Haiti Trip November 2006
Friday, November 24
We wake up early and begin the rush. Did you remember your toothbrush? Did you get the toothpaste? At the same time we are trying to pack for ourselves, we are also rushing our children around so they can get their things packed to go to the Robeys. We get all of our stuff loaded into our van and make a quick trip across town to Michael & Laura Robey's. There we give a list of last minute things we need to tell about the kids and a calming and tearful time of prayer as we seek God's guidance, peace, comfort, and protection. Then it's out the door back to our house so we can load up our stuff in Brian's car!
9am and we are on the road to Terre Haute where we will connect with Eddie Hammond, pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Sullivan, IN. So we transfer all of our stuff from Brian's car to Eddie's car and then head to Indy. Thankfully the trip there was uneventful.
We made it to the airport, had an excellent lunch (Asian Chaos is an AWESOME chinese restaurant in the airport. You have to try the Bourbon Chicken.), then through security which went uneventful except for Brian getting his toothpaste confiscated. (Yes they really do mean only 3 oz of liquid/gel/cream etc) Then we settle in for about an hour wait for our flight to board.
This was Josh's first flight experience. He had never had the opportunity to fly before, so it made the trip even more exciting. The flight was very uneventful (thank you God!), but long. Almost 3 hours. But then we touch down in Miami and discover that we are not allowed to check our baggage on to Port Au Prince, but that we have to pick up our bags and take them with us to the hotel or we could pay to keep them in storage at the airport. So we load up our bags and go in search of our shuttle to the hotel.
About a half hour later and we are loaded in a 15 passenger van racing through the streets of Miami. The part we saw was under construction. So it didn't look so nice. We're dropped off at the hotel and find our rooms and begin our wait to meet up with the rest of the team--pastor Fran Leeman and pastor in training Alex Lopezalles. So we decide to go through our bags to make sure everything is still in place. One of our checked bags was full of food that we were taking down for Steve & Joline. Things they can't get like salsa, black olives, kraft macaroni and cheese etc. When we open up the bag we see it has been trashed and one of our plastic bottles of salsa now has a gash in it and has dribbled salsa all over everything. Ugh.
Finally around 8pm Fran & Alex make an appearance and we all head down the street to find a place to eat. The evening ends and we all go to bed early so that we can meet at 6am for breakfast and to catch the 7am shuttle back to the airport.
Saturday, November 25
Rise and shine at 5am. Repack bags. Meet up with everyone else and head to the great McD's for some breakfast. Back to the airport as we rush through security and to the other side where we wait for our flight out. While waiting in Miami, Fran strikes up a conversation with a Haitian gentleman who spoke English pretty well. He is working on becoming an American citizen and is a businessman here in the States. He was going home to visit his wife and children, of which he only sees 3 times a year. He's hopeful in the next year or two he will be able to bring them to America too. Can you imagine being separated for that amount of time? It would break my heart!
Unfortunately our flight is delayed--by about an hour. It shouldn't affect our flight from Port Au Prince to Jeremie. At least we hope not.
We board the plane and are on our way to Port Au Prince. The flight only takes about 1½ hours. We land in Port Au Prince and are welcomed by a Haitian band on the tarmac. It was kind of cool. Inside we stand in line to go through immigration. Us newbies to Haiti were all a little jittery as to what to expect, but it wasn't a problem for anyone. We all meet up on the other side and move to baggage claim. Then it's on to customs where I'm just praying that I will not get stopped with my "real" sweet potatoes (I brought them for Steve & Joline as we were celebrating Thanksgiving with them. Fran brought a frozen ham & turkey!) Brian, Eddie, Josh & I were all waved through customs without a second glance, but Alex & Fran both had to stop. No one had to give up anything or pay any fines. (Thank you again God!) Then it was time to leave the airport.
Fran is in the lead and as we step out into the bright sunlight of Haiti, there are literally 200 or more Haitian men ready to carry your bags. Talk about intimidating. Before we had walked through the door Fran had said "Whatever you do, don't let go of your bag and don't let anyone carry it." We stepped out and tried to stay together in a line as Fran followed our driver who was standing right outside the door waiting for us. It wasn't difficult for the driver to figure out who we were, since we were the only group of white people on the plane ride over. The Haitian men were very friendly. They kept saying "good service, good service". We kept saying "no thank you, no thank you". Fran later explained that they have no intention of running off with your bag, they just want a tip. The problem is that one guy will carry your bag for a few feet then pass it to the next guy and so on down the line until 3 or 4 guys have carried your bag and they each expect the same amount of tip.
We piled our stuff inside our driver's bus and he took us through the streets of Port Au Prince to the small airport. The funny thing is, the large airport and the small airport share the same landing strip. They could build a road between the two buildings instead of having people travel, but they haven't done that because it gives Haitian people an income and you would be putting a lot of people out of a job.
So Nadiere(pronounced na-dare) gets us to the small airport, helps us get our bags out and gets a couple of guys from his company to help us through. We go in and go through security. Or what is supposed to be security. They have the conveyor belt and x ray machine and the little thing you have to walk through, but none of them run. But hey, I guess it's one step at a time.
We go check in and are told that we would have about an hour and half wait for the next flight. Great. It's a one room place with probably 200 people crammed in this room and there are no chairs left and no air conditioning and it's probably close to 85-90 degrees. So we wait.
The plane is small. We knew it would be, but nothing can really prepare you for it. 12 seats, plus the pilot and co-pilot seat. Josh could literally stretch his arms and touch both sides of the plane at the same time. Talk about nervous. This had to be one of the most scariest parts of the trip for me. I had no idea what to expect or how it was going to turn out. A few minutes later and the plane is in the air and it was awesome. By far the most fun flight of the whole trip. The plane only travels at about 6000 feet, so your ears don't really bother you and you can see out the window easily to everything below. It was fantastic.
About 45 minutes later we land in Jeremie! We get off the plane, greet Steve Moore, the missionary we will be staying with and go inside to collect our things--only to realize we were missing 2 bags. The turkey was missing and Fran's clothes were missing! They assured us they would be on the morning plane that would land around 10am. So we go to pile into the truck Steve has rented for us when the rain clouds move in and we realize that all 7 of us are going to have to pile inside the truck. We tucked our luggage under a tarp in the back, and crammed 3 men in the front, 3 men in the back with me on Josh's lap in the middle. Boy was that fun. Then you have to throw in that the truck is a stick shift and that the roads are awful! Potholes that take up the whole road, giant craters more like it. Definitely rugged terrain that had been made worse by 4 days of torrential rain that had hit the city of Jeremie before we arrived! The mud had slid down the mountain and washed out places in the road.
About 45 minutes later after Josh was sufficiently squashed and Fran's leg had gone numb from trying to stay out of the way of the stick shift, we arrived at the Moore's home.
Joline had made snickerdoodles and coffee and ushered us all into the house and showed us our rooms and in general fussed over us like a mother hen :) Then we all sat out on their porch and watched the rain and relaxed and shook our heads that we were actually in Haiti!
Sunday, November 26
It's now 2am and I am awoken by some strange noise. Is that Steve trying to wake up Joline? What does he want? Wait, no, that's not it...it's..it's someone snoring. Oh my. Really loud. Like REALLY LOUD. And I got the giggles and couldn't stop snickering. It was just too funny. This could be a long trip.
I finally manage to fall back to sleep and wake around 6am. Time for showers (oh yes we had showers--cold ones, but a shower! And a toilet--a real flushing toilet. Isn't God good?) and breakfast.
Since Fran's clothing is missing and he had been asked to preach at church that morning, the guys all swapped clothes so he could have a nice dress shirt, pants, and shoes. The Haitians dress up for church--suit and tie, dresses, the whole nine yards. We all pile in the truck and since it's not raining most of the guys ride in the back of the truck so there is more space. The church is about 9 or 10 miles away. And it took us 1 hour to get there. I laughed and said, "People think Josh & I are crazy for driving 45 minutes to church--that's nothing compared to this!" The roads again were horrible. I don't think we ever got up past 25mph.
We arrived a bit early and the pastor invited us to come inside for coffee and bread. Haitian coffee is very sweet. I managed to drink all of mine, even though I can't stand coffee. But I knew this family had probably sacrificed this morning so I could have coffee and bread as their guests and so that's probably the best cup of coffee I'll ever have in my life. It was very kind of them. After we finished, we were led to the church building where the congregation had already gathered and were singing. The only song I recognized was "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder".
Fran preached and another man who knew English translated for him. The sermon was centered on Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus asks Peter to put his nets out in the water again after Peter had just been out all night and not caught anything. Peter says "because it is you, I will." Fran challenged the people that there will be times that God will ask them to do something they may not want to do, and as Christians we need to be ready to answer "because it is you, God, I will." He encouraged them that God may ask them to share what they have with a neighbor even though they only have enough for themselves, but if God asks them to, they should be willing. The translator on the way home told Fran that he had really opened a "can of worms" with that statement. The Haitian people by culture/nature do not naturally share with one another. They tend not to help one another out. So the sermon was very challenging for them.
After the service, we took some pictures and mixed with people in the congregation. There were 3 little girls who kept smiling and watching me throughout the morning. And I finally asked "Photo?" to which all three giggled. So I took their picture and then turned around to talk to someone when I felt a quick tap on my arm and then turned to see the three girls giggling again. The mountain people especially are not used to white people (especially women) and I was quite the novelty that morning!
We exited the church to where everyone congregated around the yard and talked. The pastor opened some coconuts for us to drink coconut juice. It was--ok I guess :) Then we all piled back into the truck to ride back down the mountain.
Once we were home, Joline was busy cooking the turkey and getting things ready for lunch. She had stayed behind so she could go to the airport and pick up the missing bags. Steve had started feeling sick on the way home from church, so he went to lay down. As the afternoon progressed he got much worse. It ended up being a bout with malaria. Not fun.
Sunday night we hung out at the Moore's and got to know each other better. Then had a good laugh when we were on the porch talking and someone says, "what time is it anyway?" and I look at my watch and say "6:30pm". Everyone laughed because we all thought it had to be close to 11 or so. With no electricity in the city of Jeremie (they have been without for about 3 months), and the Moores being cautious with running the generator (gas costs about $6 a gallon--when you can get it), it gets dark when the sun goes down. We ended up going to bed around 8 or 9 that night.
Monday, November 27
Cock-a-doodle-doo! What? It's still dark. What time is it anyway? Only 3am. The roosters in Haiti don't seem to understand that you're not supposed to wake everyone up until the sun comes up. Ahh the wildlife.
I managed to doze in and out until about 5am when I gave up and headed for the shower. The plan had been that we would get up and drive to Gatineau (pronounced "got to know"), the village where we will be building the medical clinic. But upon awakening, we found that Steve was not feeling up to the trip and so we decided to postpone it to the next day when we would all be able to go. Instead Joline said she'd take us to the market and downtown Jeremie.
So we drove down the hill and parked near a shop of a friend of Joline's and headed off on foot to "see the town". It was so crazy as you looked around. There was trash everywhere, and water seemed to be constantly running down the streets from somewhere. Lots of men were lined up along the sides of the streets with their dirt bikes & motorcycles using the water running down the hill to wash them. (some things transcend culture!) The shops all looked like they were going to come crashing down at any moment. And the people were such a variety! You had young women who were absolutely beautiful and wearing jeans and a nice shirt and had their hair done and make-up on like anyone we might pass on the street in the United States. Then you had people who were dirty and thin and had rags for clothing.
We made our way to the market which was made up of 4 whittled trees/sticks with a piece of cloth over the top for a roof and makeshift tables made out of scrap lumber and/or cardboard. On these things you could find a variety of items. Things like fruits & vegetables (passion fruit, coconuts, yams, etc) to toy whistles and dolls like you would find in any American Dollar Store. There were only a couple of places we found where someone was actually making something and selling it. Everywhere else people were selling things that were imported from another country.
The worst place had to be as we walked through the meat market. There they had hacked up goats, chickens, cows, pigs and placed the cut meat on strips of cardboard. The flies were all over the pieces of meat and if someone approached to purchase something the person who was selling would simply wave their hand over the meat and ask which piece they want. That was gross.
After we had been walking for about 2 hours, we stopped at a little cafe called "Chez Patou". It was a nice respite and we were able to have a coke (16 oz in a glass bottle) for .50 and Joline & I shared some chocolate ice cream. After we were finished we walked around for a bit more and headed back to the Moores.
That night we had fried goat, legumes, cornmeal, black bean sauce, and fried plantains with cabbage for supper. It was a typical Haitian meal. Not one that I hope to have again anytime soon though. The goat wasn't bad, it had a venison type flavor, but the cornmeal, legumes and black bean sauce wasn't something that I could even eat a whole helping of. A couple of bites and I said I had to pass :)
Tuesday, November 28
Squawk, EEk, Squawk, arf, arf, arf. What? What time is it? Oh of course--around 3am. This morning the crows decided to awaken us, along with a dog that would not stop yapping. This time I didn't think sleep would ever come. It did, but then I had to force myself awake at 7am so we could get moving for today's journey.
But wait..we're down some people. Overnight Eddie & Joline have both gotten sick. Not good. Both complaining of fever and stomach troubles. Steve is barely up on his feet but is determined to at least drive us up to Gatineau so we can have a "look see". Steve got a Haitian man to come along to guide us to the Mozal school in Gatineau so that Steve could rest in the truck. After another hour long truck ride just to go 10 miles, we stop at the bottom of a hill. We all jump out and Tijon (pronounced tee-john), takes us on about a 15 minute walk up to the school.
At first glance the school looks very similar to the old style hog farms--a long concrete building with a tin roof. You enter and it is filled with one hundred young minds eager to learn. They sit on planks of wood formed together to make a bench, with another plank of wood that is set up higher for them to put their books on as a desk. It is one long piece so that at least 5 to 10 kids can fit on each. There are pieces of slate attached to the concrete walls for chalkboards and there are 3 men there to teach these young people.
They are beautiful. They are why we are here. They are the future of Haiti and they need hope. That they will be able to grow and realize dreams. They need to know Jesus.
We spent very little time at the school. Fran, our fearless leader, knows very little Creole. The head school teacher apologizes and says "English is very difficult for me." Tijon knows no English. So we smile and take a few pictures and then walk back down the hill to the truck.
We then go a few miles to the site where the clinic will be built. This is the reason we came. I wanted to see it before anything ever started. That way in the years to come as we build the clinic and the hospitals and the schools I will be able to see and know all the things God has done. That He is allowing me to be a part of. I don't want to forget.
The land is beautiful, tropical, spacious. There is a lot of clearing to be done, a lot of work. But the faces of the children remind me why it is so important.
We got back in the truck and as we started back down the mountain Steve stops and picks up various people to give them a ride. One of the people he picks up has a beautiful baby girl. Probably not more than 2 months old. Those big black eyes looked at me and I felt my heart break. What will life be like for this little girl? Will she grow up healthy? Will she learn to read and write? Will she know the love of God? Who will teach her? Who will love her? Who will show her God's love? God spoke to my heart, "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
It doesn't get more "least of these" in Haiti than a newborn baby girl. And there she was right there in the truck with me and all I could give was the prayer in my heart--"Lord, protect this one. Bring her to you. And don't let me forget today."
We dropped the young lady and the baby off on the side of the road when we got back to town. She was taking produce to town to sell. At the end of her long day she will probably make the long walk back up the mountain, with baby in tow. I can't imagine her life. I feel so spoiled.
The rest of the evening was spent repacking bags and getting things picked up. Josh and I snuck away for an hour or so to the top of the Moore's house. It was a gorgeous night. The moon was bright and the stars were everywhere. There was such a feeling of closeness to God. There was such a peace. At the same time there was an urgency in my heart of the seeds God had planted there. There was an excitement of what God could ask of us next. And there was also fear, that I wouldn't be brave enough or strong enough or I would become complacent and content in my own comfortable world and would forget what I heard, saw, and felt.
But the night was getting late, and morning would be soon.
Wednesday, November 29
Of course, last night--why wouldn't I wake at 3am. This time it seems to be quite the chorus. Someone snoring, the crows squawking, a dog yapping, and a rooster. Lovely. Snoozed until 5am.
Then it was rush, rush, rush. Got everything? Double check the bags, get all the beds taken down. Get everything in the truck. Give Joline a quick hug goodbye, promise to write, pray that she gets better quickly. Then back in the truck for the last trip down the mountain.
It was to be a long day anyway--up at 5am and not getting to the Indy airport until midnight and then another 2 hour car ride home. But the day seemed to drag as flights were delayed and time seem to slow down. But all in all, the trip home was uneventful and everyone was safe. Exhausted, but safe.
The best part of the return trip was coming out of the terminal to see my three kids waiting (somewhat impatiently) with Laura. To see their smiles and them run to jump in our arms--that was the best. Leaving them was so hard. But not following what God asked of me would have been much harder. Because I don't care if I'm a famous person or if I make a million dollars a year, or even if I'm the best parent ever. I want to know that when all is said and done that my kids know that I lived my life doing what God asked me to do and laying my life down for Him.