Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It’s almost lunch time and I’m getting hungry. Jayden is still napping, so I make my way to the kitchen to see what I can make. After checking the fridge and cupboards and not coming up with any great ideas, I spot the bunch of plantains ripening on my counter.

Hmm.. those would be good! Jason had just brought them back from Jeremie a couple days ago and I now examine them carefully. How do you prepare them again? I wonder. Denise had shown me once before but I just can’t remember all the steps. I guess I could just ask her again, I muse, and make my way outside. “Denise, eske ou ka edem fe banan silvouple? (Denise can you help me make plantains please? “Wi, m kapab.” (Yes, I can) She replies smiling. “Ou vle m friye pou ou?” (Do you want me to fry them for you?) She asks. “Wi, mesi” (Yes, thank you) I reply. I get out my bottle of oil and a pan, as Denise washes the plantains. I then watch as she slices the peel very carefully and cracks the plantain open.

Only one plantain is enough I tell her as she then cuts the plantain in angled slices. She checks the oil and adjusts the temperature.

When it's hot enough she carefully places each piece in the oil.

After a few minutes when they become brown around the edges, she scoops them out of the oil again.

She then instructs me to fill a bowl with filtered water and asks for the box of salt. After putting salt in the water she tests it by spooning some water onto the palm of her hand and tasting it. She then places a fried piece back into the plantain peel and squishes it with her hand.

Once it’s flattened she dips it in the salt water and then fries it again.

I get some napkins to absorb the oil and then arrange the pieces on a plate.
Wow, one plantain makes seven pieces. After giving Denise four for her family, I save the last three pieces for Jayden and I.

What a delicious treat.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I pull myself up using the barred window frame and clamber up to the first ledge. Once I’m up I can use the bars covering another window as a ladder and within seconds I reach the top of the roof. I push myself up to a standing position and then gingerly make my way to the black water tank, since the roof is still wet from the rain shower we had the night before. I prop open the lid and peek inside. Just what I suspected, only a few inches of water left.

Hmm... What next? In Haiti one of the most important skills to have is the ability to “degaje.” In English it can be translated as; to make it work, or finding creative solutions to problems. Thankfully I’m not lacking in the imagination or creativity department so to “degaje” is right up my alley. Jason sometimes wishes I didn’t “degaje” so much, especially when it comes to cooking or baking. “You have to follow the recipe exactly,” he sometimes complains, after taking a bite of another weird looking creation. “I would if I could”, I always reply, “but if half the ingredients are missing, old or unavailable, and if I have to shorten cooking times due to power shortages sometimes all I can do is “degaje”.

Now staring at the almost empty tank, my mind is whirling with ideas. Just yesterday a truck apparently took down a power pole close to our home meaning we are without city power indefinitely. Our solar panels power the house during the day and charge up our batteries for power at night, but they don’t pump our water from our reservoir up to our roof and they don’t power my laundry machine. Laundry can be done by hand, but it’s an awful lot of work to draw bucket after bucket of water out of our underground reservoir. What to do?

I could turn on the generator, I muse. I quickly climb back down, get the key to open the door of the generator room from Anoud and then carefully examine the machine.

It’s been almost a year since I turned it on and now looking at the array of switches and buttons I lose a little confidence in my abilities. Well, I could call Jason, I decide. I make my way inside and quickly dial his number on my cellphone. After he answers all I hear is an engine motor running, and a radio crackling. Finally I hear him shout over the din. “Hey Will, I’m just getting ready to take off to Jeremie. I can’t talk now.” “Okay,” I reply, “I guess I’ll figure it out on my own.”

Think, think, think. How do I do this again. I slowly walk back to the generator room, and once again carefully examine the switches. Oh yes, I think this switch gets turned on first, then master on, then I have to push this preheat switch down for 10 seconds and then up? Hmm.. lets try it. Grrr.. with a rattle and a roar the machine shakes to life and I smile. Okay, so I got that working. I climb back onto the roof but notice the water tank isn’t filling up. I then check the inverter, no power coming into it either. I flip a switch in the breaker box, still nothing. Suddenly a light bulb flashes in my brain. The big EDH (city power) switch needs to go down. I try that and sure enough, voila, it’s working! I hear the generator rev up higher and the inverter inside begin to charge our batteries. I clamber up the roof once again and am happy to see the tank is filling now. Having almost no gas left in the generator, I now have to carefully monitor the water so I can turn off the generator as soon as the tank is full. While I wait, I walk to the edge of the roof and look down. Jayden is walking down below, calling for me. “Up here, Jayden”, I yell down. He looks in all directions but can’t seem to find where my voice is coming from. “Up on the roof Jayden”, I say again. This time, he looks up. Seeing me up high he bursts into tears, and I wonder for a moment if he’s inherited his Grandpa’s fear of heights. Apparently not, because a few seconds later, he blubbers through his tears, “I wanna go up, Mom, I wanna go up.” “I don’t think so Jayden”, I call back down, “You go sit on the steps and Mom will be down in a couple minutes.” He obediently sits down, but still lets out an occasional sob. Up on the roof I have a better view of the neighbours house that collapsed several weeks ago, and I strain my neck to see through the trees and wire separating our homes.

Ever since we arrived back, men have been working with sledge hammers breaking apart the rubble into smaller pieces that can be loaded into dump trucks. I seriously can’t imagine breaking cement with a sledge hammer all day in the boiling hot sun. Getting a better look now I see a smaller man trying to break concrete with a metal rod. Is this his idea of degaje? I wonder, or can you actually break cement with a small metal rod? After watching and waiting for ten more minutes the tank is full, and I climb back down to shut the generator off. First EDH switch goes back up, black switch goes down, and master goes off. I then check to make sure the preheat switch is in the neutral position. Once I’ve double checked everything I lock the iron door behind me and make my way back up the stairs. Now that we have enough water for the day we should be all set!

As I walk back into the house, curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to go check out the downed power pole. Anoud seeing my camera, and hearing me tell him I’m just going to walk up the street, has to laugh. I carefully unlock our gate and peak out. Beside one quite harmless looking man walking towards me the street is clear. Corn stalks grow high on either side of what looks more like a rocky river bed then a street.

It doesn’t take long for a guard of the mansion on the next street over to spot me walking by and he comes and leans over the wall. “You speak English?” He asks. “Mwen pale Creole”, ( I speak Creole) I reply, trying not to be rude, but also not wanting to get drawn into a conversation with him. “Ou bel”, (you’re beautiful) he replies, I shrug and keep walking. A few seconds later I come to what I think might be the downed power lines. I’m happy to see it’s only a few lines on the ground, even though it doesn’t make for such a great photo op.

After snapping a few pictures, I turn around and make the short walk home.

Hopefully it will be fixed sooner than later, I think to myself, otherwise I’ll have to repeat the same thing with the generator every morning. Walking back home, I suddenly see four boys come running towards me. My friends! They press close to me, grabbing my hands and I hug them. “I have something for you” I say in Creole, as we walk back together to my gate. Running inside, I return a few minutes later with four little cars and some bags of goldfish crackers.

They are quite thrilled with the gifts and after thanking me profusely, they skip off. Although slightly raggedly dressed, I am happy to note that all four of them look healthy. Feeling the sun on my face, and a breeze combing my hair, I slowly make my way back up the stairs inside. Never a dull moment here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Downtown Port au Prince

I stare blankly through the truck window unable to fully comprehend what I see. It’s mid afternoon and we are driving through downtown Port au Prince, or what’s left of it. Before the earthquake we rarely visited downtown because it was always so extremely busy. Now six months later, there’s hardly a person in sight.

I remember flying over the downtown core before the quake and seeing the masses of people teeming the streets. Now it’s quiet. Eerily still. All that is left of the once colourful streets is pile after pile of gray rubble. The only hint of colour is the plastic garbage poking out from between the cement blocks.
Every now and then we see a pile of blackened tire treads, the only remainder now of the people who died and whose bodies were burned.

The magnitude of the destruction is too great to describe or fully comprehend. Each of the hundred of thousands of people that died here had a story, a life, a family, and now all that is left is a pile of ashes, surrounded by tire treads. Seeing it all I feel a numbness creep over me. Oh Haiti, words can’t describe the extent of the destruction and the pain suffered here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Journey Home

4:25 a.m. June 9

I roll over in bed and stare at my alarm clock. Without my contacts it takes my eyes a moment to adjust and read the numbers. 4:25 a.m. It feels like I hardly slept, but I guess only six hours is hardly sleeping for me! I still have five minutes before the alarm goes off, but instead of waiting under the warm blankets like I normally do, I quietly slip out of bed, careful not to wake Jason. My traveling clothes are already laid out, and I notice that they’ve become quite worn. On closer examination I even see small holes appearing in the fabric, but it’s nothing really noticeable so I slip it on anyway. I always wear the same outfit when I travel so it's no wonder it’s looking so worn. Once I’m dressed I slip into the bathroom to put in my contacts, give my teeth a quick brush and run a comb through my hair. 10 seconds later I’m done and on my way to Jayden’s bedroom. I crack the door open and peek inside. He’s still sound asleep, so I decide to leave him for a few more minutes. By now the alarm is beeping in our bedroom so I go back and wake up the still sleeping Jason. I smile at the sleep lines on his cheeks and then proceed to pull him out of bed. “Come on Jay,” I whisper. “We’re leaving today, remember?” He groans and then gets up. “I’ve got your clothes ready over there. Once you’re dressed quickly brush your teeth so I can pack our final toiletries.” I put on my bossiest tone and grin at him. “Okay” he replies, more alert now. I once again make my way to Jayden’s bedroom and this time quickly change the still sleeping Jayden into his previously laid out clothes. He doesn’t even stir, so after a quick kiss on his soft cheek I carry him still sleeping up the stairs and lay him down on the couch. Jason meanwhile packs away the toiletries and then together with Dad loads the suitcases into the car. Loaded with little pots of yogurt and apple juice packages for breakfast we head out the door. At the door we say our goodbyes to Mom and Esther before strapping on our seat belts and stowing our final luggage. When it comes to saying goodbye, Jason summed it up perfectly when he said “I don’t like it.” It’s really hard saying goodbyes especially when we both have such great families and so many good friends. I look down at Jayden in his car seat beside me and with Thomas the Train in his hand he seems quite oblivious to the changes about to come. In moments like these, I wish life could be that simple again. The trip to the airport is quite uneventful. The early morning traffic is light and besides the occasional rain spatter on the window the brooding sky holds in her tears. At the airport we say our last goodbye to Dad and then we’re on our own. We check in with American Airlines and then wait to board our plane. When we’re finally seated and the plane becomes airborne Jayden and I press our noses to the window for our final glimpses of B.C. before we’re in the cloud cover. Goodbye Canada.

10:00 p.m. Florida
I stand outside the West Palm Beach International Airport, surrounded by 4 suitcases, 2 backpacks, a purse, a netbook bag, a laptop bag, 2 carry on suitcases, a pooh back pack full of Thomas trains and a stroller with a sleepy Jayden. As Jason goes back inside to call our hotel shuttle, I try not to melt in the humidity and heat. Tired from a long day of travel, I find a concrete post to lean against and then take in the sights and sounds of the city. Palm trees sway in the slight breeze as horns honk, people shout, and whistles blow. Tall high rises, lit up on every story, brighten the night sky, making the distant stars all but invisible. Welcome to Florida.

June 10-15
Grocery shopping at our favourite stores, water parks, beaches and pools.

After several days of running our last errands and relaxing, the morning has come for us to fly to Haiti. As all three of us sit in the pool for the last time, and as Jason and I play games with Jayden,I’m filled with nostalgia. Just then an old song, I think from the beach boys, plays over the speakers and I can’t help but smile. Although we can’t actually hear the words of the song, we can hear the chorus that says “I wanna go home, just let me go home”. Since those words just seem to fit, I start to sing “I wanna go home, just let me go home!” Jayden looks at me oddly for a moment and then a smile lights up his face. “I go to Grandpa’s house, see Casey Victor, go to Kaelie’s house?” I sigh for a moment before correcting him. “No, we fly to Haiti and you get to play with Nicholas and Sabboule.” He stares blankly at me for a moment before playing with his Mac car once again.

June 15 12:15 p.m.
Excitement mounts as I peer through the window of the shuttle van. I love airports, airplanes and traveling and I love Haiti! Within minutes we’ve pulled up to the Ft. Lauderdale airport international departures entrance and we are once again faced with the job of loading and unloading our baggage. At the counter we are told by the ticketing agent that since we don’t have our Haitian Immigration Passbooks with us we are required to purchase 100% refundable return tickets. Since we can get all our money back once we arrive in Haiti Jason hands over the credit card to buy the tickets. “You aren’t going to get mad at me?” the man questions, looking at us in surprise. “No,” we reply, “We know the rules”. Quite impressed the man makes a note on our file. When several of our suitcases are overweight, he lets it pass and doesn’t make us add the extra weight to our lighter suitcases, much to our relief! Later as we finish the last bite of our pork sandwiches we hear a voice over the loud speaker announce. “Krul, party of three, can you please come to the ticket counter?” Several minutes later a grinning Jason comes back with three first class tickets. Apparently the man had been so impressed he bumped us up to first class! How cool!
First class is a whole new experience in itself! We are one of the first allowed on the aircraft and the seats are so big, I’m pretty certain two of me could fit on one seat! Jason and I ooh and aah over all the cold drinks they bring us, the delicious meal they serve, the warm towels they give to wash our hands and face, and the warm peanuts and freshly baked cookies.

Jayden on the other hand takes it all in a stride. Lounging back in his giant chair he remains cool as a cucumber. Looking at him, you would think he always travels first class, while looking at us, you wouldn’t exactly say that! Watching him play with Annie, Billy and Salty, friends of Thomas the Train, of course, I realize what a seasoned traveler he really is. My first flight wasn’t till I was 3.5 while the barely 3 year old Jayden has flown over 25 times on the airlines already!

The flight seems to go by so quick, that before we know it we are looking through the window down on the beautiful coastline of Haiti!

It's been exactly 5 months ago today since I’ve left and I can hardly express the mixture of joy and sadness that runs through me as I see my beloved Haiti once again. I’m almost home.
With, what Jason calls my dazed look, I grab my backpack, Jayden’s backpack, my purse and Jayden’s hand, as we make our way off the airplane. I barely thank the flight crew so absorbed am I in my surroundings. Instead of disembarking onto the tarmac like usual we walk through a long newly constructed hallway. I am impressed. Since the main terminal has been condemned we follow the hallway till we reach a shuttle bus station. From there we are bussed to immigration, where we are allowed through without a fuss. In a tin roof structure, that feels like an oven, we bake until finally our suitcases start coming through. Jayden hot, and restless, keeps trying to run away, and I struggle to hold onto him and watch our bags at the same time. Before long Dieucon (pronounced Jason) joins us and it takes me a moment to realize that he’s Daniel’s replacement. With the heat and humidity and the pain from the knowledge that Daniel really is gone, I try my best not to cry. Sadness and pain, mixed with love and joy. Oh Haiti.
When Jason finally has our last suitcases, and we have two carts loaded to the max we head out the door. Dieucon pushes the first cart while Jason follows him with the second. I’m left with carrying the hot sticky Jayden and do my best to keep up with them as we push through the crowds of people. “Bonjou, Bonjou, I keep repeating till I remember it’s after noon and should be saying “Bonswa!” I take a moment to laugh at myself as the crowd around me thickens. Small brown hands nudge me as dark eyed children beg for money. “I’m hungry” they say, patting their stomachs. Not having any money on me I reply in Creole. “Mwen pa gen lajan”. Hearing my reply they notice the white little boy in my arms. A rarity in Haiti, he is soon surrounded with people saying “Gade, ti blan” (literally translated it means, look a little white!) He doesn’t seem to mind the attention and grabs their hands or meows like a cat, something he started doing recently especially around strangers. The crowd is quite taken with the little white that meows, and I can’t help but laugh. What a silly kid!
On the road now traffic is so busy, we end up walking between the vehicles and keeping up with traffic, something which does strike me as funny. The heat and humidity, the smoky air from charcoal fires, the friendly honks of horns, the merchants carrying their wares on their heads, the roaming goats and dogs, and the heavy traffic all remind me I’m in Haiti again. Thankfully it doesn’t take long to load up our truck and after dropping Dieucon off, we are on our own once again. Since all the suitcases are in an uncovered cab and traffic is slow, we keep a good eye on the back to make sure nothing gets stolen. Since it’s been 5 months since I last saw Haiti I am happy to notice that most of the rubble has been cleared away from the sides of the streets, and that the route we take looks much the same as it did before the earthquake. After what seems like about an hour, and just as the first drops of rain hit the windshield we pull up to our gate! At Jasons’ honks a grinning Anoud opens the gate. Oh it’s good to be home! As soon as I’m out of the car Anoud comes running up to Jayden and I and gives us big hugs, followed shortly by Denise. It is so great to see them all! The kids seem a little shy, but don’t mind the hugs I give them. When I see Jocemine I’m in for a surprise! What a big girl she’s become and already walking too!

It takes Jayden all of three seconds to reconnect with his “brothers” and after running inside to unpack his Thomas trains he races back out and hands them over to Nicholas and Sabboule!

An hour and half later I have to drag a resisting Jayden inside because it’s gotten too dark to play. Instantly the boys start to cry and I quickly promise they can play again in the morning! Jayden wet with rain and sweat and dirty from head to toe, needs more convincing that he will get to play again in the morning, before finally giving in. Jason and I in the meantime have scoured the house, which, thanks to Denise is spic and span, and start to unpack our suitcases. Even with fans blowing on us, we are soon dripping with sweat. After working for several hours we finally decide that tomorrow is another day, and we can save the last two suitcases for then. After a cool bath, I try to lay Jayden down, and turn his fan on, but he can’t seem to settle down. In the meantime city power has turned on, so Jason and I have made our way to a slightly cooler living room where we make quick phone calls to our families in Canada. Since Jayden can’t seem to settle down, I let him lay on the couch for awhile which seems to help. Soon after wards I carry him to bed where he lays down without a fuss. That night, before we lie down and sleep, Jason and I thank God for the safe trip and smooth travels. We also pray for direction and protection in the unknown future. Feeling my own soft pillow under my head, and sleeping in my own bed snuggled close to Jason, I close my eyes and drift off to sleep. Having not forgotten the earthquake I remember the words from Psalm 4. “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for Thou Lord only makest me dwell in safety.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

MAF Fundraising Sale!

You are invited to an MAF Fundraising sale, this coming Saturday, June 5 from 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM at the Free Reformed Church in Chilliwack, 45471 Yale Road West. Sale includes a BBQ lunch, car wash, garage sale and plant and baking sale. Local vendors will also be present. Come see us and say goodbye before our family moves back to Haiti!