Monday, July 4, 2011

Haiti - Day 5

5:50am - We are on our way to the Port Au Prince airport. The van is fixed now so we actually all fit in one vehicle.  No more riding in the bed of the pickup - that's where most of our luggage went.  I got up at 4:45 (still dark out!) and threw my clothes on - same ones I wore down here actually - and Amy and I went outside to see if any kids were there.  There weren't.  So we went back to the room, got our bags all ready and drug them down to the truck.  I took a few 'engagement pictures' for Tyler and Emily up on the balcony as the sun was just starting to come up. 

We all walked back over to check for kids again a few minutes later.  And sure enough, Amy's sweet little guy, Pierre, was there.  He's so stinkin' cute!  And one of Tyler's friends, an older boy (with a crazy earthquake story) was waiting too.  The other kids must have still been asleep! 

We had to say bye around 5:45 and get loaded up for the airport.  As we were pulling off, there were more kids out there waving bye, and of course little 'Clyde' was there now.  I almost cried again just waving goodbye from the van.  We just pulled out of the gate 10 minutes ago and I already want to go back.  4 days wasn't long enough!!

7:30am - We got to the airport in about 30 minutes or so, which really wasn't bad at all.  We had to leave so early because you just never know what traffic is going to be like in this city.  As we were waiting in line to get in to the airport (there is a security check point at the front door), there were lots of men begging and trying to sell things to us.  I kind of wanted this black bracelet that said "HAITI" on it in red and blue, and all the cash I had left was $3.  I knew the bracelet wouldn't (or shouldn't) be more than that, but I gave it all to him anyways and got my bracelet.  Well that drew some attention to me, and a couple other guys started trying to get me to buy things - even when I told them I was out of money!  I don't think they believed me.  One guy was really hammering me and kept saying he wanted my water bottle.  We were all standing there just trying to drink our water - not because we were thirsty, but because we knew we couldn't take it in once we got to the front door.  And this poor guy was legitimately thirsty!  I felt bad, so I traded him my water bottle for 2 more bracelets! He just really wanted some cool, clean water and I was just trying to get rid of mine.  The yellow plastic water bottle was $4 at Wal-Mart, so it wasn't a big loss for me, but the guy was happy (and thirsty)!

My new braclets

 There were a lot of other guys lined up trying to sell us stuff.  One guy had a bunch of CDs and movies, and said one was a "Christian CD."  Track number 5 was titled "Sexy Love" - doesn't get more "Christian" than that, ha!  I said, "Ummm...pretty sure that's not a Christian CD, buddy, but nice try."  He understood some English, because he laughed sheepishly and walked off.  

At the first security gate, I threw my bag up on the conveyer belt and walked through, only to get body searched.  I didn't expect security like this in Haiti!  We waited in line for the American Airliens check in counter for 15 minutes or so.  They checked us in, printed our boarding passes, and took the girls' bags (I don't have anything to bring back with me besides my carry-on back-pack).  There was one person in front of us for immigration, and once again, the guy hardly even looked at my stuff.  He just stamped my passport...right on top of some other country stamp half way through my passport!  There is room in the back for two more stamps before its full, but no, he slapped it on and you can't even see it!  I wasn't happy about it, but I think he just got tired of flipping page after page. 

Jut past immigartion, there was another security check (x-rays and all), just like the first one!  I tried to grab my back-pack off the conveyer belt after it went through the x-ray, but the security guy grabbed it and they actually searched it!  Man, I must look shady or something! The guy really just unzipped my bag, poked around a little, pulled out my bag of food, poked it, and stuck it back in and shoved my bag towards me.

Okay, so believe it or not, we went directly up an escalator from that security check, and when we got to the top, there was ANOTHER full-on security check! And I got body searched AGAIN! I mean what in the world did they think I could of possibly done while riding from the bottom of the escalator to the top? There was NO where else to go!  So weird...

I went up top to a little food court area and got some coffee for my momma and a bottle of water.  The flight is already delayed - only 15 minutes so far - and we still have almost two hours to sit here...

8:55am - I've already been up 4.5 hours and I'm tired.  We're sitting on the plane now, almost in the last row, but I got a window seat and hope to get some good pics of the ocean (since I had an aisle seat and couldn't see on the way here).

(The best view of the ocean I got)

12:30 - The flight from Port-Au-Prince to Miami was pretty short and uneventful.  The guy sitting next to me on the plane was from Brazil, stationed in Haiti with the UN.  He didn't speak English, and had the customs form filled out all wrong.  I did my best to help him with the little bit of Spanish I know, ha! 

When we got off the plane, we knew we were somewhat pressed for time because we have to go through immigration and customs and then re-check in for our flight and go through security and all that jazz.  Since I don't have any checked bags, I went on by myself.  I didn't have to wait in the immigration line too terribly long, maybe 20 minutes or so, and then I expected to breeze right through customs.  I mean I don't eve have any bags.  Well for some odd reason, the super grumpy customs guy marked something on my customs form and told me to follow the red circles on the floor.  Ummm...excuse me?  What does that mean?  There were green (go ahead), yellow (xray) and red (hand search) circles.  The red line was NOT moving.  Like, at all.  They had 4 or 5 security guys wearing gloves and pulling every single thing out of the massive suitcases that all the foreigners had.  I was the only American in that line, I swear!  I have NO idea why he made me go that way!  I actually grabbed another security guy, showed him my customs form and asked again if I really had to wait in this line?  He asked me where I had been, looked at my back-pack, and said yes!  What the heck??  Do I look like a drug smuggler or something?  I mean, I haven't had a shower in a few days and am kind of dirty, but come on!  Well, I don't always follow the rule so well.  I was way too impatient (and crunched for time) to stand there and have them pull everything out of my bag, so I scoped out all the security guys around me for several minutes, devised my escape plan, and at just the right second, I jumped ove the rope and walk/jogged in to the stream of people heading down the yellow line to the x-ray machine!  The adrenaline was kind of going, because I think I would have gotten in some serious trouble if I got caught trying to avoid a bag search.  I mean that's not suspicious or anything!  But the guy who took my form in that line didn't even look at it!  I think if he would have seen the mark on it he would have made me go back to the red line (or worse), but he was too busy yelling at some guy who didn't even speak English, ha!  I put my bag on the x-ray machine and held my breathe (maybe it's the bag of food in there?) - but had no problem at all.  Back around to the front of the airport, and back through another security check.  Jeez...I think I've been searched like 5 times today already!

I just ate lunch here at the airport (lasagna) and am waiting at the gate now for a long flight to Chicago...

2:20pm - We are currently taxiing back to the gate. We have a "maintenance issue" that needs to be taken care of - just what you like to hear!  The flight is already 25 minutes late. Fantastic.
Well hello, Miami Beach.  I'll see you in September!

4:45pm - We just landed in Chicago (O'hare).  Our flight from Miami wasn't delayed too terribly long, so we have time for our 6pm flight to KC - thank goodness!  I am tired of airports and airplanes for today!

5:45pm - We just got on plane - and almost missed the flight eating!  I mean how often are flights actually completely boarded on time!?  That never happens!  We walked to our gate with about 20 minutes to spare, and it was EMPTY!  I mean they let us on, but everyone was definitely seated already!  Thank goodness we didn't sit around and wait any longer or we might of been too late to get on!

7:15 - Just landed in KC!  Of course my mom was here to get me.  I am headed home to unpack and do laundry - and maybe catch some fireworks somewhere around town?  I completely forgot that it is the 4th of July!  It's good to be home, but I think Haiti left a pretty good mark on me.  Wonderful experienes and lots of life lessons learned in the past 4 days...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Haiti - Day 4

7:00am - Our alarm went off at 5:20 and I was so not ready to get up yet. I drug my mattress in to the other room where the AC is, and it got so cold last night that I had to get up and put clothes on (my khaki pants and a tshirt instead of shorts and a tank top).  My earplugs fell out and I couldn't find them in the dark in the middle of the night, so yea, I didn't sleep too well!  I splashed my face with water from my water bottle, slapped on some dress clothes (a skirt and nice shirt with Columbia sporty flip-flops - real classy) and went down to grab some breakfast. Pb and j again for me, but they had meat (ham?) and cheese to make a little breakfast sandwhich I guess. We are just getting ready to leave for church now at 7, a little later than planned. We're in a rental van, GOP's big white van is still out of commission I guess. It's a nice morning, a little overcast, and their is a breeze. I'm excited to see what today holds! :)

11:30 - WOW.  That's all I have to say about this morning.  First of all, never ever again in my life will I complain about a long church service back home. It is 11:30am and church just now got out. It started at 7:30am, and we didn't get there until 8. But still, that is 3.5 hours of church in a non-air conditioned building packed with Haitians shoulder to shoulder.   Seriously.  No exxaggeration.  THREE AND A HALF HOURS OF SWEATING IN A CHURCH SERVICE IN HAITIAN CREOLE.

Okay, but let me back up, it gets way better than that.  When we were getting ready to leave for church, we realized we weren't goig to have enough room for everyone in the rental van.  Three people were going to have to ride in the bed of a truck.  Well of course I volunteered for that one, along with two other girls.  I mean how many times do you get the opportunity to ride through Port Au Prince, Haiti, in the bed of a dirty pick up truck!?  

The van that we coudln't all fit in

Well, it was definitely quite the experience alright!  First of all, it had rained the night before, so the bed of the truck was wet.  So much for a clean (and dry) skirt for church - that lasted all of one minute once I sat down.  The roads aren't nice and paved in Haiti (not in the city anyways) - they are gravel and very bumpy.  I may have broken my butt bone flying down those roads and hitting the giant pot holes and cracks in the roads.  And to top it all off, we got in a wreck in the middle of the city! It was SO crazy, and my heart is racing again now just thinking about it.  The rule of the road here is basically that the bigger vehicle has the right of way.  I can't even really explain the roads here, I mean there are just cars and trucks and people walking everywhere, not on their side of the road, there aren't lines down the middle of the road or stop lights, etc.  The vehicles drive so close to each other that I could literally reach out and touch them.  Well, there was a bigger truck full of people (like people literally hanging off of it) that honked it's horn at us as it came not-so-slowly down the middle of the road.   Our driver (Wes) kind of tried to turn away from the big truck, which left the back-end of the truck - where I was sitting with my arm hanging ove the side of the passenger side - out in the way still.  And sure enough, just as I thought, "Whoa, this one is getting way too close," and pulled my arm in and tried to lean over out of the way, the truck hit us!  I could NOT believe it.  I don't think anyone got hurt in the other truck, but we sure didn't stop to find out.  Wes said, "If you ever get in a wreck in Hait, DON'T STOP, especially if you hit a person." Ha!  Who knows what they would have done to a truck load of white girls.  I'm just thankful I pulled my arm in when I did, or it maybe gone now, or at least broken!  Wes did eventually stop quite a ways down the road to get out and see the damage.  It isn't too bad, a dent and scratched all the way along the bed of the truck, but that's about it. 

These big trucks on the right are just like the one that hit us, except it was full of people

Wes finally got out to see how bad the damage was
Maybe I'm just being dramatic with the story, but seriously, it was crazy and intense!  The funny thing is, right before it happened, I was literally about to get my camera out and start recording how crazy the traffic was.  Wouldn't THAT of been an awesome video - getting in a wreck in Port Au Prince!  I did eventually get my camera out once we were out of the heart of the city )and the traffic wasn't so crazy) and tried to record a little bit, but the road was so bumpy, it didn't really turn out.  Here is the YouTube link to watch it:

So anyways, after a long and hot ride to the other side of the city, we pulled off the main road and down a little bumpy ally way and walked a block or two to the church.  The PACKED and HOT church, that is.  My hair is completely windblown and nappy looking, and I am filthy (sweaty bodies attracts dirt and smog I guess).  I feel really gross.  Church was long, and that is an understatement.  I kind of felt bad for not getting more in to it, but it was really hard since it was all in Creole.  They did give us a little head set device and there was a guy trying to translate for us, but he wasn't very good and missed a lot - and actually didn't even try to translate the entire main message.  At one point, he yawned and apologized for the service being so long (we were all sitting there fanning ourselves and anxiously wiggling around).  He also called us "strangers" - ha.  Pretty sure that one was lost in translation.  The guy probably said welcome to our "guests" or "visitors" or something like that.  Oh, and they were praying for all of their animals - goats and chickens and BEEFS (instead of cows).  There were several times I couldn't help but giggle at the translating.

The headset they gave us to hear the translator

The pastor of the church, Pastor Moise Vaval, totally reminded me of President Obama.  I mean not only his mannerisms, but he even looked like him, too!  He was very charismatic and charming and very humble.  One of those guys you could just look at for a few minutes and tell he is a wonderful man.  It totally felt like a concert when he came on stage!  I mean the people just LOVE him and cheer and clap and holler!  People were taking pictures and videos, etc.  There was a little appreciation ceremony type of thing for he and his family at church today.  Here he is walking up on stage:

Emily (our trip leader) told us about Pastor Moise's little boy and how he died in the earthquake.  He had two little boys that were at the same school the day of the earthquake (his two older girls were at a different school).  The boys ran out hand in hand, but at some point, they got ripped apart.  The youngest boy kept running and survived, but the other son (8 years old) did not.  They didn't find his body in the collapsed school for weeks, and when they did, it was only recongnizable by his older sister who knew it was him because she recognized the socks she had put on him that morning. :(  It's just awful, but very inspiring at the same time to see the love and hope he still has for his people after all the tragedy he has dealt with.  There actually is a 60 Minutes clip on him (and The Global Orphan Project) if you are interested in watching it.  Here is the link:

The church was so loud and all the people are so intense and passionate.  It was really something to see - quite the experience.  Part of me thinks the service is so long because, let's face it, most of the people there have no where else to go!  They don't have anything else to do -  no house to clean or job to go to (85% unemployment rate in Haiti).  No erands to run or facebook to check or emails to send.  They just have to rely on God, literally, to provide for them everday, not themselves. All they have is their faith and hope in Him.  Sunday is their church /worship day, and it must be an all day affair!  Here are a couple YouTube videos of the singing at church:  1.  2.

When the church service finally ended, the little kids (many of them orphans) came running up to us and begged to be held, of course.  One little guy took my necklace off and wore it, and another little guy wouldn't get out of my arms.  You could tell he was kind of ornery, and while I was standing there holding him and talking to someone, he literally out of the blue started growling like a dog and biting my neck.  I mean not hard, it didn't hurt, just tickling me and being funny, but holy cow, it completely caught me off guard, and he was latched on to me so tight I couldn't even rip him off me!  I totally wish I had a video of that - me screaming and trying to get this little guy off me to stop sucking my neck, while I'm dying laughing from him tickling me! 

This is the little boy that attacked my neck!

We are going to get a little tour of the church (which as been partially re-built since the earthquake) and the school next door, then we are heading back.  Since church was so long, we aren't going to the beach. We'd rather spend more time with the kids. :)

The bathrooms - yes, I used them!

The "technolgy room" at the church

The school next door

Where they are rebuilding the orphanage

inside one of the classrooms

inside one of the classrooms

The view from the classrooms

The water filtration system at the church/school/orphanage

1:30 - We just got home (back to the Inn/orphanage). It was an interesting ride back through the city in the bed of the truck again - but no wrecks this time!  Wes actually bought ice cream for us for surviving the wreck and getting back in the bed of the truck, and it was SO good, especially on this hot day.  I got some good pictures of the city.  I started smiling and waving at everyone, and got some guys holding up their hands like a phone to their ear saying "call me" and I got a couple kisses blown my way and smooching sounds, ha.  It was pretty entertaining and I was eating it up. 

We stopped at a  nice supermarket in the city and I really wanted to buy something.  I found some sort of cookies (rock hard) and a Powerade and went to check out.  I only had US dollars, so she did the calculation (who knows with what exchange rate) on a calculator and shoed me 2.78.  So I handed her three $1 bills and waited for my change.  She just looked at me and kind of shooed me away.  Ummm...I WANT MY 22 cents, lady!  Wes was standing there trying to pull me out of the way, telling me I wasn't getting any change and to just leave, but I kept standing there looking at her with my hand out.  I wanted my 22 cents!!  Well, I didn't get my change.  I guess they don't even have Haitian coins that small or something?  Whatever, I thought it was a load of crap. ;)   Little funny story:  as we pulled out of the super marke and on to hiway, Wes floored it (probably so we didn't get hit again), and I literally slid on my butt all the way across the bed of truck and hit the other side.  My hands were full (cookies in one hand and powerade in the other, so I couldn't grab the side.  It was pretty funny, and I was squealing the whole time.  I told Wes riding in the bed of a truck with him driving was like a roller coaster ride!  I got a couple more high fives from guys riding by on motorcyles on the windy ride back. It's cloudy and looks like rain, but we're heading back in to town to metal factory here in a few minutes.  Hope we don't get soaked on this ride!

The supermarket - the nicest place I saw in all of Haiti

"Magic Time Yummy Tummy" chips

4pm - We went back in to Port Au Prince (not very far) to a little metal shop - in the bed of the truck again.  I'm used to it now, so it didn't bother me at all thi time.  I bought the coolest piece of metal art!  This guy hand makes all kind of art - big and small - from piences of sheet metal that he hammers out flat and then carves the designs in to them.  It was pretty cool to see, and I was happy to support the local economy!

This is the one I bought!

 When we got back from the metal shop, we went out to play with kids for a little while, and then we went over to Clydes orphanage across the street.  It is much smaller, and we played over there for a little bit - jumped rope, colored some more hacky sack balls, and blew up some balloons.  We decided to just bring those 20 or 30 kids back over here to play - there is so much more room!

The gate to the orphanage across the road

The bedrooms

Standing in the gate back to our orphanage

I'm aking a water break in my room for a minute now, and I'm just now realizing I'm kinda sunburnt from the time in the back of the truck today.  I need a snack too!  I don't know how these kids only eat twice a day!  The weather really hasn't been bad here.  It cooled off and sprinkled just a little, so it hasn't been near as hot as it was supposed to be (thank goodness)!

My sweet Aileen
6pm - We are heading to dinner now.  We've been playing for quite awhile (soccer, bball, keep away with beach ball, jump rope).  Jumping rope is a favorite pass time with the girls here, and they have there little games they play.  I tried the best I could to pick up on it, but I wasn't near as good as they were!  They still loved it when I tried though.  (Just for the record, after the jump rope episode, my shirt was seriously soaking wet from sweat - gross.)

The beach ball was really fun - while it lasted anyways.  As soon as we got it blown up and threw it, there was a stream of kids chasing it.  I was actualy surprised it lasted as long as it did, but it was LOTS Of fun while it was going.  I think Ellison's teeth biting the ball killed it - that's what the kids said anyways.  But the fun didn't end there.  They turned the plastic in to bandanas after that!  These kids are creative. :)

While most of the kids were screaming and laughing, chasing the beach ball, sweet little Jamison was kind of standing alone in the corner.  He's the cute little half-white boy that gets picked on for his lighter skin.  Erin picked him up and ran around with him on her hip or back for a LONG time (I don't know how she did it), and every time the ball came to them, his face would just light up.  So of course my object of the game was then to get the ball from the kids and throw it to Erin and Jamison, just to see that beautiful smile...

I actually got a little teary eyed tonight when I said goodbye to the kids.  Clyde and  Aileen walked me back, hand in hand, and a lot of the other kids lined up along the fence and gate waving.  I don't know if I'll see them tomorrow morning before we leave or not.  Sometimes they get up early and sometimes they don't.  I'm not sure if I want them to or not - it's only going to be harder tomorrow.  I have to keep reminding myself that these orphans really are the "lucky" ones here in Haiti:  they have a safe place to stay, they get to go to school, and they get two meals a day.  They aren't sad (AT ALL) so why should I be sad for them?  They don't need the "American Way" to be joyful or full of hope and love.

9pm - I'm back in my room now, packing for our 5:30am departure to the airport.  Dinner was really good tonight!  It was some sort of lasagna-ish casserole thing, and everything else was the same (spicy cole slaw, rice, etc).  We talked a lot tonight about "pure religion" and what it truly means to care for "the least of these."  I've learned a lot and had some great conversations in the evenings, that's for sure.  This has been a very eye-opening experience...I'm not even going to go in to all of it tonight.  It's just too much to type on my phone.

9:30pm - Emily (our trip leader from Fort Collins, CO) and her boyfriend, Tyler, just got engaged!!  He is 23 and she is 25, and they've been dating almost a year now. They seriously are the perfect couple and so wonderful together.  They are so cute and they definitely both have a heart for Haiti and orphan care.  The proposal was so sweet, too.  Tyler wrote her a poem and read it to her up on the balcony.  He named reasons why he loved her, something like, "I love you because you're my favorite dancer.  I love you because I alraedy know your answer."  I mean it was a lot longer than that, but I can't remember all of it - and I don't think Emily could either, she was so excited.  She screamed and came running down waving her fake ring (the real one is waiting on her back home), and we all screamed too.  The kids at the orphanage came running out and mocking their kiss when they found out what happened.  It was too cute.  This was just the perfect place for them to get engaged.  They are both SO happy. What a perfect ending to a wonderful trip to Haiti!