Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Day, Bad Day

The view of one of the kid's houses from the volunteer house

Going to market

The view from the volunteer house

Yesterday, I went up the mountain to Kenscoff on a bus with some kids from Tabarre. It was an unbelievable twisty bumpy ride through one of the only green areas of Haiti, as most of the country is extremely deforested. Last years terrible storm season combined with a lack of anything for the soil to hang on to had caused mudslides, and we saw one house that was dangerously close to sliding right out of its place and down into the road.

We arrived around 9:30, and first went to meet the children in the special needs house of Kay Christine. There about 30 people living there- not kids necessarily. Innocent, one of the oldest residents, is about 28 years old. He immediately grabbed my hand and took me to meet everyone, and would not let me go willingly for the rest of the day. Innocent has cerebral palsy which has at least partially paralyzed one side of his body. He tries to speak, but is impossible to understand. At fist I thought he was just speaking creole quickly and stuttering, but then was told that no one can understand him. He kept kissing my cheek, and if he couldn’t reach, would kiss my hand over and over until I said “mesi, mesi!” (thank you, thank you) and took it away.

Innocent took me to the play ground area where I met several more of the special needs children. One of my favorite little buddies was Olsen, who is confined to a wheel chair and blind, but starts to laugh uncontrollably when you sing to him. I sat down and about 5 little girls from other dormitories came over and started to talk to me in French. They discovered my camera and took literally 200 pictures of each other before it died and I had to put it away. Roselene is a 12 year old girl who stayed by my side the entire day, and asked me a million questions. When others asked the same ones, she would answer for me, and remembered everything right down to my parent’s names. It wasn’t until a good hour into sitting next to her that I noticed she was missing a leg under her long skirt. Norma told me that when she was younger, she broke her leg and was not taken to the hospital for however long, and by the time she went her leg was too infected to be saved. The hospital she went to amputated, but at a place that made a prosthetic impossible, and it wasn’t until she came to NPFS that her leg was again operated on and fit with a prosthetic. She gets around with just a slight limp, and literally fought off Innocent at one point when he kept trying to pull me away. He wanted to me to go away from all the other children with him but they kept following, and he was getting very worked up. After you kissed him on the cheek though, he was all smiles again.

I had lunch with Maive in the volunteer house where I will be staying when I spend some weekends up there. They have a dog named Nina and are separated from the other houses down a really beautiful path with wildflowers and an amazing view down the mountain. It’s a lot cooler than Petionville and especially Tabarre. People actually wear long sleeves without dying of the heat, which would be a welcome relief from the mosquitoes and potential sunburn.

Gena came up on the bus with me and the kids from Tabarre, but lives at the orphanage so I was the only English speaker on the bus ride down. Thursdays are market days, so everyone was gathering their produce and other sellable things and carrying them down to the closest town, usually in overflowing baskets on their heads. At one point, I saw a woman carrying 7 chickens tied by their feet and hanging down out of the basket on her head. I was extremely confused when we pulled over and people from the bus started talking to her. It got pretty heated and we started to drive off, before someone leaned out the window, yelled one more things, and we reversed so a woman could buy 2 chickens that she apparently had been bartering for. The bus driver then saw that I was confused and tried to explain it to me in creole and broken French, before just laughing and handing me a peach to eat.

Today was a very difficult day at Tabarre. I was sitting in with Norma at a physical therapy session and she was explaining to me how the water will affect the children with cerebral palsy so I can be prepared when I start taking them into the water next week. Someone came in and said something very quickly in creole, and Norma handed me the boy she had been working with and said something was wrong with one of the children and she had to go see. I stayed in the room and talked to the other physical therapists in French a little and held the little boy (who had cerebral palsy). People were in and out and I tried to understand what was being said. I’m getting better at understanding the creole, but if someone is not addressing me in particular, it’s very difficult to follow. I understood that a girl had been injured somehow and was taken to the hospital across the street. Awhile later, they told me she had died. Norma came back very upset and told me that the girl was being fed by her mother in an improper position and some of the bread she was eating had gotten caught and she had asphyxiated. They had taken her to the hospital and Norma had tried every procedure, but it was too late.

Emilie was 5 years old and had been coming with her mother for therapy for 4 years. She had contracted meningitis when she was a baby and was left severely retarded, with little to no muscle control. Norma had been working with her whenever she was in Haiti for the last several years, and said that Emilie was making huge improvements, which were largely unexpected. Her mother was obviously devastated- she had 3 children, the oldest of whom she had given up and was adopted in Italy, an 8 year old boy and Emilie. She had no husband and was extremely poor even for Haiti standards. Every morning she carried Emilie onto a tap tap (bus) for a very long travel to Tabarre. Often, the meal provided to the parents and kids was the only meal they ate that day. Norma took her home in an NPFS van, and said she lived in a shack of scrap metal, and was surprised Emilie, as a special needs child, was able to survive there. The funeral is tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Hey girlie. Sounds like you got a lot going on over there. I'm so sorry about the difficult day, sounds super sad. But your work sounds like it will be amazing and I'm sure your creole skills will improve!