Sunday, April 24, 2011

The best job in all Haiti: the gravel crusher

The man literally sits on this pile of gravel all day long, hitting rocks with a hammer to break them into smaller pieces. Don't you wish you had a job that exciting?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday

I give away a lot of food here in Haiti. Neighborhood kids, street kids, beggar ladies on the corner, youth group kids...My most frequent visitors are Obed and Jean Marc, the brothers who followed me around for several months after the earthquake. Their dad died a few years ago and their mother lost her janitorial job after the quake, leaving her destitute with 8 children in her care. Obed and Jean Marc come to my house every night for dinner. Every night. Sometimes it gets annoying, especially when they show up at 9pm and I'm already in my pjs, but what can I do? Some days, the food I give them is the only food they eat all day long.

So it was quite a surprise when they showed up last night and didn't want any food. Instead, they handed me a bag of mangos and a stack of little bowls with a complete traditional Good Friday feast: rice and beans, boiled plaintain, dried fish sauce, lettuce, tomato, and beet-potato salad! To be totally honest, I only really like the mangos and the salads, but I was really touched by the gesture.

An hour later, another knock on the door and my neighbor Alix, the man who is responsible for the tent city, was there with a foot-long egg sandwich that he had made for me! Apparently, Good Friday is the day to make your American friends fat.

Gifts of food are just part of why Good Friday was special. Kites are the main event. I got home from work in the late afternoon and joined all the young people on the roof of my next door neighbor's house to fly kites! We had a variety of kites donated from the US by the Roanoke medical team, little plastic bag kites made by the younger kids, and big wooden framed kites crafted by the teenagers and young men.

All over town, roof tops were full of children kite fighting, sending their kites across ravines to catch and cut down other kites. Kites whose strings break or that get caught in trees are finders-keepers, and though there is a lot of yelling and mock anger, the whole event is a study in good sportmanship.

I love days like yesterday - days when everyone is united in the pursuit of something beautiful. Days when no one asks me for money or food or medical care because we are all perfectly content. Days when we can fully appreciate Haitian culture without voodoo influence or the corruption that is so common here. Days when it doesn't matter that I'm white and everyone else is not. A good day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

St. Joseph's construction

Almost exactly one year ago, this is what St. Joseph's looked like. They had just started to demolish the top layers of the building. These photos are from April 19th and April 25th, 2010.

By the end of May 2010, it looked like this.

In August when I got back to Haiti, it looked like this.

In January it was looking like this.

Today things look a little different. It's mind-boggling, actually, to imagine that it was only one year ago that a sad ruin of a building stood here and now...Incredible. It's the most rebar I've ever seen in my life, almost like a rebar forest. You'd think they're trying to make this new home earthquake-proof or something!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Help! I can't get down!

Forget calling the fire department to rescue kittens out of trees...

Without a question, the most panicked goat I have ever seen!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pediatricians galore!

A team from Roanoke, Virginia spent last week running clinics with Angel Missions at my clinic at Delmas 24 and at a community center in Carrefour. Part of the team had been to Haiti last year during the immediate post-quake weeks and it was great to have them back! They truly impressed me with their ability to remember everyone's names, from my clinic staff to patients and families and even little kids in the neighborhood. I have a hard time remembering names and I can speak the language!

Two of the doctors are pediatricians, one is a family doctor, and the other is a retired ER doctor. The ER doctor, Dr Bob, from Missions of Love, worked with us the first three days only and after that, it was a combination of pediatricians and family practice docs each day. Everyone wanted to see children and no one really wanted to see adults! It's hard when you're used to treating childhood illnesses to suddenly be thrown an 80 year old woman with high blood pressure, edema, hemorrhoids, and no teeth! So they fought over the babies and were wonderfully good sports and treated all the little old ladies too.

I don't know why I ended up with zero photos of the nurses. They were there too though, each one working alongside a doctor to prep meds, give shots, hand out Tootsie rolls, do bandages, and tell jokes. I love working that way - each doctor having his or her own little station with meds and an assistant. It's time efficient, space efficient and patient efficient (that's a phrase I created to mean that it works best for the patient because the doctor who prescribed the med is also the one explaining to the patient how to take it instead of a pharmacist who may not know exactly why that med is being prescribed in a given situation).

They did a great job and were a pleasure to have around (best taptap karaoke I've ever heard!). See you guys next year!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Un-convent-ional vacation

I took a week-long trip to the US in the beginning of April with my friend and youth group co-leader, Marc. It was an odd vacation, to be sure. We didn't go to either of our respective "homes" (Boston or Minnesota) nor did we see any immediate family members. Instead we attended a conference in Michigan where a number of missionaries, pastors, and ministers who are truly living the Christian life told their stories and encouraged the church to get up and start living out their faith. If the Bible says feed the hungry, perhaps we should actually feed them. If it says set the oppressed free, perhaps we should actually set them free. If it says to rejoice when we are persecuted, perhaps we should stop looking for comfort and embrace the tough times. If it says to heal the sick, perhaps we should heal instead of just sending Get Well cards.

I could say a lot about the actual conference, but it's difficult to put into words the ways that God spoke to my heart while I was there. It would be easy to say that by being in Haiti, I'm already doing much of what the speakers were entreating us to do, but the Bible makes it clear that it should all come from love, God's love. Too often, I find myself doing the things I do out of a sense of duty and obligation, not because I feel a burden for the hurting and lost people around me. Or I act with love only towards those who are easy to love, treating the others such as the men who hit on me or the strangers who demand money from me with impatience and even contempt at times. This business of loving Christ and living for Him is a journey and I am still learning how to step out in faith and how to rely on Him to do everything that is dropped in my lap. Fortunately, it's a rewarding and exciting journey and I'm loving every moment of it!

I can't show you photos of the conference, but I can show you our incredible accomodations! Our first night, we stayed with a former missionary friend at her grandfather's ranch near Fort Lauderdale. I got to walk barefoot in the grass - a wish come true!

From Florida, we trekked cross country in car, plane, city bus, Greyhound bus, and pick-up truck to Sylvania, Ohio. The nuns who stay at my Shoebox during their visits to Port-au-Prince come from a community in Sylvania and they invited us to stay there for the duration of the conference. Our friends Kathy, Loe and Abbey, all of whom used to work in Haiti with us, joined us at the convent and attended the conference with us. The place was huge and simply beautiful, full of lovely artwork made by the nuns themselves.

Kathy and I were given a tour of the workshop where the nuns make all the tiles for their mosiacs and for their little giftshop. I was amazed by the quality of their pieces, the precision and detail of their craftsmanship, and by the strength these sweet little ladies must have to do their work.

We were a little early for full spring, but that didn't stop me from taking long walks around the convent grounds whenever I had the chance. There was a river on one end, a little cemetary on another, a stream weaving through a garden area, and lots of trees.

My favorite spot was the little prayer chapel a short walk from our dormitory. It was made of red sandstone and is about 75 years old. It reminded me of places I've visited in Europe.

Marc and I returned to Haiti refreshed and invigorated...actually, that's not entirely true. I was exhausted and invigorated; that's what limited sleep but a very inspirational week will do to you. It was a perfect little break though because it left us wanting to get back to Haiti and back to work!