Monday, November 28, 2011

Gonaives adobe house progresses

Ben, Josh, Isaac, Chris and their horde of loyal children and teens have kept working on the adobe house in Gonaives. There have been some setbacks, like the day when they arrived in the morning to find a handful of sacks slashed open, or the day several sacks were emptied of their dirt and stolen. A few weeks ago, their storage space in Jubilee was broken into and all their tools, barbed wire, and some sacks were stolen. But the work has continued with very encouraging results.

Over Thanksgiving week, the house reached my height. When I left to come back to Port-au-Prince, the guys were getting ready to install the front door and go even higher on the walls. Much of the work we do in Haiti has little visible results; with the adobe house, we can see every minute of labor and it is very satisfying.

Life has me in stitches

I work primary care here in Haiti, not emergency room. I like it but the monotonity of my patients' complaints gets to me sometimes. Heartburn, headache, hypertension. Heartburn, headache, hypertension. Heartburn, headache, hypertension.

You get the picture.

Every now and then, I get to change hats and do one of my favorite things in the medical realm: suture people. It's odd, but I have noticed that these things happen in waves. I may go weeks without any blood, and then suddenly have 4 or 5 patients in a week. Monday was a bit like that. First, I had a scheduled patient, a 14 year old with a large skin tag on one of her breasts that I removed and sewed up. I'd barely finished cleaning up when a neighbor, Brunel, came to the door. He'd sliced his ear open moving rebar at the St Joseph's construction site and he needed a couple stitches also. Unlike my last few patients, all children under the age of 15, big tough Brunel tried to run out of the room when I said the word "stitch".

A few days later in Gonaives, Martha, the nurse instructor who oversees the hospital inservices and the various health classes we teach, asked me to teach suturing to the nurses she is training in Jubilee. It was a blast! I loved showing them what I've learned, sharing some of my successes and mistakes with them, encouraging and correcting and guiding them. The only thing that was a little disturbing: our practice arm which looked frighteningly real!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Little one

My friend Edjour and his wife Sofie had a baby boy!

I finally got to meet the little man this week. It's ridiculous how much he looks like his daddy! They still haven't named him, because Edjour insists on a name that starts with "E", like his, but there just aren't many boy names in Creole that begin with "E". It's OK - we already have a nickname for the baby.

My crazy landlady hates Edjour and has threatened to kill him on several occasions. The threats are funny for 2 reasons. First, she is an old woman who couldn't kill him in her wildest dreams, and secondly, she can never remember his name. So each time she rails on him, she makes up a name that sounds vaguely like Edjour. Our favorite is Pidjouk, pronounced Peed-CHOOOK. I've been joking with Edjour for months that if he doesn't choose a name for the baby, I will christen him Pidjouk. It appears that it may stick...

Welcome to the world, little Pidjouk!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Someone asked me recently what I miss most about the States, other than the obvious friends and family. I answered, "Consistent power."

I don't mean 24/7 electricity. That's a luxury for my other life and frankly, I am completely comfortable living without it for periods of time. No, when I say consistent power, I mean that I want it to happen in a reliable fashion so that I know more or less when I will have power and when I won't. So that I can put food in my fridge without wondering if it will rot the next day. So that I can see if my feet are still dirty after my nightly bucket shower. So that I can write a blog post now and then.

In Haiti, most of us are at the mercy of EDH: Electricite Nationale d'Haiti. It's the government-controlled power grid and it is fantastically unreliable. I joke that it is directed by a cynical little man (in my mind he's about 5 feet tall with a pointy beard and beady little black eyes) who sits at a switch board, messing with our minds and our lives.

"Heeheeheehee, let's give Delmas a little bit of power. And oops! Let's turn it off again! Hahahahaha! How did you like that, people?"

Backing up my theory of the evil little man is the vocabulary used in Creole to describe electricity. In English we say that "we lost power" and "we got power back", but in Creole we say, "they took power and "they gave us power"." It certainly adds to the persecution mindset.

In truth, this fall has been one of the best seasons for power. In my neighborhood, they've been giving us electricity nearly 16 hours a day quite consistently since September. Sure, we had a little 9 day hiatus in mid-September with no power at all, but I'd gotten accustomed to a functional fridge and charged telephone and internet possibilities. And then our transformer blew. That was 2 1/2 weeks ago and today is the first day that I've finally had power. It's weak, only strong enough to run a laptop or charge a phone. The fridge can't run, the fans can't run, and for reasons unknown the non-electricity-savvy me, it has blown 4 lights and 2 sets of Christmas lights in my house since coming on last night.

I guess we'll stick with the candles for a little longer.


Thanks for praying with me! Kevs is home at the orphanage in Gonaives, and the last reports have him doing well. He has some residual effects from his still undiagnosed illness - one-sided weakness and occasional "episodes" like mini-seizures - but he has been receiving physical therapy and is regaining strength. I will hopefully see him when I go to Gonaives this week. I can't wait to hug that lovable punk!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall outing

I took a week-long trip to visit my parents who are doing a semester sabbatical in Washington, DC this fall. My brother Barnabas is at college in Maryland, less than 2 hours from DC, so I got to see him on two occasions. And my sister, Polly, back from her year of teaching in Indonesia, is living in DC doing a teaching fellowship in DC public schools. I spent a night at her apartment and an exciting morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles with her. OK, just kidding, but when you see family as rarely as I do, any time together is precious, even if it's in a long line and an awkward waiting room.

I took extensive walks around Capitol Hill with my parents and with my friend Maggie who came to spend a day with me. The Capitol Building, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Tidal Basin, the Washington Memorial, the botanic gardens, and much more. I was impressed with the beautiful architecture of the homes and historic buildings in DC and I was, as always, amazed by the cleanliness of the streets and yards. But more than any of the monuments and fountains, I wanted to see fall foliage. Nowhere can beat New England in autumn, but Rock Creek Park did its best.

And the best part, better than walking through an impressive city or hiking through a forest, was just being with my family. Sharing stories and news, excitements and disappointments, laughing and encouraging, reminiscing and planning. I am blessed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pray for Kevs

Please join me in praying for Kervens. When I lived at Dorothy's in 2008-2009, Kevs was the oldest of her kids and he and I became quite close. We would organize silly games with the kids, play soccer in the rain, quote movie lines at each other, mop flood water after storms, do yardwork and other chores side by side, and each evening, when I tucked him in, we would exchange wild imagined stories about the Leprechaun King (Kevs) and the Scissortail Queen (me). Needless to say, he is special to me.

He's been living at an orphanage in Gonaives, spending weekends with the Brooks at Much Ministries. Last week, he got very sick with seizures, breathing difficulty, and a very stiff neck, symptoms which pointed to meningitis. My friends have been working tirelessly to treat him, but he has not gotten better. On Monday, they brought him to Bernard Mevs hospital in Port-au-Prince where an American neurologist saw him and ruled out meningitis, but found typhoid bacteria. So now he is being treated for typhoid and they are working to control the seizures. He is still in a very fragile state as he is treated and we work to get the seizures under control both for the immediate and long term.

Please pray with me!