Friday, May 14, 2010

Haiti: Part 7 & 8

If you this is the first time you are reading a post about my hubby's trip to Haiti you will definitely want to read these first before scrolling down:

Haiti: Part 1 & 2
Haiti: Part 3 & 4
Haiti: Part 5 & 6

I wish I could take the credit for what you are about to read, but all the credit goes to our friend Jay who went with my hubby, J, and 5 other guys to Haiti from April 26-May 2. They were there working for the Hands and Feet Project. Here's Jay (with my J behind him):
We all knew what Saturday morning meant. Larry had laid it out for us: We would start early, the supplies were here, and we were going to help pour a concrete roof. I remembered the roof. I knew what it had done to me on day one. At this point however, I would have rather done anything other than pick out rocks from the ground. We were outside by 6am. There was hammering and loud talking, and machines humming well before 5:30am. I stumbled out to the porch only to see an army of day laborers slinging mixed concrete up the roof at unimaginable speeds. I rubbed my eyes, looked left, and there was gung ho, legs propped up on the rails, watching real men work. Apparently, they were so good at what they did, that we would have got in the way. I'm not sure if this was what Larry had expected, and he had just been messing with us all along, but whatever the case, I think everyone was relieved.

There was no conveyor belt, or giant concrete truck; just a small mixer dumping concrete onto the ground, 12 guys on a cobbled together ladder than had just been extended an hour before to reach up to the roof, and a small contingency adding water, concrete, and sand into the mixer, filling up buckets and slinging it up the ladder. It was almost like watching Cirque De Soleil or even Riverdance; dancers in perfect rhythm and step as they floated concrete into the air and onto the roof. We watched like little boys staring at a car engine while our father showed us the intricacies of such a great machine.

While they labored, we stared, pointed, and took pictures of something, I'm sure could be seen every day with this work crew all across the town of Jacmel. It was amazing to us- and another day of work to them.

It was the city of Jacmel's birthday and electricity flowed through the city. Literally, elecrticity flowed; the city had power for the whole weekend to celebrate the occasion. Michelle made plans for a few of us to visit the market place festival and then the hospitals since we wouldn't be needed at Hands & Feet. Michelle had a boyfriend she wanted to introduce us to. We were all a bit surpised, and intrigued.

We walked past the no machine guns sign at the front of the hospital gate and through the rows of white tents that now housed the patients since the earthquake had destroyed portions of the hospital.
We walked through one tent where a small girl around the age of 5 or 6 was missing a section of skin from her shoulder and down her arm. With beautiful flowers hanging everywhere around the tents, I figured it used to be a courtyard, and now, it was the Hospital. Flies were hovering around her open wound, and as we paraded passed her through the tent, I don't think anyone had the courage to say a word.

Michelle's boyfriend turned out to be staying in a children's hospital. This hospital had a few rooms with dozens of metal hospital beds lined up like around the sides creating a race track for the nurses to navigate. Her man: a 2 year old boy who had lost his eyesight. She would lean in and talk to him, and he would just smile and laugh. This got all the other children in the hospital laughing, and made me smile for the young boy, whose life was being made better through Michelle, but devastated for these children.

There was no waiting room for parents to sit and family members to visit wondering whether or not their child was going to recover. For these infant patients, this was their home for the moment and the nurses were the only love they knew. As I walked out I noticed a small poster hanging on the wall. It was a locker hanging of the nickelodeon character iCarly. Depressing.

So much of the Hands & Feet would move from practical, helpful, and concrete steps to improve the place, while other things were much more thought provoking and abstract in the effect it had on the children, and mostly, on us. We were deeply affected by the people of Jacmel and the daily fight for survival.

We hopped back in a pick up truck and headed back to prepare for our trip to the beach. I had a thought as we were driving past the tap taps on the road, "How do you get 45 people to the beach in a 12 passenger van?"

8. The Beach

Since we'd been gone on our trip, all the children that were going to the beach, had already changed into swimsuits and had their towels around each neck. They were ready! Michelle told us when she first started taking them to the beach, they were terrified, because the children had never been exposed to something like that before. Reminder: Haiti is an island. The ocean is everywhere. How sad to think that a few miles away might as well be a lifetime.

27 people in total went to the beach. 9 grown adults and 18 children: in one min-van. Personal space is not an understood or practiced philosophy in Haiti, or Hands and Feet for that matter. Someone is always close by, and by close- I mean right on top of you. After a while, you realize that everyone is sweaty, and you can't escape, so you might as well deal with it. I sat in the front middle seat of the driving bench with a stick shift in front of me, and the ceiling of the van pressing down on my neck. My head was crooked over and I just prayed for small pot holes and quick travel. I later found out, we passed up two closer beaches that were only minutes away, so we could go to the "nice" beach.

As my realigned spine unfolded and we slid out the front door, we watched the others unpack much like a clown car on to the beach. We counted, double counted, and triple counted. Then we walked single file to the beach. I felt like I was in elementary school, and wished I was the line leader. The kids, were well, kids. They played in the water. One little boy brought a toy soldier with a motorcylcle and that terrorized most of the shoreline with his sound effects and endless gasoline supply. That toy must have excellent fuel efficiency. It was fun to watch him play.

We threw football, dove through the waves, and even kicked some of their football. The waves were small and the ocean was very warm. The sand was odd too. It looked like sand, and acted like sand, but it felt like mud. The kids didn't care; they screamed when the waves would hit them, and always wanted you to hold their hands. And... we did.

On the way home I sat in the first row of the back seat. Three guys sat on the bench, and four or five children sat between, around, or on us. One little girl in front of me fell asleep with her head on my leg. At first I was extremely uncomfortable with the whole thing, but then I had a thought: I wonder if this child had ever fallen asleep in someones arms. With only so many arms and laps to go around and 40 plus children, I can't imagine this opportunity happens too often. I can't think of a better feeling than being a child falling asleep in a parents arms. At home, I sometimes watch my daughters sleep, and listen to them breathe. I imagined them playing at the beach and falling asleep as we drove home with four people in a four person car seated in a child's safety seat. I think the happiness that I saw was the same, but the realities very different. I was ready to get home to my reality, and my children and wife, but didn't mind watching this little girl peacefully sleep in a wet smelly car of 27 people in a minivan after being at the beach.

We got back to the orphanage around 5pm to a few missed phone calls from my wife.

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