Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"They didn't find her"

The search party couldn't find Lovena. It's a long story but the conclusion is simply that they didn't find her.

On my second ever post about Lovena, I wrote that "it is my goal to not lose my heart to the kids I work with in Haiti." This is why. I don't have words to describe the ache I feel over losing her in this fashion...the sense of responsibility...the anger over the brokenness of this world...the frustration at my inability to do anything about it...the ache...

It hurts.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Please pray for Lovena

 Lovena has disappeared.
In case you've forgotten, Lovena was abandoned by her teenage mom, became badly malnourished, and spent 6 months at Dorothy's. Three days ago her birth mother "kidnapped" her from the feeding center in Jubilee where she was eating lunch with the older neighborhood children.

Her caretaker and grandmother, Paulette, came to me in tears. Rumor is that the mom has taken Lovena to Ouanamet, a city on the border of the Dominican Republic and that she is going to give Lovena away, to an orphanage or a child trafficking circle. There is no way to know. All I know is that this teenage mom had no reason to take Lovena unless there was financial profit involved and that is frightening.

I am sending Paulette, a neighbor, and Vanel, one of my students, to Ouanamet on Saturday to try to find and rescue Lovena. The chances of them succeeding are very slim.

Please pray for Lovena's safety and pray that she be returned to her family!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On Rue Christophe

When I leave my street, I am no longer Keziah,
I am “Blan”, white person, foreigner,
Taking a different form to each person I pass,
A different face to every set of Haitian eyes.

To the young boys under the old scaffold
I am Santa Claus.
Eagerly thrusting outspread hands towards me,
“Blan, give me a toy! Give me a toy!”

To the high school boys on the corner
I am a dare.
Strutting like a peacock and glancing back to see if the rest are watching,
“Blan, I want you. I want you.”

To the woman selling gingerbread under a white sheet
I am a paycheck.
Setting her wares on the ground and striking a confident pose,
“Make me sell today. Make me sell.”

To the small children on the roadside
I am a celebrity.
Pushing and fighting for the chance to simply hold my hand,
Blan, take me with you. Take me with you!”

To the old man limping with his cane
I am a happy surprise.
Squinting through cataract-blurred eyes and grinning a toothless grin,
“How are you today, Blan? How are you?”

To the dropouts by the trash heap
I am a target.
Mocking my helplessness as they throw rocks inches behind my feet,
“I wasn’t aiming for you, Blan. I really wasn’t.”

To the lady cooking rice on her front stoop
I am the soup kitchen.
Pointing greedily at the plastic bag in my hand, beckoning to me,
“Gimme something from your bag, Blan. Something from your bag.”

To the men on the bench sipping Prestige
I am a prize.
Lurching my way and gesturing obscenely through the not-yet drunken laughter,
“I love you, Blan. Come sleep with me. I love you.”

To the fellow perched on a moto beside the canal,
I am the invader.
Frowning angrily and muttering to no one through clenched jaws,
“Look how the blan has taken my country out of my hands. Right out of my hands.”

And then I cross the canal,
Into Jubilee, tiJubilee, friendly Jubilee,
Where my many faces fade away and I am
Happily, mercifully Miss Keziah once again.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beauty in the Caribbean

For JTP's birthday, we took a picnic lunch to a beach 45 minutes from Gonaives, along a dirt road that twists and turns over mountains covered with cactus and dust and rock. It is the utter paradox of incredible beauty in the middle of a land that has been ravaged and turned into a literal desert. The photos tell the story better than I can.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My thoughts on Nicaragua

Nicaragua is ranked the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Guess who the poorest country is? Yes, Haiti. Both are third world nations, recovering from political turmoil and a number of devastating natural disasters. So I expected Nicaragua to be much the same as Haiti.
In ways, I was right. Housing conditions, inaccessibility to water, availability of health care, variety of food were all very similar to Haiti. But in other respects, I was shocked to see the differences. In the village near Campo Alegria, the children in 1st to 4th grade could actually read and write capably, a skill many Haitians cannot claim even though they're in equivalent grades. I didn't see any children with the red hair that marks protein deficiency or the swollen bellies and tiny arms of general malnutrition. People did not call me "gringa" (white person) the entire time I was there, and though I can't be sure no one cussed me in Spanish, I can say that no one cursed me in English as they do daily in Gonaives.
In Rivas, the small city near Campo Alegria that is perhaps a third the size of Gonaives, there is a Maxi Pali, the Nicaraguan version of Walmart. Walmart! Need I say more?
The real shock came when we spent time in the capital. In Haiti, the capital is not much better than the rural areas, but in Nicaragua, the capital seemed to me like a first world city! There were MacDonald's and Burger Kings, Subway, Payless Shoe Source, TGI Fridays, a Hilton, a Holiday Inn, a Best Western, a cinema, a Sbarro's and a Papa John's pizza. Roads were paved, traffic laws were respected, fast food restaurants had children's play areas, and buildings were actually built, not half-constructed relics like Port-au-Prince boasts. Only one man hit on me and most people acted unfazed to see Americans strolling around.
I was riding up an escalator in one of Managua's two malls eating frozen yogurt when I officially decided, "If this is third world, than Haiti must be fourth - no, fifth world!"
It was an interesting mix of modern and pleasantly old-fashioned. Horse drawn carts and bicycle taxis instead of the choking fumes from Haitian taptaps.
Baseball gloves for sale in the city! Baseball being played on real diamonds with stadium seating!
Colonial architecture that has survived earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanoes.
And some industry. In the fields by Campo, acres and acres of sugar cane are harvested and carried by horse cart, ox-cart, and huge tractor trailers...

...to this factory that processes it and produces sugar for export. I wish I knew how many jobs that provides.
And just when I was feeling comforted by how Haiti-esque the sugar cane harvesting is, I noticed the huge sprinklers that water the fields. That's third world??
Haiti has lots of goats; the part of Nicaragua I was in did not. Instead there were cows everywhere and men herding them on horse back like old-time cowboys.
Out of everything, what struck me most poignantly was the greenery. Nicaragua has not ruined their own ecosystem by deforestation and erosion. I live in the most barren region of Haiti so the change was more marked than it might have been for someone else, but I couldn't get enough of the trees and the grass and the water.  

No Haiti-Nicaragua comparison will be complete for me until I have seen their dump ghetto, their Jubilee. And honestly, how can I make any judgments until I've lived there for 6 years and speak the language fluently, like I do in Haiti? What I can say confidently is that I loved the 18 days that I spent there - loved them for what I saw but even more so for who I was with, because, let's be honest, relationships are what life is all about. When I'm with these kids, my heart is always cheery.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ode to Canada

You may not realize it, oh dwellers of civilized America, but sinks, toilets, and shower heads, particularly ones that drain, flush and have water pressure, are amazing commodities. For the past 8 months, I've lived with a toilet that only flushes when you dump a bucket of water into it, no sink in the bathroom, a kitchen sink that drains straight onto the floor, and a shower with an open pipe instead of a head. 
Living without the wonders of American plumbing really doesn't bother me; I tend to forget until someone visits and is disgusted by our primitive ways. Sometimes, though, we are spoiled by our friends and given luxuries that make our lives just a little bit nicer. While I was in Nicaragua and Grace and Chris were in America, our new Canadian friend, Phil, installed a sink, a flushing toilet, and a shower head in the Safe House. He also fixed our kitchen sink, changed the broken lock on our door, and convinced a friend to fix the light fixture in the bathroom.
Phil wasn't the only one to bless me while I was traveling. His wife, Ang, taught my nursing assistant classes - documentation, bed-making, bed baths, taking temperatures, and putting in IVs. She has been helping in clinic as well, and together, she and Phil have befriended and are mentoring JB, the student that I hope will replace Oscar when medical school begins. They even babysat Tug for us while we were gone!
Phil and Ang arrived in February for what was supposed to be a 3 month trial run, giving them a chance to see if they liked the work and environment of Gonaives and giving us a chance to see if they fit the community. I think the trial run truly only lasted a few weeks - we knew and they knew very quickly that this place is right for them.
In case you were wondering, I felt that way before they gave me modern plumbing!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's going on in Haiti?

I started caring for a man named Amoni whose hand had gotten very infected from a poke with a nail. He claims it was a voodoo curse; I don't exactly believe that, but I can't deny that everything we did for him failed, even with the advice of a wonderful infectious disease doctor in the US. When the swelling climbed all the way to his elbow, I loaded him into our truck and took him to the hospital in Port-au-Prince. He spent 4 days there, had surgery on the hand and lots of IV antibiotics, and came back to us on Monday looking a lot better.
It's funny how one patient can so consume you - I was seeing him every single day, worrying about him when I wasn't seeing him, praying for him silently every time I thought of him. And when he was in Port and I wasn't hearing any news, I was calling contacts in the city, trying to send someone to check on him and bring me news. Fortunately, in this story, everything ended well, but the last 10 days for me have been all about "Hand Man".
At the same time, I've been seeing a young girl whose forehead was pierced by a piece of wood (I don't know how) and who has needed daily care as well.
I've been teaching my nursing assistant classes, every day, sometimes twice a day. Giving exams on the material that was taught in my absence during the Nicaragua trip, practicing skills they are just learning such as respiratory rates, finding pulses, and wrapping joints with ACE bandages.
I'm also teaching Creole classes 3 or 4 times a week, and now I've added 2 French classes, one for the American teachers at Jubilee School, and one for the 2nd graders. The kids and I we are reading through Charlotte's Web together and though they only understand about 50% of the French I read to them, they love the story and are constantly after me to read to them more often.
It's busy, it's tiring, it's good.