*I have been waiting to post this for a few days, but the internet speed hasn't been fast enough to post...we are SO excited!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
*I have been waiting to post this for a few days, but the internet speed hasn't been fast enough to post...we are SO excited!
So, it's definitely almost 2am, and I'm definitely still awake. No, it's not because I'm not tired. It's not because I have anything pressing or earth shattering that I have to attend to. Nope. It all started with some pigs.
We have some pigs living on our back property. They will some day be food, but for right now, they are just pigs. They make weird noises. This is not something I am used to in my non-Haiti life. Pigs. The way the sound, coming through my window. That was the beginning of my animal extravaganza for the evening.
It was followed up later by "squirrels." At least that's what my friend Joanna calls them. Actually, it was a rat. Gertrude hollared to me in my room to close my door because she saw a mouse on the front porch tonight. We've been moving boxes around and re-sealing storerooms around here. Apparently we've upset the critters because this one "mouse" was living large and in charge. I closed my door and it wasn't until about 10 minutes later when I was trying to talk to my brother and sister-in-law on skype that I realized the "mouse," which was actually a rat, was in my room. I screamed. Like a little girl and jumped on my bed with my laptop in my hands. I called out for Gertrude, who is probably more afraid of rats than me, and I'm sure Jacob and Gretal were SUPER confused as to what was going on in Haiti to make me scream so loud. A lot of crazy ensued...which ended in me making two men crawl around on my floor to assure me that the rat was no longer in my room.
When gertrude and I were going to bed we realized the rat was in the bathroom...We trapped it and found a man that we work with to come and "take care of it." He didn't seem to be too entertained with our antics, but neither one of us wanted to sleep with the rats, and we also didn't want to do what we had to do to "take care of it."
So...now...I'm laying in bed trying not to be creeped out by the crazy pig noises, and the left over rat adrenaline. And then there are the roosters that have just started their crowing. ah.
I love living Haiti.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I'm honestly a little lost for words as to an opinion about what's going on in Haiti with this whole Duvalier thing. The reality is that, if you are reading this from the United States, you have seen more news on the subject that me. I was talking to my dad last night, and he'd heard more on the nightly news than I had heard all day. But it seems that even then news entities don't really know what's going on. We keep trucking along. Yesterday we had a LONG list of things to accomplish, so Gertrude and I headed out. We're looking forward to a FULL guesthouse the first week of February and we had some preparations to do. We bought 8 new fans yesterday. Even in the actual retail store we had to haggle for a better price. I will never get used to how much things like this cost here. BUT we got them, and ended up with a pretty decent price. We've ordered new chairs, worked on the wall at the old guesthouse, and worked on getting a loan for the new car that we so desperately need! So...even in the midst of political confusion and uncertainty, we still hit the roads of Port AU Prince and tried to make a little something happen.
If you're interested in an opinion piece on this whole new crazy in Haiti, check this out...
This is from a (I think, Independent) Journalist working in Port Au Prince. She usually brings a little something different to the table. Read if you will.
Also...Big thanks to my mom for getting my paypal and new bank card all sorted! Paypal is up and running again for those who are interested.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Honestly, it seems like every few days something just plain wacky happens here. Well...I should clarify. When I say something that's "just plain wacky," I mean something that seems wacky in my North American, United States Citizen frame of mind. It's amazing the amount of crazy that is dealt with at times here.
Before I get into the crazy, I would just like to say that I have had a GREAT couple days. Yesterday was so restful and provided me the opportunity to do some of the much needed tasks that needed to be attended to in the United States that are SO easy for me to ignore in my life here. Ok, sometimes I'm not ignoring the tasks, I'm actually unable to perform them because I am here...but still, they need to get done. I talked to my parents for over an hour and even got to have a conversation with one of my best friends. I worked on some wedding details, and was able to try to sort out some of my banking/paypal issues due to the bank reissueing me a new check card without my knowing. So hopefully soon I'll have that all in order.
A very good friend of Gertrude's and one of my favorite people form my "Haiti circle" called to say she was in country. Her name is Mary and I met her my very first trip to Haiti. I knew she was the kind of lady to say it like it is, and not be worried about pretention. She was just here because she wanted to serve. And serve she does. She works at the Missionary of Charity hosptial for the sick and dying here in Port Au Prince when she is in country now. Gertrude and I went up to meet her there last night and went to the mass they had there. If you'll excuse me for a moment while I skip into some "churchy" talk. I'm not Roman Catholic. I am Lutheran and come out of a pretty liturgical tradition of Lutheranism. And I am learning to love the times when I tag along to the Roman Catholic mass here, because even though my language skills are not super awesome, I always know what's going on in the service because it follows the same liturgy I know from my church tradition. It's beautiful...it feels like coming home. Yesterday I had the added benefit of being surrounded by people with, what most of my friends and family, would call devastating diseases...HIV, TB, etc. I think worship takes on a whole different meaning when they people you are surrounded by really truly believe soon they will be seeing their Savior face to face. There was a comfort and a hope there...and it was beautiful to be a part of something like that.
We spent last night and this morning catching up and telling old Haiti stories. It's good to be with friends!
Tonight we heard knews that Baby Doc, Jean Duvalier, former dynastic ruler of Haiti returned this evening after 25 years in exile. This is the "wacky" of today. None of us are really sure yet what it means to have him back. I was only 6 years old when Baby Doc fled to France...I have no real knowledge of his rule here. Only what people have told me and what I have read. Google it, if you'd like to know more. I won't write anymore here for now. Who knows what will happen next. For now, I'm praying for peace. Really, what Haiti doesn't need right now is one more crazy thing to try and sort through. The days have enough trouble of their own right now, without extra crazy needing to enter in. I guess we'll wait and hear what the news is tomorrow. Haiti could use a little rest.
Friday, January 14, 2011
I'm happy to report that the little girl who I was working on the medical visa for has safely arrived with her hosts in the United States. I had the easiest time EVER at Social Services...until later in the evening when they said they weren't going to sign my papers and Gertrude told the mom to sleep there if she had to, but to not leave without them. Somehow she got the papers, and everything went off without glitches the morning little W left us. My friend, and fellow HMPer, Joanna did a fabulous job escorting her and even had the added fun of getting stranded in Haiti overnight with a child whose language she couldn't speak. If you know Jo, you know that it's no problem...she knows how to make it work.
W is scheduled for heart surgery at the beginning of next month. Getting to help kids who need visas is a LOT of work, but it sure is nice to know they are getting the help they need when it's all said and done. I'm happy to have helped this little munchkin!
UPDATE: Here is an article written about this little girl that I spent a month trying to get a visa for! http://www.pjstar.com/news/x1500472536/Haitian-girl-finally-makes-it-to-U-S-for-needed-heart-surgery
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I wasn't here.
1.12.2010...I was in Chicago packing bags for a mission team to leave the next morning. I was in the Cafeteria of the church where I worked when a friend who had previously been to Haiti came and told me that he just got an update on his Blackberry that there had been an earthquake in Haiti. There were no real details. I wasn't worried. Earthquakes happen all the time...little ones. I wasn't worried. Not long after that I received a phone call from my Dad.
"Rachel, there's been an earthquake in Haiti," is what he said.
I wasn't worried. My parents always get a little sensitive to the events in Haiti before I leave. I told him not to worry that everything would be ok. A half hour later he calls back.
"Rachel, I think it was a big earthquake. There are stories on the news."
I had bags to pack. I was busy, but I wasn't worried. I told my dad that if there was a problem I was sure my friends in Haiti would call me and tell me that it was unsafe to come. I would wait to hear from them. I appreciated his concern, but I wasn't worried. I started the long drive from the Suburbs to the City to return home with my friend Danielle. My dad called again.
"Rachel, it's bad. I don't think you'll be going to Haiti tomorrow. Have you heard from your friends?"
We searched the news radio stations to hear anything we might be able to hear. There wasn't much. We returned home about 9pm that night...4 hours after the earthquake. We rushed to turn on the TV. The first image I saw was the palace, broken. Collapsed. It was bad.
The next week was a bit of a whirlwind. It was spent emailing and calling people we know in Haiti and people in the United States who know people we know in Haiti to find out if everyone was still alive, who was missing, what buildings were damaged, or lost. None of my close friends lost their lives in the earthquake, but many lost family members, and even more lost homes.
I wasn't there a year ago, but I am here today. I spent the morning yesterday driving around Port Au Prince. We had things to accomplish but it wasn't long until we saw that everything was closed. All business were closed and markets looked more like ghost towns. The only places that I saw in Port Au Princes that were bustling with people were churches. People spilling out of church buildings onto rooftops and stairways, gathering outdoors, and congregating in the streets. At one point we had to get out and walk through a crowd outside of a church. We could barely squeeze through, there was no way our car would make it.
Still there are so many people living in tents, and more people being moved into "temporary" housing that is not something I would ever consider acceptable for myself. I know it is easier to point fingers than it is to try and make a difference. The answers aren't easy, and most days I wonder how PAP, and Haiti, can ever dig out from this mess. Still there are so many people without jobs, and without hope of finding one soon. Life is different here. What's happening in Haiti is more than a sensational news story. What's happening in Haiti is more than a headline you see on CNN. It's the lives of millions of people who wake up every morning much the same way as my friends and family in the United states. It's the lives of millions of people whose hearts beat the same way as yours. It's the lives of millions of people who want to see better things for their friends and families. The international community responded after the earthquake...some of that response has been beautiful and restorative to the Haitian people...and some of it has fallen short. I know that I have been given an opportunity to serve here in Haiti, and I strive to be a part of that beautiful restoration. There's a long uncertain journey ahead of the Haitian people, and I hope that along that road they will continue to find joy and laughter among the struggles. I'm happy to be here helping. What I do doesn't even begin to make a dent in the amount of work to be done, but I'm happy to be given this chance. After all, who wouldn't want to help their neighbor?
Monday, January 10, 2011
It seems to be better to blog in the morning. I can wake up a half hour or so before the crowd that is here and find a little time (and internet) to write.
We had a pretty big day in Haiti yesterday.
As I mentioned before, we have a team here in Haiti right now and it's a Haiti Mission Project team so I've been helping out with them quite a bit on top of my regular Haiti life. Yesterday we took them up to church at an English speaking congregation. It's interesting for me to see a place where there is a mixture of missionaries and haitians worshipping in the same place. It's also weird for me to be around so many white people. It's amazing how strange it feels. I'm not saying it's good or bad...just strange. I really very rarely hang out with Americans here in Haiti...so to be in a group that contains more than 50 people who resemble my physical characteristics, and speak the same language as me, is a bit to wrap my head around.
After church we took the group to Epidor which is like the Haitian equivalent to what we would call Fast Food. This can sometimes be a bit of a circus, and I am usually pretty vocal about my desire to take big groups there. The ordering process is different, the getting your food process is different, and it can be a bit confusing for 3 foreigners, not to mention 15. I have the help of 4 great Haitian guys yesterday and with my minor Kreyol abilities it was honestly the least high maintenance trip there I have ever had. And everyone ate until they were full.
After eating a ridiculous amount of pizza, sandwiches, and other assorted things, we headed up the mountain so the group could buy some souvenirs. It's one of my favorite places to go in Haiti, and this group did a great job negotiating prices and walked away with some pretty great things, at some pretty good prices.
We took them to see th Palace, and then we took them over to see Madame Venia's house. Madame Venia is the woman who cooks at the guesthouse and whose home the HMP has been trying to help rebuild. It's been great to watch that process, and so wonderful to see her big smiley face welcoming us into her not-quite-finished home. She still needs a roof...we'll see what we can do about that.
The day ended with a dance party at the orphanage. There is nothing more fun than watching a bunch of people love these kiddos. I also love watching the dancing...kids of all shapes and sizes and abilities get out and bounce around...pretty great to watch. It's easy to love this place.
Today I try the finishing steps of getting the paperwork necessary for the little girl to travel on her medical visa. I'm not taking a translator! Wish me luck.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
These days in Haiti, (and by these days, I mean "after the earthquake") it seems that renting cars is totally at a premium and if you don't have lots of extra money it's going to be FRUSTRATING. I have been dealing with this since I got here in September. Any time you need to rent a car, you better be willing to shell out some dough.
I have a team here. Our usual bus driver was booked for this week so it was up to us to book another means of travel.
I always try to keep things as cheap as possible for our teams. I know that it is expensive to come on mission trips, and most times the people coming here are scraping by the cash to make a trip like this happen.
So this makes finding other transportation sometimes difficult.
I finally found a van that they said would fit 12 people and was able to rent it for the price of $160.00 a day. I figured for some days I could get by with the guesthouse car and a friend's pick up....and even though it was ideal, that's how we started. It worked out fine, although I had people sitting in the bed of a pickup truck.
Yesterday I picked up the van. When I finally loaded everyone in it, A.) They couldn't all fit. B) it was horribly uncomfortable for some, and C.) The car dragged along the bottom of the group because it clearly could not handle the weight of 12 people.
We made the decision to take the van back. Even though it was a slightly cheaper price than you would pay for a van right now in Haiti, this clearly wasn't going to serve our needs. Luckily my fiance was able to go with me and help sort through the particulars. I was able to return the van. I consider that somewhat amazing that they were willing to give me money back.
A friend said they knew a guy who would let us use his van. He called him and the van driver said he'd do it for 100 dollars a day. This seemed like a GREAT deal. We said yes. Then he called back and said that they guy at least wanted 10 dollars per person. Ok...we were going to take 13 people now so we said 130 dollars. Deal. Then the guys calls back AGAIN...now he wants at least 280 dollars for the day. So we decided to let that go too.
So here we are...Sunday morning...back to where we were with a pickup truck and the guesthouse car.
It makes me wish I could just go to Budget and get what I need. Ah well. Such is life...and at least we all have transportation.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
It seems like I am always lacking time, energy, or internet signal to get this blog thing to work out. The last month has been frustrating with internet connection, and usually I sit in front of my computer for 20 minutes of so waiting for the blogger to load only to have the power switch over, the signal get lost and have to wait again. I'm afraid my patience just hasn't been up to it. I apologize. I would love to write more! I always have plenty of thoughts to share, and getting them out of my head here is always helpful too!
Merry Christmas...Happy New Year everyone!
So...here's a quick update.
Christmas in Haiti was hard for me...I didn't see it coming. Well, I saw Christmas coming, but I didn't see how emotional I would be being away from all the trappings of American Christmas, American Church Christmas, and my family and friends. Wow.
I spent two days in my future brother in laws house. They have four children. Needless to say, they did not leave me alone for two minutes. I made beaded necklaces and achieved super star status. Loved it! No one there speaks English. That was interesting.
I ate lobster on the beach, 10 feet from the beautiful Carribean water. Awesome. You can be jealous.
New Year's Eve was pretty much my best one ever. It involved many things that I miss from the United States, including a cocktail and pasta, a man playing classical guitar next to my table (while that rarely happens to me in the US, that was a nice touch)....and all sorts of Haiti fun. Like riding on motorcycles, hanging out with fun people, dancing to Haitian music, and great food. Totall worth it.
I was able to get the medical visa for the little girl after working for it for an entire month. Thank goodness. Then the stressful time of trying to keep the mom here for the other hoops we have to jump through and signatures we have had to get has also been a bit trying...but hopefully we will get to Social services on Monday, and the little girl will leave on Tuesday. I'm praying that all goes smoothly!
The little girl that I helped with a medical visa a few months ago had surgery this past week in the United States. She had a tethered spinal cord. they don't know if releasing it will help her walk, but I feel like she is in AMAZING hands and I am happy to report that while we won't know for a long time if the surgery was successful, that all seems to be going according to plan. This is GREAT news.
I have been trying to figure out how to build a chicken coop...nothing in my life has prepared me for this moment. Lord have mercy.
I have a group here in PAP right now. It's been great to have them around. We worked on building the wall at the guesthouse that had fallen down. They are also working on the chicken coop...I have put it in their hands.
Nannies are being a bit of an issue around here. If you pray...maybe you can pray that we can find the staff that we need, and that will love the children well. We have some super AMAZING nannies here, but we also have some pretty serious slackers.
I still don't have a new check card...getting things here to Haiti can be interesting. Which means I still don't have my paypal working. I know a couple people have tried to send stuff through there. I'm sorry. Banks are a pain sometimes, and it's more of a pain when you are in a differently country where communication is not always easy. I'm working on it. (In all my spare time)
I'm hearing alot of rumors of when election results or updates will be coming out again. I can't begin to imagine how you sort out what rumors are true...what rumors are not true. I guess we'll just know when we know.
I love Haiti. I've had some hard Haiti weeks...but the fact remains that I love Haiti.
I also love Gertrude. Her ability to roll with the punches in the midst of incredibly hard and frustrating things is beyond amazing. I can't imagine working with a better partner here in our home! She repeatedbly says to me..."Rachel, I understand, but I don't think you need to be this frustrated about it." Basically what she's saying to me is, "Rachel, I understand, but you can't control things here the way that you're used to controlling them. sit down...let it be."
So...we're off for another day. I'm hoping that I can update again more regularly. Our internet around here has at least been better in the morning and late at night. So...maybe I'll start blogging then!