Sunday, September 11, 2011

Waterfalls beyond waterfalls

Last weekend I made the trek up the mountains to Furcy, a small village beyond Kenscoff. I thought I was going to help my Much Ministries friends plan hospital inservices, community health classes, and the medical aspects of a trade school in Gonaives. I did all of that, but the weekend was much more. There were over 25 of us including the Brooks family who run Much Ministries, Emory Wilson who has been the man on the ground in Gonaives for 3 years, Laura Lynn who oversees the school but is actually a nurse and kind of my soul mate, 2 horticulturalists, 3 medical people, a number of teachers, and 5 new interns. We spent 3 days getting to know one another and preparing for the year. My contribution will be minimal, mostly planning, resource support, and monthly visits as a guest speaker/translator, but I love being part of this family.

I'd been told that there was a beautiful waterfall near the lodge where we were staying, so I set out with 2 of the interns to find it. It'd been raining so the steep descent to the stream was treacherous and when we arrived, we found the water as reddish brown as the local clay. But we did not care. All we saw was waterfall. Not one, not two, or three, or even four. That first day, we discovered 5 gorgeous waterfalls. And the next day when we skipped dinner to go again, we found over a dozen. The photos cannot come close to doing justice to the sheer beauty of that place and to the wild joyous freedom of exploring a stream for hours with new friends.

When can I go back??

Friday, September 9, 2011

Once was already too often. Twice is unbearable.

In late November last year, my friend's baby, Christopher, died of meningitis partly due to my mistakes in his care. It was an awful day; I will never forget weeping with his mother, Christine, and with my friend and clinic manager, Lucson.

A beautiful new beginning came in early summer when Christine gave birth to Chrystel. Baby Chrystel didn't only fill the void in Christine's heart; she also became the second chance for her older sister, Christina, to be "Other Mother". I met Chrystel upon my return to Haiti this August and I was deeply touched by the joy I saw in their faces.

On Wednesday, Christine came to pick up some formula for Chrystel who has been off the breast since she was hospitalized shortly after birth. Christine told me that the baby had cholera and was in a treatment center but when I responded with shock and concern, my friend assured me that the danger was past and the doctors said Chrystel was doing great. When I hugged Christine good-bye, I told her to please call me when Chrystel was discharged so that I would be at ease.

The call came the following morning at 7am. I was in a taptap going to clinic and I knew as soon as I heard Christine's voice on the line: Chrystel had died.

In some ways, it was worse than Christopher's death because I wasn't there to hold Christine and to cry with her. I walked to clinic, hid in one of the unfinished rooms, and cried for 20 minutes. And then I got up and started working. Because this is Haiti. We live with death in our faces every day. It's awful, but it keeps our compassion alive and our eyes on the only true constant that exists: Jesus.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meeting the President

My Haiti life is absurd. For example, yesterday I spent the morning teaching health classes in the ghetto and then spent the evening at a Brazilian Independence Day ball where I met Haiti's president!

How did I end up at the Brazilian Independence Day ball? Well, a couple friends and I crashed the party. We had good reason - two of our other friends were performing at the ball and we wanted to support them. So we just waltzed into the most posh hotel in Haiti, down the receiving line where I got kissed by the Brazilian ambassador and his wife, and then through throngs of Brazilian UN soldiers. Minutes later, the ambassador started the official program by saying, "We are pleased to welcome His Excellency, President Joseph Michel Martelly," and suddenly, there was our president, standing on stage!

After the speeches were over, Martelly joined the rest of us on the floor to watch the dancing. He was surrounded by Secret Service, but we were able to walk right up, get a photo and then poke a hand through for a handshake. I'm still not sure what I think of him as a politician, but I can say that he has a firm, trustworthy handshake and a very happy looking smile.

Viv Tet Kale!!

(In case you forget what Tet Kale means, Martelly's the bald man in the center leaning forward to smile at me when he saw me taking the photo.)