Sunday, January 24, 2016

Up and down the mountain

Jan. 12 marked the 6th anniversary of the earthquake (tranbleman dete) which killed a quarter of a million  -- Haitians and non Haitians. We lost one our own, Frandzy will forever be a bright, energetic, committed young man in the first year of what could have been a promising medical career. Many other of our young people lived through the catastrophe, coming through with physical scars which are fading and emotional scars which are still all too fresh--Myriame, Norceline, Brunie, Gaby, Wesly, Aland to name just a few.

Each  January I go inward, reflecting on the advancements the world has made. Governments change, some of those we looked to for wisdom and guidance have left their bodies. Those we thought were stronger than any illness succumbed. Things  go 'viral' on the internet and everything is instantaneous. There is talk of love and commitment. Canada and other countries have opened doors and hearts to immigrants fleeing intolerable situations. Yet I read of a solitary, courageous Muslim woman who wanted to show that Muslims are not 'scary' -- ejected from a political rally. 

Perhaps we should look to tolerance as a first step instead of jumping right into love. Tolerance takes courage. If the quake of 2010 did nothing else for me, it shocked me into the reality of this life -- fleeting.

I began this blog on the 9th. It's now Sunday the 24th. Rain and wind are lashing our drop in center. Staff (even the dogs) have the day off, a welcome break after the dangers of traveling the distance to work since flawed elections (or 'selections' so dubbed by one of the candidates) once more turned Haiti 'tet anba' (upside down/on it's head). Violent protests have taken over the country and the response by authorities has been returned escalated violence. Staff and students have had great difficulty getting to and from our center in Cap. Lakay Jasmine in Sen Rafayel still remain temporarily closed for another 2 weeks. Just getting up and down the mountain (28 km) took a day each way. Staff had to sit at a distance and wait until protests and protesters were finished. This is not a new phenomenon. Check our blog archives. The only bridge into our village (bouk la) is again damaged and weak. We hold our breath when passing.

Auguste on the Sen Rafayel bridge this week.
Clearing away the protest remnants, checking stability.
Home visit first - Brunel's papa had
surgery. Allimax and Serrapeptase.
As the truck is getting on in years (any vehicle that goes up and down Granjil mountain weekly ages like a dog -- approx 7 years in one, I'm thinking) we head straight for a home visit, knowing that in the morning it will take some coaxing to get moving for the great water hunt. Brunel is in his last year of high school in Cap-Haitien and has asked if we can help him attend University in the fall to become a teacher. YAY!!!  But this week his dad ended up in hospital because of a 'boul' (ball/boil/growth) on his back and needed him home. We began with a home visit and delivered some supplements to aid his recovery.

As predicted the truck needed a mechanic to coax it the next morning. Then on to the water hunt.

We are the  entertainment and a source of
curiosity. This little one knows one English phrase
"Good bye" She uses it for everything.

We take advantage of the temporary closure to scrape off flaking paint and give a facelift. The colour we had chosen and had mixed was not right so we had to take it back down the mountain,  into town to the store and have it remixed. Everything is labour intensive. It is still not what we wanted but we'll live with it. This week we will return to Sen Rafayel and add -- colour!!

Mountainside stop to deliver food. 

Police check mountainside -- another time consuming

Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel are microcosms of the macrocosm that is Haiti, in turn a microcosm of our planet. But microcosms are only part of the story. Our staff and young people continue to sit for hours waiting for protests to move on, dangers to decrease, then continue to make their way to us. Courage, tenacity, commitment.

We eat ... the only food that day for our
young people. Staff eat as well.

85 degrees ans Orina was cold (fwet)

Medical consult -- Rose-Nadia (bl. and white top) has pain.

Eating is not the only activity that takes place at the table. Lusnot (hand on his back) is trying to pinpoint the source of pain Rose-Nadia is experiencing. 3rd year nursing student Camiose (black hat) asks targeted questions to help identify the problem. We do this to give our kids confidence and language when they go to the clinic or hospital for a consultation. They think 'ko fe mal' (my body is sick) or 'vant fe mal' (my abdomen is sick) is information.

Lusnot and Carline make a list of text books and
supplies needed for the new school term.

Although we spend a fair amount of time around the communal table and study is second to eating, we are spreading the word that activity/movement is as necessary as breathing. The manual treadmill we have added to the center is very  popular and the source of many laughs -- also necessary for wellness.

Stefan in Philo uniform does his dishes.
He is one of many with a severe peanut

Homework -- not only a quiet workplace but
knowledgeable staff to help as well.

8 hours of classes on an empty stomach
Dehydrated as well

Working off extra calories?

Catching up on the latest news

More homework

Saturday -- the office becomes the dog groomers.
Thanks to all who sent support during a recent crisis. Your prayers, energies, mantras, thoughts, chants and comments on Facebook meant a great deal and helped us find what we needed -- courage.

So til next time, please continue to hold us in your thoughts. It is true that in Haiti:

Deye mon gen mon

Behind every mountain is another mountain -- or when one crisis passes it will be followed by another.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Good bye 2015 Hello 2016....

I don't feel any older -- except when I  reflect on the year of my birth and what was going on in the world  -- 1945 -- and this new year and what's going on in the world. Wow. That's a lot of time and changes --  too many to itemize. So what has changed here in Haiti?

Up the mountain --  in Sen Rafayel -- the great hunt for water continues on a weekly basis -- we are killing our truck but it doesn't complain. It just refuses to start in the mornings. Well I'm not a morning person either. Perhaps I need a mechanic as well!

On first glance not a lot has changed except that our young people get to attend school and have a meal and safe drinking water. But that's a  big change -- both for those on the receiving end and those delivering. Relationships. Support. Possibilities. Hope. Community. So we hunt for water.
Up with the sun for the weekly water hunt.

Our day and night staff overlap for an hour on 'hunt' days. Adolph helps Auguste with the buckets (keengs or kings) and  Angeline keeps the dogs close while the truck exits.
Shoset, Djosie and Granjil keep watch with
Angeline. Timanman is unconcerned.
Even a minimum wage job is a job. Our young people
appreciate work and are used to slugging water.
You take what you find
( w sevi ak sa a w jwen)
Everyone including coordinator Dieugrand has
a miserable Winter cold.
He does the work of 3 people but it catches up
with him -- in the quiet times. 

We are heading up the mountain again today for 3 days to do some painting and have a staff meeting to get input on needs, programs and changes for the new term. School openings are staggered. Institute Toussaint Louverture opened yesterday. The others next week. We have 18 students at Louverture  so fees need to be paid asap.  During our stay, Auguste and Isaac (student and night security) will make a trip down and back -- we have 2 dogs in need of veterinary care. Poor truck, poor dogs, poor staff.  Hard on everyone and everything.

In Cap-Haitien, we are blessed with a well and a solar panel system which can draw the water up to the roof chateau. There isn't a lot of pressure -- we still need a plumber to look into that-- but no hunt. So spoiled.

Two of our 3 university students from the Dominican Republic were in for a brief visit before heading back for second term.  Third yr. dental student Rose and 7th yr medical student Elorge are both growing into their professions. Gone are the awkward teens. They are becoming polished and confident young adults. We don't get to see Jacques our third student from the DR as his home base is Port-au-Prince.
The open plan we have chosen to use brings Mme
Joceline into contact with the students.

Although it's holidays, uniforms
must be worn to pick up reports.

Holidays are  busy on days when reports are distributed. Because so many of our Cap-Haitien students are originally from Sen Rafayel and the surrounding area, as many as can find the means travel back to visit. That gives us time to do housekeeping chores and for Cap-Haitien coordinator Lusnot to bring new staff member Carline up to speed. Carline graduated 2 years ago and is waiting for university. She was one of 3 who registered and wrote entrance exams at the State University. None were accepted. Auguste heard afterward that there were 2000 applicants for 200 places. So we are looking into private universities. They are smaller but have good reputations.
Always work to be done - organizing
textbooks for the upcoming term.
One of the biggest challenges is getting the staff to take breaks - go for a walk, read the paper, have something to eat, drink water. The dogs seem to understand this better than their human counterparts. Yes that is my yoga mat under Senkyeme and Tidjo. I am not certain what poses they are working on but it must be good if it's on a yoga mat. Perhaps a yoga instructor (Kim?) can identify.

The students we have admitted and the animals who live with us are the lucky ones -- they have people who care about their welfare. In addition to the 260 students on our waiting list are the numerous stray dogs who have neither home nor caregiver. In addition to the animals we feed outside our gate in San Rafayel, we still feed dogs and cats in our old neighborhood. Donley, a 4th year high school student who was our neighbor, makes certain those we left behind have food and water daily and he calls if a trip to the vet is necessary. Our new center has it's strays as well. We have been feeding 4 here since my return and decided to put student Rosema's construction skills to work making concrete feeding troughs (as the dogs kept running away with the bowls)

 Two of our neighbours - much healthier since we began a feeding program.

The feeding stations are now in use and very popular -- with various 4 legged neighbours. The cattle watching Rosema work seemed very unconcerned but did stop by for a drink of water. Yesterday I opened the gate to find 3 goats doing the same thing. I am determined to get a picture.

Hello 2016 -- there are many blessings for which I am grateful -- the opportunity to work with these young people, to watch them grow, mature, blossom (while I amazingly do not age a day!!).

In 2007 my friends Sister Rosemary and Gay visited from Toronto. Gay wanted to give us a gift so asked Dieugrand, even then our gardener, to purchase a plant for our lawn. He bought a  small 'choublak'  (hibiscus) which grew to about 10 feet in height and perhaps 6 in diameter. We could not bring it with us but brought a shoot which this week gave its first blooms. So I leave you with the beauty and possibility that grows in Haiti.

Bon ane 2016. M'ap swete w zanmi -yo, viv ansante, lape  et possibilite yo.

Happy New Year 2016. I wish you friendships, good health, peace and possibilities.



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