Friday, August 26, 2011


In an effort to save my house from certain destruction from too many eager neighborhood kids, I occasionally propose "flane" as an alternative to playing in the Teacup. Flane is a Creole word that translates to...actually, I don't really know how to say it in English. A combination of stroll, explore, wander, meander, and hang out in the streets.

We walk down dirt roads with streams of dirty water draining down the middle and we walk down neatly cobblestoned lanes with flowers hanging over the walls on either side. We pass piles of earthquake rubble and collapsed houses that stand next to the pristine mansions of the bourgeoisie (Haitian upper class). We buy bags of water at little stands and when we're done, we toss the empty bags into the giant dumpsters on Delmas. From the 4 lane main road, we weave our way through the labyrinth of passageways and stairs back towards my house.

The best afternoons of flane end with a fresko. Fresko is like a snow cone but with Caribbean flavors such as coconut, passion fruit, and corrosol, not to mention all the other flavors that don't have names and are simply identified by their color: red, green, yellow, pink, etc. It's the perfect way to cool down after a stroll around town.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Graffiti vindicated!

This afternoon, I walked past my favorite graffiti and started laughing out loud. Apparently, the artist did not mean "herd of pigs" figuratively!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

St. Joseph's reconstruction

The work at St Joe's has continued strong and steady over the summer. I was speechless when I saw it. Speechless and a little nervous. Though I have seen all the earthquake precautions that they've taken in the construction, I have to admit that I will be scared to go inside the building when it reaches its full height of 6 stories.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I love Haitian graffiti. This one says, "Don't throw trash here, you herd of pigs!"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kez's Haiti life

I realize that my blog can be a bit confusing with all the people and places I refer to, so here is a quick summary of my life.

My real name is Keziah but everyone calls me Kez. I grew up in Boston and attended nursing school at Northeastern University from 2003-2008. In 2007, I lived in Haiti for the first time, a 5 month internship at an orphanage called Hope for the Children of Haiti (HFC). I mentored the 60 teens there, learned Creole and fell in love with working in Haiti. Back in the US for my last year of college, I traveled to Haiti 4 times, visiting different sites and looking for a more medical place to work. During the summers, I started working at Chop Point camp in Maine, first as a counselor and then as the nurse, a job which I’ve done for 5 years now and which I truly cherish.

The HFC girls

My Chop Point mini-family

When I graduated in 2008, I moved to Dorothy’s, a home for malnourished infant and toddlers, specifically my little AIDS baby, Johnny J. I worked several days a week with an American PA who taught me much of what I know today, I started to lead youth group at church, and I began doing the Ravine. The Ravine is a project started by Sherrie Fausey, an American who runs an English school for impoverished children in a ghetto of Delmas 31. She wanted the children coming into school to have the best possible brain development which means good medical care as babies. So she has a medical check-up program which I have been running for her since 2008 with a community health worked named Wisnal. That year, I started traveling periodically to Gonaives to do clinics and met the Brooks, the family who founded Much Ministries, my current affiliation. I made my first connection with the US military when the USNS Comfort came to Haiti in the spring of 2009 and I got involved at QCS, an upper class school where I occasionally substitute taught.

Me, Johnny J and other kids at Dorothy's

Working in the Ravine

My first trip to Gonaives

In 2009, I moved into the Shoebox (my apartment) on Delmas 91 and started working for Angel Missions Haiti. I continued the Ravine but also started doing medical visas for AMH, hosting medical teams, coordinating medical training exercises for the US military, and running a small clinic on Delmas 24. I grew more involved with the youth group, partnering with an American named Marc. I bonded with the little kids in Delmas 91, especially a little boy named Frantz. And I got to know my neighbors at St Joseph’s, a guest house and boys’ home directed by Bill Nathan, a young Haitian who is also on the AMH board and who became a good friend.

The roof at St. Joseph's before the earthquake

The Shoebox

Marc and youth

On January 12th, 2010, an earthquake devastated Haiti, killing an estimated 300,000 people, including over a dozen of my patients and Haitian acquaintances. St. Joseph’s was destroyed, nearly killing Bill, and damaging my Shoebox on the way down. My life became a movie-esque nightmare as I took care of victims and tried to obtain provisions for my community, Dorothy’s, and other friends. Things progressively returned to normal and I spent the rest of 2010 and the spring of 2011 working for AMH with a young woman named Sendhie and a man named Edjour. In June 2011, I resigned from my position at AMH and came under Much Ministries.

Earthquake victim

Earthquake destruction

So here I am, back in Haiti in the fall of 2011, living in the Teacup (my new apartment), still doing the Ravine, the clinic at Delmas 24, and the youth group. I am also going to be teaching an ESL class, traveling to Gonaives whenever I can, and caring for the needs of the tent city where my Delmas 91 neighbors have been living since the quake.

And that is Kez’s Haiti life in a nutshell.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Good-bye, Shoebox. Hello, Teacup.

Leaving Angel Missions meant leaving the Shoebox because it is rented by AMH and serves as their office. As soon as I decided to resign, I started looking for other housing options in the same neighborhood. I am deeply connected to the community of Delmas 91 thanks to the earthquake and to the 2 years that I lived in the Shoebox, connected in a way that most foreigners can’t be, connected in a dual-dependency where my neighbors rely on me for medical care and school sponsorships and I rely on them for security and a helping hand around the house. I wouldn’t leave this neighborhood unless absolutely necessary.

One of my neighbors, an older woman named Tita, has lived in the tent city since the quake. Her house is intact, but she was initially afraid to move back in and later realized that by staying in the tent, she could make some money off of her home. I treat Tita’s high blood pressure every month and on one of those days, she showed me her second floor apartment. It was a mess but I fell in love with it and told her I wanted it.

Before I left for Chop Point, I gave Tita a deposit on the apartment and instructions to let Edjour work on the plumbing and get the house generally ready for my return. But when I talked to Edjour throughout the summer, he told me that Tita was refusing to let him go near the place. A week before I was due to fly back to Haiti, he informed me that Tita had decided she didn’t want to rent the apartment to me after all. What a delightful surprise!

So I flew to Haiti homeless. My friend Dorothy had generously offered to let me stay with her while I figured out a living situation, knowing that I might be with her for several weeks, so I went to her house for my first night. The next day, I marched up the hill to Delmas 91. Flanked by my knights in shining armor, Bill and Edjour, I confronted Tita. After an hour of arguing during which Tita kept insisting that I pay her $600 more than our predetermined price and I kept insisting that I couldn’t and wouldn’t, Bill simply said, “Listen, you promised Kez this place and she is moving in. What time should we be here tomorrow morning?”

At 7:30 the next morning, we found Tita outside the apartment with a strange man. She claimed that he had stopped by that morning completely coincidentally and offered her a higher price for the apartment. I cannot describe the arguing and the reasoning and the raised voices and the frustration that ensued. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this after almost 4 years of experience in Haiti, but it blew my mind that a woman who is my neighbor and who I’ve treated for free for 18 months would work so hard to cheat me. I kept repeating to her and to the man, “You promised me this apartment 4 months ago and you accepted my deposit. What are you doing?!” She seemed completely unmoved but after an hour, the man gave up and left.

Hoping to not give Tita another chance to back out, Bill, Edjour, my friend Katie, and I simply walked into the apartment to start moving me in. It was dustier than you can imagine and full of Tita’s belongings. “Give me 4 days,” Tita tried to convince us to leave. “In 4 days, I’ll have everything out and the place will be yours.”

“Tita, you’ve known for 4 months that I was going to move in and you didn’t move anything. Why should I think that in 4 days you’ll do it? We’re here now and we are moving me in.” For the next 4 hours, we carried boxes and furniture to the basement. Christada, Manezda, and little Jessica helped us while Tita sat in the kitchen and yelled abuse at us. One minute she would be all sweet, telling me how much she loves me, and the next minute she would be screaming at me to not rush her and to treat her belongings more lovingly! At one point, she stormed out of the house yelling to the world that Kez was going to put all her stuff out on the street, something which of course I had never said and would never do.

When everything was moved, I tried to give her the rent money that I owed her. Bill and Edjour had left for other work and I realized that I didn’t have a witness so I asked her to wait while I called Bill to return. At this, she snatched the money and ran out of the apartment, deeply insulted that I would want a witness present for the exchange of a large sum of money. I grabbed the money and pulled her back in just as Bill arrived. We counted the money together but Tita refused to take it. She acted as if she was so hurt by my need for another person that she wouldn’t rent me the place after all. I gently told her that the witness was for me, so that when I give an account to my friends in the States, I can have someone attest to how my money has been spent, but she was so worked up that she wouldn’t listen. I gave up, walked out and sat in the street. Bill stayed with her and after 20 minutes, he worked his magic and got her to take the money. He even convinced her to let me put my own lock on the apartment door and to give me a copy of the key to the outer gate.

The next morning, my 4th day in Haiti, I moved all my personal belongings in and I spent that first night in the apartment. Ironically enough, since those 2 nightmarish days, Tita has been perfectly civil to me. She hasn’t given me any trouble at all and has even come to check in, make sure I have water and electricity and that the fridge is working. Oh, Haiti.

But now that the drama is over, I’m thrilled to be here. I left the Shoebox and now I’m living in what I call the Teacup because of its rounded pink walls and china-like tiles in the bathroom and on the porch. The Teacup has an open balcony where my plants can live and an enclosed roofed porch area where I can do laundry and store things. Inside, I have a large living room with a hideous red couch and matching chairs. The dining room/kitchen is also quite large with ample storage space. My bedroom feels huge and has 2 wonderful windows that create a pleasant cross breeze. And the second bedroom gives me space for a pharmacy and first aid station.

Everyone has come to help in one way or another. The girls have swept and mopped. Mardochee scrubbed the hall and kitchen walls till they look freshly painted. Christine helped me set up the pharmacy. Jeff swept and mopped again. Tweedledee and Tweedledum carried boxes for me and helped me buy a new mattress and box spring. Beberto is building me a stand for my stove. Alix’s wife washed all my dusty rags and clothes. Two of my youth boys brought me fruit today and Christine brought me a dozen avocados. Through it all, Edjour has been my hero, helping me in one way or another nearly every day since I got here.

You will notice that I’m still missing a few essential items such as chairs. I recently acquired a little stove but I don’t have the gas tank for it yet, so I’ve been living on cold food only. Tita is doing work on the third floor apartment so we can’t set up my rooftop water tanks yet; honestly, I want running water eventually, but for now, I don’t mind spending an hour every week hauling water upstairs from the cistern and filling my water barrels. I’m just very glad to be in the neighborhood and to not be homeless anymore!