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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The People--Part 3: The Smallest Ones

In this miniseries of the people of Haiti, I want to end with the smallest ones.
The toddlers and babies. The vulnerable ones.
Totally dependent on others to care for them.

Lost... needy... hungry.
Most with swollen bellies full of worms.

Born into a land of hardship and insecurity,
their existence depends totally on the suffering adults to care for them.

We could love on them but do little else to remedy any physical ailments
since they were so young.
I wanted to pack each into my luggage and bring them home with me.

But, despite the hardship of this present life,
there was no doubt each baby was loved.
This wee boy was presented, along with his twin sister, to our house one noonday while we were having our lunch.
The thin mother and friend had walked one hour in the blazing sun, each carrying their tiny bundle. The babies had fevers and were exceptionally small, even for 5 weeks old.
We treated the fevers with cool cloths and hydrated and fed the mother, gave her vitamins and a brief rest before they started their long walk back home.

Lots of good teaching went on in the clinics.
Hillary cleaned the umbilical cords of these 5-day-old twins and taught cord care to concerned mom and dad. The twins had been born in their tent and the cords tied off with little, old scraps of ribbon. What an eye-opener for us nurses trained in sterile hospital environments!

This beauty was only a few weeks old and reminded me of a tiny baby bird
we once found that had fallen from its nest high in the tree above.
Each of these precious lives has a unique purpose and I pray they will grow
to accomplish noble goals.
Who knows? Maybe this sweet, sleeping babe will be the mayor or president of Haiti that will turn this country around!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The People--Part 2: Children

Children are children the world over.
Their resilient spirits blessed me again and again.
As nurses we treated them mostly for worms, parasites, fevers, ringworm, coughs, scabies, dehydration, diarrhea, infections and rotten teeth.

But, even when sick, they usually smiled--sometimes shyly.
And oh, so loving! So responsive to our caring.
They gave us far more than we ever gave them!

Standing by the pool.
Doesn't that sound divine as a reward for sweltering while we worked--?

Well, look again--this time a little closer.
Rather than clear, chlorinated water (is that REALLY what you were expecting???),
this was a malaria pit breeding infected mosquitos, I am sure!
Hillary is dreaming of cool, filtered water glistening behind her.

Back to the children...
Often older siblings (and NOT very old, at that!) were responsible for the care of the younger while the tired mothers washed, cooked and tended the babies.
This little one is covered with dust (and dust only!) from playing on the ground.

Cameras were the best ice-breakers and the children squealed and screeched with delight to see their images on the little screen. I wonder if any had mirrors in the tents?

Hillary goofs around with some of the children at the end of the day.
They must be wondering, "Who and what is this crazy white lady!?"
In the background the older kids are performing a march/drill routine that had all of us applauding and admiring. We couldn't understand the French lyrics but appreciated the coordinated movements.

This gang joined us on the bittersweet last day as we packed up our gear to leave the clinic.
Kendrick kindly handed his Rutgers cap to the one child and the others accosted the rest of us for a "souvenir" as well. I emptied my pockets that had nothing but alcohol pads and they battled for even those. Did they even know what the pads were????

Their lives are tough. I'm sure these older children remember the years before the earthquake when, though still poor, they had more than now. This is their classroom.

And this is the garbage-filled yard behind the school. No place for recess here.

These special boys "adopted" Andre, Sylvie and Angel
who, in turn, feed them, love them and found sponsors for them.
They are friendly, helpful and fun. They love to run and jump onto the back of the truck while it is moving, much to our chagrin as we jostled about in the truckbed.
On Sunday afternoon we took a walk to their neighborhood across from "our" house. The boys were thoughful guides, holding our arms as we slid on the rocky slopes and encouraging us to walk further. They pointed out relatives and friends.

This happy fellow was so excited to show us his home.
He lives in the door to his left with a large family--very little room for them all.

Water was delivered to a central location quite a ways from some of the homes.
It seemed mostly a child's job to haul the water the distance to their house.
Knowing the weight of a gallon of water (8 lbs)-this isn't an easy task.

This girl was most likely about 8 or 9 years old and the tub on her head leaked badly.
How we laughed to see her soaked with the water dripping down over her whole body.
It actually looked appealing in the hot sun and dusty day, though.
She was wearing broken plastic flip-flops and just after passing us she slipped on a rock--
down she went with all of her water spilling on the road. Some boys sitting nearby laughed at her and she was so mad that she hauled off and punched them!

This little girl made me cry as I watched her carefully tread along the drought-dried river bed, avoiding the polluted water and piles of trash in her way. Notice the way she holds the edge of her dress away in an effort to stay clean and pure despite the filth surrounding her.

Julie was a great puppeteer and song leader. Theo helped teach lessons of Truth. The children listened attentively without any disruptions.

This is a favorite picture...
Isn't it our worst nightmare to be out in public in our underwear?
Wearing nothing but a pair of briefs and Crocs, this little guy relaxed in his chair, engrossed in the puppet show that Julie and Angel performed so well, oblivious to his fashion faux-pas.
In reviewing pics, I noted that 2 other pairs of Crocs are worn here. Undoubtedly some group came and distributed pairs and pairs of these colorful shoes. Neat, huh?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He IS Alive!

Today is Easter Sunday.
The core of my beliefs and who I am are found in this day.
I am unashamedly a Christian, a Christ-follower.
Easter commemorates His resurrection from the dead,
the one point that separates Christianity from all other world religions.
I want to stand up and sing and shout with joy!
Death has no claim on me and I will live forever!
That's VICTORY!!

I wanted to post a magnificent song or picture to honor this most blessed of all days, but instead I am posting a video describing an amazing painting.
I hope you will watch it:

I serve a Risen Savior!
Who or what do you serve?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The People--Part 1: Parents

I have shown you many pictures of the land and the broken houses in prior posts.
Now I will share pictures that pull at my heart.

Today I will focus on the ones who suffered the most from the poverty, devastation, and lack of basic needs--food, shelter and clean water.

I know this picture is dark, but this is what I mean by tent living.
They often are not real tents at all.
In this doorway sits a mother, baby and toddler.
*****If you click on the picture it will enlarge and you can see her holding and loving her baby.
This is their life.

As a parent, I know all too well how I would take any illness or pain that is inflicting my child. Most parents would. The helplessness of standing by just watching your child cry or hurt tears at the very heart of a mother or father.
When you look at the following pictures, please take time to look into the eyes and expressions on their faces.
Warning: It may haunt you.

This young mother had dressed her sweet babe up in a party dress, the best she had, to come to the clinic of dust and rock with a dirt floor.
Try to imagine washing clothes in big basins on the ground.
Sleeping on mats on that same ground.
Cooking over little coal stoves just outside the front flap of the tent.
Diapers that are thin pieces of cloth with no moisture barrier (Think leak!).
No running water.
No electricity.
Post-partum blues?
Now look again at the white little dress on this clean child and marvel.

And this smiling mama, so very young herself, proudly shows off her precious new baby.
When these littlest of the little people are still being breastfed their health is generally
quite good. The ones who lose nutrients are the mothers, dealing with vitamin deficiencies and anemia. This woman was fairly well and we gave her prenatal vitamins and some medication for other problems. Both are lovely.

I will never forget this man and his son. The scrap of paper that followed him from triage listed the problem as "Screams at night. Can't sleep."
After questioning him through the interpreter, I was filled with sorrow to learn this little 3-year-old had been trapped under debris for hours after the earthquake. He was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The darkness of night terrorized him.
I had no magic pills on our pharmacy table to fix this problem. I offered children's tylenol. My resources were limited but my God is not and I have prayed for this child and his loving dad since that day.

I'm a grandma and this weary and worn grandma with her darling newborn says more than any written words do. She may well be a great-grandma, even.

The sadness and concern on this young father's face does the same.
It speaks volumes beyond the ability of the written word.
Most fathers want to be the family providers and he is having a hard time fulfulling that role.
His shirt was from "Food for the Hungry" and "US Aid".
The USA is a generous and compassionate country and I saw firsthand the recipients of our humanitarian aid. We can argue politics all day long, but reaching out to Haitians during this time of need is the right thing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Security-more than turning the key

Security in other countries involves far more than locking the door and walking away.
I saw this first in Ecuador--the high walls with broken glass shards and barbed wire cemented into the top of these walls. Heavy, locked doors.
Many of Haiti's homes had strong and secure walls and gates-- until the earthquake.

Now one sees desperate methods attempting to rebuild a wall, however temporarily.
Sometimes the home behind that security wall isn't worth protecting anymore.

Police and peacekeepers from other countries are commonly seen.
We noted uniforms from Brazil and Canada.
Trucks marked UN held armed peacekeepers in full armor such as these below.
Reminded me of Star Wars. Andre said there is rarely a dispute and their presence alone is effective and keeping crime and looting at bay.
They certainly impressed me with that battle gear on and weapons.
I wouldn't think of messing with them!

Armed security men are evident just about everywhere. It is so strange for this American, who lives with such freedoms and safety, to see these guns strapped casually to so many men.
This particular guard was inside the gate that protected the church grounds with the giant tent.

And this great fellow is the personal guard for the house we stayed in.
He helped us load the truck with our medical gear, gave us ladies a hand as we climbed in and out the back of the truck and made sure the gate remained closed. We were thankful to have him and he was always pleasant and professional, taking his job most seriously.
People with problems come to the house day and night and it was comforting to have someone screening this continual stream of needy visitors.

I think I'm having too much fun, tucked between 2 armed men!
They were posted outside the cafeteria restaurant we visited after church.
Both had very stern expressions and I was still shocked at the big guns they held--this was my first day in Haiti, after all. I had much to learn in a few days...
Sylvie passed my request for a picture on to them, in French of course, and they seemed to disapprove at first. I don't know what she said, but they changed their minds and made a spot for this short, white lady to step in. The tall man then put out his arm for me to hold. I had no idea he was grinning until I saw the picture myself. Looks a lot less threatening with that smile. Guns still make me very nervous, however.
I'll bet he went home with a story for his family about the crazy white lady.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Work We Do

We all work.
It gives us purpose, satisfaction and sometimes money.
Even in damaged Haiti, people work hard.
Naturally, many jobs there are typical of ours here.
Yet, I want to share some pictures of working people working in situations not commonly seen here in the US.

Typical of streetside vendors, this woman also has chickens for sale.
Not the kind I buy, all wrapped in clean, clear plastic with dates to use by and not even a bone evident to remind me where the food originated.
No, these poor chickens are still very much alive.
Their feet and necks are tied so they cannot move, but lie in a desperate bundle on the sidewalk, probably hoping for the soup pot, honestly, as it would be a better fate than this.
I also saw a woman transporting chickens like these in a large basket perched (no pun intended) on her head, the chickens' heads dangling helplessly over the edge of the basket.
(I had to turn my head away.)
(For the strong of heart, you can click on the picture and see them more clearly.)

Here's how those large containers are carried. Usually you don't even see a hand supporting them as this lady is doing. Wonder the weight?

A covered "store".
Freezers like these are common, but, since there isn't any electricity, their purpose is not what we would think.

This man never needs to go to gym to lift weights!
We calculated the weight of his load and it must have been over 2,000 pounds.
Can't you imagine him saying to the man talking to him, "Oh, please, I can't stop!
Just walk with me so I can keep moving!"

The roads are horrific, made up of with holes and loose stones and piles of hard rubble so I would imagine tires are often replaced!! This tire business must be busy.

Across the road from the house we stayed in was just destruction from the earthquake.
Still, 15 months later. But, on the spot directly next to this one....

There was this man who worked every day on this remaining slab,
located right next to that mess in the previous picture.
Drawing from a pile of finely crushed gravel (or something), he made cinderblocks--
ONE AT A TIME, using a hand mold.
Reminded me of the sand castles we make with damp sand packed into a pail.
Once dry, he very carefully pulled off the mold and set the block aside.

And here is his finished product--rows and rows of blocks.
I was quite blown away by this.
If all the mountains of broken up cinder block could be ground up and recycled...
just think! Recovery could be within reach.
By the way, these young girls were just walking by, saw me with the camera and, knowing how they love getting pictures taken, I let them jump in the shot.

These smiling ladies do the laundry for our house, both that of the family and the teams.
Our clothes were returned to us so fresh and clean.
Andre shared that he had a choice--to buy a washing machine or employ 3 women.
I strongly believe he made the right choice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Lessons from the Smallest of Friends

The past few days have been super windy as weather fronts move in and out. I'm not complaining because these breezes make the shade most pleasant and comfortable even though the temps have hit 90! And besides, I enjoy the constant tinkle of the wind chimes.

This same breeze keeps blowing our colorful tablecloth into a bunch and I repeatedly smooth it out to no avail. Even got these little weights that look like lemons but the Texas wind is way more powerful than these lemons and flips them up and about like feathers.

Today movement caught my eye and I discovered that an active, wee hummingbird (now that is redundant as these little creatures are ALWAYS active and wee...) was busily darting from flower to flower painted on the wadded up tablecloth. And not just anywhere, but heading specifically to the dark centers of each one in turn. Plastic as it is, he left disappointed.
But not I--I grinned for the longest time at this persistent little guy.
(I tried to get a picture of him, but he was way to quick for me.)

A metaphor for life: Although we may devote lots of genuine effort into something that seems right, the outcome may not be what we hoped for and in the end we've just wasted our time and energy.
PS-- I removed the bunchy cloth today and will put it back on a calmer day. :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Shoeless Joe

This week our best buddy, Shoeless Joe celebrated his 8th birthday.

He spent his first few months of life at the camp in Massachusetts where Jack worked.
During those sunny days in the Berkshires, they fell in love.
At camp he learned to be such a great beach dog, chasing away geese, ducks, and beavers.
And, when all the fun ended that August, this one little black and white
puppy came back to New York riding along as co-pilot in the convertible.
He still loves that seat and has ridden that cross-country trip from TX to MA and back again many times, tongue hanging out and ears flying back in the wind.

He is a happy dog, despite his sorrowful Springer Spaniel eyes
and droopy ears.
He believes he belongs on our laps, although he weighs over 50 pounds.
He jumps up to sleep on the foot of the bed only when I am in it.
He lies peacefully in the front yard watching passersby without moving until someone he knows acknowledges him. Then he rushes out with a joyful greeting.
He never barks except on command and then he has to clear his throat and work up to it.
(Even when he got trapped in our neighbor's garage and we called his name frantically for over an hour, he watched the closed door intently but never barked. We wish he had!)

And he patiently tolerates grandchildren who mistake him for a reindeer.
(Really?? How humiliating.)

If you asked him what his favorite things are, I'm sure he'd respond:
Running, especially on the beach chasing birds or geese;
(leashes not included, see above.)
Lying in the grass, tummy up, with the breeze blowing his silky fur;
Bolting from the backdoor to tree a squirrel;
Sitting on the couch while we scratch his ears and belly;
And pleasing us by doing tricks for treats.

By far his best trick was tough to teach but serves a great purpose.
Opening the door and saying, "Get the paper, Shoe!" sends him flying down the driveway.
He eagerly grabs the folded newspaper, gives it a swift flip in the air to straighten it in his mouth and then bounds back to us, dropping it at our feet.
If one of us is still sleeping in, we only have to tell him, "Take it to ---" and he snatches it up, runs to the bedroom and, in one easy leap, bounds on top of the sleeper, dropping the paper on the unsuspecting sleeper's chest. He rests there until his reward is offered and gobbled.


Even more than his performance is his attitude. Great enthusiasm and willingness to obey.
Even on Sunday when the paper is huge and bulky he carries it happily, though it's not easy.
We could all learn a bit about good attitudes from Shoeless Joe.

Happy Birthday, my faithful friend.
I love you.