Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nou La, Anko!

After a long day of travel yesterday, we are “nou la, anko”! (“We are here, again”, for those who don’t speak Creole.) Dina, Susan, Courtney and I met up in Miami to begin the Haiti 2011 adventure. Susan and Courtney had travelled together overnight from San Francisco, Dina had arrived the night before, and I came from New York. Boarding the plane reminded me of how close Haiti is to the United States. Pow! In less than two hours we would be in Haiti.
Upon arrival in Haiti, the most chaotic part of our trip was sure to be the simple act of getting out of the Port Au Prince airport intact. With Dina’s and my newfound love for Haitian Creole, we were able to fend off those who would lead us astray and finally get picked up for the short ride to Matthew House 25.
Ah, Matthew House. We had only been there two short times before and yet it felt like our Haiti home. Nancy met us with open arms and quickly ensued to tell us updates of the boy with cancer who had lived in the tent city, Darling and baby Matthew, the mother who was in labor while we were here, and other families that we had known. The beautiful, 14 year old amputee that we had interviewed for our video, who was usually at the top of her class, was now having trouble at school. Nancy is worried that she needs psychological support. Hardly surprising after losing her leg and witnessing her brother’s death as a wall fell on them during the earthquake. The soccer field is now completely devoid of tents, cleaned up, walls freshly painted for a soccer tournament that would happen this evening.
Tey, the “president” of the Matthew House tent city, was still there. I showed them photos from last year and passed out photos to Nancy and Tey that I had brought as kado yo (gifts). Back in the states, I printed out 340 prints of photos I had taken the year prior. These would be my ice-breakers for the return trip. I also found my photo book in NY of the Children of Haiti that I had made for my nephews. I brought that along too to show the children, hoping that I would meet them all again.
Soon, the new pink jeep from Midwives for Haiti was here to pick us up. The PINK Jeep! A wonder of modern auto mechanics! 4 wheel drive, rugged all terrain wheels, benches in back like the usual Haitian transport, heavy duty roll bars, luggage rack on top that easily held Courtney’s 3 extra large, 70 and 80 pound bags, 2 extra large suitcases, and a few more large duffles. The area in back was designed to be large enough to carry a stretcher, converting the Jeep into MFH’s homemade village ambulance when needed. The “snorkel” is the muffler, diverted up and over the top of the vehicle, so that when, during the rainy season, Ronel needs to pass through deep water, the water wouldn’t back up into the muffler. The Jeep was donated and made in the US for Midwives for Haiti. Pink matches the color of the students’ scrubs in the hospital and is now, officially, the signature color of Midwives for Haiti.
The road to Hinche from Port Au Prince is mostly paved, such a pleasure! We stopped on our way out of PAP at the brother of our interpreter’s house to buy artwork, witnessing a slice of life on the outskirts of Port Au Prince. For most of the ride, Courtney and I rode in back, speaking every now and then with Peter, the young Haitian driver of our interpreter who was along for the ride. A few hours into the drive, as the terrain was getting more and more lush, we drove through a village that started to look familiar. As we passed through the main market area of town, I saw the familiar sign of Zanmi Lasante and asked the driver to stop. This is Paul Farmer’s model hospital that began as a center to treat tuberculosis and HIV and is now a sprawling wonderland with an art center, a nutrition program, a Women’s health center, dentistry, pediatrics, even a small glass enclosed room that exists as their NICU. We found an American physical therapist who had just arrived 10 days earlier to take us around. I ran back to the pink jeep and found my photos of people I had met there last year and hoped to find a few still there. As I entered the maternity ward, I was met by a familiar face!! It was Marlene, one of last year’s students from Midwives for Haiti!! She remembered me immediately. Having recently learned the Creole word for remember, I told her that I remembered her but did she remember me? She laughed, of course!, and quickly pantomimed playing the ukelele and our singing! She remembered Dina, our big party and the photo year books that I had sent them. I was so excited to see that she had a job in this amazing hospital. We talked excitedly, in my broken Creole. I wanted to know all about her job. Were they paying her well? Was it enough? Was she here on her own? She showed me around, 3 women in labor, 4 or 5 in the postpartum ward. This year, I wanted to go out and speak Creole with some of the midwives. I wanted to know how they were getting on, if they were working as midwives, how were they? Marlene said, “N’a parle en Hinche.” We will talk in Hinche. On August 4th, there will be a continuing education session in Hinche that will bring all of the former midwives back to Midwives for Haiti. We’ll figure out when we can go out and continue our exchange of friendship and midwifery comraderie.
We also toured the pediatric unit where I gave out more photos. The most amazing thing this time was a 50 piece orchestra of kids from Port Au Prince that was practicing on a patio under a tent. The most beautiful, classical music with violins, cellos, 4 stand up basses, the works. So like Paul Farmer, that music and art and beauty are all pieces of healing. We loaded ourselves back into the pink jeep and headed out for our last hour of the drive to Hinche.
Maison Fortune was just as we had left it. Summertime, children everywhere, grabbing your hands are they meet you. We saw familiar faces and were thrilled to see Brother Mike. It struck me that, of course, I would remember them, my first Haiti trip burned into my memory. But how could they remember us, with all the volunteers that come through? It feels good that Haiti recognized us, just as we recognized Haiti.

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