"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taking a shower, Haitian style

To lighten up the blog a bit, I'd like to share how we took showers while in Haiti.
It was very hot and humid with no air conditioning.
Dust. Sweating. Dripping. Body odor.
I even dreaded changing my exam gloves as my hands were so soaked
that I could hardly get the next pair on.
We handled a lot of skin disorders and fungi and I dreamed of a hot, sanitizing shower at the end of each busy day.
OK, you get the picture?

*****Reality 101*****

When we returned to our house each evening, it was a race to the showers.
This is how they looked. Nice and clean. Tiled. Faucets, even.
Only challenge: There are not water lines and all the water had been delivered.
Every drop was precious.
We were each entitled to one bucket. Period.
It wasn't treated but full of parasites
so we were careful to not get a drop in our mouths or eyes.

After an unsuccessful start I ended up with a good system:

1. Fill the white bucket with the cold water. No water heaters here, folks.
2. Scoop in with the little metal pan and fill it.
3. Wet washcloth in big bucket and wet my whole body, including hair. Brrrrrr
4. Add soap to the washcloth and lather up.
5. VERY IMPORTANT--only work from the small, metal pan for sudsing.
I learned this the hard way.
If the bucket gets full of suds...well, there goes the clear rinse water.
6. After shampooing and lathering, rinse.
This means dumping little pans of clear water gathered from the white bucket all over myself.
Best to start with hair so all the shampoo is rinsed out before the water is gone.
7. If any water is left in the bucket, step in and soak hot feet for a bit.
8. Pour last drops of soapy water on dusty shoes.
9. Grab a towel and take a deep, cleansing breath.
10. Cover feet, legs, arms and neck with super-duper, stinky Deet to discourage mosquitoes from getting too familiar.
This somehow takes away from the freshly washed feeling, however.

Then try not to get too sweaty before time to go to bed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Task at Hand, part 2

Upon arriving at the clinic of the day, we brushed off the dust and calmed our nerves from the "exciting" truck ride there. Then we began to gather the waiting patients into some sort of organized chaos under Andre's leadership.
As you may notice, apparently the color of the day was blue. :-)
I never got the memo...

With the help of one of our invaluable translators, we set up a triage area.
At this station information was gathered and written down.
Andrea took blood pressures and temperatures as needed.
Each patient held tight to a scrap of paper with name, age and a list of symptoms,
all written in English, more or less.
Often the list needed clarification as the paper read, "heart beat pain" or "waist pain".

I have a habit of making every attempt at starting out organized...
I called this little spot my "supply cabinet". Every nurse needs tools handy.
I was especially thankful to have a bench like this one rather than the dirt floor
as was the case at another site. Flies were at them all, of course.
This was our first clinic and we didn't realize how great it was.
There were walls and a roof, sort of. Even an occasional breeze.

Terri was so fast at pouring meds that the picture of her blurred.
The lovely, colorful flowers decorating this first clinic were there because this building also served as the church for services and a safe house for women and babies who were not comfortable in the tents surrounding it.
This table is our pharmacy and our newly appointed pharmacists remarkably read our prescriptions and dispensed meds for coughs, fevers, pain,
diarrhea, infections, fungi, worms, rashes and much more...
What a most remarkable team!

The word each waited expectantly for was "suivant" (I am quite certain that is NOT how it is spelled, but the meaning is "next". Any French speakers out there--please enlighten me.)
The waiting could be long and Julia entertained the troops with songs and shows featuring Theo, her little puppet friend. Kids were happy and there seemed no language barrier in our waiting rooms.

Assessing the patients was challenging, to say the least.
Each question and answer had to be translated.
My interpreter was Juann (again, spelling probably isn't right) and our teamwork became so smooth after awhile that she asked questions before I had a chance. Once I had done teaching on certain topics, I only had to say, "Please tell him about..." and she did! She was smart and tireless and I appreciated her more than I can say.
The unique part of working with a third party such as an interpreter is that I still wanted to direct my attention to my patient, even though he or she was not actually speaking to me.
Although I didn't know the words being spoken, much was gained by verbal expression.

Hillary seemed to treat many of the dear, little infants and newborns.
It was just the way the line ended up when "suivant" was called.
She decided she was in charge of the "maternity wards".

One such case is shown here where the parents of 5-day-old twins brought in their precious babes to be examined. They had been born at home in the tent and needed care of the umbilical cords. The old ribbons that had tied them off at birth were still on.
Babies such as these were dressed in clean, tiny clothes but colors of pink or blue made no distinction as to whether the babies were boy or girl. Took me a while to stop assuming and it was after I fussed over a dear little one all dressed in pink ruffles and lace to discover he was a little wee boy!
Look at the face of this tired mother. Try to imagine caring for these newborns in a tent without clean water, lights, diaper service or even baby wipes.

Emma and Kendrick, pharmacists extraordinaire, measuring and counting.
Emma's Haitian background gave her the gift of speaking French and Creole and she spent hours each day instructing patients on how and when to take their medications correctly.

The Bible teaches that we are all part of one body, whether the head, hand or foot and noone is greater than another. All must work together for the body to function purposely and effectively. Our team proved this concept in a mighty way and we knew God had specifically chosen each of us to work together to best serve the people of Haiti.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

90 seconds of Haitian praise

I believe I have figured out how to get this video to you.
I wish it would come up right away, but you have to go to this link.
You'll have to copy and paste.
Sorry, I'm still learning.
I think it is worth the trouble, however.


I stood at the back of the tent and filmed this with my little camera.
While there, I was moved by a man serving as an usher for the back pews. He paced back and forth, praying the whole time.

The Holy Spirit moved in the service and I do hope you can get a sense of the worshipful attitude of the people. May you be blessed by watching and listening to this short video segment. Please don't try and understand the words unless you speak French.

In Jan, 2010, the earthquake killed 250,000,
injured 300,000
and displaced 1.5 million people
yet they love God in a mighty way.
Does this make you pause and consider...

Praise and Worship under the Tent

Today is Sunday. I will be worshiping God in Texas but my heart will be in Haiti.
While we were there we attended church under a giant tent filled with benches.

This 8:30 service was mostly full and we were told that the 6 AM one was always overflowing.
Most of the worshipers walked there from the surrounding Tent Cities.
Many of the men wore fresh white shirts and ties and the women wore bright dresses. Remembering their living conditions with no running water nor electricity made me ponder how much effort went into readiness for church.

I cannot express how my heart was touched by the spirit of worship in this place. One need not be in a position of comfort and affluence to praise God. Nor does one need to even understand the language to worship. God understands our groanings, after all.

The praises of these people came from deep within their hearts.
They trusted God despite all that has happened and their spirits overflowed
with all thanksgiving due to Him.
It was awesome and humbling to join them under that tent.
note: I had a little video I of the singing that I tried several times to download onto this blog post but it never worked. I wanted to share it with you. Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Task at Hand, part 1

I will try to break our time in Haiti into bite sized pieces.
I'll begin with our amazing team. I didn't know anyone but my daughter, Hillary, when we left New Jersey, but grew to love and respect this group of dedicated people very quickly.
3 of us were nurses and the rest were non-medical, willing to be put into uncomfortable situations of dealing with things way out of their experiences and doing it SO well.
(Kendrick's ugly face was intentional to ruin my picture and I'll get him back by putting it here for all to see...)

We spent hours each evening bagging individual doses of medications (100's and 1,000's of baggies) and preparing the action packers with supplies for the next day's clinic.
Next morning we loaded up the trucks with the bins and our supplies and headed out.
Please note that Hillary and I were obediently following the CDC's guidelines of always wearing long-sleeves to avoid malaria-ridden mosquitoes. As you will see in some later pics, I quickly gave into the heat that intensified by lots of people in small spaces under hot tarps and worked in short sleeved scrubs and T-shirts. I did take my anti-malaria pills faithfully and covered any bare skin with super-duper repellant, though.
Like the first day of school, we are excited and ready, Freddy!

Our rides to the clinics were harrowing experiences on the wildest roads I've ever been on.
We took turns inside the cab or outside in the truck bed, holding on for dear life!
Kendrick looks a little better in this pic, huh?

Hillary is already getting a deathgrip on the truck frame even though we haven't even started the motor yet. I don't think we went over 15 mph but the trips rattled teeth and bruised kidneys, nonetheless. The general consensus was that Six Flags would never hold any terror after our travels over these Haitian roads.

We set up clinics at 4 different Tent Cities. These are basically refugee camps for those unfortunate people displaced by the earthquake. Water, unsafe for drinking, is hauled in to central areas and tent-like latrines are placed amidst the dwellings. One electric line is draped through the camp providing a few lights at night like scattered streetlights. We had no daytime electricity nor water except for the coolers we hauled in.
This tent was in the largest tent city where over 6,000 lived.

In setting up for the day's work, we had to prepare the area.
This sometimes meant chasing out goats and chickens.
This little chicken was one of several young ones who scooted under the tent wall.

We carried in tables and bins and hoped there were chairs or benches.
Some days we were lucky, others no so much.

More details on the day to come, but I'll end this post by showing you our wonderful bedroom where we slept so very well. Windows had no screens, so we first had to check under the net to be sure we had no bedfellows, then spray the nets with bug repellant and finally our own selves were sprayed. We learned swiftly how to close up the nets so we and the bugs each stayed on our own sides all night long. Then, ahhhhhhh--sweet dreams.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where to Begin...?

We are back in the USA after our time in Haiti.
I want to post pictures and my thoughts of our days there.
But, how to begin?
It was terrible but wonderful.
I think I'll group my musings into several days' worth of pictures.
I'll start with the physical devastation because, though it is awful, it simply doesn't represent Haiti at all. I hope you will discover what I mean as you follow the blog for a few posts...

(Remember that you can click on each picture to see it larger and more detail.
Just in case you might want to...)

Although the earthquake was over a year ago, many sights are of the destruction as if it just happened last week. It is very difficult to look at. These empty homes were once filled with families and activity.

The roads are especially awful and quite treacherous to drive on.
Our hosts were phenomenal as they bumped and heaved over rock and into potholes.
Sometimes they dodged electric wires hanging in the center of the narrow roadways.

Hillary commented that some of the houses look like they belong in MGM or
Universal Studios Theme Parks as they sit so crooked and bent over.

The Presidential Palace is the building I recall seeing in the news soon after the
earthquake occurred. It is huge, larger than the Whitehouse and was supposedly so elegant.
The demolition effort is slow because it appears to be done by a few men with sledge hammers.
We watched them up on the roof area. Can you even imagine?

Most houses in Haiti have security walls surrounding them. We saw this in Ecuador, as well.
Where these walls no longer are standing, efforts have been made to place piles of broken rock or other materials in their place. Not as effective, unfortunately.

Hillary and I ventured out on a walk through the neighborhood where we were staying.
Here she is right across the road from the house we lived in which is completely intact.
Do you see the palm tree growing at a tilt behind her?

How to haul off the debris seems to be an overwhelming problem.
Scenes like this are very typical.
The narrow roads are made much more so by the many piles of rubble.

Abandoned cars covered in dust and vegetation sit all around.
With tires like these, Hillary isn't going anywhere soon.
So, today's post is of the post-earthquake landscapes. I figured readers are interested in how things appear today. Please continue to check for more posts as I plan to focus on the beautiful Haitian people and the work we did while there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where Is Waldo? (and Hillary? Sharon?)

I've only been in New Jersey 2 days but once again my bags are packed and waiting at the door.
At 4 AM Hillary is joining me (yay!!) to embark on quite an island adventure, God willing.
I will give you a few clues and you try to guess where we are going.

Meals for the next week may be questionable, so we are bringing our own.
(*You can eliminate 4 star restaurant resorts.)

The water source may be unreliable and definitely could even be dangerous.
The shower where we are staying consists of a curtained off area with a bucket.
These wipes will be our sink and shower.
(*You can eliminate ANY star hotels.)
Temperatures there are in the 90's so we packed sunblock.
(*You can eliminate towels on white sand beaches.)

There'll be no available air conditioning and likely times without electricity.
(*Basically you can eliminate Motel 6, as well.)
We will graciously have mosquito nets that have been soaked in insecticide.
But once we get out of bed, we need the strongest Deet made to protect us from the mosquitos.
I started the anti-malaria pills today.
(*No, a jungle safari is not the correct guess. Keep trying.)

This old packet of some nursing tools will be a dead giveaway-right?
(*You can eliminate a relaxing, lie-on-the-beach vacation.)
I knew you could figure it out! We are headed to Port au Prince, Haiti, to volunteer as nurses on a Christian mission trip. That's about all we know. Oh, we will be traveling on very poor roads to tent clinics. Now that really IS all we know. Hillary and I are both blessed with skills that benefit ill, hurting, and injured people. We are going to Haiti to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we treat and comfort those needing medical help.
What a privilege. Seriously.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Healing in "New Joisy"

My flight to Newark, New Jersey, was timed to coincide with Kathleen, Josh, and Abigail's departure for Fairbanks. This was mostly for the benefit of the driver so 2 trips to the airport weren't required. It certainly worked to benefit me in a way I didn't expect. My final goodbye to these dear ones extended to the gate area of my flight and I even waved to Kathleen as she stood in the terminal and I in my seat on the jet.
(It was not all that long ago that we always gathered at the gate to greet and send-off. Such anticipation to search for the person we knew as we stepped out of the jetway. 9/11 changed all that. Now we have to truck through the whole airport, ride trams, escalators, subways--whatever each airport holds-- and finally meet up at baggage claim. I certainly enjoyed the way of the past much better.)

How hard to snuggle that tiny baby girl one last time, not really knowing when the next time I would. I breathed deeply of her, pulling inward all the softness and wonder of her little body. She smiled innocently at me, unaware of the longing and sadness in my heart. She is growing and changing at such astonishing speed as I have witnessed these past 3+ weeks that I may not even recognize her when we are next together.
Ahhh, the sorrow of missing the days and weeks to come
as she learns of her world with all its wonders.
But, I must be grateful for blogs, internet, and phones. And I am, I really am. At times like these, I think of the early pioneers and earlier pilgrims who packed all their possessions into a wagon or shiphold and parted for places unknown and unseen. No forwarding addresses, they left with one last glance back, most often to never again see the home, family and friends they were leaving. Sort of like dropping off the face of the earth, they moved away from all things safe and familiar in the pursuit of adventure, freedom, or gain. Somehow these dramatic scenes play out in my mind and offer me comfort at my own parting drama. After all, I will be able to talk to them tomorrow and be at peace as I can picture them in their home.
I truly am grateful for the effective communications systems we have in this day.
Yet I still miss the feel of warm skin and the sound of another's heart beating against mine.

But I, in my own little adventure, flew off in another direction in the sky and was greeted by a loving daughter and son-in-law and friendly cocker spaniel grand-dog. New arms to enfold me and heal my sore heart. Fluffy ears and paws, as well. This plan to move on for a few days rather than head home to a house quiet and devoid of baby stuff was the right one.
Although they are spread about, I am blessed to have others to love and who love me. And the ability to buy airline tickets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rockies in the Springtime

Springtime's arrival in Central Texas is just as flirtacious as in most places.
One day she dances with me, the day all sunny with temperatures in the 70's.
The next, she hides around the corner and laughs at my disappointment.
Today our lawns are still brown and all the deciduous trees are bare.

All except the brave Redbuds that are tossing dark pink/purple arms into the sky in praise to God for the warm sunshine.

The Bradford pear trees are watching those Redbuds carefully and just beginning to join them. We planted a pear tree last year and I examine the tips daily, happily noting some swelling in the buds. We chose this tree for it brings beauty in 3 seasons: the white, lacy blossoms of early spring are so fragrant that they make me giddy. Then in summer the thick green leaves provide much appreciated shade. Finally, in late fall those leaves change to deep reds that remind us of the amazing colors of fall in Upstate New York.

Our friend and neighbor planted some bulbs last Nov and we now delight in bright yellow daffodils and purple crocuses.

He also has some hyacinths--their perfume reaches back into my memory of childhood Easters. A little pot of purple and pink hyacinth often sat on the table and the sweet fragrance filled the kitchen, declaring wordlessly that spring had arrived!

I've been thoroughly enjoying digging in the garden beds, pruning back bushes and even relocating some. We moved to Texas totally ignorant of what grows here and planted some things in very wrong places. So, here I go-moving holly bushes, Silverado sage plants, butterfly bush and lantana to new locations.

The biggest challenge to this relocation project is the digging of new holes. The earth in this area is made of two components: limestone and calichi mud. Both are just different stages of original sand, I believe. You've seen pictures of little adobe huts, flat rooftops and all. Well, I am quite sure they are made out of dried calichi mud. It is awful when wet and clings to shoe bottoms like clumps of heavy, wet clay. It does the same to the little padded feet of our spaniel and has to be soaked and picked out. Yuck! When dry, it is like concrete. (Thus the walls of those little houses.)
This calichi packs tightly around countless limestone rocks of all shapes and sizes. We own a pickax that Jack has to swing each time we want to make a hole in the yard for a tree or bush. The builders hide these rocks with about 2 inches of topsoil and then sod and we have spent the past 6 1/2 years trying to add compost to build up this crummy base into actual soil.

We live intentionally on a greenbelt and chose this lot specifically for this backyard. The acres of wildness with trees, grasses, cacti, shrubs, caves and lots of animals are great. We love it. But there is this one strip between our sodded yard and the wildness that we have decided to semi-cultivate. We hang a swing in the trees and have the birdbath in this "in between" land. It would like to grow up into wild grasses and weeds, but we fight to tame it and that means keeping it trimmed. There are so many edges of rocks peeking through that the mower simply can't be pushed. My goal is to dig up these protruding rocks. Over these few years, I'll bet I have dug up at least 50 of them. Yesterday I got a few more. I scrape off the dirt, wedge the shovel around the edges and pry, pry, pry to loosen each one, never knowing the actual size. I could start with a 6 inch X 4 inch piece showing and end up with a rock 2 feet long. And heavy! Knowing my strong, young son-in-law is arriving in a day or two, I worked hard on several big ones. They are loosened and sitting upright now, waiting for his muscles to pull them out. As I stood back and looked at them, they reminded me of headstones in a cemetery. But, instead of burying something, I had unburied the stones themselves! The holes they had been living in are the empty graves.

No matter how many rocks I uncover and remove, there are always more... I have a theory about this "rock garden". Since the earth is always spinning at great speed, the centrifugal force is pushing out from within and these rocks really came from somewhere deep in the earth's core. Now, don't go asking a geologist if there is any truth in my idea, it is JUST a theory, after all. (I have come up with many theories during my lifetime. Just ask my family!) Anyway, as soon as my geologist daughter reads this, I will certainly be told just what's what.

By the way, did anyone catch the twist in the title of this blog??? Think musically...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

World of Smiles

Our recent days have been filled with diapers,
burp cloths,
sun hats,
baby oil baths,
more laundry,
moonlight walks....

and lots and lots of SMILES!

Our baby Abigail loves to smile and babble.

She even laughs out loud now and I can't help but join her!

She is our real live doll

who has filled our lives with joy and sunshine.

And so many terrific smiles!