Monday, February 21, 2011

The glorious mountains!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ahh…Haitian countryside.  Nothing is as refreshing as the crips air you breathe in going up the Haitian hillside.  There are beautiful rolling hills as far as the eye can see, challenging roads to be traversed and random livestock to be encountered.  It truly is a place without comparison.
 Leaving Port Au Prince

Mountain village trips are such a contrast to the Port Au Prince area.  The city is busy, dusty and appears rundown.  Once you leave the city, the colors of the mountains jump out at you.  Exotic pink and yellow flowers litter the luscious green hillside and the city life hustle and bustle is replaced with a sense of serenity…I could go on and on with the sappy adjectives. 

My camera never seems to capture just how green everything is.

This trip was extra contradicting as we drove through the richest area of Haiti on our way to the village.  We saw houses that looked like they belonged on a wealthy southern plantation, rather than the poorest country in the western hemisphere.   We would occasionally steal a glance beyond the elaborate steel gates and would see acres of manicured lawns, perfected landscapes, a 3 story house and at least 2 or 3 satellite dishes.  Once at the village, I remember studying the shacks a few feet away from me, when the elaborate houses on the hillside caught my attentions.  What a clash.  How can such extreme poverty and wealth coincide in such a small area?

Typical house in the village

I turned 90 degrees from the last photo and took this one: it's hard to tell, but there are huge mansions back there

With what seem like the standard in Haitian Mountain villages, our clinic took place in the local church.  HERnow had actually been here about two weeks ago and the population was relatively healthy.  We did continue with deworming treatment, as we could see it was needed.  I also saw a gorgeous 1 year old that had been wheezing for 6 months.  The only thing I could do was suggest that her parents try to get her to the hospital in Port Au Prince.  Again, such a simple treatment that is unavailable.  How is it fair?
 The "clinic"

Love the kids!

There was this twelve year old girl who tugs at my heartstrings every time I think of her.  She was wearing these dressy sandles that were about two sizes too small.  She had developed calluses on her insteps because her heels were hanging off of her ill-fitting shoes, making her walk funny.  To add insult to injury, the calluses had cracked open and dirt was starting to cake in the cracks. 

A few of us were planning on leaving shoes behind anyways, so we let her pick out which shoes she wanted.  So, yeah, we literally gave her shoes off of our feet!  And socks for that matter too, but they were in a bad need of a wash!

I got to see lots of little ones today.  Those little faces will forever bring me back to Haiti.  I probably didn’t save lives by performing adrenaline pumping procedures, but I did treat almost everyone for tinea and scabies.  I hope I also showed I cared and loved for them. Maybe that’s enough.

Jeff, our photographer, and I decided to wander a bit while I took a break from my station.  We followed a trail down the hillside, took some pictures and interacted with locals using our limited Creole.  Before we knew it, we saw some very odd looking people working.  It took me a minute to figure out what was so odd about their appearance.  Then it hit me- they were white!  I almost stopped and yelled “Blan!” like I had heard shouted in my direction throughout the trip.

Upon talking to them, we learned there were a Mennonite group that “adopted” this village.  Two years ago, they started building a school/church.  It was quite a site, two woman in their “pilgrimage” dress at a lice treatment station, men working on a multitude of construction projects and “blan” children running around. 

After seeing about 150 patients, we had to pack up in order to get home before dark.   Our trip home contained our standard obstacles with the road.  This time, the truck wasn’t able to climb the steep incline out of the village.  So we hauled our equipment and supplies up the hill where our truck was waiting for us.  Yes, we had to carry everything downhill on the way there, but I forgot to think about the climb back.  A half mile feels like an eternity when you are carrying bags and pretty much going straight up hill.  And poor Elaine, who had given her shoes to the twelve year old!
 Part of our "stroll"

I'm sure this trek was highly entertaining. 

We finally reached the truck and heaved ourselves and supplies into the back of the truck.  Our rest was short lived however, when we realized we were too heavy for the truck to make it out with us in it.  So we walked further uphill.  And further… It felt like 10 miles, but maybe it was only a mile or so. That should make up for some of my gym classes.

We waited for the truck at the top of a summit with this odd tree house.  I hope there aren’t kids playing on it. All it is a few rusted pieces of sheet metal hanging off a hillside, haphazardly attached to a tree. The chance that someone would get cut by rusted metal or simply fall through the floor and down about a hundred feet is gigantic.  But we played on it anyway.  Hey, when in Rome…

It’s our last night in Haiti and we are winding down with a game of scrabble.  It’s hard to believe that we leave tomorrow.  Once again, the trip is too short and I don’t feel that I did enough.  But then again, there isn’t as much to do.  Haiti has gotten so much media exposure, people are rushing to get in.  The aid has helped so much that there just isn’t as much need- at least in Port Au Prince. Outside of the city, I’m sure there is a severe necessity for help; it’s just not as possible to access. I feel like I am leaving mountains worth of people out.  

However, as Americans, we must be careful not to abandon what we started.  As aid workers switch from emergency mode to maintenance mode, it’s vital we don’t lose what we have gained.  The moment we forget about the struggling survivors, the moment it all of the efforts are for not.  Haiti has suffered an earthquake, an extraordinary rainy season, choler and a violently contested election.  And they have survived. 

I know keeping people healthy isn’t as glamorous as “rescuing” people from the stories heard on the nightly news, but it’s just as important.  Ok, off of my soapbox and on to planning my next trip…

No comments:

Post a Comment