Monday, January 25, 2016

The Final Journey- Leaving Haiti

Its been a month since I left Port au Prince- ahead of the storm that is Haiti elections.
A bit of winter weather delayed my return to Portland by a week due to traveling with my dog but it allowed for an adjustment to temperature and a bit of rest and relaxation and Christmas with my son. 
Now in Portland, it is a different reality. It’s winter, gray and rainy, cold. At least in comparison. Hot chocolate, a fire, layers of clothing and family keep me warm. 
I wake early, usually about 5:30, lay listening to nothing really- no roosters are crowing, no dogs are barking, no horns are honking. I don’t hear the village begin the day in the silence and darkness of my house, but only in my heart do I know that music. 
I take Jak for walks and to the dog park (when its not raining- she also doesn’t really like the rain) and find myself talking to her in Kreyol.  She doesn’t listen well in either language but she likes going to the park. 
I continue to get news from my friends and colleagues in Haiti, their messages of ‘you miss us’ tugs at the heart strings- I do miss many of them.  They have taught me much these past years, least of which is humility and grace, kindness and to count your blessings. I promised I would come back to visit and they promised to visit me. 

It remains to be seen  what is next up on this adventure but for sure it will have to be big to equal life in Haiti. However, right now I’m not looking for big, just time to get re-acquainted with my family and friends, my neighborhood and city. While I am doing that I still need to find a job, and find my place. Life is different here. Unimportant things are made more important, time is expensive and one has to stop at all red lights. 

Noel and me

Lade and me

Jak in her travel home

The remainder of 6 years possessions. 

                                                            Jak relaxing
                                                             Alise and Tamara
                                                            Leaving can be difficult
                                                     Jak adjusting to a new life...
                                                     new weather.....
                                                     and potential new friends at the dog park.
                                                              Sunrise this morning as I was going to attempt a fitness class... and I can hardly move tonight. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Haiti: A Final Reflection

Haiti: Reflections of my journey has been about me, about my thoughts and my observations of my trips since 2007 and since I began living here in 2010.  I’ve not written anything since June- mainly because my ‘reflections’ went to a much deeper place to come to a decision.  I will be leaving in December and returning to Portland.  It hasn’t been an easy decision by any means but it is time.  This may be the hardest one yet to write.

My blog was started because I was writing emails to my friends and family and more people wanted to be part of my journey by reading about my experiences while I was here and it turned into a mass email, then 2 mass emails as the number grew.  Someone kindly suggested a kinder method of sharing by writing the blog. Thank you to that someone!  The sharing, in many ways, has become my journal and for that reason at times I wish that I had made more entries.   Thank you for sharing my journey!

Twice since 2010, my computers have crashed and I’ve lost photos, my camera was stolen and many of the photos had not yet been downloaded- precious photographic memories lost as quickly and as permanently as if they had been lost in a fire.  Except those that I shared on Facebook or on my blog! Photos such as my visit to the National Palace in 2009 and photos of my dad’s memorial.  Both equally irreplaceable but yet here they are.  I don’t really need the photos however to remember the memories etched in my heart like a tattoo- the memories are brought to me through faces that I can scroll like a flipbook and recall whenever I want.  Thank you for the memories!

I’ve met many good people while living in Haiti. Wonderful people that will be forever friends. People that I have great respect for because of the work they did or continue to do and that have inspired me for that reason.   Then there is my Haitian family- those that have cared, comforted, laughed and shared and cried with me.  I am grateful for the opportunity to know these people that have become friends and I shall miss them dearly.  Thank you for your friendship and love!

I can say it was Healing Hands for Haiti that brought me to Haiti but it was the people that I met over the years, along the way that will keep my heart when I leave.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ewald, future Senator in Haiti,  with his blan family after graduation from Portland State U.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for you.  You've made a lot of people proud today. Lots of love son, mom.

L'Union Fait la Force : Flag Day

Flag Day- May 18th
My posts have been long overdue.  It is Flag Day here in Haiti.  Part of the reason for this is the election process.  I’m a bit fascinated by it. And it seems there is news about it every day.   These elections are long overdue.  It is not even a sure thing that they will happen on schedule – the first round is set for August 28th.   There are about 140 positions for senators and deputies and mayors in many cities throughout the 10 departments add more. There are about 2000 plus candidates for these few positions.  This is also the final year of President Michelle Martelly’s  reign.  Since January, and with a ‘temporary government’ in place, he has ruled by decree- like a king.  The number of candidates for president has been trimmed from 50-something to about 24 now. The number of political parties reduced to 125. 
In the US, although we do have more than 2 parties, the Republicans and the Democrats have held the power for the last century.  We may not always agree with our party of choice, and we have the right to change our choice, the strength of one party over the other often causes change to go into effect.  In the US, the president can also run for second term back to back- often when the incumbent wins, the second term is much more productive.  The President has nothing to lose by fighting for what he has wanted since his first election.  In Haiti, the president cannot run for a second consecutive term, so he is going to fight for his choice for his party- with the hope of back to back to back of victories.  Aristide-Preval-Aristide-Preval had their opportunity although Aristide couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain, Preval was the only president to complete 2 full terms in office- in over 200 years. Until Martelly, the King of Kompas turned King, err President of Haiti.  The first round of Presidential elections is set for October 25, with the run-off election of top 2 vote getters scheduled for late December. 
The motto on the Haitian flag is L’Union Fait La Force or Unity Makes Strength. 
Not to be disrespectful but I find great irony in this in so many ways.  With 2000 candidates, it is obvious that the 125 parties, have more than a few candidates for each position.  So even as those 2000 are spread out over the 10 departments, there are still a lot of candidates to learn about. What if you can’t read?  And if you are not aligned to any particular party, say you are able to vote for the first time- how do you choose which party meets your personal views. And how are your views formed?   In my home, growing up, I always thought my dad was a democrat and was never sure about my mom as she never really seemed to care about politics- maybe she was too busy as a farmer’s wife but it was always a little confusing as my dad kept saying he voted for Harry S.  It wasn’t until many years later, when Obama was running for president that I saw each of them differently and probably more honestly.  I had always viewed my dad as the more progressive, more enlightened, more open if you will UNTIL Sarah came into the scene…but I digress here and since my dad is no longer here to debate or in fact to defend himself, I shall have to move on.  My mom likes Obama and after my dad died, she received a letter from him, thanking my father for his service to his country.  She hung it above the chair he always sat in and thought it quite funny.
Back to Haiti…family history most likely is first influence in a young person’s political views as is probably true of everyone. In Haiti, the influence, and reactions, may be a little stronger in some cases, depending on the family history in politics or because of politics. Dictatorships, coups, violence, poverty tends to affect people’s thinking.  There seems to be a tendency here that if people are promised change and then when change is too slow the politician falls out of favor.  The President for change, the King of Kompas, had a huge task placed in front of him in taking on this crown after the 2010 earthquake.  The election of 2010 was drawn out nearly 6 months before he took office, the country still reeling from earthquake, then hurricanes, and cholera,  foreign ‘experts’ all over the country with their own ideas of what this country needs most,  and  not to mention the government and the people, themselves.  His popularity goes up and down like Obama’s.
As I read about and reflect on the politics of Haiti on this Flag Day holiday, they are really no different than politics in the US or probably anywhere.   Just as interesting or not, just as corrupt, dull, confusing, frustrating, and controversial, as anywhere.  Difficult to trust who may be honest or who can get the job done after all the political rhetoric is put to rest and the wheels need greased.  Living here, I feel a great distance from the politics of the US and have little to do with politics here in my adopted country. 
Unity Makes Strength.  I think whoever has the number #10 next to his name will have an excellent chance of winning.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Haiti- Rising Above the Rubble- 5 Years Later

Today, like most other Sundays I have off is spent like many Sundays people spend here in Haiti or anywhere really. Watching the whatever big game is on TV, relaxing, washing the car, going to the barber, relaxing....But as if I could forget, google news is reminding me that 5 years ago, life changed for many people. Five years ago today, Haiti had a relatively peaceful, stable and relatively functioning government. But on January 12, 2010 everything changed. The earth rumbled, the earth trembled and the walls fell. The houses fell. The businesses fell and the government fell.
Amongst the rubble, good intentions rose and 'Build Back Better' became the chant that would solve all the problems over the next 5 years. Promotion of jobs for everyone. Promotion of tourism. Improved security with the Politour - a new security police trained to provide security for those tourists that would come pouring in to visit the new and improved version of Haiti. Unfortunately, the good intentions have seemingly faded under the sun.
Anti-Martelly protests have filled the streets regularly these past months. The Prime Minister was asked to resign as part of a deal to soothe someones ruffled feathers in December.  International Governments are calling for accountability.
Tomorrow marks 5 years since the earthquake but because elections haven't been held at anytime during the past 4 years, it will also mark the end of a Democratic government- amidst cries of corruption, Martelly will become the president turned dictator until elections are actually held.
The presidential elections are due to be held in November, but elections for Senators, Deputies, Mayors whose terms have expired over the years are supposed to be held in April. or May. or who knows.
As reporters descend upon the country to cover the anniversary, they also have fodder to make negative  headlines because its what sells.  'Where's the transparency?", Tens of Thousands Still Living in Tents, Cholera Epidemic Haunts Haiti,  'Effects of Quake still felt by Canadians'.
In short, the world wanted a slight miracle to happen apparently- That Haiti- the same one without much of  an infrastructure and not much history for transparency, the same one with  poor medical facilities and even worse police department was to turn itself upside down and inside out to be whatever foreign governments wanted it to be.
And yet despite it all, progress has been made. Progress is happening. Despite the governments lack of functionality and transparency
Yes, it is very disturbing to know that there are about 70 thousand families  still living in make-shift tent and scraps of found metal and wood.  It's sad the a US judge recently dismissed the lawsuit against the UN for its responsibility for bringing cholera to a country that hadn't seen this epidemic and deadly disease in generations.
This Haiti where over 150 new schools have been built; roads have been paved; hospitals and clinics are providing better than ever healthcare and rehabilitation. Tourists are coming. Bike races, marathons, and even polo are competing with the national sport of soccer for attention. Over a million people that lost homes, do have homes. Government buildings are being built.
On this eve, its been reported that a new political accord is about to be signed before the midnight deadline. Perhaps the political impasse will be avoided by this; perhaps not, but the people of Haiti should recognize that the possibilities with Build Back Better are indeed happening. It is up to the people of Haiti to rise above the daily hardships, to let their voices be heard in the solidarity and strength they showed when the earth rumbled and trembled and the walls came down.
I hope the walls stay down and rising in their place is hope that in the coming 5 years we will see a stable government that represents the people will be put into place and those 10's of thousand people will find permanent and safe homes, education and healthcare will reach new standards of excellence, and cholera will once again be history.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Turning Back Time- In Haiti

Daylight Savings Time started this morning- as I was reminded in a 6 am text message. My opportunity to take advantage of the extra hour of lost to the chime on my phone.  The darkness that was there yesterday morning suddenly replaced by light making further slumber impossible.
I laid in bed thinking about the passage of time, turning back time.
Passage of time- Jean Claude Duvalier, mostly better known as Baby Doc died recently and as a private funeral was held, the passage of an era known only to those of age before 1986 and by those since in the stories of their families.
Turning back time this morning, would I change anything other than to get that extra hour of sleep? Its a tough question that indicates regrets. Having regrets is non-productive.  Certainly, I have traded some  precious time with my family and friends, but in knowing they were developing and living their own lives, its not necessarily quantity of time spent but he quality- the time you do have with those you love and miss you give your full attention.
We choose the road we take (or its chosen for us) in life based on many factors. Our experiences in life, our growth through those experiences, our sense of adventure, the people we meet and those that have influenced us in some way through their lifes' experiences.
I remember my dad's aunt once telling me that I should seek to travel and that working for the United Nations was a way to do that.  As a 12 year old farm girl, I had no idea what that meant. but I never forgot it.  She herself was passionate about travel and did so often, even well into her 80's.
Did that have any influence in the direction I've taken years later? May there is some parallel universe that nudges us to veer off the 'normal' path or take that right turn at the crossroads.
 However I got here, it has taken me on another path. I have a new job and am 6 weeks into managing the HHH Klinik.  My title is Coordinator of Programs for Education.  A change and a challenge and a way to use the 20 plus years of working in rehab and along side of some pretty awesome people in Portland and now 5 years in Port au Prince.  I don't have time to turn back more than an hour on this road from 'Port au Port'.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Politics and Play

Egads! Its been ages since I've updated my blog...A lot has happened since that last post. What inspires me to write is pretty random at best. It is usually something unexpected or a situation I am grappling with that leads a million different thoughts floating in my head in those hours of dark that I should be sleeping. Concrete solutions don't necessarily follow however- at least not last night.

The big news this week has been the prison break with 329 prisoners escaping, the most notorious, an alleged and confessed kidnapper was caught along with about 19 others over the past few days. The Haiti National Police force are said to be working hard searching for the rest while questions swirl about how this could happen in the newest and most secure prison in Haiti.  I think it is all about politics. This is supposed to be the year of elections- which were scheduled for October 26 but have been postponed...
Politics in US, especially in a major election year is mostly annoying to me. Campaign sound bites, constant ads, negative speechifying and the amounts of money spent are ridiculous. For some reason, here in Haiti, I find it fascinating. Of course, what I understand is that I will never understand it. There are so many levels - not the least of them is the history. I read a list of the parties that have registered- well over a hundred and those don't include some of the major parties. Campaign speeches are limited to a few months before the actual election is to take place. I've been told that a candidate must have $300,000 to register and campaign. That means a candidate must be rich to fund his own or more likely someone funding his campaign. If however, if you are not in a majority, where do you get the funds?  So I will follow, listen and try to understand all of the complexities knowing as I do so, I never will. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a story- or memory, of past elections or the dictatorship of Papa Doc and his son that pretty much dictates how they feel about voting. I think only one President (Preval)  has full-filled his full term of election, twice.  Although many did not vote in the last election, most all were quite happy that Martelly was elected as he promised people that change would come, that the country was open for business (his campaign slogan).  However, as this year progresses, there are usual signs of discontent- manifestations being just one indicator. If you ask people if they are satisfied with the progress made- and there has been progress over the last 4 years, unless it directly impact their life, they aren't really satisfied. Itswa or tripotai- stories and gossip- are more readily spread and believed. On a personal level they don't believe their vote matters. But this is no different anywhere else, is it?

On a more fun note, last Sunday a group of us went to Jacmel for the day- a walk along the board walk, a little shopping and lunch on the beach, mostly just a relaxing getaway from the big city. Returning to Port au Prince- and home, was not as relaxing as once we reached the outskirts of the city, we got into traffic. Literally, 2 and 1/2 hours of sitting or inching was spent people watching, speculating about the traffic problem- and solving the countries problems. Once we got moving, it took no time at all to get to the guesthouse with the driver finding streets and short cuts to avoid anymore traffic. As patient as he was, he was definitely tired of it.

Tomorrow is a holiday, so we have a 3 day weekend to fill with activities or not. Maybe some time at the pool, maybe a day trip to the beach. It will be a topic of discussion at the dinner table tonight.

Variety of photos from Jacmel