Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kindergarten Graduation

May 28 was Jayden's last day of kindergarten. 

At 10:00 a.m. we joined him at school for his kindergarten graduation program.

Here Jayden receives his diploma from his teacher. 

After graduation he played on the school playground with some of his friends. 

Grade One will begin in middle of August the Lord willing. Our little boy is sure growing up fast!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

He Provides

May 25, 2013 
Humm... whir.. .the inverter makes a final valiant effort to power the house before failing and shutting down completely. The lights flicker and go dark; silence reigns. It’s 7:15 on Saturday morning, and our back up batteries just ran out of juice. 

Since Jason is still out of commission due to his back pain, I lift Justin off my lap and head for the key hanger in the kitchen. It takes a few moments to locate the correct padlock key, since our key hanger has at least 50 different keys on it and it’s been quite awhile since we’ve had to run the generator. Normally, even when we go days without city power, if we are careful with power consumption we can keep our house running and batteries charged solely on solar power. With the recent cloudy afternoons due to rainy season however, there just hasn’t been quite enough sun. 

Key in hand, I unlock the various slider locks on our front door, slip on an old pair of flip flops and make my way down the steps. At the generator room, I pause to unlock the heavy black padlock. It’s still kind of dark and I make a quick scan for any tarantulas. I know they are in there, so I do my best not to disturb them as I tip toe to the generator. 

Looking at the array of buttons and switches I search my memory for what to do next. Work from right to left I think; circuit breaker up, master on, then the preheat button... Hmm, did I need to hold it down for 12 or 20 seconds? I think 20... Silently counting I hold it down. When I reach 20 I lift the starter switch up. Rumble, Rumble; with a loud rattle and shake and a puff of black smoke the generator comes alive. 

I wait for a few more seconds to make sure it’s running smoothly and then as quickly as I can exit. Although I’m not particularly afraid of spiders I wouldn’t want one running over my bare foot either. 

Walking up the back steps a giant brown rat crosses my path. It pauses to look at me for a moment with his beady black eyes before slinking away through an open drain pipe. A few months back when I noticed him first, I bought a giant metal rat trap at the grocery store, but after he sprung it once, taking the peanut butter bread with him, he never disturbed it again, no matter what tantalizing morsels I placed in it. I had contemplated the idea of putting out poison too, but Denise was a little worried about it eating the poison, and then crawling into one of the drain pipes where we couldn’t find it or reach it and then having to be stuck for weeks with a horrible decomposing rat smell. So until we come up with a better idea, the rat and possibly a few of his relatives and friends are here to stay. 

After a pancake breakfast and a fun workout session on the wii with Jayden, I get to work giving the house a quick clean up. 

When I reach the bedroom I find Jason, who had just come out of the shower, sitting on the edge of the bed groaning in pain. “I can’t breathe.” He whispers hoarsely as his face contorts with pain. “My back...” Unsure of what to do, I instruct him to focus on taking slow breaths. Then with all my strength I lift him onto the bed. 

The next hours are a flurry of heat packs, pain medication, and massaging but nothing seems to help. When Jayden comes to check on what is happening and wonders how he can help we pray together over his Daddy and ask for some relief from the horrible pain he’s feeling. Feeling a sense of peace and calm come over me I remember the words from Phil 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. “ 

Leaving my husband with Jayden for a few moments I head to the kitchen to grab my cell phone and start making calls. After getting some advice from various sources we decide it’s best to get Jason’s back checked and get some kind of diagnose on what is causing his excruciating pain. A contact in Canada gives us information for a United Nations Argentinean Field Hospital where he can be examined. 

Working hard to make babysitting arrangements for the kids, and compiling the necessary documentation, money, water bottle, granola bars etc., for Jason and I, we are ready to leave by 1:00 p.m.. 

The thought of driving my husband over Haiti’s roads with his sore back is not something I am particularly looking forward to though. Helping him into the Prado, I carefully back out of our driveway and onto our rocky street. Over every bump and pothole his face contorts in pain. The 20 minute drive to the hospital seems to take forever and I cringe inwardly at every bump and pothole. 

When we finally find the hospital on a United Nations compound we are joined by a Haitian friend of ours, Bernard, who seems to show up whenever we need help! Two soldiers roll open the gate. Their field hospital is by no means a public hospital, but with the name of the Director written down and with the help of Bernard who speaks Spanish, we are given access. 

When it becomes obvious Jason will not be able to walk into the field hospital, a gurney is quickly rolled out. Two strong male nurses lift him onto the gurney as Jason tries not to cry out in pain. He is then rolled inside and brought to a makeshift exam room. The hospital is inside some empty shipping containers. It is however clean and organized, for which I am thankful. 

Inside, the Director has already been briefed about our situation by our contact in Canada so a Cuban Doctor, who only speaks Spanish, immediately begins to examine Jason’s back. As he pokes, prods and massages he questions Jason with the help of a Haitian translator. 

Watching him, I start to feel light headed . It doesn’t help that the container shakes every time another soldier or nurse walks in either. Excusing myself I clumsily make my way outside. Unlocking the Prado I search under the seats for the water bottle I thought I had brought with me, but can’t seem to find it. 

Remembering I had seen a water dispenser in the front office, I head back inside and help myself. Sitting down, I take a quick drink, and then zip open my purse to find one of the granola bars I had previously packed. I’ve hardly eaten a thing today, so the food and water revives me somewhat. Bernard joins me and I offer him a bar too. While Jason’s examination continues, Bernard tells me how he likes to put in his own IV’s and give his own injections. I laugh. Our talk turns more serious when I start questioning him about old politics. Bernard has a wealth of information about Haiti’s history and I am interested in his opinions. 

20 minutes later I look up in surprise to see Jason actually walking on his own towards me! The Cuban Doctor, with the help of the Haitian translator, explains that he is pretty certain Jason is suffering from a pinched nerve which is causing the painful muscle spasms. He then writes out a prescription for an anti inflammatory pill and some special B vitamins to help heal the nerve. He also gives us a tube of cream. There is no charge for his services and after a friendly hand shake and a profuse thank you on our part, we head back outside. 

Since Bernard knows a pharmacy close by he instructs us to follow him there. Although Jason is walking again it is still difficult for him to get into the Prado so I hoist him up as best I can. 

As we pull out and turn on the AC a belt starts to squeal so I quickly shut the AC off. This only happens when the car is parked in the sun and gets hot. Now we will have to wait for five or ten minutes to run the AC. I push the automatic buttons for both our windows to go down. 

A few minutes later as we wait for a traffic light to turn green we are suddenly surrounded. On Jason’s side a Haitian man is trying to sell us icy, bottled drinks. Momentarily distracted I shake my head at him. “Non mesi.” Turning my attention back to the road I suddenly realize I have two men on my side pushing my window down with dirty hands. “Ou gen bel madam.” (You have a beautiful wife. ) They shout at Jason. “She should be MY beautiful wife,” the young man on the left jeers, his dirty fingers griping my window. More annoyed than afraid I tell him to stop it. I try to push the window button up but the power windows are no match for his strength. “Pa fe sa!” I tell him again, this time prying his hands off the window as I push the button. The window slowly creeps upward. The two other Haitian men tell him to back off and just as the window is about to close on his fingers he lets go. 

“That’s the last time I drive with my windows down,” I turn to Jason and he nods. I change my mind about 30 seconds later though, when the temperature in the Prado becomes almost unbearable. Since we’re moving again and the sidewalks are empty I lower the windows half way down this time. 

A few minutes later we arrive at the pharmacy. Bernard helps me in and examines the different drug options for me. The total for the drugs and vitamins only adds up to 600 Gourdes, about $14 USD, so it’s fairly cheap. 

Back home again, Jayden and Justin, who Denise had been watching , are happy to see us. 

That night as clouds gather and thunder rumbles and mosquitoes buzz around me, I sit on the front porch for my weekly phone call with my parents. It’s nice to hear their familiar voices and feel their love and concern for us even though they are far away. As we chat the street light in the corner of our property flickers dims and hums; obviously there’s a problem with city power again. 

Back inside again I go around and lock and secure all our exterior exits. Turning the kitchen light on I pause momentarily to count 18 baby cockroaches skittering over the counter. I’d better remember to run a bleach cloth over the counters in the morning! 

Over head thunder cracks and lightning flashes. The sky opens and a deluge of rain water hammers our tin roof. 

I head to the bathroom to help Jason into the shower. Thankfully his pain has subsided and he is somewhat mobile again. Since city power isn’t working to power the pump the shower water barely trickles down. Reminding each other that at least we have indoor plumbing, and a comfortable home sheltered from wind and rain our voices join in harmony in a song of praise to God.

Deuteronomy 2:7 says: For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing. 

And it’s true. All that we needed His hand has provided.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just Another Day

"Mama Mama, waaa." I lift the sobbing Justin into his car seat and strap him in. "You'll be all right sweetie," I whisper into his ear as I learn forward and kiss his clammy forehead. Tucking his blanket around him I pop his pacifier into his mouth. It's 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday and he's been sick and feverish since early Sunday morning.  Since I still haven't figured out what is causing the fever I've decided to take him to see the Pediatrician today.

Once he's safely strapped in and comfortable, I back out of our driveway and head out to the main road.

Thankfully traffic on Delmas is light at the moment. Glancing up I can't help but admire the new solar powered street lights. Progress in Haiti; it's great to see!

At the stop light, which even works today, I turn right and snake my way through the windy roads up to the Pan American highway. Although the name sounds impressive, it really is just a two lane road.

To merge in, I cut in front of a pickup. Smiling I give the driver an apologetic wave. He smiles and waves back. We are all good! To get anywhere in Port au Prince you have to be a somewhat aggressive driver, but I've made it my mission to be nice while I'm at it!

Cruising down the Pan American I pass rows of concrete planters, painted to look like wooden ones.

Further along, tin art covers meters of brick walls.

The Pediatrician's office is located in Petionville, a somewhat nicer area of Port au Prince.

At the National Gas Station I take a right, pausing for a moment to snap a photo of the houses built up on the hillside.

Five minutes later I pass the Pediatrician's office.  It doesn't have a parking lot so I spend the next 10 minutes cruising down side streets trying to find somewhere to park. I finally find a spot 5 blocks over. It's in a quieter area, so for once no one comes to try to sell me flowers, or replace my window wipers, or demand payment to guard my car.

Before unstrapping Justin, I sling my diaper bag over one shoulder and my purse over the other. My key chain has a small flask of pepper spray attached to it, so I hang that around my neck. Then I lift my almost 20lb son into my arms and begin the trek back to the Doctor's office. Stopping for a break, I snap a quick photo of the newly painted homes up on the hillside.

One of Haiti's paint companies has been distributing paint to make Port au Prince more beautiful. Although there has been some controversy over this, since plumbing and sewage systems would fulfill a much more practical need, I do think it looks pretty!

At the Doctor's office I find a chair to sit. My lethargic boy sits quietly beside me playing with his bottle.

About ten minutes later he starts to liven up a little and wants to get down to play. When the nurse finally calls us, it's difficult to tell he even is sick. Dr. Mevs, a French Haitian Female Doctor, checks him over thoroughly but comes up empty.

"I will write up a note for the lab so you can get some blood work done so we can rule out things like Malaria and Dengue Fever," she tells me. She draws me a quick map of how to get to the lab and off we go again.

Since the map reading software in my brain is malfunctioning, like usual, it takes a little while to find the lab.

Once inside, the lab technicians insists on speaking French rather than Creole to me, as Creole is considered a lower class language, so it takes a while for us to understand each other.

Justin is not impressed at all when she makes a small cut in his finger and then squeezes the blood out into ten tiny vials. I do my best to calm him, but am also very relieved when she is finished. After paying for the tests, we head back outside.

On the way home I spend a few moments talking with Jason who tells me he's suffering from severe back pain. "I was just sitting at my desk and stood up! Now my back keeps having these horrible spasms."

I offer to pick him up, but he tells me he will wait it out. It won't be that long before the other pilots head home anyway.

When I'm finally home, three hours later, I lay my exhausted baby back in bed.

At 3:30 Jason hobbles through the gate and up the stairs. He looks terrible. His whole body is bent at a very awkward angle. I help him into bed and then call my friend who is a physiotherapist. She's in a meeting but promises to come over as soon as she is finished.

At 4:15 I call the lab for Justin's blood test results. Once again the lab technician insists on speaking French to me. After repeating the same questions several times I finally come to the understanding that the tests showed no signs of Dengue Fever or Malaria. Other than a rash that is now forming over his body he seems to be acting like himself again, so I am thankful for the good news.

As I prepare a simple dinner of beef and veggie wraps, the sky darkens and thunder rumbles. A little later the sky opens and torrential rains hammer the city. Looking out the front door, I notice that once again I forgot to take our shoes in on time.

Lightning and thunder flash and rumble simultaneously; the sound is deafening. To protect our home from electrical surges I head out into the rain to switch city power off.

When the rain finally begins to diminish, our friends arrive. I quickly convert our dining room table into a massage therapy table and Mindy gets to work. The mix of rain and heat has meanwhile transformed our home into a natural steam room.

When she's finished working, Jason's back thankfully feels a little better.

That night, as darkness falls we thank God for His love and care.  Although trials may come and the journey gets harder, our Heavenly Father is always with us.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Of Paved Roads and Rainy Afternoons

Dark rain clouds smother the sun as I stare out the front screen door. 

Peering through the black mesh I notice a dozen or more mosquitoes clinging on, waiting for their opportunity to sneak in and attack undetected. I give the screen a quick flick and they retreat, only to return several seconds later. Even with the thick cloud layer, it’s exceptionally warm and humid today. 

Checking my watch I notice it’s already after 2:30 p.m.. It’s time to get Justin out of bed so we can pick up Jayden from school! 

I make my way down the hallway and crack open the bedroom door. Quietly making my way over to his crib I pause when I see my baby fast asleep. Long eye lashes feather down over rosy cheeks as his right arm clutches his favourite blanket. His small body, for once still, is completely relaxed in sleep. 

Tiptoeing to the change table I find his shark sandals in the bottom drawer. Then leaning over the side of the crib I carefully slip them on. Still sleeping, I lift him and his blanket out of the crib and cuddle them close. He opens his eyes sleepily and then closes them again as I carry him to the kitchen and grab my purse and keys off the counter. 

Outside, I unlock the Prado and fasten him into his big boy car seat. At almost 15 months our baby is growing up fast!

I wait for Anoud to roll open the gate and then slowly back up unto our rocky street. A white goat grazes on some grass just a few meters outside our gate. 

Although he’s not tied to anything and there is no one in sight, I am certain he is being watched. 

I turn right, then left, then right again. First up, then back down and then up again. Glancing out of the passenger window I see a plethora of houses built in a ravine. 

A little further, I slow down and stop behind a broken down vehicle, something made obvious by the tree branch hanging off of his bumper. 

I wait for a break in oncoming traffic and then maneuver quickly around it. Up ahead is a blind corner and I do not want to be in the pathway of any upcoming vehicles heading down the steep incline. At the top of the incline I turn right onto Delmas 83. The now paved road is wonderful! 

Road construction has been happening all over Port au Prince and although it often causes long traffic delays, the progress and hope it brings for the country and her people makes it worth it! 

I soon turn off the main road onto a side road to get to Jayden’s school. These little side roads are not paved yet. 

After several twists and turns I arrive at the school gate. The guard waves me in, and I quickly find a parking spot. With Justin in my arms we make our way to the Kindergarten and Preschool playground. 

Since Jayden likes to play for a little while after school I put Justin down and spend a few moments chatting with the teachers. Justin quickly finds Jayden’s juice bottle in the row of backpacks and lunch kits and runs off with it. 

Two of Jayden’s friends then lift him onto a metal rocking horse. 

When he starts to complain I help him down, and then together we head over to the swing set where Jayden is swinging. Saturday will be flag day in Haiti so the kids made Haitian flags today. 

When it is 3:00 p.m. and the neighbour children are finished school as well, we head to their meeting areas to pick them up. Then all together we make our way back to the vehicle. 

“Mom, I made this Haitian flag at school, but I think we should make a Canadian one at home! I wasn’t born in Haiti, I was born in Canada, so I should have a Canadian flag! Can you help me make one Mom?” 

 “Sure!” I smile down at his animated face and tousle his hair. 

Back in the Prado I make sure everyone is safely belted in before heading for home once again. As I drive the sky continues to darken with heavy rain clouds. Now that it is rainy season, we have almost daily afternoon or evening rains. After dropping off the neighborhood kids we head on home, making it safely inside just before the first drops begin to fall.