Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Daily Grind

For some reason this blog has been really hard.  Maybe it’s cuz I prefer to tell stories and not off load information.  Well I’ll try my best to let you all know about my daily grind in a interesting way; although I’m not promising anything.

OK so I've really been falling into a pretty nice little schedule here.  It's really awesome to have a day to day routine.  To have work to do.  Something to look forward to.  Speaking of which I am coming home from Nov 17th through Dec 8th.

I can't say seeing my family or Shannon & Sophie doesn't play into it (it may even be the main reason).  I also want to be out of Haiti for their election on November 28th.  

Who here likes bullets?  I do I do I do.  So guess what you get a table (bwahahahahaha).

6 am
Play with orphans before they go to school!
Work Time
9 ish
Go shower (the sun has finally heated up the water!)
9:30 ish
Work Time
English lesson with nuns
Work Time
Lesson with T-Jack
5:00 (sometimes)
Walk around the local area!!!
Go play with kids again!!!!!!!!!
8:15 – sleep
Free Time (Sometimes Lessons With T-Jack)

When I say work time I’m usually doing one of the following:
  • ·         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)

This is obviously a weekday.  On the weekends I try to work on the database and play with the girls without interruption from my lessons.  On Sundays they have Oratory which is where I get to know some of the local kids.  I’ve got to write a blog specifically about that.

The main reason I’ve written a boring post like this is to show you all I’m having a really good time right now.  It’s changed a lot since the first day here.  But my project has short term benefits with long term implications.

Simply put I’ve got a goal.  Everyone knows I’m a planner (albeit a flaky one:).  So having long term plans makes me really happy.  My day to day work is also really freaking fun.  The girls crack me up and honestly the need a couple good male role models.  Not sure where they are going to get that!?!

OK OK I'm going to start working on an oratory story.  That's always more fun.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finding my niche (nitch)

I finally feel like I’m finding my niche here in Port-Au-Prince.  I’ve been finding it for the past week or so and today I feel at home.  I finally have a routine.  It may need some tweaking but at least I have something to look forward to EVERY day. 

Yeah it’s taken me a while but I’m teaching English classes to the sisters here.  These classes are in addition to my English class with T-Jack and working on some engineering stuff.  The engineering stuff is still really vague.  It looks like I’ll be building a database for the sisters (which I’ve already started).

Geek alert: This gets dorky for a sec.  OK so I want to set up a dedicated server that has permissions for remote access.  I’ll have admin access while the sisters and teachers here will have two different levels of user access.  I may be jumping the gun here but we’ll see.  I’m going to have a meeting on this today (or tomorrow or next week… that’s how stuff works in Haiti).  Either way, wish me luck.

Outside of that I may or may not be helping them build a website.  I’m also the technical advisor to the sisters regarding the engineering designs they get from architects and civil engineers…  This will kick in soon but not right now. 

And for fun I get to play with the kids.  The sisters do an oratory every Sunday with the local kids.  I’ll explain this a little later because it deserves its own blog.  Needless to say it’s a lot of fun playing with the locals.

I haven’t yet broken into the social circles among the orphans (all girls) here on the compound.  This may be due to my poorly worked schedule right now and my slowly improving Creole.  Anyway I’ll be working on it and hopefully I’ll be able to emerge as a positive role model for them.  I’m really hoping to start some English lessons with the girls. 

These are all just hopes and goals and ideas.  Doesn’t that make you excited though?  It makes me excited I have hopes and goals and ideas again.  When I first got here I had a million ideas of how to “fix” Haiti.  Since then I’ve lost all of my initial expectations (which is a good thing) and I’m starting to build up new expectations based on my experience here.
That may sound like it shouldn’t have taken me 2 months to figure out but hey guess what I’m slow.  Deal with it. 

Today I’m good.  Even with everything that’s happened.  Even when as I start getting to know the suffering around me.  Even as I become more and more disillusioned.  Through all of this one thing remains true, “If it doesn’t break you it only makes you stronger.” 

Haitians may be many things, but they are not weak. 

And they'll kick your butt!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ode to Monica

So the other volunteer who came to Haiti with me left this morning. It was a sad and silent car ride. There wasn’t a whole lot to say after, “I know it’s for the best but I’m still going to miss you.”

Pic I took for Monica where we used to pray.

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.

Before I arrived, I was debating whether or not I wanted to come to Haiti. I think I’ve mentioned this before. One of the many reasons I actually got on that airplane was Monica. I knew she’d need me to be there for her and I also knew I needed another volunteer to help me get acclimated.

In Haiti we became great friends. I’ve learned to look to her for a lot of my growth when it comes to God. Now I’m going to do something new, it isn’t my style to preach but I’m going to let you all know a little more about my faith...

I’ve never been a very “Catholic” person, as many of you know. Most of you don’t know that I’ve always had faith that there is a God but I’ve never defined much more than that. You don’t know because I don’t usually tell people. It’s very personal to me.

Monica cutting her birthday cake.
Well Monica helped expose me to what it actually means to be Catholic. Monica got me to start praying the Rosary, going to Daily Mass, appreciating the act of fasting, praying more and reading the Bible. Yet the Rosary was the cornerstone of our friendship.

For the first time in my life, praying the Rosary wasn’t a huge pain in the butt. It was actually kind of fun. We would use it as a way to hang out and warm up for some deep philosophical and theological discussions. These discussions allowed us to get to know ourselves and each other much better.

But the thing we did the MOST was talk about our significant others. I’d tell her about Shannon and she would tell me about Jared. We were together in Port-au-Prince for about 2 weeks before I went to Cap Haitian and about 3-4 weeks after I returned.

This morning she went back to the US because she’s been sick for 12 days.

Dear Monica,

I’m sad to see you go.
You’re friendship has meant so much to me.
Yet it’s time for you to know.
While sick, you can’t fight the Haitian Sea.
We will all miss you.
This is a poem of reminiscence.
Had you not been here.
I wouldn’t have talked about my poo
Would’ve missed your presence.
Had you not been near.

I’ll miss the times when we would talk
About all the things we found out of place
Mustering up the courage to go for a walk
Observing things that jump out at your face:
Like little boys peeing in the street;
Tents that fit a family of ten;
Wild dogs that want to bite.
Even when I felt like I was beat
You reminded me of the sorrows of other men
Whose burdens aren’t nearly as light.

So today I say goodbye.
Adios is always difficult,
With just one tear in my eye.
We both become a little more adult.
I promise to continue to fight:
Staying here I’ll to continue to see,
That which an earthquake does sow
Pray for me that I might
Have strength enough to be
The man God wants others to know.

Oreviour Monica

Biffy, Me, And Monica. Hang in there Monica!


I’ve been trying to force myself to write a blog for a week now. It’s tough to get back on the horse after you get bucked by a 104 fever. I don’t know why but this blog is a big deal for me to write. It means I’m back and ready to start helping Haiti out again.

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

Who said you can't get Salmonella Poisoning from Salmon?

I don't know who it was but they were right.

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.