June Haiti Trip (as told by Kristin Egan)
It is 9:00 and I finally have time to send off an email. What an amazing day. We left Miami early this morning having had about 2 hours of sleep and arrived in Port au Prince around 8:00am. Obviously, the first thing we noticed was the heat. Ben called it heavy heat. That is certainly accurate. Ben also said he has never sweated so much in his life. Welcome to Haiti! Fortunately all of our bags arrived with us and fortunately there was someone there to pick us up. A guy named “Big” who’s description fits his name. He had a “posse” that helped us battle our way through all the guys outside trying to grab our bags. We piled in 3 vehicles and made our way on to the crazy, crowded Haitian roads.
Haitians drive like maniacs. Not like the stateside maniacs you all know and hate. I’m talking high speeds, stop and go traffic, inches between vehicles and going every direction on the same road. Not to mention thousands of people walking in and out of the traffic, motorcycles with 4 passengers and potholes you could loose a small child in. Traveling a distance of 15 miles can take hours. It did.
Not to mention we got lost and couldn’t find our lodging for several sweltering hours. We did get to see a good deal of people and some pretty dumpy areas of Haiti. People watching in Haiti is insanely interesting. I don’t know how to explain it. Beautiful children carrying their wares on their heads, industrious men and women who walk the streets, vendors who set up shop on little tables, old tires, hubcaps, buckets, tiny shops. There is a hustle and bustle on the streets of Haiti. I saw a man who was welding a under a truck. He finished, the guy paid him and drove off. On to the next car. So many businesses, so many people. It’s amazing!
The guest house where we are staying is wonderful. Fully walled in with a security guy with a shotgun at the gate. On the grounds is also an orphanage and a school. They have 15 special needs kids along with a hundred and something more. The special kids sit out under a big mango tree during the day. Some are in wheel chairs some in little cribs. They have two children who are hydrocephalic and all sorts of other special kids. Ben had a sweet moment with a little guy who might be autistic. Ben had him smiling and giggling.
The other children are educated on site or sent into town to go to school. They have little outdoor schools. The children also raise and care for rabbits, whose poop is fed to the tilapia in their tilapia farm, whose old, dirty water is used to fertilize the garden, which feeds everyone. Pretty cool. All in all it is a pretty nice place. They feed us 2 meals a day, we stay in dorm style rooms and have a bathroom. So what if the mosquitos are bad and we have no warm water. Right? Right.
After settling in we went on another wild ride through Haiti. This time we were heading to Matt & Gabe’s old orphanage. We went through some pretty tough areas. Signs of the quake are everywhere. Tents all over, crumbling buildings, trash and debris. (There was trash all over before the quake). It is amazing how many people are displaced.
The orphanage was great. We hugged, played with, tickled all the kids we could. It was fun to reconnect with people we knew at the orphanage. A bunch of then ladies remembered Matt and Gabe. I showed them pictures of them on my Iphone. The were amazed. As always there are children that tug at your heart strings. For me it was Eristine. I tried and tried to get a a smile out of her. She really wanted to be snuggled but I couldn’t get her to interact. She was very small. I thought she was maybe 1 but found out she was 2. Poor little thing. Those kids need attention and love. I’m so grateful my boys weren’t in there any longer than a couple months. I’m learning that Ben is a kid magnet. The kids loved him. One little boy named Evens cried every time he put him down. You can’t imagine how hard it is to put down a child that is clinging to you and walk away. Especially when you know that most likely no one else will pick them up. It’s heartbreaking. I was really proud of Ben. He was great with the kids. He wasn’t phased by saturated pants, snotty noses or anything. He just dished out as much attention and as he could.
When we left the orphanage it was a downpour. The roads were covered with water, hiding pot holes and making travel even crazier. All the drainage rivers and canals were rushing down full of brown water and trash. I guess the Haitians let the rains clean their streets for them. People were wrapped in plastic, under umbrellas and donning a lot of colorful shower caps, hats, buckets etc. The rain didn’t stop them from their business. I’m sure they are used to it. It rains every afternoon/ evening.
The rest of the evening consisted of dinner, (lasagna), bath, and bed. All in all it was an amazing day. I feel really fortunate to be able to experience Haiti with Ben. He fits right in with all the adults. Other than being tired, I think he is having a life changing experience, and it is only day one. We are excited for the next few days and what they may hold for us.
(Some of our Haitian Roots orphaned children came to the Guest House to spend some time and to have some therapy with our wonderful psychologist who came, Kayla).
The girls were so fun. We painted fingernails, played jumprope, looked at photos on my phone, tried to learn Chinese jump rope. (I don’t know why I used to think that was fun.)They got a real kick out of my very bad creole. They were extremely patient with me. Fortunately, we have some great guys with us that are able to translate. We spent time at the little playground. I am certain they have never been on a swing before. They absolutely loved it. It took me awhile to help them to know what to do on a teeter totter as well. Crazy. They loved having their photo taken and then looking at it. (Every kid on this compound loves that). They especially loved taking photos. All in all it was a delightful and promising day.