I’m in charge of blogging while I’m here and now I can attest to how hard it is. You don’t stop, ever, unless you’re sleeping. It’s so hard to sit at the computer to write a blog! By 9am I was informed by my mother that I am already in trouble since I hadn’t yet blogged and I had arrived more than 12hours before….
I know the blog will be reaching a whole new audience of my FB friends so I’m going to start at the beginning and share more of the little things.
The Beginning: My mom came here to Haiti almost 17 years ago to meet her first grandchild. My mom was always asking me to come down to visit. I always had excuses, the most valid being that it was so expensive although the other excuses were more real to me. It’s scary and dirty and there’s bugs in your food and and and. I always said, ‘me spending 5G’s to come there isn’t going to help as much as me giving you the money’. Then in 2003 I earned an Epicure incentive trip on a Caribbean cruise that was leaving out of Miami… I was at the closest point in the US to Haiti so the money excuse didn’t wash any longer. My then husband and I came into Haiti with our two kids, Jared and Alexa, who were 6 and 2. Yousef and I had a week in Haiti and then left the kids behind with my Mom while we went on the Cruise. During that week in Haiti we fell in love with a young boy, Ronel, who was 6. His family had been killed about 6 months before and he was recovering physically from the same bad men attempting to kill him. One of his many injuries was having had his right arm amputated below the elbow. I knew upon meeting Ronel that he was meant to come home with me and we got back to Canada and started on the paperwork. My second visit to Haiti was in December of that same year, 2003, when we came back to spend Christmas with Ronel and my mom. In 2004 Ronel came to live with us in Canada and the recovery work and family bonding work began. We’ve never been back to Haiti since. It was just never the right time, until now. Jared and Ronel are now 14 and Alexa turns 10 next week.
Sooo. This trip. I could lie and say my boys were so excited to come and were happy to be allowed to bring only a carry-on for themselves and happily lugged 2 heavy suitcases of donations for others. I could lie and say they never once asked ‘what will I do there’ or said ‘ya, nice vacation, I have to work there you know’ when people asked them about their upcoming trip. I could lie and say that I didn’t hear ‘enough with the guilt trip mom, geez’ or that I wasn’t worried about how they’d react or if they’d sit sullenly in the corner playing games on their phones. I DID say to people, I’ve tried to raise them to be compassionate & good people although I’m not sure how it will go AND I hope they come back different people than the grumpy complaining boys I’m heading down with’. By 7pm last night (we arrived at 4pm) I knew they were already irrevocably changed! Within an hour of arriving the boys were playing with the kids and Jared had one permanently attached to his shoulders. It was very gratifying to know that the lessons I’ve attempted to teach them had snuck in somewhere and that although I couldn’t see the evidence of it regularly at home it was there and sprung from them when they got here. WHEW!! I KNEW Alexa would do fine. She was counting down the months, then weeks, then days until she could get here to play with the children. She’s been a mommy since we first got here and always has a baby in her arms and a gaggle of children around her.
Getting here…. We arrived with 8 big suitcases and 8 carry-ons, 4 people. Mom told me before coming that the boys would ride in the bed of the truck, one was excited, one said ‘omg, I’m gonna die’. I pictured a BIG pickup… NOPE! I’d say it’s about a ½ size pickup bed. How in the world would we get that luggage plus 7 people the 3+ hours to the compound… Well we did it! Mom and Luckner (her Haitian Director/right hand) in the front, Lex and I and all the carry-on’s in the back seat and the boys plus the armed guard on the suitcases in the back. Since we had no sunscreen accessible the ‘blancs’ (white people) took turns with Jared so no one person would be crispy fried upon arrival. It ROCKED!! Much better than riding in a Tap Tap which is the Haitian mode of transport and often involves pigs and chickens in the same vehicle, dead or alive. We travelled through much of Port au Prince running a couple errands before we headed toward the compound. Vendors are crowded on the sides of the narrow streets and people walk only inches from moving vehicles. From my view in the back of the vehicle I finally understood how come there are not public beaches. As we approached the coast all you saw was concrete walls, each bit of coast fully blocked off by private residences.
|All of Us on the Ride Home|
|Lex, I, and the Policeman|
|On the Streets of Port|
|Walls Blocking Beaches|
Costs. Anyone stuck on Armed guards still? Yup, you read that right. Anytime they have to go to Port au Prince they take the armed guard with them. He’s a policeman that mom hires to protect them. This is when I realize that having us come here costs a lot. I knew it had costed me ~$3,000 for the tickets + hotel (I used points for most of it) and many other hundreds for things I brought down that I paid for. In my self-absorbed world I didn’t think about the other costs and felt pretty foolish getting here without US funds to hand my mom when I realized! From the $100 a day for the guard (2 ways cause he has to come when we leave too), to the gas to get us, to the ladies that will go to the market for food and then to prepare the food on the weekends (a big meal for tonight will take the two of them most of the day) and the laundry lady needing to come in, and the cook needing to stay longer every day (and that’s just the costs I’ve discovered in 24hrs) and all those costs do not come from the orphanage donations. Visiting work teams pay their own way and I think cause I was family my mom thought I just knew these things…
The little things: When entering the compound you have your hands drizzled with Clorox water to kill anything you may have picked up elsewhere so you don’t get the kids sick. The sign at the bathroom that says ‘remember we are on Septic’ means something very different than at home! They don’t have pumper trucks so you can’t flush your paper after you blow your nose and when us girls wipe up #1 we have to put our toilet paper in the garbage. I’m really bad at remembering that so far! When you eat you rinse your bowl ASAP and pick every crumb off the floor or we’ll have ants and cockroaches by morning. The shower gets you clean even though there is no shower head and it’s just a pipe sticking out of the wall. Kids play soccer on rocks and often in bare feet. Mosquito’s will eat you alive immediately at sundown. Honking is a way of life here, get used to it. Even at 3am. Garbage is everywhere, there is nothing like an organized dump in Haiti. Goats etc eat anything that is edible, so your banana peels and any other food waste is put to good use! Everything else you burn. At 5am the rice mill starts up, it jolts you out of a deep sleep (well sort of a deep sleep cause you’ve just fallen back to sleep after over an hour of honking) and it sounds like gunshots until it warms up and finds it’s rhythm. Ronel thought it was gangs killing each other. After that it lulls you to sleep and drowns out the roosters.
Goats… I heard last week I was helping with the goat project when I got here. Fabulous, couldn’t wait. Match the goats to families, take photo’s, email those photos to people. Got it. Simple. I can do that. HA!! Nothing is simple, this is Haiti! I think the $70 that people pay to give a goat is a steal of a deal. Holy smokes! More info to come on this project. It involves goat wrangling, lots of bleating (and not just the goats), poop, burn piles and plastic (remember how I said goats eat anything?), machetes, buckets, stakes, mallets, brooms, rashes and thieves and we’ve not even had anyone come to get their goats yet… More to follow on this later! While getting the goats at Luckners we had a short visit to the radio station he has in his house. So far he has a huge audience although only one advertiser, so he’s funding it on his own.
|Truck with 13 Trussed up Goats|
Ronel’s statement today – I’ll never again complain about the quality of the soccer fields at home. Jared’s: I’m taking this one (Judel) home with me. Alexa: Mommy, look at the baby (said about 18x regarding any number of children)
The boys have gone to watch a Real Madrid vs ? soccer game this afternoon and I’m learning to perm my mom’s hair. I hope mom doesn’t hold the results against me…