Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Introduction

As usual I have done things backwards. I threw you into this environment with a funeral, without first shaking your hand or buying you a steak dinner.  Well, for those of you still interested in the first date after we've been to a funeral together, here is your steak dinner.

The road up to our compound.
Don and I are living in Port-au-Prince (PaP), Haiti this month at the Operation Blessing compound.  Operation Blessing is one of the largest NGO's in the world, with operations in many countries.  Haiti is one of their biggest operations with a lot of programs going, most of which we hope to see before we leave!  Their compound, Relax, is outside of the city center in an area called Tabarre.  

Lucy playing with Krista.
Don is spending his days working at St. Luc's, the adult hospital that was built next to St. Damien's in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake to deal with the incredible influx of patients.  Lucy and I are spending our days playing with play dough, chasing roosters, having boat adventures, sliding on the wooden half pipe on the roof, and making new friends.

Eric Lutz is one of the Operation Blessing employees, and he and his wife Jen live here in Haiti with their six children.  Lucy has already declared her preference for their eldest, Krista, and will completely ignore me whenever we go over there to play!  They have a wonderful house just a few blocks from where we are staying, with a dog, cats, turkey, trampoline, swing, lots of toys and lots of fun kids!

The compound is set up as a guest house as well, and there are several people living here full time that we have come to know.  David Darg is OBI's Director of International Disaster Relief and Special Projects as well as the acting director in Haiti.  He and his wife, Naomi, live here full time when not traveling responding to other disasters.  Naomi, an artists, is from Australia originally, and works with the Kado project.  A group of Haitian women come to the house every day during the week and sit on the second floor balcony turning cardboard boxes (along with Jerusalem stone and Kenyan glass from other OBI projects) into incredibly gorgeous jewelry under her direction.  If you are looking for any special gifts for the ladies in your life, I will take orders - they really are exquisite!

Don, Lu and I are living in a room on the second floor of the main house, down the hall from Naomi and David and across the hall from the lounge room.  Every room here has an air conditioner, which is amazing and completely unexpected.  The bathrooms all have big sunken bathtub showers, and we have been enjoying sometimes twice daily showers, which are necessary when you do a lot of outside playing in the dust here!
Underwear drawer has been dumped on the floor due to invasion of huge roach.
Lu likes her little nook, complete with mosquito netting.
Our little bathroom nook is one step up from the main room next to the door.

We have started to develop a loose daily routine.  We wake up between 6 and 7am, get dressed, and head downstairs for some breakfast.  There are three house maids/cooks/all around helpers that work in the compound, and they have already made breakfast and a pot of strong coffee by this time.  Usually there is good bread out for toasting, cut up mango, pineapple, papaya and watermelon and some peanut butter and spreading cheese out.  Sometimes the ladies will make scrambled eggs, which are always incredible on some toast with cheese.  After a quick breakfast Don will usually leave for the hospital at 7am to catch mass before rounding with the doctors at St. Luc's.  The hospital complex is only about 5 minutes from Relax.

After Don leaves Lucy and I have some intensive playtime for a few hours.  We play with play-dough and stamps, take her animals outside and play farm or African veldt, have adventures in the zodiac boat in the back yard, chase the Rooster around the yard, play ball with Mishka the dog, or snuggle and read books.  Or sometimes all of the above.  Around 9:30am Lucy gets snackish, and we usually throw together some yogurt and granola for a mid-morning snack.  After our snack - which usually involves me sitting at the table feeding Lucy as she runs around the room, jumping up and down the step into the kitchen, moving water bottles in and out of the supply room, and generally being super active in between taking bites.

We stay very hydrated throughout the day with bottles and cups of water filled from the Culligan jar.  The local water is used in the taps, but its undrinkable because the cholera is so endemic around here that it has entered the water table.  Each day our tap water is treated with chlorine, which makes it relatively safe, but we don't drink it and we try not to open our mouths in the shower :)  We are incredibly lucky to have such a reliable safe water source here in the Culligan bottles.  People still get cholera daily here from drinking water infected with the cholera virus.  And people die from dehydration here daily from being too scared to drink the water for fear of catching the cholera.

I put Lu down for a nap around 10am, and try to do some sort of work.  I have been helping Don work on some presentations, writing, helping some folks around the house with tasks.  After Lu wakes up around noon we match up with some of the folks downstairs and make a little lunch.  The cooks make breakfast and dinner, and we are able to make our own lunches and have some semblance of normalcy.  

Down the street from our house.
After lunch Lucy and I have a continuation of the mornings play activities, or head over to the Lutz's house to play.  Today Lucy ran laps around the trampoline for an hour with Krista, Jet and Callie and had to be pried, screaming from their gate when we left.  This past week Don has been getting home from the hospital around 3pm, and has had a great share of family play time.

In the evenings we snuggle and watch videos, sneak snacks before dinner, read, and always go for a ti flane (little stroll) before dinner.  Usually the ti flane requires that we also have a ti bain before dinner, because a stroll here, even in the cloudy evenings is usually a dusty, hot, sweaty affair after a bloc or two!  

Sometimes after the walk we stop in the lot across the street and watch the baseball game that is usually going on.  The guys at Operation Blessing have organized some of the street boys in the neighborhood into several baseball teams that play in the abandoned lot across the street.  They are still learning some of the fundamentals, but are so incredibly animated about the game.  Don absolutely lights up every time he sees them playing, or hears them through the windows!

After dinner Don and I put Lucy down to bed, and then watch a movie, do some work or read in the lounge until we can sneak back into the room to go to bed!

The routine is different this week, as a large team from Mayo arrived on Sunday to work at St. Damien's and St. Luc's.  Nurses from the ER, several Gold Cross EMT's, two Physical Therapists, and several ER doctors.  They are working very hard to help St. Luc's bring a brand new ICU unit online, the only ICU available in a public hospital in Port-au-Prince.  They are not only seeing patients, but teaching the Haitian staff as well.  They are working full days at the hospital, and then returning at 8pm to teach the night staff until midnight, and back again at 7am the next day.

So that is how are days are going so far!  We are trying to experience everything we can, be as open as possible to what this month has to offer.  To whatever God might be leading us to do.

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