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.


  1. You're a genious at improvisation, Wil! Good to read your blogs again!

  2. Indeed, you are one clever young lady. Thanks for posting!
    How relieved you must have been to see your four friends after such a long time!

  3. Dear Will, it's been awhile since I've checked your blog and so until this morning, I was unaware you had left for and arrived home.

    Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

    May the same loving, gracious God Who kept you safe 5 months ago when you had to leave, Who brought you safely (even giving you first class seats!) back to Haiti, give you everything you need as you continue to serve your dear Haitian people with love and "degaje".

    Praying God will bless you with daily strength, wisdom, endurance and everything else you and Jason need as you serve Christ over there in Haiti, or as you write, back home.

    With love, Leanne Overduin