Sunday, July 22, 2018

The adventure begins!

As I sit on the veranda at the Midwives for Haiti house, all is right with the world. Let’s just say,
 all is right with my world. After postponing the trip due to a fuel hike that caused rioting and
 protests in the streets in Port-Au-Prince, we got the green light last Monday that the roadblocks
 were cleared and it would be safe for us to make the 2 and half our road trip from PAP to Hinche, 
in the Central Plateau.

Still, even though our State Department had lowered their travel advisory from 4 (the highest – 
DO NOT TRAVEL) to 3 (Reconsider non-essential travel), there was still some obvious concern 
about us going. We even consulted my sister’s neighbor/psychic to see if there was a black cloud 
over the trip. He only saw a friendly man with an aqua blue shirt, perhaps a helper who would 
bring us important information. For me, my mind was quiet, without the usual buzz of anxiety 
that precedes travel. We traveled to NY during our now-free week and a chance encounter with 
the volunteer coordinator from Midwives For Haiti felt like a good omen. As we left a small bodega 
in bodega in Brooklyn, we passed by Bisma, who we had met in Haiti the summer before. Dina
 recognized her and reflexively turned and shouted, “Zamni mwe!” “My friend!” Bisma turned 
and recognized us immediately and we all had a good laugh over the tiniest of probabilities that 
we would meet up at 10pm on the streets of New York City. Our good feelings of Haiti and the
 Midwives program washed over us, comforting any uneasiness about the trip.

We (Dina, Viola and I) arrived in Port Au Prince on Saturday morning, a half hour before my 
two nephews, Matthew and Daniel, and their cousin/chaperone, my son, Tyler. From years of 
hearing about our travels to Haiti, Matthew, who is 11, decided that he wanted to come too. 
So, all year, Matthew, Daniel and my sister, Laura, collected 100 backpacks, school supplies, 
360 pairs of underwear, 6 giant traveling duffel bags, over 300 tooth brushes, tooth paste, 
100 reading glasses, 8 tarps and assorted odds and ends that would be appropriate for the 
children of Hinche. It felt easy and exciting to meet the three of them as they descended
 the escalator to the baggage claim in Port Au Prince.

We loaded up our 600 pounds of donated items on 6 carts and played follow the leader out 
of the airport. For our part, we brought medical supplies, clean birth kits, 80 Sunday-best 
dresses for the girls at Maison Fortuné, supplies for our Friday night dance party, 
bug repellant, baby clothes, purses for the midwives, money in you-better-believe-I-sewed-them
 zipper pouches, balls for the toddlers at Mother Theresa’s feeding center, hair extensions for the
 teens, barrettes and colorful hair ties for the younger ones).

Our trip along the road to Hinche was oddly more peaceful than usual. Maybe it was that 
we had a more mini-bus type experience; 13 people traveling without luggage is a Haitian 
luxury. Our bags traveled alone in the Land Cruiser that usually carries us as well. Maybe it 
was that we took a different route out of Port-au-Prince, I feel that we were farther to the east, 
circumnavigating the heart of the city. Maybe it was the calm after a contentious week of 
political unrest; the Prime Minister resigned which was one of the demands of the angry 
mobs. Matthew fell asleep immediately and in 2 and a half, easy hours, we arrived in Hinche.

We visited the girls at Maison Fortuné after dinner, learning that almost all of the children, 
boys and girls, would be going to an overnight camp for the whole week, leaving the following 
day. Seeing as just hanging out with the girls was high on our agenda list, we needed to pack in 
our connections and salutations into 2 short visits. Viola passed out the photos that we had taken 
in 2017, Daniel handed out Skittles and Starburst. We introduced Tyler, Daniel and Matthew all 
around. A good time was had by all.

We fell asleep last night fed, showered, exhausted, and content. We are all here - safe, sound, 
and ready for an adventurous Haitian week.

Checking out last year's photos

New dresses!

Duct tape wallet
Daniel meets Wawa

Matthew finds other entertainment with duct tape

Off to camp!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Faces of Haiti

Somehow, this trip has gone by in a flash. We are committed to 2 orphanages and the Midwives for Haiti program. So, it seems, every moment is filled with some activity or other. We've loved every minute of it and the consensus is that we wish we could stay longer. We said goodbye to the girls at Maison Fortuné tonite with another party. We sang and danced and the girls were treated to popcorn, sweet dried mangoes, Jolly Rancher candies and birthday cake! It is Miss Genette's birthday today. We cut up 4 birthday cakes and fed 85 girls. Miss Genette is one of the lead midwives in the program that we have known now for 7 years. I forgot to ask how old she is today, I think mid- to late 40s. She told me this was the first birthday party she ever had.

Here are just some of the beautiful faces of Haiti:

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bèl Dezòd la

(from Dina: Hinche, Haiti)
Early this morning Maria and I took a “ti mache” (little walk) around the corner, literally. We left the Sage Femme pou Ayiti (Midwives for Haiti) house and took 2 quick rights and the most beautiful vista was right in front of us. People walked quietly to work and school while the call of cows and goats lightly filled the air.

Later that day we had our usual visit with the girls at the Orphanage. We have gotten to know them very well after 7 years so we quickly fall into our routine. Viola starts playing a very structured volleyball game which then devolves into different forms of "dezòd" (chaos): dancing to the rhythm of "the bucket", singing, patty-cake, screaming, and “ap fe blag” (making joke).

Last Friday we had our customary "ti fèt la" (little party) for the girls. We bought 120 bags of Chicos and 120 bottles of Tampico. The girls decorated the place and we played music (thanks to our driver David who lent us his "musik bwat"!). This year we brought some chalk to draw on the concrete. That activity lasted about 5 minutes before they started to use the chalk to make up their faces.  The dancing and excitement always grows as it gets darker and darker.

There are 84 girls now at Maison Fortune and they have a very strong bond. We were there to witness several of the girls returning from vacation. "Se Louvitha! Se Losuvitha!," they scream as they go running to meet one of them at the front gate. They surround her with big smiles and laughs, take her bags and walk her to her room.

It is a beautiful chaos.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Haitian Home visits!

I jumped at the chance to do home visits here in Haiti. This is by far my most intimate view into the life of a Haitian mother and baby. Clinically, the visits are largely the same as my visits at home: how are you? how are things with the baby? Is the baby latching well? I weigh the baby, check the mom's abdomen (too often checking her vertical C-section sutures). Culturally, I am wide-eyed and listening. Babies with abdominal bands to make their muscles strong and little strings on their wrists to ward off evil spirits. The dangers of voo doo.  Of course the visits are different because I arrive on the back of a motorcycle to a small alley where people are sitting outside, directing us to the new mother and baby. Sometimes it is a typical Haitian shack away from the downtown of Hinche with barefooted children who run away with a smile and a piwili (lollipop) offered to them by the blan (white lady).

We went to Miss Genette's house today so that she could teach me how to make Haitian meat sauce. It is a savory, salty, peppers and tomato-based sauce with small bits of meat. The meat is usually goat but today we made the sauce with chicken legs, feet and necks.

Here are photos from the first week's home visits: