So instead of sharing new music with you guys, I’m going to share some old music that has provided some intense moments in my life lately.
My regular readers were probably expecting this months pick, with “Haiti this” and “Haiti that” (I promise I’ll start branching out again soon!), but yes, for this month’s Charity of the Month, I have decided to highlight a little bit about the organization that I went to Haiti with.
- -Black forest ham
- -on white (I guess you could go the extra mile and go wheat…)
- -pepper jack cheese (key ingredient)
- -avocado (another key ingredient)
- -green bell peppers
- -salt and pepper
- -oil and vinegar
So I’ve been a little reluctant to write this blog, simply because I don’t want to accept the fact that my trip is done. But here we go….
We packed up for lunch and went to wait for our tap tap to drive us home. We waited. And waited. Then finally decided to take action. Since our site is pretty close to our home base, we ended up just walking back instead of waiting half an hour for it to show up. This meat the people of Leogane got to see about 10 or 12 white people walking through their crazy streets pushing wheelbarrows and carrying shovels. I’m sure they were stoked.
We went for a final walk through the town at lunch, which was awesome. I actually hadn’t walked more than to the corner where Little Venice, aka Rubble Bar, aka Gutter Bar, was located, so it was great to see a little more of the place where we were working. And I stocked up on some cookies to snack on during the afternoon session :)
We ended up having a pretty slow afternoon, since there wasn’t too much work left to do. We did mostly housekeeping, cleaning up areas that weren’t completed, then we got to have a picture session with our group and the locals on the cement slab that we had cleared. It was an amazing feeling. Oh, and one of our volunteers, Eric/Kevin, found out he has at least 3 girlfriends there. These girls were all over him, it was hilarious. The reason I call him Eric/Kevin is because his name is Kevin, but I was calling him Eric for about 2 days. No wonder he didn’t turn around whenever I talked to him.
We got back to our camp early, which meant showers and a drink before dinner! We headed to Little Venice for a beer, which turned into two since we were celebrating the completion of our sight, and also a little goodbye party since there were three of us leaving. Abby, Brianne and I were constantly thinking about our goodbye speech through dinner and the beginning of our meeting (at the meeting, new people are introduced and people that are leaving get a chance to say goodbye to the group). Thankfully we survived our speeches: Abby had a great line about loving 95% of the people there, and not liking the other 5%, but respecting them. (The next morning I heard someone talking about “the five percenters,” so I think Abby started something!) Abby and I were just a taaaaaaaad emotional, so we had to leave right after the meeting to hold back our tears with a beer. Friday night was absolutely amazing. We were surrounded by so many amazing new friends, which I didn’t expect to happen on this trip. It was definitely a bitter sweet night. More sweet than bitter.
I woke up with this morning (Saturday) with a huge sadness in my heart, but so much happiness that I actually made it down here, and that I did all the things I wanted to do while I was here. I can’t thank everyone enough for making this dream a reality, and a damn good one at that! There were a few people who came by our bunks while Abby and I were packing, to say their goodbyes. Abby and I got lucky in getting some prime real estate locations in the favellas (there are tents and their are bunks; I guess the bunk area is lovingly termed the favellas). We stumbled upon two empty bunks on what we later learned was Fourth Avenue, and we later later learned that we had amazing neighbors. To Christa, Reuben, and Jake the Snake, you guys are awesome. I can’t thank you guys enough for being as cool and funny as you are. Shawn, you may not have had the blessing to live on Fourth Ave., but you were an awesome rooftop neighbor!
Back to Saturday….we packed up our stuff, and got to see everyone off to work since our shuttle wasn’t picking us up until 8am. Once again, the drive from Leogane and through PAP didn’t fail to take my breath away. It’s absolutely incredible to see the condition most of these people are living in. Anyone would be humbled and silenced beyond belief. We were able to figure out the madness outside the airport, and got checked in without any problems. Abby and I had a good three hours to wait to board our plane, since we took an earlier shuttle so we could split the cost with a couple other girls that were leaving today. And now I’m sitting at JFK doing a little more waiting, since our connecting flight is delayed due to high winds. I guess my journey hasn’t officially ended, but for all intents and purposes: Haiti Mission Accomplished!
I think I’m going to have one final entry on some general stuff about my trip, which I’m really looking forward to writing and sharing with all of you.
To all the people at Hands On and those that helped me get there, I can’t say this enough: THANK YOU.
UPDATE: our connection flight ended up being delayed FOUR hours, but we made friends with some people that were on our flight so it wasn’t too bad. What was crappy was having a sore throat, achy body, and slight fever on the flight home. It’s almost 2pm and I’m still lounging in bed trying to feel normal. I guess that might take a few days, huh? :)
So today we split our morning and afternoon: we went back to our regular rubble sight of Boissoniere in the morning, and went to the orphanage after lunch. Our site was amazing. The team we had going on there today was absolutely fabulous. Everyone was chill and amazing, and worked their asses off. We accomplished quite a bit, and actually saw an end in site. For Abby, Breanne, and I, it’s pretty important that we finish it tomorrow so we can see it done before we leave :)
It’s been pretty cool getting to know the neighbors around our site. There’s definitely a language barrier, so most of us aren’t able to communicate with them, but they start to recognize you and call you by your name when they see you. One of them also has a baby called Junior, and he’s absolutely adorable. Today was awesome for me because most of the girls were calling me by my name, and when I asked about Junior, they totally went into their place and brought him out so I could hold him for a bit, awesomeness!
Abby and I had signed up for dinner duty for today, but then we realized we had made plans to have dinner with our UN peeps, so we had to track down two people who were willing to switch with us and let us take their lunch dishes duty, so that we’d have the night free. Thankfully, the first two people we approached were super cool about it, and I think one of them was even happy because he preferred to do dinner dishes anyway. So that worked out. We did our lunch dishes, tried to take a quick break, then got ready to play with some kids.
The orphanage is walking distance, so we just walked through the IDP camp, past the market, and we came up to a building that isn’t really a building. It’s a bunch of block walls, with no ceiling, and one room has a tarp over it with some desks in it. And that’s where we play with the kids. It was crazy. Anyhow, we walked into the “school” and it was the warmest reception I’ve ever seen: the kids were going crazy they were so excited to see us. Hands On does this every Tuesday and Thursday, so they were definitely expecting us. We divided the kids into two groups, one group with do English class and the other group would do art projects, and then we would switch them around. I was on the English round first, and there’s only so much you can do there: you have maybe 2 or 3 teachers, and the rest of the volunteers just sit around the kids and help them pronounce stuff. Art time was way better: you get to mingle a lot more with the kids, and I think this is where most of my interaction with them happened. At one point they started asking all the volunteers to draw for them, instead of them drawing, so I drew quite a few boats, some houses, an elephant that did not resemble an elephant, and a whole bunch of hearts that said “I love you!” inside of them. After about the fifth one I switched it to: “I love Alex.” Ha.
There was a group of older girls there, maybe between 12-14, and they were absolutely in love with my hair. They kept touching it and playing with it and braiding it a little. It actually looked pretty cool. The hardest part about today was definitely leaving those kids behind. There were probably four or five kids clinging onto each one of us, holding us back, wanting us to stay and play longer with them. I can’t even begin to imagine what their lives are like. I’m glad I was able to spend the time I did with them, but I wish I could do more.
After the orphanage visit, it was back to base camp, shower, dinner, relax, nightly meeting, then we got ready to meet up with our UN friends. They had originally planned on cooking us dinner again at their basecamp (and had actually gone to purchase all the groceries), but they got in pretty late from PAP, so we opted to meet at a pretty popular place near our base, and they offered to drive us back. So Abby, Reuben and I headed out around 8pm, to the dark streets of Leogane. Thankfully Abby had a flashlight app on her phone, and Reuben knew where he was going, but it was still a little scary to be walking around town on our own. There are also some long stretches of the street that have absolutely NO lighting, so it’s pretty dark. Thankfully we made it there safe and sound :) We ended up grabbing some food and a few beers, and our friends showed up soon thereafter. I can’t begin to tell you how awesome these people are. I mean, who are we, for these guys to go out of their way to come and meet up with us for drinks?! They also brought along another guy from the UN who Reuben ended up talking to for quite a bit, and since Reuben is planning on being out there for quite a while, I think that will be an awesome contact for him in the future. They drove us back home and we ended up finishing the night with another round of drinks at Joe’s bar. I definitely hope they either come out to visit, or that I have the chance to see them again at some point in my life.
Ended up the day with another roof top adventure, bonding with amazing people from all over the place. What more could I ask for? Oh yeah, sleeping in my bed with my boo ;)
A wrap up of last night: my immigration client didn’t show up, but I guess that was more of a communication error (ahem, Reuben), rather than being stood up. I guess he came by yesterday and told someone (ahem, Reuben) that he wasn’t going to be able to make it last night, and that he would come tonight at 8. We shall see.
Joe’s, of course, is never a lost cause though. So although my main purpose for being there didn’t quite work out, we still had a good time. Brianne, Ian and I headed over there and we pulled a table out to the open area so we could get a little bit more of a breeze, since it was pretty hot last night. My UN buddies (as I will know call them) showed up at Joe’s, along with about 20 other UN workers, so that was very interesting. Joe also tried making pizza, to see if it’s feasible to make it on a large scale and regular basis, and sell that along with drinks. I’m sure he’ll figure it out, since he’ll make a ton of money from all us homesick foreigners.
It was great to see my UN buddies again and catch up on the last couple days, as well as talk about the general situation in Haiti, and the Haitian people’s culture and approach to things. I had also talked to them about heading over there today to check out their work, but it turns out one of their drivers had a pretty serious accident last night, so I don’t think now is the best time to really bother him with my dorky aspirations.
As for today, the mayor’s office was pretty cool. We met in our office first, where I got a run down of how things go, and a chance to read the report that the team has been working on the last couple of weeks. It basically consists of all the information they have gathered from interviewing all the city officials, from what their job description is, what they do, how they do it, how do they keep their files, what could help improve efficiency, etc. It was actually pretty cool to read through and get an idea of how the government in Leogane-kind of-works. We did get done a little early though, so I was able to get some reading time before lunch, which was awesome.
Since things fell through with my trip to the UN, I joined my usual rubble sight, and had a great afternoon full of hard labor. Brianne and I ran into a little trouble in our corner of the house because the floor level was uneven, which made it really frustrating when you’re trying to pick up shovels full of rubble. I really, really like the site that I work at, and the people that usually work at it. I feel like each site has it’s own vibe. There are people that rotate sites, but I think there’s a good handful of people that stick to one place and definitely give that site it’s own personality and work flow. All the people I have worked with have been awesome: they kick ass on the site, they’re thoughtful about rotating when needed, and it’s just overall just amazing.
Funny thing today. I went to change into some shorts for the day, and I was kind of dreading it because they were fitting me a little tight when I was back home. Um….they fit me perfect! I think the hard labor and little food is working into an amazing diet! Hopefully I can keep this up when I get back home.
Anyhow, I’m making a list of things that I really want to share with you guys, just about the country in general, the situation over here, the problems that are being addressed, difficulties that non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) are coming across, etc., but I really want to spend some time on that one, so I might just save it until I get home.
One last thing: I was checking my email today around 545 pm, and Brianne came in saying my immigration guy had showed up at the door and asked for me. Hilarious, because I’ve told him multiple times that we have our meeting at 6pm, and Reuben told him to come at 8pm. It’s just funny how appointments mean nothing to some people. Of course, he didn’t come at 8pm ;)
Hope you are all doing well!
Guess what? More rubble work today! (By the way, the internet here is terrible, so I’ve been trying to upload these blogs for the last two days…to no avail. As I write this, there is a possibility you will not get to read them until I get to a decent wireless location…probably in the US.) And yes, I went back to the same site. Some of the locals already know me, and call me by my name. Oh and yesterday they brought someone else to look at my long hair again (not sure if I’ve mentioned this before or not…hope I did). Anyhow, there wasn’t much furniture to salvage today, but that made removing the rubble a lot easier, since you can just get straight to it. The only annoying thing is that you have to prep what you’re going to shovel in first, and that usually takes a bit of time. And one of the local Haitian volunteers was a little too excited with the pick axe and kept getting in my way. Oh well, we’re all there to accomplish the same thing.
Another curious thing about this place: I actually hear a lot of Spanish music. Old school spanish music. Like Jose Jose, Marisela, and right now I’m currently listening to Enrique Iglesias, in Spanish. The languages spoken here are French and creole (which is a combination of French and something else), so I don’t understand why there’s so much Spanish influence. It seems that alot of Haitians actually speak Spanish. There is one translator who’s Spanish I actually understand better than his English, so I’ve chosen to speak to him in Spanish better. He’s actually supposed to take me somewhere I can buy some Haitian rap music, so I’m excited about that. Mom, Linda, Jeff, do not worry. This guy actually works for our organization, he’s been here for a long time, and he’s pretty legit ;)
I’m actually really looking forward to tomorrow. I’m taking a break from rubbling and going to help out at the Mayor’s office. We’re basically trying to talk to everyone at the Mayor’s office to see how things are done (or not) and give them ideas on how they can be improved. It’s supposed to be pretty dull, but I’m actually quite excited.
Also, Brian from the UN told me I could stop by his work sometime this week so I could see the offices in action. I actually have to email him know to see if we can set up a time, and I’ll have to figure out how I can get there. Wish me luck!
And Dad, you and Jeff are no longer the only ones in the family with a sock tan :)
Let’s see: more rubbling today! Today I did a full day of rubble removal at the same site that I was at on Saturday. Most people like to rotate around removal sites so they can get a feel for everything, but I honestly feel attached to this one property. I want to see it done! It’s one of the largest projects we have, so it’s taken a lot longer to accomplish than some of the other sites. Highlights of the day: removing about 7 or 8 stuffed animals (including a giant dog that had been suffocated by the dining room table) and salvaging some of the wooden furniture that we removed. I’ll have to admit that I have a love and hate relationship with the wheelbarrows. See, they’re really difficult. Once the pile of rubble that we’re dropping stuff at starts getting really high, a couple of guys start pounding a little path into it so we can get the wheelbarrow all the way to the top and unload it there. Well, these spaghetti arms of mine are ok hauling a wheelbarrow across tiny wooden ramps across trash infested canals, thinking everytime that this is the time I’m going to drop one of our precious wheelbarrows into it. What I’m not ok with: looking at a giant mountain of rubble and thinking I have to push this wheelbarrow all the way up. And I can’t. I made it half way, then about three fourths of the way, but never to the top. My hope is that by Friday I’ll have enough muscle built up that I can make it ;) So where does the love of the wheelbarrow come in? I’ve always thought bruises are kind of cool, the more colorful the better. And boy, these wheelbarrows sure know how to make some good bruises! My right knee is pretty much a black and blue mess. And I’m quite proud of it.
We went to Joe’s again, but this time I actually had a purpose other than having a beer. When we were getting a ride back home on Sunday from the UN folk, one of the Haitian guides was talking to me about his immigration issues, and how he hasn’t seen his kids in three years and all this other stuff. So I offered to take a look at the paperwork that he has, and he promised to come today after 7 pm. I never specified a time, other than after 7, so that was my bad. But he never showed. Today he found me right as we were loading onto our tap-tap, and he told me he had come to look for me but we were in a meeting. Yes, we were. I’m in a meeting every night from 6pm up to about 645. Hence why I told him to come after 7. But alas, he has promised to come today. This time I was more specific and told him to come between 7 and 8. He told me he’d be here at 8. We’ll see if I get stood up again :)