Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the last week

I can't believe it's been nearly a week since I posted. Time is really flying and I know the next two weeks will fly by until I leave. I am a little sad about leaving, I feel like I could stay longer, but that changes hourly. This week I am a first grade teacher, substituting at Child Hope. It's only a couple of hours each day, but it feels like a days work. I have a new found respect for grade school teachers. While it is hard work it's also so rewarding and I'm so glad to have a flexible enough schedule that I can fill in. There's only six kids in the class, but they are a handful. I think they are just pushing to see where the limits are. The kids actually speak really good English they just have trouble with pronunciation and sentence structure so we worked on that most of the time yesterday. They are really sweet kids, and smart too.

I heard a story from one of the house moms at the orphanage that I think is worth sharing. She told me that there are few brothers that were given a home at the same time. The brothers look after each other more than most because they have experienced life on the streets together. She said that when she gives one of the brothers food that boy won't eat until his brother gets one. Or if only one boy is given something he will wait to eat it until they are together and give him half. I want to know love like that. Love that refuses the self until it knows another is taken care of.

Luke and I have found a new hang out at our house, the roof. Where we are staying is up on a hill already so once we're above the height of the other houses we can look down on the city and then the port. The other direction is a backdrop of mountains. The sunsets are magnificent from that vantage point so I'm making a point to watch as many as I can.

Last Saturday, we helped unload a shipment of donations. It was a rather hilarious sight watching the drivers try to back a semi through this tiny gate. First a tree branch had to be cut down to make room, which was done by a barefoot guy who climbed into the tree with an axe. After using an axe for a while the strategy shifted to a machete hacking away at this thick tree branch. Once the path was cleared it took the driver nearly half an hour to finagle the truck in. This stopped traffic in both directions creating a line of honking cars for as far as we could see. Some of the guys put twigs and small rocks in the road to block traffic, a good strategy, but I think the semi would have sufficed. Meanwhile a crowd of probably 50 people had gathered to find out what the commotion was. Apparently it was more entertaining than anything else because the group stayed to watch us unload.

As we unloaded the goods, mostly food, water, clothing, and a few crutches and wheelchairs, people sat around asking for things and making jokes. It was so frustrating working hard to unload all of this stuff when the people it was intended for just watched. I am ashamed to admit I lost my cool and yelled at some guys at one point, I yelled in English, but I'm pretty sure they got the point. It started raining as we finished and by the time we got in the car it was pouring, that's when I realized the keys had fallen out of my pocket. It was dark by then so we searched in the rain by car headlights for the keys ("karma", I thought as I stood scanning the ground in the downpour). We didn't have any luck so someone hot wired our truck for us- another life skill I'll leave here with. Luckily the key was found the next day.

We have also continued maintenance on the sun springs and more importantly trained Harry, the maintenance man when we leave. Harry's a great guy and we've got to know him really well in working with him. He is really helpful in learning about this culture. He showed us his house, at least what's left of it, and we got to meet his family. Harry's using the wooden boxes that sun springs are shipped in to build a house because his was destroyed in the earthquake. Thankfully none of Harry's family was harmed in the quake. He did show us a tiny hole in the rubble of a neighbor's house where he had climbed in and tried to help get her out. They were able to get her out over a week later, but she didn't make it. While the new house is under construction Harry and his family stay in a tent in front of their old house.

The house we are staying in has gone from house to hostel and now to warehouse. Many of the goods from the latest shipment have come here until they are distributed to the community, and the boys we live with have benefited. They now have new clothes, shoes other than sandals, and a variety of new food to try. It's really cool getting to see people's donations being used first hand. Although the boys did spend more time playing in the empty card board boxes than with their new toys, oh the joy of simplicity.

Well that's it for now. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shit water

I got out of the car, took a step without looking, and walked into the gutter. The water should have been less thick, less smelly. "Is that shit?" I asked. In a thick Haitian accent, "Yes, that is (eez) shit (sheet) water (wata). But it's ok", said a Haitian man nearby. This is the reality of Haiti right now, shit flows in the streets, but it's ok. I am continually struck by people adapting to their circumstances and making the most of them.

Over that last week or so we have been checking in on the Sunsprings that we have installed and doing routine maintenance. We are training Haitians to do maintenance for when we leave. It is really fun to see all the people that are benefitting from these things, I'm so glad I am able to play a part. We are waiting for four more to arrive and Luke and I will install those. We have also been able to spend time down the street at the orphanage, playing basketball with the kids, substitute teaching, and leading a rec time. I love the balance of the two places I'm spending my time. There's the practical, but impersonal side with the water, and then a chance to just play with kids.

I bought my plane ticket and I'll be back in Denver April 13. I actually wasn't as excited as I thought I would be when booked it, I could stay longer. There's a chance I'll be coming back, though, but we'll see. For now our work here is winding down and I'm excited to go home.

Oh and by the way, to add insult to injury, I dropped a water bottle in the shit water and splashed on my legs. This is Haiti.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I was riding around the other day really feeling sorry for myself because I had been in the car all day, it was hot, the fumes were making light headed, and I hadn't had lunch. Then I smelled this horrible smell. Outside my window was this raw chicken that looked like it had been out all day in the heat and now flies swarmed it. On the same table as the chicken rested a woman's arm and on her arm rested her head, face down. She was clearly exhausted from the heat and probably discouraged that her product hadn't sold. Just past this woman on the opposite side of the road we passed some women covered head to foot in black soot. They were selling charcoal and sat right on their stockpile staring at the ground. Past these were men scooping a massive pile of trash that had collected in the street, like it so often does in Haiti. After they scoop one pile they jump in the back with all the trash and sit right on top until the next pile. Then on the same street a little further down a team of students was cleaning rubble, entire buildings worth of rubble. They were moving the debris using only shovels and wheelbarrows. Ive been told they make roughly five dollars a day. This is all on one street in Port-au-Prince.

Needless to say my day started looking much better once I became more aware of my surroundings. I hope I will remember these people the next time I go to a job I don't really care for, or the next time I'm tempted to complain.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today I spent the day studying because I'm taking a couple of online classes and needed to catch up. I also went for a run and stopped along the way to hang out without some kids which was great. When I run around the neighborhood I get alot of strange looks and a few people shout things at me, but for the most part people are really nice once I stop and say hi. Yesterday I taught a class at Child Hope and then got to help with their feeding program, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they provide a meal for neighborhood kids. It's a great ministry, over 50 kids come each time. Afterward, I got to play basketball and soccer with the kids.

Sunday night Luke and I were downtown by the capitol and ventured into a tent city that's nearby. It was late, around 11 so we were apprehensive at first, but we decided to go ahead. Everyone was really friendly we ended up hanging out with a few of the people. We talked with them as best we could, bummed a couple cigarettes and then played some music and had a quick dance party. People started coming out to see what was going on, around 20 or 30 people were hanging around. It was such a cool experience, one of my favorites of the trip and there has been many. I felt for the first time that I was on the same level as these people who now find themselves homeless, we were able to connect as people and as friends, rather than someone coming to do a job.

Tomorrow we are going back to a few of the sights where we have installed Sunsprings to train people on maintenance of the machines.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Outside the City

This week I was able to get away from Port-au-Prince a couple of days. The first time on Wednesday when I visited Albert Schweitzer hospital to do a site evaluation for a possible location of a Sunspring. Most of the week was spent visiting sites where we have installed Sunsprings or evaluating possible future sights, while we wait for more units to be shipped. Albert Schweitzer is a couple hours from the city, it's a beautiful drive up the coast to get there. Once there, we got a tour of the community and then the hospital. The hospital, I'm told, is one of the biggest best in Haiti. They have experienced a larger than usual amount of patients since the earthquake.

As we were shown the facilities we saw burn victims, amputees, and sick patients, the sights were devastating. Patients laid in the hallway because of a lack of rooms. Most of the patients care was left up to the families as the staff was too busy. We were told that the hospital has been forced to turn patients away because of a lack of resources to care for all of them. My heart broke for all the injuries we saw but the most heart-wrenching came at the sight of the newborn babies. In one room there were 6 newborns, not more than a few weeks old. Most of them were born prematurely and it showed in their size. Some of them looked as if they could fit in the palm of my hand. All of the babies had tubes and monitors coming out of them and we were told that some weren't expected to make it. I did not ask what caused the babies to be born premature or where their families were, I was too overwhelmed to speak at all.

The hospital also had an area the was separated from the rest of the hospital that was home to the tuberculosis patients. It was hard to see people kept isolated from the rest of the world because of a curable disease. The sights of the hospital and the emotions they evoked are difficult to describe because they were so powerful, yet our stay was so brief. It was an unforgettable experience nonetheless.

Luke and I got motorcycles to make it easier to get around. On Friday, we put the bikes to the test and headed up the coast away from Port-au-Prince to the beaches. Getting out of the city was a mixture of fear and excitement as we weaved in and out of the hectic traffic on the lawless roads. Once out the city though, we were able to relax and enjoy the countryside. We saw mostly dry, dusty hills, however in places we saw areas that epitomized the tropics with fields of banana, mango, and coconut trees. It was evening while road so we were able to see the sky turn from blue to pink to red before the sun sank down into the ocean.

Saturday and part of today was spent relaxing on the beach and swimming in the ocean. I am so thankful for the rest after the craziness of the last month. We drove back today renewed for continuing our work here. We made it back to the house with only one near death experience. This week we will be preparing and then installing more Sunsprings. Four more are set to arrive this week and four more the next. Hopefully, more will be donated so that we can continue to provide safe water for those who are without.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

From Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost For His Highest":
Acts 20:24 "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself."
"It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common-sense basis."

I read this a couple days ago and it has occupied my mind ever since. I am the "leasure-hearted", I seek first to be "more prosperous and successful", and "common sense is (my) guide". I dance around the call for my life so that I may use the excuse of uncertainity. My life is about me far more than anyone else. I have never been more aware of this fact than here, amongst the mass destruction and suffering. I see people starving and homeless, yet I worry about my own mere discomfort. I view the need here as somehow secondary to my own. I say that I want to change my heart, but do I really? These are simply words. Please pray that I will one day give up and surrender so that I too may experience what it is to "neither count I my life dear unto myself."

Here's a link to a blog that I've been asked to work on for the Sunspring. It's a more in-depth look into what we have been working on over the past week.

Friday, March 5, 2010

quick update

I don't have a ton of time, but I just wanted to add a quick update. This week has been really busy as we are trying to install five water filters in five days. We have done four so far and today the fifth is scheduled. It's been a lot of work, but so rewarding. The hard but is not the actual assembly, but the logistics. We have to find the location, make sure it will used and secure, and then find a raw water source. Yesterday we installed two, one of those being at Steppe Theological Seminary. They have a walled off facility and outside the wall is a massive slum surrounding the area. The filter is inside the wall with a line going out to serve the community. Within a minute of finish and having clean water people were running (I'm not exaggerating) with bottles and buckets to get water. A huge line formed, there's little doubt that this system will be used. It was so gratifying to be a part of that and see all those that would benefit.

Besides water installation, we've spent a little bit of time at the orphanage playing with kids and leading activities. The few hours we have spent there are much more exhausting than all the hours installing water systems, but in a different way. The kids are so hungry for attention and they crave someone to simply play with them and spend time with them. It is exhausting, but time well spent for sure. I hope to have a bit more time this weekend to post more.