The last day

Well today was our final day on Haiti and the 5th anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake. The day started with Megan and Melissa learning how to make bread at the bakery…. Even Tim got in on the action. They mixed, kneaded and cut dough… The bakers were really patient even when I had Tim start helping with the bread making process. It was fun but Melissa had gray hair afterwards….. Thanks to a fine dusting of flour. It was funny.

Met with another few prospective entrepreneurs and even went down to Port au Prince to see an American market….. We wrapped up all our paperwork and have even packed up. The last thing I need to do is take my final cold shower of the trip. I don’t know if it’s me but the water this time for showers is so cold… I have only showered every other night …totally not me. Not sure if it’s my age or the water is just colder but I can not wait to take a hot shower tomorrow night and scrub my hair……

Well it’s been a great trip and I look forward to sharing all the details! See you on campus on Wednesday!

Rebecca

Our last night in Haiti

Today was a relaxing day spent at the rectory. We took a tour of the school thanks to Mackelson and walked around the village with Henry. Megan and I even got to work at the bakery this morning kneading, rolling, and cutting the bread.  What a dream come true since I’d love to open my own bakery some day!

I can’t believe today is our last day :( This week went by so fast and tonight is so bittersweet. On one hand, I am so excited to get home to my fiancé and my dog…and a hot shower!! But on the other hand, I am so sad to be leaving Father and the others. I have grown to love them and Haiti so much in just one trip. I feel like we have a lot of wonderful projects to discuss with our team and I cannot wait to come back and help these people start their own business. Though I am sad to be leaving in the morning, I know this will not be my last visit here. I am hooked! The bond I have made with Father and the others- as well as Megan and Rebecca- is something I will always keep near and dear to my heart.

Until next time Haiti…! <3

Wait…it’s Sunday??

I seem to be confusing my days this whole trip, and sadly I thought it was Friday yesterday and still thought for some reason it was Saturday today. You would think church would have been a clue huh??

Which is where we start out! It was great going to Fathers service as always. The music is my favorite part, the love breaks right through that language barrier and the energy is infectious. After the main part of the service was done Father said a few words to the community about why we where there and who we were. He translated it for us and had Melissa and I crying in no time flat! He spoke about how thankful he was that we were here, and than talked about how much love we have for Haiti, how it shows in what we do. He said that true love like that is hard to find, and that living through the earthquake with them we are connected. More so than that because we have such a deep love for Haiti, that we are not just connected but that we are family. That they love us that way too. I am so thankful that I could be here with the people during this time, and especially for the opportunity I have been given to be here with this time and with Father Roosevelt and his community. It is very moving for me.

The rest of the day we spend interviewing community members about their business ideas(long and thorough process) researching some project ideas for Jennifer (my previous professor from VCU), and just chatting about Haiti.

Im addition, I sent Father my paper last night to read and he said that he loved it. We had a long talk this evening about history, the things in my paper, and about his experience with the earthquake. I also interviewed Erickson and Jimenet too, whose stories were equally as touching and moving. Again, I’m am so glad I could be here for this day. It was great to get started with this and I am looking forward to where it goes.

We closed out the night by doing a little fix up for fathers finger, which he closed in the car door yesterday afternoon. Safety pin, lighter, and a cell phone flash light is all you need! I did the honors and am glad to say he is feeling better! For now, roof time and more reflection.

More updates tomorrow =)

They say all dogs go to heaven…and we will soon find out.

Sigh. Another day has dragged by as I am forced to interact with the visiting humans. As if the ones I live with weren’t enough, now we have “friends” staying with us. No one asked my permission for these “friends” to come. When I am queen this behavior will be unacceptable and will be punishable promptly by death.

My sacrifice of enduring the humans affection in order to secure more substantial food portions at their strange gatherings three times a day around what they call a “table” seems to be succeeding, but at an archaic pace as is all things with humans. As always Henry never ceases to thwart my schemes. Imbecile dogs. His incessant energy is ruining everything. If he chases me around this roof and steals my bones one more time I will hypnotize father with my sweet sweet charm and have him throw him out! So help me he will never see another bone again. My contacts in the north have informed me that most dogs live on the street…As they should.

Alas. Life goes on. I will implement phase two of training on the humans tomorrow…if I do not post again assume the worst and that all is lost.

Angel, signing off.

Hi my name is Hen…. CHICKEN!!!!!!

Hi I’m Henry. And I like people. I like to jump on them and kiss them and take their cookies when they aren’t looking and … CHICKEN!!!!! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, people… I love when father and I have visitors. They give me so much food. If they aren’t paying attention to me I take their shoes and make them pay attention. I’m very good at that. I always get my way… CHICKEN BONE!!!!! Sorry, I got distracted again. I don’t remember what I was talking about. Oh well! Let’s talk about cats… I hate cats. They steal my people from me… GET AWAY FROM REBECCA! Sorry, I had to chase Angel away again. Who does she think she is sitting on Rebecca’s lap?! Well guess what Angel, I got to sit on their bed!…. FATHER’S HOME!! OH BOY! OH BOY! OH BOY! I’M SO EXCITED! PET MEEEEEEE!!!image

The Trouble with Cats & Dogs

OMG will cats and dogs ever learn how to coexist? In all my travels I have never seen such chaos. Father’s dog Henry is constantly in trouble. Have you ever seen a Haitian dog on the bed? Not me ….but now there’s Henry with this nose in everything (literally). To make it worse Angel the cat is always shooting nastygrams at him. She is no piece of cake herself. He  chases her..she wacks him in the face….they fight over the littlest crumb on the floor…. It’s absolute bedlam! What’s a gnome to do??

I try to keep the peace but there is no stopping either of them….. I fear for my safety. The State Department should be sending out warnings to avoid this situation… It makes burning tires look tame. Pray for my safe return!!

Tim the tormented traveling gnome

Sunday…….

Today started on a quick note. At ten minutes before 8 there was a tapping at the door. It was Megan telling us mass was starting in 10 minutes. I had agreed to go with them to church this morning but we forgot to set an alarm and for once I slept fairly soundly. I jumped up and threw on my clothes and ran out the door. Mission accomplished. We went to mass and then came back to a day of people coming to talk to us about their business ideas…. It was constant . I think it was like 17 interviews. My brain was so fried at the end of it. Tonight Megan interviewed

imageFather Roosevelt and a few other people on their experiences and thoughts on the 2010 Earthquake… We talked about everything from zombies to people lost. It is all playing into her research on telling the story of the earthquake and the Haitian experience.

Now we sit on the roof blogging. It’s Sunday night … One more day and then it’s back we come. I heard you guys have a freezing rain advisory. I am sure we will be experiencing colder weather very soon. I will end by telling the story of surgery by IPhone light. Father smashed his finger in the car door last night. We offered to doctor it yesterday but he was gracious and said it was fine. He told us today he could not sleep last night because of it. So Megan doctors up and performed her magic by relieving the pressure with a safety pin, and lighter while Melissa lit the procedure with the iPhone flashlight. The procedure was a success and Father is now hopefully able to sleep tonight….. Other than the dogs barking and the roosters.

Tomorrow It’s time to help bake bread….should be a bloggable event!

Rebecca

 

Sunday Funday

We began our morning with father’s beautiful Haitian church service. I really enjoyed the service and the singing- so upbeat and interesting! I felt like I was right at home with the LONG sermon. Half way through the service a little girl walked up to the row we were sitting in, stared at us for about thirty seconds, and then burst into tears. (We Americans tend to do that to the babies I guess) :) At the end of the service father said a few words about us to the congregation that brought Megan and I to tears. The love shared is something I cannot even put into words. You just have to be here and experience it for yourself. Even though this is my first time in Haiti, I already feel this close bond and connection with these people. It really is humbling and so special.

After church we we visited the school and possible locations for potential new projects. And then “Sunday funday” began! People were lined up outside the rectory to meet with us about their project ideas. When Rebecca said expect a ton of people to want to meet with us she was NOT kidding!!!!! Holy moly! So far this trip we have discussed 17 projects! I wish we could help everyone… We have a lot of decision making to do within the next few days.

We are ending our day as we always do… Sitting on the roof of the rectory watching the incredible view and reflecting on our busy day… I even tried m first Haitian beer! I’ll stick to my ragaman. I know I am going to regret drinking it this late at night (I will be up all night again), but as our trip is coming to an end I can’t help but feel like I have to drink as much of it as I can! If only I got take a few cases back home with me!

I am excited to see what tomorrow has in store for us. Megan and I are going to bake bread at the bakery in the morning and visit an “Americanized” Haitian market with Robens in the afternoon. I love exploring and experiencing new things!

That’s all for tonight. More tomorrow!

Shopping and a Movie….

So last night the guys in back were loud again and thank goodness Father Roosevelt was here. His bedroom is on the same side of the rectory as ours so he heard it and sent Roobens, and two others too quiet the guys down. Let’s just say we call them the Haitian Mafia and we are glad they are on our side….it was quiet again last night and so far tonight.

This morning we decided to go shopping for new arts and crafts for our next sale. The three of us shopped for Enactus….$650 later I think we are ready for the sale merchandise wise. We came back up to the rectory and took everything up to the roof and inventoried it placing all the data in an Excel spreadsheet.

I was a bit bummed that I could not watch the New England Patriot game. They tried and tried to get it to work but no luck so I had to just get updates on scores …as it seemed like a nail biter perhaps it was best I didn’t watch but I’m really happy they won!

Ttonight we brought all the theater equipment up to the mountain to the group who will be using it to help raise money for a after school program. They had seen the equipment in action last night when we tested it on the roof of the rectory and we’re waiting for us. We taught me how to set it up and popped a movie in and watch the close to 100 people watch their first movie of this huge outdoor screen. It was a very cool experience. They loved it and stopped the movie just to take turns thanking us before we left. These are people who have electricity, no TVs, so computers in their homes. Now they have access to movies and events. It was impressive.

Tonight was the start of breakfast at Tiffanys on the roof but all of us are Really tired so we decided to finish it tomorrow. I took my second cold shower tonight…. I just had to I felt so tacky. It was frigid. We have a full two days left before we return to Virginia but I can assure you I am counting down the days till I get home!

Rebecca

Shopping and a theater… On a soccer field?!

I’ve learned something about Haitian ragaman…. DON’T DRINK ANY AFTER 5 O’CLOCK! I was up the majority of the night and was so jittery. (Good think Rebecca was up with me too! We had some fun!) …..

On a more exciting note…. Boy was today a fun day! We began our morning as we always do- with a delicious breakfast and some strong coffee! Then it was off to do some retail therapy! The guys were so unlike any guy I know back home. They were patient and kind as we took our sweet time picking out items to buy and bring back for our art sale. We began by bargaining (more like arguing) with a few guys on the streets and each walked away with a couple gorgeous pictures! Then it was off to the art co-op! Wow. Just wow. They greeted us with huge baskets to put our goodies in as we shopped. Megan and I loved helping Rebecca pick out some beautiful pieces to bring back to the school for our art sale. (Of course we had to do a little shopping for ourselves while we were at it!) I’m so excited to have gotten some one of a kind items for my family members’ birthdays- if I can wait that long to give them to each of them!

Our next stop was to get some delicious Haitian coffee and peanut butter… YUM!!! (I think I’m going to have to find a good hiding spot for them when I get home. I haven’t decided if I’m going to share with my fiancé or not yet) :)

After yet another fantastic dinner, we hopped back into the jeep and went farther up the mountain to set up the theater for the children. When we pulled up they were already gathered together and anxiously awaiting our arrival. We decided to put on Ice Age- in French! We were only ten minutes into the movie when we were asked to pause it because Mr Eddie wanted to say a few words… He thanked us over and over again for  making this a possibility for these children. He asked Megan, Rebecca, and I to say a few words as well. After, a man and a mother stepped forward to say their thanks. The mother of some of the children thanked us more times than I can count and even said she bows to us! Their gratefulness brought me to tears. What an incredible feeling! This trip has been so humbling and is something I will never forget. This is definitely not my last trip to Haiti. I have become attached to these people and this place after only a few days of being here.

As I sit here on the roof of the rectory replaying these past few days, it is safe to say a piece of my heart will forever be left in Haiti.

More tomorrow!

Two great days, one great blog ;)

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday, again the blog was not liking me!

Yesterday was long and wonderful. We started our day bright and early on accounts of taking the long trip to LaGonave, having breakfast around 7. Delicious, as always. From there Rebecca, Melissa, Robens, Marckenson, Jimme fathers driver, and myself headed out on our long trek to Miragoâne, on the western side of Haiti past Leoganne, where we would take a boat to get over to LaGonave. It is about a 2.5-3 hour car ride, depending on conditions. This was my first time seeing Miragoâne as the last time I went to LaGonave we took a small plane, and when I say small I mean I was sitting in the cockpit. The docks at Miragoâne was a bustling place to say the least.

From there, we took a small speed boat over to Latorre on LaGonave (one of the boats we were a me to partner with Food for the Poor to help them get! Very cool!). It takes also about 2.5-3 hours, or longer depending on conditions. The water was great on our way there, not as smooth on our way back but still not bad!

Seeing Latorre was amazing. So much has changed since I was last here in 2011. Food for the Poor has continued to work with the people there and has built a large settlement of houses up the hillside, a stark contrast to what the people had been living in before when they were right on the coast. They have moved up on account of seeing the effects of a changing climate; rising sea levels and increased storms have caused many problems for this sea side village. We had a great meeting with the community and collected some great project ideas, including working with the women in the village become more self sustainable in order to better care for their families. Everyone in the village would cooperate and support this cooperative of women in order to help them succeed, as stated by the community leader Vené. It was a long but productive meeting, and it will be great to have the team weigh in on it when we get back.

As I said the ride over was not quite as smooth. Poor Marckenson and Melissa got soaked due to the choppy water, and one whole side of me was drenched and salty by the time we arrived back at Miragoâne about 3 hours later. Nonetheless it was still fun. Everyone was wiped by the time we got back to the rectory in Mon Lopital.

Will update with pics later!! I got some good ones ;)

Today has also been wonderful. We got up a little later and had breakfast around 8. Spicy spaghetti, a Haitian breakfast classic, and delicious fruit. Can’t go wrong with that!

We went to Rivière Froide today, to visit our school. It looks so different in Rivière Froide, time has certainly left it’s mark. The giant technical school that was started after the earthquake has been completed, for a year this month, and is HUGE and beautiful. How different things are compared to the last time I saw it’s progress, which was next to nothing. The question, as we were talking about, is who can afford to attend it? In the remote village of Rivière Froide certainly not many people.

It was fantastic to see our school, and honestly a little emotional for me especially given that in a few days it will be five years since Rebecca, Gail, Mike and I were here for the earthquake. Brought back a lot of memories of the day and all the days that came after to make the school a reality. I am immensely glad I could be here to see it today. The Sister who was there told us the children are doing well, as school is not in session currently.

On our way back, we stopped at fathers orphanage in Port Au Prince to see the children and update rosters for sponsorships, as each child that has been taken in by Father Roosevelt is sponsored by members of the BRCC community! We have drawings and pictures as well!

Father was done with his church retreat today, so we picked him up on our way back from the orphanage. We talked on the way back a little bit about my research. I recently wrote a paper blending elements of Haitian history, the earthquake (including my personal experience), and contemporary issues and the serious problem that comes with the common view taken on these things by those outside of Haiti. Whenever you hear about Haiti, it is always bad, and if it is good it is about Americans doing good work. This view leaves a gaping hole in what the perspective should be, which is holistic and understanding that so many Haitians do many good things for themselves, their communities, and to create and Instill change motivated by caring and accepting intentions. Haiti is not just the deep dark hole of poverty and aid that so many people think it is, there is so much more to the story of it’s people that should be brought to light. So That is what I am working on! I will be speaking with a few people while I am here to be able to share Haitians stories, perspectives, and experiences, and I am starting this with personal accounts of the earthquake. Stay posted for details and maybe one day a publication :)

Once we got back we went for a great walk up to the quary and over and around the mountain, which was wonderful! Melissa totally wiped out on the way down (sorry to put her on blast, but I had to ;) ). It was an amazing view!! When we got back to the rectory we set up the theater equipment, including screen, projector, and speakers, on the roof to test it out. We will be setting up a community member of Mon Lopital, Eddie, with this equipment to fund a outdoor theater business idea to support a community project with kids to develop leadership and self sustainability. We all sat on the roof, watched a movie and had popcorn and Ragamans, a Haitian ginseng drink with so much caffeine that it has a warning label on it. We finished the night up by playing a few rounds of Uno, which was great great fun. So many good times so far, I really do love it here!

Sorry for the longness of this blog! More tomorrow, and will update with pictures =)

Au Revoir!

Megan

Day Three ….. Movie Night

Hi Everyone

Today we went up to Rivière Froide to visit our school and I am happy to report that the building is doing fine and being used as we wanted. It is a school for disabled children and also where the receive therapy ..we spent about an hour there and although the children do not return from holiday break until next week we did see a young child that was being taken care of there. It was heartbreaking her mother just left her there because she knew she would be taken care of. She could not sit and was blind ..you see a lot of that in Haiti and those children usually have no options and die on the streets. This school currently offers hope for this little  girl and 36 others. We even bought some baskets that the children make. All money goes to the children so we all bought. It comes with the name of the child who made it. Very personal.

imageAfter the school we went to visit the children we sponsor at our Second Chance Orphange. They were great and after drawing pictures for their sponsors we took photos. There are 16 girls and 2  boys now. They wanted to thank all the people in Virginia who are helping them go to school and learn how to be educated . They are a great group of kids…. Just sweet and amazing.

We picked up Father Roosevelt on the way back up to Mon Lopital. He had been at a spiritual retreat for the past two days. He is back with us and helping to make things happen. This afternoon we stopped at the bakery. The girls will be learning how to make bread tomorrow. We also took a walk up to the sand quarry … The major source of slave-ish employment on the mountain and an amazing sight to see. Poor Melissa slid on the slick sandy on the road as we were making our way back and landed on her butt… As many have done before her (including me). Everyone ran and scooped her up … The held her hand for the rest of the way back and a group of Haitian women who saw her slip stopped her to clean the sand dust off her butt. It was sweet.  She is fine just a scrape but again she its fully inaugurated with the rest of us.

When we returned to the rectory we decided to test the theater equipment on the roof of the rectory when it was dark. We set up e equipment, put up our screen and currently everyone is sitting on the roof eating Haitian popcorn and drinking Ragaman watching Transformers… It looks amazing and everyone is excited by it. We enabled French subtitles so although it is action and easy to follow they can also read the dialog in French.  The screen is about 30 feet and a definite hit…. Next we train the group who will be running the project. But quite unique to be sitting on a roof outdoors watching a film with the lights of Port au Prince behind us.  For a throw together last minute project this will be a money maker…I can tell by the reaction of our test tonight. I attached a photo that does not show how great this is.

Have a good night from Haiti …more tomorrow

Rebecca

 

 

 

Shut that Dog up!

 

Apologies last night we were exhausted after returning from LaGonave and the Internet was slower than molasses so I went to bed you will understand why when you read below. Today Is am catching up on Day 2 and Day 3 posts…..

Day Two…

OMG have you ever stayed up for practically two days straight only to finally be so exhausted that the old worn out Haitian mattress and stuffy rooms did not bother you? All you wanted to do was sleep!!!!  Well that was my quest at 7:30pm last night…. Keep in mind I hardly ever go to bed before midnight but I was dead tired. So I laid on my bed only to be immediately aware of a dog barking right outside our window, not a little bark but one of those I don’t care who you are or why you need to sleep barks and it went on till about 3am.  in the meantime two young men of the same household as the nagging dog were laughing and just having the best time to about 4am. Again right outside our windows. It was so BRUTAL . I got up in the middle of it and took an Ambien and Melatonin….. No help. Around 2am I put in ear buds and turned on my iPod which helped a little. I think I may have gotten 2 hours of sleep at best. The first thing I did when I got  up was send Roobens our interpreter over to that house to tell them to cut it out. So far Tonight the boys are quiet and the dog is barking here or there but relatively quiet and I pray it stays that way!

This morning our wake up was at 6am  – after we prepared for today’s trip and breakfast we loaded into Father’s Land Rover and off we went to catch our speed boat in Meragone. The  ride took about two hours then we waited for our boat captain to buy fuel, we loaded up and off we went to the island of LaGonave. The speed boat took two hours and it was beautiful except for all the garbage in the water. Three years ago we completed a project on LaTorre (on the island of LaGonave) where we gave the village a power motors for speed boats we partnered with Food for the Poor who also gave  them a solar powered freezer for the fish. We also gave them a variety of fishing equipment. To my surprise the motors were still there, well cared for, and looking good – as were the boats and equipment. We held a town hall meeting and did a thorough needs assessment with the village.. It was quite the meeting. We left with four project proposals for consideration from our team… Three were very good.

We stopped in Port a Raquette and met the residing priest who was very nice but not someone Inwould feel comfortable  working with in the future. We then jumped back in our boat and crossed back to Merogane…but the ride back was a bit rougher as it was in the late afternoon. Poor Melissa was sitting in the back bench of the boat and was unlucky enough to get drenched repeatedly by waves coming over the boat. She was drenched by the time we got back to shore. Then had a two hour ride back to Mon Lopital. She was a trooper though and was fully initiated into the Haiti group of honor. As stated above we struggled when we got back it was 8:30pm and the Internet was so slow we actually gave up on this blog and went to bed…. Did we sleep? Well I can share that whatever Roobens said worked. The boys  were quiet all night and although a dog barked here and there it was back in the range of typical Haiti. So we had a fairly good evening.

Day at three will be a ride to check on the school in Rivière Froide and a visit to the orphange… More soon from Haiti.

Rebecca

 

 

 

Theater in Haiti

Today we began by visiting the school for the handicapped children that BRCC built. When we entered we saw a little girl about 6 years old on the floor. The poor sweet thing had been abandoned about five months ago by her mother. The nuns have been taking care of here and feeding her. Unfortunately, she is unable to do anything for herself (it appeared she has cerebral palsy)… We bought a few baskets and handmade items from the school- the money goes directly to the school children! How cool! From there we visited the new school in Rivière Froide. It was INCREDIBLE! Absolutely gorgeous!

My favorite part of the day had to be when we visited the girls at the orphanage. I was lucky enough to put headbands on each of the girl and take pictures with them. They were so adorable! They drew pictures for the sponsors and enjoyed a few pieces of bubble gum together. They were so sweet.

I’m on cloud nine here! To add to the excitement, we just finished setting up the theater on the roof of the rectory. How many people can say that they have watched transformers and ate popcorn on the roof in Haiti?! I consider myself blessed :) movie is starting! More later!!!!

Haiti day 2

Last night was tough falling asleep with all the noise and talking right outside our window… 6am came early this morning! We woke up to a beautiful breakfast of fruits and eggs and then we were off again. The drive lasted for what seemed like forever as we drove to the other side of the island to board the speed boat. Our main objectives today were to check on our projects and hear proposals for new ideas the Haitian people might have. I was amazed at our warm welcome when we reached the island. The children came from all around and people were even taking pictures and video of us. We began by handing out bubble gum and stickers to all of the little sweeties- boy what an experience! I’m not sure who smiled more- me or the children! Their little faces were so excited to be getting a sticker! It’s really incredible the little things that make them happy. After the playing with the children, the rest of the people gathered and we had a “town meeting” and discussed potential project details. We took a tour of the island to check out the new houses that were built and to take pictures… Then we were back on the boat… The ride back was much more intense then on the way there. Mackelson and I (the newbies) were put in the back of the boat and got DRENCHED the entire 2 hours. (Good thing it was warm!) We were all so glad to get back to the rectory and get a good nights sleep… More tomorrow.

Mwen sonje ou, Ayiti. Back as an alum!

Sorry for the delay all, blog didnt like me yesterday! Here is day one’s blog, more later!!

After almost four years of being away, I can say that I am elated to be back and even more so to be here as a part of BRCC once again. I have missed this place so much! Even right down to its smell, which Rebecca and I agreed is distinct just to Haiti. The airport is 100 times different from when I was here last.

Much more modern with real lines and even a baggage claim belt! I am sure I will find much has changed since I was last here with BRCC, and at the same time many things seem to be the same. It is great to see old friends and get to share this experience with new ones too! Mon Lopital is beautiful. Nestled in the mountains and overlooking Port Au Prince, the view is stunning and we spent the evening soaking in the city from above.

We are going over to LaGonave tomorrow, and leaving bright and early for the long trek there (two hour car ride to the port than a few hours boat ride). I am particularly excited to see the progress the fishing village of Latorre has hopefully seen since I have been there last, and since the team partnered to get fishing boats, motors, and sonar in order to help the people there catch bigger fish and also more substantial prices when selling them at market. In addition I am just looking forward to getting back to LaGonave, I think I may have loved it so much there I left a little piece of my heart behind in 2011!

Details to come soon =) I am wiped from staying up all night and than all say in route to getting here, so I promise my blog will be much more interesting tomorrow when I am more coherent. I am so tired that it is 7:30PM and I am in bed! As always in Haiti, many more adventures await! More to come tomorrow.

Megan

First time in Haiti…

I can’t believe we are FINALLY in Haiti!! Megan and I stayed up all night waiting for 1:30am to roll around so we could meet up with Rebecca and drive to DC to catch our flight. As the time to leave got closer, my nervous seemed to increase by the second. The fear of the unknown was both exciting and terrifying to think about…

From the second I walked off of the plane and heard the Haitian band, I knew I was right where I was meant to be.  My nerves disappeared and I instantly became hooked on this place… Then the driving began! Oh my gosh, the driving! I have never been so shocked and tense before.  Any and all driving rules are nonexistent here- enough to give me a heart attack, I swear!  Just when I thought we were finally away from the city and into a “safe driving” zone, we came to the twisting and turning of the awful mountain roads. For a second there I thought I was back home in Michigan dodging all the pot holes. Once we arrived at father’s place and Rebecca took me to the roof top I again was hooked. (That was hours ago and I’m STILL a sitting here in silence and in awe!) The beauty of Haiti is not something you typically hear about from people or on the news. It’s really a shame! The people I have had the pleasure of meeting have been more than phenomenal and kind, and the children have been little sweeties (and so entertaining!) It’s been a day and a half since I’ve slept, so I think it’s safe to say I’m going to sleep like a rock tonight! I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store for us! That’s all tonight- more tomorrow!

Alas Haiti Again

Its been awhile but here I am back in Haiti again. The smell  of Haiti is distinct and the mosquitoes are ever present but I am back. Right now I am blogging as I sit on the roof overlooking the lignts  of Port au Prince.

Am I glad to be back? Wait and ask me that tomorrow but for now I wanted to wish everyone a good night and a great first day of classes tomorrow. I will be water jetting over to LaTorre to meet with many people from my past.

Stay warm my friends and wish me a great journey… Because as most know …. Gnomes can’t swim!

Tim the Traveling Gnome

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Back in Haiti

Well we made it. Wee are sitting on the roof of the rectory watching the chickens flying around in the trees. We are watching the dusk roll in. We left BRCC at 1:30am on Wednesday morning and have been going ever since. As I was up and out of my house at about8:30am Tuesday morning to prep for the trip as of right now I have been up for about 32 hours and it feels that way.  Our flights were great and on time and Father Roosevelt was waiting for us. All the luggage arrived safely which is always a relief but what caught me by surprise is the new tourism tax they levy on everyone as you go through customs. It’s $10 per person and it is totally new. Just another way for the government to make money off the people who flood into this country to try to help and do something. Even before the earthquake this tax was not present. Oh well you can’t fight city hall or Customs ….

So we unpacked and talked up to check on the bakery. I was really happy to see the bakers hard at work and bread being kneaded, baked, and sold. The operate 6 of the 7 days of the week and they seem to be doing very well. We will be following up on all of this while we are here.

imageOur truck we purchased to haul supplies seems to be doing well with the exception of a flat tire. Father assured me it would be fixed but it seemed to be in good shape.

Tomorrow at 7am we leave for Mirograne to catch the speed boat to LaGonave and LaTorre. Going across the sea (as they put it) should be fun and I am really excited to  see how all the fishing equipment and motor did for that village.

I think Friday we will go to Rivere Froide to check up on the school and then to the artisan cooperative. I have to share that when we deplaned today it was 91 degrees…. I just read about the weather advisory for you guys in Virginia. You stay warm and I will try to stay cool.

I should have have better things to post tomorrow… Right now I just wanted to let everyone know we are here and safe.

More tomorrow

Rebecca

 

 

The Last Couple Hours…

We are down to the last hours of our trip. I have to say we have accomplished so much in one week. Rebecca, Diane, Joni, and I have worked so well as a team to make sure we got everything we wanted to accomplish done and then some. I do want to thank our entire Enactus team and the BRCC community for everything they have done to make this trip possible.

Well, we are all packed and ready to come back home…. the forecast shows that it will be snowing on Tuesday morning. We are all hoping it does!!! Who doesn’t like a nice snow day :)

Au revoir Haiti!

In several hours Diane, Rebecca, Hind and I will be heading to the airport and flying over the aqua blue waters of Haiti. Last night, after some hot plantain pudding, we were all reflecting on what we have accomplished as a team in the past week. Not only did we complete the tasks we had set out to do, but we were able to meet with several committees on starting new businesses which was exciting. In particular, yesterday, we visited an after-school program which was voluntarily started by three young adults. Not only were these three coordinators motivated, they had a business plan for sustainability and had a plan to pay us back and pay it forward.

Overall, I feel as though we have accomplish even more than we set out to do. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and work with such a motivated and hard working team. Although our BRCC Enactus team has a lot of work cut out for us to do, we are more than excited to watch the next stages of our projects in Haiti evolve.

Au revoir Haiti!

Joni

The final day

Today… Saturday is the last day on this adventure. Its been a busy day but a good one. We awoke this morning to go and observe a student leadership camp up the mountain which I found really interesting as I had never gone further up than the sand quarry. It still all Mon Lopital but it was interesting. The people who run this camp are very entrepeneurial and we met several times during the day to discuss small business ideas that could be used to increase the sustainability of the camp.

Tonight we packed up for our journey home – we had a good trip…. lots of stories to tell when we get back …. so see you on Tuesday on campus. Its time to take my last cold shower for the trip! I want to do it before the generator runs out of power!!

Rebecca

Hallelujah!

We’re heading home tomorrow! I’m so happy to imagine myself on that plane, heading back to the States. I’ve enjoyed my time in Haiti, but I miss my family, I miss my Noodle-oo (aka my fat puppy), I miss my bed, and I miss taking hot showers and feeling clean. My college kids are even going to be at home so I can see everyone at once.

It’s been a very successful trip and we’ve accomplished a lot. We were talking about that at the evening dessert Santlis prepared for us. We distributed approximately 140 pairs of shoes, checked on the Davis School for the Disabled, checked on the orphanage and saw how all the girls were doing, checked on the tap-tap, shopped for our fundraiser, worked extensively in the bakery and provided training on best practices for maximum profitability, built and cooked on biostoves, and met with some entrepreneurs looking for assistance. I can leave feeling really positive about the outcome of our trip.

USA – here we come!!

Friday …. and my 13 step cold water shower protocol

Well today started with that haunting rooster again…. he sits in the tree outside our room and goes at it in the middle of the night. Today I was determined to track down the culprit and I did … his picture is below…. what a loud mouth!

Do this morning we headed down to Port au Prince to the artisan cooperative…. which is always a fun time. Joni, Hind and Diane helped purchase the crafts and items for our next art auction including the most beautiful baskets. We had a great time and poor Father Roosevelt – typical guy when out with a group of women …. he waited for us! After we had depleted our budget we headed back up the mountain to Mon Lopital – we then all worked on reconciling our purchases and setting prices and packing up the goods…. this took a couple of hours and was tough…. but finally we got it to work and it was time for dinner. Dinner was chicken (not rooster darn!) beans and rice and watermelon. There was also potatoes but I’m not sure what she calls the dish as its like mashed potatoes but them creamed and baked again.

This afternoon was the best …. we taught a group of people from the village about biostoves and had a hands on workshop to build the stoves. Not only did we build the stoves we cooked on them – we fried eggs, boiled eggs and even popped popcorn on the biostoves… all powered by biomass briquettes. It was a great afternoon!

Tomorrow we are being token somewhere ot meet a group of young people who run a leadership program for middle to high school students. Tomorrow afternoon we will be packing up and getting ready to ship back out to the awesome USA Sunday… I was warned we are coming back to frigid temperatures but I can tell you I am looking forward to it! Bring on the cords and sweaters… and my UGGS…. that is normal for me at this time of year and I miss it… along with my hot water, my family and my bed (not in that order of course). I am carving lettuce…. salad….I always crave it when I’m here….

Now as promised on to my multi-step cold water showering procedure, I must credit a few people who have added value to the process over the years… Gail and Megan Samples. Their ideas are incorporated into my process:

Step 1: Since the sink in our bathroom fell off the wall on day one and our pipes are leaking when we reattach the sink to the wall. Brush your teeth before you get in the shower and spit into the shower (it rinses down as you shower)

Step 2: Disrobe – but be careful where you put your clothes as the baby roaches get into everything – remember to keep on your flip flops to enter the shower. You do not want to walk barefoot in that shower……..

Step 3: Take your bath towel off the wall and snap it good – things crawl up into it during the day and there is nothing worse than finding something in your towel when you exit the shower

Step 4: Get it the shower stall and turn on the cold water…. I must specify once again that there is only cold water so your temperature options are easy… cold or cold.

Step 5: quickly stick your head under the water and lightly wet your hair while at the same time wetting your wash cloth (which is a necessity). Then turn off the water.

Step 6: Take the shampoo and condition and mix both in your hand (thank you Gail for this one) lather up your hair with this mixture – which cuts down on the times you need to rinse your head off with cold water. Let it set.

Step 7: Lather up your body with liquid soap – bar soap doesn’t work as well – we need to minimize the need for water so liquid soaps work best (let your hair conditioner set on your head while you do this)

Step 8: (This is the biggie) turn on the water and stick only your head in and as thoroughly as possible rinse your hair out.

Step 9: This is the shocker… its time to rinse everything else… I start with my legs and then arms and rinse and then hold my breath and jump in the water trying not to make weird painful noises… remember take a deep breath before completing this step.

Step 10: turn of the water and catch your breath

Step 11: Step out of the shower stall and dry yourself off being careful to keep on your flip flops but at the same time figuring out a way to dry your feet.

Step 12: Proceed to get dressed and do all the other little tasks necessary in your showering ritual.

Step 13: (Optional) I add this step for Megan Samples gave me this one… when in a 3rd world country sprinkle Gold Bond Powder on youself … it makes you feel human again and smell nice!!

Now if this process is too tedious and you are in a place where your normal American 3 – 5 star showers are not available and you DO NOT want to go through this process… you can opt for the alternative plan of action perfected by Joni and Hind on this trip…. just don’t shower at all while there.

Hope this helps all you world travelers! Good night from Haiti  – its time for cold shower #6 (with one more to go tomorrow night)

Rebecca

Buying, Selling, and Producing – an accountant’s dream!

BUYING: Today we left right after breakfast to go shopping at the Fair Trade Co-op in Port-au-Prince. When our team visits Haiti we always stop here so we can support local artisans and hold a fundraiser sale when we return to campus. A trip to Port-au-PrBuying:ince means another hair-raising, death-defying ride with Father Roosevelt at the wheel. Hind, Joni, and I all make sure we are buckled in securely and then trust all will be well. So far, so good!

The Co-op had so many beautiful things. There were several larger things I would have loved to have bought for my home, but I had no idea how I would ever ship them. In the meantime, I picked up a few things for my family. Having selected a few personal items, I got serious about helping Hind and Joni select items for the fundraiser. We kept calling out, What about this, Rebecca? What about this? Do you think they’d like this? Every so often she’d ask the girls if they thought their peers would like this item, or that. Between the four of us, we knocked out the shopping fairly quickly. The Co-op has a very well-organized computer system tracking all the inventory for the artisans and providing an itemized receipt. As things are being tallied, young men are waiting to take the items and carefully wrap them in paper and place them in bags for the customers. You pick them up as you leave. A few of the American stores I’ve been in could learn a thing or two about customer service from this shop.

SELLING: Time for another exciting ride back to the rectory! Joni realized as the car was swaying dangerously from side to side in the deep ruts of the sandy, mountain road that she wasn’t buckled, but we were all wedged in so tightly with shopping bags that we decided she was as cushioned as she could possibly be. Once we got back to the rectory we went into action. Rebecca went through everything the team had purchased, Hind verified each item against the itemized receipts, and I created an inventory sheet in Excel, using a formula to calculate our conversion rate to determine our Cost of Goods Sold in US dollars. Together we set prices that would allow us to recover our COGS and make a little profit to apply towards our international projects. Have I mentioned I love Excel? I have to thank Marlena Jarboe for being such an excellent instructor and showing me that there’s almost nothing Excel can’t do. After getting my accountant-nerd fix, we cleaned up and prepared for our dinner meal. We had a few new things and, excitement of all excitement, watermelon! I’ve missed fresh fruit this week. Rebecca made arrangements with Father to get us a few different kinds. We really appreciate how well she’s taking care of us!

During lunch, Joni presented Rebecca with a small gift from us. At the co-op she noticed that, among the other handmade refrigerator magnets, there was a colorful rooster. We all know that Rebecca likes to collect refrigerator magnets from the locations of her travels, and since Chanticleer has done his utmost to keep us awake all night long, we thought having her own personal Haitian Chanticleer would be the perfect reminder of this trip. We were told the roosters spend the night in trees here, and there’s one right outside our window. We’re determined to catch him in the act. Rebecca has hatched a plan to sneak up on the roof and, using my small flashlight and her camera, take a picture of the offender from just above the tree. We have a suspect in mind and Rebecca took his picture today. We’re going to determine if it’s a match.

PRODUCING: After lunch we prepared for our biostove demonstration. We were all really excited about this project because it has the potential to make such a significant impact. While Hind, Rebecca, and I worked on inventory, Joni had been busy walking around the grounds and making note of the cans in the trash piles. She asked Jonathan and Claudy, the two orphans who live here at the rectory, to bring her all the cans they could find. She was going to prove how easy it would be to find the resources necessary to make a biostove for free. We gathered a few men and a few of the young men came out of curiosity, so we had a fairly large audience for our demonstration. We had packed a large number of empty, cleaned cans of all sizes, and both a large and a small biostove that we had made as examples. I used the laptop to show the demonstration video of Tim Byrd teaching Joni, Hind and me how to make the stove. I had edited it down to all of the main steps and added French captions. Joni and Hind had created a Biomass Guide booklet with step-by-step pictures and French captions. Following the video, the three of us guided them through the steps as they took turns using the tools on the cans, while the others followed along in the guidebook. It was a great success! We showed them how to start fires in the stove, using biomass briquettes as fuel. We were boiling water when Joni had the excellent idea to make hard-boiled eggs. She then got a frying pan and began cooking a fried egg as well. I think everyone was surprised to see how well the food cooked. Joni tried to encourage Jonathan to taste her fried egg, but he said, No. I’m not hungry. His frightened face betrayed his true feelings. Joni boldly took a bite, but he was still not convinced, so I took a bite. Then I pretty much pressured Robens, our translator (and he of the earlier microloan standoff), to man up and try a bit of egg. He good-naturedly acquiesced, only to be surprised at how good Joni’s egg was. Soon, the hard-boiled eggs were finished and I peeled one to show them the inside. Haitian men – such skeptics! I fed one delicious looking egg to the sweet, yard dog lying at my feet. Very quickly one of the men laid claim to the other egg. Joni then went and begged popcorn kernels off of Santlis, the cook, and made a pot of popcorn on top of one of the smaller biostoves. It was delicious and she shared it with Santlis to thank her.

Needless to say, all of the food inspired the men to greater interest and they began grabbing extra cans to make more stoves of various sizes. Even Jonathan got into the act. We assured him he had the makings of a great entrepreneur when he had the idea to attach a handle for the workers who go out to garden all day. They can carry a little stove with them and cook their afternoon meal out in the garden. Brilliant! To hit our message home, Rebecca whipped out her laptop and showed the pictures from Well of Hope in Kiserian, Kenya to demonstrate how successful the women there have been with their briquette business. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Today was a great day. We accomplished so much and made so many people happy.

TGIF

Its Friday!!

We were all super excited to go shopping today ( girls love shopping). After breakfast, we headed right to the car to go to the Co-Op and purchase items for the art sale ( for those of you who love the art sale……we got some really cool stuff this year). We really shopped until we dropped. I loved how this place was reasonably priced and no one was trying to scam us.

We then headed back to Mon L’opital and got right to work by putting everything onto a spreadsheet and converting prices. The items on the receipt were in Creole which was a little difficult to understand but since I could slightly compare some of the words to french we got it done. Rebecca and Diane have amazing organization and accounting skills  that got the job done. All that is left is to price tag all the items when we get back to go old Virginia. After lunch we set up the biomass stove video, booklets, and examples Tim helped us make at school. We began teaching some of the men from the village how to make it. Everyone participated and seemed intrigued by it. We made two biomass stove and put them to burn. The heat that comes out of these is amazing!! we fried an egg, boiled an egg in ten minutes, and even popped some tasty popcorn. The best part is all the items that are used for the biomass stove can be found and used for free.

Well our week in Haiti is coming to an end. Tomorrow we will head out to get some D-lights for the bakery and go check out the boys and girls club. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Another typical, or not so typical day, in Haiti.

So, currently Hind and I are curled up beneath our mosquito nets getting ready for bed. One problem; we forgot to turn the light off. Neither of us wants to get out of bed for several reasons. For one, there is a giant cockroach dead right below the light switch. Actually, earlier today (as recorded in previous posts) one friendly cockroach attempted to climb up my leg! …… DURING our script rehearsal.

Anyway, as we begin to quiet down here in Mon Lopital, every animal in Haiti decides to wake up and begin a musical ensemble… *see previous posts for further description.

Overall though, we’ve had another great and rewarding day! From handing out glow sticks to smiling school children to meeting with our bakery accountant we are continuing to accomplish those things we have set out to do.

Tomorrow we have some really exciting plans in store. Hint: biomass and Haitian art is included!

Until tomorrow!

Joni

 

 

 

Thursday…. a hodge podge of goings on….

So that rooster last night just got on my nerves…. he crows or (whatever you call it) so much that he sounds like he has Laryngitis! Tonight Roobens is going to go out there and see if he can shut him up…. good luck with that one.I tossed and turned so much last night I woke up and was wrapped like a mummy in my one sheet I lie on. I refuse to lay under it – its doesn’t look too clean and it freaks me out a bit. I brought my own pillow, pillow case, towels…. but not sheets… live and learn.

After breakfast this morning we decided to go to the school. Traditionally each year we come up with an activity for the children who attend the village school – which is about 500 kids. A few months ago I was in Michaels Craft Store and they had these containers of neon bracelets for $1 for about 15 bracelets…. So I cleaned them out and bought close to 250 bracelets and put them away for the trip. So today we started with the little little children (kindergarten) and gave each child a bracelet. When we ran out of bracelets we gave the older kids two pieces of bubble gum. One thing I noticed and its not a good thing is that  the people are becoming very at ease with using buildings that for the past few years had been viewed as unstable due to the earthquake. When we went to the school with bracelets and gum the older children were now upstairs in this two story concrete building that was heavily damaged during the earthquake. For the past three years we were not allowed up on the second floor. The lower floor is used as a village clinic.   Now they are using the upper floor  for classrooms. Not only that but when we went up the stairs to the second floor they locked the door to stair exit – so in my mind I’m thinking hmmm if I feel a rumble there is no getting out that door – so I’m jumping. The problem is there is no place for anyone to softly land.So the bottom line is not my freaky way of planning for quick escapes but thinking those kids are in serious trouble in the event of even a minor tremor. It seems that Haiti has forgotten. I can assure you I haven’t ……..

On the way back to the rectory we stopped and interviewed vendors about bread sales – we used this information to move the bakery to actually add another size of bread to the product offerings.

This afternoon we worked with the bakery accountant going over inventory control, break even analysis  and reporting. We taught him how to use spreadsheets and set him up on Excel. He was mesmorized. His name is Frantze and I think he is very bright but very quiet…. I hope he can hold his own against the head baker who is very comfortable in his skin. Roobens even was so excited by our spreadsheets he talked Diane into designing his for his business. Diane was very patient with him and was a very good tutor teaching him the ins and outs of her spreadsheet – I tell you those spreadsheets are viewed as gold here – especially since the formulas calculate everything for you. It was a great training opportunity for everyone involved.

Joni & Hind have been working on compiling Haitian recipes with the cook St Leez – she is amazing and has agreed for us to document her most famous and favorite recipes and then we plan to create a little Haitian cookbook ….so far we have recipes for beans and rice, congo bean sauce, Haitian hot chocolate, hmmmm not sure what else. We may start our own You Tube Channel – “Cooking with St. Leez”

The funniest thing that happened today was tonight – we were rehearsing for competition and Joni was presenting one of her sections when Diane jumped up from her seat ran over and pushed Joni and started stomping the floor – a roach was on Joni’s foot. Lets just say that it took Joni a long time to catch her breath and she just said her heart skipped a beat… it was the third huge cockroach we dealt with today…. yuck!

So tonight is cold shower #5 (coming up right after this blog entry is finished) only two more cold showers after tonight…. I can feel my hot water shower coming toward me – but not fast enough!! Diane laughs at my process for showering ….. it is my 14 step cold water shower protocol…. you need to tune in to my blog tomorrow people…. I will share it. :-)

Tomorrow we are going into Port au Prince once again to shop for Haitian arts and crafts at the artisan cooperative! Its fun and great fundraising. Tomorrow afternoon we have our biostove training workshop set to go – Tim we will be thinking of you.

So for tonight I think I am going to sit here for awhile on the roof and take in the lights of Port au Prince…. and reflect on this day. It was our down day per say but eventful nonetheless!

Oh by the way the photo below of the loaf of bread that looks like a sheet cake is a drawing of me – the bakers made it on the bread with scraps of dough… I think I was supposed to be flattered…. not sure if I am or not… does it look like me? The girls seems to think so…. hmmmm

Rebeccabakery1 bakers cake bread export

 

 

The Musicians of Bremen

is a very old folk tale in which a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, past their prime, decide to abscond before they can be discarded or turned into dinner by their owners. They find themselves outside a home where robbers are hiding and, hoping for a meal in exchange, perform a “song” outside the open window. I won’t spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure you’re asking, what the heck does that have to do with Haiti??! Well, this morning Hind woke up and began describing the cacophony of conversation that has been occurring between a cow, a dog, and a rooster right under her window. She was convinced it was a very in depth conversation, with each animal going in order: cow, dog, rooster, cow, dog, rooster. I couldn’t help but laugh and think of that story from my childhood.

Rebecca and I have had our own issues with animal conversation. Just outside our one and only window, which has to remain open if we’re to have any air circulation at all, resides Chanticleer, or his descendant I suppose. He proudly, and LOUDLY, crows ALL. NIGHT. LONG with an echoing rooster in the neighbor’s yard answering him ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Now I’m originally from the midwest and I enjoy sleeping with my windows open any time I can. We live in front of a dairy farm that has a rooster or two wandering around and houses its newborn, bawling calves along the fence line between our property. However, there are about 150 yards between my open window and those noisy critters. Chanticleer outside our window? Is RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW.

I think this post is turning into a Creature Feature because I’m now inspired to mention how each day has seen more roaches running around the house. The first day all was spic and span and roach-free. The 2nd day found a few of the smaller roaches running around. Yesterday I found two of the large roaches, friends and family will know what I’m talking about when I say they are very similar to the wood roaches in East Texas, and today saw several more. In fact, as Hind and Joni were practicing their competition presentation, I saw one stealthily making its way towards Joni’s bare foot in its flip-flop. I quietly got up and moved around Hind, trying not to distract her from her recitation, and grabbed Joni firmly as it was about to climb up her foot and pushed her away so I could stomp it. I don’t LIKE the roaches, but I’m not too bothered by them as they just remind me of Houston. Which is why I live in VIRGINIA. Joni’s reaction was priceless. At first she seemed confused, and then she saw the roach, and then she screamed. I had been trying so hard not to distract the presentation practice, but needless to say, I was not successful. Shout out to Hind for finishing her section during all the screaming and stomping.

We’re up on the rooftop in the dark which has three advantages: 1. It’s so much cooler up here. 2. The view of the lights of Port-au-Prince way down below us and the large moon above us is undeniably beautiful. 3. It’s so dark we can’t see what creatures are lurking near our feet. Ignorance is bliss. I wish you all could see Rebecca in her spelunker light shining out from her forehead. It’s both adorable and hilarious all at once. Okay, I know I should tell you all about the Excel training session I had with the bakery accountant, but all I’ll say is that I’m so glad to have all these things to work on during the day. Haiti life is filled with a lot of hurry up and wait. Those who know me well know how I feel about waiting and doing nothing. I don’t do that well. Having to work out a system that will work for a Haitian who doesn’t speak English has been a godsend. I’ve also learned quite a bit of Creole: depans, revni, revni net, etc (expenses, revenue/income, net income).

We’ve been working our way through our list of goals and tomorrow we finally demonstrate how to make a biostove out cans.

Chiklet… chiklet… chiklet!!!

Chiklet is the creole word for gum and the children sure do love it.

Today I had a different alarm clock. Instead of just the rooster crowing, The cow would moo then the dog would bark, and then the rooster would crow …….. at this point the rooster sounds like it has laryngitis. It was the same order from 4:00 AM until I decided I couldn’t take it anymore …. I honestly think they were having a conversation with each other. Oh, to add on to the amusement, as soon as Joni and I were out of bed, at 7:00 AM the animals decided to end their conversation and get some rest.

We began our day with breakfast and got ready for our productive day. We were suppose to have a meeting at ten with a group of people from the area about an idea they had. But we shortly realized that 10:00 AM in Haitian time can really be 5:00 PM. Once father told us they are on Haitian time we decided we would go ahead and go to the village school.

We started with the little kids at the school and gave them glow-in-the-dark bracelets. They were so fascinated with how these bracelets were creating light and loved it so much. One class had such an energetic teacher that they welcomed us with a song. I think the children really enjoyed being in school. Thank You to every sponsor that gives these children the opportunity to be in school. It makes a huge difference! As we went class to class saying hello and handing out bracelets to the younger children we saw how the classrooms were set up and how they seemed to be obedient. Once we were done with the younger kids we headed down to what can be considered as middle school to give out “chiklet” and boy do the kids love gum! Nevertheless, we had a good time and then got on with our day. We walked down and saw a lady selling bread… We were curious to find out if she purchased her bread from the Mon L’opital Davis Bakery but we found out that it would be too expensive for her to purchase the bakery bread because it is too big to sell for 1 haitian dollar. Rebecca went on to tell her that we will ask the bakers to make a smaller bread so she does not have to travel all the way to Port au Prince to purchase her bread.

We conversed about it as we walked back to the rectory. We all sat down in the hall and decided to get some school work complete before we will meet with the bakery accountant to help him with spreadsheets that Diane created to keep track of sales, expense, and inventory. The accountant was really excited about how the spreadsheet will make tracking data so much easier with Diane’s amazing spreadsheet that did all the math automatically. As he explained how he was going to start using it this week we felt comfort that he felt passionate about it all. So rememeber that group we were suppose to meet with during the morning…. they decided to show up finally as they wanted to meet right away one of the translators told them they have to wait because we were currently helping the accountant who showed up at the promised time. Well as always I felt a little bad since they had to wait for an hour and then thought to myself well they made us wait all day so its okay for them to wait for just a little bit.

After finishing with the bakery accountant we made our way over to meet with the group. They explained to us that they run a sort of boy and girls club in Mon L’opital for 7-14 year old children. The reasoning for why they had the club was a great because it included teaching the children social skills and ethics. The group wasnt sure what kind of organization we were and Diane explained to them that we were not an organization that gives a hand but more of an organization that gives a ” hand up”….. they understood what we meant and said that they would go back discuss some business ideas and when we go to the club to visit on saturday they will have a better business plan for us to look at and how exactly we could help.

As the sun went down and the stars were coming out we chomped away at some tasty popcorn and Joni went into the kitchen to learn how to make Haitian hot chocolate to bring  back and share with everyone. As we enjoyed the warm tasty sugar loaded hot chocolate we discussed American Football and how the price to run a commercial for the Superbowl could fix every problem in Haiti.

Well today was a very eventful day. As we are all sitting on the roof looking at the beautiful scenery Joni is taking out her braids, Diane is entertained with how I was actually disturbed about the animals, and Rebecca is typing away on her computer with a flashlight headband which reminds me of the mole with the head flashlight which was a cartoon that I watched when I was little ( I cant think of the name of the cartoon… I even tried googling it but no luck) but it is pretty amusing… every time she turns and looks in my direction it is funny and blinding but hey its a great source of light.

Wednesday…. midway point

Well today was a crazy day… very strange. It started with breakfast … between Diane not eating Gluten and Hind not eating pork meals are a crap shoot! Well anyway we had this huge meeting with the bakery committee at 10am which lasted about 2 hours. – maybe longer. We reviewed operating procedures, inventory, inventory control, sales, waste, marketing… you name it… we went over it. We have another training session tomorrow at 4pm to training Frantz on accounting procedures and how to track all the data in Excel. He was sitting next to me during the meeting today and when we saw our spreadsheets his eyes lit up so we will be adding his training to tomorrow’s agenda.

In the afternoon we went up to Riviere Froide to check on the Davis School – which is holding up fine- it is actually being used as a school. By the time we got there school was out so we checked out the building and then left but it is being used as it is intended to be used…. which is what I wanted to check on. Next we went over to the Second Chance Orphanage and met with the children the college community sponsor. The girls (all girls now) drew pictures and took photos and had a great time with us and we met with a local gentleman that wants to start a business that would help add a sustainable revenue stream to the orphanage. We told him to work on his ideas and send us  information and then we can decide whether its something we will pursue.

We then bounced our way back up the mountain – what a trek… anyone who thinks getting around this place is easy… is just plain crazy! So we came back up to a sack of plantain pudding and of course a staple of any BRCC Enactus trip – sugar cane…. I piece I had tonight was the best in a long time I could actually chew through it but I hate spitting it out… it just feels barbaric! Joni and Hind actually had Father teach them to hack the came stalk into edible peeled pieces…

This evening was the best though… I have been doing this for so long sometimes having people come in with their requests for loans just gets old. Of course over the years we have had some good business plans presented to us but no one had ever run the wrath of Diane. Roobens Collins is a man I have none since day one of traveling to Haiti – back in 2007 or second Haiti travel team gave him a microloan to start a home entertainment business. He actually shows sports shows and sometimes movies and charges for it. Roobens had actually expanded the business to include a disco – complete with disco ball but then it all came to a screeching halt with the 2010 earthquake that destroyed alot of his equipment including solar panels we had provided the microloan for. Over the last year or so Roobens has been rebuilding his business but simply breaking even due to the need to use diesel for his generator to power his operations. So he came to us tonight to ask for another microloan for more solar panels and a inverter. It was like being back in 2007 – we sat we listened and then the four of us went into our office (Diane and my bedroom) and met for about an hour.

We created an action plan complete with repayment terms and printed out microloan agreement (our new Enactus handy dandy traveling printer was AWESOME!) Then we went out and presented our terms and plan to Roobens. It was like being in a lawyers office. Diane who had typed up our agreement when line by line with Roobens and Father Roosevelt (who is our loan administrator) what our requirements on reporting and repayment were and just everything he would need to know. It was going smoothly until a transportation fee of $20 was brought up by Roobens – he had forgot to tell us about the $20 needed to get himself and his soon to be purchased solar panels back to LaGonave. Diane specifically asked him about transportation and since he failed to tell us before we worked out the terms and contract she refused to budge and gave him $20 … it was a stand off. Roobens was set on that extra $20 and Diane was set on not giving it to him. Although I have to admit I almost told her to just give him the blasted $20 she stood her ground and would not cave. Finally he borrowed the $20 from Father Roosevelt – signed our loan agreements and everyone was happy. I knew he was not going to refuse our loan – just as I know his business is a great business from LaGonave. I have to admit that Diane was the force to be reckoned with and I KNOW Roobens will never underestimate an American woman again! He didn’t know what hit him.

Well more tomorrow – its late and we are about to lose power… so if there are typos in this posting I will fix it in the morning…. when you see the lights start flickering you know you have about 5 minutes left of power…. so goodnight moon and goodnight Virginia – we miss you all!

Rebecca

 

 

Are we there yet?

Todays festivities consisted of a lot of driving around curvy, bumpy, and chaotic roads (well not really roads to be honest just dirt paths). I have to say Father Roosevelt is the only person I would trust to drive me around in Haiti. He knows how to maneuver around any situation. Have you ever seen a land cruiser get through two dump trucks in a one lane dirt path? No,I didnt think so…  and I hadn’t either until my heart dropped and I gasped for my last breath while Father drove past them as if it were an every day situations. Well I assume in Haiti it is a daily situation. As Diane said ” Father should become a race car driver” all I was thinking was “are we there yet” and a little car sick from the exhaust fumes and the bumpy one hour drive. We finally made it to the Disabled school BRCC Enactus (previously SIFE) built a couple years back in  Riviere Froide. It was nice to see previous work other students did and the opportunities they created through this entire time.

We then got back in the car and headed back down the mountain to the orphanage. As all fourteen girls came to welcome us with a smile and a kiss on the cheek, I could see the joy in their faces. The best part of it all was when Rebecca put on green neon hair extension and all the girls thought it was the funniest thing in the world. As we passed out art supplies for them to draw a picture to each their sponsors they immediately grabbed a seat and got to work. It was so nice to see the older girls help out the younger girls. It made me feel warm inside that they were not just all friends but more of a family. The rest of the day consisted of a tasty treat of sugar cane that was DELICIOUS!! I thought at some points that I was going to break a tooth trying to break it off but I am glad to say that I still have all my teeth.

I have to say I am exhausted after the busy day we’ve had today. Now its time to get ready for bed and try to convince myself that the cold showers were just like getting into a nice cool pool. The villagers outside seem to be playing some popular american rap songs right now which might be hard to fall asleep to but I guess its better then the rooster crowing all night!

A la prochain!

What is tougher than Sugar Cane?

Today felt like a week! We accomplished so much one day it was incredible. After waking up to a delicious breakfast, we interviewed employees and the accountant from the bakery which was interesting. Next we enjoyed a lunch of rice and beans, a goat roast  and a casserole type dish of conch (so good). Hind and I have also been working on gathering recipes and taking videos from the kitchen here in Haiti. We plan on putting together a recipe book after returning which I am super excited about. After lunch we headed to see the school our team built after the earthquake to check up on things and then headed to our orphanage to get updated pictures of  the children for their sponsors. The girls, as usual, took advantage of the photo-opt with modeling poses.

After returning from our road-trip of the day, we were greeted with delicious plantain pudding, fresh bread from the bakery and sugar cane. Sugar cane is juicy and sweet, but the cane part is tough and impossible to swallow (remember this). But, the night was not over…there was something we needed to discuss. Long-story-short, one the gentlemen here approached Diane yesterday asking for an additional loan for his store. He felt like Diane would be a little more likely to say yes than Rebecca, but little did he know. Diane politely said she needed to discuss things with us, and so tonight we all sat down and put together a contract etc… After thoroughly discussing the situation as a team, typing and printing a contract, we presented the plan to father and this Haitian man. After Diane clearly went through the contract, the man stated he needed more money than originally asked for and what was put in the contract. He needed twenty more dollars. In reference to my sugar cane comment, tonight Diane was the cane and Rebecca was the sweet sugar juice. After about thirty minutes of the Haitian bargaining for more money and Diane remaining firm on her response of “no”, Rebecca began to lose it with laughs; after all it was just twenty bucks. Maybe you just had to be there to grasp how hysterical this was, but when it comes to business we’ve learned Diane can be tough.

Bonwi!

Joni

There’s a full moon over Mon L’opital…

and that must be why it’s been such a crazy day. We began with breakfast, per usual, then organized a few things until it was time to meet with the bakery accountant, manager, and committee members. After counting baked bread pieces, observing, and asking what seemed like a million questions about ingredients, costs, prices, wages, etc. I crunched the numbers to project weekly, monthly, and annual earnings. Things looked great for the bakery if Monday was a typical day of production, but the manager told us that they hadn’t made any money during the 2.5 weeks they’ve been in business. We needed to see their numbers and analyze the issues. We discovered a few, among them a lack of communication between the head baker and the accountant, as well as a few issues with the account keeping itself. When we briefly showed the accountant our spreadsheet, there was no denying he was intrigued and gladly accepted our invitation to a training session. We emphasized the need to be profitable and not simply aim for the break-even point each day. I am looking forward to working with him tomorrow afternoon.

After that meeting, we had a little time to ourselves to discuss some of our plans and get ready for an early dinner. We were heading off to visit the Mon L’opital-Davis School for the Disabled, as well as the Second Chance Orphanage. That was a LONG. BUMPY. CRAZY. DRIVE. Dale Earnhardt, Jr has got nothin’ on Father Roosevelt! What is truly amazing to me is how everyone maneuvers within a hair’s breadth of one another without anyone getting killed. Pedestrians, scooters, motorbikes with 3 and 4 people hanging off of them, and all sizes of cars, trucks, buses, tap-taps, and even huge dump trucks all weaving in and out on any side of the road that is open. After managing a very steep hill in Father’s Land Cruiser, it was very gratifying to see the school. The children were already gone for the day, but we saw lessons written on the chalkboard and assignments resting inside the desks. We then headed back down that hill and through Port-au-Prince where the girls in the orphanage reside. We had fun distributing the rest of the donated backpacks, much needed art supplies and paper, and few fun things for the girls. We then asked them to create a picture or a note for their sponsors and took each one’s picture. Haitians don’t typically smile in pictures, but several seemed to enjoy striking a pose. Haiti’s Next Top Model? Maybe. :)

After a long drive back with a quick stop for some sugar canes, we prepared for our evening dessert (tonight was plantain pudding) and some fun with the sugar canes. Afterwards, we met with Roobens, our translator. Rebecca knows Roobens from La Gonave. He has a disco/entertainment business that was damaged in the earthquake, and he wanted to ask for a small loan to purchase a solar panel and inverter to save money on his energy costs. He had been successful before the earthquake, so we were inclined to oblige him, but…he had borrowed from us once before. We wanted to be sure the microloan was just that, a loan, to be paid back. We also wanted to receive regular reports on how the business was doing. In Haiti, agreements sometimes are treated as suggestions, and follow through can often be problematic. Rebecca came up with a very creative solution: Use the money he earned for his translation services this week as the first portion of the loan, considered paid through his services, and require monthly payments for the remainder to be made to Father for the benefit of the orphans. Our sponsorship program pays for educational expenses and meals for the children, but clothing and other basic necessities are always a struggle. This would provide Father with needed funds while we brainstorm a more sustainable source of income for the orphanage. It also gave Father a vested interest in being sure that Roobens made his monthly payments. After questioning Roobens closely about exactly the amount needed, and asking him several times whether he needed transportation costs to get the solar panel from Port-au-Prince to La Gonave,  the team members went to discuss the amount and how the agreement would be worded. We typed up the agreement and printed it out with our handy-dandy, portable printer. We then asked Father to join us as we explained the terms of the loan. This was when things took a little turn.

Roobens wasn’t entirely excited that his translation services were part of the loan. He obviously had been expecting to receive the loan in addition to payment for the week; however, Rebecca had never actually requested his services and he showed up on speculation. He began to explain that he needed transportation money to return home. Ah. I see. We don’t like the terms so now we want to change the terms. One thing many people do not know about me is that when it comes to business, I’m all business. Over the years I’ve had a number of people, especially men, try to pull a fast one or two on the “little woman” only to realize they have met their match. My husband has let me handle all the business negotiations for years. I play hardball. I’m pleasant. I’m professional. But business is business and after doing more than my part to ascertain the terms beforehand, I am usually not amenable to changing the terms after the fact. Roobens did his utmost to be persuasive. Even Father calculated the cost of transportation and converted it to US dollars – $20. The entire loan was for $350, with $150 repaid through translation services. What’s another $20? Well, I wasn’t about to be moved. Roobens is an adult AND a businessman. I asked several times about transportation costs and he assured me that it wouldn’t be necessary. He came to Mon L’opital on speculation, hoping to benefit from Rebecca’s good will and kindness. My mother always taught me not to write the check before the money has been deposited. (Her version of not counting your chickens before they’ve hatched – accounting must run through our blood.) I decided I was holding the line and holding Roobens to that philosophy. The only thing breaking this stand off was if Rebecca gave in on the $20. It wasn’t the amount, it was the fact that he was trying to change the agreement after the fact. I mentally willed Rebecca not to give in. Hind “innocently” asked how he got to Mon L’opital from La Gonave in the first place and how he had planned to return. Father could see we weren’t going to be moved and began to persuade Roobens to accept the terms of the loan. He could see my resolve. At the end of it all, Roobens accepted the terms and the loan. We all signed copies of the agreement, shook hands, and took pictures. I can only imagine the impression he now has of American women. We had a good laugh over it later. Apparently, my determination was quite amusing to Rebecca, Hind, and Joni. I think it was their first exposure to Business Deal Diane.

What a crazy day!

Tuesday…no Wednesday…. no Tuesday

bakery breadHi Everyone

This entry made on Wednesday morning is actually for Tuesday. Right when I was about to blog the generator starting beeping…. Kiss of death for all power and the Internet connection. So I am posting this and will post my regular Wednesday entry later tonight.

Well three cold showers down and four to go…. its Tuesday night! I count my days by cold showers taken… sorry I just can’t get past it. This morning started with the great shoe giveaway. We actually started it yesterday but had to stop when we were told it was time to go to the bakery to learn about the production cycle so today we finished up all the kids except those who were absent from school today. After the shoes were distributed which took a few hours we went and checked on the bakery. We didn’t stay too long – we tend to slow them down when we are there and they were rockin when we walked in…. it was amazing the smell of baking bread coming down the road as we walked toward the bakery in the village – you could smell the bread baking… and it smelled DELICIOUS! We have a huge bakery committee and accounting meeting on Wednesday so we decided to leave the bakers to their job and let them bake bread! They did deliver a huge loaf for us to eat tonight… the loaf was etched with the words… “ I LOVE YOU BABY”

After lunch we sat on the roof for about an hour and played Uno with Roobens and a couple of the kids that work at the rectory.  Then we went back to the bakery for some interviews with a few of the 40 vendors who are now buying our bread to resell. We also talked with a baker and a baker clerk who have been working at the bakery since it opened about the impact they have felt personally since the opening of the bakery. One of the bakers told us how he was unemployed and could not find work – now he has a job he loves and not only is he earning income the entire village now has access to bread and the people who once had little to eat can afford to buy bread and are not hungry. Very cool

Tonight we had Enactus competition rehearsal – the rest of the team in Virginia at had their first rehearsal at 8am this morning with Randy so to keep consistency we had our own rehearsal tonight.

So here we are – no power …. But the laptop was charged so here I sit with my blog now done. Tomorrow we will be going to check up on our school in Riviere Froide, visit our orphange to get an update on the orphans we are sponsoring among other things like working with the bakery committee … tomorrow will be busy and it marks the midpoint in our trip…. So tomorrow I promise will be a better more colorful blog!

Rebecca

These boots were made for walkin’…

and I just revealed which generation I belong to by stealing the title of a Nancy Sinatra song for my post, but today we started off with shoes, shoes, and more shoes. Yesterday we distributed a portion of the shoes that were generously donated through the Enactus Shoe Tree initiative, but today we saw many more of the children from the local school come through the doors to be fitted. It took a few hours, but we managed to work through the majority of the students that had been measured during the team’s last trip to Haiti. There are still some shoes left to distribute – some to a few absent students and some to village residents – but the bulk of the shoes have happily met new owners. We also distributed donated backpacks to the preschoolers.

We then returned to the bakery to take part in the actual process ourselves. I was taught how to make the special markings in the top of the bread using a knife tip and small pipe (which doubles as a rolling pin). The marks appear as a line and a half-circle which, when baked, reminds me of the dimples in the Saltine crackers I used to eat for my after school snack when I was a young child. In fact, when the bread is baked, its coloring reminds me of that cream-colored cracker with the brown edges, only much thicker, of course. The fact that bread is baked mostly in squares or rectangles adds to that impression as well. Joni helped with the placement of squares onto the baking sheets and Hind placed the trays in the oven. Hind also got up close and personal with the dough that had yet to be rolled out and formed into bread.

After dinner (which actually occurs around 2pm) we played several rounds of Uno with Jonathan and Claudy, two of the children who live at the rectory, and Roobens, a friend and interpreter from La Gonave who is staying here this week to help. I’ll just admit it – I came in last two out of the three times we played. Later Roobens and I were sharing sports information (he’s a big futbol fan and full of World Cup talk while I was bemoaning my lack of Australian Open coverage) when a young man knocked at the rectory gate. Roobens went to investigate and let the young man in, who then quietly sat in a chair on the rectory patio. He was waiting to see Father. He patiently waited for over an hour before Father was available. Roobens and I continued our conversation while Father and he had what appeared to be a very serious talk. Afterwards, Father expressed that he needed to speak with Rebecca and me about this young man’s situation. It was explained that he had been turned away from his school today because his fees hadn’t been paid, and the gangs near where he lived were pressuring him to join. He had been able to avoid them because he had been in school, but being turned away would not only end his dream of becoming a lawyer, but also leave him vulnerable to the gangs and crime. Was there anything we could do? Rebecca took a picture of him and I took his information in order to create a biography to send out to our very generous BRCC community. Hopefully, someone will be inspired to sponsor him and pay his school fees.

We have a lot on our plate tomorrow so I’ll call it a night. Bonne nuit!

One pair of shoes makes a huge difference

Last night was a little harder for me to fall asleep since I was a bit paranoid about a mosquito being inside of the net. I ended up tossing and turning with a flashlight trying to see if it was really there or if it was all in my head…. I’m starting to think I got rid of it but just   felt paranoid for the rest of the night. Once I was asleep I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep until the alarm clock of the animals outdoors came on ( the rooster crowing and the dogs barking).

Joni and I were both awake around seven and decided to go up to the roof to look at the beautiful scenery. Diane and Rebecca an hour later joined us on the roof all dressed and ready for breakfast. We all enjoyed the nice cool weather Mon Lopital has in the morning, the beautiful blue sky, and the gleaming water sparkling in the distance…. Only if we had this scenery in Virginia.

After having breakfast that consisted of eggs, fish, plantains, potatoes, and what seemed like yams to me we began bringing children in to finish giving away the shoes. The system we used today was very succesfull. While Diane was grabbing the shoes to pass to Joni and I fitting the children, Rebecca was snapping away with her camera. The children seemed very happy and grateful for the shoes they recieved. Prior to giving away the shoes, the younger children from the school came to get a backpack and play with the with a clown nose Joni put on. Rebecca was able to get a picture of the children laughing while honking the nose.

As our day felt like it was going by so fast we got invited to the bakery for an on hands experience making the bread. Diane helped flatten the bread and poke holes into the bread while Joni put the bread on pans to get ready for baking. I was able to see how the oven works and put the bread into the oven to bake. The bakers had a great system down working together. It was very nice of them to let us learn. The rest of our day consisted of playing UNO with the children and getting some of my school work complete. I almost forgot that my classes did start today and I have to stay on pace. After having some delicious hot chocolate and Haitian bread with peanut butter we all gathered around to practice our competition script.

Tomorrow we will be going to the school to spend some time with the children!

A Tuesday in Haiti

This morning we began, bright and early, finishing (for the most part) distributing the shoes for the children. As we quickly learned yesterday, the process was pretty hectic. Thankfully the four of us worked together very well and together we got through almost 150 pairs of shoes. One little boy in particular was extremely touching to me personally. On each tag we had the name and age of each child along with shoe size, but this young boy was so skinny that he looked several years younger than his age. I began helping this boy put on his new shoes and immediately realized the boy did not have the strength to put on his shoes. The shoes, which were too large due to the boy’s narrow skinny feet, did not fit. After a couple minutes, Hind and Diane, did their magic and found the perfect fitting shoes for this little boy. Although he was extremely quiet, this boy slowly walked up to Rebecca gave her a kiss and skipped outside holding his new shoes. I was doing everything possible to refrain from tears.

After shoes, we ate a delicious lunch and then headed back to the bakery for some hands-on “baking lessons” from the bakery employees. Next, we recorded the bakery employees, and bakery vendors on how the bakery has affected them and their families.

After a delicious dinner snack of homemade Haitian hot chocolate and bread from the Mon Lopital – Davis bakery, we did not lose anytime and began practicing our Enactus script to prepare for rehearsals when we return. We then gathered around with Father Roosevelt to discuss plans for the remainder of our time in Haiti.

Teach a man to bake…….

Last night I was so tired I didn’t need any help getting to sleep. I woke up several times during the night due to dogs barking, roosters crowing…. but overall I slept okay. I got up about 7am. Diane was already up and dressed as was Joni and Hind…complete with full make-up. So I prepped for the day. Breakfast was spaghetti and also a sort of eggy omelet…. I stuck with the pasta … its safe. Food here is a challenge. Diane is gluten intolerant…and Hind can’t eat pork. Try explaining that to a Haitian cook! Well the eggs were the saving dish for both Diane and Hind as the spaghetti is gluten-heaven and it had pieces of pork in it…. it all tasted pretty good to me. The best part of the meal was the juice. They make their juice fresh from the fruit trees … it was like mango and papaya…. it was great.

After breakfast we had several of the school kids start coming over to claim their “Walk a Mile in my Shoes” shoes it was slow going… whose shoes were too tight, too small too big…. URGHHHHHH it could drive you crazy. After about an hour the bakery manager came and told us that it was time to go up to the Mon Lopital-Davis Bakery to watch the production. When we arrived it was in full operation. In the back room this large bread making machine which runs off a diesel motor was running full blast and the head baker was slamming what had to be 40 lbs of dough over it – under it – and through it until it was shiny smooth and flat. Then they moved the dough over to the cutting table where they cut the dough into loaves. These loaves come in every size and shape from small squares to round tubes to sheet cake sized loaves with etchings and drawings. After a long period of observation we starting assessing the production process – Diane hit the ground running documenting all of the product costs, asking about measurement of the inventory items in the production process, what each type of loaf would sell for, costs of production, fuel, transportation, labor…. this went on for about 3 hours or so… This would normally be my job and one I like the least but Diane was doing so well I decided to let her go for it. Nothing like brow beating a Haitian man into giving you answers.

Then it was finally time to bake and sheet after sheet went into this massive oven …. this process went on from early morning till late night. And as soon as the bread came out of the oven a vendor would show up almost magically and pay for her loaves of bread and happily leave with her order. We discovered that the vendors who buy our bread in bulk and are selling it make a 50% profit margin on each item… not bad

After an early dinner – people eat dinner at 2pmish here – I wasn’t feeling too great so I took a power nap while Hind and Joni had their hair braided and Diane crunched her data on the bakery. Diane was a woman on a mission…. I was not stepping in her way. Through our projections we are estimating that the bakery will report over $66000 of revenue this year running at its current level … however there are already plans to run electricity to the bakery so there can be a night shift with double the employees ….

Tomorrow we meet with the bakery committee and accountant to hash out numbers and plans … but it seems that this bakery is going to change not only the lives of the employees who now have jobs, the 3000 people living in the region who now have access to fabulous bread but also the numerous vendors who are increasing their income through bread sales.

So tomorrow will bring more shoes, more bread, and more questions…. more soon
Rebecca

Bonding, Braiding, & Bread

Today has been such a sunny fun filled day!

After waking up to the sound of a rooster croaking I was wide awake and ready to start the day. Joni and I began by going through all the shoes one final time to make sure they were all accounted for. After breakfast, the children from the village school came over to the rectory in small groups to get fitted with shoes they can take with them. It was such a heart warming experience to see how happy and grateful the children were. The shoe process had to be paused for the day since the operation of the bakery was about to begin.

The Mon Lopital – Davis bakery was up and running as we walked in. They had three workers making the bread with a manager supervising. I have to say those men worked with dedication and ambition. They began by mixing a 110 pound bag of flour with all the other ingredients. Then, they put it through a big bread machine to flatten out and cut it up into squares to put on pans to rise. Thirty minutes later, they began baking the bread which looked appetizing as it came out. Prior to baking almost 32 pans of bread the village residents began showing up to purchase the bread. It was amazing how fast the bread was gone after coming out of the oven!

The bakery I guess wasn’t that hot for Joni and I since we decided to sit on the rooftop and soak up all the sun. While on the roof, one of the children came up and asked me to help him with his english homework by translating what he did not comprehend into french. I enjoyed helping Jonathan so much with his english homework. After becoming a couple shades darker in a short time span we migrated indoors to play a card game with Jonathan and other residents in the village when we got the wonderful idea of wanting our hair cornrowed. Jonathan found one of the village ladies to do our hair and I have to say they did a wonderful job.

Until tomorrow!

Another day in Haiti!

Wow! What a day. After a delicious breakfast of spaghetti and eggs, we began our shoe distribution. The children were called from the school in groups to receive a fitted pair of shoes. It was amazing to see the beaming smiles on the children’s faces as they received a new pair of shoes; their gratefulness is overwhelming. But soon the shoe process ended abruptly; bakery time!

Today was our team’s first time observing the bakery. The first thing I noticed was how quick and efficient the bakery team worked. Although the bakery has only been open several weeks, we were amazed to discover how quickly the villagers produced the loafs of bread. Each bakery employee had very specific roles. One employee operated the rolling pin machine while another employee cut and shaped each loaf. As soon as the bread came out of the oven, villagers were waiting to buy their share of bread which many of them carried down and around the mountain to resell. It was so fascinating seeing the project of our imagination become a reality.

Tomorrow Hind and I venture into the kitchen for some Haitian cooking lessons!

Until tomorrow!!!

Joni

 

Bread, bread everywhere…but not a bite to eat!

Last night I fell asleep like a shot – exhaustion is even better than Ambien when staying in foreign places! But just like home, I woke up between 6:15-6:30am – sleep habits are deeply ingrained – completely wrapped in both my flat sheet and fitted sheet like a cocoon. Rebecca said I looked mummified. I can’t blame that on Haiti. I toss and turn at home as well – my sheets just tend to stay tucked there.

We ate breakfast at 8am and I stuck with the eggs cooked in a seasoned sauce with green peppers and onions. It was very different and very good! The other dish was their version of spaghetti, but I can’t eat gluten so no pasta for me! Which leads me to the point behind my post title: After distributing a portion of the shoes to children from the school and meeting with a couple of young men who want to start an automobile a/c repair business, we headed up to the bakery to watch production and ask some questions. We spent several hours there and the smell of the freshly baked bread was heavenly, and I mean heavenly. I could practically taste it just through the aroma. Everyone was able to sample a small bit, but sadly I couldn’t because of my aforementioned gluten intolerance. I can only imagine how delicious it was because the fragrance was quite literally mouth-watering. Rebecca, Joni, and Hind all agreed it was incredibly delicious. Rebecca and I returned at the end of the evening to check on one more thing, and we discovered they had made two large decorated loaves for us. I will enjoy smelling it!

After getting many, many questions answered I went right to work creating  a spreadsheet on expenses, sales, and income. That’s where I was in my element and I completely forgot that I was in the most “foreign” place I’ve ever visited as I concentrated on including every detail and creating formulas. I LOVE Excel! Part of my purpose for being on this trip is to teach the bakery employees a basic accounting system to track sales and expenses. Putting it altogether for us to see the numbers in detail helps me to organize my thoughts on how to show them the simplest way to record their input and output while striving for accuracy. They are operating primarily as a distributor, selling to vendors who can travel farther afield and sell for a profit. This model is the most beneficial here because it positively impacts the greatest number of people. It creates the opportunity for more people to earn money and more people to have access to bread. It’s a win-win situation!

It is very warm here, but not unbearable. Outside the breeze blows and it feels like a pleasant, late-summer day. Indoors, however, it can quickly become stuffy and even a bit sticky, despite the fact that it’s the dry season. The windows are small and set very high in the walls so the air is still and hot. We have a fan set on the tile floor of our room, moving the cooler air up and creating an artificial breeze, but without it, I think we’d be fairly uncomfortable. Our power source depends on solar panels during the day and a generator at night. We lost power in the middle of the night because the generator ran out of fuel, but the power was restored this morning when the sun was fully risen in the sky.

The dust is everywhere. It covers everyone’s legs as they walk around. It’s sand, but it’s the texture of silt. Rebecca and I were talking about it and we compared it to the difference between granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar. The sand we are accustomed to is more like granulated sugar while this is like powdered sugar. It is amazing that it is not dustier indoors, but that is probably due in great part to the stone and tile patios and tropical trees surrounding the rectory. There’s no denying the beauty of this place, despite the dust and the poverty.

Father is calling so I’ll have to write more tomorrow!

 

 

Day 2

At this time yesterday we were sitting on the plane ready for departure. It is Day 2 in Haiti and we have a lot planned. After our arrival yesterday we unpacked all the shoes and Joni and I put them in numerical order to make it easy to find the pair we are looking for. Today, we plan on going through each one and making sure it matches up with the sheet we have. Prior to that we plan on going up the hill to the bakery to see how it looks and how they make the bread ( I am very excited to see the process).

Well I hope everyone has a wonderful day I know we will. Keep posted for more on our 2nd day in Haiti later this evening.

Arrived

Well we arrived…. 4 people and 12 suitcases later we landed in Port au Prince. Having battled a viral infection all week and being up for 48 hours its been quite a journey. However we are here – Father was in the baggage claim area waiting for us… and we were able to get out of Port au Prince as the ceremonies to mark the 4th anniversary of the earthquake were just gearing up. It catch me by surprise that it was the anniversary of the earthquake. Not sure if I block the date as I always think it was the 11th but it was the 12th. Its not like I have forgotten about it – I must think about that time and everything that followed at least once a week … it just pops into my head at the strangest times. The people here remember it and actually celebrate it. It seems a little creepy at times to me but I get that they lost so many that day and want them to be remember and not forgotten but still the same I would love to forget it. At a few minutes before five the bells all over the city and Mon Lopital began to ring to signify the time of the earthquake…. then Megan Samples IM’ed me… one person who also definitely remembers and relates. Four years later it still upsets me… maybe someday that will stop but being here has shown me that it hasn’t yet.

So here I sit on the roof looking out over Port au Prince… the music has stopped and it quiet and peaceful and very beautiful from here. Well tomorrow the bakery is baking…. the bakery is already flourishing. Father told me the people of the area actually wait in line and preorder the Mon Lopital bread. It sells out quickly. Its doing extremely well – so well they have their own accountant already managing the place. So we begin! Bread… biomass stoves…. and more. As soon as Diane finishes taking her cold shower I’m taking one myself. I was hoping to wait till tomorrow but I feel grundy from our travel day.

Well its time for an ice cold shower… the first of 7 that I will take this week…. 1 soon to be over ….6 more to go… its one of the toughest things about being here…. I hate cold showers! More soon

Rebecca

Hello Haiti!

Today we made it to Haiti! After a super early start we finally arrived in Port-au-Prince by around 2pm. As normal, we were greeted by friendly faces and the warmth of the sun. Now everyone’s sitting enjoying the breeze of the evening on the rooftop here at the parish and watching the lights reflect off of Port-au-Prince and into the Caribbean. After a delicious dinner of chicken, rice, goat, and fried plantains, Hind and I organized all one hundred and some shoes in order of number which we will be giving to the children of the village.

As we drove through the city on our way up the Mountain, we were stopped by a large circle of people in the street. We seen discovered that today marks the four year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. I noticed flags were half-masked and later in the night we heart people in the village were singing songs about this tragic event.

Since my last visit to Haiti, I’ve seen some exciting things such as a new branch to the airport and more rebuilding in the city (less tents). Overall I think the country here is definitely moving in a positive direction, yet poverty is lurking at every corner.

Actually getting a little chilling sitting on the roof so I’m heading down to do a little more unpacking and get some sleep!

Until next time!

Joni

We’ve arrived!

We made it!! It’s been a very long couple of days. Since Rebecca and I were leaving the Shenandoah Valley at 2:30am to head to the airport (which meant that I left MY house at 2am), we each arose on Saturday morning only to stay up until it came time to leave for the airport in DC, and then begin a long day of travel. We are now closing in on 36 hours without sleep. [And no espresso this time, Teri!!] When we arrived my first impression was OH. MY. GOODNESS. It is HOT. Up went the hair and off came the sweatshirt hoodie, posthaste. My second impression was just how chaotic and crazy it was: people everywhere, cars everywhere, and no discernible system of moving about in an orderly fashion. Just then Rebecca and Father Roosevelt both commented on how calm and quiet it was because of our Sunday arrival. I cannot begin to fathom how any other arrival day might have been. The “Sunday Quiet” was overwhelming enough.

Father safely navigated us through the airport and to his waiting vehicle, where our many bags were tossed up onto the roof and secured with bungee cords. It looked precarious at best, and I admit a significant feeling of nervousness as my bag was the final bag balanced atop the mountain of luggage. We then began the drive through Port-au-Prince to Mon L’opital. I can see why Father is a man of God. You need nerves of steel and a lot of prayer to conquer the narrow, windy streets of the city. By American standards, the roads seem only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but somehow two squeeze by each other with just millimeters to spare. If that weren’t harrowing enough, drivers on motorized scooters weave in and out and people walk through the streets, barely paying attention to the traffic narrowly missing them. If Father hadn’t already accepted his calling, he’d make an amazing, professional driver.

We soon left the potholed streets of the city for the sandy, rocky, pitted roads up the mountain to Mon L’opital. I realized then that the adventure had just begun. My face must have revealed that my heart was in my throat, because Father looked at me in the rearview mirror and laughed, “Are you frightened?” I paused and told him I was impressed (with his driving, with our survival, without causing the death of any of the many people we almost brushed up against as he drove – take your pick). Father is a driving pro, however, and we arrived safely, with my bag only halfway hanging off.

We loaded all the bags into the rectory and within a few minutes were invited to eat dinner. After our delicious dinner, we began unpacking the bags and organizing all the shoes for distribution. Joni and Hind tackled that as Rebecca and I organized the items we plan to take to the orphanage. With things well in hand, we finally made our way out of the hot house and up onto the roof of the rectory. What a difference! The view of Port-au-Prince is amazing, and the temperature drops as quickly as the setting sun. Relief! Today is the 4th anniversary of the earthquake of 2010 and there have been memorials going on all day. In fact, at one point the road in the city was completely blocked by families who gathered to remember lost loved ones and Father had to exercise an amazing display of reverse driving, all while honking at the traffic behind us to make way. Now, as we sit up on the roof, there is music playing and memorial speeches and prayers being made over a PA system just behind us. It is completely dark now and the city lights of Port-au-Prince twinkle in the darkness below us, and while the prayers are in another language there is no misunderstanding the emotions of the day. Our journey seems especially poignant this evening.

Just about ready!

This morning I was up bright and early to venture out into the frigid air for my 2nd Hep A/B vaccination. On the way home, I stopped at Target to finish out my list for Haiti. I stocked up on wipes, both plain and antibacterial, Purell, and travel size stomach and pain/fever reducer OTC medications. I found a nifty little light that can be clipped onto just about anything, but is bright enough to act as a mini-flashlight, in the camping section. I also bought a good-sized bottle of DEET 100 spray. Forget the natural, DEET-free products – I’m going for full on mosquito protection!

Just one weekend and a full week of work stand between me and our departure. I can’t say I’ll miss the cold weather while we’re away!

Happy New Year

Wow we are officially in 2014!!

The past month has been very exciting with all of the holidays and the end of another wonderful semester. As December was winding down we have been preparing for our Haiti Trip by packing and organizing everything we will need while we are there. The closer it gets the more anxious and excited I am for my first trip to Haiti. Having Joni and Rebecca has been very helpful in getting a feel of how it will be and what has to get done with an organized schedule so I don’t look like a complete rookie while I am there.

What I’m very excited for is being in a warm climate. The brutal winter of Virginia has been getting colder and colder. It feels as if every time I step outside my entire body turns into an ice sculpture.

I am officially starting the countdown for our departure date!!

January, and the Haiti trip, is almost here…

Whew! Life has been a whirlwind with end of semester finals, working until BRCC closed for Christmas week, and trying to get ready for my family Christmas. Thank goodness for online shopping or no one would have had anything under our tree this year. I even ordered a chainsaw for my husband online. I made one trip to Books-A-Million, but everything else was ordered on the internet. I love technology!

Things have been so busy that it was December 23rd before I realized I didn’t have anything for our Christmas dinner and had to make a hasty trip to the grocery store. Amid all of that, I’ve been preparing for Haiti. I received most of my vaccines one morning early in December, but I elected to take the oral typhoid medication as it lasts 5 years instead of the two years the injected version provides. Since the pamphlet indicated that vomiting was a side effect, I decided to wait until the morning of Christmas Eve to start taking it. I didn’t want to miss work or have it interfere with my family preparations. The oral medication is a series of 4 capsules taken with 8 oz of cool water on an empty stomach every other day. The first day I experienced some queasiness, but I think that had more to do with all that water in my empty stomach. Since then, it’s been easy-peasy other than having to delay my morning coffee a bit! One more capsule on Sunday and I’ll be protected from typhoid – or at least that’s the hope. I have one more injection to get on Friday, January 3rd, and I’ll be medically ready for Haiti. I also stopped at Trader Joe’s and picked up some gluten free granola bars to take with me. Just a few more details to go…

I’m nervous. And excited. And really glad I’m traveling with Rebecca, Joni, and Hind.