do justice to this smile. He warmed my heart again and reopened my eyes to the beauty around me. Such a small thing yet his smile had a profound affect on me.
As much as I want to say, “I inspired them,” I can't. I walked away from there with renewed hope and a longing to give more of myself to Haiti. After a few minutes we left and my brain slowly started thinking of bunnies with wings.
The orphans are all taken care of by a local pastor who doesn't have the means to take in more. He can hardly sustain the kids he's got and as you would expect relies on charity. Renel gives to them when he can, but for a struggling Haitian musician it isn't much. I remember his exact words, “God has blessed me so I like to give back.” I knew at that moment that Renel was going to be a great friend of mine.
Donations: I hate to give sales pitches so I'll keep it brief. I'd like to start giving the pastor food, clothes, and a couple toys. If you are interested in participating please let me know.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Preface: This entry was written on what I would like to call a bad day. It is intended to pull at your heart strings and help you get one step deeper into Haiti with me. While I usually write with humor, this is my attempt at trying a different approach.
I fall in and out of a mental funk here in Haiti.
I see so much suffering. The air is thick with it, and it gets in your lungs. At times this makes me want to turn and run. Run for the mountains, for the salty air of Seattle, or toward the embrace of my loved ones. There are days, however, that I want to breathe more in. I want to be a Haitian, to be part of the story of pain I see written on their faces. It stems from a need to completely relate to those people around me. Yet, I have an implicit knowledge, I’m Blan, and my suffering will always be at a deficit.
Even with this gap between us, I strive to understand. Fasting is one of the techniques I use to help me relate. My fasts in Haiti manifest in multiple ways, one of which being that I do not eat until I am full. Full; a memory of Thanksgiving, pants that seem to have shrunk during, and the famous American turkey coma. We suffer through digestion pain with our families. Its one of the few comfortable pains in life. It is a feeling that I miss and yet the memory of that feeling separates me from the people around me, because they will never know it.
It is in this memory that realize how different I am from the people here. I will never share their constant struggle for life. It is a conscious that is always with me. There are times that I try to escape my own thoughts by putting my headphones on, laying in bed, and shutting my eyes. Yet even, my mind has turned to Haiti. In my dreams people are tightly wrapped packages, made with skin, bone, and gas bloated bellies. Their tired eyes that have long since lost their luster. Hunger is a feeling they remember with fondness, and for some their bodies slowly stop responding.
While rare, these cases exist and I've seen them. I've seen the eyes of children who aren't lucky enough to get one meal a day.
Although it kills me to admit it, I've been protected from this side of the suffering every day or even every week. I'm not yet strong enough to see those glazed over eyes every day...
Time for a story:
I love to wander the compound here in Cap Haitian, usually searching for kids to play with. Sometimes I need something to do and Wood, my favorite kid, always cheers me up. Tuesday, I needed some cheering up so that's where I was, walking the compound. Yet my timing was off, it was noon, a time for people to eat what they can scrounge up.
Most of the people go home, but the compound always has a few stragglers. Some of the stragglers lazily take naps and others are just sit in the shade, to get out from under the heat. As I pass the nappers I tread quietly and politely greet those who aren't yet dozing. Yet this day, I saw an frail old woman taking respite under awning of the school. I didn't recognize her, and she looked as if she just walked in from the street. Her head was resting on the palms of her hands as she was bent over her knees.
The closer I came the more details I was able to make out. Her clothes was tattered, her body had the tell-tale signs of hunger; stick figure arms and a gaunt face. I give her my usual greeting and our eyes meet. She moves her hand to her bloated stomach, an indication that she wants food. Her eyes told me all I needed to know, she needs food, but I'm “not supposed to give anyone food.” Unable to bear the weight of her gaze I turned and walked away.
I don't know why this one woman affected me more than the others. It was the timing, it was my mood, it was the light, it was all of the above, or maybe it was just because at that moment I was hungry.
The hunger here is inescapable, it is a harsh reality that surrounds me. In these moments I turn to the serenity prayer and look to a future where I'm capable of doing more for these people, my friends.
If you don't know the serenity prayer here:
This photo was found at: http://michaelnajim.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/serenity-prayer-and-sea-sunset.jpg