Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day in Haiti : Cookies, roof repairs, new vehicle,

Hello Everyone!

Electricity this morning (Wednesday) -- the first in many days. Lately, we have been having a bit oif hydro between midnight and 5 a.m. Carmene is baking chocolate chip cookies as a treat for tomorrow -- Thursday -- which is our busiest day, as it's food distribution day, which means everyone comes and reads, plays, rests, studies, asks for consults etc. Mme Cindy in Penn. sent us packages of cookie mix in our Christmas boxes. Carmene loves the mix as it is so time saving. So today we bake in bulk.

Last summer, I asked the rental agent to fix the roof properly as kitchen, dining room and first bedroom leak every time it rains. He has been sending the same mason to make the same patchy repairs for 4 years now. I made the same request in November. He insisted patching was sufficient and supervised personally. The next week the rains came and again everything leaked.

So M. Franck (Mme Carmene's marye) is a mason whom we hired to complete our staircase addition -- you have to see to understand. I asked his advice on the roof and he said break up all patches with a pick, carry off garbage and resurface. (As we originally requested) So we are paying out of pocket yet again to make the house safer. Monday and Tuesday, M Franck and Jack worked 8 hours each day breaking up the cement. What a din! Also, under the cement was a small swimming pool for bacteria. It dried quickly in the sun but had been there since the last rain many weeks ago.

This morning Jack and Franck arrived with sore backs and fingers. I have always told the staff to change jobs when the body complains. So today we have some relief from the noise and will finish the addition (hopefully). This is more backbreaking work as it means mixing cement by hand (actually by shovel) and carrying upstairs by bucket. It also means reconstructing a rickety scaffold (for which I always ask reinforcement and its never enough). I have suggested hiring students to complete the pick work on the weekend. They can always use a little money and it will save a couple of aching backs. Also means we are working 7 days again.

Thanks to amazing generosity, we received a Christmas present of funds to purchase a new vehicle. Now that my health is improving -- what a gift to have enough energy to work a full day! -- we will continue the process to buy a vehicle. This is the background.

Two years ago, I secured what, at that time, were the requirements for purchasing a vehicle in Haiti:
  • a Canadian police check
  • fingerprints
  • bank statement
  • cash payment
  • letter of request
  • passport & photocopy for a permis de sejour
When we travelled to Port-au-Prince last summer to look at vehicles, the sales agent said the government was phasing out the requirement, just needed a Kat d'identite (Haitian identity card) and a declaration Des Impots Generals -- which means 'pay taxes'. With the news of this donation, I travelled to DGE in Cap-Haitien to be told that:
  • a) now the permis IS necessary and
  • b) the requirements have changed. I now also need my original birth certificate and
  • c) I must return to Port-au-Prince as the director in Cap-Haitien has disappeared (apparently with funds) and has not been replaced.
So I have contacted a friend at home in Canada, and asked her to locate my birth certificate, copy and send to a friend in the States who will visit Cap-Haitien at the end of February. Then I can go to Port-au-Prince and see if they will accept official documents which are outdated. However, if my friend in Canada is unable to find my birth certificate, all will wait until I return to Canada in mid-April.

So many hoops to buy a vehicle. Not enough to have the funds. We have been without a vehicle for 10 years. This is the first time it has been viable, so a few more months is quite doable.

To those who have items they wish to send, customs is still at a veritable standstill. One container was processed and the rest sit on the dock. This is why we face a food crisis -- both human and feline. Anything sitting on the docks month after month will certainly suffer some damage if is doesn't end up with feet (Kreyol expression meaning 'walking away with someone else'.)

Adelyn (male) just came in from the clinic with a diagnosis of scabies and sepsis. Jhennie is out trying to find the meds. We are still unable to make an appointment to test Magalie (female) for microfiliares and Marlene travelled to Milot by kamyonet today to once again see about a surgical appointment to remove the lump on her breast. This started last summer. It is always a wonder that these young people stay alive.

Two religious communities have approached me here, and asked if they can send young people here to the center as we do such a fine job of providing 'soutyen' (support). The communities continue to pay the schools and we do the rest. Both the young men they are sponsoring are orphans with family responsibilities. They were shy at first but are now fitting right in.

On the upside - the sun is shining and there is no snow in the forecast !
Ala pwochen

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