14 May 2012

Haiti, Day 14

Well, today was my last full day in Haiti.  It is amazing how fast trips go!  I was going to say vacations, but this really was not a vacation.  Anyways, we were all on the bus this morning by 8:30am and we headed off to do some shopping.  We went to a place called the Metal Art Market.  We weren’t sure what to expect but it had been recommended by several people.  It ended up just being a neighborhood where multiple homes sold metal art.  We wandered down the street, crossing occasionally, going in and out of houses.  At the first house there were two kitties!  One black one that had an old sore on his head and an infected eye, and a tabby that didn’t want much to do with me.  They were both pretty skinny, but so adorable!  The black one was meowing and begging for attention, so I gave him some scrubs for a while.  I don’t think I even looked at any art in that house, I just petted Mr. Kitty.  I guess it could have been Miss Kitty….  Oh well.  Moving on… Ang and I bought a few pieces of art at the various houses and then we moved on.

Our next stop was another market place that just had general souvenirs and art work.  On our way there, we stopped in front of the Presidential Palace.  I had heard a few people mention that building, but never really thought much of it.  But it turns out, that it is this massive white building that has some major structural damage.  It happened during the earthquake and it, so far, has never been fixed.  In a way, it gave me a better sense of how strong the earthquake actually was.  A few students stepped out of the bus to take better pictures, but as soon as the bus stopped we were surrounded by street vendors.  I didn’t really want to fight my way through them, so I didn’t get off.  Of course, I sort of regret that now because I wish I had better pictures! 

So we left the palace and headed off to the market.  We were part way there when we heard several loud pops in a row.  I wasn’t really paying attention but heard a student ask if that was gunfire.  We look to our left and see all these people running down the street, followed by several armed policemen.  It was pretty crazy!  I didn’t feel like I was in danger, and that same thing could happen in any city in the entire world.  But it was still rather intense.  It turned out that the market was just half a block from that area, so no one really wanted to get off the bus and walk around.  Instead, we headed to lunch.  We ate at a place called Muncheez.  Adorable, right?  Ang & I got a cheese pizza to share, and it was surprisingly delicious.  After lunch, we went to a nearby hospital.  The nurses got off the bus and took a quick tour of the TB clinic, while the rest of us waited. 

After that, we headed back to the UN base.  You would think that by now the guards would recognize us, but apparently not.  It took us a few minutes to get in and then we drove to the United Nations Development Project.  There we met with several people from the UNDP, and learned more about their work.  They focus on the following five areas; democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, environment and energy, and HIV/AIDS.  They were all very interesting and informative presentations, which was a nice way to end the trip.  We were there until just after 5pm and then headed back to HHH.

We got to HHH and had to say goodbye to Herald, our interpreter.  He has been so great to us!  He has a great attitude and sense of humor, plus he was really patient with us!  And I am sure we had to be pretty annoying!  After Herald left we ate dinner and then had a quick meeting.  We just talked about tomorrow and how it was going to go, and then just what would happen when we got home.  We also discussed having a fund raiser for Herald.  He used to rent a building and teach Haitians English, but ended up losing the building.  He has been trying to open up a new school but just does not have the funds.  So, we are going to try and raise $1,000 to help him start his school.  Wouldn’t that be great?  And it really isn’t even that much money!  Hooray!

After our meeting a big group of us played a game called the Resistance.  It was pretty fun.  Most of them played it the last few nights, so me and Ang were a bit lost.  Next time I’ll be better!  I did a little bit of packing, got in the shower, and now I am just hanging out.  I need to go to bed but really wanted to get my blog up.  Especially since it is the last day!  I am ready to go home in a lot of way, but it still kind of sucks.  I’ll miss Ang (she is headed to Peru) and Greg and Michelle and really, just being a part of something.  When you do a study abroad program, you are never alone!  Which can be a bad thing, but when you get home it can be hard to adjust to being by yourself (not that I will always be alone, but you know what I mean!). 

So, what is the main thing I will not miss?  Being stared at.  We get stared at everywhere we go.  Not just glanced at or occasionally looked at…  We get full on stares.  I am sure that most Haitians have seen plenty of foreigners but I guess a bus-full of them is pretty weird.  We get double takes, and pointed at, and sometimes one person in a group will see us, say something, and everyone flips around really quick to stare.  I am just not a fan of it.  I don’t like to be the center of attention!  And while you know we will get stared at, you don’t know if the reaction will be positive or negative.  Sometimes we get smiles and waves, other times we get angry hand gestures.  And I don’t blame them if they aren’t happy to see us.  But it is still no fun.

While there are many things I won’t miss (cold showers, weird food, sleeping under a mosquito net, sharing a room with 9 other girls, waking up early, humidity and heat, living out of a suitcase, etc) there are a few things I will miss.  I’ll miss our bus driver, Olin.  He is so funny.  He doesn’t speak a ton of English (though I think he speaks more than he lets on) but always is laughing and trying to communicate with us.  And he is such a good driver!  I keep saying that if I come back to Haiti and start my own NGO I will hire him as my driver.  I’ll also miss Gracie.  She is the dog that is running around HHH.  She is adorable!  I’ve really liked having her around.  And I’ll miss having a plan.  I really like that I don’t have to decide what to do with my day!  I just have to get up, and be on the bus.  Like I said before, I’ll miss being part of a group and having adventures together.

Anyways, I need to go to bed.  It is 11:30pm, which is the latest I have stayed up this whole trip!  And I didn’t really do much of my packing so I better get on it.  Tomorrow we don’t have to be on the bus until 9:30am and then our flight doesn’t leave until like 1pm.  When we get to New York we are planning on going in the city as we have a twelve hour layover.  Unless we get stuck in customs or something…  Ang & I want to just hop in a cab and head off to Lombardi’s.  They make the best pizza I have ever had.  Delicious!  But, we’ll see.  Well, I’m off.  Next time I write, I’ll be in the states.  Crazy!

Metal art

More metal art


I liked this one, except for the dog is a bit creepy

A skinny dog, laying in the yard

A man making metal art

More metal art

The Presidential Palace

What looks to be a public park, taken over by tents

Us with the UNDP people we met with

Us with Gracie, Herald, and Olin

13 May 2012

Haiti, Day 13

Today was the beach day!  I got on the bus at 8:30am and we hit the road!  I rode in the front seat today because I wanted to try it out.  It was actually a bit scary at first!  Olin is a crazy (but good) driver and being up front just emphasizes that!  Anyways, it took us about 2 ½ hours to get to Indigo Beach.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but sort of figured we were just going to a public beach.  It ended up being a big resort which you had to pay to get in to and then they had a big buffet for lunch.  As we arrived, we followed a big UN truck in to the parking lot and there were several other UN trucks already there.  Apparently this is what the UN army does on the weekends. 

So we got in line to get in to the resort, paid, and found a chair on the beach.  It was a really nice place with a massive swimming pool, dining area, music, etc.  Ang & I sunscreened up (Greg however did not put very much on, even though I recommended it…) and then we got in the water.  It was a gorgeous day and the water was beautiful.  However, we were surrounded by men!  Men were everywhere!  There was probably like only ten other women there.  It was crazy!  Anyway, we stayed in the water for a while, swam out to the buoys, and then went and sat down on our beach chairs.  We all hung out until lunch time and then hit the buffet (which ended up being pretty good).

After the buffet we got back in the water for a bit, did some swimming, tried to communicate with Olin (he is so patient with us!), etc.  Went back and sat in our chairs for a while.  I bought some art work.  We ordered a beverage.  Me and Ang got some bracelet’s.  That’s about it.  We left around 3:30pm and headed back to HHH.  We got stuck for age’s part way home because there was a carnival going on.  Other than that it was a pretty smooth ride.  Anyways, I got pretty sunburned (whoops) as did pretty much everyone else.  I hopped in the shower.  We ate dinner.  Called my Momma (Happy Mother’s Day!).  And now, here I am. 

Well, tomorrow is our last full day here.  I honestly can’t believe it; it has gone so fast!  I am pretty ready to go home in a lot of ways (selfish ways, of course) but I honestly think I will be back here one day.  Maybe next year, maybe in ten years.  Who knows.  Anyway…  I should get some sleep.  We have a full day tomorrow!

Honestly like the only picture I took at the beach... Sailboat!
Cows being herded....
More cows.

Haiti, Day 12

Today we were on the bus by 6:30am, and headed off to Pignon.  We were on our way to meet with an organization called Haiti Outreach.  The bus ride was about four hours and the last hour and half was a dirt road.  During this last stretch we also had to cross several small rivers.  Fortunately, they were pretty low and we were able to cross smoothly.  We arrived at Haiti Outreach and met with the founder, Neil.  He started the organization about 20 years ago and the main thing they do is to dig wells in communities in Haiti.  They also support other projects such as building schools, etc. 

In order to have a well built in your area, you have to write a letter to OH and have several people from the village sign in support of a well.  Then OH will visit the village to meet with the community and determine if they are a good candidate.  One thing OH really focuses on is making sure that the projects they do will be maintained long after they leave.  In order to do this, each well gets a guard, who is paid to guard the well when it is open.  Also, people in the community are trained to fix the well if it ever breaks.  This way, they are not relying on outsiders to come and get the water working again.  After talking to Neil for a while, we headed off to lunch.  We ate in this woman’s house, who uses the first level as a restaurant.  We couldn’t all fit, so some of us went and ate in her actual home.  For $3 we all got a massive plate of rice, this delicious bean sauce, meat of some sort (I did not eat it and can’t tell you what it was… probably goat), and a soda.  It was so good!  The bean sauce was this thick dark stuff that you poured all over your rice…. Yum. 

After lunch Neil asked us if we wanted to walk through the village market.  We agreed because we have driven through several of them, but not been able to see on up close before.  So we drove over, lined up, and he led us through the market.  It was pretty intense.  You could tell some people were irritated that we were there, I got flicked with water, a lot of people came up and demanded money, most of us saw a pig being slaughtered…  Like I said, intense.  Fortunately, I did not see the pig because Ang warned me just in time.  Thanks, Ang!  After the market we walked over to a local rum factory.  It was actually pretty interesting.  They had these big vats of molasses that were bubbling away as they were fermenting.  They even let us try some if we wanted (I passed).  I didn’t take my camera through the market (for obvious reasons) so I didn’t have it in the factory.  After that, we headed to one of the well sites and checked it out.  It was really nice and it even had a chlorine dispenser hooked up to it.

At that point it was pretty cloudy and we knew we needed to hit the road.  Neil told us that if we got stuck to let him know and he would set us up in his guest house.  So off we went.  Olin seemed a bit nervous about the water because he was hauling ass.  It was crazy!  It started to rain pretty hard and the roads became almost like rivers themselves.  It was very nerve-wracking and we were sliding all over the place.  When we got to the first river, it was pretty big!  We got about halfway across, and got stuck.  We were all panicking.  Most of us honestly did not think we were going to make it.  And then the bus tilted far to one side.  It was pretty scary!  But Olin is a genius and managed to get us across by backing up to one side and then plowing through.  After that we were all on edge, but the further we got, the slower the rain got.  By the time we got to the next river it was barely even raining.  We were lucky!  We got home at about 7pm, ate dinner, I showered, and now… Here I am.  Off to bed I go!

Sunrise, from the bus

Haiti Outreach

Chlorine dispenser

Everyone with Neil

The road/river

11 May 2012

Haiti, Day 11

This morning I got up, got ready, ate breakfast, and was on the bus by 7:30am.  Our first stop was Americares in Port-au-Prince.  They are an interesting organization.  They receive shipments of medical supplies and work with local hospitals to distribute the supplies.  Americares also writes grants to help out projects in the community that they support.  They were here before the earthquake and have continued to help since.  They were also here during the cholera epidemic and received like ten loads of IV fluids.  Anyways, they have a large warehouse full of boxes and an attached cold room full of medications.  It was pretty interesting and the people were super nice, which is always appreciated.

After Americares we headed over to meet with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.  There we spoke with Damien and Yara, both of whom work on the CCCM Cluster.  The CCCM Cluster works on creating and managing shelters, from camps to temporary houses.  And while they are not technically part of the UN, they are affiliated with them and are located on their base.  So they spoke to us about their program and the progress they have made here in Haiti.  Damien was only 26, which makes me hopeful that I can be young and still work for a big NGO in some random country.  It’s possible!   Anyways, after they spoke to us we ate lunch at the UN’s cafeteria.  It was pretty cool because there were so many interesting people coming in and out.  People from all over the world, of different ages, and doing different things to help out. 

Next, a few guys that work for IOM Haiti rode with us out to a transitional housing camp that they helped to set up and maintain.  We walked around the camp, spoke with different people, and went in a few houses.   One man that allowed us to enter his house said that he had to because without the organization we were with, he would be living on the street.  It was really pretty neat.  Afterwards we headed back to HHH and now… Here we are.  We just ate dinner and hopefully I will be going to bed a bit early this evening.  My throat is pretty sore, my stomach is a bit off, and I am pretty damn tired.  Today was a really hot day, which always takes a lot out of you.  And tomorrow we have to be on the bus at 6:30am.  Well, I can’t believe how fast this trip has gone.  We have three more full days and then we head home.  Crazy!  It is always sad to leave a place and I know I will miss Haiti, but I am getting ready to come home.   Anyway… Until tomorrow.

The Americares warehouse
With the Americares group, Olin, and Herold
UN Cafeteria
Local soccer game

Haiti, Day 10

Today we headed to Clean Water for Haiti.  I forget the name of the town, but it was about a two hour drive.  Clean Water for Haiti is a small NGO run by a young Canadian company, Chris and Leslie.  They create simple biosand filters for people in Haiti.  They have been here since 2001 and have continued to sell them after the earthquake.  Each biosand filter is made of a cement rectangular box with a small tube inside.  The bottom is filled with sand and in the sand a biological layer is built up after having water run through it each day.  A pretty simple idea, but it removes between 95-99% of bacteria from the water.  They cost about $55 to make but CWH sells them to locals for only $5.  When they first began creating these water filters, they gave them away for free.  However, they found that when given a filter, most people did not take care of them and some even stopped using them.  Now that they sell them for $5 people take care of them and are more likely to use them.  Also, CWH visits each filter after 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.  This way they can check in with people to see how the filter is working for them and if there are any problems.  If they find a problem or a filter needs to be changed, they will send a worker out in the next week or so to fix it.  Their program was pretty impressive, I must say.

After leaving CWH, we headed back to HHH to meet Carla and Ron.  If you recall, we drove up to their place last Saturday but had to cut our visit short.  They were nice enough to stop by and speak to us about development here in Haiti.  It was pretty interesting.  Basically, Ron believes that most foreigners need to leave and let Haiti fix Haiti.  After they left, we ate dinner, and hung out.  We were planning to go to a concert of sorts nearby at 10pm, but I got sick right before we left.  I got hit with a wave of nausea and couldn’t get myself to go.  So I stayed home, dry heaved in the bathroom for about an hour (too much information?), and now I am off to bed.  My stomach is still pretty unhappy, but hopefully it will settle down.  Plus, I think I am starting to get a sore throat.  Lame! 

Yesterday with CECI

Recently poured filters

Where they make the filters

A massive fruit in Chris & Leslie's backyard

Chris giving us a lesson on germ transfer

Filter delivery for the day

Filing the molds with concrete

09 May 2012

Haiti, Day 9

I’m pretty tired tonight, so I am going to be rather brief.  This morning we had to be on the bus by 8am to head to the Mennonite Central Committee.   After a short ride we arrived and were led inside by a woman named Linda.  She lives there with her husband Jim, and they help run the Haiti branch of the MCC.  We listened to them speak about their work in Haiti and four other MCC employees also spoke.  They are a great organization, which works all over the world making a difference.

Next, we ate lunch at MacEpi again where I attempted to use an ATM.  I never told my bank that I was going to Haiti so figured it wouldn't work but it did!  I was able to pull 5,000 goud.  Hooray!  Anyways, next we headed to the Centre d'Étude et de Coopération Internationale (CECI).  They work in mainly the rural areas of Haiti promoting development and women’s rights.  They set up community counseling and to incentivize people to cooperate, they state that they will donate money toward goals the community sets up in those meetings.  After that meeting we headed back to the HHH Compound, played bananagrams, ate dinner… 

Then we had a scientist who works for Nature Conservancy, group come and speak to us about his work.  It was really interesting and he told us that right now they are trying to get Haiti to declare a strip of the bay protected.  He actually lives in Provo, Utah (what are the odds?) and works all over the Caribbean.  So… Hooray for conservation!  Anyways, tomorrow we are heading off to Clean Water for Haiti, which should be pretty interesting.  Anyways, I took just a couple of pictures today but I am too lazy to stick them on here right now…  So I’ll post them tomorrow.  Oh!  And by the way...  I woke up with 24 mosquito bites on my upper arm and elbow.  Not sure how that happened but it is sure itchy!  Goodnight!

Haiti, Day 8

This morning I got up, got ready, and ate breakfast around 7am.  Then at 8am, we walked down to take a tour of the Healing Hands for Haiti Clinic.  We are staying on the HHH Compound, and the HHH Clinic is down the hill, on the same property.  We took a quick tour and then spoke with the CEO of HHH.  At the clinic they do a few things.  They work with amputees and can create prosthetics on site and they also do physical therapy.  The building was finished last month and is beautiful.  The building they had been using previously, collapsed during the earthquake.

Next we got on the bus and headed toward World Vision.  They spoke to us about what they are doing in Haiti and the different things they are focusing on.  I should write more about them, as they were great, but I am too tired and I don’t have my notes with me.  Next we headed to SOS Children’s Village.  They are open around the world and have four or five different locations in Haiti.  This location (in Port-au-Prince) serves 300 children.  Of those, 180 live on site and either or orphans or have parents that cannot take care of them, and 120 come each day for school and/or daycare.  When we arrived, we were met by several young girls.  They were so adorable.  They were really happy to see us and gave us all hugs.  We took a tour and saw all the different buildings.  They have the day care and a school, homes where the children live, and other buildings.  They have 18 homes where the children live.  Ten kids live in each home with one ‘mom’.  It is a really nice place, but it is still pretty depressing.  All these adorable kids running around, starving for attention.  The boys loved Greg because of his hairy arms.  They kept running off and grabbing their friends to come see his arm hair.

We were met at SOS by a woman who works for UNICEF.  She works for their education cluster and rode with us over to a development that the UN helped build.  I don’t remember how many people were living in the small wooden homes, but surrounding them were around 30,000 squatters.  People that had nowhere to live, and thought that was as good a place as any.  They just set up tents and built shelters, but are their illegally.  It was crazy.  They had a school in the development and we stopped and spoke to the principal.  He said their funding for the school runs out next month and they don’t know what to do.  The woman from UNICEF told us that the UN was shutting down the education cluster and she was moving on.  It was a hard situation.  The small homes (or shacks) were built as temporary housing but everyone said that they weren’t really temporary anymore.  I mean, where are the people going to move to? 

We went back to HHH for a bit before heading off to dinner at the Montana Hotel.  It is this super fancy place that is really high up and has an amazing view.  It’s where all the rich foreigners look down on all the poor people.  At least that is what it seemed like.  Here is this posh place, where all the people are wearing suits and dresses, and our great view is of the slums.  It had really good, overpriced food, but you basically sat there and felt like a horrible person.  We spent more on that meal than many Haitians make in a month.  And they are the lucky ones.  Minimum wage here is about $5 a day, but many get as low as fifty cents a day.  Some probably get even lower. 

Sigh.  Coming to Haiti makes you feel helpless.  Well, it makes me feel helpless and I imagine others on the trip feel the same way.  There are so many problems here, so many people suffering, that no one knows where to start.  And while there are tons of NGO’s down here trying to make a difference, so many of them are corrupt and taking advantage of the situation.  Many NGO’s harm, more than they help.  I am trying to keep positive but I honestly don’t know that Haiti will ever be a self-reliant country that isn’t chock full of problems.  On that note, I am going to bed.  I probably won’t get to post this until the morning.  The power keeps shutting off, which means no internet.  Anyways…  Night.

At World Vision

Selling lumber on the side of the road

The girls at SOS

The boys loving Greg

Daycare at SOS

Greg and friends running

Ang getting a flower in her hair

The school at SOS

The development we went and saw

Homes at the development

Michael speaking to the principal and woman from UNICEF

The school

View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant
Earthquake memorial at the restaurant