Thursday, October 6, 2011

On the road again

Although leaving Haiti is always emotionally wrenching, a four-month absence provides surprises upon arrival in Canada which briefly take my mind off those I have left behind.  For example,  I forgot that I had been to the laundromat the day before I travelled, and all my "Canada clothes" were clean. Good surprise.  On the kitchen table, a vase filled with beautiful cut flowers with a note from friend and board member Jane saying "Welcome home." Crisp fall weather and clean breathable air. On the down side, four months worth of mail to be sorted, opened and dealt with. The  new phone company had not resumed service as directed, following, disappointingly, in the footsteps of my former provider. Surprises of a prolonged absence.

But  the ups outweigh the downs - electricity, running water, and a library across the street. The abundance of Canada makes me more aware of the poverty of Haiti and my small apartment seems palatial. Rain welcomed me the first night, making the transition easier. In September in Cap-Haitien, we  experienced heavy rains and thunderstorms nightly. Last week we paid a home visit to Ednie, new intake. Once out of the truck, always a source of curiosity to any neighborhood, we navigated narrow passageways and puddles to arrive at the  6 x 8 ft tikay (small house) she shares with a marenn (godmother) and her two young children. It was necessary to duck heads and step down about 18 inches to enter.

The heavy odor of mold/mildew assaulted us and the 2 inches of water puddled on the floor was disconcerting. A water mark from the morning was visible - level with the  top of the step. Because of the area in which they live (Fosenmichel) the rain water was mixed with salt water and erosion of the cement blocks was very evident.   Ednie and 'family' were used to the inundation and  moved through the water as though it was not there.
video



It doesn't take long to inspect one room. Usually Ednie and the younger children sleep on the concrete. However when the rains come everyone huddles on the single bed normally reserved for Mme. No toilet, no kitchen, no electricity, no running water, no personal space.

Visit over, we headed a few blocks away to Aviasyon  to visit Inea and sister Dina to drop off rice, beans and Inea's new backpack filled with text books and other supplies  for the upcoming school year. We didn't get far. With nightly storms, there isn't enough drying time and some areas could not  be reached by truck. We were able to pay a driver to deliver the supplies by motorscooter. The storms continue - unprecedented  for September/October. It will be interesting to see what the rainy season brings.

Puddles everywhere-small children were swimming
and adults  were bathing.
Last week brought good news for Inea. She is tuberculosis negatif. Meds will continue for 3 months then she will be retested. If negative again, she's homefree. Unfortunately the cyst on her thyroid continues to grow, causing difficulty swallowing.  She is scheduled for surgery at Sacre Coeur hospital in Milot on October 28, so my time in Canada will be cut short. Whenever one of our students undergoes surgery, we bring them back to the house for a week to 10 days of post-op care, minimizing the potential for further infection. The caveat is, of course, if a doctor shows up on the scheduled day.

We also visited new intake Suzeline, who lives in the same zone. Another orphan, the single room she shares with brothers, sisters and cousins was so dark, it made videos impossible to view. I used a flash to take some pictures. The only source of illumination was the flashlight in the cell phone I'm holding. It was 10 am on a brilliantly sunny day. The absence  of any light source was  disturbing. I can't imagine living in a state of sensory deprivation day after day. Most disturbing was the open well at ground level in a room across the hall. There was no cover for it and without a light source, a child could easily fall in.
                               
Light from cell phone flashlight

Same space with camera flash - Suzeline (lt)

Sen Rafayel

On our last trip to Sen Rafayel before my departure, we stopped to talk to some of the young people who try to make a living filling in the pot holes. When shovels break down, they work with bare hands.  There is little monetary return for the hours of back breaking labour. We pass the same kids every trip and always pay them something on our return.  One young man now looks for us and gives us a gift of freshly picked oranges and grapefruits. Occasionally we give him a ride down the mountain to visit friends. We took a little more time and stopped to talk with Frandzy (12)  and  brother Wisly (10). Their parents are dead and they live with 8 brothers and sisters on the mountainside. Frandzy had a large gash on the his leg which needed medical attention. The urge to 'rescue' is overwhelming at times. I sent bandages, baseball caps and sunglasses with Auguste the next trip he made after my departure.


Orphans Frandzy and Wisly on the road to Sen Rafayel
                                   
In the village, work continues on the centre. Danius, 3rd year university student (Bus. Admin.) and a master mechanic has taken over supervising the project in tandem with M. Franck, master mason.  Friday the roof was poured (koule dal-la) by a konbit (work group) of 23 which included masons, cement mix master  (met pel -literally master of the shovel) and students. The bamboo supports will remain in place for 15 days. In the interim the septic tanks are being finished and work is starting on the security wall which fronts the property.


Bamboo supports will stay in place for 15 days while the roof dries
                                     
The office is still operating out of one of the new storage depots and co-ordinator Guerlande is calm, organized and efficient in the midst of the chaos. We are still waiting for end of school year results for about 2 dozen students in the village. Schools did resume for most this week. Some marks are coming too late for us to register students for the coming year, so if possible,  we will again play catch up in January.

I know the time in Canada will fly by, but it always seems too long,  too much time away.

In my 'Orangeville' purse, another surprise - a scrap of paper on which I had written the quote "Coming generations will learn equality from poverty and love from woes". I don't remember why that particular quote from Kahlil Gibran spoke to me, there are so many.  I can only hope that it is a process even now taking root and growing  in the world. Learning from poverty is a  life-long education.

Kenbe pa lage
Sharon 

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