Monthly Archives: February 2010

Snapshots

Here are some photos I took with my phone this past week that I forgot to post earlier…
A collapsed building, a tent city, the house on the mountain in the morning and one of the men, and Corrigan giving a tattoo

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A "Three-Hour Tour", A Night Hike, and Beauty Beyond Words

The Gilligan's Island song went round and round in my head on Saturday, specifically, "…a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour…"

Corrigan agreed to help deliver some food and clothing to this community in Jacmel – about three hours from Port-au-Prince. The winding mountain road revealed some beautiful views, yet it also suffered severely in the earthquake. In some places, landslides and boulders had been cleared enough for one lane. In other places the cracks in the asphalt reveal that the road is about two major rainstorms away from tumbling down the mountain altogether.

We arrived in Jacmel after 3 hours, and the Haitian guys with us said, "it's just ahead – we're almost there." We started driving toward another mountain, and after 2 more hours they said, "yeah, we're arriving!" After which we drove for another 45 minutes – and this was on motorcycle trails and goat tracks! It was probably good night had cloaked the terrain so we couldn't see how crazy this was. We enjoyed the adventure part of it. After arriving (and deciding to stay the night) we hiked another 35 minutes up mountain trails to arrive in the community where we would sleep. Corrigan talked with the people for a bit, while I smiled and nodded when I recognized a word or two.

They welcomed us into a small room with a straw mat on the floor and they told us to lay down and go to sleep. But as we laid down they continued to stare at us. Corrigan and I cracked jokes with each other about being in a zoo. Oh, and did you know it goes against common sense to lay down, close your eyes, and sigh peacefully while two guys with machetes sit in chairs three feet away. A little while later I heard snoring, so I peeked through one, half-open eyelid to see one of the guys (the other one had left) asleep in the chair. He must have heard my eyelash flutter because not more than two seconds later the snoring stopped and his eyes opened.

We actually thought it a nice gesture that they cared for our safety, yet I admit I was relieved when he left around 1am.

The next morning we watched the sun bathe the crops on the mountain side with light. We took photos of children and watched them laugh as they saw the result in the little digital window on the camera. We went to the beginning of the church service, and while that could be a separate blog altogether, suffice it to say that we enjoyed watching the children's faces during the service.

We finally left to embark on our trek to the car and the 6+ hour drive back to Port-au-Prince and on that drive enjoyed the beautiful landscape we had passed in moonlight. Corrigan and I had some great conversation about 'missions', about empowerment, about accountability, and about mutuality.

On the drive back I tried to photograph one of the most beautiful things I have seen. (I didn't actually think of it that way at the time – I just knew I had to snap the shutter – yet as I write now that is how the words fell on the page and I like them.) We followed a brightly painted truck (a bit bigger than a large moving truck but smaller than a semi-) brimming with bags of coal. A woman sat atop the coal bags above the truck cab as if she were one of Hannibal's soldiers driving an elephant over the mountains on the way to some great conquest. Her body swayed in rhythm with the trucks efforts to navigate the mountain road as the valley opened up before us. And she sang. I caught a note or two on the wind.

Can words even describe it? How do you reflect that in a photo?

This became longer than I thought so I will write about this morning's earthquakes and my goodbyes in another blog at another time.

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Tattoos, tent cities, and the Apparent Project

I have tried to write this entry a few times, yet I have struggled with capturing my thoughts. I have felt life in my heart and service that I haven't felt for a long time. In some small ways I have had some vision refreshed and some perspective restored. I thought about these things as I lay on a tile floor staring at wooden slats in the ceiling at 6:30 in the morning.

My friend Corrigan spent about 11 hours tattooing people on Wednesday. He is a gifted artist – in all sorts of mediums – so I guess it should not have surprised me to learn that he now gives tattoos as a way to supplement their ministry expenses. Most of the people he tattoos are short-term volunteers who want to remember their time in Haiti – recently this has included those coming to help with the earthquake efforts. The gathered group ebbed and flowed in conversations and laughter most of the evening. Corrigan finished up the last tattoo around 3:15am. The rain poured down and we decided to remain and to sleep at the McHoul's house on the tile floor. (John McHoul is the pastor of Corrigan's church here and he and his wife are doing some amazing work with medical care and child birth … check them out at www.heartlineministries.org .) I slept better in the few hours on the tile floor than I have for months. I love the feeling of deep down joy that comes in glimpses and moments unexpected.

The school where Corrigan teaches has become one point of coordination and distribution during the relief effort. Because they know Corrigan, he has received food and clothing to distribute to small communities. He involves the youth living in his home with this. Last night I had the opportunity to drive some youth to different places so they could drop off huge bags of clothing for men, women, children, and babies. These teenage boys were super excited and in the car they were singing, laughing, and jumping around. It is awesome to see the effects of positive mentoring and generosity as they gave these clothes to communities in need.

Today I was able to help Corrigan a bit by taking photos of some of the people who make the beads and necklaces with the Apparent Project in order to earn money enabling some to keep their babies, some to feed their families, and some to send their children to school.

Tomorrow we are heading about three hours outside of the city to deliver food and clothes to an area that has experienced an influx of displaced persons, yet has received very little (if any – from what he was told) of the incoming relief supplies.

Wish I could write more, but me eyes keep closing.

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A Next Step

We have a wee bit more direction and a next step.
It looks like we will do debriefing and transitioning retreat in Michigan for three weeks in March (8th – 25th).
Okay, that's it for now.

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A Day of Errands

People have asked what things are like here… Well, not having a before quake context makes it difficult to make that assessment. I have asked a lot of questions to hear others' perspectives and answers to this questions.

Corrigan and I rode around in the truck today doing some errands. I saw a lot, yet took very few pictures. Some areas had buildings pancaked or completely toppled, and other areas had a little rubble in the street but the buildings appeared okay. Some places have had concentrated cleanup efforts, while others have had no one touch them.

The picture is of the lobby area at Hotel Montana – all of the lobby debris was removed about two weeks ago. The debris in the picture is from the back of the hotel. One of the engineers explained the process of sifting and removal to make sure they do not violate any remains. It was interesting to be up there today.

There is plenty of food on the streets and in the markets, yet many people lack the funds to buy them. Some of the aid food is getting distributed while some is held up by bureaucratic tape.

Corrigan and I are off to dinner.

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A mudslide, a march, and a tsunami (?)

Thousands and thousands of people filling the streets singing – loud speakers chanting and bellowing prayers. The hotel courtyard has a great view of this March for Jesus.

In my short time here I have heard Haitians refer to the earthquake as 'the 12th of January' (in a way similar to Americans referred to '9/11'). Yet, many Haitians believe even a bigger earthquake will come because the epicenter of the big one that destroyed Haiti in the 19th century was in Cap Haitian.

As I watched the March a member of the hotel staff told me, "Today is a holy day and we are praying for the Tsunami."

"You mean the earthquake?" I asked.

"No, when the next earthquake comes we do not want the tsunami to come and destroy us, so the city is marching in prayer."

These pictures try to give a glimpse of the march.

Yesterday, after three days a rain, a mudslide collapsed a school near this hotel. I spoke with one of the first responders today – a group of US medics – and he said, "it rips your heart out, you know, we're pulling children's' bodies from the mud who are the same age as our kids back home… and we couldn't save four of them."

Rejoicing and mourning in both hands lifted to Heaven. Sweetness and bitterness in the same, shared cup.

What more is there to say right now…

Just an FYI: Lord willing, I'm scheduled on a flight to Port-au-Prince at 3pm today, so hopefully I will see Corrigan this afternoon or evening.

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Arrival in Cap Haitian

I arrived in Cap Haitian a couple of hours ago. Interesting to hear some of the local perspectives on the earthquake, its aftermath, Haitian vs. other government responses, fears of more earthquakes, etc…
I hope to make it to Port-au-Prince tomorrow or Wed. I heard that small flights might be going to PAP from Cap so I might look into that route or take a bus…
I will keep you posted.

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