Haiti: Day Six

The posts that follow are a brief description of daily events surrounding an organized trip to Haiti in the summer of 2010. There were 12 of us total plus one reporter from the Daily Journal in Farmington, MO. I have relayed each post as it was written in my journal so please overlook any grammatical errors or crazy talk. I will also try to include pictures along the way.

Saturday, July 10th

Another good day in Haiti! I woke at the customary 6am again. We generally get up right as the generator kicks in at 6am. We headed to breakfast (more eggs and bread) as normal. Last night, right as I was finishing my journal entry, it started raining very hard. We were worried about flooding, but fortunately it didn’t rain very long. I had laid some shorts out to dry (I had washed them in the shower) and they were a little wet, but by morning they were mostly dry. At least I had a good pair of work shorts for today.

My stomach was really hurting this morning. It may have been a result of all the ibuprofen I took yesterday, so I didn’t take any more today. My knee was definitely sore today, but I bandaged it up and it was ready to go.

After breakfast we had our devotional – another good one. This one was on repentance and really hit home with some of the scripture and points in the chapter. I’m finding more and more nuances on The Gospel that I had not discovered before – very cool and a great challenge for me.

We were ready to go to the land today, but the van left to pick up more blocks. So six of the guys went in Gerson’s SUV and the rest of us waited behind. Or so we thought! Gerson came to us and said that were going to take a “TAP TAP” – a taxi. Pretty cool I thought. We waited a bit at the edge of the camp and then Gerson brought a TAP TAP from down the street. We loaded in, including our cooler filled with ice and 150lbs of water. The driver told Gerson it would be one Haitian dollar per person, but when we were all loaded he then said 50 Haitian dollars. A total rip off! When the Haitians see a white person they automatically upcharge everything. So…we unloaded everything and waited for another TAP TAP. Finally one came for a good price and we loaded up. There were about four other Haitians on board already, and I’m sure they wondered what in the heck we were doing there.

The driver took us to the edge of the tend camp/land we needed to go. By the way, a TAP TAP is really nothing more than a short bed pickup (usually a Nissan or Mazda) with a camper shell on the back – you ride in the back – very interesting driving in this with no road rules! We arrived at the road and had to carry the cooler about a 1/4 mile – it was stinkin’ heavy!! When we arrived we expected to see some sand to mix with, but it was supposed to come after awhile.

Our goal today was to finish the fence wire and then build out the rest of the blocks on both sides. A pretty ambitious day planned. Several started working on putting blocks in place, and Ben and I decided we would run the rest of the razor wire. Not sure how smart a decision that was considering yesterday’s knee injury, but it needed to be done so I volunteered. We managed to do a pretty good job putting up the wire and it looked pretty good. We ran out of wire after one side however, and that’s all they had to put up. Hopefully they will get more soon. The only injury on the wire incurred by Ben, who sliced his finger open pretty good. Nothing a good cleanser and band aid couldn’t fix! 🙂

Building blocks by hand takes a very long time. We worked until lunch and then came back to camp. For lunch we had…you guessed it! Chicken and red beans/rice! It’s still good every time I eat it. I’m really enjoying the red beans and rice each day. Gerson stopped and bought all of us a Coke as well. A cold drink tasted fantastic today. I know I mentioned the Haitian dollar which equals 8 to 1 US dollars, but they also use a “Gould” which is 39 to 1 US dollars. Not sure when they use what, but that’s what the sign at the gas station says.

After lunch we headed back to the land to work and alas – no sand! We mixed everything we could but by 3:30pm we were all out of materials and still no sand. We managed to build almost one layer of blocks on the second pad but that was all. Gerson wanted us to build a large 12′ gate as well, but we’re going to tackle that tomorrow. We were supposed to go to the beach tomorrow, but everyone elected to work instead. that will be okay, and good to help them get more work done.

We finished up work at 4:30pm just as the sand pulled in. Oh well…it will just have to wait until tomorrow. The girls had left in the afternoon to go to the tent city nearby to have a party with the kids. Ben had donated $150 to buy drinks, food and different prizes for them. After we finished work we stopped by the tent city to see how they were doing. It was totally awesome! Inside this large tent are were probably 60 kids and many adults. They were all smiling and had some food and drinks in hand. They then started playing music and all of them were dancing and smiling and laughing. A little bit of joy in such a desolate place! Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera since we left our packs locked up in the van. Two things you always have with you and keep an eye on – your pack and your water bottle! Both very important things!

It’s also been cool at the site working with the locals. Several of our guys have the local guys who were working hard food they had brought with them: jerky, crackers, tuna, etc. Tomorrow we are all planning on giving them all of the extra food we have left. Some are also giving up their shoes and gloves. Very cool to give back to a community that has nothing and lives in tents/tarps. They do keep their small areas very clean however and I’ve also noticed that they keep their clothing as clean/neat as possible. Heather told us that having clean clothes is a sign of “higher standing.” This makes sense – the poor only have dirty and little clothing, so it has been and has become a social status. Very sad.

We finished the party and headed back to camp. When we arrived we all decided to walk to the gas station again. Only this time we wanted to try the local beer we had heard about. Each of us bought a “Presitge” beer (local to Haiti) and then a “Presidente” (from the Dominican Republic). Not very good beer but fun to try none the less. And of course the journey to and from the station is always very interesting. I was also able to get some local coffee as well (only ground). Hopefully it will be as good as at camp. Dinner tonight was a nice change of pace – spaghetti!

Tomorrow our plan is to go to church, then the orphanage, and then back to the site to work. Only one more day – it has gone so fast! I’m looking forward to getting home to see my family but will miss this wonderful new culture and the “zamis” we have all met along the way.

More tomorrow!

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