Thursday, August 26, 2010

The race of a life time

Monica and I have been getting more and more daring. Tuesday we left the convent on our own! It isn’t as though it’s all that dangerous out there but we just don’t know how to communicate.

We started off at the little Haitian boutique shop that sells haitian goods from all over the country. It's an awesome little store and I go there to get cards for the states when we have visitors. After the store we walked up a street we'd never been down before. The key to this adventure is having the silly american grin and saying hello to EVERYONE. Yes I do mean everyone. Cars, cats, dogs, goats, and most importantly the Haitians who have some how figured out that we are crazy...

We always pick up a few Kineps on our walk (like a grape but with a skin). We eat a few and give the rest away as a bribe for people to get close to us. It isn't very hard because the streets are narrow and I'm fairly fast...

Today we managed to run into a few kids who live down the street. This made my day/week soo much better. For some reason kids don’t scare me. It might be their tiny stature... I mean it's like David and Goliath and these kids don't have a sling. However they do have a curiosity that sparks some crazy trigger in me and I instantaneously become fun. One of these kids wanted to race. Needless to say I started running up the hill and he just stood there watching… An expression crossed his face like… “WHAT HE WANTS TO PLAY?” So we ran, not far, not fast but it was a new connection for me and this kid. Hopefully the next time he sees a blan he is just as courageous as he was this time.

This moment will always mean something to me and I hope to him. It was a lesson in communication. When I can't use my voice I can always rely on my feet to get my message across.

I hope these pics work

Alright so I'm just posting a couple of pictures to make sure they all get up here I don't know how this is going to look when all is said and done but hopefully you can follow the links to my web album. Let me know if the pics don't work.

From Chaos in Haiti

These tent villages are all over the freaking place.

From Chaos in Haiti

More tents...

From Chaos in Haiti

This is why they are living in tents... This used to be a 4 story building.

This is why you stand in a doorway during an earthquake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What is Haiti like you ask?

Well Haiti is definitely going to be a trial for me. There is no doubt about that. Let’s start off with the good. I have running water. I have limited access to the internet. I have a bed. I have three meals a day. Yet I see how the Haitians live around me and I cringe every time my thoughts stray back the things I left behind: my bed, warm showers, air conditioning, Spiro's Pizza, and most importantly a washing machine.

Outside the convent it is chaos. There are children begging for water... The ones begging for money they offer to do whatever they can: wash your car, cut coconuts and search for shells for money. There is rubble, broken houses, damaged houses, and tents. I don't think any one building down here survived unscathed. By far worse thing I've seen so far are the tents. They have cities of tents here that offer little to no protection in the midst of hurricane season. I had the pleasure of seeing one of these storms in action and it wasn't pretty. Yet my words can't describe what I've seen to you and the pictures don't come with the scent of haitian sweat, the decay of the trash, or the weight of the air. Yet there is pride here, there is happiness, there are smiles that sprout as the city begins to grow again.

What am I doing? My job here is to assist in the rebuilding effort whatever way I can. Right now it’s editing proposals asking for funding to get 200 girl orphanage built. This new orphanage is to replace the devastated building which was home to 80 orphans. The 80 orphans had to be discharged to their remaining relatives where most are forced into the lowest class of Haitian society. Needless to say I'm trying to help even though I am in the stage most people call, "overwhelmed as hell."

Here are a couple of pictures of the tents and broken houses. These pictures aren't the exception they are the rule.

Life at the convent.

The convent is completely cut off from the outside by a 10-20 foot high wall. I feel safe here and yet I feel boxed in at times. Being protected from the people I came here to help.

Living among nuns is a strange experience. They are so gracious and yet so down to earth. They've been understanding of my confusion and laugh when I try to speak creole. They seem to be keeping their expectations of me pretty realistic even if I wish I could do more. Yet through it all I'm still recovering mentally. My communication is limited to the other volunteer (Monica) and my time on skype. She’s been great because she can translate the French but she doesn’t understand Creole either. I’m frustrated because I’m a talker you all knows this, yet for now I'm relegated to the use of body language.

Yet this has taught me that life is about the little connections. For example, Valarie, a nun from Brazil, doesn't understand computers and I don’t understand her. Communicating in my broken Spanish and body language we come to the mutual understanding that the internet here is slow. I proceeded to download a file for her that we couldn’t print… So we tried to put it on her thumb drive, which was full… She vehemently told me to delete everything but 2 folders full of her treasured pictures and it just wasn’t enough. When I told her it wouldn’t work she looked distraught. I gave her my spare thumb drive, which really seemed to make her day. I didn’t think much of it at the time being as I got if for free but ever since then she has greeted me warmly and been more patient with my Spanish than it deserves. These little connections are all I have here.