Friday, June 22, 2012
This was going to be an extremely exciting and profound trip for our family and unlike anything other trip we have taken as a family. It began in LeClaire, Iowa at 2:15 a.m. this morning. We loaded the vehicle with 16 pieces of luggage and drove the 3 hours to the Chicago airport where we caught our 7:30 a.m. flight to Miami. Thankfully, we made it with all of our luggage. Next stop, Haiti!!
Blake, Connor, Hannah and I arrived at the Matthew 25 House in Port Au Prince safely and on time. There was already a group of people there that were engineers and had been working on assessing water wells drilled previously and considering new locations for additional wells. It was a relatively quiet evening as we rested from our trip, watched the local soccer (futbol) game from the roof of Matthew 25, and ate our first Kreole meal. It felt great to be back in Haiti! Even Connor reflected that evening that it almost felt “like coming home” to both of us. As for Hannah and Blake, they were both excited to be in Haiti and looking forward to the new adventures.
After our group introductions and reflections on our arrival in Haiti, we headed off to bed to get what rest we could in a screened porch with bats, mosquitos, and 88 degrees of balmy air.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Surprisingly, we all slept fairly well and rose to the sounds of roosters and Haitian music in the distance. Breakfast was simply local bread and a rare treat of scrambled eggs…the last of which we will taste for 5 days. Part of our party headed back to the airport to pick up the remaining 2 travelers that had been stranded in Miami as Blake, Connor, Hannah, and I waited for Alfred and Jules to arrive so we could meet everyone else at the airport and then, up the mountain!
For once, we were successful traveling up the mountain without a flat tire and maybe this was due to the roads being drier this time of the year. Many sights were familiar and I am beginning to get my bearings up the mountain now. Maybe one day, I will be able to make that drive myself! J We stopped along the way to evaluate a new water crossing to help reduce the amount of sediment that is eroded from the mountainside during torrential rains. It was very encouraging to see improvements occurring on the mountain just since my last trip here in November.
Roseberlin greeted us at the clinic and it was great to this fortunate 5 year old little girl once again. She came to the clinic on the verge of starvation and it is quite the miracle that she survived much less and has grown into the healthy child she is today. She immediately recognized me and clung to me in the absence of Liz. I was relieved that my Kreole lessons were allowing me to communicate with Roseberlin more effectively this trip.
The delegates spent some time unpacking and getting situated in what would be our new home for the next 5 days. Our afternoon meal was served shortly upon our arrival and it was as delicious as we anticipated. The four teens (Kacey, Peri, Connor, and Hannah) that traveled with us during this session decided to take a late afternoon walk to explore the area with Ernst. As evening approached we met with Dr. Leo to have our first reflection at the clinic. The adults promptly adjourned to bed and the teens and Ernst stayed up to watch the stars from the front porch of the clinic. It was going to be a great 5 days on the mountain!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
We awoke to the most beautiful sight eyes could behold…a clear view of the mountains of Haiti and the valleys below. This was definitely God’s day and His creation and as respect for the Sabbath, the entire ServeHaiti group walked down the mountain to the church in St. Pierre. It was about a 1.5 mile walk straight down the mountain (literally) which proved to be quite the exercise for our legs and backsides. We arrived in St. Pierre promptly one hour prior to the church service. The service was a beautiful traditional Catholic service. Connor discretely video recorded the service as we appreciated the Haitian instruments and voices as they sang praise to God. The service lasted about an hour and a half and the ServeHaiti group was introduced at the conclusion of the service. We then ventured down to the local market where a variety of things were being sold such as mangoes, bananas, beans, rice, clothing, etc. Hannah was fascinated with everything and the Haitians were equally fascinated with her and her long, blonde hair. The market can be quite a crazy place and easily send you into sensory overload. Fortunately for us, a car from the clinic came down the mountain to gather us for the trip back up. I really don’t know how many of us would have fared the walk back up the mountain too well.
Once we returned to the clinic, we began to reorganize and focus on the jobs and activities that would take place on Monday. I met with Chris Burns so we could plan out the teacher’s training for Math and Science that would take place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I was going to teach about the human body, the skeletal system, body systems, and articulation of the joints. Chris would be focusing on mathematics and thinking about the teachers’ learning so this could be applied to how they teach their students. It was going to be an incredibly exciting teaching session this week with the Haitian teachers! We were both so excited for this opportunity again this summer!!
Lunch was a typical Haitian meal of goat, pork, and rice and beans. Delicious! The dentistry office was organized by Dr. Liz, Dr. Rick, and the teens to get it ready for all the patients that would be seen during our stay at the clinic. The organization for teaching was fully underway in the big room as Dr. Leo shared several documentary videos and slideshows about previous trips to the clinic by ServeHaiti. Dr. Leo also shared a very interesting animated video about Cholera which keep everyone in stitches the entire time!
It was hard to believe that our first full day at the clinic had drawn to a close. In the new tradition of adults retiring early and teens stargazing, another day ended.
Monday, June 25, 2012
First day of teaching!! …and the second day of wonderfully strong Haitian coffee in the crisp newness of the morning. I took a few leisurely moments to steal a glimpse of the sunrise from the balcony and appreciate the memories of previous trips. I don’t know if I would ever tire of such a view or starting my mornings like this.
The teachers started arriving by 7:30 a.m. and a full day of instruction in science was underway. Dr. Leo spoke to the group of educators first and asked them to arrive at the clinic by 7:00 so we would be able to have a full day on teacher training. Alfred was our interpreter and Chris Burns and I began the intensity of instructing the teachers with the limited ability to speak Kreole between the 2 of us…although Chris is much more fluent that I am. Personal goal…speak Kreole more than English next year.
The lessons went smoothly as we discussed the parts of the human body, the skeleton, and the number of bones in specific areas of the body. The teachers put together a skeleton puzzle and identified some of the major bones of the body. This was extremely engaging for the teachers and they loved the activity. Another activity we did was to tape our thumbs to our first fingers and complete some simple tasks. This allowed the teachers to contemplate the use of our thumbs and how joints help us move.
At the end of a successful day of teaching, Dr. Leo informed me that my son, Connor, was a natural doctor and had served as his assistant during the day which included a delivery. I was sorry to have missed this opportunity to see Connor in action and I know Dr. Leo has definitely impacted him and encouraged him to consider entering into the medical field. I know he is thinking about it.
As for Hannah, she played babysitter to Dr. Leo’s new addition to the clinic…BooBoo. BooBoo is about 5 months old and was brought to Dr. Leo when his mother died during child birth on the way down the mountain to the clinic. Such a tragic situation, but BooBoo is very healthy and chubby and well loved by the staff at the clinic and Dr. Leo. Of course, Roseberlin was not far from Hannah all day when I was teaching and prior to Liz’s arrival. The excitement for Hannah began when she was asked to assist in the dentist office for minor procedures. She absolutely loved helping out and eagerly looked forward to another birth at the clinic. Luckily, she was able to witness a new baby being born shortly after dinner. Again, Connor was right beside Dr. Leo assisting in the delivery of a beautiful baby girl. It was an amazing sight for me to see both of my children witnessing the birth of a Haitian baby and helping to bring her into this world. I think there is a future in the medical profession for both of my children…at least if they continue to travel to Haiti with me.
Blake worked with Guillome to build a brick wall on the side of the kitchen. This will give the ladies additional space to work in and enjoy the cool mountain breeze as they prepare meals. I think of all the cement work that Blake did as a young adult, this was the first time he made cement from the Haitain caliche instead of Redimix. He was quite proud of this wall when it was completed. But the project he was most proud of was the 25 teachers’ desks that were assembled on the front porch of the clinic to be transported to 25 of the local schools in the community. I will admit they were absolutely the most beautiful desks I have ever seen despite the simplicity of the design and materials. I know the Haitian teachers will appreciate these desks more than any teacher I have ever known!
We had our reflection on the porch that evening under the stars and shared our thoughts and feelings about our projects and experiences from the day. Everyone had been significantly impacted during our first 48 hours at the clinic especially the first-timers. It is amazing how everyone is beginning to bond and work together to complete the projects that need to be done at the clinic.
Another night was behind us as we headed off to sleep with the mountain breeze gently blowing through our open windows.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The wind was fierce through the night and the sound of it was like a freight train rolling across the roof. When we woke at 6:00 a.m., the morning skies were threatening rain but not a drop fell. It was going to be another great day of teaching as the teachers arrived on time and were very excited to begin their learning in mathematics!
Chris taught mathematics all day and worked with the teachers on multiplication, division, and teaching for understanding. The teachers were actively engaged in the hands-on activities Chris had planned and delivered in Kreole with minimal assistance from Alfred. It was a very productive day with the teachers! But nothing can compare to the excitement we experienced when a chicken decided to join the teachers during the afternoon and we chased it out of the main room and into the girls’ room. Connor came in to corner the chicken in the bathroom and had help from Dr. Leo to catch the chicken. Once captured, we handed off the chicken to Roseberlin to carry outside and she squealed with delight to deposit the chicken back into the yard. To our surprise, Chris discovered and egg in the corner of the main room behind a suitcase of teaching materials. No wonder the chicken kept coming back. Obviously, it was in search of a place to nest.
Late in the afternoon, a small group of us decided to take a walk to Novia’s house to see her and her family. When I asked where Connor and Hannah were, someone replied, “They are with Dr. Leo in surgery.” Now, that is one thing I truly did not ever expect to hear regarding the whereabouts of my own two children. I can honestly say, Dr. Leo has had a profound effect on both Connor and Hannah and I think they would stay here in Haiti as long as I would let them. I found out as we were returning to the clinic from our walk that the surgery was a young girl that was having a growth removed from her ear. We met her at the gates and she was all smiles underneath her bandaged face. Life will be better for this one young girl.
On our walk, we gathered additional children as they followed us down the narrow path to Novia’s house. Words cannot describe the images that have been engrained into our most inner beings. Dirty children with clothes that barely covered their dusty bodies poked their heads out of the rows of corn and sugar cane as we continued our walk along the path. It was amazingly beautiful and shockingly sad at the same time. How could people live in these conditions in a country so captivatingly beautiful? What happened to Haiti to cause these conditions to continue to exist? Will change bring about better conditions for the people of Haiti? How will education help improve the lives of Haitians?
We returned to the clinic only to get caught up in unpacking several suitcases of medical supplies that needed to be moved down into the pharmacy. Once we completed that task, even the kids turned in early as the day had been so powerful. No one had the energy for a reflection tonight.