As I sit in Miami waiting for our flight to Dulles I thought I would post a final blog entry about our last morning in Port au Prince. This morning we were asked if we would like to ride to the airport via Tap Tap. Tap Taps are the Haitian equivalent to a bus except they are crammed packed with people. Patrick drove the car with the luggage to the airport while Jerry, Bony, Megan & I took a tap tap to the airport.
First we had to walk about three blocks to where the tap tap stop was….this is walking through PAP - another thing I was told never to do – no one bothered us although I know we were definitely the topic of conversation all over PAP.
We hopped into a tap tap that numbered 33 people and road it to the airport. The cost …between 10 and 15 cents US. It was a blast and totally empowering. Now I would never ever do this on my own – but as long as you have a Haitian with you …you would not be bothered. It was really cool! Below is the typical tap tap.
Bony & our tap- tap
We arrived at the airport and went to drop off the AVIS rental car at the AVIS shack. Well guess what ….Cassandra (the same women who made our lives miserable last Friday) was manning the counter. I told her I was returning the car – she smiled and remembered me – she knew without looking I was in last Friday (no doubt). I gave her a copy of our contract and then she asked me for the other yellow sheet which they give you with all the previous damage noted on it. I had forgotten it in the suitcase that Megan was now guarding at the other end of the airport. So Cassandra told me that without the paper I would have to go to the other AVIS counter we went to last week. So I said okay (we had time) but then she tried to have me sign a copy of a credit card slip with nothing on it – no total. I told her to fill in the amount (the amount would have been the same with the car unharmed as if I had wrecked it because remember I took out the collision insurance) but she said no and that she would fill it out later after it was inspected. So I refused to sign it – and she refused to let me leave without signing it – it was a stand off – literally! Poor Patrick he was standing there watching this – so he runs off to get the yellow sheet from my suitcase – he ran the length of Dulles and back in about 7 minutes and returned with the yellow sheet which we then gave to Cassandra. I hugged Patrick and told him out loud thank you you are a great person and such a help. I think Cassandra “got” it for a second – my little slam her way. She filled out the credit card receipt ($30 cheaper than I actually expected) – asked me to sign it (and I did gave me a copy and my copy of the contract and told me “next time it will be much better”…..that’s what she thinks! I think AVIS in Haiti has seen the last of me – there are many other fish in the sea and Rebecca has actually offered her pickup for future trip – that works for me.
We headed into the airport after doing the good byes with Rebecca and her family – porter after porter tried to grab our luggage – finally I let one…its just not worth fighting….so he goes to put our three pieces of luggage on the conveyor belt and leans over to me and whispers in my ear …”you give me some money? You know how it is in Haiti” He repeated this twice and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I looked in my bag and had NO bills smaller than $20 – Megna didn’t either…so I gave him $20 which is equivalent to 1/2 a years pay to many Haitians! I told him to spilt it with the other porter who was trying to grab our bags – he said he would…..sure like I really believe that! Anyway he was extremely happy and we went into the newly renovated terminal – very nice indeed) and then on the plane to Miami.
On the plane I sat next to this Haitian lady who was totally freaked by ever bump and keep praying. She kept the window shade closed and when I tried to have her open it (I was trying to explain that it was normal and all okay) she begged to keep it closed. She just kept praying and thanked god when we finally hit the runway and landed – actually all the Haitians clapped – they are superstitious about flying.
Well another Haiti trip complete – many things learned and many great things coming down the pike! Its back to our real world which is far from the Haitian’s reality and back to work tomorrow. I’m on my way back to my nice home, great job, wonderful family and more…it almost makes me feel guilty.
Again…signing off from Miami…
Rebecca & Megan
This morning we headed out to RF to do a final check on the school. It is doing well, the roof was half up when we got there and was close to being finished when we left. I spent some time interveiwing France on what the experience has meant to him, and learned he attended the sisters school for primary school but never finished secondary school, which is high school. It is interesting getting others perspectives on how this is effecting them. It doesnt just effect the children it will be sheltering but all those who are learning to work on it. It is a good feeling.
We didnt stay in Riviere Froide for too long, we headed out around lunch time to go back to Port Au Prince. We were heading to the nutrition center today and also to go back to Jimmy Bono’s to see the street kids, so we had to get back in time to do all that before dark. It was a long and bumpy ride home, thank you Patrick for being the best driver in the world! No one else could have gotten us around this week the way you have.
When we got back to the house, we freshened up and met up with Rebecca M to head to the nutrition center. The nutrition center is a place where people take their severley malnurished or sick babies and children to be nursed back to health. It is run by nuns of the Mother Theresa, the Missionaries of Charity. It was hard to see. The building they had been in before the quake was destroyed, so now they are in open tents. There were at least 50 babies at this center, it is heartbreaking to think that so many children are going hungry just in this one area. We held them and fed them, they are not only hungry for food but for attention also. Most have parents who come during visiting hours but others have been abandoned. It was hard to see, I wish there was more I could do to help here.
After leaving the nutrition center things took a turn to the lighter side as we got to go see the street kids once again. We sat and talked with Jimmy, via Patrick and Rebecca, about starting up a business for him and the kids to help teach them and bring in income. We ended the talk decided that Jimmy would talk to the other teachers and come up with 5 different business ideas and than we would all decide. I am so looking foward to starting this project in January when we return. After our chat we handed out bubble gum (our activity of the week) to all the kids, who all wanted their pictures with us afterwards. They are too sweet…
So now we are just packing up to head back to the states tomorow. It is bittersweet…I am glad to be coming home to everyone I love but sad to be leaving Haiti. I really do love this country and I have made strong friendships since I have been here this trip. It has been so good. Thank you to everyone here in Haiti for being the wonderful people that you are, and thank you to everyone in the states that made it possible for us to come here to make this school a reality. It has been an experience I will never forget.
See you again in January!!
(sorry for the lack of pictures my computer is being strange)
Well it happened …..tartantula #4 ventured into the Guest house kitchen….and after about 20 minutes of preplanning Megan killed it…..far cry from when we both ran out of the room yesterday when Rebecca was trying to kil T#3. I, myself, am a self-proclaimed coward….and I am not killing those things – their big, hairy, and they jump at you.
Megan’s my hero
Megan slaying the beast
The start of our last full day in Haiti began early once again – on our way out to Riviere Froide at 7:30am we received a call from Anderson – there were two boxes at the warehouse in PAP that needed to get to the compound in Riviere Froide – so we stopped on our way out of town to pick them up. We also had to exchange money – I had to buy gas for the vehicle we have been driving and also pick up oil and gas for Rick’s generator – so I needed Haitian money – well you don’t go to a bank in Haiti – you just exchange money on the roadside in PAP. You just drive up to a guy holding a roll of money and he exchanges your US dollars for Haitian Goude at the exchange rate – simple – no overhead – and effective….then off to the gas station for gas, and more gas and oil!
We rocked and rolled back up to Riviere Froide ….this would be our last trip until BRCC SIFE returns in January. When we got there we first delivered our boxes from the warehouse and then proceeded up the hill to the school site with gas and oil in hand. The school had part of the roof on when we arrived – it was sweltering hot again today and when we finally climbed the hill to the school Rick begged Patrick to go down to the village and buy pop sticks again! Patrick is a sweet guy and went for the popsicle run for Rick.
Ice pop break
Progress is slow but by the end of the day the roof was complete and the workers also were drilling bolts into the foundation to secure the structure. Although we would have liked to have seen the building complete this week – its about 60% and it will be completed over the next month or so depending on Rick – this trip was rough on him and between the heat, the workers, and other challenges I am just happy he plans to come back and finish it – its been probably the toughest experience he has had and I only wish we could do more to help but we were definitely out of our area of expertise and although challenging he is educating those workers which will help them in the future. I worked out the labor costs for this trip with Rick and Franz (Ricks boss man….aka in Haiti it’s a construction supervisor) and paid the labor and completed the paperwork to once again provide thorough receipts.
We left and returned to PAP – it was early enough to complete two more tasks. One was to visit the Nutrition Center in PAP. This is run by the same order of nuns as Mother Teresa. They take in extremely malnourished babies and try to bring them back to be healthy children. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done in Haiti. Although nothing that qualifies as a SIFE task – this is something that every person visiting Haiti must do. They let visitors volunteer to hold and feed the babies from 3 – 5pm each day. We arrived as they were feeding the children – the babies were sitting in their cribs trying to feed themselves. Young young babies feeding themselves…slowly and not very meticulously but they were accomplishing the task. The ones that could not feed themseves were handed to volunteers – we walked in and Rebecca automatically picked up a baby and its bowl and sat down and started feeding it – Megan followed soon after and then the nun standing next to me picked up another baby who must have been new because it just could not feed itself and handed her off to me– I took her and her food and sat with the others and her – her name was Alexandria. We stayed for about an hour and saw children that were so malnourished their stomach were bloated, their belly buttons stuck out so far…and then others that were so skinny and had no fat whatsoever on their bones. What those nuns are doing is an incredible thing. We were not allowed to photograph the compound but I snuck a pic of the Sisters….they deserve all the credit in the world.
Sisters of Charities - Mother Teresa's order
After this stop we went back to talk with Jimmy Bono about his kids and a possible future project. Jimmy is tough – he grew up on the streets of PAP since the age of 10 and is now 34. He doesn’t smile – he is the picture of a tough Haitian but he has given a home to 47 street kids – boys living on the street. We all sat down in his living room for a roundtable discussion – without the table. We told him we would like to help him and he said his goal was to give these children skills and knowledge that will allow them to be able to provide for themselves and their families in the future and take them off the streets. We told him our idea of setting up a small business for the kids to learn how to run, account for, budget, and learn the responsibilities and skills of being an entrepreneur. In Haiti this is probably the most effective way to take these kids off the streets – educate them (which is being done) and also teach them how to create economic opportunity for themselves. I really think I saw Jimmy smile…or at least crack a smile – he came up with a couple ideas but we left him to think of five ideas and the budget of each and Rebecca will forward the information to us. We told him we would be back in January and also would like for SIFE students to work with his students through a Leadership event…. he told us that he does not see his government helping the people of Haiti but he sees people from different countries trying to help. He told us his house is open to us for anything we like at any time. He then gave Megan and I a bracelet the boys had made – it was cool! We went outside and handed out bubble gum and then the kids wanted to take pictures with us…it was a blast!
The Street Kids of Port Au Prince
Megan with Jimmy Bono's kids
Although we will not be back until January I think this is a great potential partnership – its organic with no organizations playing middle man – we can design, direct and implement it ourselves….I think it will be life changing for all involved.
One last pic for you….see if you can see the little guy that was visiting with us up in Riviere Froide today – he just popped up and stared at me – and didn’t leave….until we got up and left….he’s hard to see….
Where in the world is Mr. Gecko????
Well Megan and I have to pack for our flight home tomorrow – it will be a long day but good to get back to Virginia. I will really miss Haiti – I have overcome my anxiety of returning and have learned so much over these past five days. I am excited to complete the school and move to another area of Haiti that desperately needs our help and is begging for it!
When I get back I plan to upload ALL my photos to Picasso so everything can share our images of Haiti. Its nice to know we can come back and stay with Rebecca & her family – although next time we are leaving AVIS out of the plans and just riding in the back of her pickup truck!!! I think it will be a great experience for all.
See you all soon! Signing off from Haiti….
A busy day scheduled – so it meant getting up and out of the house early today.
Megan prepping for the day
First stop Haiti’s version of The Home Depot. When we were up in Riviere Froide with Rick on Saturday he told me he needed more anchor screws, a gas can, and a couple of tool belts. Patrick (Rebecca’s son and our interpreter) told Rick that we could get the stuff at Home Depot – this made Rick laugh wildly…but Patrick insisted Haiti had a Home Depot. As for myself I was skeptical – for the past five years of working on service projects in Haiti I have always been told we had to buy the materials in the U.S. and ship them to Haiti because you just couldn’t get them in Haiti. Wrong again…and this was quite a revelation…
Home Depot watch out – Lowes you need to open down here
Its called Eko Depot and man it looks pretty close to Home Depot from the outside and yes inside too – we walked in to find screws, nails, tools, garden supplies, generators, and yes even your luxury lighting and gas grills. Megan and I walked around in shock and with the camera – to prove to Rick that Home Depot does exist in Haiti. They did not have the steel we shipped to Haiti – and their materials probably are a few dollars higher (Rick said what we bought came pretty close to US prices) but the idea that we could just walk in and purchase materials during future visits for future projects and not worry about shipping is just a mind blower for me! Once again I have learned something very valuable on this trip…. how to get to Home Depot and from driving around Port au Prince so much this week – I am finding I generally know where I am. It’s actually really cool. Of course I would get lost but I am starting to get the lay out down on my head. We were able to buy the screws Rick needed and the gas can – the tool belts were not the type Rick wanted so we passed on them. Went to the U.S. Dollar register - paid (got a receipt J) and left.
Next stop was to find the Murro & Filla warehouse where our generator (actually Rick’s) had been brought after clearing Customs just this past Thursday. This warehouse distributor receives shipments for Partners in Health – who shipped our generator for free thanks to a network of friend of ours – thanks Leo for getting the generator to Haiti for us. Well getting it to Haiti is tough but finding it was even trickier. The directions I was emailed weren’t exactly right which meant we wasted about an hour before finally finding the warehouse….but we did prevail and we moved on and headed out to Riviere Froide to deliver our goods and check on the progress of construction.
Before we left for RF we waited to meet Anderson – Anderson Pierre is an employee of the Makouti Cooperative and someone we have worked with since the second trip to Haiti both on LaGonave and this past January in Leogane. We called Anderson to help with the generator but we really didn’t need his help – we had it loaded before he even got there but both Megan and I wanted to see him. Anderson helped us hire a truck and driver in January when we wanted to go to the airport to try to leave Haiti – he was the person who helped us and I really like him. We hugged and chatted for a couple minutes and he is going to go up to Riviere Froide (I think) tomorrow. He was a bit panicked after the earthquake – wanted to come to the US but he seems better now and his wife is taking her final exams for nursing so I think he is okay.
The ride to RF wasn’t as bad as it seemed on Saturday-possibly because we were already through most of Port au Prince when we left the warehouse with the generator. It felt like it took about an hour to get to RF.
A tap tap full of people on their way out of Port au Prince…….
When we got there we were greeted by lots of kids – we headed up the hill to the handicapped school – Rick & Andy were plugging away at the beams (or whatever they are called) that go across the roof to hold the roof up and in place. Rick told me it was slow going for two reasons – one is the heat – it was oppressive – I was sweating streams of water just standing still – my clothes were saturated and stuck to my body and I hate to sweat to begin with. I have to tell you Rick and Andy are incredible people – how they could work as much as they have in this heat is amazing.
Rick our BAB member and hero and his friend Andy who came along to Haiti – to help and sweat!!
The second reason Rick told me it was slow going was due to the fact that the men he was training had no experience – no experience at anything…. they didn’t know what direction to turn a screw driver! I laughed but I stood back and observed the process for a long time. He was right – when they went to secure a beam Rick or Andy would have to show them where to drill and how to line it up – if they tried to do it themselves it would be crooked or not lined up even – Rick would stop them just as they would be about to screw in the screw – it was frustrating to watch – I can only guess how Rick felt – he is so mild mannered but at times I thought he was about to lose it.
It was so hot up there that when a man walked by with a pop stick Rick stopped him and begged to know where he got them from – he then sent a worker with money to go buy a bag of them. I think he needs a bronze pop stick to remember this week by. About 1:30pm they started to prep to start the roof – the sky was really getting dark and all of the sudden the sky opened up and the rain just came down and kept coming down in buckets- it was raining so hard that we were filling buckets. The children were stripping down and taking baths in the rain – with soap!
The school is a bit behind schedule – Rick thinks that the roof will be completed before he leaves on Wednesday – then he will return in 3 weeks – he thinks it will take about 2 more trips to finish it – depending on workers, etc. The man is a saint.
After it continued to pour and it seemed like little more would be done today – they put up a couple sheets of the roof but the rain was preventing them from using the power tools – Rick got zapped when he went to turn off the power strip. We headed back down the mountain – the rain had just been torrential and the roads were like rivers. The river – which is usually a stream was raging ….it was wild. We made our way down to Carrefour, which was even worse, and the port area of Port au Prince was impassable so we wove around the city a different way to get back to the Guesthouse. Patrick – our driver and interpreter has an uncanny sense of direction and really knows the city – so when an area was too deep or backed up he would head down another side street. It probably took us double the time to get back than it did in the morning to get back.
So here we are —we were about to blog earlier but it was dance time ….music went on and we were all out in the driveway doing the Haitian twist and some cha-chas – it was cool – only in Haiti can you blast music outside at night in the city….the house across the street from us (the one that was destroyed in the earthquake) had people sitting on top of it watching us and some children in the next house to our side where laughing and watching us from their balcony…we must have looked ridiculous! But it was a blast!!! I like it here – its like being immersed into a family and its Haitian culture. It American enough to be really comfortable but still you really get a look into the culture and everyday life in PAP.
Tonight we killed our third tarantula – yes it is our 3rd! I was sitting here (just about 1/2 hour ago) blogging and when I looked up I saw this big spider coming across the kitchen floor headed directly at my direction. I got up and tried to go to get Rebecca to help kill it (who am I fooling – I wasn’t getting close enough to it to kill it- so I wanted to get her so she could do it) when I tried to head toward her room the spider changed direction and came at me – so yelled for her. She came out and wacked it with her shoe - at which point Megan ran in with Patrick….Megan was upset that she didn’t get tot take a photograph before we killed it. They think they may have a nest because its really unusual to see this many spiders. Nice…..
Well its time to catch up on Facebook and email – so until tomorrow…..but here are a few memories from today
one children helping another get a drink of water
traditional style of carrying things in Haiti – generally done by women. They have a special head piece to pad their head and help keep things balanced.
Megan snapped this photo in PAP…I think it speaks for itself
Megan and Winston – a little boy from the handicapped program – they are special friends
This morning we got up around 8, got to sleep in a little bit! Patrick had to go out and run some errands so we edited our blog for a little bit before we headed out for the day. We decided not to go up to Riviere Froide because it is Sunday, and no work would be done today. So we got to see almost all of Port Au Prince for the first time today. It was an experience.
So Rebecca can officially say she drove in Haiti…out of the driveway and back in. Hey, technically she did drive!
We left for the artisan village first to do some shopping! Patrick, me, Rebecca, and Bony headed out around 11 to the city where Wyclef is from, Croix-des-Bouquets. The artisan village was SO cool. The work those people do is amazing! Such beautiful art!
As soon as we got there we had a field day. What the artisan village is, is a village of people who do all kinds of gorgeous artwork using different metals. Some are painted, others are left natural and are just decorated using their craftmenship. The plan for the work we bought from the artisans is this, an online auction to benefit our future projects here in Haiti (Thank you to Marsha for this wonderful idea!). The work is absolutely amazing. To be able to create something so beautiful out of something as simple as sheets of metal is truely amazing. So we went in so many shops, including “walmart” where we got a variety of pieces. I am so excited to give everyone their presents! I love giving presents. =)
After the artisan village we took a tour around Port Au Prince, getting to go to many places most people would say not to go to. We were in safe hands with Bony and Patrick with us for sure. We drove past Cite Soleil, the worst slum here in Port Au Prince. It was a harrowing experience. The conditions these people are living in are terrible, not to mention all the earthquake damage still remaining there. Patrick said many people lived here through the earthquake because all the roofs are tin and not concrete. Ill let the pictures do the rest of the talking.
We drove through Delmas 32, another extremely impoverished area, and through other parts of PAP near the presidential palace. Lots of tent cities, lots of destruction still .Patrick told us the government refuses to clean the rubble up for the people, the people have to pay to have it moved with their own money making it nearly impossible for them to start a new life for themselves and move out of the tents. Bony said it has turned into a city of zombies, everyone walking around no one knowing what to do anymore. It was extremely disturbing.
After our tour of Port Au Prince we returned to the house to lighter activities. Me and Bony played basketball, I won three times! Yeah!! And since than Rebecca and I have been blogging. Bony and Jerry and debating who is more popular in the states, Jay Z or U2, I say U2 as does Jerry but Bony thinks it is Jay Z. Ill take a pole, any votes anyone?
As for tomorrow we will head to the Haitian Home Depot, not even kidding it looks just like a Home depot in the states! Too funny! We have to get some screws for Rick and also pick up the generator which is in the warehouse district of PAP. After that we will return to Riviere Froide for another day of work up there. I’m glad that the workers got a day off but also look forward to seeing progress being made on the school. More will come tomorrow!
The jail that fell and let all the prisoners go
Oh yeah…and thank you Bony for killing tarantula number two…gross.
Today being Sunday means there is no construction going on in Riviere Froide so to save ourselves some major back pain from the ride we decided to cover some ground here in Port au Prince. I first have to share some background with you all. On my first three trips to Haiti I have always been a follower…. not my style as most people know. It wasn’t like I was led around – it was that I and (of course the students) were always dependent on people who felt they knew more and knew better than we did. Well if January 12th taught me anything it was that I am just as self – sufficient as anyone else visiting this country. I know when to venture in and I think I know when its time to back off. This trip has confirmed this and its been empowering.
So on to our day. First we got up and prepared for a day out. We actually hit the road an hour and a half later than planned but that’s due to just life. No biggie so we headed out to the artisan village just south of PAP. Goal was to figure out how to offer a microloan (if applicable) to this village or its artists. It was a combo research and shopping trip. The village is actually in the hometown of Wyclef Jean – the Haitian Rap artist that now wants to be Haiti’s President. The village is an area of cubicle type of shanties….not large at all I think the largest one is the size of an American bedroom. Each shop is not only a place for the artists to make their art visible and available for sale but the majority of the artists live there as well. So you go from shop to shop or should I say room to room. Looking at the artwork and when we had gone through what we thought were most of the shops we went back and revisited the ones we wanted to work with. As a State of Virginia College can not have an off shore account for the use of recapturing microloans – we decided to do it a bit differently than we have in the past – we would invest in select artists art – give them the money with the art being our repayment and then when resold (hopefully at a premium) reinvest it in our next project. How we plan to sell and recapture at least 100% of our investment (but feel like we can achieve more like 300% ROI) is a silent auction we are setting up for our college and anyone who wants to bid on the artwork. Well I can tell you we were treated like royalty…those artists got wind fast of what we were doing and escorted us to their shops…. practically begged us to come.
Bony, Patrick (artist I can’t remember his name at this second) and Megan after a successful transaction
Artist at work
sitting on the throne made up of metal sculpture
Of course we bartered with them – or at least Patrick our interpreter did – it was common for the artist to give Patrick a price for a group of items and Patrick laugh and tell them they were crazy. …This went on for about 2 hours…. Megan and I were like two girls in the mall! The works of art were primarily tin and metals are beautiful – some have additional color added some are items other than wall hangings…. it was soo much fun and when you think that most of the artists earned a years worth of income from us in 1 day…. tells you a lot. We left with several additional plans in mind including setting up an EBay store for the village. We have the information to start working on it - and are also investigating the chance of shops in Harrisonburg and Staunton selling the artwork. We plan to go back there in January and lets just say the artists are looking forward to it – one even asked me for my business card so he could be looking out for us.
Next we headed back into Port au Prince with our treasures in our trunk. There are part of Haiti I have been told to stay away from…you shouldn’t go there…. etc. But I truly believe that as long as you use good judgment and basically just use your head and stay aware of your surroundings you will be fine. Delmar 32, Cite Solei…. both places everyone tells you about but I had never seen. Until today…
We asked Patrick to take us into PAP and show us what is going on…. how things were…. etc. He told me it was time to go to Cite Solei…. I had to listen to him twice before it clicked ….we were headed for the part of the city others would never even think about going. Americans remember the riots in Cite Solei and although it is the largest slum in PAP there is history there and it was time to learn it. I don’t know if there are more tents or shacks in the city – I call it a city because the Haitians feel it is its own city within a city. Patrick told us that although a lot of people died there during the earthquake most of the shacks had plastic roofs (like tarps) so that when the quake hit – they didn’t have concrete coming down on them.
The shacks hold families that Patrick estimated averages 7 people. This is the poorest of the poor – I saw everything from women just walking out of the tents and peeing right into a stream….to children bathing in the same stream. People were picking through the trash and there were people and children everywhere. Patrick told us about the riots when the uprising happened in the early nineties and showed us the main part of the city. It was so shocking it just took your breath away.
We then headed into the government district – this is where the Presidential Palace is and all the Ministries are….we wove in and out of destruction that was stunning – and when we asked why nothing was being done to either clean it up or take down some of the buildings Patrick told us that since Preval will be leaving office in the beginning of next year (their elections are in November) they are going to wait for the new president to take office.
A hospital for the military
largest catholic cathedral – many bishops died here
When I asked if they had heard of where any of the money donated after the earthquake is going – they said no except on rebuilding the palace. They basically told us that the government needs to change before any hope for help will come to Haiti. We were told that if the Haitian people wanted help in removing the rubble from their home areas that they had to pay for it – many can not afford that so the rubble stays where it is or they have to do it wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. Many of the people are now just throwing the rubble in the street, which is destroying the streets. It was surreal you would be near these big elaborate homes and then a tent city was right next to it with a UN peace keeping truck stationed there with soldiers with guns aimed at the people. And this has come to be a normal day in Haiti.
We headed into Delmar 32 – this is the second largest slum in Port au Prince – where Cite Solei is on the flat land near the ocean Demar 32 is on the cliffs over PAP. We went right up and through the heart of Delmar 32. This is where most of the people in PAP died during the earthquake due to the shabby construction and the way the houses were built. Your house may have survived the quake but the house directly over you may not have been so lucky and so that house came tumbling down into the other houses below it. This is where most people were just pulled out of their homes, laid out on the streets and then placed in mass graves. Patrick told me that the Haitians believe that their city is now a city of Zombies – they are really religious in Haiti – primarily Catholic – so when they were not allowed to give last rights, bless the dead and have a mass for them they believe that those people are forever zombies in Port au prince – pretty creepy and sad.
Patrick showed us where his father died in the earthquake he was in the kitchen working at a guest house and the house pancaked down on him as he was running out with the others. It was sad.
We then came back to our guest house – we wanted to go over to Jimmy Bono’s school and talk to him about a partnership but it was too late- you just don’t travel around at night in Haiti unless you really have to - so we are going over there Tuesday morning or Tuesday afternoon.
We decided to blog early just in case the Internet goes down again tonight…and Megan decided to whoop Bony’s (Rebecca’s son) butt in basketball.
Tomorrow is a busy day – up really early – we have to go to a warehouse in PAP and pick up a generator that Rick shipped here in May – it finally got here. Rick also needs some supplies so we are off to the Haitian Home Depot. When Patrick told Rick there was a Home Depot in Haiti – Rick went hysterical – but look below and you be the judge. We then plan to inch our way back up to Riveire Froide ….more accounting to do with the laborers and time to put up some walls and a roof!!!! So more from Haiti tomorrow – I hope you enjoyed our day …and may I say the New England Patriots rock!!!!
Sorry this was meant to be posted last night but our Internet went down….so you get to read lots from me today.
Today I started kind of tired – after the tarantula episode I woke up several times during the night to make sure nothing was crawling near me. It was warm but it was fine. It thundered and rained so it cooled it down a bit. Today we left for Riviere Froide early around 7:15am armed with medical supplies and other donations.
I was shocked at how the shape of the roads have deteriorated – I know its the rainy season and that doesn’t help the siutation but some roads were simply impassable. Right before the earthquake in Janaury several European countries had paved the main roads here. They had finished slightly bfore January and travel was a pleasure – of course the final stretch into Riviere Froide was a bit more challenging as you are climbing in to the mountais on dirt roads but the entire trip from the airport to the complex in RF took about an hour. Today between the terrible roads (I mean pot holes you can lose a cow in) and the traffic back up because of the roads, and the piles of garbage in the street including rubble still there from the earthquake – it took us close to 2 hours to get there. It was a harrowing experience…your in the middle of what is equivalent to a one lane road and there is a huge pot hole aka sink hole in the your side…so you go over to the other side but coming at you is a huge tap tap or truck and its not backing down – this is the order of events the entire way. We went through Carrefour – where the episode was and it was slow going – we then turned up a road (at the Texaco station) and climbed in an out of little mountain areas into Riviere Froide. I am so thankful I hired Patrick to drive for us…I probably could have found RF but it takes true grit to drive here
The first thing that struck me is how different it looks and how quiet it was. When we were there in January there were 1000 children coming and going – it was alive and just had amazing energy. It was silent up there. Kinder Not Hilfe (the organization wanted to rebuild the main school has but up temporary classrooms so the school can start again in October – in Haiti school starts in October. They are basic wooden boxes with desks and a small mobil chalk board in it – two classrooms per building – they have not yet received permission from the Haitian Govenrment to start rebuilding the school so they will hold and break ground when they are granted permission. There were no children there except over in the handicapped/special needs area – where our school is underway. Here are the temp building from KNH.
Rick was over working with the other men at the the site of the school – it had to be 95 degrees and really humid out but they were trucking away at it- I was impressed – it is set back away from the main hub bub area and it has a beautiful view. It is almost ready for roof and walls and should be there on Monday. There were about a dozen men working – being directed by Rick and also a friend of Ricks who made the journey to help. Rick told me they were doing great considering the heat – the lack of electricity from time to time- and that none of the men had ever used a drill or simple power tool.
Rick thinks he will be abut 70% finished when he leaves for the US on Wednesday but plans to come back n three weeks to finish the school. We explored the compound and saw signs of rebuilding projects. They are rebuilding and reparing the desks that were in the original school, preparing for school to begin in October and watching for the completion of the handcicapped program building. We spent some time with several of the handicapped orphans – they live on the compound (currently in extremely poor conditions) so they met us….and when we pulled out bubble gum…well every child on that compound came out to see us within 2 minutes. Chidren are children – they love bubble gum, they love attention and they love their photos taken – Gail we saw many of the children we had thought about and wondered about snce the earthquake.
The last task of the day was a financial management meeting with the nuns – Rick had questions about the accountng of the building – I wanted a summary receipt…and well we needed to see how we stood financially. As is everything in Haiti – it was hurry up and wait. We made an appointment with Sister Jean for noon – she is the “accountant” of the order – well at 2:10pm we finally all sat down for our meeting. I had the feeling they were a bit on edge about us questioning them but we pushed forward and with the help of Patrick our interpreter not only resolved all questions – but Amy I have an awesome receipt for the foundation!
Finally we headed back to Port au Prince – on the way we had stand off after stand off with large tap taps trying to get control of the road – we drove through the government area of PAP which was totally destroyed in January – it looks pretty much the same – they moved the rubble off the street but it is amazing that the most elaborate expensive area of PAP was so devastated. We are going back there tomorrow on our way to an artisan village we are thinking about offering a microloan to– so I will post those photos tomorrow. Uploading from here is long and time consuming so I only post a select few.
Tomorrow we plan on going to the artisan village, taking a look at the more challenged areas of Port au Prince and also returning to the Street Boy School compound to meet with Jimmy Bono – the head man about a potential project in the near future. There will be no construction at the Riviere Froide school tomorrow as it is Sunday so we will bounce our way back up there on Monday after we hit the equivalent of the Haitian Home Depot for screws and a few other items on Rick’s wish list!
As a final note - I wonder (as do the Haitian people) where all the money donated is going….I see nothing to improve infrastructure….
I hope everyone at home is doing well – I myself am exhausted I’m off to bed…….
So I woke up at least 7 times last night thinking about tarantula’s, making for very early morning and a very long day.
Had to post that one..sorry guys. You said you wanted the full experience!!
So we got up around 6, took a shower and got ready for the day. Margaret made us a wonderful breakfast before we left, banana, egg with tomatos and onions, and a delicious cinnamon breakfast cake. So good! After we all ate, including Patrick, we hit the road with our donations heading out to Riviere Froide.
It was a long trip, to say the least. The conditions of the roads have drasically changed since our visit in January, and not for the better. I dont know if it was because of the earthquake, because in places there is still a lot of destruction, but I think it is more so from the effects of the rainy season. I never realised the impact constant water could have on already distressed roads, but now I know. It took about 2 hours to get all the way up there, we had to find a different way because the road we were supposed to have taken, the bridge was washed out and regular vehicals could not pass. So we weaved up the mountain on a different road.
There was some serious shock value waiting for us when we finally got to the top of that long steep driveway. Riviere Froide, looks completely different. Im not exactly sure what i was expecting, or if I was even expecting anything, but it was alot to take in. There are no buildings left where the school and guesthouse once were, it has all been ground up and flattened out to make room for temperary school buildings constructed by Kinder Not Hilfe, the organization building the primary school.
Standing where the school once was. You can see the chapple straight across and the edge of one of the temporary structures to the right.
We spent the day with Rick, meeting the workers and wathcing the school go up, right in front of our eyes.
It was extremely hot and humid out, and the men rick was working with were still hammering away at it. We sat and talked to France (pronounced Fanz), Ricks new “big boss” and interpreter. France is in charge of paying and feeding the workers, seeing as the old “big boss” would not do so. He is also learning the ways of the construction business, seeing as he is 27 and not finished high school he decided his linguistic skills (including french, creole, spanish, english, and some german. wow) could assist him in industry. This is fairly common in Haiti, especially after the earthquake many of the older “kids” have fallen through the cracks and do not get the opportunity to finish. It is very sad and a waste of tallent, but those like France are pushing through to make a better life for them and their families, it is encouraging and frustrating at the same time to see.
We met with the sisters after lunch for a little “accounting” meeting, going over who owed who money. We waited for about 2 hours to meet with Sister Jean to go over all this. After all that it was starting to get late so we decided to head out back to Port Au Prince. Lots of road issues on the way back, since it is the rainy season many of the roads are washed out so alternate routes are an essential. We drove through the presidential part of PAP which is still completely destroyed, I was supprised. Patrick said they are waiting to fix everything untill after the elections. We are returning there tomorow to snap some more pictures so I will post them later.
Once back at the house we sat down and had dinner and tried to blog, ended up taking a power nap out of exhaustion and than sat and talked with Rebecca and heard some amazing stories. We got to rant and rave about the state department freely with someone who knows the system! She is truely an amazing person with so much to tell and so much to learn from.
Tomorow we are heading to the artisan village in the morning, taking a drive through Port Au Prince to get some more pictures of the upscale destruction, and than heading back over to the street kids to spend some time there and talk with Jimmy Bono about potential projects for the future. A lot to do, I am looking foward to a productive day!