Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: March 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Two Rocks Too Many

Our travel days back and forth to Haiti are definitely the hardest days of any of our trips.  The trip down carries worries of making connections, all the BAGS making the connections, getting through customs, meeting Pere Sadoni at the airport, and finally arriving at the guest house for the first decent meal of the day.  Most of us can't manage breakfast before leaving for the airport at 4:30 AM, and the airlines don't feed us anymore.
Coming home is slightly less worrisome, no valuable medical supplies to worry about; and once we are in the States I dont worry so much about connecting flights.  However we still start the day at 5 AM and usually travel all day to get to Memphis by 10:30 PM or sometimes midnight.  Then there are the inevitable curiosities of airport security.  Port au Prince airport has been completely rebuilt since the earthquake, and is now a comfortable, clean, air-conditioned building, with gift shops and a few small restaurants, even a Duty Free liquor store!  This trip we had our bags sniffed by police dogs at the first security checkpoint.  We were feeling sorry for the dogs having to smell all of our week-old unwashed clothing!

Wade in the Water

Today is Easter Sunday, and I am back in my comfortable Memphis home, with a refrigerator full of food, internet 24/7, and clean water right out of the tap.  A hot shower is available,  anytime I choose.     I have been quite fatigued this week, returning to work after spending last week in Haiti.  I finally unpacked my suitcases yesterday, with paintings and earrings made by Haitians, many memories of our trip.   I was inclined to stay home and rest last evening, but I remembered that  Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgy of the entire church year, so I went.  One of the hymns we sang was "Wade in the Water", which reminded me of an amazing experience I had on our last day in Haiti.  We saw a baptism, right in the ocean!

We had hired a driver to take us to Jacmel for the day. If you look at a map of Haiti, Jacmel is due south of Port au Prince, on the southern coast of Haiti.  It is a beautiful seaside town, with buildings that remind me of New Orleans architecture.  We had lunch at the Hotel Florita, and met an expatriate American named Joe, who was drinking rum sours and scowling into his laptop at the back of the hotel lobby.  I felt like I was in the movie set of Casa Blanca, and had found Rick at Cafe Americain (with apologies to Humphrey Bogart).  Joe gave us a tour of his lovely house-turned-hotel since the earthquake, and Sherye and I found our suite on the third floor.  Lovely old wooden furniture, plenty of Haitian voodoo art on the walls, wild hibiscus and clematis growing on the balcony, and 2 wooden rocking chairs waiting just for us. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Michele's photos (fixed link)

My apologies to our dedicated readers who tried to view Michele's photos from the post yesterday. I left you stranded without the proper authorization for Google to let you in. The link is fixed today, so give it a go!
-Stephen

Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Round of Photos March 2013

Michele Miller has posted our first round of photos from the trip. For the time being, you can see them here: View Michele Miller's photos online. (Link updated and fixed)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Last Day at St. Vincents

Today we went to the school but did not have clinic.  In the morning Drew, Dr Sue Trzynka and I met with Pere Sadoni for about 2 hours, discussing our partnership.  It was an informative meeting and he expressed very graciously his appreciation for our work with the children.  We congratulated him on the beautiful new brace shop which we all toured yesterday.  We are leaving behind about $6000 worth of medications and supplies, for the Haitian pediatrician to use for the St Vincent's children.  Also there is medication for high blood pressure and diabetes, for the adult staff to get refills on the meds we gave them in clinic. We discussed with  Pere Sadoni our concerns that many of the adult staff don't seem to continue taking their medications, for various reasons.  He explained that the "Haitian mentality" is that you don't take medicine unless you are sick, and being sick means you feel bad and cant get out of bed.  Once a Haitian feels better, s/he does not think s/he needs the medication anymore.  We told them that is not just  Haitian mentality, it is human nature apparently. 

Day 5, Dancing with the deaf

Yesterday, Sherye tells me the older teenagers had a dance party in one of the classrooms upstairs.  She joined in with a line of kids, watching another kid count and demonstrate a new line dance.  Lots of hand movements, the rhythm set to a song playing on one of their phones, hooked up to a small set of speakers. All the desks and chairs pushed to the side of the room. About 2 dozen kids, with 20 more watching and clapping.  

A typical teenage dance party, except that all these kids are deaf. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 4, Vitamins and Plaster

6 AM in Haiti, everyone asleep at the guest house except the cooks who already have coffee ready for us.  Wonderful strong Haitian coffee, with brown sugar and a little milk, or straight black as John Mutin likes it. Our first morning, the first pot was gone before John got up, much to his dismay.  The second morning, I woke up early and found John in the dining room at 5:30 already drinking his first cup.  They have little dainty cups for drinking, so John and Drew have to refill theirs three or four times just to get started....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 3 Inadequacy and Mercy

On the bus this morning, Sherye taught us some basic signs including colors and numbers.  There are about 80 deaf kids at St Vincent's, and Sherye helps us communicate with them in clinic.  Being a teacher, she always looks for an opportunity to teach the students new vocabulary.  Not to mention 17 team members from the United States!  Picture Drew Woodruff trying to make the sign for "yellow", "green", "red", "purple" and getting them all mixed up. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 2 Hunting for a Local Pharmacy

Today was our first day at St Vincent's.  We arrived early enough to see the school opening ceremony, when the Haitian flag is raised and the children sing their national anthem. Blind, deaf, missing limbs, does not matter.  Everyone sings. The deaf sing with their hands. 
We used to see this every morning when we stayed at the school guest house, before the earthquake.  We would sip Haitian coffee on the balcony and watch the gathering down below.  I look forward to being able to do that again someday when the entire school is rebuilt.  Until then we stay at a different guest house, which is comfortable and has great food, but its not the same as staying with the kids in their own community.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 1 Smooth Sailing

We had the smoothest trip I can remember, with no weather delays, no missed connections, and all 11 team members and 20 suitcases arrived intact.  Sienna joined us in Miami, having  flown from New Orleans early this morning.  She arrived at 9 AM and found a place to sleep on the floor until we arrived at 1:00 PM. The 6 nurses from CBU leave Memphis tonight, to spend the night in LaGuardia airport and arrive in Port au Prince  early  tomorrow morning.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pre trip hopes and fears

Up at the computer at 6 AM, the day before our team leaves for Haiti.  This will be trip #11 for me.  We have 17 team members (YIKES!).  I realized last night that all are veterans, except 2 medical students and 4 of the CBU nurses.  Something about Haiti keeps us all coming back for more.  Of course it is the children at St Vincent's, with their unconditional love and ability to face and embrace life despite their handicaps and extreme poverty.
Some of you already read my recent email, but for others, here is our team: