Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Haiti Day 8- Home, Sweet Home

   We woke up at our normal time for breakfast.  I thought we were having bean soup at first.  That would have continued the trend of supper foods for breakfast and breakfast foods for dinner.  However, I was mistaken as Dominic pointed out that something smelled like chocolate!  That's right, slightly spicy chocolate soup and bread for breakfast.
   Our departure time moved up from 9:45 to 9:30 and then to 9:00 as the morning progressed.  We actually got away by 9:06.  Pretty good for a  crew of almost 30.  Alex had taken Jeremy an hour earlier in his car so they had arranged for a hotel shuttle van to take some of our crew.  As we made it to the main road in Grand Goave we were flagged down by several motorcyclists to let us know that one of our back tires was flat.  Good thing we were leaving in time to arrive at the airport 3 hours before our flight was to take off.  We pulled onto the main road and then off again a little way up the road to get the tire checked.  In the meantime the little van passed us only to pull over and wait at a real filling station just up the road (see Last Day in the Village  for a reminder of the difference between filling stations and gas stations).  Now, with both vehicles on the road we were comfortably riding toward Port-Au-Prince, never mind the slower speeds causing less moving air and more interesting smells to invade our nostrils.
   Saturday is market day so we had to pass through a couple of markets on our journey.  At some point the little van passed the bus and got on down the road.  As we neared PAP there was some kind of license check.  We had no problem getting through, but we noticed the van on the side of the road with no driver.  I never got the full story on that.  Entering PAP the traffic was very, very thick and we had another market to navigate, which involved a lot of shifting of the gears.  Have I mentioned that this stick-shift bus used to be an automatic?  Well, it did.  And today, not once but twice the gear shift came off!  I have been amazed all week at the ingenuity of the Haitians we have had the privilege of working with.
   All in all we made it to the airport safely, the little van arrived only a few minutes after the bus and we were escorted to the entrance door.  Unfortunately, this was as far as Diddy and Junior could go so we said our good-byes outside the airport and went to check in.  With only minor, typical airport issues we made it to the gate with a couple of hours to kill before boarding.
   A few of us visited the snack bar on the plane side of the security and settled in for the wait.  Eventually, most of the group discovered the duty-free shops and/or the restaurant upstairs.  I was able to get a couple of small gifts for my girls, a small pizza for lunch, and a cold Sprite before boarding the plane.  Our flight to Atlanta afforded the team more time for resting, final conversations, and the first cup of ice in a week.  We landed in Atlanta and breezed through security, customs, and immigration.  We said our good-byes to the Rome folks and Kansas folks and headed to our flight.  Jeff, Milton, and I had a quick snack supper at Chick-Fil-A before boarding to Augusta and thus ending a great week of hard work, good ministry, and great fellowship.  Thank you, Harold and CBF Heartland for letting FBC Augusta tag along!  We look forward to more opportunities of continued ministry.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Haiti Day 7- Back to the Grind

   Today the construction team was joined by the medical team to give them a taste of the hard work we had been doing all week. Working at a slower and more manageable pace we finished pouring rubble into the wall of the second house for which we had a part in the building of the foundation.
2nd filled rubble house
   The other part of our group went to the house where I started on Monday to begin the masonry process.  After we finished rubbling the walls we walked to the other house to join the rest of the team.
concrete mixed inside the house on the ground
Haitian mason

There were way too many people at that site so a few of us went with Pastor to help with roofing a 4th house.  We only had about forty-five minutes there before lunch, but I was glad to have seen that part of the construction.
roof construction
Reggie on the roof
   The best part was cutting the tin for the roof cap.  We put a wire under the tin and pulled up from both directions.  When an accurate cut is not needed it is a very efficient way to do it.  (see video)
   We were initially told we would go back there after lunch.  When the plans changed we decided to stay at the compound.  A small group went back to the masonry house.  By the time they left for the day the first coat of stucco was done on the inside of the house.
Alyssa was our "expert
   Meanwhile, back at the compound...I found out that we were going to be treated to a feast that night.  I overheard Jeremy ask Alex, one of the Haitian leadership in charge, if they had the goat yet and whether or not is had been "dispatched" yet.  About that time I noticed the goat in the yard and Alex said, "You may hear some noise in a few minutes."  A gentleman who apparently was hired for just such an occasion made quick work of the goat with the help of the "compound cobbler."  After draining the blood they decided to break for lunch.  When the meal was done the hired hand showed me use #10 for the machete as he skinned and butchered the goat.
Machete use #10
   The group that stayed behind had a relaxing afternoon of cards and well-deserved rest.  I said several times on the trip and many times since, "I have been on a lot of Mission trips, but I don't remember ever working this hard.  We all gained great respect for the Haitians; the way they work and the way they live.

Haiti Day 6- Medical Team Tag-alongs

   So, today Michael Mac and I risked the wrath of the construction crew and tagged along with the medical team as roadies.  The most good we did was helping to carry supplies in to the little village as the path was much too small for the trucks to get through.  For the entire week they had been going to some remote villages in the mountains.  On Thursday they/we stayed fairly close by.  Actually, we were just on the other side of the road and the river from where we had collected river sand the day before.
medical team planning with Jenny
   The medical team has been working with CBF field personnel, Jenny Jenkins, in the places where she ministers.  We met her and her team of assistants and translators over behind the school that is behind the church we attended on Sunday (Siloe, pronounced sill-o-way, Baptist Church).  We loaded the equipment into the trucks and headed to the clinic.  The trucks were only able to go as far as the edge of the main road. Then, we had to off-load the equipment and carry it in on foot about a quarter of a mile.  The walk was nothing compared to what we had been doing, but carrying the equipment made it difficult.  We assisted in getting the mobile clinic set up.  This was the only time all week they had been outside.  The clinic was actually set up in an older gentleman's front yard (Mr. Lucius).
Mr. Lucius

outdoor clinic

medical team and translators
    After the initial scurry to get set up there wasn't much for Michael and I to do.  I tried to anticipate and meet needs for the doctors and nurses throughout the day.  Michael made ministry out of carving the "medical staff" for Dr. Lori.  Several young men and boys became very intrigued by what the "bla" was doing.  They eventually began to even give suggestions as to the design. By the end of the day he had carved some pretty intricate designs on the walking stick and had been able to have as good a conversation as a non Creole-French speaker could have with a group of minimal English speakers.
Michael and the medical staff
   ***All week we were heralded by the words "you" and "bla."  The kids mainly would call out to us as we worked or walked or rode.  Noticing that we were different (not Haitian) and recognizing what we are there for (building houses) they would call out to us in Creole/French basically "Hey, you, Whitey."  It was certainly not said in vain.  The Haitian people seem genuinely pleased and thankful that we were there.***
   After our day on the medical team we picked up Harold and Sean and went out to the CBF compound, the Bungalows.  She has a smaller operation and capacity but she has a broader vision of possibilities for ministry.  She would like to see not only medical teams continue, but also expand to accommodate other educational opportunities, sports camps, and business training among others.  She can accommodate about 15 people on her team with the ideal medical team being around 8.  Her main limitation is the size of her transportation.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Haiti Day 5- Construction Material Collection

   This morning we again split into two teams.  One team went to build another foundation.  Since I had worked on a foundation day one I elected to place myself  on the crew to collect rubble and river sand (for mixing concrete) in the dump truck.
Milton in the dump truck
Jeff in the dump truck
 Our team got in the dump truck and we went back to the same site the collection crew had gone to the first day.  A building is being repaired and we were collecting the broken cinder blocks that would not be reused as the "new" building went up.  It was very hot and heavy work as the sun continued to be relentless.  The rubble load went to the house the other team is working on.  After the dump truck returned empty we all got in it again and rode to the riverbed to collect the river sand.  We snaked our way through very narrow streets in order to get the dump truck down to the river.  Being that it is the dry season we drove right down into the riverbed and across the river.  On the other side of the river there was a gentleman working on a large sand pile.  It is much easier to get the sand into the truck with the buckets from a pile than just from digging.  We began moving that pile to the truck and he quickly began digging another pile.  We knew we had work to do.  It takes a lot of sand to fill a dump truck!  Once we filled the truck they drove off to take the sand went to yet another unfinished house located at the outskirts of a tent city not far from the compound.
loading the truck
   We all decided it was a good time to take a break so we walked up the river to sit underneath the bridge.  Not only was it about 10 degrees or more cooler in the shade, but the bridge created a natural wind tunnel to cool us off.  As we had been working we began to attract a crowd of kids.  Now that we had stopped working and were hanging out several within our group began to play with the kids.  It was a great break from the hard manual labor we had been doing.  The man who was digging our piles continued to dig piles even as we rested.
   We waited around for about 30-45  minutes as the lunch hour approached.  Finally, it was decided that we would head back for lunch.  The dump truck had not returned so we climbed out of the riverbed with only a couple casualties (Mike's ankle and Joanie's pants). We started walking along the edge of the river toward the ocean and back to the compound.  I must say I have never seen the ocean from this perspective before!
unique ocean view
   As we left the site for lunch we walked along the river and saw where the floods resulting from the earthquake had washed out several houses.  Many of those families are now in rubble houses a few feet back from where the old houses stood.  The Haitian government has built "levies" made of stone encased in chain-link fencing (very similar but on a different scale to the rubble house construction method).  We walked  along some of the river wall structure on our way back to the compound. By the time we got to these rubble houses I looked back and the dump truck was once again entering the river.  I thought to myself that by the time we get back the freshly dug piles would not be there.  As it turned out I was right.  While we were eating lunch they loaded another dump truck of sand and delivered it.  They came back to the compund as we were finishing to pick us up and carry us back to the river for one more load.  About walking: By this point I had made 8 trips to the first house going 8 different way.  Only one of those trips involved me riding in a truck.  The rest were walking about two miles each way.  The joke was that they never wanted us to know where we were or where we were going.
dump truck in the river with "levies"
   Both crews had a short workday today.  Hopefully, the foundation will be completed by the Haitians.  I would have liked to have seen completion on at least one house while we were there.  We were able to work on four different houses in various stages of completion.  Our team worked on foundation, wall construction/filling, stucco, rubble/sand collection and delivery, and a small group of us got to help with the beginnings of a roof, but not all on the same house.
sand dump at 3rd house
   That night those of us that wanted went out after supper to a local "restaurant."  Jeremy had told us that they make the best grilled chicken at this place.  We left the compound as it was starting to get dark (around 8:00).  Any time before that would have been too early and the cooking wouldn't have started yet.  A bunch of us walked up the streets of town to the HFC, Haitian Fried Chicken joint.  It really was great treat!  I'm glad for the experiences of being able to get out and support the local businesses as well.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Haiti- Day 4 And The Walls Go Up

   Today our entire construction crew went to the house where we helped prepare the foundation the day before.  The first thing that had to be done was to build a wooden frame that would go temporarily on the outside of the wire cages to hold them in place.
building the support frame
   Once three sides of the frame were in put up we started bringing the wire cages over.  The long wall cages (15') were maneuvered around the frame and put into position.  Then, the two smaller sections of one short wall were set into place.  All the wire caging was fastened together with thin metal wire.  The frames themselves are made of 1/4" re-bar and chicken wire.  The wall or basket is about one foot thick and 7 feet high.  Once the three walls of baskets were in place and fastened together we brought the fourth frame and the last two sections of wall over to affix them to the structure.  Now that all of the walls were secured we could begin pouring rubble into the walls.  I climbed up on the end of one wall and Michael McEntyre climbed up on the other end.  After some minor modifications to the tops of the wall we were ready to start the bucket line.
3 walls in place
Andy and Michael filling the walls
   We spent the rest of the day trading places and continuing to fill the walls.  Above the windows and the doors we constructed a small basket with short pieces of re-bar and chicken wire in order to suspend some rubble above the openings.  The ends of the walls also had to be closed in.
Adding rubble
   Jeremy Holloman, Program Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Conscience International (CI)  arrived today.  He is the CI staffer assigned to Haiti.  He shared with the group the philosophy by which CI operates in Haiti.  He also answered some of our concerns about the stability of the rubble houses. The walls are not tied to the foundation.  This is done intentionally and actually adds to the stability of the structure.  The home ways about 30 tons.  It would take an incredible amount of force for the home to slide off of its foundation.  The house would have to slide off of its foundation by 3 feet before the house would begin to crack and that it because at that point the rubble would fall out of the bottom of the wall that was off the foundation.  This is highly unlikely due to the nature of the construction.  Pouring the rubble into the walls from the top causes the compaction of the rubble at the bottom of the wall, thus creating a very stable, bottom-heavy wall.  Added stability is achieved when the roof is installed as well.

All rubbled up
our team

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Haiti Day 3- 1st work day

***I have discovered it is very difficult to type this journal in the present tense knowing that the trip has already been completed.  Please forgive a little editorializing along the way.***     

     Up and at'em at 6:30 for breakfast.  This would become my routine for the week.  Actually, I woke up at 5:20 and talked to Joanie about what we have seen so far and the work we had yet to be done.  As a result of that conversation she is going to get me some ear plugs for tonight!  Woo! Hoo!  I did manage to go back to sleep for about 45 minutes or so.  It's not just the snoring, but the mattress is only about an inch thick foam that squishes to nothing. I will have to pull the mattress from the upper bunk down to mine for added thickness.
     We set out today in three teams.  The medical team went up the mountain and reported having seen just shy of 60 patients!  The rest of us are on the construction crew and we went to two sites.  A larger group including all of the young bucks went to the rubble crew.  Jeff was with them and said they filled four dump trucks full including some they got right off the street.  It costs about $1000 unless the price is bartered down to have rubble removed from ones property.  
"our" dump truck
So, Conscience International is actually providing a service on two fronts.  They are removing rubble for free, which also helps them whereas it cuts down on the cost for material for the rubble houses, and then using that rubble to construct a house for someone that needs it.  My small group of five plus our guide, "Pastor," went to dig a foundation for the next rubble house to be built.  The frames for the walls were already on site.  We helped move those out of the way and reshuffled some rubble in order to get started.  
moving the cages

This house will be built on the existing foundation plus a fourth wall where we dug and built foundation today .  We stayed about an hour late in order to finish the foundation.  I hear we may be going to a different site tomorrow.  That would be disappointing, but we will be happy to do whatever is needed.
Preparing the foundation

moving stones "wash" for the new foundation
we dug out some of the old floor for the new foundation
new foundation, day one complete!
     Tonight we will be going to a smoothie shop down the street to patronize a local business.  So far, so good.  The sun is very hot, but i haven't noticed a sun burn yet.  Maybe a little on the back of my neck. ( I didn't get burned.  I have since attributed to warmth on the back of my neck to a side effect of the Malaria medicine.)
     I'm so proud of my girl!  Becca tells me that Nadia misses me, but is telling everyone that "Daddy is not here.  We miss him, but he is doing important things to help people get a house who need one."  What a sweet, smart girl!  I certainly miss them, too when I am away.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Haiti- Day 2 Church and Beach

     We got an early start on Sunday with breakfast at 7:00.  Then, we waited around and were late to church.  It's hard to get a  group of 30 moving in the right direction at the right time.  Although we couldn't understand the language we were able to follow the service pretty well.  Instead of Sunday School they meet for two hours of worship.  We went to the Baptist Church here in Grand Goave, Siloe Baptist Church.  Jeff Badke thought something about the church seemed familiar.  After the service concluded he snooped around back and realized that when he and Kelly came in 2010 that they stayed in a tent village behind that very church.  We are staying now at Conscience International compound.  These are great facilities, several 4-person rooms, a couple cabins (one with showers), and some other bed space inside the larger house, a group community shower with 4 stalls and community toilets. (*These blogs are being posted after the trip. We found out great stories about how CI came to be at the compound now, more on that in a later blog).  We are having great meals prepared for us by our hosts.
4 Person room
Bunk house (11 beds)
Bunk House (16 beds, 2 bath with showers)
     This afternoon we went back to the church to see the school.  There were several artisans there to sell "their" wares (at much better prices than I saw later at the airport).  The medical team met with Jenny Jenkins, CBF field personnel for an orientation of their work in the mountains for the week.  For the remainder of the afternoon we loaded our bus and went to the beach.  Several of us went snorkeling, some got to ride in a carved-out canoe, and the rest just enjoyed fellowship on the beach. All who wanted got to eat lobster a couple of hours out of the ocean with fried plantains and fire slaw.  It was a great way to relax that might be better enjoyed after a hard week of work rather than before.
     Supper was ready for us shortly after we got back to the compound.  Following supper we played cards as the rain poured down.  It would have been great sleeping rain if it wasn't 8:00!  Sleep did come fairly quickly as I anticipate the week ahead.

Haiti- Day 1 Travel Day

     It still amazes me how forgetful I can be.  Even after as many trips as I take I still forget to pack the important things...ear plugs! Seriously, ear plugs, TP (not needed, thankfully), water bottle... so far that is all I realize I forgot, but I haven't left the ATL airport yet!  I must admit that put me a little on edge as far as leaving the country.  I trust, however, as God continues to work it all out.
     Both flights went perfectly well with no issues or delays.  We met the MO group in Atlanta, but had little time for in-depth introductions as we all seemed anxious and focused to get where we were going.  Upon arrival in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti I was ready for "game on" at the airport.  Pleasantly, it was the best airport experience I have had in a developing nation.  Jeff mentioned the airport had been completely rebuilt after the earthquake.  Getting through Immigration and Customs was a breeze.  There were a lot of "helpers" at baggage claim, but we were lovingly forceful that we didn't need assistance.  Once we got outside we met our guides for the week from Conscience International, Diddy and Junior.  They loaded our luggage on top and we all piled in a bus much like the one we have at church, with a few modifications.  The seats had been reconfigured to be all around the edge (see picture) including the back door, which has been disengaged.  I took my place in the rumble seat over the spare tire that I hope we are not forced to use.
reconfigured bus for transport to and from airport
     For the next 2.5 hours we made our way 30 miles from Port-Au-Prince to Grand Goave through congested mostly paved roads, horns blaring anytime you pass or get passed, smoke and/or exhaust coming in through the window, and all kinds of smells filling our nostrils.  I always enjoy a drive through the area as it gives a sense of "normal life."  We saw many USAID and Samaritan's Purse tarps covering small businesses and ramshackle houses all along the route.  There were a few tent villages as well.
     I was surprised by how mountainous Haiti's landscape is.  I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't mountains.  Port-Au-Prince seems to be in a bowl.  Grand Goave is on the northern coast of the southern peninsula of Haiti.  The river beds are dry this time of year.  It's never fair to compare locations, but I was struck by the starkness of the landscape.  I'm looking forward to a great week of work and relationship building.
landscape around PAP from the air

mountains around Grand Goave