Haiti has a way of granting a leave of absence, requested or not. The last 2 weeks have left us incommunicado and we are still without incoming phone service (international), electricity, and running water. We have an internet signal today, at long last, so Hi, Everyone!
Phone Calls To/ From Haiti
Apologies to those who have tried to phone or email. Incoming international calls have been going astray since the phone system was changed in the spring to accommodate the proliferation of cell phones. Internally, we add another digit, 2 for a land line, 3 for a cell phone. We have been assured that international calls use the original number, and however many of us disagree, the system is the system. Internally we also had phone problems last week. Very loud static on phone lines made it difficult to hear. Seems slightly reduced today. (We use Comcel for international / local calls and Digicel for local only.)
Internet and Water Supply
Very high winds affected satellite transmission ( at least we kept receiving error message 506 - satellite link outage). Water is another story. Our taps needed replacing (Again! They were replaced 3 years ago.) as our water had eaten through them. Illustrates nicely the toxicity of our water. Plumber finally arrived and changed them last week. About 15 minutes after he left, I had a major flood on my hands.
I contacted Jack who came and helped mop. We turned off the water and waited for the plumber again. He arrived Saturday at noon (after saying 9 a.m.), then worked for 3 hours and left. Another 10 minutes later, we had another inundasyon (flood). Thankfully Jack was still here so we turned off the water, mopped up, and still await a plumber. (Our regular plumber left town last week and there is just an apprentice doing the work.) We had to take apart and remove the bathroom counter as it was old wood and we couldn't get under it to dry or clean. What a nightmare when finally removed! The house feels much cleaner now. We will dry out the old counter in the sun, cover it with cilotex, then paint and use as a work station for our book program.
Text Book Recycle Program in Sen Rafayel, too
Every summer we clean, repair and recover close to 2,000 text books. The money we save by reusing texts allows us to support more young people. This year we have decided to try to do part of the work at our very small branch office in Sen Rafayel, as we want to do more there. So we sent Rosenie, Erzilia and Edwina by bus to check our the space. They have each worked on our book program previously.
Rosenie is from Sen Rafayel so was very comfortable going. Edwina and Erzilia are both orphans who have never been outside Cap-Haitien. It was a great adventure for them. We just have to purchase a larger table and 4 staff can be accommodated. Rosenie will be heading the program in both locations. We also asked the girls to check out the site re: viability of duplicating the potable water project. (now a program due to the dramatic results)
When I mentioned Killer Mangoes in the previous blog update, I didn't fully realize how literal that was. Our growing season has been altered by the weather. A fierce windstorm last September destroyed what would be our January crop, and our usual July crop has just finished dropping about a month ahead of time. Mangoes drop with such speed that one destroyed the lid on our new plastic garbage pail, another mango went through the windshield of Jackson's taxi and 3 mangoes have punctured the tol (corrugated metal ) roof on our parking space that is used as a work station for the book repair program.
But other than property damage, mangoes literally can kill.: Katya would have been 14 on her birthday. She was diagnosed with diabetes last summer and spent a long time in a coma. Trying to regulate her blood sugar and teach the family the importance of the injection schedule was frustrating for those involved. When the mangoes came early, she ate too many. The result: diabetic coma and death.
When I spoke with her mom last week, she did not comprehend what had happened. She kept saying, "Li pa te gen anyen", literally, "She had nothing -- she was healthy." The mother truly never understood the severity of the diabetes. After Katya was discharged from hospital last summer, she was considered cured by the family. Education is a lifelong process and not just for the young.
Power Outages, Power Surges
We went from no electricity to too much electricity for 3 days last week. EDH gave us power surges starting at midnight; A 7-year-old in our neighborhood was electrocuted. These surges fried 10 of our newly donated energy saver light bulbs and one fan which had been left on. We are back to no electricity so have begun to dedicate the solar power to the fridge as we just did not have the funds to purchase the large amounts of ice needed for the cooler.
Sleeping can be hazardous to your health here, too.
Auguste came to work last week with a sore thumb. Apparently, a rat had bitten his thumb, right through the mosquito netting. We had some of the sticky pads here so sent them home with him , and they caught 3 rats the first night. Our cats do the job here at the house.
Precautions against Kidnapping
In light of the current increase in kidnappings in our immediate area, the staff now stop all unknown vehicles as well as bourets (wheelbarrows) from entering the compound. Any stranger making deliveries will stop outside the gate, and the staff will carry in from there. Auguste is also concerned about folks coming here seeking assistance. Students are not invited in until we have most of their family history and current school information. We can't stop the kidnappings, but we can be more aware.
One more item of interest. The supplies I sent from Canada in November 2007 were finally released by Haiti customs. Seven months is a long wait to get supplies to an island so close to America! We picked them up at CASCO. Although CASCO is functioning again, the time problem has not disappeared nor has the cost. Now, the customs charges (duty) will always be payable here after inspection and before goods are released. Apparently there is no set fee schedule, which slows the process.
Summer heat is upon us as is the humidity. Yet another challenge to keep us on our toes.
Be safe this summer