The following work is adapted from an in-class essay I wrote based on The Vacation, a poem written by Wendell Berry.
Ayiti Ap Dekole: Final Days
Day 8 Saturday, July 28
Today we had the privilege of visiting Haiti’s most elite trauma hospital, Medishare. Medishare is considered the Harbor view of Haiti. Most of Jeff and Terry’s first connections in Haiti worked here. Thankfully, we took Pierre’s–EMPACT Haiti worker–advice and visited on the day we did. I’ll a little bit more about EMPACT as I discuss the next couple of days.
Medishare is so unlike any hospital I’ve ever visited in the States. Based on information I’ve received previously, improvements seem to have been made to the complex. The hospital is very large and we were able to view a lot.
We interacted with patients suffering from all sorts of impairments. In the Spinal Injury Unit, we visited paraplegics and quadriplegics. The smiles on their faces by our simply being there were so rewarding. The director or PIC of the clinic said they hardly ever receive visitors because many feel intimidated. The place is intimidating. It arouses a sort of helplessness.
Scott, the PIC who showed us around the Spinal Injuries rooms is super neat. He does more than just his job. He helps patients learn basic life skills and encourages those who will eventually be able to go back into their communities. It’s hard enough finding a job in Haiti-especially with an unemployment rate of %80. When you add a handicap to that, it makes SURVIVAL even more difficult to achieve. The Spinal Unit began a sewing program so that once patients recovered they would have some means of supporting themselves. Jeff arranged for Jehovah Nissi School uniforms to be made by the unit!
From the Spinal Unit, we went on to see the place where prosthetic limbs are mad are made. The place is super cool. The hospital is really blessed to have this at their immediate disposal. The captain of a soccer team for disabled guys helps oversee things! Team Zaryen is funded by Knights of Columbus and Medishare. The rules for this soccer league is very interesting. For example, one of the requirements for goalie position is that both of your arms must be missing! None of the players are allowed to play with a prosthetic and all must use crutches. Touching the ball with either crutch equals a hand-ball. I cannot even fathom how hard that sort of play must be.
My favorite part of our tour would have to be visiting the pediatric triage (ICU). One child, whom I was unable to see, had actually been hit by the president’s car. When I heard this, I was horrified. Seeing the preemie babies was a very precious and also heartbreaking. They were so, so, so tiny, yet perfectly formed (at least by external appearance). The youngest baby there had been born five months early. He had so many IV’s, masks, and tubes all over him that his body was hardly visible. I think there were five preemies total. All but one baby were in incubators. Pierre, another guide of ours, said that some are orphans. I pray that God heals them fully and restores them to their families. Nothing is more comforting that they all have a Heavenly Father who is constantly watching over them.
Last but certainly not least, we scoped out the room reserved exclusively for patients recovering from surgery and/or having a known disease. To say this place is somber would be quite an understatement.
After visiting the Medishare project, we went out to lunch. Mr. Clark (Jeff) discussed different locations, he finally decided on the Pizza Garden. Mr. Clark had previously taken a group of EMT’s there. One man cried over the cost of water. I want you to think about that for a moment. How often does our gratitude bring us to tears? This is a question I must ask myself constantly. Because I know, that while these trips provide me with a deeper perspective into my life, nothing is more easy than falling back into my normal routine after arriving home.
This place is no Pizza Hut. The restaurant is pretty ritzy. Most of the seating is outdoors and in the cool shade. Mr. Clark went in ahead of time–not because we were expecting a long wait–but because filling an order actually takes awhile. Our team is a good size too. While eating AMAZING food, we quickly debriefed our day thus far and discussed plans to drive to Rodney’s orphanage directly after lunch. Rodney said his place is “only fifteen minutes,” away from Port-Au-Prince. Hahaha, just a s midge farther my friend. I miss my Haiti team already, and we haven’t even headed back to the States yet! Rodney’s orphanage is in the mountains. A place considered “cold” by Port-Au-Prince residents. The cooler air was indeed a relief, but I didn’t go so far as to put on a sweatshirt just as Windy decided to do!
Rodney’s kids were all ready for us and dressed in their Sunday best. They are adorable. At first, when I first saw them I thought “wow!! They all look so healthy!” And some of them were, no doubt, but then I looked more closely. Many of the kids’ bellies were protruding. And not because they’d been eating well.
Rodney’s kids definitely inherited his gentleness and warm smiles. He is very organized. He has a lady working as a “director” who I guess manages everything and some friends who help to pitch in. Rodney has about the same amount of help as Pastor Silar, only Rodney only has 21 kids. Both are eager to welcome more into their care.
While visiting, I held a little baby girl named Kristy. Kristy had a twin sister, but she passed away. I am a little worried about her. She has pink scars all over her head and little hair. Rodney didn’t say what condition he found her in. Terry said the scars looked as if they could be from rat bites. Just thinking about it sends shivers through my body.
At long last, we finally drove home. BUT, before we left, we handed out Ayiti Ap Dekole shirts and all the kids sang for us–in their best English– our national anthem while holding the American flag. Culture shock causes me to think excessively. Both during a trip and long afterwards. Does America really live up to everything we say we are? Land of the free, home of the brave? No doubt. The real question I think is this: what are we doing to help others achieve the American dream? Personally, I think we’re a little lacking there.
Our team chilled back at the guest house before eating, debriefing, making our nightly stargazing trip, and sleeping.
Twas a great end to a great day!
Day 9 Sunday, July 29
Today, our team decided to attend Port-Au-Prince Fellowship’s church service. I felt somewhat disappointed that we did not attend Windy’s church, but it is in Cite Soleil so that option was out of the question. Port-Au-Prince Fellowship is a church serving missionaries and English-speaking Haitians. So we encountered quite a mix of people.
I felt poorly physically today. I think many people did. I’ll spare you the details. Thank God for two team leaders who work in the medical field! Given my condition, Terry told me to just start chugging water. I think everyone’s water intake has slowly declined as our trip has progressed. It hit me today how disgusting the water at Heartline is. While I am thankful it is safe to drink–most of the time–the water is so chlorinated it fills you up, causing you to desire a smaller amount.
Terry was concerned because she thought something might be wrong with my kidneys. I shamefully admitted that I most likely hadn’t been drinking enough and wasn’t needing to use the restroom often. She talked to Jeff and told him we needed to go to the Deli Mart on the way to church and buy more fluids. So, we stopped at a grocery and I stepped out of the car. For some stupid reason I chose to buy a ‘Naked.’ The last thing I needed to ingest was more sugar. I ate some Cheez-It party mix which helped some. Terry said the salt would help me retain more of the water I drank.
I drank a Limonade and some water. By the time we finally arrived at the church, my bladder was near exploding. I basically shoved all my water bottles at Gomez [Samuel] and booked it to the restroom.
The message spoken at the church was very edifying. It would have been more enjoyable of course if I hadn’t been so exhausted. Nonetheless, I needed a spiritual uplift.
God’s Grace (Sermon Notes)
- Because of his grace we are loved and accepted.
- We try to get people to behave instead of letting them belong.
- The grace of God cost him his son.
- Jesus did not deserve to die, but he did, and we do not deserve to live but we do.<—I love this!
- God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay that way.
- We need to be patient for God to change others.
I continued chugging water and made a second trip to the bathroom. I started feeling shaky and faint. I finally asked for something to eat–my blood sugar tends to swing like a pendulum. It always seems to be high or low. Jeff gave me a granola bar and a bag of dried apple slices. I scarfed everything down quickly.
After church, our team went to go visit T-Papi’s neighborhood. Also home to EMPACT. EMPACT is the team that Pierre from Medishare trains. It was started by some EMT’s from Tacoma, Washington. Mr. and Mrs. Clark met practically everyone they know now–and more– through this growing group of people.
Apparently, the house is under reconstruction. So far everything looks really beautiful. After a really quick tour we sat outside and listened to Pierre’s life story. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for testimonies, life stories, and what-not, but today, all i really wanted to do was take a nap.
After listening to Pierre we all changed out of our church clothes. T-Papi, Pierre, and Esther took us on a hike. This was a hike to a place that your average tourist to Haiti is unable to see. The hike was pretty strenuous. We hiked up two sides of a large stream/creek. The incline was steep, wet, and rocky. The water was very dirty and there were people bathing out in the open and washing their clothes. Esther, being the sweet girl that she is, held my hand and guided me all the way and showed me the best places to step. I probably wouldn’t have made it without her. I had been very lethargic since church that morning. The humidity today felt incredibly high. We saw one of three waterfalls when we reached our destination. The view? Outstanding.
Not only were we able to visit EMPACT, but we were also in T-Papi and Esther’s neighborhood. T-Papi coaches a soccer team and we handed out soccer balls. While the boys played the girls held babies and painted nails. Girls don’t play soccer. Humph. No comprehendo!
Everyone was tired and hungry coming “home.” More tired though than anything else though I think. We followed our usual end-of-the-day schedule. Rest, eat, debrief, rooftop, and freshen up.
Day 10 Monday, July 30
Today, we dedicated to Windy. We talked to and visited Windy’s mother, brother, sister, and nephew. Windy’s mother is a very quiet woman. However, we were able to receive a little glimpse of what life in Jamel was like when she was a little girl. She said “life was a lot better then than it is now.” Something many elderly people say–only because it is quite true.
We met briefly Windy’s other brother. Not Wendell, the Jehovah Nissi school director. His name has escaped my memory. We also met Wendell’s son, Windy’s nephew. He’s such a cutie!
I have not ceased to be amazed at the protection and shade one fruit tree can provide. We walked up the road from Windy’s mother’s house to his sister’s house. As far as I can understand she is letting him stay for a few more months before he must leave. Anyways, the fruit tree! We gathered around under its outstretched branches where the air is much cooler and a strong breeze rushes through.
Windy proceeded to tell us about his book. It is very interesting, but somewhat scary as well. His book is only two chapters long. If I can understand correctly, his first chapter is about creation with a focus on the three different types of angels. The second chapter is all about the voodoo in Haiti. It is very creepy.
I helped Windy’s nephew ride his bike in the gravel. Claire and I ventured to the toilet in the backyard. That thing is pretty creepy too 😉
Our team discussed various places to eat out. We had a meeting scheduled with Medical Teams International. Jeff and Terry wanted to eat at a restaurant that is part of the U.S. Embassy, outside of Port-Au-Prince. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out. The political festival happening in Port-Au-Prince shut down a multitude of restaurants in the area. We ended up going to Deli Mart and buying everything needed to make PB&J. Our meeting place ended up being Heartline. Jeff and Terry were finally able to pass on to the MTI agent, Windy’s precious medical records. The last doctor Windy saw diagnosed him with Lymphoma and told him “go away Windy, and don’t come back.” Today Jeff and Terry were given the task of telling Windy that Lymphoma is indeed a type of cancer. Sadly, no one had ever taken the time to explain this cancer connection to him. With this new information, the reality of his possible fate became very real.
In some strange way, Windy is a lot like myself. I felt at least, that he is someone I could relate easily with. Although his health issues are more extreme than mine, we both kinda stick out. The doctors don’t know why I have [epilepsy] and I know what how it feels to wait on a prognosis. People call me strong. Windy is more than just strong. He is a fighter. I took away many things from Windy, but the most important thing I learned is to value life. To value every second of every day. I was convicted strongly when I thought of all the HOURS I’ve spent worrying instead of doing. Even during this time of sickness he [Windy] refused to be anxious. He is writing a book and learning his fourth language–Portuguese. I know this sounds cliche, but his life really is the definition of YOLO…with a twist. Windy will only live once…on earth. However, Windy is a believer so he knows he’ll be reunited with Christ whenever God so chooses to take him.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Windy’s favorite Bible verse is Exodus 14:14. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to ask him what this was. The verse reads “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
After eating a simple lunch of of PB&J we faced our helplessness. We no longer maintain any control over Windy’s situation. In fact, we never did. Jeff, Terry, and Mr. Wilson, from MTI, didn’t really need any of our skills. Jeff talked with Geoff #2 and the two of them decided that we would go back once more to Pastor Silar’s orphanage to hand out the promised T-Shirts. Jeff told us not to be at the orphanage for more than fifteen minutes or so. The longer we linger, the more difficult goodbye become.
On our way back to Heartline, Rodney told Jonas to stop the Tap Tap. He stepped out of the car and asked us if we could by a stalk of sugar cane. We said “sure why not?” The local immediately took up his machete and cut the “skin” off and then divided it up into pieces about five inches long. Rodney educated us in the art of tastefully eating sugar cane. It’s meant to be a simple process, but I tend to complicate many small endeavors. One must take a bite and suck all the sugar out and then spit out whatever is left. It’s really sticky, but pretty tasty;one should expect sugar in its purest for to be so. The Haitians enjoy it because the price is right and easily satisfies hunger pains. In a sore attempt to spit a mouthful of cane off the back of the Tap Tap, I completely failed and ended up spewing my mouthful all over Geoff.
Tonight’s evening debrief was more painful and emotional compared to all of the rest combined. The one thing on everyone’s mind was Windy. The last thing we felt called to discuss was leaving. By the end of our talk, half of us were in tears. Everyone except for myself went on the roof. I took a shower and then went on Facebook to ask for my friends’ prayers. Typically, I am very against the use of social networking during a trip–I feel as if distracts me easily from my purpose I am striving to achieve. I joined the team later on the roof and listened to Emily’s sweet words and guitar music fill the air all around us. Precious air. How often do we take advantage of breathing you in?
On our final night here, God blessed us incredibly with yet another amazing lightning storm. Almost as if he knew we needed a reminder of his incredible healing powers.