Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Community is...

Community is...

                Butting heads and shaking hands

                Sharing opinions and arguing opinions and adopting opinions
                Meeting for hours and joking more than you plan
                Throwing words and throwing rocks and throwing chocolate
Community is….
                Opening the fridge to find that your lunch has been eaten by someone else
                Digging in a mountain of laundry for your favorite shirt that’s been missing for a month.
  Telling the same piece of information 15 times to 15 people.
                Searching unsuccessfully for a place to have a private phone call.
Community is….
                Riding down the street yelling from bike to bike to moto
                Staring at happy chalkboard messages and wondering who wrote them for you
   Cooking dinner and letting someone else do the dishes
                Being so sick you want to sleep all day and so annoyed cuz everyone wants to check on you
Community is….
                Sharing laptops and sharing movies and sharing cell phones
                Having a friend always available for a walk or a ride
                Doing headcounts in the middle of the night to see if it’s OK to lock the gate
  Asking for help and getting it
Community is…
                Popping into the room to spend your 10 minute break with people who make you smile
                Riding out to hunt for your missing roommate
                Sacrificing sleep to sit up and talk with someone who needs to talk
                Recognizing your friend by the distinct sound of his flipflops on the concrete
Community is…
                Hurting someone’s feelings and hearing a million rumors before reconciliation happens
                Walking into a room and interrupting a serious conversation
                Forgetting to ask your roommate how her day was
                Letting your friend down and hoping that you will be forgiven
Community is…
                Rejoicing their successes as much as your own.
                Knowing and being known and seeking to know better
                Bearing one another’s burdens and crying one another’s tears
                Coming home

Friday, May 25, 2012

Number 78

Selfish reason #78 why I moved to Haiti: free dental

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clinic insanity

These past 2 weeks have been hectic. We've had between 20 and 30 American visitors at all times, and in clinic, we've seen a lot of crazy stuff...

A woman with herpes zoster, secondary skin infection because of her advanced case of AIDS.

 A 13 year old girl with a tumor in her jaw - bone tumor or tumor of the gums? Not sure.

 Continued care for our infected foot lady. Daily dressing changes and very slow progress.

A boy with a 5-year old eye infection that hasn't responded to our strongest eye meds.

 Visiting medical people teaching our staff how to put in IVs. Practicing on Ben and 3 visitors, only one of whom passed out from the combined heat and the sight of his own blood.

A toddler with a nasty ear infection that eventually revealed maggots in an open wound adjacent to the ear canal.

 Over 3 visits, we've yanked a total of 11 live maggots out of this girl's ear. Full grown, 1 cm long, 3mm thick maggots.

I still get squirmy in my tummy when I think about it. Maggots, tunneling in a child's ear, eating her flesh, going deeper and deeper, swimming in the pus and blood, clinging to the wound as I try to pull them out with tweezers. UGH!

Oh, and did I mention that this week alone, we have treated about 20 kids a day for high fevers? Monday is our only general consultation day - on the other days, you have to have an appointment for prenatal or blood pressure or malnutrition program. Our 2 exceptions are blood and fevers. So this week, there was a perpetual crowd of parents and children at the door, including one dad with his 4 children. All of them had fevers over 101.

Our Haitian staff blames it on rainy season, a combination of increased malaria rates thanks to the proliferation of mosquitos, and the simple change in temperature (from an average 90 degrees during the day and 75 at night to about 98 degrees and 85 at night).

All in all, an exhausting week and a constant learning experience.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I love the Lovena ups!

Happy news! In the three weeks that have past since I posted about my little Lovena predicament, my heart-throb has gained 0.6kg, which may not sound like much but it is 13.6% of her body weight, the equivalent of a 180lb man gaining 24 pounds in 3 weeks! Her little face looks completely different without the sunken look that she always used to have. You'd barely recognize her if you saw her.

WARNING - x-rated photos!

I'm not kidding. These photos are utterly gruesome and you may want to ignore them and stick to the ones about cute kids.

The reality is that my life isn't composed only of cute kids. Haiti is a dark place and though I am a person who easily focuses on the beautiful, I encounter true ugliness every day. This week has been no exception.

The elderly woman who lost her daughter-in-law a month ago and her son this week. Their newborn baby is lucky to have a grandmother who cares, but he will never know his mother or his father.

The beautiful teenage girl, pregnant at 15.

The angry mob outside my house, protesting the government's decision to bulldoze a series of properties down the block. They throw rocks at the UN compound, burn tires, smash bottles and build roadblocks out of rock and rubble.

The 6 year old girl with a wound on her forehead that looks suspiciously like abuse.

The woman who comes to clinic with a rash all over her neck, a rash we almost never see unless the patient has AIDS. She sits, weak and discouraged, as our staff reads the test results to her and explains why her life is slowly ebbing away.

And finally, the old lady whom neighbors find walking to the ocean to drown herself because the pain in her infected foot is more than she can bear. They pick her up and bring her to us instead where we remove an old bandage, decrepit stitches and almost vomit when the smell of rotting flesh enters our nostrils. The three of us, Grace, Lala, and I, take turns cutting away blackened skin and draining dark red and yellowish-green pus from tunnels of infection that have overtaken her limb. We give her a shot, antibiotics and pain medications and then we wait. Wait and pray that we can save that foot.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


I love my Gonaives life, but when I'm with my youth group...what can I say? These are some of my all-time favorite kids and some of my best friends in the whole world.

(Photos courtesy of Janelle Fosnaugh and Katie Benner and me)

Friday, May 4, 2012

The climb

We took our youth group on their annual retreat to Zanglais last week. It was the usual mix of beach time and singing time, eating time and prayer time. But for many of us, the favorite time was the mountain time. On our second day at Zanglais, I went exploring and found a path that led to the peak of the mountain that towers over the retreat center. The next morning, 41 teens and 4 leaders stretched into a long line and followed me up. 

We stopped 1/4 of the way at a large clearing where we could appreciate the view and where Dan and Kathleen could exhort the children about climbing the mountains of life through faith and perseverance.

I knew that many of the kids do not enjoy physical exertion so I gave them the option of going back to camp after the message. I expected the majority to turn back, but instead, inspired by their leaders' words and the majestic scenery, all but 7 of the kids chose to continue to trek!

The hike was hot and exhausting, especially for me. The path isn't easy to follow and since I was the only one who had already hiked it, I had to take the group of 7 back to camp and then reclimb our original route to catch up with the larger group. Many of the girls were wearing jeans and flipflops, but they all made it to the top and were brimming with pride.

This year has not been an easy one for my youth group. They have lost 3 leaders over the past 5 months and by September, all their leaders will be gone except for me, and I live 3 hours away. They came into the weekend discouraged and ready to give up, but as they helped each other over that mountain, I could see the hope come back into their eyes. God is not done with them and they are not going to stop fighting. It doesn't matter how high the mountain is or how impossible the climb seems, they are holding one another's hands and stepping forward.