Haiti Trip - part III of III

The main highway that bordered our site - the line of buildings at middle left is the CEDAN compound. So lush and green and full of potential.

(the rest of the pictures in this post are below, after the text)

Saturday June 11th
The only word I think I need to describe today is HOT. It was a clear blue sky all day for the first time and we suffered for it! The humidity is still alive and well though maybe a tad less, but the sun made it very hot. Nonetheless, we took a ride into the nearest town of Limbe, which is about 15 minutes up the road. We all piled into the back of the pickup truck again, which actually felt nice since it was at least moving air! The town seemed a lot like a typical African town, with lots of motorcycle taxis and a big market selling everything under the sun. We walked all around the town, visiting a local church, hospital, and lots of smaller little streets. It really was a good look at a typical Haitian town.
One significant happening this morning was that the water pump broke. The water tank had only about 1/4 tank in it when we discovered it. Volunteer Kirk worked with the guys all morning and determined that they needed a new pump (even though the current pump is just 6 months old!). The ministry was running low on cash so a couple of the volunteers donated about $250 towards the $3-400 pump. After returning from Limbe mid-afternoon, the pump arrived shortly thereafter only for us to discover that it didn’t come with the right plumbing fitting! (Uncanny how similar this place is to Africa in so many ways!) So at 4:00pm, they sent someone to fetch the right part, if possible. We rationed water all day, and tried not to use the toilet since there is no pit latrine as a backup plan! It’s funny, today is presentation day for the team and yet our focus most of the day has just been on getting the essential utilities up and running (power and water – oh yes, I failed to mention that the power was out all day as well).
We were very ready for the presentation today – in fact we easily could have presented yesterday. But a couple people had some last minute work to finish, so it was good that they weren’t rushed.
The presentation went well, but was definitely an interesting experience. We all piled into a pickup truck with a number of Haitians along as well – 21 people in all in a truck about the size of a Toyota Tundra! It was about a 20-minute ride to the nearby university where we were to give the presentation. When we got there, it was still very hot and muggy, but we got introduced to the university president (who is on the CEDAN board) and he wanted to give us a tour of the site. Well, the site was huge – maybe 20-30 acres of lush jungle that had been knocked down into a beautiful setting. We ended up walking around for nearly an hour, carrying our computers and wondering when we’d ever get to the presentation!
Finally, Nicely came and got us and led us to a computer room that had a projector. One big, pleasant surprise for us was that the room had a window-mount A/C unit! It was like heaven in there – I immediately instructed the team to increase their 5-minute presentations to 15-20 minutes to maximize our time in that room! :)
The presentation went very well – they were speechless. They didn’t ask any questions (which always makes me a little nervous) but they were overjoyed. At the end of the slideshow, Phyllis played a ‘fly-thru’ movie of the site – I’ve posted it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP6GVBIFOBg . I’ve never had one of those done before on a trip so it really was a fun thing to show them. It’s basically a 3D computer model of their site, which she had rendered (colored) and even added people. You then film a movie that’s as if you were a bird, flying around and thru the site and showing it from every angle imaginable. They were amazed and very happy – Phyllis and Jeremy really did a nice job on it.
The one bad thing for the team though is that we’re out of water and the new water pump is not working. So, we have no toilets and no showers for the night – that’s never a fun situation to be in. They did manage to get us some buckets to flush a couple times with, but no showers. Oh the joys of missions work! Maybe someday God will lead me to minister to the rich and famous and we’ll do project trips in their mansions – anything for the cause! :)
Sunday June 12th
With no water and toilets available to us this morning, I awoke at just before 5am to see if I could find a way for the team to use the restroom when they woke up (there’s no daylight savings time in Haiti, so it starts getting light around 4:30am and gets dark at just after 7pm – it made me realize how much sense Daylight Savings Time makes).
So I brought the four empty buckets from the bathroom down and asked the guards if they could find water somewhere nearby. Thankfully, they were eager to help so they immediately left the compound to find some. In the end it all worked out, but with a number of team members feeling the effects of a stomach bug not having a toilet was not an ideal situation!
We hired a large flat-bed truck to pick us and our luggage up and transport us into Cap Haitian for our closing time. The driver of the truck was used to trying to make time on his route from Port au Prince to Cap Haitian, so he was driving like a maniac! Since we were all standing in the back of the truck, it made for a thrilling and exhausting hour-long ride back to the city as we held onto the metal railing for dear life while the driver swerved and sped his way down the bumpy dirt road!
When we arrived at the hotel, it turned out to be pretty nice – especially since the rest of the city is in such poor condition. We checked into our air conditioned rooms and almost decided to skip the planned trip to the beach because it felt so good after a week of being hot and sticky with no relief. But 8 of us stuck with the beach plan, and though it meant another 40 minutes (one-way) of time in the back of the truck, it was well worth it as the beach was very fun. It was really the only glimpse remaining of yesteryear, when Haiti was once a wealthy destination spot for European vacationers. The beach was nice and the water was beautiful and warm. I’d never been to the Carribean Sea before, so it was a nice treat. We also took a pretty large contingency from the ministry along with us – the 5 guards who came at Henri’s insistence to make sure we were safe (I didn’t feel threatened at all), as well as a number of gals who had helped during the week. It was really fun to see them enjoy something that they rarely if ever get to do.
That evening, after returning from the beach, we had a nice team dinner at the hotel and then gathered for our final closing meeting. Game 6 of the NBA finals was on in the bar in the room next to us, so I know a few team members were a little torn! But the meeting went very well and was a great way to wrap up our time together. This was a special team (aren’t they all?) and some of the relationships formed will surely extend beyond the trip. Conditions-wise, it might have been my toughest trip to date. But the people God gathered together to form the team made up for any physical difficulties we encountered. The meeting lasted about 3 hours, so our beds in the air conditioned rooms were calling our names pretty loudly by that point.
Monday June 13th
After a quick breakfast, we were picked up at 7am by ‘the truck’ to head to the airport 25 minutes away. While at breakfast, they had brought out a bag of sandwiches for us which we hadn’t ordered. When we told them we hadn’t ordered any, they just said that they were for us. Well, we really didn’t want them, so when the truck showed up with the 5 CEDAN guards, the team had the idea to give them to the guards. The guards undoubtedly hadn’t eaten breakfast, so they devoured two sandwiches each. But shortly afterwards, the waiters came out and informed us that the sandwiches weren’t for us afterall. Well, knowing what I know about Uganda, I figured that although we could have gotten out of paying for them – afterall, they told us they were ours – I knew that these two waiters (gentlemen in their 50’s) could very well lose their jobs over such a mistake. I decided to just pay them the $40 for the sandwiches even though the local ministry guy along with us insisted we shouldn’t have to pay. It was one of those times where you throw ‘theory’ out the window and do what your gut tells you, and mine told me that what was ‘right’ in the situation wasn’t what was best.
The travel day was just like any other, though it was nice to not have so far to go. We were very pleasantly surprised at how smooth the flights were on the small turbo-prop plane (30-seater) that took us from Fort Lauderdale to Cap Haitian and back. As we were landing back into Florida, it was amazing at the stark difference in skylines of those two cities – with the miles of high-rise hotels along Miami Beach greeting us.
One other thing of note was that for the first time in a long time, I got sick at the start of the flight back to Denver. We didn’t fly out until 6pm, so the thunderstorm activity had rolled into the area by then. It was a little bumpy going up and the plane was dodging storms most of the trip, but I quickly started feeling pretty sick. When the seat belt light finally went off 45 minutes into the flight, I got into my bag and took one of my pills (I’d taken one before the morning flight but didn’t take another one before this flight, which was nearly 10 hours later). Well, much to my surprise, about 45 minutes later I felt perfectly fine. I have never recovered from motion sickness while in flight before – usually once I’m sick I’m sick for the whole day, even after I’m back on the ground. I really felt like it was an answer to prayer though as the pills have never helped me ‘recover’ before.
Landing back in Denver, Alisha and the boys were waiting for me. Since I hadn’t shaved in 9 days, I stood for nearly 10 seconds just feet away from them as they looked straight past me into the crowd trying to spot me. When they finally recognized me, the looks on their faces were priceless! Despite looking dirty and disheveled, it was so good to be back with them – it’s always my favorite part of the trip! :)

The streets of Limbe (about a 20-minute ride from our site) - it was very similar to Uganda but with a slight Caribbean feel mixed in.

We're on the right, walking the streets of Limbe

The downtown market in Limbe - it was amazing to see this in that it is exactly how the markets are in every city in Africa I've been to. It's remarkable that a place 1000's of miles away from the continent could feel and look so similar to Africa.

This was one of the main churches in Limbe -there was a small choir of people singing down below that was impressively loud given their numbers. You would've guessed it was 30-40 people singing!

The truck that drove us from the site into Cap Haitien, and then to the beach and back and finally back to the airport.

This billboard is warning of the impending doom that was to come on March 21st. Sad that people who are struggling just to survive were dragged through this mess as well. It shows how deeply the people believed that man, even spending money around the world to warn people. I hope people around them are reaching out to help as I'm sure it's pretty disorienting to find out you've been believing a lie.

In the pickup truck (not the one pictured above) on the ride into Limbe. I am straddling the tailgate of the truck - not recommended for comfort or safety!

The new pump's arrival was a joyous time...until we couldn't get it to work.

At the presentation, architect Jim explaining the 3D model of the master plan in the slide with Nicely interpreting.

The crowd was our team of 12 with around 20 Haitians.

Just before we left the site, we snagged a team photo

In the truck on the way back to Cap Haitien. Volunteer Brent (pictured here in the middle, with sunglasses) turned to me somewhere during the trip and repeated (with the hope of convincing himself to believe it), “There’s no safer place than the center of God’s will. There’s no safer place than the center of God’s will…” We all got a good laugh out of it.

The beach on the other side of the mountain from Cap Haitien - beautiful. Well mostly - there were some coves that were full of plastic bottles and other trash.

The security guys from CEDAN stayed with us whereever we went. One time, this local guy (who appeared either stoned or drunk) was smoking and came over near us. So the guard on the left walked over to him and whispered something I couldn't hear, and the guy turned around and left. I have no idea what was going on with that, but I know I wouldn't want to mess with this guy! The guards were very nice to us and took great care of us all week.

Me with my new friends (two of the CEDAN guards) - they loved practicing english so we talked a lot during the week.

Intern Stacy (on the right) was a big hit in Haiti. This group of Asian guys came over and wanted their picture with her - then a couple of them wanted individual shots with her too. We were laughing - they would put their arm around her without touching her, as if they were sneaking or something!

Cap Haitien from the ground...

...Cap Haitien from the air, on our way out

Copying pictures during the waning moments of the trip, back in Fort Lauderdale - it was nice to just be in an air conditioned building! We also noticed that the building we were in was much larger than the entire CEDAN site where we'd been living for the past week!


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