Monday, April 28, 2008


I am multicolored this morning. My face is mosaic of pink cheek and brown freckle. My arms are a light brownish color. My shoulders are pretty close to white. And the back of my neck is pink. Not any old pink, but deep, dark, inching-its-way-to-red pink. This particular paint job happens to be the result of yesterday's trip to Merger, the little village beyond Carrefour where Institute of Grace is opening a school and a clinic. My dear friend Nikki is going to be running the school and other activities such as summer camp starting this June. I am interested in the clinic, though not as something I would do in the near future because I need more experience with Third World illnesses such as parasites, typhoid, malaria, and TB. But I am vaguely considering Merger as a place to work in a few years. So I wanted to see it.

I took Duckhein, Bernadin, Argentine, and Fabiola with me. Part of Nikki's scheme is to involve the older HFC children in the ministry at Merger. The majority of the population of Merger is under the age of 25 and many of them either don't go to school or have to travel a long distance to get to school. Our children are well educated and well provided for. We have thrown around different ideas (such as having the older girls teach and having the older boys be soccer coaches during the summer camps, or even something as simple as donating some of their books and craft supplies to the school) and I wanted a few of the kids to see the place so that they would feel more ownership of the project if we are able to have them help in some way.

We met Ernest, an employee of IOG, and Boss Jacques, the head construction man, at the seminary and walked with them through the neighborhood below ours. We hailed down a taptap and rode about 1 hour to Merger. This was my first time in a real Haitian taptap and I was so excited to finally have that experience. How can I describe it? It and dusty. We arrived at Merger and walked 15 minutes through the village to get to the clinic. The dirt road into Merger is in bad repair so taptaps only come as close as the paved main road.

The paved road and the Merger church.On our way up the dirt road to Merger.

The town watering hole - right near the road, with spigots that are constantly running. The people get clean water from those spigots to carry home for bathing, cooking, and drinking. Other people bathe right there in the runoff from the spigots that gathers in a large pool.

The cemetery on the way to the clinic.

We didn't see too many people because it was the middle of the day on a Sunday, but we did see plenty of cows.

The clinic and school building are still very much under construction. They are due to be functional by the end of August.

This is one of the most finished rooms - the floors are done, the walls are done, and there are bars on the windows.

Our guide, Ernest.

On the roof of the clinic where they will continue to build as needed to add classrooms.

One of the magnificent views from the clinic.

The downhill side of the clinic/school building.

The uphill side.

Currently, the only patients are the goats.
After we had seen the building, Duck and I wanted to see the rest of the land that IOG owns. Boss Jacques found one of the locals, a man named Wilber, to take us up the hill.
We climbed a little path, through brush and thorny bushes to a large clearing where Duck and I immediately began to envision the school's soccer field.
Further up, we came to an even better clearing. Duck was beside himself. He's not usually one to want to work particularly hard, but he was already making plans to bring the other boys up there to clear out the rocks and plants, level the ground, build goals, and make a field worthy of the game.
This kind of thing amazes me - in a country that is so poor and so many people are starving, the owner of this donkey can just leave him tied up to a bush on the top of the hill. No one will take him, no one will kill him. There is so much need and so much poverty, but such a sense of community too.
As we climbed, I asked Wilber about himself and about Merger. He told me that he has 12 children, some of them already grown. His 27 year old son Wisley was there with us. Some of his children go to school, but they have to walk down to the road and take a taptap to get there. He works as a farmer, though I did not see any agriculture near his house. He confirmed that they get all their water from the hole at the beginning of the road except on the rare times that the water truck makes it up the road to the town and he is able to fill his water storage hole. When I asked him what he thought were the biggest needs for the community, he said, "The school and clinic which are coming soon, electricity, fixing up the road, and a bigger church."

I also talked with the man who sells soda just below the clinic. He had an open wound on his leg that was partially healed. He told me that he had taken a taptap to a doctor in the next town and he had been given some shots (presumably for infection). He didn't have anything to bandage it with and he couldn't go back to the doctor's frequently enough for the doctor to wrap it for him. He was due to return to the doctor for a second round of shots this week. That kind of thing just kills me - I want that leg wrapped up so it will stay clean and not get infected! Yes, they need a clinic at Merger.

The kids seemed to enjoy themselves. Argentine and Fabiola were quiet most of the ride, but they were big-eyed, taking everything in. I asked them at one point if they would prefer to live out in a place like Merger and they emphatically responded, "No! We like where we live now." I was afraid that they would get tired from all the walking and from the heat, but they were troopers. They both climbed all the way up the hill with us and then just sat on the grass and enjoyed the view and the cool wind. Grass! That's a commodity we do not have in Fort Mercredi. Bernadin didn't do so well. He somehow was affected by the heat and the sun more than any of us, and he moped the whole way there and back. He perked up a bit when we all had sodas, but he wasn't himself again till we got home and he had a shower and some real food.

Duck, on the other hand, was in heaven. He was racing around, exploring everything, leaping over rocks, jumping off the roof of the clinic, visiting the neighbors to watch a little of the soccer game, chasing the donkey, spreading his arms and running down the mountain like he was flying, going slalom through the undergrowth, and grinning from ear to ear. It was like watching a colt being let out of the stable for the first day of spring.

You can imagine, then, how the back of my neck got to be its current tone. I had put sunscreen on my face, my arms, and the front of my neck, but I totally forgot the back. When you are walking up a dirt road or a little mountain path, your head is usually down to watch where you are placing your feet thereby exposing your neck to the most sunlight. I am ashamed of myself. I had managed to go 2 years without a Haitian sunburn until yesterday. Oh, well. It was bound to happen sometime. At least it was just my neck and not all of me.

1 comment:

Bryn said...

Wi alo! I want to see pictures of your mosiac-designed face and neck.