I realized recently that I have done a poor job of introducing the characters of this story. I have mentioned people here and there, but I have not taken the time to tell about them. First there's Joel. Joel's official title is Director of Haiti Operations for Esperanza, a broad title for a broad job. He does so many things, he is constantly on the phone or computer coordinating people. Joel is in charge of all the food distributions, donations and Haitian Operations. He grew up in Port-au-Prince then moved to the Dominican Republic for college and work, he moved back here when he took his current position. Joel is fluent in French, Spanish, Creole, and English, though his English slang needs some work, his efforts are entertaining.
The owner of the house we are staying in is Dr. Elly, but we just call him Doctor. He sent his family to live with relatives in Canada after the earthquake, he chose to stay and help. He's a busy man and we don't see him much, most of the work he has been doing lately is all volunteer. One of the first days we were here we were driving with the Dr. and we went to a second house he owned and rented out. It was the first time he'd seen the place since Jan 12th and it was completely destroyed. He walked around assessing the damage and taking a few photos, then he got back in the car and just laughed. I asked how he could laugh at something like that and he said, "Well, I can't cry, I still have my family."
Then there's "the driver", or at least that's what we called him until recently because we couldn't understand him when he said his name. It's Jaw Marie, apparently a common name in Haiti. He is the father of the three little boys we live with. He practices his English all day when he's not driving, just reading straight out of the dictionary. It's really impressive, I think he's learned more English since we've been here than I have Creole, and I think I've made good progress.
The three boys are Samuel, Uro, and Benjiang (I'm sure they'll forgive my spelling), and they are 4, 6, and 8. They are the funniest little boys, and I think they're my favorite part of Haiti, they're always ready to play when we get home. It's amazing how well we've gotten to know each even though we can't speak each other's language. Their mother we call momma partly because we can't understand her name and partly because she likes it. And she really is our Haitian mom, making sure we eat enough and drink lots of water. She always goes on and on to us in Creole, which I like, it's a needed reminder that we're in their country and their culture and we need to learn the language. Momma also has an older son, he's 18 and I'm ashamed to say I don't know his name. I've asked him a hundred times, but it's too hard to understand and now I've been here so long it'd be embarrassing to ask, but we're still friends.
There's another family that lives on the property here in a separate house. All the locals that were here for the initial earthquake sleep outside, except the Dr., but he doesn't really sleep. A couple other people have come to live with us, Jack who we're working with installing water filters, and Joel's sister, Katie. People come and go regularly, it's like living in a hostel. I thought this would be uncomfortable, but I actually love it. It's a beautiful thing when people from different cultures, nationalities, ages and races live in the same house, sharing meals and bathrooms and living spaces. Not only do I not mind, I prefer it, I think people should live together and share their lives.
The past few days we have done quite a bit of work, installing a water filter at Port-au-Prince General Hospital and preparing to install five more over the next five days. On Friday we hung out with kids at Child Hope. We were supposed to be leading activities, but the kids sensed our weakness and chaos ensued. Kids were marking the cement with chalk, but that quickly turned into face paint. Before long kids were running around with faces colored, shirts coming off. I'm not much of a disciplinarian so I just let it go and broke up fights, I think it's good to go crazy sometimes. I feel really good about finally having a busy schedule and forming some resemblance of a routine. Routine is comfortable, but I don't know that it is always a good thing. I hope that I never grow comfortable seeing refugee camps or homeless people. I hope that Haitians don't either. It's so tempting to look at the situation here and become hopeless, but the individuals that I have already gotten to know so well restore my hope in people.