Friday, November 21, 2014

First and foremost,

for anyone waiting on an email from Karen, you’re going to have to wait a bit more. The internet doesn’t work on her computer and it’s driving her crazy. Crazy in a fun, tolerable way, but crazy nonetheless.   All her ‘stuff’ is on her computer, so while she can use mine and Liette’s computer, it doesn’t help for file recall for her. OK, back to blog business….

Yesterday (Thursday) morning began the same as today, with an early run. This being my second time down, if I were to run during the day I could probably do it alone. I hate the heat  and loathe the hot sun down here, so a daytime run simply isn’t an option for me. As with last trip, I hired Richard, the HATS Head of Security, to trail me on a moto before the sun came up. This gave me the advantage of running at the coolest point of the day, and catching the gorgeous Haitan sunrise. While you get plenty of steps in volunteering at HATS, cardio is limited to body work, since going off compound solo is a no-no for first timers, and extreme caution for return visitors. And I’m not taking any chances in the dark.

Haitian Sky At Sunrise

The run started great. Last time I ran here was along the canal….and I fell in…. sort of. Richard was tailing me lighting the path with his moto. I was running intervals (altering paces) which made me a terrible client for my security detail, and keeping up was a challenge for him at times. Dumb move on my part, because while looking down to switch songs on my phone, I found that the path had been eaten in by about 4’ and I fell right into a hole that I probably would have seen if I had not been playing everyones favorite Haitian game “Can Blanca Lose His Security Detail?”.  And I definitely would have seen if I wasn’t texting and running. This is why Haiti’s national anthem is “Put Down Your Phone And Just Run Dummy”. Ok, that’s not the anthem…. yet.

Back to this morning’s run. I’d gotten up a little late for it and decided to skip the bathroom because I didn’t want to keep the driver and Richard waiting. The run started out great. Cool crisp morning air, plenty of inquisitive Haitian faces slightly responsive to my poor French version of good morning “Bahn Jerr Missy Year”. Anyway, 20 minutes in, body says “find a Starbucks, pretty darn soon”.  My response “shaddup body, mind over matter, you lose.”.  3 minutes later, body says “Oh really??? Haha, you gonna lose, poor-planning-guy”. So I stop the moto and try to explain my dilemma. Richard and the driver nod their head in understanding. I ask if it would be OK with Richard to walk while I return with the driver, and then driver doubles back. Richard shakes his head yes. I step toward the moto, and no one moves. They didn’t understand a word I said. I literally said “I’m SOL here guys, eh?”, and they shook their head “yes”, of course. Awesome. 5 minutes later I stopped the moto and with a little more effect, reviewed the situation. The driver said “Ah, I understand you” and then explains to Richard. He hops off, I hop on, and we go home. Mind won that round body…. Sorta.  (Richard hopped another moto back)

Karen had asked me to hang some Christmas lights, which I was happy to do. At home this takes 20 minutes. Here? Most of the day. That’s because the lights from last year had been chewed through by some kind something you don’t want spooning you at night (thankfully Liette had brought some more). And the extension cords from last year had mysteriously vanished. There’s not a lot of places they could have gone on the compound, so someone likely walked out with them. Sad but true, and a sobering reminder that there are very few completely trustworthy people in Haiti. When you’re born in a desperate country in a desperate situation, you do what you have to if you’re going to survive. And if that means stealing some supplies from an orphanage, so be it. Liette had kind of warned me about this before the first trip, saying something about Haiti being a great place, with wonderful people, but the world they came into doesn’t have a lot of room for the same kind of values that the first world offers.

So a few hours later, Karen, Richard and I went to St. Marc to pickup supplies, including extension cords, some groceries, and a replacement cell phone (the latter is a whole other kinds of nuts in this place). Karen asked me to sit in the back passenger seat of the cab so Richard could sit up front, because having a Haitian in the car minimized the likelihood of being messed with. When we got there to St. Marc it was chaos, as always. Streets were loaded with people, and as we pulled up, four beggars descended on the car for handouts. Karen shoed them away. While she’s extremely empathetic of people in tough situations, she has little time for people not interested in working for income. She shoed them away and in we went..  Karen got a Snickers bar and a Ragaman drink for Richard. I don’t drink soda, but decided to give this Haitan delight a try. I explained the taste to Karen on the way home as this “If you took out the best parts of Coca Cola and a sweet syrupy drink, and the medium good parts out as well, what you’d have remaining is this Ragaman drink. It was terrible. We returned home from the ride, and an hour or 2 later, the lights were up.

Oh, and we ran over (it was already dead) a goat that had wandered into the road and been hit by someone else. So, check that off my bucket list?

Today presented some interesting activities. I got up for another run, this one going much smoother. I planned ahead in case I needed to cut the 30 min run short, and instead of doing a 15 minute out and back, I went 7-10 minutes in one direction on the road, came back, and did the same in the other direction (twice actually, nailed my goal). After breakfast I fixed a few of the DIY drums (wood box frames wrapped with packing tape on both sides). From there it was off to do some more of the  timoun (children’s) sponsorship forms again, and the project is nearing completion. Final activity of the morning… I met a child I sponsor. His name is Myckelly Jérôme, and he’s 5 years old. Very shy little boy, and it was a privilege to meet him. My Uncle Leo Krupp was a wonderful man, and when passed away, he left the nieces and nephews a part of his estate. I sent mine to HATS, and the sponsorship began. I think Unk would get a kick out of what I’ve done with his gift.

Gigi Playing Slide Simon

Myckelly and Me - Haitans Don't Smile For Pix, Nor Will I

This afternoon there was a MAJOR futbol game at the school. The intramural championships were played between the green and blue teams. There were 200 or so kids watching the game, and it was hot as all get out. The green team won by a goal. Liette awarded the winners with medals, and all of the finalists received a hat and a shirt. And dinner. The last part struck me as odd, and maybe a little sad. All of the kids at the school get a meal during the day. For most of those kids, that meal is the only meal of their day that they know for sure will be coming, and will be fulfilling. So the notion that this second meal (chicken, rice, beans, sauce, and a soda) for the finalists was an award struck me as a stark contrast to the first world, where food for children is never an award. To the contrary, it’s almost an assumption, even in poorer neighborhoods. The boys devoured the food, of course, but it was an impression that will stick with me for a long time.

Soccer Game

Soccer Awards

Soccer Meals

We came back to the compound and I went upstairs to study. And by “study”, I mean “fall asleep with school book near me”. I’ve done a lot of this sort of studying lately.

 I pass the blog baton back to Heather tomorrow, where the readership will likely find her brevity quite refreshing.

Ciao for now peepo.

-          Rick

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It’s Heather here this evening.

It’s been a long day in Haiti and still not over yet.  It wasn’t just long, but very good with all we had to do.   I don’t think we sat down for more than a minute each time. Grade nine and ten sponsor photos and letters were done today so it went much faster because they can write themselves.  There is an interesting custom in Haiti where people do not smile in photos.  When they made their serious faces, I told them people would think we are holding them captive. I would make them laugh and they would have the most beautiful smiles but as soon as I took the picture it was back to straight face.

Heather taking photos of high school students

 Yesterday started with devotions at the school.  Later in the day I gave the kids another art lesson and we drew a fish and person.  It was lots of fun. Djemima, one of the girls, taught me how to draw a mermaid.

Cute preschoolers in devotions

Yesterday was super exciting for the kids as we brought out the slip and slide which the kids had never seen before.  They thought it was awesome and oh, was that fun to watch. Even little 2-year old Magdala who can’t walk yet wanted to join the fun.  She has so many brothers and sisters, she is not afraid of anything including water sprayed in the face and being dragged down the track. The kids were very happy to slip and slide again today.

Magdala sliding

Sandra sliding

Waiting in line for their first turn on the slip and slide

The boys here all love Ninja turtles and they had heard one of their phrases and thought it was “Show me your beef”.  The turtles actually say, “Show me your teeth!”  When we went for a walk on the canal this afternoon and saw a baby cow they said to the cow, “Show me your beef!” which actually worked out well in this situation.

Ti Fi, Heather & Jonathan enjoying the beautiful Haitian sky at the end of the day.

Tonight I got to help Ti Luc with his bath and he just played and played did not want to get out.  He said he could play all night because he was not going to school tomorrow.  When I asked him what he thought mom would say , he said, “Don’t tell mom. Don’t tell mom.”

It is still very hot here with no fans or air-conditioning but I thinks it’s okay as I’ve got to save up this heat and get ready for my return to Canadian snow.

Hi everyone, just a quick note from Liette.  The internet here is giving us all major headaches, so if you haven’t heard from Karen, that is why.  Her computer is unable to connect at all so she’s been trying to spend a few minutes online each day on my laptop.  The good news is that a new internet company came by today and strung wire all over the place.  They said the internet should be good to go in 3 days.  I have no idea what the 3 days is needed for but hey, this is Haiti!

Team installing new internet wiring

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In all 50 states its freezing at some point.

**Rick Update **Today started a bit late for me. Last night I received a 135 page report on a company my team is studying, and will present to, in China. Though I’m enjoying my time down here, my world back there is still spinning, so I’m trying to keep up. Anyway, I spent a few hours on that report, which caused me a late wake up. How late?

Well, Liette got up for the 6:30 walk with Karen and the children, I did not. In fact, if it was a 10:30 walk, it still would have been 30 minutes too early for me. But once I got it it in gear, I was good to go. Though I missed breakfast, Germain (the cook) put a big bowl of fruit aside for me. I love her!

No school so we had an early morning walk

Stretching exercise with Liette after the walk

I’ve come to realize that Karen has passed an odd gene down to her daughter. It’s the “Operate at 120 mph (that’s 193 kpm to you Canadians) and don’t let anything get in the way ” gene.  Shortly after I awoke, we put all the gifts and donations together so they could start pulling out the stuff for today (Moise, JJ, Karena, and Vladimy) and put the Christmas stuff on the side.

There’s a party once a month for all the children born in that month. The kids all receive a few gifts from Mama (Karen) and Papa (Luckner).

Four birthday people

Leica and Djemima ready for the party

Birthday hugs

Party Time

Partying.

Magdala snuggling with Rick a the party

Anyway, their 120mpg genes collided head on while plucking gifts, and it was a glorious sight to witness. Complete Canadian diplomacy, mind you, and lots of fun.  (And yes Liette, I was recording when I told you I was not. Never trust an American). Anyway, the party was great and everyone had a good time.

A bit after a few of the boys and I watched the soccer/futbol games at Luckner’s place. Brazil played (and beat) Austria, and Portugal beat Argentina . What I didn’t realize was that we’d be watching the game at  the radio station that Luckner runs out on his property. I’ve been there once before, as he interviewed me on my last trip. This time I came to find that he has the game brought in on 2 tv’s where people can watch, and has an announcer that calls the game in Creole for his radio listeners (estimated to be 600,000).

Came back from the soccer game and dinner was ready. Given the extreme heat down here (btw, did you know it hit freezing in at least one point of all 50 States today? Yep…) soup didn’t seem ideal. Let it cool a bit and found some of the best chicken soup I’ve had in my life.

After dinner Liette returned. While I was watching the futbol games and Heather was playing with the kids at the compound, Liette went to visit her friend Rigaud in Deschapelles, roughly 30 minutes walk away. I met him on the last trip, and he’s a very nice guy. He works at the hospital (Albert Schweitzer) in Deschapelles in their Maintenance Department. It was dark when she left, so he and his son Malachi walked her back to the compound. Haiti’s a pretty dangerous place after dark, especially for us blancas. Anyway, score for me – I got to see him again and meet his son. Every now and again you meet someone that emanates kindness, and Rigaud falls into that bucket. I had some questions about the market and such (he has some land he farms next to his house), as well as his pigs and horses. Apparently some sort of pig virus tore through Haiti, taking out all 3 of his pigs. It killed pretty much all of them in the country at the time, but anything born since has been immunized. Of the 2 horses he had, one died, for some unknown reason. As he said to me (through Liette translating), “It just sat down in the field and died, it wasn’t sick”. It was also pregnant.  And so it goes.

Before he left he said we’d see each other again on Saturday. I’ll look forward to that.

Another interesting aside. Malachi is married – to a Canadian. They knew each other when they were young, and she married him on a trip back here. He finished school a year ago, but can’t find work. He’s awaiting papers to move to Montreal with his wife, which should help with work too. He’s never been there.  Can you imagine moving to a country you’ve never been without so much as a visit ahead of time to see if you like it? He’s never been out of Haiti before.

That’s it for me. Heather’s on deck and will be launching tomorrow’s blog. Stay warm North America. Stay warm….

Monday, November 17, 2014

Heathers Blog Update

Hello again another day at Hands Across The Sea and I am more tired but also more excited to be here, even with the baby cockroaches we killed tonight. If you know Karen you discern two things she is a tough small red head that has all the love in the world for her kids and she hates bugs. So as Liette pulled down the mixer box and the bugs hoped out we all jumped three feet back and from then on I was to get all the pans down and check for bugs.  Karen and Liette were not going anywhere or near anything that might possibly have something in it.

Heather sent to look for cake pans in case something pops out of them

Good sport Heather even checking the oven mitts for K & L

The best part of today was being able to go to the school and meet many kids from all over who could not help but stare at this strange white teenager coming to their classroom. We got to go and help the school kids with writing their sponsor letters for the people all over the world that give them money.  It was so cool to be on the other end.  I got to learn the whole process and how hard it actually is. One misspelled name and you get emails on how my kid had a different name last year when I sponsored them. Yes they are all written by hand and then translated and then scanned by the computer.

Heather assisting Liette in PS1

Imagine a room full of preschool kids who can’t write or even spell. A lot of work on our end there.  Also walking into the school and asking if the kid was absent or had stopped coming to school all together. Even telling the kids that some places have up to grade thirteen and we have twelve they were shocked as they have half days and only till grade ten.

PS1 with our own Sandra doing her drawing

PS2 (4 yr olds) doing their drawings

Liette finishing up with Rose Lore's PS 3 class

Liette, Heather and Rick in PS 3 prison

Then we got to head on down for a walk by the canal where the older boys drove the baby stroller on a rollercoaster ride through every mud puddle. We passed a few goats and cows that the kids ran at and I was sure they would charge back but by the looks of the crazy kids they did not have the gumption.

Our canal walk through and around mud puddles galore

The final part of my day was taking the kids and giving them an art lesson which they loved.   I adored to be able to use my passion here even with the language barrier. Where I would draw something and point at it then ask what it was in Creole, where I would pronounce it and most likely say a different word but it worked out.  Something I would love to look into is combining art and missions.

Jofky proudly showing Mama his art from his lesson with Heather

Finally finishing of our day by a bit of stargazing on the roof with the older kids and still very hot here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

**Heather’s Update **

It’s our first day and we’ve been up since four AM, but luckily go to bed with the sun at six PM. I am so excited and ready to work starting tomorrow, while today I just played with the kids my favorite part I might add. I was surprised at how many kids I remembered after five years of not being here, but even more amazed at how the kids remembered me. You don’t think you know a language that you’ve studied for six years until you are in a situation where that’s the way to communicate. So now, having graduated grade twelve, I can look back and say I guess all those years of painfully boring French classes were not a complete waste.

Brushing my hair in the morning will be fun after I’ve had an assortment of different kids adding braid after braid. Also flowers and stick to make a beautiful arrangement, all pulling and adding different sizes and styles until every last hair was in place.  I am a little scared to see those picture printouts. 

Will Heather ever be able to comb her hair again

Overall, I had a great time with lots of water brought on by lots of tag chasing lots of kids in this scorching weather. I’m glad to be out of Canada. All kidding aside, thank you for supporting us on this trip. Keep us in your prayers and I can’t wait for more.

**Rick’s Update**

It’s been 18 months since my first trip to HATS and Haiti. From what I’ve seen of the day, there have been no extreme changes since my last rendezvous with the Deschappeles crew. Karen’s building has had a roof (pronounced “ruff” for the Midwesterners) put on the top floor, yet much remains open still. This is fortunate, as I have many fond memories of watching the stars in the Haitian sky at night. We’re 3 hours from Port Au Prince, and there is zero ambient light to cloud the views. A new generator has been installed at the compound, which has been a blessing for everyone besides Karen.  Good dependable electricity is in the compound.  Karen's place which is the hub of the mission/administration centre, etc is still having electricity problems., which is the result of the lightening strike on June 23rd.  Yesterday the problem at her place was found but now will require time and some new wiring (outside the cement walls) to rectify the situation.  If only Building Blocks, Chicago’s finest terra cotta renovation specialists,  had connections that reached to here…. darnit.  Ha!

One major snafu on the trip so far - one of my bags from Chicago not making the connection through Ft. Lauderdale to PAP. I’ll spare you the woes, but it resulted in exactly one hour of sleep for me last night and a bag that won’t make it to the compound until 24 hours after I did (thank you Jah Zay for QB’ing that from Chicago and the help packing and drop-off). Though excited to see the kids and staff today, I was exhausted shortly after our arrival, triggering a 3 hour nap. This might explain my absence in the soccer pictures. Or maybe I was throwing down color commentary from the booth.

Playing soccer in rain with older kids

Soccer with younger kids in rain and puddles

While HATS has had few changes and remains the wonderful place I remember…. I’ve changed considerably since last trip. Six months after my departure from HATS, I began my MBA at the University of Illinois. The program and the people have been fantastic.  And the timing of this trip couldn’t have been better, as we’ve just completed our seventh module which brought together Entrepreneurship and Global Business Horizons. The former is self explanatory; the latter was a course focusing on living in subsistence. While we don’t spend much time off compound usually (Haiti can be pretty dangerous), I’m hoping we might be able to visit the market and talk with sellers and buyers a little more than last trip. I view that environment through a much more refined lens at this point and have a much more solid foundation to better evaluate what I saw through the eyes of a wide eyed tourist initially. Biggest obstacle, of course, is that the folks at the market don’t speak English, only Creole. Liette is very fluent in Creole though, and a fantastic translator.

Things I’m missing already from back home so far: snow on the ground today in Chicago (it was +90 here), reliable internet connections, my nieces birthday party (sorry I couldn’t make it work Stortos’, please send love from Uncle Makes Me Cry), Cunningham muffins and those that make ‘em, and James’ missed birthday party (I hope it was loaded with lemons, and congrats to Jen - all hail the Poker Princess), and …. today… my air conditioner. I’m sure I’ll miss more as the week progresses, but I’m in the exact right place for right now.

A huge thank you to all the friends and family who donated to the trip. None of it subsidizes my portion, everything, as the HATS motto says, is “For the children”. When the lost bag arrives, I’ll have 2 huge cargo bags full of Christmas gifts and clothing for the kids. I won’t be around when they get it, which I’d kind of prefer. I remain supremely grateful for being a part of the process.

Cheers all!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is there...

...an  A M B E R  A L E R T  for adults??

Amber Alert was set up as a system to alert people to help find children who have gone missing.   HATS-Haiti does not have any missing children, - we do, however, appear to have two adults missing. 

We have been looking for but have been unable to locate two of the HATS-Haiti personnel.  They are Canadians, Joan and Keith Wight,  called 'blan' by people outside of HATS , but inside the mission compound known as Kief and Jon. 

Joan Wight known at HATS-Haiti as Jon

If anyone sees Jon please return her to HATS-Haiti

Cap-i-tan Kief missing since Tuesday

Anyone seeing this man please report it to HATS-Haiti

MISSING Kief & Jon. If seen please hold for return to HATS-Haiti.

If you see either, or both, of these people please detain them, take good care of them, and get in touch with Karen by telephone , 509-3-624-7401 or at hats.haiti@gmail.com.  Thank you.   A reward is offered for the safe return of this couple.  Safe return to HATS-Haiti, not the safe return to Montreal, Canada

Thank you.   Karen

Special Update: added at 4:20 HATS Daylight Saving Standard Time. (see Keiths blog of Nov 30th for explanation of time)

Oops, I did not for one second think that people would take my blog today about Keith and Joan being missing seriously.  I already blogged on Wed saying Bye and Thank you to them.  Guess I had better realize that some people do not see all the blogs.

It was meant as a joke as they are missed big time here at HATS.  Sorry if some thought I was serious. 
God bless.  Karen


Friday, November 14, 2014

On Monday the Roma team left.

On Tuesday Keith and Joan left.   On Wednesday we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned and tried to get five minutes to catch our breath.   Yesterday, Thursday, after finishing the morning working at the school,  I went to St. Marc with security Richard.  We were almost back to the mission site - almost to the bridge across the canal when Germaine called to say "Do not come home. "  She said there were problems outside the mission on the bridge and in our  area.  We had seen a bunch of people ahead but did not know what and why.

We could see three fires burning on the bridge which were making a lot of black smoke and a bunch of guys  throwing rocks at anyone who got too close.  I parked far enough away from the rock throwing.  We could see a lot of angry yelling people.  I managed to sneak, and I mean sneak, even zoom on a couple of quick photos.  It was starting to get dark and there was a lot of smoke so they are not clear.

Rocks in hands for any vehicle

Not going any closer than this. Can't get to HATS

Looks like a gas can

Luckner arrived in his truck, got out and went to talk to those who had taken over the bridge and that area.  He returned and said for Richard to walk me across the bridge and into the compound (they had agreed).  Luckner took my truck and drove down the side of the canal where we seldom walk.  He was able to cross over down there and tried to get the truck to our compound from the other side of the bridge.  Nothing doing.  Lots of big rocks on the road, lots of rock throwing and bullets flying as well.  He ended up driving through fields and was able to get the truck on the mission compound by coming back by the canal road where we usually walk.  He then left to walk back to his own truck.

My kids had been concerned about their Mama sitting on the other side of the bridge and not being able to come home.  They were told I was okay but they wanted their mama home with them.  Such big hugs when I walked in.  Things seemed quiet so I allowed the older ones to go outside with me and see the fires burning on the bridge.  They just barely saw the fires when rocks and bullets started flying and so did we - back into the compound.   The Riot Police arrived from St. Marc around the same time and tear gas was a concern so I put the children in the house.   Things calmed down for awhile when the police arrived, but not for long.

Riot Police are taking the bridge. People hiding and waiting.

Riot Police arrived. People have disappeared.

Germaine took a very long way around on foot (no motos could operate)  and made it home after a very long walk in the dark.  She came back to work this morning the same way as there still was trouble on the bridge and the road was dangerous.

A lot of shooting was heard all through the night hours, some so close that it sounded like it was happening inside the compound.  It sounded like this to the children too and so they did not sleep very well.  Plus there was coughing and unable to breath properly due to tear gas.  The house mothers on duty dispensed a half a lemon to all the children for their noses to prevent breathing in the gas.  The police were going from door to door in our area and on the corridor road to hospital looking for those who had blocked the road and caused the trouble.

Very early this morning the police from St. Marc were back sitting on the edge of the bridge - making their presence known again.

Police sitting on the bridge very early morning

This morning our children were up and dressed for school, albeit tired and doubtful there really would be classes at the HATS school today.  There were no classes held today.  Very few of our students made it to the school and we sent those home that did get there.  Luckner decided to use the time for a meeting with our teachers.

Early morning after a very restless night. Will there be school today.

School - Yes or No

It appears that as of this afternoon things seem to be somewhat normal again.  Rumours are that some arrests have been made.  Hopefully tonight will be a normal night in the HATS compound and all of us will get a night of sleep.  The children need to sleep tonight as do many others throughout this area.

Blessings everyone.
Karen