I’ve had so many people email me, message me, and call me to let me know how much they are enjoying my Haiti stories and photos. That means so much to me. I hope to reach a whole boatload of people through my blog and stories…to bring an awareness of the Haitian culture and it’s people…especially the children.
I’m back into the daily grind here at home and finding it difficult. Don’t get me wrong…I missed my family terribly and came home with a whole new appreciation of my husband and my kids. I think sometimes we all take each other for granted in life, and sometimes it takes something life changing to realize that we shouldn’t.
Hold your love ones close. Tell them how much you love them. Show them how much you love them. Let the little things go, because it’s not important.
I came back to the States with my eyes wide open. The excess of STUFF that we all have…and NEED, or think we need, more. I was hanging up some clothes in my son’s closet yesterday and I thought to myself how a typical Haitian would fall over at the amount of clothes hanging in this closet. And there wasn’t that much, a few shirts, pants and a couple jackets. I came home feeling overwhelmed at all of the crap we have, and the realization that truly we are all so entitled. It’s all part of our culture. I actually really envy a lot of the Haitian culture. There is a complete sense of community and simplistic nature… if only by necessity. Everyone helps each other, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t survive.
On to Day 2.
We were up early, in Xaragua, anxious to get to Dessalines where we would spend our week. We packed the truck back up and headed out. Our first stop was “The Beachhouse”…as it’s been named. This house on the beach is owned by part of the association that our church and the missions that we run are a part of (a large organization) and is empty. There is talk of getting it back up and running and then we wouldn’t have to stay at Xaragua when teams come in, we could stay instead at the Beachhouse as a halfway point. It is empty and we could see squatters in there hiding. We did not go inside. There is a wall surrounding the place and if it were to be restored there would have to be armed guards stationed there at all times to keep squatters and vandals (stealing) out.
The view right out back:
The view from that pier:
And our first group photo (sorry Jamie, it’s the only one I had! )
Then we got back on the road for another 2 hour drive or so. It was Wednesday, which is a very big Market day in all parts of Haiti. A passing shot:
I mentioned “TapTaps” in my previous post. This is a Haitian taxi. It could be a motorcycle, a truck, a bus…anything that moves. They pile as many people as possible on them. Here was an interesting way to ride… see the boy behind the ladder?
We stopped in Saint Marc to go to the grocery store. A very small grocery store but they had the coffee we wanted to take back to the States and they accepted American money. I think we cleaned them out of their stock of good coffee!
We arrived in Dessalines and was just pulling up the two track up to the compound and Tim jumped out of the back of the truck and threw up. We assumed he was car sick since he rode in the bed of the truck facing backwards. Turns out, we are pretty sure he had food poisoning. He was sick for 2 days. Word to the wise…don’t eat salad in Haiti when you don’t know for sure that it’s been prepared properly. He was the only one that ate some lettuce/salad in Xaragua so we are thinking that was the problem. We all felt so bad for him.
We arrived at the compound and were assigned our rooms. We met the cook, Chaupette who is a beautiful and tiny little Haitian woman with so much love in her eyes and heart. She cooked an awesome Haitian meal for lunch (and every day after while we were there). Beans and rice are a Haitian staple, and lots of seasonings and spices. I was eating something that I thought was beef but it turned out to be goat. I’m the type of person that will eat most anything if I don’t know what it is. I had a hard time eating it after that. So I just said…”Don’t tell me what I’m eating”.
Jacquelin then took us to Market down in Dessalines. We walked there in a little group. I wanted to take as many photos as possible but so many people do not want their photos taken, so I had to be careful of what I was pointing my camera at. The sights, sounds and smells were so overwhelming. People are stacked on top of each other, so much yelling, the sun was blazing hot and the smell of garbage, rotting food, unwashed bodies were all encompasing. I’m so glad that I got to see it but I didn’t have any desire to go through again. Here are some photos of Market day:
This beautiful woman gave her permission to have her photo taken…and Rob gave her a coin in thanks.
Goats waiting to be bought and slaugtered:
This was part of the meat market. Let me just say that I would not be sad if I never got to see another Haitian meat market. I didn’t photograph the gory stuff, only this. There were flies everywhere and I breathed through my mouth as we quickly went through this room.
The smell of fresh bread was very welcome when we walked out of the room above:
Another beautiful woman willing to pose for me. She was selling rice and beans. It is not common to see an older Haitian, since the life expectancy averages right around 50 years of age.
We saw a lot of charcoal and piles of wood (sticks) for sale since it is still “chilly” in the mountains at night. I wanted to photograph the women who were selling the charcoal as they were pitch black from the dust but I didn’t get a good vibe so I didn’t ask.
After visiting the market we drove around Dessalines, visiting the Hospital, picking up some Soda and ice and Rob showing us where some things were. We then took a drive over to where some Dr’s quarters were being built in the town. A Canadian missionary, named Ian, who is 76 years old, spends a huge amount of time in Dessalines helping in so many ways. He was overseeing the building of these quarters for some Haitian drs to live in with their families. He is a tall and kind and gentle man with a true love for the Haitian people. He told us of Rosanna, a women who was begging him for help. Her home was falling down around her and the 15 people (including a sister and mother, and a gaggle of kids) who lived with her. Ian decided to build her a new house, 3 rooms. Ian said the house was torn down by removing 4 nails and just simply pushing it over. We walked through her tiny little new cement home, with her beaming from ear to ear. She was so proud of her new home. They had no beds, and the children no clothes. A daughter of hers, maybe around 9, came walking in the door dragging one side of her body since she is paralyzed on one side. Another little girl there had orange hair, which means that she is slowly dying from malnutrition. We walked outside while Ian spoke with the family and a tin bowl blew over from the makeshift table in their “kitchen” (meaning…a few rocks to prop up a large pot to cook whatever she can come up with, and sometimes cooking nothing). The bowl had some rice in it and some of it got on Jamie’s feet. We were filthy from riding and walking all day. Rosanna bent down and cleaned off Jamie’s leg, she was so concerned that he had something on him. I turned my head with tears in my eyes. I did not want them to see me cry. They were so proud of a situation that I saw as horrible. It was so incredibly humbling.
We visited the orphanage where we each had 5 kids crawling on us and touching us. It was a sweet end to a long day.
That evening I was in the compound discussing the day with my teammates. I asked “How can anyone ever make a difference? Where do you even start?” I was feeling so defeated and sad over what I had seen that day. I was so overwhelmed.
A man that was also staying there said to me “Have you ever heard the starfish story?” I said that I hadn’t. He told me this story:
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, What are you doing?
The youth replied, Throwing starfish back into the ocean.
The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.
Son, the man said, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?
You can’t make a difference!
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said
I made a difference for that one.
That story moved me to tears. I kept it in mind and retold it several times. A photographer friend told it to me again after I got back home and was voicing some of my frustrations over feeling like there’s so much need….and I’m only one person. I was again feeling defeated and frustrated because my heart ached to go back and “do” more. The story is an inspiration and I keep reminding myself of it.
Here’s a quick iPad snap of Rob playing soccer with the townkids outside the compound. That is Rob’s passion…playing soccer with the boys. Everytime he goes, he brings several soccer balls. They all know him by name and want their own ball.
I hope you are enjoying my journal of Haiti. Please leave a comment to let me know you are visiting and reading, I would love to hear from you!