Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 4:Haiti

Day 4- Sunday

I was up most of the night with Kesseley and her baby girl but I decided to eat my pumpkin soup which was delicious.

 The history of pumpkin soup begins with the celebration of Haitian Independence in 1804. On Jan. 1, 1804, Haitians worked together to create a unique soup to celebrate their independence from the French Colonists. Until that time, the Colonists believed that the blacks under their rule could never work together to create anything. Today, the traditional pumpkin soup known as "soup joumou," is made and served to friends and family in Haiti in remembrance of their fight for freedom. While under French Colonial rule, Haitians were limited to eating a bland bread soup. They would not have been permitted to eat such an extravagant meal comprised of pumpkin, beef stock and other vegetables. This unique soup was created as a symbol of unity in the face of adversity. It was served to everyone at the first Independence celebration and Haitians continue this tradition today.  

 Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion.

I decided to go to the local Baptist church with Santo and Mary even though I was exhausted. There were about 60 people in a cement building. It had no door or glass windows just an opening for each. They were all dressed in their Sunday best. The children were very well behaved. Shockingly well behaved compared to American children. They were happy to sit on their mothers laps. Something I noticed that was different was how parents held sleeping babies. In the US babies are often held in the cradle position while they sleep or occasionally over a shoulder. In Haiti as they lay the child over their knees similarly to how you would position them for a spanking and they would happily fall asleep there. I saw one mother at the church scowl at a 6 or 7 year old boy several times as he was getting restless before she laid him over her knees and he fell asleep with his mother patting his back. It made a lot of since as Haiti is hot an humid and that position was far less body contact and much cooler as they could fan the child while they slept. 

Photo courtesy of
There was about an hour of worship singing and prayer followed by the preacher asking Mary and  I to come up and say or sing something. We sang How Great Thou Art.  It is such a beautiful universal hymn. It brought tears to my eyes as we sang it. The smiles from all of the lovely people was well worth the embarrassment.
A guest speaker, and American missionary fluent in Creole, spoke for the next 2.5 hours. About 2 hours in I was just done with sitting on the cement bench. The way the speaker spoke was different than I am used to being preached at and while I was attentive for quite a bit of time it started to get to me after a while. That combined with smoke coming in from the nearby door drove me to go sit outside. There is not real sanitation set up in Haiti so in order to deal with the trash many people have trash burn piles regularly. It smells awful and makes the air very smoky but it is preferable to the alternative. 

There I watched a 4 year old boy fill up his water containers for his family. Each plastic container, similar to a very large vegetable oil container, held about 2 gallons of water and I couldn't help but think how my children complain when I ask them to carry one gallon of milk in from the car. He pumped and filled the containers but the pressure coming out of the faucet was so great it left a good 25% of the container empty. He remedied this solution by  proceededing to fill up the tiny caps with water and poor it into the container. 50 fill ups later the containers were perfectly filled and he lugged the water back home. His eyes never left mine. Clean water is probably the number one problem in Haiti. The water from the pumps still needs to be boiled to be safe.

The water at the clinic is all braught in large 5 gallon jugs and dispersed from a cooler. Water for toilets and washing comes from a well on the property. Electric pumps pump it to the roof and store it in large containers to be used later.
                         This is similar to the ones at the clinic.
Most people get almost all of their drinking water from little plastic bags filled with water. The huge disposable water bottles used in the US seem very wasteful in comparison.

Service let out and we headed home. Lunch was chicken, so delicious, rice, potatoes and salad. I then spent the next 3 hours napping in my favorite place on the love seat. It has a cross breeze so even when the power is off, which it was again, I can be cool enough to sleep. Claudin came and we did our Creole lessons with Martha and Mary. A little known secret about me is that I really struggle with foreign languages. I almost didn't graduate from college because I started and dropped Spanish 4 times. Ultimately I took American Sign Language from another school and had the credits transferred in. Between the foreign language, my cold and missing my family so much I was just in tears. Wondering if I made a huge mistake in coming here. When we are busy I felt better but these two days off with no clinic and no births were really difficult.  Dinner was a packet of tuna and a Luna bar since the cooks have Sunday nights off.  I started the night inside but there were three mosquitoes in my net that I couldn't catch and I knew I would be miserable in the morning. I took a Benadryl and slept wonderfully in my bed under the stars. 

I finally perfected my bed under the stars. I got a lot of flack about sleeping out side. Another volunteer claimed she was going to "Suck it up inside with the heat and the bugs because she would acclimate quicker and be a true Haitian." I thought she was crazy and sure enough I was the intelligent one. 

I would get ready for bed every night which was quite the order
 *drag out the matress
* use clothes pins to hand the mosquito net
*tuck net under the matress
*twist openings and use close pins to keep out mosquitoes and check for holes
* gather my supplies which included my Nook, Jounal,eye mask, ear plugs, water bottle, flash light and hand fan (yes I was a little high maintanence)
*spray myself with repellant
* fan myself incestinatly as the DEET ate away my skin and gave me the worst hot flashes ever
*cry a little bit and miss my family
* say a prayer and beg for strentgth
*stare at the stars until I slept or if it was raining pull my fleece blanket I brought with me over my head and ignore the wetness.
I slept out side from then on. It became quite the routine and as I settled in I watched all of my Haitian neighbors settle in with similar routines on their roofs. They would wave or say hello. So who was the crazy one? Who would acclimate quicker? I am an avid camper and often sleep outside but this was the longest consecutive length of time I slept under the stars. I felt very claustrophobic when I got home.