Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas and the Embassy

Christmas came and went, and was filled with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was devastated to be away from my family for the first time for the holidays. On the other, I was so happy to be with the children for the eventful week. You wouldn’t know it was Christmas in Haiti except for a few random inflatable Santas on the roofs of some of the buildings in Petionville. The weather, or course, is not wintery at all! We had a fake tree upstairs which mysteriously disappeared the week of Christmas. It really seemed to come out of nowhere, without the decorations, shopping and constant Christmas music!

On the 23rd, there was the St. Germaine staff party, including a gift exchange. I drew Dominique, and bought him a couple shirts at Target when I was home for vacation. Everyone was so excited to find out who their marraine or parraine was, and it became quite a game. A person started, and went to grab their gift. They came back into the room and approached several people and offered them the gift and a kiss on the cheek, before whipping it away to give it to the actual person. You were never sure if you should reach out and return the kiss, or refuse because you were being played! Anyway, I received 2 beautiful shirts from Juna, one of my favorite people here, and they were exactly my style! Dominique also seemed to really like his shirts, especially because they were from the US.

The 24th, there was a mass and piƱata party at the orphanage. The volunteers had a dinner afterwards of potatoes, hot dogs without the bun and wine. Caterina gave me a candle, Maeve gave me a funny Christmas hat, and Lucrezia gave me a beautiful beaded necklace. We made our wishes for each other for the coming year, and I think everyone’s for me started with “Molly, you’re so young…” I was sad that my American volunteers weren’t there, but it was fun all the same! I then escaped the adult conversation to watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

Christmas itself was spent in Kay Christine with their party. There was tons of food, and gifts for all the kids and staff. Everyone was enormously excited to receive their presents! Yvonne showed all 75 people her new purse and necklace, and Kenzie would not stop racing his toy car around the crowded room! It was very fun to see the kids so worked up and receiving so much attention. I then took the staff bus back down to Petionville to sleep in my own bed (which is now Robin’s queen size!) and see Johny and Renand.

The day after, some American visitors came and cooked a big dinner for the volunteers in Petionville. We had turkey and mashed potatoes and all that good stuff. At the end, they gave us little treat bags with all the food we've been missing from the US!

We had a very difficult situation on the 28th. Father Rick received a call from the American Embassy that a boy had been abandoned there by his mother and they needed a place for him for a day or 2. He was in the states with his family, and called and asked me to handle it. Renand drove me to the Embassy, where we picked up Jacques Christo and took him to the hospital. He’s 7 years old, and very, very smart. He calmly told me his mother left him and wouldn’t be coming back, and that he thinks his dad is in Miami. Jacques was born in Brooklyn, so he’s an American citizen, but neither of his parents are. He speaks English and Creole fluently. He was born with a cleft palette and has already had several surgeries, but needs another soon. Maybe his mother didn’t receive a visa to go to the US with him for the surgery, or maybe she couldn’t afford to send him on her own. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt- but what kind of mother just leaves her child, especially when he’s old enough to know he’s being left? We spent the evening eating M&Ms and Doritos in the guest house, and then I put him to bed. At first he was having a good time, but after awhile he realized he wasn’t going home and was upset and scared. He kept asking if he could call his mother and ask her to come back. I spend almost everyday with the abandoned babies in the hospital, and it’s difficult to comprehend why and who would ever give them up. I’ve never encountered an abandoned child who is so aware of his situation, or one who feels the pain so freshly. It broke my heart. We played with the babies in the hospital the next day, and Jacques was excited to meet Moise, who also had a cleft palette. I took him back to Petionville for the night, and am taking him to the embassy later today. They say his mother will be there, but she has to meet with a lot of social services.

7 year olds do keep the energy up, and Jacques has me on my toes. From coming over to my bed and screaming “WAKE UP!” in my ear at 4:30 AM to telling me he doesn’t go to sleep until 100 o’clock, he is definitely an interesting kid. He fell in love with Renand and has been following him around all morning. We will see what happens with him, but he is definitely better off than the other abandoned children, because if anything, he will fall into the American foster care network instead of an overcrowded orphanage in Haiti.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Halfway point

I just got back from home last week, and had an awesome time aux etats unis. My parents met me at the airport with Diet Dr Pepper and Taco Bell around midnight on Tuesday. I spent Friday in Naselle with the fam, Saturday in Tacoma at the wedding, Monday taking the stupid GRE and Tuesday in Portland with friends. I ate at 10 different fastfood places and drank copius amounts of grande peppermint mocha frappachinos. For Christmas, I then received a frappachino maker which I sadly had to pack away. It was 90 degrees when I left Port au Prince and 14 degrees when I arrived in Seattle.

So now I'm back, and after spending the night in the Fort Lauderdale airport (my least favorite airport in the entire world), I slept for 2 days straight. I woke up to entertain some visitors, and then had dinner with some American actors who came down to see Father Rick- Annalynne Mccord from 90210, Olivia Wilde from House and Jimmy Jean Louis, the Haitian from Heroes. It was really weird.

Currently, I'm trying to figure out Christmas scheduling here. There's the St. Germaine party in Tabarre tomorow, the hospital party on Christmas eve and Kenscoff's celebration on the 25th. Alot of places to be at, but I'll pick and choose, and make sure that I'm somewhere quiet where I can watch Christmas Eve on Seasame Street on the 24th like every year.

Its very weird to think that my trip is more than half over at this point. Since school started up in September, it really has flown by. I have a ticket back to Seattle on June 8th, so really, I'm only here for 5 more months and some odd days. My frappachino maker is waiting for me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving was very fun, with 5 Americans and 40 Haitians to cook for. We made 2 turkeys plus all the regular other stuff, and had a big celebration in the living room of the Father Wasson center.

We have a problem everyday getting TiBeth off the school bus (“ti” like “petit”= little beth). She’s probably 10 years old and has Downs Syndrome. She rarely smiles, but rather stares at you very seriously while refusing to do anything you say. When we get to school or get back to the center, she sits quietly in her seat and tells us she’s too scared and to leave her alone, please. If you touch her to help her off, she screams and it’s no use trying to lift her because she’s a heavy girl who knows how to squirm away. It takes a lot of coaxing and often bribing her with my sunglasses to get her to stand, and even then you have to pull her. Last week, she was almost off the bus, but then decided to jump into the driver’s seat and scream madly that she wanted to go to Port au Prince while trying to shift the gears. Yesterday, I went upstairs to the living room on the 6th floor after we came back with the kids. 30 minutes later, I heard the very familiar voice talking in the stairwell, and found TiBeth talking to a statue on her way upstairs. She somehow bypassed at least 20 employees to climb 6 stories, and still just stared at me when I tried to help her down the stairs. She sat down and refused to budge, so some staff members came up to literally force her downstairs. She is one of my favorites. When her dad comes to pick her up, he puts her right on the back of his motorcycle and she has absolutely no problem with that form of transportation.

TiBeth in one of her happy moments

Recently, my photocopy Robin has decided that her time in Haiti is up for the moment. After being volunteer coordinator and getting me here, she moved up to Assistant National Director, and then to National Director while Father Rick was out of the country so much. I will miss her quite a bit, but we have had several goodbye parties for her so far which usually involve gin and tonic. Here’s a picture of us on the roof of the hospital with our drinks and Mexican pringles.

Today was the Universal Day for the Handicapped, so we had a big program at Kay St. Germaine with the preschoolers and some of the Kenscoff kids coming down as well. The volunteers started off at mass at the hospital, with Father Rick back in town. After that, we went to bless the babies that died in the hospital the night before, which I’ve never done before. It was devastating to see them be unwrapped, cleaned, blessed and rewrapped to be buried. 2 children died last night, and 3 more the night before so there were several bodies on the tables. The hospital, on average, loses 2 or 3 children a day.

The kids have been working on their dancing and singing for a month now, and were so cute in their dresses and ties. At the end, they all received presents from Santa Clause, who we have been calling on the phone every morning in class to remind. It was my last day of work in Tabarre before I leave for vacation in the states early next week.

Nazarelle, from the preschool


My Aunt Christina, who did NPH in Honduras, did a shoe drive at her school and raised a lot of awareness and supplies for the orphanage. I made this video with the kids to say thanks!

After I figured out how to use the movie making program on my computer, I made one of today’s festivities, too:

I’ll be home on Tuesday and am so freaking excited to see everyone! I plan to get Starbucks in Ft. Lauderdale, McDonalds in Atlanta, and Taco Bell in Seattle. Love you all! See you soon.