Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Working Days..

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“Hey Will, tomorrow I won’t be flying because the airplanes are going in for inspections, do you want to come to work with me and help me figure out a problem with our EDH (city power) bills? This issue with the extra charge on our account has been dragging on for months and its one big headache! Maybe your past experience at the accounting office can help us figure out what is going on.”

“What about Jayden?”

“We can take him along. Just bring books and crayons and activities. We’ll have a family work day.”

“Okay, sounds good!”

Wednesday, 6:00 a.m. September 7, 2011

“Come on Jayden! You have to wake up! We’re going to work with Daddy!”

The groggy boy refuses to comply so I finally pick him up and deposit him on the couch in the playroom.

With no milk for cereal, or bread for toast, I quickly whip up a batch of pancakes. Brushing on butter and syrup I ready three plates.

“Jason, Jayden time to eat!”

Still half asleep Jayden slowly makes his way to the kitchen, rubbing his eyes and yawning.

“You have to hurry Jayden, we’re going to work with Daddy!”

“Okay, Mom!”

After praying together we dig in. The pancakes are delicious!

When breakfast is finished and the dishes are cleared away we head to the truck for a ride to the airport. Since it’s before 7:00 a.m. the roads are still fairly quiet.

It doesn’t take long before we arrive at the domestic terminal. In the office Christine is already working, as she’s the new MAF scheduler.

I spend a few minutes chatting with her before getting Jayden set up at an empty desk with coloring books and felts.

Then I pull up an office chair beside my husband and get to work sorting through stacks of paperwork.

Every few minutes I lean over to chat and joke with him. Working together at a desk brings back memories of our college days. Just like back then, I’m still a pretty good distraction, and I notice he doesn’t get that much work done on the sheets he’s filling out.

Since all the bills are in French and each month all the MAF family bills are paid with one cheque it takes some sorting and organizing before I pinpoint the problem. Once I have the problem figured out, I organize all the paperwork into one file.

“It looks like we’ll have to take a trip to the EDH office,” I tell Jason.

“Gregory, the accountant, has tried that already with no success, so maybe you need to go along.”

“Alright, let’s plan a day for next week then.”

I find Gregory and Diecon, the MAF driver, and we decide on next week Tuesday morning.

“I’ll leave Jayden with Denise, since I don’t know how long it will take,” I tell them and they nod.

“See you next week!” They bid their goodbyes, and since our work is finished, Jayden and I pack up our backpacks to go back home.

“I kind of liked the whole pushing paper thing,” I tell Jason. “Maybe, I’ll have to come more often.”

Amused he smiles and shakes his head.

“You mean you don’t like working with us?” I ask incredulously. Still grinning, he gives us both a quick hug. “See you at home later!”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Early morning sunshine filters through the windows as I pull a fresh banana loaf out of the oven. Having no other snacks in the house, I decided that banana loaf would be the perfect treat to take to the office, share with the guys and munch on, while I wait for who knows how long at the EDH office! Nothing in Haiti is ever easy, and part of me dreads spending a day explaining a complex problem in a second language.

At 8:30 I kiss Jayden goodbye, give last minute instructions to Denise and hop in the MAF truck. Anoud opens the gate and I slowly back out. At the end of our street, I check my purse only to realize I forgot my cell phone.

Should I worry about going back to get it? Yup, I better. Slowly backing up I park the truck in front of our house as Anoud unlocks the small door in the gate. Always protective of us, he makes sure the truck is out of sight before going back to work.

I thank him and then run inside to search the house for the phone. Not finding it in any of the usual places I finally find it in a side pocket of a different purse. Pulling it out, I run back to the truck and wave goodbye to Anoud. Now to remember how to get to the airport.

Since the main roads are too busy I now take the back roads, and thankfully find my way without a single wrong turn. At this time of day it takes 30 minutes instead of 15 to get to the airport. Parking the truck in the mud parking area I grimace. How am I going to walk through that? Stepping out of the truck I lock the doors and feel squishy mud sucking at my feet. Glad I decided not to wear my customary flip flops, I gingerly make my way to the paved road. With heavy rains every night the city is full of this oozing, nasty mud.

At the main paved road I stomp my feet to try to get the mud off but it stubbornly clings to my black shoes. Oh, well, nothing I can do about it, I decide, as I make my way to airport security.

I stop to put my big purse through the scanner and then carrying my water bottle I walk through the malfunctioning metal detector. Just as I’m ready to pull my purse back off the belt on the other side, a security officer stops me.

“Do you have a fork in your purse?” He asks in Creole.

“Yes.” I reply.

“You need to give that to me Madam!”

“My tiny desert fork?”

“Yes, Madam, it can be used as a weapon.”

“Excuse me Sir, but I have a little baby in my stomach, so I need to eat!” I reply, pointing to my barely visible four month baby bump.

“Sorry Madam!”

“I’m not giving you my fork Sir!” I reply, refusing to lose this battle.” It belongs to a set my Mom bought me for my wedding!”

Seeing my determined expression, he wavers.

“Are you with MAF?”

“Yes sir.” I reply.

“Alright then, just go.”

Smiling triumphantly I pick up my purse and continue on my way. Meeting Jason in the terminal, I can’t help but tease him. “I guess its okay to attack MAF pilots with desert forks!” I joke, telling him of the little episode. Laughingly he shakes his head.

“On a more serious note, a friend of ours is here,” he says, pointing to the waiting area. “He was in a head on collision with a car while driving his motor bike up the road to the Baptist mission. A vehicle was passing on a blind corner and ran right into him.”

“Oh no.”

I walk over to see Stan in a wheel chair with one full leg cast, a banged up knee, and abrasions on his hands and arms. After talking to him for a few minutes he tells us that thankfully he has no head injuries. “The Doctors here are concerned about my chest pains and low blood pressure though, so MAF will fly me to Pignon where Missionary Flights International will pick me up and take me to Florida.“

Expressing our concern and regret we spend some more time talking to him and his parents.

When Gregory and Diecon show up I bid Jason and Stan goodbye and make my way back to the truck.

“Do you want to drive?” Diecon asks.

“I don’t know where the office is so you go ahead.”


All three of us hop in the truck and off we go. Since both Gregory and Diecon speak English, conversation now flows mostly in English with a few Creole words thrown in. Always wanting to learn more about Haitian culture, I ask questions about family, children and marriage. I learn that men can marry at any age without social pressures whereas women are pressured to be married before age 30. I also learn that although traditionally Haitians had large families, many young Haitians now have small families, 2 or 3 children, so they can provide better for their children and give them good educations. I learn that it’s normal for children to start school at the age of 2, since most schooling is in French and at that age, children learn the language quicker. We go on to talk about driving in Haiti and the process of gaining a Driver’s license.

“Did you know that some people purchase a drivers license in Haiti without a single test or lesson?” Diecon asks.

“I certainly did not! Are you serious?”

“Yup, many people don't want to deal with the hassle of getting a license at a driving school because of the exams, cost of renting a vehicle, and paying large sums for an instructor. Taking a road test in crazy Port au Prince traffic can be a nightmare too, so they chose to avoid this by finding someone at the license office who will make a Driver's license for them; for a price of course. “

“Wow, that’s a scary thought!”

Diecon and Gregrory just shrug. “That’s life here. You can do almost anything if you have some money and know the right people.”

My cultural lesson ends at that moment as we pull into what looks like a deserted scrap yard.

“Umm Diecon, I don’t see any EDH office! You aren’t secretly kidnapping me are you?” I joke.

He laughs. “Nope. This is the EDH scrap yard. We have to drive through it to get to the office.”

“Okay then. “

Holding the thick file folder in one hand and balancing my over sized purse in the other we make our way to the front entrance. Inside it seems like a slow day as many people are sitting behind their desks doing nothing. We walk up to a man with a computer who is working and he motions for us to sit down. Gregory explains the problem and after scanning through the paperwork and scratching his head he beckons for us to follow him. We make our way up a flight of stairs. First into one office and then into the next. This goes on for about 15 minutes till we are lead downstairs again to the initial office.

Feeling a little useless as Gregory and Diecon do all the talking I realize my main purpose here is my skin color. Being white means I must be important, and pretty soon more and more people are ‘put on the case.’ I feel a little awkward just being viewed as important because of my skin color, but at least it looks like some progress is being made.

I guess I just have to learn to accept the fact that skin color matters here, I think to myself. It means I have to pay more for fruits and vegetables at the outdoor markets and I’ll have more people ask me for money on the streets, but it also means I get helped quicker in situations like this. It feels wrong, but there’s nothing I can really do about it.

Back in the main office a lady prints out statements from each family showing what happened with the payments. Now with this information we can fix the problem internally. Looking at the metal beams holding up the ceiling tiles at awkward angles I’m a little glad that it doesn’t take long for the printouts to be made. This multi-storey building does not appear to be very earthquake safe.

Knowing it’s useless to think that way, as our times and lives are in God’s hands, I shake my head to clear those thoughts as I follow Gregory and Diecon outside into the warm Caribbean sunshine. Walking back to the truck I thank God again for answering my prayers and resolving the EDH paperwork issues.

My working days, for now, are over.


  1. Great blog! I love the picture where Jayden is sitting coloring. So cute! I'm a bit jealous about the rain you guys have been having though, it's been clouding over here late afternoons, but no rain to cool the air. But then again i guess we don't have to deal with the muck :)

  2. Ah well...all in a day's work
    I am not surprised to read about your determination in refusing to give up your fork

  3. What a priceless story Will .... Oma Krul said. She had to read it out allowed to us here again.

  4. you are a very gifted writer. very interesting detail :)