Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Opening an Airstrip!

A rush of excitement ran through me as I touched down on the short gravel strip which was surrounded by water, and I began braking firmly. As the airplane came to a complete stop, a crowd of Haitians rushed to meet the first airplane to arrive in several years!

This week I had the great privilege of re-opening one of our airstrips located in the northwestern region of Haiti. Gonaives was massively flooded several years ago following Hurricanes Hanna, Ike and Gustav which all struck Haiti one after another. The airstrip remained over 12 feet under water, until recently it began to dry out to the point we could send someone out by road to inspect the surface condition. After we received a positive report, it was decided that we could fly in, inspect the strip our self, and make necessary upgrades to make it once again usable.

As I flew over the airstrip to inspect from above, the airstrip resembled a jetty jutting out into a large lake. The first 1500 feet of the strip looked dry, but several hundred feet past that, it gradually disappeared into the slow-draining lake. I planned several low fly-overs to inspect the surface condition better before making a full stop. Immediately a large crowd of excited Haitians rushed to meet the airplane. Some looked looked in wonder, others in astonishment, as I had just touched down on their new favorite fishing spot! Once I had finished greeting everyone, I explained the reason that I had landed there, and they were once again thrilled! I proceeded to measure the airstrip, confirm the placement of markers, and help erect a new windsock pole. It now looked like an official airstrip!

After several hours of work, I took the Mayor, several reporters and journalists, and a few locals on a demonstration flight. Most of them had never been in an airplane before, so it was quite exciting for all of us!

The Storm's Aftermath

Tuesday, Sept 28, 6:00 a.m.
I roll over sleepily in bed and inch a little closer to Jason. The gated in patio doors are open and the only thing that protects me from the morning coolness is a flimsy screen. Fall is here and with it are cool mornings. Maybe it's really not that cool, but after 40 degree Celsius summer days, 21 degrees sure feels cool. I roll over on my side and enjoy the view of our yard through an opening in the cream colored curtain. Just then I hear rain, or what sounds like rain. "That's weird,"Jason mutters beside me. In the last two years I only remember one time that it rained in the morning. Normally it only rains in the afternoon or evening.
Another storm? I wonder. The previous storm, that some labeled "micro-burst" is still fresh in my mind, although I have to admit there was nothing "micro" about it.
"I don't think that's rain Jason." I now tell him, as I listen closely. "It sounds like hundreds of leaves falling." Are the strong winds returning? I wonder. I check the trees and notice they are swaying, but only slightly. Hundreds of thousands of leaves continue to fall, pattering on the cement slab outside our bedroom. I get up and notice that within a matter of minutes, the leaves have turned into a thick carpet of green.

"This is really strange," I say again. They never just all fall like that. Our house is surrounded by tall trees who lose their leaves year-round, but never like this. It probably has something to do with the storm, I decide and think back to Saturday. The 30 minute storm on Friday afternoon made such a mess that we spent the whole day Saturday cleaning up.
With a yard that looked like this, there was a lot to do.

While Anoud collected garbage bags full of leaves and branches from the roof and gutters,

The kids got to work picking up hundreds of pear-shaped, heavy wooden seed pods.

Once the kids had collected as many an they could lift, Jayden decided the best way to carry them was on his head!

Still staring out through the patio door, I smile at the memory. I guess I'd better go see what's going on I decide. I quickly change and then head out a side door. It's not until I look up that I discover the answer.

One of the giant trees in our yard has cracked. Now that it's been several days and the leaves lost their source of life, they're all coming down at once. Looking up I once again marvel at the intensity of the storm. A micro-burst? Seriously?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tropical Storm

I pick out a bracelet from the pile and then carefully fold a paper tag around it. I then dip a thin stick into the modge podge and glue the ends of the paper together. I hold it up and examine it critically. It looks good. I add it to the ever growing pile of Denise’s jewelry that is taking over the dining room table and then look outside at the darkening sky. Looks like rain is on its way. I walk up the few steps into the playroom and check on the sleeping Jayden. He’s stretched out in his comfortable chair, oblivious to his surroundings. I don’t normally allow him to nap in the afternoon but since we have a MAF staff meeting planned for tonight, I decide to let him continue sleeping. I look outside again and notice how windy it’s become. Several minutes later the sky opens and the rain pours down. I hope Jason has landed, I think to myself, and reach for my phone. Thankfully he answers after the second ring. “Is it okay to land?" he yells into the phone. Not hearing any background airplane noises I’m pretty sure he’s teasing, but just in case I tell him it’s definitely not safe to land. “I’m safe on the ground,” he then tells me and I sigh in relief. Just then the winds increase in intensity and I can hear the tin begin to bounce on the roof. "It sounds like it’s going to rip right off", I tell Jason. “That’s not good”, he replies,“But there’s not much we can do about it right now. Just stay safe.”

After talking for a few more minutes, we say goodbye and hang up. Clatter, Clatter, bang. The storm is getting louder and the winds are so strong now, that they are blowing my secured screens right out of the windows. My heart starts to pound and I force myself to take a few deep breaths. Stay calm. Once I’ve calmed down a little, I get to work putting all the screens back and closing all the windows. Meanwhile water has flooded the living room through the large screen door, soaking the curtains, so I quickly slide the glass door shut. Leaves have blown in, and not till all the windows are shut do they stop swirling through the air. Once I’ve gone through the house securing everything the best I can, I grab my laptop to check the National Hurricane Center. Since we are in hurricane season we check the website almost daily, but nothing had been forecasted. Now looking at the world map, I don’t see any storms or storm warnings for Haiti. “That’s strange,” I mutter, as the intensity of the storm increases. Feeling unsettled and frightened I search my music library until I find the song I’m looking for. I click a few buttons and few minutes later the calming melody plays over the speakers. The song is about that God is God of all the earth and nothing is outside of His control. Just focusing on that helps calm me. I softly hum along, and then once again check on Jayden. He’s starting to wake up now, and a few minutes later he’s sitting up. The storm doesn’t seem to bother him at all and after asking for juice he asks if I can make Thomas puzzles with him. I take the puzzles down and find a spot beside him on the floor. A few second later there’s a knock on my kitchen door and then Denise pushes it open. She’s carrying what looks like a bundle of towels, and it’s not until she lifts them up that I see Jocemine hiding underneath. “Eske Mr. Jason ap vole?” ("Is Mr. Jason flying?”) she asks worriedly. “Non, mwen te pale avek li e li pa ap vole” ("No, I talked to him and he’s not flying.") She lets out a sigh of relief and her face visibly brightens. I talk to her a few more minutes and then she opens the kitchen door again. The winds are so strong now it looks like she might blow away. You can all come inside here if you want, I tell her. She hesitates for a moment and then passes me Jocemine. I can make it back to our house she says, but she can stay with you for a little bit. I carry Jocemine to the playroom and find some toys for her. She is quite content and doesn’t seem to mind at all that her mom left. I continue to play on the floor with Jayden and Jocemine, thankful for the distraction. Beside me, my laptop continues to play the same song over and over. Jocemine seems to like the quiet, calming melody, and I watch delightedly as the little one year old begins to sing and sway back and forth. Jayden continues working on his puzzles and reminds Jocemine every few minutes, that “that’s my Mom.” As I play with the kids, my mind begins to wander to all the people living in tents. With winds so strong it’s ripping the bark right off the trees, I am certain many tents are being destroyed. Please be with them, Lord, I beg silently, feeling helpless. After what seems like hours I finally hear the welcoming sound of Jason honking at the gate. “The wind was so strong it pushed unsecured airplanes right across the tarmac. I can’t even begin to describe all the downed power lines and trees and flooded roads we saw on our way back from the airport either. And did you know that a tree landed right in the middle of one of our MAF staff’s vehicles destroying it?” Out of breath, words flow out of Jason’s mouth. Just happy to see him I put my arms around him and hold him tight.

Align Center

Thursday, September 23, 2010

C’est la vie! (It is the life!)

It really IS "the" life! How can I even begin to summarize all the special moments that are part of my daily life in Haiti? Instead of clumsily trying to piece sentences together, I'll let the pictures speak and through them let you take a look at what I call "the" life!

I love my boy and I love how creative he can be! I think all the jewelry around the house has kind of inspired him. My favorite moments are when he's finished a bracelet and goes running outside to give it to Nicholas or Sabboule. They of course are thrilled. I haven't had the heart to tell any of them that boys don't normally wear bracelets.

Preschool is just so much fun! At this age their minds are like sponges and they absorb everything! I love hearing Nicholas and Sabboule practice their English on their parents. I now can also tell when they wake up in the morning, since I can hear them say "Good Morning" to each other, in their childish sing-song voices!

I love teaching the sewing classes at the orphanage and just today some of the girls finished sewing their purses!

These girls live at the orphanage and are Cherlye, Isguerda and Katiana!

The three completed purses. Now only two more to finish! Perfect timing since next week is our last class before school starts again on October 4.

I had to include this picture. Here is Christine, a new MAF wife and a new friend for me! Also a great extra pair of hands during sewing classes. Between the two of us we actually figured out how to make the purse, which is a good thing, since we are teaching the class!

C’est la vie! I love being part of all this!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Sewing Classes!

I walk along the narrow street keeping a tight grip on Jayden's hand. There's no sidewalk and since this particular section is paved and Haiti has no speed limits, traffic often goes fast. The sun shines brightly and the morning is beautiful. Jayden, oblivious to the beauty and annoyed by the bright sun blinding him complains. "I don't like sun in my eyes Mom, sun too hot!" "It's not too hot Jayden," I soothe, as I angle my body to block the sun for him. It's only 9:00 a.m. and the temperature is perfect. I smile as I spot my friend, an old lady, who reminds me of Denise's mom, selling her wares. When she sees us, I wave and great her with a friendly "Bonjou". "Bonjou bel petite mwen!" (Good morning my pretty child!) She says, smiling her large gap tooth smile. Lately, whenever Jayden and I walk past, we cross the street and spend a moment talking with her. Then I buy Jayden a small package of cookies and pay her 6 times the price. "But it's only 8 Goudes (about 20 cents US), she would tell me as I hand her a $1.25. "Oh the rest is for you," I would tell her and she would clasp my hand in her old work worn one and thank me profusely. Before that, I would just give her some money whenever I walked past, but since then I've decided that it would be better to actually purchase something and just give her extra, so it would feel less like a handout. After another friendly wave, Jayden and I keep walking to the homes of some of the other MAF families. As we turn onto the rocky, dusty street, I spot the Nissan truck parked up ahead and I'm relieved. Although the truck's windshield is a spiderweb of cracks, the front bumper is hanging down on a funny angle, the passenger side door doesn't close properly and often opens while we drive, and the AC doesn't work, it at least is a method of transportation. I really don't want to miss teaching my second sewing class at the orphanage for this season, and am thankful there is a vehicle to use! I check my key chain for the correct key and then after helping Jayden with his seat belt we drive back home. After a couple honks at the gate, Denise opens the side door and comes out with her purse and mine. Once she's in, I go back to get Jayden's car seat and pooh backpack and we are ready to go. We drive over some paved and some very bumpy not paved streets till we finally arrive at the orphanage. The Apparent Project's home base is close by, so I drive past the orphanage and stop there first. I help Jayden out and then all three of us go inside. Shelley is already there and after a quick chat, I help Denise pick out scrapbook paper that she can cut on the paper cutter. Today we also have several cereal boxes that she can cut. I help her get set up and then Jayden and I drive back to the orphanage and park in front of the girls home. Daphne comes running as soon as she sees Jayden and Jayden backs off. If there's one girl Jayden doesn't like, it's Daphne. She however, is quite taken with Jayden and won't leave him alone. Hmm.. what to do? I quickly check my purse and find a granola bar. "Jayden, why don't you give half to Daphne?" I tell him, and he reluctantly agrees.

I give him the two pieces and after a little prompting he gives Daphne one of them. She smiles one of her big smiles at him, and suddenly a transformation takes place.

I can't believe it! Last week, my first time teaching sewing class for the year, all those two did was screech at each other! For the rest of the week I had to listen every night how Daphne was not his friend, and how Jayden did NOT like her, and that Lori, a little Haitian girl from the village was the girl he loved! Well, things change I guess, and I can't help but smile as I watch them run off together, best of friends, in search of some books. A little while later they come back to the sewing room together and find spots beside each other to read.

In the meantime the girls have come in and tell me that they have no power, so sewing and ironing is not going to work. Since we still have to cut the interfacing for the purses we are making, I decide to just help each girl get that step done. Since my sewing scissors are the only ones we have, it takes a couple hours for all the girls to get done and it works out fine.

The girls are quite excited about making this purse and this is what the complete project is supposed to look like.

By 11:30, everyone is finished and I head back to the Apparent Project home base to pick up Denise. Since she's not quite finished cutting all the paper, I spend some time going through the beading supply and choosing new beads for her to purchase. The jewelry has been selling very fast, and Denise has, in a very short time, earned a $160USD. Anoud and her have decided to use this first amount of money to help Denise's parents who live in Jeremie. They are elderly and poor and since they don't have a cellphone, Denise has almost no contact with them. Denise hopes to travel to Jeremie the last week of October to personally give them the money, and she's very excited about this! Thanks everyone who purchased jewelry from her. By doing this, you've blessed her, and in turn allowed her to be a blessing to others.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ant Bites!

I just finished posting the "Ants Make Me Itchy" blog, when I hear a yell from outside. Jayden who was playing with Nicholas and Sabboule is now frantically pounding on the door. I run to the door and open it. Words tumble out of Jayden's mouth. "Ants bite me, Mom. Ants bite me. It hurts! Oww!!" I grab him and rush him to the bathroom. As quick as I can I pull of his crocks and turn on the tap. His feet are black with dirt and it takes a little bit of scrubbing and rinsing before I can actually see the colour of his feet. Sure enough. Ant bites, I see the little white circles on his feet.

The soap and water takes away some of the sting, so Jayden soon stops crying. "I'm mad at you ants!" He says. "Don't bite me! That's not nice!" I try to remain serious as I carry Jayden to the kitchen and set him on the counter. Reaching for the first aid kit, I quickly apply the Insect Sting Relief. It works like a charm, and minutes later my little boy is smiling again!

Ants make me itchy!

Okay, so you might be getting tired of all the bug stories, but take a look at this!

This is our bath/shower! It was just cleaned yesterday, and gets cleaned every other day! I couldn't believe it when I saw this! Eww.. Just looking at them made me itchy, and on closer examination they looked like the biting kind! I sprayed the whole mass of them, but am a little leery of taking a shower from now on! Oww! I think some of them must have got me!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Chris the Cockroach Story

I’m just brushing my teeth when out of the corner of my eye I see a brown bug go streaking by. Okay, I’ve accepted the fact that cockroaches are a part of life here and that I’m going to see an occasional one in the kitchen or traipsing through the living room, but my bedroom and bathroom are off limits! I pull of my flip flop and advance. Where did he go? I check the door frame and sure enough I find him sitting motionless, trying to blend in with the knotted wood. Thwack. I got him, but not hard enough. He races at me and runs right over my now barefoot! “AAHH!!” I scream. “What’s going on Will?” Jason asks, sitting up in bed. “A cockroach just ran over my FOOT!!!” “You should be used to them by now, a little cockroach, no big deal!” He replies. “Can you get the cockroach spray, while I keep an eye on him?” I ask. “I think the spray can is empty, plus that stuff is bad for you,” Jason replies not wanting to get up. “No worse, then what my imagination will do to me if I don’t kill him tonight!” I reply. I walk to the kitchen and find the spray can. It still feels at least half full. Getting fumigated is a slower death then death by flip flop, but it is foolproof, and that is what I’m after. A few minutes later I find Chris the cockroach hiding under the bathroom cupboards and I position the spray can. As soon as the spray hits Chris he takes off up into the cupboards. Oh well, he’s going to die now, I figure, reassured. I quickly open the screened bathroom windows and then close the door. Problem solved. Or is it? With the light still on, Jason and I talk some more about our day. Suddenly something comes flying out from under the bathroom door, straight at us. I scream and roll off the bed. Jason reacts to my abandoning ship by quickly jumping out on his side. Chris the cockroach is going crazy from the spray, and the worst thing is, is that he is flying madly around our bedroom! “Cockroaches aren’t supposed to fly! They’re supposed to run!” I chase him off our bed and he flies smack into the closed bedroom door! “This is so gross!!! You kill him Jason,” I yell. “You are doing a great job!” He replies sitting back on the bed trying to appear nonchalant. “But this one scares me, a crazy flying cockroach! You’re the guy!” I try to reason with him. “You aren’t going to fall asleep tonight if you don’t kill him, so just get it over with”, Jason replies as calmly as he can. Calm, that is until the cockroach zings through the sky and lands back on our bed! Jason jumps off in a hurry and backs up. “See, I knew it, he’s scaring you too! You just don’t want to admit it because you are a guy!!” Just hit it with your flip flop,” Jason counsels. “On our bed?” I reply. “I don’t think so!” I chase him off and Chris shoots off like a canon again straight at the door. I advance bravely with my flip flop only to have Chris change his mind and attack me! I scream as he latches onto my shirt! Anoud and Denise must be wondering what is going on, the thought flashes through my mind, as I begin to jump wildly around, still screaming. “GET OFF ME.” He falls down onto the floor and this time I’m not letting him get away! Thwack, Thwack, Thwack. He’s still kicking. Okay, a few more times. There. I walk to the bathroom to get a tissue and then pick up the squashed Chris. He’s fairly big for a cockroach, but still, one bug shouldn’t cause so much trouble. They say for every one you see, there is at least 15 you don’t, so I hold him up. Beware cockroaches! I flush him down the toilet and then crawl back into bed exhausted. With the lights out, my imagination starts going wild. I feel cockroaches here, there and everywhere. I fidget and scratch and fidget some more. “I can feel them everywhere,” I whisper to Jason in the dark. A second later, two fingers like little feet climb up my arm! I lay motionless, I’m going to get you back Jason, I think to myself. With my right arm I make an arc through the sky and then land my fingers on his chest! He jumps! I laugh. That’s what you get! We both start to laugh about our silliness. Eventually it becomes quiet again. Dark and quiet. I can still feel them. I sigh. It’s going to be a long night.