Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two weeks in

We had our first near death experience since we arrived, or I should say Luke did. Saturday we were driving across town and I was sitting in the back seat and Luke was in the middle beside me. I was staring out of the window not paying attention and I heard a scream of shear terror. I looked thinking we were about to be in a head on collision. We pulled over and Luke and Joel jumped out of the car, I was still oblivious. It turns out a spider had landed on Luke's leg...

Last night I experienced an earthquake for the first time. I am told that there has been a few in the two weeks since we arrived, but this was the first one that I didn't sleep through. It's a strange and awful feeling awaking to a shaking house. There was two within about an hour of each other. In the morning I was told it was a 4.0 magnitude. I can't say whether there was further damage in the city, there didn't appear to be as we drove around today. I think that there's been so many aftershocks since the initial earthquake that what is still standing is strong enough to withstand the smaller shakes. I really cannot imagine how traumatizing the earthquakes must be to those who have experienced all of them.

Yesterday, Luke and I were able to be a part of some really exciting work. We helped install a water filtration system called a Sunspring that will provide 5000 gallons of clean water a day, and it is designed to last for years. The Sunspring has a solar powered battery that filters water from any raw water source through two filters. The inventor of the technology is staying in the same house we are for the next two weeks while he installs more of the systems. We will help him and learn the set up process so that, hopefully, when he leaves we'll be able to assemble the filters. The Sunspring we installed yesterday was for an orphanage that is home to 600 kids, and will be growing to over 1000 in the near future. As we built the system people started bringing the 5 gallon containers and the moment it was ready the machine was put to use. I am so thankful I got to be a part of that.

Later in the day we had the opportunity to play basketball at the orphanage near where we are staying. On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays we'll be leading activities for the kids in afternoon. Also, we will be filling in as teachers when needed. Tomorrow, I'm teaching an English class to 3rd and 4th graders, that should be an adventure.

Today we were supposed to install another water purification unit, this one at University of Miami Hospital, but the site was not ready so we must go back tomorrow. The hospital is a few tents set up on airport property, but they are seeing hundreds of patients a day. The big tents are the hospitals and surrounding smaller tents are the temporary homes of doctors and nurses. One tent serves as a morgue.

Sunday night I had the opportunity/misfortune of having a conversation with an assistant to the Prime Minister of Haiti. The other night he was over at the house that we are living in with Joel's sister. When he left Luke mentioned that he would like to speak with him, implying an informal conversation. Joel's sister's English isn't great and she took this to mean he wanted an appointment, so she set it up. Luke and I were both surprised when she came and told us he was here so see us. We stumbled at first trying to explain that we hadn't intended for him to come over just for us (this through Joel's interpretation because the assistant speaks French). Finally, we decided that it would be better to pretend we weren't wasting his time than send him away so we told him we wanted to interview him.

So here are two Americans dirty and in T-shirts and shorts faking an interview with an important political figure. We asked hard questions and I think we may have offended him, it's tough to say with the language barrier. We did learn alot though. He claimed that 70% of all aid money sent from America ends up paying staff and other costs and that only the 30% remaining go to help Haitians. He also said that before the earthquake there were 4000 NGOs in Haiti and only 400 had the governments approval. He recognized that Americans do a lot in helping Haitians, but that America is also a major cause to Haiti's problems because over half of Haiti's GDP is given to the US in loan repayment. I can not say whether his claims are true, but he certainly gave me a new perspective on the problems in this country.

We are still working on our old water project of making chlorine. Eventually we'll be attending meetings at the UN to coordinate with other NGOs (non governmental organizations). We will also be helping with more food pack distribution, as well as some of the organizational end of things. We are finding more and more exciting ways to serve, hopefully we'll be able to maximize our time here.

Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement, it means so much.

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