Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unfinished business, Water and Mountains

The one constant in Haitian life is that everything can and will change very quickly. Last week the price of gas rose. Monday brought raises in fares on all forms of public transportation: buses, taxi-moto, tap-tap, taxi-boat and taxi. Drivers have to pass on the increase or go out of business. Monday all staff arived late as none could find transportation. Many drivers stayed home and the situation continues to deteriorate. Port-au-Prince has been the site of protests (manifestasyon-yo) and the 2 topics of conversation everywhere are  the price of gas and waiting for election results. Kolera, thank goodness is a distant third. All of our post-secondary students live on extremely tight budgets, but for those in Haiti - Gaby, Brunie, Wisly, Alland, Peterson, Weby-Schneider, Plenito, Micheline, Althega, Danius, Gabriel - depending on public transit to get to and from class and for some their practicums (staj-la),  funds were used up before month end and raises are needed to cover increases.

Election results were promised for Mar. 31 so we planned our week accordingly, as did the schools. Several announced closures in anticipation of demonstrations. Now we are told results will come Monday, April 3rd - perhaps. In connection with the impending election result,  it has also been announced that all work contracts on roads and canals in the country are finished and equipment  recalled as of Sunday. That leaves our corner (and the entire stretch of Rue L) unfinished and impassable by vehicles, canals filled with garbage (fatra-a) It leaves the canals on the main street of  Sen Rafayel  unfinished. It leaves many of the main streets in Cap sitting unfinished, blocked with large holes and /or small mountains of gravel.  Deye mon gen mon. (Behind every mountain there is another mountain)  Tout bagay tet anba kooniye a la. (Everything is still  upside down here).

I think we broke a record Sunday for travelling up and down Granjil mountain to Sen Rafayel.  Round trip took just over 5 hours - usually it takes 6. We were euphoric. I know that doesn't seem like a record for 56 kilometers but if you have a minute, click on the video and come along for a brief stretch.

Early in the trip, the theme of water presented itself and recurred throughout the day. The river, which causes death and destruction when inflated by rains, was tranquil and pastoral. It is the only source of water for those living on the mountainside. Animals and humans alike bathed. All along the route laundry was being done, containers of all  description were being filled  for multi purposes. 

Low levels of water - waiting for rain. Always too little or too much.

This young man was gathering drinking water in a filthy bottle.
He told us he washed the clothes because 'manman mouri' (Mother is dead)

Bath time

Just south of the gates to Sen Rafayel (.5 km if you google earth) we stopped to look at a piece of land. The land was too small for our needs however there was another parcel behind it also for sale, so we took the time to measure.  When we pulled into the village, the new water supply was the site of bustle - bathing, drinking, doing laundry, filling containers. The water source has been opened up in response to the cholera epidemic. However, the water gushes out for several hours, turning everything around it to mud, making bathing a challenge. Late in the day it is turned off, and at night it sits, a site for mosquitoes (marengwen) and by extension malaria to breed. 

Jack (yellow shirt) and Auguste (cap) measure land.

On to the office and 14 interviews, 12 new and 2  graduates. We are still working our way through last summer's waiting list, checking in with those for whom we had no funds in September.They are the faces of our waiting list.  They'll take any support offered. No surprise everyone was sitting in on classes, no text books, fees unpaid.  As 2nd trimeste is coming to a close, I asked which would be better - to be enrolled now or to start the new year with supplies and uniforms. Why did I ask? Without exception, everyone replied "It's better for me to keep going. If I stop, my life stops."

Wensky, Vilsaint, Dahendie -Lycee Charlemagne Perault

Siseline and Venise sign contracts.
Centre Classique Le Phare

Mexene and Guerda-College Le Genie

We also followed up with 2 of last year's grads. What a meaningful phrase - "last year's grads".  My enthusiasm for this work is always renewed when I look at the results - high school graduates!! And it doesn't stop there! Louisena still wants to enter nursing but her father is dead and mother is very ill. As the oldest she feels she must be close by. There is a  new nursing school in Cap-Haitien. If the diploma is recognized by the state, she'll write the entrance exams. She has had a dental problem for over a year now, so to-day she came into Cap to gather information for the nursing program and we provided a referral form and funds to travel to Milot for dental work. Louisena has been with Starthrower since before it had a name. Likewise Osner is an original Starfish. His dream is to study Agriculture. like Louisena, he has severe dental problems. 2 of his front teeth have been pulled and he is very self consciouss, so taking a picture is a challenge.

Osner-grad 2009 - waiting
to study Agronomie

Louisena -grad 2010-Waiting to
study nursing.

Interviews over, lists made out for staff, medical bills paid, uniform funds distributed, we pack up the truck to head out. We travel with a cooler filled with bottled water
Djohn wraps the remaining ice many times
to preserve it as long as possible.

and Tampico, a juice beverage as well as sandwiches made by our short order cook (me) at 5 in the morning. Jack is allergic to peanuts and Djohn to eggs and other dairy so food reflects that.  We cool with ice cubes purchased at the gas station in Cap-Haitien (whenever available). Whatever bottles remain we leave for the staff, with any leftover ice. I watched Djohn wrap the remaining ice as though it was precious, which it is. In a village which only recently  received a communal water supply, limited and untreated but available without charge, a cold drink is not even on the radar.   As we headed out, the community was coming to-gether for water to get them through the night. The pump was due to be turned off.

We intruded on this community scene.
Down the mountain, laundry dotted hills and valleys. Clusters of people gathered on roadsides, talking. Sunday coming to a close. Down the mountain in record time, after tricky navigation, we turned onto our street, Impasse Soeurs Missionaires. The  cleanup work begun with anticipation of a healthier place,  is now in jeopardy. The canal, which the project was supposed to clean up,  stands today as a festering monument to politics as usual.

Our canal - no clean water here.

Clean water - the gift of life - should not be a privilege, or if so a privilege for everyone not just a few.  Our young people come in to our Cap center daily to fill their gallon jugs with potable water. They have to walk past this to get to it. They take it in stride as many live in situations far worse.

Electricity (another gift) is flickering. Best save before lost.

Pi ta


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