Mission Report Haiti: End of Week 1

Getting from Port au Prince to Ranquitte is always a task. Anyone familiar with the past trips will recall that they usually included a ride in the back of a truck sitting on 2×6’s for somewhere in the ballpark of 8 hours. Those trips were always with a team of 10 or 15, and several hundred pounds of meds. So the trucks were always economically and logistically the best option. This trip, traveling solo, and with different objectives opened up my options of how to get from PAP to the heart of Haiti. So naturally, I chose this:

Those guys are like 5’5″ tall. A 25 minute flight straight over the mountains was far preferable to an 8 hour drive betwixt them. The roller coaster factor of either method was similar, but the durations significantly different. I had never been in a plane this small before. But I was excited to discover that I would have premium seating, without even paying the extra $15 that the stateside domestic airlines charge for exit rows or extra leg room.

I tried my best to think of some clever, pilot-y thing that I could say right before I grabbed the controls as a goof. But I came up with nothing. Mostly because my butthole tightening muscles were drawing so much of my bodily resources that they somehow shut off the blood supply to the speech center of my brain. The holy shit center of my brain was still getting plenty of blood.

Actually, it really wasn’t that bad considering the alternative. After landing in Pignon, the nearest “big” town to Ranquitte and Gard Hiram, I was picked up by Edelin, our right hand Haitian and general worker of minor miracles. The details and results of our initial conversations were explained in the last post. So scroll down and read.

Once settled, even though they meandered, somehow the days passed rapidly, and the work even more so. Edelin negotiated with some local Gard Hiramians, whom I’ve collectively dubbed G-Hams, and they got to work. The plan of attack was to build the security wall first, so that the more specialized tools would have some protection on the lot as the actual clinic building was being constructed. By the end of the business week, they had all the brush cleared (cactus and other manner of pointy, hostile plant life) and all the ditches dug that would eventually become the foundation of the security wall. As far as I could tell most of the G-Hammers went about their work barefoot, but OSHA never showed up, so we’re in the clear.

This has very much become a community effort, which is exactly what we wanted. Though we (us Americans) can’t take much credit for that, as the sense of community in this place was strong before we got here.

Aside from that, the week was spent doing some very necessary assessment and accounting. We are responsible to our donors and all those who support us in other ways, and we are responsible to the people of the communities we serve. So even though it isn’t the most glamorous, but occasionally the most frustrating part of the process, everyone involved in this project takes bean counting very seriously. Once everything was found to be in order, after some algebra, and brick counting, those of us responsible for the disbursement and use of funds decided to proceed.

The next part of the process will require a trip to the bigger city of Cap Haitien to shop for construction materials, tools, and to pick up wire transfers of the necessary funds. This is a day long endeavor and will no doubt be possessed of a story or two.

In other news, I have been visiting the clinics nearest this area. Without disparaging them and their sincere efforts, the state of them only reinforced the need for the one in Gard Hiram. None of them are staffed by anything resembling a doctor or a high level provider. And their medicines and services are very limited, not by desire to help, but by finances usually. There are no surgical capacities of any kind anywhere near here. Even patients needing a basic procedure like the draining of a boil or abscess would have to travel great distance at great expense to have it done properly. One clinic in particular is making a strong show of reducing pediatric malnutrition in the community. In fact, a baby seen at our last clinic was cared for by them after our departure and is now thriving even though the chips were stacked against her. All the healthcare centers that I have visited earnestly support our endeavor. Much of their earnest support was accompanied by requests for materials. BP cuffs, stethoscopes, one even asked for a laptop, presumably to keep electronic records, though I would find it difficult to justify given that the clinic requesting it is a staff of one, is only open 6 hours a week, and seems like a place just to go and get cough syrup, for a fee.

Anyway, toward the end of the week, we hired security for the construction site.

At a certain point, I started thinking about bacon, and our guard had a sense about it. As I tried to catch him, just to pick him up to see if his bacon was ready, he ran and jumped over our foundation ditches. I’ve never seen a pig jump before. I didn’t know it could happen. But it was majestic. Only one step removed from the day when pigs actually fly, at which point I will have no choice but to make good on a lot of unpleasant favors I thought I had roundly denied.

I also found this place:

Complete with training partners:

It is a testament to Haitian ingenuity and a much needed form of recreation. While most people get cranky when they’re tired, I’m at my worst when I’m not. So being able to work out has always done wonders for my personal morale. The weights-in-a-bucket are deceptively heavy and include an industrial revolution era sewing machine. For compound lifts and overhead work, I just use one of the bike frames scattered about.

I’ve developed a series of Haitian workout videos (VHS) called 200 lbs. of Tetanus that will be released in the coming weeks. I’ll certainly have tetanus myself, when I get home. But at least I’ll be in a good mood about it.

I also made an attempt at washing my own clothes by hand. My efforts were met by five full minutes of laughter by the women who provide me incredible hospitality. I was almost immediately demoted to only practicing with socks. I guess my technique was so bad that there was a risk of me making articles of clothing explode into flames, and as there is no fire department here, limiting my opportunity to destroy things was considered by all concerned parties the best course of action.

And finally, I have a roommate/squatter. He’s Edelin’s nephew. This kid is named Daowins:

You may remember him from the last couple trips where he earned the moniker Daowins: Reverse Racist Baby. Well, he has gotten over his fear of white people, possibly in part due to a campaign of immersion therapy waged by yours truly and Josh. It was worth every bit of effort we put into it (none, we just irritated him like we do every other human being on earth), because now he is my personal Creole Language Teacher. The adults start showing signs of frustration if I don’t get a word right after about 2 tries. On average, it takes me 60. Daowins, on the other hand, will sit with me for hours teaching me what he knows of the Haitian language, provided I furnish him with any type of electronic device. Then I emerge, with the vocabulary and diction of a 4 year old and the adults are impressed, willing to teach me because it seems like I have potential. This strategy should be used by any person wishing to learn Creole.

More soon. Everything is well.

5 comments for “Mission Report Haiti: End of Week 1

  1. Tracy
    04.15.13 at 23:57

    Looks like good progress is being made! Nice work. xo

    • Cilla
      04.16.13 at 09:54

      Great news, great composition, great humor….I give you an A+…oh wait I am not a teacher. It sounds like another adventure well underway. The building is moving right along…way to go. I laughed out loud several times, but especially when the image followed the news you got security at the building site. Loved the bacon story. Take good care.

  2. Karen
    04.16.13 at 23:59

    So many bricks……great sign of progress. Good work. Continue on………..

  3. Paula Davis
    04.22.13 at 08:07

    A shot? You’re thinking about getting a shot? Now we are not so sure whose fault it will be when you die, are we?

    • 04.22.13 at 21:03

      Everyone knows that only flu shots are lethal. Worse than than a cocktail of sodium pentathol, pavulon, and KCl. I believe there is documentation detailing exactly who will be at fault. Even if I get hit by a truck.

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