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Mark and Stef with kids on the HODR base


leogane marketplace

Despite all the devastation we have seen, the market is thriving, and commerce is alive and well.

When one can look around, its not too hard to find examples of resiliency and positive momentum.

~ philip

Final dinner.

At the evening meeting tonight, we gave our goodbye toast as is custom for all HODR volunteers departing the next day.

I know I’ll have a final round-up of thoughts and thank yous tomorrow…so for tonight I’ll keep it brief.

Both Philip and I shared our heartfelt expressions about the project—but in honor of the St. Bona guys, we also created our own Top Ten:

The HODR survival guide for couples—in Top Ten Format….

10. Breakfast in bed consists of a power bar and peanut butter, with the sound of roosters crowing, and goats baying in the background

9. When she asks to rub lotion on her back, your options are spf 50 or 100

8. If you’re not shaving…I’m not shaving

7. If you can survive putting up mosquito netting together, couples counseling is no longer necessary

6. The perfect combination of OFF, deet and sunscreen becomes highly arousing

5. In Haiti, when you sleep on opposite sides of the air mattress it’s not because you’re mad—you just smell, and it’s really hot

4. The whole “How was your day at the office, honey?” conversation now occurs on the back of a tap-tap.

3. A dinner date now consists of rice & beans with 50 of your closest new friends, lit by headlamp, and follows with a romantic stroll to Joe’s Bar.

2. Hitting one another with rebar does not count as domestic violence

1. When he tells you he’s booked the arrangements for an all-inclusive 2 week vacation to the Caribbean…but tells you to pack your workboots…you should probably ask to see the brochure…

Bon nuit for now

Haiti update – Wed

Every night after dinner we have a group “meeting”—updates from the field, news for tomorrow, special items like “don’t throw TP in the toilet” and cleaning duty sign-up for the next day.

The St. Bonaventure gents also use this opportunity to share a nightly “Top Ten List” with the HODRers.

For example “Top Ten Things Not to Say to the Egg Sandwich Lady.”

Since it is 9 zillion degrees right now, and the generators are blowing left and right (thanks to the opening of Joe’s bar next door—see item #2), I am going to be super brief tonight.

Top Ten Things that I did not envision for myself one week ago, when I was drinking a martini in New York City last Wednesday night…

10—Giggling unstoppably while taking long-exposure portraits in the full moon-light: Awesome full moon last night, and everyone had the great idea of taking pictures without the flash.

This morphed into taking portrait shots with long exposures.

This resulted in some freakishly amazing pictures (to be shared later).

Occasionally someone would forget to turn off the flash function though, and the entire camp (after lights out) would be flooded with light—and this resulted in a group of mature adults cracking up hysterically like kids at camp who had snuck out after curfew.

Anyone who’s had the giggles knows how hard it is to stop once you’ve started…apparently this does not change when you’re 27…or 37 (haha).

9—Awaking to “Quake”: Yup, another earthquake.

Unfortunately at 1:30am…making it a bit hard to fall back asleep. It was super small, but all the same, when you wake up to people screaming and running for their lives…well, you kind of think the world is ending.

8—It is ok to eat cornflakes mixed with hot water and peanut butter: This is especially true when you’re on Team Baby Jesus and you know you have 8 hours of solid work ahead of you.

Other things that are ok: hot cereal with powdered milk and jelly.

I’ve also seen cold-brewed tea. Anything with peanut butter is ok.

Important to regulate use of creamy vs. crunchy though.

There is an etiquette to the madness, folks.

7—Singing “Oh Canada” when passing by the Canadian Military Base every morning: Shockingly, you might wager this is due to the influence of the St. Bona guys… However, we also get a nice smile, a smirk and a few head shakes when they realize what we’re doing as the tap-tap drives by.

I’m just glad they won the Gold medal…I don’t think it would go over as well if not.

6—Yelling out “Spring Break 2010, Carson Daly” with the St. Bonaventure guys: Apparently any amount of work is alleviated by yelling out “Spring Break” as if you were on a beach with a pina colada and some kind of body shot contest on the agenda for the day.

Now the Haitian kids are saying it too… I really hope Anderson Cooper doesn’t come to Leogane, there will be lots of explaining to do…

5—Videotaping three walls coming down: Philip won the MacGyver Inspector Gadget Eagle Scout award today.

Another web of knots and pulleys and heave-ho(ing) later, the walls came tumbling down—thank you Mr. Gorbachev.

As the only female member of TBJ this am (Margot and Laura were on cleaning duty), I got to videotape the roof coming down…it was pretty awesome and so satisfying since we’d been trying since yesterday.

The only bad side to being the only woman in the group, especially a group of several military-trained guys—is the fist-pumping, chest-bumping, high-fiving thing…A small sacrifice for a hard day’s work though.

Plus, there’s always Phil—who chose to do the Jersey Shore Snooki fist-pump….

4—Taking a bucket shower with your clothes on: After lunch, I spotted Philip walking across camp towards our bunk.

I hadn’t really seen him all morning (see above re: his future as a demolition expert), so wanted to go give him a hug hello.

I failed to see the trail of water in his wake and hugged a soaking wet person.

Why? Oh, he decided to shower with his clothes on.

This is acceptable in Haiti.

3—Wishing I could stay in Haiti longer: At the dinner meeting today, Mark and Steph and Lenka shared exciting news about the future projects HODR will be participating in, spearheading or assisting in the coming weeks and months.

They include assisting a field hospital, partnering with the GTZ guys to use their transitional shelters as schoolhouses, rebuilding an orphanage, and clearing 70 lots for structure rebuilding.

If you haven’t read much about HODR, it’s a very unique NGO—the volunteers who come here come to work (manual labor) and also make long-term commitments to the community.

We are not bureaucratic, there are no “systems” and as a result many groups here wants HODR to work with them.

It says a lot about the grass-roots nature of the organization and also about the we are trying to do a very small, community level.

It’s inspiring and exciting—and I know that if I came back in 4 months it would be an amazing situation.

Being part of it at the beginning stages has been unforgettable, so much so that it’s hard to think of leaving just when the going gets good.

2—Considering drinking a beer named Prestige: Joe is the guy who owns the nightclub where we are living—and the five acres behind us (to be used for NGO storage as soon as the Canadian military grates the field)…he also runs the bar attached to the Belval Plaze (the name of our place).

It has been closed since the earthquake, and is reopening tonight (Joe is not stupid—he knows there are soon to be a 100 sweaty workers in need of something cold, and hopefully alcoholic).

No, I don’t normally drink beer.

No, I wouldn’t normally imbibe something called “Prestige.”

I am thinking of this more as an extension of community service—it’s supporting the local economy.

Also it’s 90 degrees right now…not kidding.

1—Looking forward to being part of “Team Baby Stevus”: Team Baby Jesus rocked the house this morning—so quickly in fact, that we had no project for the afternoon.

(Yes, I realize I just said “Team Baby Jesus rocked the house”—I can’t help appropriating the eloquence of my teammates) As a result, we were split up—a fact that had us all in near tears.

So we are all making a point to join Steve’s team on a project tomorrow—so that we can all rock the new house in TBJ style—with singing, laughter and a little help from our friends.

Bon Nuit!

In Haiti, every rubble pile has a story

One simply has to stop and listen.
Every evening after dinner, there is a team meeting where the site project leaders give updates and the camp leaders share progress in the community and with other NGO’s. There is also a discussion topic that is open to everyone.

Tonight, the discussion was how to handle kids on the job sites. There is naturally a high premium placed on safety, and there is always a risk that a child could mis-use a tool, get hit by rubble, or any other myriad of potential injuries. On the flip side, they are generally eager to help out (much more so than the adults in most cases. One of our volunteers who is native Haitian has been listening to the families share stories of what the 37 seconds was like. I will catch this on video tomorrow as we get started on a new site.

The stories she has heard so far have moved her to tears.

Love to all

Haiti update (wed)

A few comments on Katie’s post and some additional observations.
A) The quakes / aftershocks I have experienced have been quite trivial. The only part making it frightening is that 50+ volunteers are yelling “QUAKE!!!” as they pile out of their bunks, trying to disentangle from mosquito netting as they run wildly into the courtyard. I believe we are far more likely to see injuries resulting from the gauntlet run than from any quake, but I understand the comfort of having an escape procedure in place. Overall, it works well, and the tremors have served to increase my comfort in the solid nature of our HODR base, and are also a somber reminder of why we are here. Nearly all the Haitian people continue sleeping in tents and tarps because they are afraid to go back inside structures that they don’t trust to stand.

B) the bar that opened up next door presents a very interesting conundrum and is a microcosm of the many challenges facing this country.

The property where HODR is located includes a large, secure building, a soon to be utilized 5-acre field in the back, and a new bar just outside the main camp. To get there is a 100 foot walk down a path bordered by the temporary IDP camp that Joe (the owner) has allowed to crop up in his yard. So here are these volunteers who on the one hand are exhausted after a day of back-breaking labor who are also happy to inject money into Haitian economy and support a local entrepreneur who employs at least 5 people to service the lounge. On the other hand, it is an outdoor seating place and you are in full view of the residents of the IDP tent camp where families are reduced to a handful of possessions and are watching us drink beers that cost a weeks worth of wages (assuming they were among the privileged few who had a job). Now contrast this with an experience we had on the job site yesterday.

We were clearing a home site for an owner and he had requested that as we cleared the slab, that we spread the rubble around the foundation to protect from the rains. This is much better than wheel barrowing loads into piles so we were working away for a couple hours while the owner sat in a chair in the shade to observe. At some point, he decided that maybe he did not want the rubble around his house and yelled out from his chair that we should move the rubble into piles in the back. This would represent a significantly harder task, and it made all of us angry and resentful that this guy had the audacity to ask is to do even more work when he was unwilling to lift a finger.

But in the end, the situation is just far too complex to pass judgement, and all I can really do is trust that the time here is making a positive contribution, whether on the job site, or in a bar, or in a coastal village, etc.

Its now getting light and time to go tackle another rubble site.

2 March, 2010 23:56

One of the aspects of this experience that is really challenging me is that some (if not many) of the families that we are helping are not willing to assist as we clear rubble to make space for their new homes.

I am exploring the underlying Question here: can I be equally generous with my time and effort regardless of how the person recievesp it

UN distribution

remnants of a UNICEF school

This school is adjacent to our school project and now serves as a distribution point for disaster aid

Haiti Update 1

I am writing from my mobile, so will keep this brief.

As I sit on the roof of the HODR compound, it is easy to find examples of disaster-induced misery or incredible human resiliency. We are surrounded by makeshift camps of tents (referred to as Internally Displaced Peoples – IDP camps). Nearly 100% of people are living in camps or temp shelters on their properties, because even the few remaining structures are not trusted by the residents.

In the IDP camps, you hear children laughing and playing, people singing, and see signs of routine life.

There is also a large soccer field immediately outside our walls and I am watching dozens of men and boys playing freely.

Today was the first day on the job sites and our primary role is to clear rubble down to the foundations, which make the families eligible to receive new semi-permanent housing which should protect them against the rains and storms that start in late spring. One German organization that plans to provide 1400 of these is building a prototype adjacent to the sites we were clearing today, so hopefully we will get to see these go up while I am still here.

The Haitian people seem very appreciative of the outside help but there is also a palpable sense of resignation. When you experience these conditions and consider that it will be many years before all this is cleared away, its easy to relate to that outlook. Many people will watch us clearing home sites (theirs and their neighbors) without offering to help and sometimes resisting our invitations.

At other times, as reflected in these pictures, many family members of all ages will join in and put in hours of labor alongside us, which is extremely fulfilling.

Dinner is being served, so I will sign off for now.


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