Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7, Santiago, following Talien.

Monday, February 7th - an auspicious, historical date and all staff arrived late. No camionets running, students turned back home, schools closed, burning barricades and projectiles which include bottles, rocks and bullets. To-day we should be celebrating the departure of the old government and welcoming the new. But the old doesn't want to relinquish power so the new remains undecided. Last week's 'moment' wasn't enough - too little, too late. Leave, the people say. It's past time.  Jack just returned from the street - all stores are closed so we have one  bottle of potable water til tomorrow. We use ten per day.

Thursday morning (Feb 3rd) Auguste and I had descended the street in search of a taxi. We were heading for the bus station, destination Santiago, Dominican Republic for home and school visits for our university students there. Twice during the week,  Jack had helped repair the street for passage. The rocky, pitted surface still demanded full attention. 

Jack (red shirt) helps to open our  street for pedestrians.
Everyone was tired. Staff had arrived before 7 a.m. after a night spent waiting for election run off results. The promised announcement was again delayed. Then as we walked, an experience to be savored. All 'bri' ( noise) seemed to stop - no horns honked, no voices called. Radios broke the silence - portable and car - blaring from everywhere. 'S'ak pase?' (What's happening?) we called out. It was the long awaited announcement, a surprise in the timing. No one on the street moved. The results - Martelly, the people's choice, was in the run off. A cheer from what seemed like the country,  followed by everyone talking and laughing at the same time. A moment of euphoria. The voice of the people had been heard.

After a long and tiring bus trip to Santiago we settled in and began visits. We managed to share a meal although everyone arrived and departed at different times. No group picture.  Jhennie is in 2nd year Business Administration at UTESA, Marlene and Elorge are 2nd year Pre-Med at PUCMM. All have been in Santiago for longer periods as programs require intensive Spanish. We have learned a great deal from their experiences and the next students we send will have the benefit. Jhennie exhibits the distinctive edema of wet malnutrition - a student diet of less expensive carbs, no funds for the more necessary but expensive proteins. She is very uncomfortable in her skin.

Elorge and Jhennie share experiences. Marlene was writing an exam,
Friday morning breakfast then off to see Jhennie's apartment, followed by a trip to UTESA (Universidad Technologica Santiago). Jhennie shares a 2 bedroom apartment on the top floor of a 6 story walk-up with 3 other Haitian students. Like all of our post secondary students who are obliged to leave Cap, Jhennie sleeps in a bed for the first time in her life. She shares the bedroom with one other person. The living room contains 2 plastic chairs - no work/study/rest space. A table, desk and laptop are needed.  We're working on that. A sofa and chair would be luxuries.
Reviewing Jhennie's message to her sponsor.

Jhennie and Auguste take a break on Campus.

For  three days I had the luxury of walking everywhere, something I am unable to do in Cap for security reasons. What a sense of freedom in the simple act of walking. Jhennie headed to class at noon and Elorge joined us for a sandwich then shopping. He knows the city well and proved a great guide. We made bulk purchases: pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners and highlighters. Backpacks were simply too expensive - the equivalent of $40 USD each. If anyone has a connection with the companies which make high quality backpacks, let me know or feel free to contact on our behalf. (Jansport, Columbia, High Sierra and ???) Less expensive items give out within weeks - victims of the climate and load.

Saturday morning Marlene was available so both she and Elorge made video messages for their sponsors. Jhennie had a day long seminar. Like Jhennie, they were very self-conscious of the video process - a new experience, but in each case it showed the amazing young adults these 'starfish' have become.
A rare moment of relaxation - Auguste, Marlene, Elorge
Their lives are difficult and busy - there is no social life. The idea of a Lakay in Santiago was raised as rents keep increasing. Another good idea for someone who reads this, as we have more students headed for university there.  We happened to pass a small, neat house for sale just blocks from the two campuses.

Travel is always an opportunity to reflect. What a gift these young people are receiving and what a gift they are already giving to their community here. Thank you, sponsors - Jeff, Marjorie, Sharon and families.

I would be remiss if I didn't follow-up our visit to Talien's ti kay. He had owner's permission to clean and paint so we arranged a work team Saturday morning (video below).

Many stopped by to see what was happening and everyone asked if we could do their place next. No one offered to help. We donated 2 plastic chairs and a small table - he thought he had won the lottery. The danger now is theft - everyone knows what he has acquired.

Jack and Talien packing sleeping carpet

Lusmond after hospital visit.
During the week he picked up the sleeping carpet we purchased. His brother Lusmond accepted our offer of a hospital visit for his eye problems. Tuesday he had a consult with the Opthalmology Dept. He has a followup to-day.

Due to the unanticipated school holiday, we are very busy. Auguste has gone to transfer funds to our students in Port-au-Prince so I am looking after the office. Joceline is making sandwiches, Carmene is baking a cake, Jack is out looking for staples as Myriame, Carline and Mackdalene have arrived with books to cover and every stapler is empty.  

Elines has just arrived from Sen Rafayel for a consult to-morrow, also in the Opthalmology department. Teeth and eyes - we never catch up. The good news - we have Rose-Guerlande, studying Spanish and waiting for sponsors to enter Dental School at PUCMM in Santiago and Edwina has announced she wants to become an Opthalmologist after secondary studies.

More later
Kenbe pa lage


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