Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pa Pi Mal

Being in Haiti is full of highs and lows. From one day to the next, we view tragedy and then so much joy and life. The day after Day One, we rested. I finally cried when I got home and was retelling the story about how, after the mother had died, I requested that we all get together and talk. It was the 4 graduate midwives, the two students and the two American midwives. We were all now bonded through our grief. I told them the story about how I went to the Symposium for Midwives and the Women Deliver Conference. I told them that the whole world is trying to figure out this problem of maternal mortality. I told them that they are not alone. "You are the ones who will make this better." I told the students that this is why they need to study hard, get good grades and become full-fledged midwives. I told them all that we need to work harder, stay strong for the women. Globally, many women leave midwifery because it is too hard. The conditions are so intense. They burn out. I told them that they need to talk about the tragedies, about the stress of the job. We can help each other through by supporting each other. Cashmere, one of the graduate students, said that from my words, she could tell that we loved them and that as midwives, we are all the same. Yes. That is it. That is why I am here.

The children of Haiti are keeping me grounded. They are so open and happy. Taking pictures is actually opening doors for us to meet people and to be with them. They all know about digital photography, so you can show them their photo right after you've taken it. They all crowd around and want their picture taken.

Ami and Dina and I went for a walk to the store in Hinche. We are very safe here. The worst thing that seems to be happening is that Ami gets lots of men following her and asking for her number phone. Dina and I don't seem to be drawing the same attention.

We are having a good time, sinking in deeper and deeper to the reality of Haiti. As we walk home from the store, a woman asks me if I want to give her $2 to take her photo. In my broken Creole, I say, "No, I only take photos for happiness." She gets it and asks me to take her photo. She is sitting on the porch of her house with her friends, she is obviously the gregarious one who talks to strangers. She laughs easily and draws the community towards her. Soon, I am taking pictures of all the women and the children. I take a group photo. Many people in Haiti have email addresses and want us to send them the photos. One of the women on the porch runs inside to bring out a flash drive. Wow. So strange, but of course, we can put all the photos on the flash drive for her. She may not have electricty nor running water, but she has a flash drive. She walked with us a few blocks down to the orphanage and we gave her the flash drive and a CD full of the photos.

The orphanage is the most vibrant of all. The children play all day. Our house is located on the boys campus but across the street is where the girls are housed. We go over to visit them everyday. 53 orphaned girls stay there with two house mothers. When we arrive, they swarm over to us, testing out their English, asking us our names, holding our hands. Yesterday before dinner we taught them the bump. Dina and I would show them a move and then they would all take turns dancing with us. It's exhausting doing the bump with 25 little girls before dinner! They are the joy and the hope of Haiti.

There is a way that the Haitians greet each other. When you ask them how they are doing, they say, "Pa pi mal." The littlest 3 year olds, the women in labor, the elders. Pa pi mal means "It's not too bad," or "It's not worse." Living with so little, with such tragedy, with such poverty, they rise up and say, "It's not worse."

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