Thursday, October 1, 2009

It all ended with...

...a confused cameraman, the ambassador, and a shout-out.

On our last day of clinic in Jacmel, we treated patients all morning while a crew of Haitians began set-up for the closing ceremonies. Up front, where Stud Farm worked, we had patients sitting on long benches and medications arranged on a stage behind us for easy access and administration. Midway through the morning, just as we were hitting our stride, a camera crew arrived and planted themselves directly between the patients and the drugs. We could examine patients, but we couldn't get to the medications! Someone told the interviewer that I spoke Creole, so he pulled me in front of the camera and began peppering me with questions. I don't mind being interviewed, but could we at least wait until I'm done seeing patients?

The same thing happened the next day when we visited the hospital in Jacmel to donate some of our unused supplies. I was trying to show the troops around and explain things to them, but a journalist kept following me and thrusting his little tape recorder in my face.

Back to the first story. I finished my interview and promptly went back to seeing patients. One of the colonels must have gently told the camera crew that they were creating an obstruction because they did eventually move. And I was perfectly happy to see them go.

At noon, the closing ceremony began. The soldiers were permitted to sit this time, but I was not allowed to sit with them. Oh no, I had to sit in the front row of the tent, alongside Colonel Hershey, Commander Strong, and US Ambassador Merten. To my relief, there was a band that performed the national anthem and no one asked me to translate for the soldiers. They were simply left in the dark for speech after speech. I sat by Colonel Hershey, whispering bits of translation to her, and getting very hot as the sun crept into my side of the tent.

When Colonel Hershey was invited up to address the dignitaries, officials, and press, she took me with her and I translated into Creole as she spoke. She kept it brief and I was grateful.

The last person to speak was Ambassador Merten. He addressed the crowd in French, congratulating the troops for an exceptionally successful mission and all the support teams, especially the Haitian police and Coast Guard, for their assistance. At the end of his speech, he called up the 3 Commisioners to give them plaques of recognition for their role in the MEDRETE. And then he asked for Madame Keziah Furth. I walked up, shook his hand, and as he passed me the plaque, I heard the US soldiers.

Throughout the entire ceremony, they had been silent, applauding politely when they saw everyone else applauding. When Colonel Hershey was awarded 2 plaques, they clapped. When a plaque was announced for the entire MEDRETE team, they clapped. But when my name was announced, they leapt to their feet and gave me a shout-out. If you've never experienced an Army shout-out, I'm sorry, I can't do it justice. Imagine a score of deep male voices shouting out a secret code of Army brotherhood, something that you can't imitate and you can't fully understand. But when you look at their faces, you realize that you don't need to. And it's all you can do to keep from crying.

That was how my time in Jacmel ended.


Teresa said...

And your shout out was well deserved! You have blessed so many with your work and tireless efforts. I can't do a shout out like the Army, but I can send you prayers and cheer you on!! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an experience you had! You seem like a very brave woman! Keep up the good work for Haiti!