Monday, September 19, 2011

Project Hope in Haiti, Part II

To read more about this little series of posts, and about Gardening Mom and Sister Swimmer's journey to Haiti, go HERE.

Monday, July 18
Today was very slow. Walked around the Espwa compound and saw the class rooms and building they are constructing and the orphanage area. 

There are two female med students here at the quad and one of them went on a walk later in the day with SS and A to the girls area where the girls were very excited about SS and A's hair. 

A with some of the girls from the orphanage.

Our work project will be helping to unpack and inventory a couple of large containers of supplies and we also might be doing some painting this week. When I was picturing the containers I was picturing a large crate but they are actually about the size of a mobile home. 

At the quad there are about 10 bedrooms, a common bathroom, a dining room and kitchen and a chapel.

K and Gardening Mom in the quad.

It is not as hot as I thought it would be except in the middle of the day. There is no hot water but you don't miss it because you would not want a hot shower anyway. The living area for the orphans is about as basic as it could be. Many of the kids are not actually orphans but are here for school and bc their families do not have enough to care for them. During the school year there are over 600 kids but during summer about 175. The kids who are here now have no adults in their lives other than those at Espwa. 

I was feeling very uncomfortable and shy at first but starting to get a bit more comfortable now. I feel like this email is very disjointed and jumps around a lot and that is kind of how the conversations are here too. 

Tuesday, July 19
Today we had our first work day. A crew of about 11 Haitian men/boys and the four of us OC girls led by Z, whose regular job is a commercial real estate broker in Indianapolis. Is it any wonder the reconstruction effort is challenged? It takes considerable time to sort through supplies and organize the work crew before we head out. Many of the crew are former residents of the orphanage, Espwa. 

Once we have supplies loaded we head out to prime the home of S, a pretty Haitian woman who I am guessing is about Casey's age at most, who lost a leg in a car accident fleeing Port au Prince after the earthquake. It takes two car trips to get all the crew there. S's home is technically not part of Espwa but there are many homes and families that are tied into or otherwise dependent on Espwa. S has two children, boy and a girl, both look to be under five years old. I am pondering how it must have been for her to be in the hospital losing her leg, who cared for her children then. I am reading a couple of books on Haiti in the evenings, one about the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the other more generally about the challenges of medical care here. I recognize that what I am reading is coloring my impressions and that my impressions are influencing my reading.

There are close to a dozen children at S's when we arrive, all very curious about the blan which is the word for white people but I think applies to any non-Haitian. Besides S, there are three or four other adults, one is an older man the others women, one of whom is sitting mostly naked as we arrive, another woman is assisting her in a bath. There are two or three other shelters besides S's house, hard to call them much more than shelters. It is two rooms, you enter into one and pass though to another. The two rooms combined are probably the size of my walk in closet at home. One of the books I am reading says that there is not sufficient sleeping space in many homes for all of the occupants to sleep so they sleep in shifts. 

S greets us each saying Bon Jour and a kiss, the traditional Haitian greeting. We were greeted the same way by the cook and the woman who assists in housekeeping this morning. Only the women though kiss other women, none of the men have attempted to greet us this way. The children all wear hand me downs many of which are obviously American, one of the girls has a t-shirt with a funny saying on it that I wish I could remember now because I noticed the irony of it when I saw it. Some of the little boys are wearing only shirts with bare bottoms and some are completely naked. One is playing with a plastic bottle that has been cut up and fashioned into a toy truck with a string on it. He gets into a little tug of war with another boy about it at one point.  

The home was built with steel supports covered by cement or stucco. We will prime and paint the house this week. We start to paint and it it quickly obvious that we have far too big of a work crew for the job at hand and also too few rollers. The crew is very concerned about spreading drop clothes which puzzles me since the floor is concrete and will also be painted or left bare, so what difference will a few drips of primer on the floor make. 

A and Sister Singer prime the house.

A and K priming the inside of the home.

We finish the entire home well before lunch and head back to the quad at Espwa for lunch. The plan is to do two more homes in the afternoon after lunch. K and I share with Z that he has much too big of a work crew for the job and that the four of us plus two guys to get the higher spots is all that is needed. A is concerned that by telling him that we might be taking work away from the men, who are being paid for this effort.

Lunch on Tuesday was tuna fish salad sandwiches with alt choice of pb if you didn't want tuna. 

There is a cat here and it had kittens that are in the back of the chapel - one the med student girls said there were six but I have only seen two, both grey tabbies a bit smaller than Diego when we first got him. 

A cuddles one of the house kittens.

We had eggs for breakfast Monday and pancakes this morning. Lunch Monday was grilled cheese with something like ham. Dinner is between 6 and 7- Sunday was pumpkin soup with noodles in it, Monday dinner was plantains that were cooked like chicken nuggets and some grain kind of like brown rice and quarters of chicken and this warm slaw that was supposed to be served on the plantains but I put it on the rice too and there was a sauce also to put on the rice. Hat Dad would not fare well here with the food. Tonight dinner was chicken nuggets and very good French fries. 

I think my biggest fear here is that someone in our little group will need medical attention. Helps that K is a nurse but that can only go so far. I obsess over every bug bite and am concerned whenever SS is tired.

Many people have cell phones and they are conversant with modern music, one of the men/boys asked SS today if she was Beyonce's sister, lol. They are obsessed with Justin Bieber.  How strange it is to have Bieber mania and starvation co-exist, how you can have a cell phone but no bed to call your own.

I am not writing in my journal but using these emails as my journal instead as well as a way to communicate with you all at home. Some of the Haitians really want their picture taken and some very much do not. Voodoo is still alive here and I think there is some suspicion about capturing someone's image.

Most of the men that are working here on Espwa wear jeans and tshirts but looking at their Tshirts you realize that most of them were left behind by someone visiting because of the logos and writing on the shirts. Off Espwa I have not seen many men other than the ones we are working with. Most of the women are wearing hand me downs but some look very basic and others have put their clothes together in a kind of sexy way. When we toured Espwa on Monday some of the teachers were in the classrooms and even though school was out they were dressed in suits or dresses. One woman had on a very business like suit and heels and then we saw her leave and she jumped on a scooter to go home.

Stay tuned for the Part III of their journey.

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