Sunday, September 13, 2009

Haiti Day Three

The rooster has made it through another night unscathed. One of the team did have a dream about killing it with a sledgehammer, but it has survived to torture us once more. He started again around 3:30 and he actually seems to make his way in a circle around the entire compound. He also seems to make it a point to stop and crow under every window in the building. He seems quite deliberate about the whole process. We’ve begun to consider poison.

This morning several of the team took a road trip to the paint store, the fan store, and the Eko Depot – Haiti’s version of Home Depot. It was an adventure. The paint store is located in Delmas, a middle class neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. Middle class has a different standard here than at home. Many of the homes are built with concrete block and are well-equipped by Haitian standards. Most Americans would probably find them a hardship. The houses are set behind concrete walls which are topped with razor wire or rows of broken glass and glass bottles to keep intruders out. In addition to paint, the paint store also stocks ceramic tile of every description, sinks, tubs, and whirlpool tubs. The fan store housed small little stoves and refrigerators, the most gaudy selection of toilets and matching sinks, generators of every description, and fans, which you might imagine, are expensive as there is never a reason for an ‘end of season’ sale

When we returned, Mary and Paul were sitting with all the children engrossed in coloring and drawing. Small groups occasionally break off to kick the soccer ball or to play a game of dominoes. It’s a relatively quiet time, especially considering the sheer numbers of kids. We’re appreciating the quiet as this afternoon it will be the Special Olympics. Paul has planned a number of activities for the kids. We think it will be quite fun!


The Special Olympics were a great hit. All the kids participated in at least one of the events, many participated in them all. First, second and third place ribbons were given, (and the judging panel skewed the results to make sure every one of the 18 children received one of the first three places in one of the events.) Kids who cannot walk without a walker were still able to throw the bean bags, or ‘kick’ the soccer ball with their hands. It was a joy to watch them participate – although I suspect that some of them were more interested in pleasing the crazy Americans than in throwing a bean bag through a hoop! In any case, it was fun – for them and for us.

It is easy to second guess yourself in a place like this. Am I doing the right thing? Am I communicating what I’m trying to communicate? Am I being respectful in the way in which I’m interacting with others? It’s easy to step on toes and not even know it. But the biggest question for me is ‘what is the value of what we are doing?’ Are we helping or are we hindering. Or are we simply benign – a presence that is here for 10 days disrupting the routine, but one that will be forgotten as soon as we drive away. I don’t have the answers yet. Even if we are forgotten the moment we leave, I am certain none of us will forget this experience. These children and the staff who serve them, have a way of insinuating themselves into your heart. They won’t be easily erased.

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