Sunday, March 21, 2010
We have finally arrived in Port au Prince after two days of uneventful travel. The plane rides were comfortable and accommodating. On the flight into Haiti this morning, I sat next to an American relief worker, and struck up a great conversation. He at first thought I was Haitian (as most of the people on board were), but when I greeted him, he knew otherwise. I told him we were neighbors. His shirt had a reference to Omaha on it. (Omaha Nebraska is 3 hours from Kansas City) We ended up talking the entire flight. It turns out Brian had spent 10 years coming to Haiti for relief work, as well as lots of other interesting places in the world. We discussed the politics of international relief work, the history of Haiti and the impact of colonialism, and worked our way up to racism in America, and the impact of (American-style) christianity on other cultures. I don't often get to chew on such weighty topics. Drop in a comment Brian if you are reading this. Once we landed, Brian was headed to a destination about 100 miles away from Port au Prince. After reconvening with my travel companions, Matt and Emma, we got through customs and waited for the crisis center to send over a Tap-tap for us. A tap-tap is a makeshift taxi that consists of a truck, with benches on the truck bed to accommodate passengers. As we drove through PAP, we witnessed several rubble strewn streets and collapsed buildings. Otherwise life seemed to be going on as usual with people roaming the streets attending to the business of living. We passed many tent cities, and saw UN peacekeepers and military personel from several countries such as Egypt and Brazil. The compound where we are staying is Quisqueya School, a private school for American missionary children. They still hold classes for about a fourth of their students still in Haiti, but otherwise the entire campus has been re-made into a crisis relief command center. Relief workers from all over the US are camping on the spacious grounds or sleeping in former classrooms. The school organizes relief efforts in the city, and sends the relief workers out during the day to work at various Haitian hospitals. Today we rest, but tomorrow we will be sent out into the community to hospitals, orphanages, tent city clinics, etc. There is a cummunal kitchen house where Haitian women prepare our daily meal of rice and beans and chicken. It felt good to sit down to a hot meal and the food was delicious. The US military is here, they are in a separate school building on the compound and have been assisting with relief efforts. I'm meeting lots of nice folks, and the weather is quite pleasant. Much hotter than Florida, in the upper 80s but not uncomfortable at all. There is a constant breeze that makes it quite pleasant. Matt, Emma and I share a 3rd grade classroom with 3 others women from another agency. The school supplied airmattresses to sleep on and mosquito netting. We are provided breakfast and dinner. Haitian drivers take us to our sites at 8am and pick us up at 5pm. We have to get lunch on our own, but most folks have brought their own prepackaged food for that. I have a huge supply of protein bars that I plan to supplement with fresh fruit. We were told we can eat anything with a skin that can be peeled. We are encouraged to take our own bottled water which the school has in great supply. All our creature comforts are met so that we can focus on giving care to the Haitian people. Even this laptop I'm typing on and the wifi to transmit it to you are generously supplied by Quisqueya Crisis Relief Center. My companions have gone on a walk around the neighborhood to explore, but I intend to write, first to you Dear Readers of this blog, and them in my notebook journal. After that, a much anticipated nap! Thank you for your continued prayers, which have seen me safely here.