Friday, March 11, 2016

Haiti 2016 - Day 2

I woke up on our first full day in Haiti, relatively well rested. Thanks to the sleep aids and earplugs I only woke up once during the night. Temperatures, albeit warm, were comfortable enough to sleep. And there was power at the compound throughout the night so we were able to run a fan for a little white noise in our room.

(The view from the third floor of the compound) 

(This is the church -the metal roofed building- I am looking down from the third floor of the compound) 

We ate breakfast all together, we actually ate every meal all-together with Pastor Lavaud, at one long table. Meal times were a relaxing break, guaranteed 3 times a day. There was always plenty of food, cold(ish) "real" cokes or warm coffee (depending on the time of day) and amazing company. Lavaud always used meal time to instill some tidbits of wisdom, share his testimony or to talk with us about God.

There were 6 ladies at the compound who were there to cook and clean from the meals, and there were enough of us there to keep them pretty busy.

Breakfast was pretty much the same every day. Scrambled eggs (with peppers and onions), mangos, banana, peanut butter and pineapple. I'm usually not a big egg person (thank to pregnancy #1) but the eggs were AMAZING, they were juicy but not undercooked. I'm not sure how they prepared them but I wish I could recreate them. 

After breakfast the 7 men who were on the trip, made themselves as useful as they could around the compound. The playground system that they had come to Haiti to put together was still stuck in customs.  Though the play system had been bought and shipped with plenty of time to make it to Haiti and through customs, because the the current political situation there due the presidential election controversies, much work (including customs) had been delayed or in some cases come to a complete halt. As of Thursday morning, we were unsure of the exact status on when, or if, the play system was even going to get out of customs while we were there to actually assemble it. 

(These are views from the third floor of the compound) 

Going into the trip we were fully aware of the political turmoil and struggles with customs and we realized that many things were going to be happening outside of our control. We had all decided that regardless of what happened circumstancially we were there for God's will and on His timetable.  Despite our thoughts and feelings we acknowledged God's sovereign plan and we did our best to keep that at the forefront of our mind at even the most frustrating of moments.

So like I said, without the play set to assemble, the guys found other work to keep them busy. They worked on the big truck that Lavaud had there at the compound. Of course I can't tell you all the details of what was wrong with the truck or what exactly they did, I can tell you that they tinkered around and fixed some thing-a-majigers. 

They also worked on tearing down a run down concrete structure that will eventually become a baptismal for the church. 

It was also realized, during this time, that the "sand" that the guys had wanted to put around the play system was not the same degree of sand that we would have gotten here in the states. The sand was full of large stones and rocks, so the guys began the labor-intensive job of sifting through the sand to remove the largest stones and jagged rocks.

This job ended up taking days. They would throw the sand through a grate and the large rocks would fall. As they worked they would pull the strained sand back (so that the could continue throwing the sand through the grate) and shovel the rocks away from the front. It was quite the process and in the end I think every bit of that sand was moved at least 4 times. There were about 30 yards of sand total.

While this may seem to some (like myself at first) as a trivial, time consuming job it was actually very important. To have kids running and playing (many, if not most, of them barefoot) through this type of sand would have been just asking for injuries.

In the end, we (and by we, I mean the men :)) realized this was more than just a safety issue, but it was also something that most of the kids had probably never seen. While there is a lot of dirt and dust in Haiti, there isn't a lot of soft dirt and sandy areas, most kids there have probably never experienced playing in soft sand.

(Zoko, Lavaud's foreman, Wilson, Lavaud' driver and handy man, Lynn, the student sponsorship program director) 

While the guys made themselves busy around the compound, the women spent the morning sorting through the luggage and donations that were so graciously sent with our team. We had home visits, orphanage visits, and two sponsored student parties to finalize plans and care packages for. We spent time stuffing bags for the kids, making care packages for the families and getting a grasp on what exactly we had at our disposal to use and give away.

 This little girl is the daughter of Lavaud's sister who was in charge of running the house/kitchen, she was around the house all week, she was very leery of white people. 

We were blessed with so many amazing donations!! We were able to bring 170+ pillow case dresses for the girls, and underwear and t-shirts for the boys who were at the orphanage and in the student sponsorship program at the Rhode school. We had plenty extras so we were also able to hand them out on our home visits to the families. We brought nearly 100 wordless bracelets and had a simple gospel message translated to creole to hand out to the women. We had LOTS and lots of candy (an entire trash bag full), peanut butter, raisins, pb crackers, school supplies, hygiene products, reusable women's products, soccer balls, small balls, jump ropes, bubbles, and more. 

(This was the candy, AFTER, we had all filled our bags and backpacks with some to carry with us to hand out)

After lunch the ladies headed to the orphanage, to spend a little time with the kids, while the guys headed to the area for the play system (they're actually right next to each other) to start getting the area prepared.

(Fried plantains, french fries, picklese and I never really knew what the red meat was, I didn't really want to know.... it tasted like ham and felt like spam, but fried) 

The orphanage was unlike any place I had ever been before.  Having never been to an orphanage I really didn't have a gauge by which to go by, and I really didn't know what to expect. 
As soon as we drove up to the area, there were kids everywhere. Being white in Haiti means you're automatically noticed. We clearly stuck out.

As you drive through the streets the kids often run after the vehicle yelling "blancs, blancs" (which means "whites").

By the time you get to where you're going you can almost guarantee a crowd. This first day was no exception. I hadn't stepped out of the vehicle yet before I had kids grabbing at my arms and hands to hold onto me. 

I had no less than 6 kids "hanging" on me.

At this point they weren't asking for anything, they were just holding on. It didn't take long before I had, what seemed like, at least a dozen kids surrounding and grabbing for me and I could hardly walk. Because I was there to specifically get to the orphanage, I had to push through them. It was harder than I thought to walk away from them, even though I had somewhere else I needed to be. 

Once we got into the orphanage, it was the same way. 

There were 5 ladies on the trip and we did everything together, as a group. When we walked into the orphanage we each had kids all over us. We had only brought a few things (a couple of soccer balls, bubbles, some candy) so we mostly just played and tried to communicate with the kids. I believe we had our translator, Sylveus, with us on this first visit. 

The longer we were there the more the kids got used to us, though it was never calm and normal, it would become more manageable.

There were two little girls that grabbed my hands right away, and throughout my visit that first day if they weren't literally hanging on to my arm, I don't think they were ever further than 4 feet from me. 

One of the girls names was Dafney. 

The other, was Dienaylo've. 

They are both 9.

We spent an hour or more at the orphanage blowing bubbles, throwing/kicking the soccer ball and handing out candy.

The kids were..... precious.

Most of them smiled constantly.

They were desperate for candy (or anything we had) and if you went to hand candy to one, you would get mobbed with more kids than you could handle.

(Our translator, Sylveus, is helping one of the girls read the card that went with the wordless gospel bracelet) 

But for the most part, they were very pleasant and mostly just eager to be near us. 

Playing with our hair. 

Rubbing our arms. 

Looking at pictures on our phones. 

They really loved to see the pictures that we took of them.

They loved to pose. 

They always seemed to be as close to you as they could get. 

I remember during that first visit leaning over to Danielle and saying "I think I could stay here with these kids all week."

And I meant it. 

I really really did. 

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