Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Haiti Part 2

Day 2~

Our second day was spent working in the tent community that we had connections with.

Some background on this community: There are about 150 families living in the community. They have an advantage that many do not; they are in a secure area with four walls and a gate. This provides them more security. In this camp is a building that had been a woman's home (her name is Francine and she is on the committee). She moved out of it even though it is safe because her husband died in it when a wall fell on him. She is only in her late 20's or early 30's. This community has its own "government" you might say. There is a commitee of five people and they make decisions and are the spokes people for the community. And I believe it is because of the committee that the community is doing so well.

The first morning we arrived we had a lot of unpacking to do. We had 7 different teams working with different ages and genders of people from kids to adults. Everyone was excited to see us and very eager to help us get everything set up. Inside of the building is where the dental team set up and worked and where my team, the bread making team, set up and worked. Outside under tarp-tents that we brought is where the kids age 4-6, 7-10, and girls 13-17 were. The boys 13-17 were out in the sun playing sports all day (with Josh), and our construction team brought and assembled 4 shower stalls.

Each team had a translator so that we could communicate. Haitian's speak two languages, Creole and French, and none of us spoke either. So with our translator's help we began! My team worked with 6 women to teach them how to bake a bread called "Pan de Agua" which is a typical Dominican bread that a Haitian friend of ours said that the Haitian's in Haiti would probably like. After we explained to the women what we were going to be doing they got really excited and couldn't wait to learn. For our morning session with them, we demonstrated how to make the bread as they watched and asked questions. After we finished preparing the dough and were waiting for it to raise (1 hour) the ladies asked if they could begin making their own, they wanted to start trying right away! Because of their eagerness we figured we could steer away from our plans and let it just happen naturally and see what happened. These women were so excited and loved doing it! They never once used their directions they had already memorized it from watching Maggie do it that one time! Because of space in the oven we had to do it in shifts, 3 women first and then the other 3 could follow 20 minutes behind them. So in the morning session 3 women got to make bread for the first time!

When we came back from lunch break we let the next 3 ladies make their bread. While we waited for the bread to rise we sat around the table just getting to know one another. I spent a little bit of time getting to know our translator, his name is Woodsie. He did a great job translating and was really fun to interact with. He is an intelligent guy with an opinion on many things.

When we returned from lunch break the second group of ladies began. When they finished - and we all sampled - they began asking what other things we were going to teach them. We were totally unprepared for their excitement and enthusiasm and so had only prepared to teach them how to make bread. Maggie did some quick thinking and came up with some other ideas of how to use the same dough to make other things. After we talked it over with the ladies and received some ideas from them, we came up with 3 other ways to use the dough.... and to find out you will have to read the "Day 3" blog!

Here are a few more short videos from our trip.

This video gives you an idea about street life. I explained in Part 1 that just about everything is sold on the street. In the beginning of video you can see two women preparing food to sell. The video then pans past what looks maybe a buisness where lotto tickets are sold. Then you can see another area where someone cooks things to sell. There is an upturned refridgerator where they probably keep the food in order to protect it from bugs.

This video shows the larget tent community that I saw. It went for what seemed like forever! These tents were really nice tents, we saw communities where the "tents" were made from sticks and sheets. Clearly these had been brought by other coutries in their aid packets. This tent community also had shower facitilies and toilets - you can see them, they are grey tall and skinny tent looking structures with the Red Cross sign on them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Haiti - Part 1 (revised)

Hopelessness, Desperation, Powerlessness, Starvation

Can you imagine a country where this is the reality?

Day 1~ 12 hour car ride to Port-au-Prince

What I thought would have been one of the longest days of my life turned out to be so fun! I was in the van with Lowell, Cheryl, Josh, and Chastity. (The rest of the van was full of our luggage and our supplies.) We had SO much fun joking around and teasing each other that the time passed by quickly. Our fun and games came to a sudden halt when we reached the border and had to sit in the most chaotic mess I've ever seen in my entire life. It took us about 2 hours to get through because of the disorganization. This border crossing is nothing like one could imagine without experiencing it for themselves. When you arrive to the crossing you would never know that you had actually approached it because of the heap of semi trucks lining the road as they wait to cross over. The many people walking around and selling things in the mud and heat is also a distraction to what awaits. When we finally reached what could be mistaken as a traffic jam, turns out to be a building and a few security guards deciding who to let through without trouble and who to hassle - we were hasseled... I think I actually saw money signs in their eyes when they saw us. After about 3 different stops - all within 70 yards - we were finally through! Once we were in Haiti our van was silent as we watched. Every now and then someone would comment on similiarities or differences to the D.R. but we all just watched.

We made it into the city of Port-au-Prince about an hour before dark. At one time in my life I thought 5:00pm traffic in Kirkland was bad, but this was worse! Because the city is without power, everyone tries to get home before dark. We hardly moved, just inched our way through the streets trying to find our way with the written directions we had. Luckily we brought along a Haitian lady with us who was able to guide us to our destination for the night, but not before Nate tried to do it himself... we had to turn 3 vehicles around in the middle of the street where traffic wasn't moving, and our van was hauling a trailer! INSANE!!!

Once we made it to the hospitality house we all just crashed. It was 7:30pm and it was hot! We ate dinner, took showers (BTW 23 people, 2 single-person bathrooms), a few of us sang worship music and then tried to sleep in the heat with ridiculous humidity. The entire city is without electricity so after 11pm the generator was turned off which meant no fans... we were all sleeping and sweating... gross.

Poor photo quality, I know, but it was through the car window. I really wanted to show you this one because this happened to several buildings we saw... they completely crumbled, one floor on the next.

In this community you can see houses that stood and houses that fell. Lowell was telling us a lot of the buildings that crumbled did so because of poor construction or really old constuction. On the side of the street we could see people making the "block" that is used for the walls. Lowell said that they are not using the chemicles in them that make them strong and durable.

This is the same community, just a different view

Same community, different view

There were 2 men knocking down the walls in the upper level. You can see a pile of rubble in front of the house from what had been the roof, other walls, and balcony.

This photo was taken right in front of the Presidential Palace. A huge tent community living right on the street. There is a line of Honey Buckets out in front, which is a huge advantage, many communities have no place to go to the bathroom.

Presidential Palace - Left side. You can see a UN vehicle sitting on the lawn in front of the building. There were a few UN members standing at the entrances keeping guard.

Presidential Palace - Middle

Presidential Palace - Right Side
There were people sitting all around the palace just looking at it. It's a constant reminder of their failed government. No one knows what the President is doing besides sitting in his mountain home over looking the destruction from his air conditioned, comfortable, well stocked home.

This was the legal building holding all the records of the country and its people in it. Most of the legal records were destroyed in this building when it collapsed.

Another view of the legal buiding with documents all over the road.

Tent community in the middle of the city.

Driving through the city with difficulty as we had to watch for large pieces of rubble in the road.

We rarely saw restaurants or stores, everything was just sold on the street. Here this women is preparing her little road-side restaurant.

Another tent community

Another tent community

The UN kind of left a bad taste in mouths while we were there. We never, not once, saw them doing anything but driving around in their vehicles holding their guns. I'm sure their job is be a presence to keep some kind of order, but we never saw them helping out... that was dissappointing.

The streets were lined with people all the time. Everywhere we went looked like this, packed with people.

Below are some short videos I took from the van we were driving in, they will give you a little glimpse into what we saw.

This short video offers a breif look of the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Many people are walking, headed toward the city. The paintings on the walls are advertizements for local buisnesses or brands. You can see that people have set up things to sell on the street, this is their market. We rarely saw any shops, everything is sold on the street by vendors. Once we got into the city, the streets were just packed with people, there was little room to walk on the side walks because everyone is selling their goods there.

This video is just outside the heart of the capitol. (In the capitol the traffic is too crazy that I couldn't get a good video.) There is rubble all over the sides of all the streets. As we would drive around we would have to dodge huge piles of block and rebar. 13 seconds into the video you can see a truck with people on it pull out in front of us; this truck is called a tap-tap and it is a taxi. All the taxis look like that.

You can see in the beginning the market on the side of the road... this is what it looks like everywhere in the heart of town. On the right you can see a building that came down. As we went on our tour around the capitol we would see buildings that were completely unharmed by the earthquake standing next to buildings that were completely destroyed.

More to come tomorrow... thanks for being patient!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jarabacoa Half Marathon 2010

Sunday April 18, 2010
Jarabacoa Half Marathon
Start Time: 6:30am

Being that I was the only contestant in the race and my husband was the President of the function, we started a few minutes late at 6:45am. The race began at a hotel near our house called Hotel Pinar Dorado. After Josh took a few “start of the line” pictures he said go and off I went. It was a perfect day for a race, bright but slightly overcast with white clouds which kept the morning cool. The beginning of the race was out in the country where cows and horses were waking and wandering in their fields. The middle of the race was through town where street market vendors were getting set up for the day; and then for the last few miles I was on the main street and at last, ended at the river, which I gladly sat in once I crossed the finish line.

Josh rode his moto alongside me, almost the entire time, shouting “Go Vicki!” and “you’re doing great!” among other words of encouragement. He also told me my time, estimated about how much further I had yet to run, told me how many minutes I had left to beat my time from the race in 2008, took pictures, and handed me water. Talk about an amazing guy!

Our friends, Ryan and Caroline Holloway, ran the final mile with me. They encouraged me along the way and Ryan finished out the end in a sprint with me, challenging me the whole time. I finished the race in 2 hours 7 minutes and 9 seconds. I have to check with my dad but I think this beat our November 2008 time.

After I pulled my pruny body from the river, we headed home and celebrated with Ryan & Caroline over waffles and Wizard (a card game). Then Caroline and I enjoyed some girl time over mocha frappaccinos (which I made) while the boys went off to play ping pong (a daily event) and we all met up for lunch at the Holloway’s house and watched the movie “The Blind Side.” To wrap up the evening, Josh played in a soft ball game, which I left shortly after arriving due to finding out that the game wouldn’t be starting for another 45 minutes and I didn’t want to sit alone on a hard concrete bench. So I relaxed at home with Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and have been listening to Moon River non-stop since.

My final thoughts: I have now enjoyed and conquered 3 half-marathon races and am ready for something more challenging – possibly a full is on the horizon.

Interesting Fact: I have worn that red WSU shirt in all 3 Half Marathons

Before the race began in front of the hotel sign.

About 1/2 mile into the race headed out to the cows and horses

Almost 4 miles... I still have some spunk

Running my final steps in town, headed for mile 7

Last 75 feet... that's Ryan, he volunteered to run the final stretch with me to make sure I didn't wimp out

The President & The Champ

My race shirt - Josh made it for me

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Life up-to-date

There's no better way to enjoy R&R than spending it on the couch with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 1-4. Watching them blow things up in four exciting movies was how we decided to enjoy our few days off before getting back to work; well that and sleep and eat what little food we had in our house. Our vacating also consisted of battling over games like backgammon and eurorail, drinking homemade frappuccinos, exercising (believe it or not), and grocery shopping in Santiago... so that we'd actually have more to eat than pancakes and water.

Life since Snicker's passing has been fine. We have all adjusted well and are enjoying our time as the 3 Musketeers. Lucy and Josh have enjoyed sleeping together at night (I lay comfortably - at times- on my side alone, happily I might add); and our morning routine has changed in her favor, she's learning to run with us. We alternate days, so every other day she's with me and I have been taking her for 2 mile runs. We are highly considering finding another dog for safety purposes and to keep her company, especially for when the summer hits, but we're not rushing into anything.

The rain has been moving in which has made it much cooler, I must admit that its quite nice to have a break.

Tonight at staff Bible study we learned Creole in preparation for our up-coming Haiti trip. It was fun to do this as a team, we had a great time and our instructor laughed at us a lot... all in good fun of course. We're all really pumped and excited to go - 2 weeks exactly from today!

My half-marathon is on the 18th, the one Josh is putting on for me... so tomorrow is a 9 mile run day, which means I need to go to bed now. Good Night, Buenas Noches, and I can't remember what it is in Creole... uh oh

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Lord Gives and the Lord Takes Away

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away"

This is one of the those verses that many of us hope to be able to understand or receive clarity on when someone or something is taken from us; but many of us know that "complete understanding" is a place to far off to reach. The hope we have lies in knowing that God is with us no matter what, he permits that things - good and bad - happen to us but He is also there with us to grieve, laugh, cry, smile, scream, etc.

March 30, 2010: between 4:30-9pm someone poisoned the first dog we've had as a couple leading to his death. Snickers was a Doberman who entered our lives when we first arrived in this country. He and his mother were given to us by two missionary woman who also work for SI. Diamond (Snicker's mother) died within the first month we were here, she was very old. We believed however that Snickers would still be with us for another 2-3 years.

I've been asked "why would someone do that?" I'm not entirely sure, though we have our speculations. Taking all the circumstances into consideration we believe it to be the neighbors next door who own the chicken coop. They haven't taken any precautions to keep their chickens from entering our yard, though we have taken every precaution to ensure that our dogs don't get out the yard let alone onto their property. All that to say, their chickens come wandering into our yard all the time, and Snickers - being the protector that he was - would kill the chickens... I know of 4 chickens for sure that he killed. So we think it was them, but we don't have any proof, nor are we liked too.

Please pray for wisdom, that God would give us forgiving hearts and that we would be able to work things out with whoever did it.