Sunday, July 21, 2013

Here in Hinche!

After two days of travel, we are here in Hinche once more.
We left San Francisco yesterday morning around 7am. Dina, Viola, Mary Louise and I and our 500 pounds worth of stuff. We had successfully acquired a bag full of sneakers and shoes, three bags worth of T-shirts, volleyball shorts, knee pads and clothes. When I say bag, I mean a 50-pound bag of luggage! 12 volleyballs were donated by SF Juniors and we even received a volleyball net from a parent at the SF Waldorf School. We had soccer balls, malaria pills, a few medical supplies and various and sundry gifts for our Haitian friends. We were ready for adventure!

We arrived in balmy Miami around dinnertime, settled in for a short stay and went out for a lovely, local seafood dinner. Air conditioning was a luxury we knew would not follow us to Haiti. In the morning, we woke up to catch our 10am flight to Port Au Prince. I am always touched to see the scores of volunteers on the plane. Happy people, just like us, giving of themselves. I was attempting to put Dina’s heavy camera backpack in the overhead bin, when the man behind me asked me if I needed help. I said, “Sure.” He said, “Happy to help.” I knew that he meant it on a deep level. Those who travel to Haiti do it because they love it. We receive a small sense of satisfaction to be helping someone in need. Haiti will benefit from our small acts of kindness for years to come. With compassion, we lend a hand, hoping to make a difference.
Ronel and the jeep (not the pink one this time) were waiting for us at the airport. Each year I notice the improvement in the airport infrastructure and feel confident that there is, indeed, movement happening in this country. We loaded the jeep high with all of our bags. 8 volunteers in all, each with their 2 fifty-pounders and two carry-ons. Ropes, bungee cords and years of experience transformed an overflowing truck to a moving tower of luggage with plenty of room for 10 of us to sit. Viola and Mary Louise rode in the back, seeing Haiti for the first time. Tap taps, donkeys, the green and brown countryside — they absorbed the sights with excitement and curiosity.

After 3 hours of driving, we arrived in Hinche. Our first stop was Maison Fortune where we were greeted by our young friends, Odey and WaWa. They didn’t know we were coming. A moment of hesitation turned into warm hugs as they recognized us. My own outpouring of Haitian Creole probably resembled jibberish as my feelings of excitement could not keep up with my rusty language skills.
The girls had been moved to a different campus. It is about a half a mile away  from the school and main campus of Maison Fortune. Even as we drove up, we saw Barbara walking down the road. I excitedly told Ronel to stop the jeep! Barbara is one of the oldest girls at the orphanage and she is definitely the alpha female. As such, she remains aloof at times, observing rather than joining in the younger girls’ ruckus. When she saw us, I saw a smile of recognition cross her face. She was happy to see us.
As soon as the younger girls saw us, the swarming began! We had told them the year prior that we would bring Viola to visit. One of their most common questions is if we have any children. So, we had talked about her and shown photos. Nearly as soon as Viola and Mary Louise got out of the Jeep, they surrounded them; a couple of them said, “Li belle.” She is so beautiful. They grabbed their hands, blurting questions in Creole that Viola and Mary Louise didn’t understand. The smile was understood though and there was general merriment and celebration.
Later that evening, we sat on the porch of our building, surrounded by girls. They hugged us, asked questions, sang to us, played hand clapping games. They are happy in this new compound. It is spacious, clean, safe. It’ll be a great place to teach volleyball, away from the boys who would steal the volleyballs to play soccer. It feels protected; the girls look healthy. Mishou has grown, as well as Manoushka and Islande. Well, they’ve all grown!
We are so happy to be here in Hinche once more — safe and satisfied.

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