Brain Freeze

Well my darlings let me take a moment to apologize for my current lack of substance! You see there seems to be a wee bit of a problem with my writing style lately.  There is none! No style, no words, no wisdom, no funny stories, no nothing! Just me, sitting behind my desk, staring into my computer screen wondering, hoping, praying that something, anything will end up written on this blank page before me. This usually ends up with me daydreaming about chocolate instead.

It actually isn’t even centered around what I may or may not have to say. There are tons of ideas swirling around in my head like fresh spun cotton candy! My problem stems from being able to capture these little gems as they whiz by from one side of my brain to the other.  Just when I think I have one of those squirrely little buggers captured for exploitation, my brain just FREEZES! That’s right all active brain matter freezes leaving me with the look of a pale-faced fresh corpse at the county morgue.

It also appears that my ability to type has lost its “mojo”! For some reason I went from a self-taught keyboard wizard to johnny hunt and peck! My thumb is whacking the space bar at random and my left hand seems to be encroaching upon the right hands territory without permission! There is a full-scale war going on between the two of them within the boundaries of 78 little tiles of statehood.  The flashing position line on my screen has advanced and retreated more times than I care to count! And for whattosugrste thatg theredsi nope   hope form e anyymogre? SEE WHAT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH!

I can’t tell whether Alzheimer’s is taking hold or I am just losing it mentally from stress? What was I rambling about again? Oh yes, Jello in the cafeteria is really quite good if you get it just after it comes out of the cooler.

Dogs and cats will never get along, women will always wonder why men feel the need to fix everything and children no matter how hard we try can and will never allow you to get out of the house on time.  Wait… sorry, sorry, my bad, wrong storyline.

So as I was saying, my brain is fried, my ability to cope shattered and I promise, any day now between a cup of coffee and a fifth of whiskey more stories about life, love and the pursuit of happiness, I mean children will be forth coming.

Heavy sigh…

Betty….

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What’s new

Hello everyone! Just a note to let you all know Betty is still alive and kicking. Since returning home from Haiti I’ve had a hard time writing. Oh many stories have been crafted but placing that final polish has been a challenge.

Polishing those stories has also been further hampered by the fact my truck was broken into and my laptop was stolen with every original story ever written by yours truly. During my haste to perfect my knowledge of the new laptop I failed to back anything up so there you have it! A writer without a pen or muse.

What’s new?

I am currently assigned to the Rim fire in Yosemite valley thusly my time continues to be limited, but I promise more to come in the next few days as I try my best to write from my phone!

Happy days ahead

Betty…..

Returning to normal?

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Sleepy haze, disoriented, unsure of my whereabouts are all descriptions in regards to my mental state of being this morning. It was a fantastic night’s sleep as I remember nothing from the moment my head hit the pillow. Staring at the bunk above me this uncomfortable, possibly 30 year old mattress perched upon springs tied into a prison style metal bed is now the luxury treatment of a lifetime. No longer will I sleep atop a two by four flat adorned with foam two inches thick covered with bed sheets. Gone from my senses the smell of urine and garbage. Absent from my subconscious, a fear of awaking to a tarantula feasting on my big toe. No moths the size of bats hovering overhead looking for a face to land upon or a wall to bounce off. Instead in this room are three of my colleagues, a fan spinning overhead, and clean tropical air left over from last night’s rain. It should leave me blissful, pleased to be here in the guesthouse after a job well done, but it did not, for now that I’m awake, thrust back into reality, my brain focuses solely on processing this entire week! It’s like mental TiVo running in your head and someone is continually pressing fast forward. It’s all there for me to see, lying on my back, reliving emotions I was hoping to put away. Feeling broken, worried, and tired, I eventually roll off the bunk head into the bathroom and brush my teeth. Time to wake up, put on a fake smile and go downstairs, it’s our anniversary today (Jacy and I) and I want to look somewhat coherent while telling my wife how much I love her. My heart aches to see her, but as I wander off I find my heart also aching for something else; our children.

Time seems to be running short this morning as we hustle through breakfast, gather our belongings, make one last round through the guest house and move into the loading area out front. I am finding it hard to keep a straight thought, blaming it on fatigue I wallow through most of our chores for the morning. Taking a moment before its time to go I see a small child wander through the patio area. I start thinking about the harmless unassuming children of Source a Philippe and how their little souls steal a piece of you. Bright, funny and carefree, unaware of any struggle that lay before them.haiti 3 These children run naked through the village, swim unassuming in the ocean and are left to their own devices on many occasions. Their parents love them as any parent loves a child. The village church considers them the future, holding them in high regards, or so it seems. But as a parent myself from what I have personally witnessed they deserve so much more. Maybe it’s my “American” way of thinking, maybe it’s the way I was raised, or maybe it’s possibly an assumption built upon years of education and experimentation in the parenting department. But the way I see it a child should have a chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated.

You can argue the same could be said about our growing population of forgotten children back home, the very products of poverty, drugs, physical and mental abuse, divorce, death and hate. Children trapped with baby daddys and mothers who never claim them as their own until cashing the monthly welfare or federal assistance checks provided by a local government. You can argue assistance is needed or OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnot, that’s not my point. The difference as I see it? These children here in Haiti are loved by their parents, these children were wanted and are not the product of someone else’s inability to be responsible. These children are considered part of a “bigger” picture and considered a gift from God. Children who are trapped in an ideological system that punishes them for simply not being born into the right family. Haitian children right now in this century of rapid knowledge, ground breaking technology, advancements in medicine can’t even receive simple health care. If a child here gets a cold, parents pray, if a child is bitten by one of the many creatures of La Gonave the family prays, if they fall and break a bone and that particular family has a few extra dollars they may travel by foot to a local hospital to have it set. But in most cases the family will set it themselves and then everyone prays. It is unacceptable. These children, their smiles, sunny dispositions and fantastic senses of humor steal your heart. When you leave, your heart breaks looking into their eyes, because you know there is better out there for them in this giant world. I am sad because I know many of the children I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmet and played with this week at some point will become seriously ill and a few may even perish as a result of this lack of basic health care. Is that Gods will? Or is the reason I am here because God called for me, asking me to use what few talents I hold to help these children, these adults and their families? I am not sure. The answers I am looking for are not readily available to me right now, my mind filled with more questions, undoubtedly clogging my receptors, leaving me incapable of receiving any information that may benefit my dilemmas.

We have eaten a fast breakfast and relayed our goodbyes. Shaking Toms hand for what will be the last time here in OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaiti as Toms three year commitment comes to an end next month. He has done some very good work and I am sure its nerve racking turning over a project you have headed up for so long without fear. But none the less the work stands on its own and I think this operation will not be the same without him, it was truly an honor to meet this man. As I walk away, I pray it is not goodbye but instead, “until we meet again.” Sarah is also transferring out OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnext month and anxiously awaits the opportunity to reconnect with her husband. They have been apart for 6 months and she longs to see him once again. Hugs were had by all and as with all heartfelt goodbyes love was felt in the simple human connection we all share. Loading into a Tap Tap for the ride to the airport, our driver brings his behemoth machine to life OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAonly to kill it just as quickly. We all stare at each other in disbelief as he tells Tom there is no fuel in the tank. After a moment of silence a small giggle turns into chuckles, for running out of gas while trying to make it to the airport is the least of our troubles after what we have been through over the last 10 days! Surviving dysentery, heat issues, emotional turmoil, almost capsizing our boat on the return ride home, lots of vomiting, and an accident in the compound van, being out of fuel is just funny. I think we will be just fine.

Driving through many side streets it’s very obvious we are taking the scenic route and before my suspicion is confirmed we round a corner into one of the last tent cities still OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoperating. It smells awful, looks just as bad and all I can think about are the reports of gangs, crime and rape that comes from inside these places. Thankfully fabric tent like clusters are becoming fewer as infrastructure is rebuilt, allowing for even the poorest to find a roof over their heads. But none the less tent cities still exist, many are looking a little more like permanent structures, I pray the last of them are demolished soon, they are after all ground zero for a majority of the health issues still plaguing this city. Turning down one more street surrounding this lost compound we run across a group of Haitians exiting a main OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtent city thorough fare. They seem to have a “look” about them and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it resembles the 30 mile stare I have referenced before. It speaks of hunger and exhaustion held together by pride. As we drive away I remind a few not to take pictures as we wouldn’t want to upset anyone.

Arriving at the airport once again red coats descend upon us like locust, grabbing our bags, being told no, then lunging again hoping we let them cart our stuff away. I wouldn’t mind the assault so much but it becomes tiresome after refuting their advancements more than half a dozen times. Either way we press up like a herd of cows using numbers for safety and make it into the airport with money and belongings in tow. The airport flow is faster than last time, people checking in without any issues, it is a very welcome sight indeed. In the blink of an eye we are processed, ticketed then pushed through one security checkpoint only to do the same shoeless dance again once we reach our gate. Its ok with me, I would rather have too many security measures in place than not enough when it comes to flying. Sitting together near gate 2, my chest begins to hurt and so does my brain! Looking around our terminal everyone else looks beat OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAup as well so I won’t complain. We make idle small talk, jokes about talking pimples, smelly body odor, giant tarantulas, and goat! Eating goat, seeing goats, smelling goats, wanting to cut the vocal cords out of goats! (Kidding, no goats were harmed in the writing of this piece) Everything and anything but what is really on our minds. It’s painful to watch these people trying to process an entire 10 day journey in the few minutes we have before boarding our plane, but you can see that is exactly what many of them are trying to do. Why now? Because the gravity of this trip has taken hold, the anticipation of making this journey is gone, the excitement about performing such a huge task is over, it’s complete and all that is left are memories. Many appear lost in disbelief, almost 10 months of planning, hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars raised! Now all that’s left are memories. It just can’t be true.

Boarding our plane other missionaries are wandering the cabin, we exchange pleasantries along with the nod. I call it the “nod of completion”. It is an almost arrogant nod, and it should be as we’ve earned the right to look into our fellow missionaries eyes and have a fair sense about what others have been through. Seated near the window, several more jokes are bantered about seamlessly. Melissa is cracking me up as usual and Heather is the Abbot to her Costello. The plane taxis down the runway, slowly turns and sits. Four jet engines begin to strain against locked wheels held in place by our captain. Its time. Time to go home, time to put this trip in the books, time to see our family and share our joy of missionary work with all who will listen. This trip may be a little harder sell when it comes to promoting missionary work, but then no one said our journey was to be easy. There are no promises on each trip, it is not a vacation though many of us use our yearly vacation time to participate in these missions. No; part of doing God’s work is knowing it may be a challenge or it may be a breeze, but either way if you have faith there is nothing that can’t be handled.

Somewhere in the terminal while passively eavesdropping a statement was overheard that really struck a cord with me. “Finally we are leaving this mess and going back to a normal way of living” This got me thinking; What is normal, and what does normal look like? 3 years ago if you asked me what normal was I am pretty sure a trite response would have drifted from my callous mouth. But today, here in this terminal I’m not sure I would have an answer. For normal is what we make of it, waking up every morning to a cup of hot coffee, a wonderful family of 2.5 kids (it’s statistics, no I don’t have half a kid somewhere) nice car and a great job may seem normal to some, but normal for others may include living in squalor, being beat by an abusive parent/spouse and wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So who are we to say what normal is for the Haitian people? To often I believe we as Americans barge into situations from our little worlds of wealth and privilege (ok, if you own a Ford Pinto you are still poor in Haiti) then unknowingly look down our noses while entrenched within the social dynamics of a society. What that person said wasn’t wrong in its context as they are heading home to their rendition of normal, but for some strange reason it struck a nerve.

Hurtling down the runway a feeling of weightlessness then sinking gravity let us know our plane is finally off the ground. We slowly bank left then right and over the Dominican Republic climbing higher as we go. Turning one last time I can see straight into the Gulf of Gonave and out in the distance an island, a giant piece of rock, the home to so many precious souls, La Gonave. Gaining altitude we slowly disappear into the fluffy white cumulus clouds of the Caribbean. With my face pressed against a window seeking an outline of Haiti, I realize she is gone, so I stare blankly into the distance. My wife has ahold of my arm and is squeezing it tightly, looking into her eyes the gravity of all we have accomplished, our journey, surviving possible corruption and the children we left behind strikes me hard. Feeling sick to my stomach I am doing everything to not crumble in front her and all these wonderful people on our team. Unfortunately Jacy can no longer fight against her emotions as tears begin streaming down her face. Drawing in a long deep breath refortifies my emotional stability as she rains tears upon my shoulder. Jacy says I am her strength, her rock, her best friend. She tells me there is no her without me, and together we can accomplish anything. Leaning into my shoulder unobserved she can shed any stress associated with being team leader, she can let her emotions loose no matter how raw. She no longer needs to be political, compassionate, caring, scared, strong, or brave, all she needs is too let out all the emotions she’s held back for an entire week and cry; as her husband I will be dammed if anyone is going to take that moment away from her.

Looking over my shoulder ensuring some form of privacy, it appears she is not the only one traveling down a river of tears. Sniffles and sobs are coming from many various positions around me, wishing I could give everyone a hug I simply smile; letting them know all will be ok. One thing I haven’t taken into account is some of the sniveling could be from learning our inflight snack is the dreaded Haitian corn muffin! And to that, a small tear is finally shed from my eyes.

Pulling out my laptop I feel driven to write. It is after all my form of therapy and since a little decompression is in order, there is no better time than the present! It’s going to take a while for me to fully understand the big picture in this whole trip. Much more needs to be done in Source a Philippe. This little village by the sea needs help, lots of help! I am pretty sure going back for another medical mission is in my plans, but there are some very big questions needing to be asked and some even bigger answers that must be forth coming. Wondering what part I carry in this real life play derived from travesty and injustice, I know changes must be made. Am I one of the few that will make a difference? Will this mission change the lives of our team for the better or will they go home feeling tainted and unsure? Only God knows the answer at this point.

Leveling off at 35,000 feet, our plane is pushing further towards American soil, I feel the pull of Haiti growing stronger in my heart. She grabs you in the most disturbing of ways. Haiti is clean yet filthy, angry with life’s injustice, yet joyous about life’s rewards, rich in history yet poor in political support. Haiti stands still broken not just physically but mentally as well; yet repairs to the physical, mental and emotional are everywhere for you to see feel and experience, she (Haiti) is a living contradiction in human survival. I don’t believe she has the ability to have it any other way.

Piti piti zwazo fè nich.

Little by little the bird makes his nest.

Meaning: Many incremental changes will eventually make a significant difference

Haitian proverb….

May we live to witness change, not just within our sight but in our hearts.

Haiti, I will see you again someday….

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Eye of the storm

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Wednesday June 12th.

Entering the guest house this morning I am groggy, tired and my back hurts. Making my way through the entry it becomes apparent I am not the only one who is tired. Alisa hasn’t slept well, Heather is looking a tad worn-out, and everyone else is holding a thousand yard stare. Striking up conversations hoping to bring a smile into the house it dawns on me, where is my wife? Is she up? I didn’t pass her by the clinic? Looking around there is IMG_2121no sign of her! Making my way down the hall Alisa makes eye contact with me as I turn the corner to Jacy’s room. The look is that of empathy, and I quickly see why, Jacy is still asleep on her bed, and she is covered in sweat. Feeling her forehead, I find she is burning hot and wet. My wife slowly opens her eyes just long enough to explain how severely bad she is feeling. After a small breather she tells of the night’s escapades it doesn’t sound like much fun at all. Around three am Jacy awoke feeling strange with a tummy rumble that wouldn’t subside; trying her best to be quiet and not wake anyone she struggled but couldn’t find a flashlight (as there is no power from the generator after 11pm), this translated into her fumbling around the guest house attempting to make it into the bathroom. Alisa who wasn’t sleeping and really hasn’t slept since we arrived, found her first. Soon Jacy was also accompanied by Heather, then Doc and Gail, it eventually turned into the entire house helping her as she spent the next 2-3 hours vomiting. Before long whatever had a hold of her was working its magic all the way around and she couldn’t leave the bathroom for fear of bodily fluids expelling at any moment. This explains the exhausted look upon everyone’s face. After the full briefing, Jacy tells me she wants to get up, to which I say; No. She explains the need to get up, as team leader she doesn’t want to let anyone down. I understand this feeling fully and after explaining the ramifications of her not resting, the importance of taking her medication and the reality that letting us handle things for the day will be ok, she reluctantly concedes. I kiss her on the forehead and after tucking her into bed we all head out to open the clinic. Jacy (thankfully) was asleep before leaving the building and Alisa, Heather and I spend the better part of the morning checking in on our fearless leader.

After starting this morning while aimlessly staring at a wall it dawns on me that I’m feeling a bit woozy. My tummy is rumbling, my legs are quivering and my back is really hurting, but not in that “oh my back hurts, whiney kind of way” but more along the lines of someone really mad beat the crap out of my kidneys! Doing a rapid self-assessment I determine dehydration has taken over my body. Wanting so badly to learn as much about dentistry as I can, even with “water bomb” being yelled constantly I have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAneglected my own water needs. Knowing this is very important I do my best to catch up without letting anyone know, push the pain deep down and proceed to ignore how I feel. There are three other people in worse shape than me and one Doctor with her fingers wrapped in bandages, shoved in two medical gloves, hoping this will cushion the raw flesh long enough to pull just one more tooth.

A while later I am looking around the room (spacing out really) and it occurs what a true blessing these college kids have become! These are full-fledged voting adults, but at my age any one of them could be one of my own children so calling them “kids” is really no sign of disrespect. These wonderful “kids” have saved this Haitian dental team of 10! Every OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAday since Monday at least one and as many as four of them have assisted us in the clinic at all times. Kaiti, whose fiancé is studying to become a dentist has gone from participating in behind the scenes work to standing at the head of our patients. Amanda stepped right in on the very first day, she did so with the caveat; she couldn’t take the sight of blood and (with a smile on her face) she may pass out! But this didn’t stop her, oh no! This young lady held trays at patients heads and whenever teeth were pulled she stared off at the ceiling, or over towards the wall, or down at the floor and she may have even fidgeted a little! But gosh darn it she was awesome! By Wednesday she would actually stand in front of a patient without looking up anymore! Ok more like off to theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA side, but not nearly as far to the side as earlier in the week! She was very brave and a complete sweetheart! Graham became Kristina’s favorite light holder! Tall and steady the light was always where it needed to be when it needed to there, regardless of how long the procedure took! Many held the light and only a few knew or understood how important this tedious job was! Kristina announced Graham and her would be Facebook friends! Of course this offer could be rescinded depending on the time of day and the level of performance from its recipient.

Ally was priceless with the children, just as we knew she would be! She is loved by all the kids in this village and an enormous comfort when it came time for pulling teeth! As fear of perceived pain loomed overhead one look at Ally and Ti-moun knew everything was going to be alright! Children and their parents trusted her implicitly and so did we! Andrew, Matt and John were assisting us in many facets throughout the week. But what our team was most thankful for was the countless time these young men spent filtering water! Without clean, filtered water there OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwould be operation, no clean instruments and no life for our exhausted dehydrated bodies! Reflecting back now I also believe these were the same lads helping Preston with many of the children when Heather needed to switch over to the medical side of our operation. None of them ever complained (at least not in front of me) and all of them were always willing and able to jump right in! I regret not remembering everyone’s name for they all deserve to be recognized. But if for some reason any of them read this posting I hope they all know how thankful we were for each and every one of these young selfless souls. God Bless you all…

Alisa and Heather have taken over the medical clinic with a vengeance, ensuring treatment of all who come is performed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving only made it over to that side during extreme cases, I am not fully aware of the mental anguish placed upon these women. I have an inkling, after all part of what I have learned over the years is the ability to listen and observe, but not until tomorrow afternoon will I know the full extent of sorrow and pain left in the wake of their hard work.

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Lunch time comes and Jacy has made her way back onto the floor. We are all worried about her stubbornness creating a situation where ultimately she will become run down allowing whatever made her sick during the night to rear its ugly head once again. Checking her status it’s nice to see the fever which had her burning up four hours ago has decreased and the medications ingested are doing their best to keep whatever she contracted at bay. Some of the team is talking and believe it to be food poisoning, but my argument remains the same; if one had food poisoning, odds are all would have food poisoning! This little observation continues to go unheeded and the argument rages on. My theory is she picked up a virus from one of the many OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchildren seen over the last few days. We are all wearing masks but at some point or another a patient or two has been seen sans mask. It’s wrong, but unfortunately it is the way things are when push comes to shove in a stressful patient after patient atmosphere.

As we prepare to head back into the clinic after lunch (or lack thereof), Jacy pulls me aside and wishes to discuss our financial situation in regards to services rendered in Source a Philipe. We duck out unnoticed and head back into her room where the topic of Francois comes up again. All payments are supposed to be made through François, but as we have learned over the week, Francois in most cases keeps the money for himself. Or so the assumption goes. We can’t prove this, and I am trying to believe in innocent until proven guilty, but the desperate look behind the eyes of those who have come forward tells a different story. Jacy and I discuss compensation for interpreters, nurses, cooks, the lady who tended our fire all week and of course the laundry crew who is currently washing our clothing. We also need to come up with a fair price for Ronald which would include a nominal tip. We hadn’t planned on Ronald, but he ended up being a big help and even though we determined through his actions and accounts of others in the community that he may have been spying for his father, he still deserves monetary compensation for his hard work during the week. Once the finances are solidified we return to another topic of great concern. Jacy reminds me of our obligation to visit “the twins” before we leave Source a Philipe. The twins are two OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAinfant children whose mother passed away not long after their birth. These two children were left in the care of their grandmother with no breast milk, powder supplements or baby food to sustain their little bodies. The guest house asked our team to look in on them, with malnutrition being of great concern, the fear is they won’t make it through the year. Jacy’s plan is to take Alisa, Heather and Caz later today to check on their wellbeing so she may treat them if need be and report on conditions back to the guest house.

With our game plan in place I inquire as to how my wife is feeling, she lies (I can always tell) and lets me know she is good to go! I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAstill think she should rest but as per usual when it comes to my wife, she ignores my advice and heads back through the clinic doors.

Captain Jackson has returned to the clinic entrusting us to pull his teeth. So thankful is he in regards to our treatment of his wife that he now braves sitting in our dental chair for some treatment of his own. Captain Jackson has three obvious teeth in need of pulling but for some reason is only allowing us to pull one. We plead with him to allow us the opportunity to pull the other two but he refuses. He begins acting strange and we can’t figure out why, its odd really, the man who is all smiles currently sits, gripping the arms of a chair while the process goes off without a hitch. Then as quickly as this stoic statue of a man sat down, he is back out the door.

Our day is filled with more than a few patients returning, claiming we left portions of tooth still inside the gum line. What they are experiencing, feeling with their tongues is actually their jawbone. Some teeth have become so rotten (the associated gum disease is atrocious) the resulting effect being a gum line broken down exposing root and jaw, so when the tooth is pulled away this further exposes the inner jawline where the human tongue can feel it giving a false sense of a ‘broken tooth”. I feel sympathetic for these people as they wallow their tongues around inside their mouths trying to determine if what they are feeling is a good or bad thing. But the answer after inspection is always the same; take your medications, don’t swirl, swish or spit for the next 24 hours and good luck.

Being on a mission team is a little like joining the cast of survivor; Alliances are formed, friendships forged and somewhere along the way someone needs to be voted off the island! I am happy to report there have been no major blow ups between anyone leading to the inevitable knife in the back during tribal council. One instance led to a team member yelling at another during a tribaltrying moment late in the day and another incident was cured with nothing more than a walk, a breath of fresh air and some contemplation of events. This left our group pleased as any trouble ended right then with no outward hard feelings rearing an ugly head. Our group appears strong as I personally have witnessed amazing performances from all ten of these very unique individuals! By 4 o’clock, ten patients remain, our interpreters are exhausted, the team is drenched in sweat and I haven’t seen Jacy all afternoon; with her not feeling well I have become concerned. Nearing 5pm it appears as though no one will be turned away from the clinic tonight and that is a very good thing. Our people are milling about still cleaning up equipment, dinner is almost on the table and I am feeling extremely mentally exhausted. The sight of Francois lurking around every corner, watching, almost chronicling every one of our movements has me on edge! Feeling the need for a walk, I slip out the side door andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA disappear into the island air! We have been advised to never walk alone and always take an interpreter whenever we go away from camp. But I have no use for these rules and even if I did no desire to follow them right now. Wondering along street after street with nothing more than my thoughts, I am surround by some of the poorest living conditions I have ever witnessed! Shacks (and I mean shacks) lined up with holes in the ceilings, holes in the walls and in some cases front doors made of sticks or old damaged wood! In fact the word shack really sounds nice compared to the visual reality that currently surrounds me.

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Psalm 127:3 KJV

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Up one street then down another, Haitian villagers are so friendly, greeting me with a hearty BONSWA, shaking my hand, smiling and waving! Why aren’t people this friendly at home? There are goats everywhere, dogs running freely and mules, plenty of weight carrying, people transporting, tired, withered old mules! ChildrenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA are also everywhere I go, some clothed, some naked, and for the first time I have a moment to stop, recognize their existence and actually look into their big beautiful eyes! Staring back at me with smiles on their faces, I don’t like what I see. These children are hungry, thirsty and looking for any tidbit of food or water you can spare! That “tidbit” is not reserved for just food, but love, affection and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe ability to play with the Blanc (us white people)! It is the definition of poverty, poverty at its worst, in my opinion a homeless person in the United States is wealthier than a citizen of Source a Philipe! Deeply saddened by what I am witnessing, it’s affecting me greatly and while pondering why things are this way; a light bulb shines bright overhead! Wrapped up in this new world of dentistry I have only focused on one thing, not allowing myself to remove the blinders and see what’s happening around me. In a village where Methodists have built the cisterns, providing free water for all why are these children thirsty? In a village where every team leaves behinds scores of clothing for all its needy citizens to distribute amongst themselves, why are these people naked? In a town where matching funding is provided by each team that travels here, where are the results of those monies? Becoming angrier at my lack in ability to answer my own questions I turn up the next street to see 3 well-built newer concrete homes with nice porches and scores of young Haitian men donning newer OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAclothing, laying about and trying their hardest at a tough guy vibe. These young men look like rappers with aviator sunglasses, bright clothing and converse shoes. I exert a hearty Bonswa in passing and in return get the thirty mile stare from them all. One youngster even goes as far as glaring over the top of his sunglasses, staring, watching every step I take. The whole village is struggling to survive, yet here sits these well dressed, well fed, fit young men, obviously better off than most, carrying a very machismo chip on their shoulders. I begin to wonder if I am looking at our matching funds in action.

Back at the guest house some inquire as to where I have been, not wanting to show my obvious distaste for what I’ve seen I simply tell the tale of a nice walk among the community. Inside, my minds reeling and temper seething, but I need to remember what OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw was merely an appearance as I have no concrete proof as to my perceptions. Thank goodness Brent is out front, deep in conversation, a little distraction is exactly what I need. After speaking with Brent for a bit I once again acknowledge my wife is nowhere to be seen. Wandering about I find her sitting on the steps of the school chatting with Kaiti. During their conversation it’s quickly apparent this discussion is focused on some shady practices put forth by none other than François and his band of followers. Having been here almost thirty days Kaiti has a real insight to some of the more serious problems in this village. We listen with open ears and before long everything I witnessed during my little walk about makes perfect sense.

During the week while walking around shirtless under the Haitian sun it came to my knowledge that many of the smaller children were following me around saying “tattoo” “tattoo”. Seeing an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAopportunity to make new friends one day I stop, kneel down and allow them to touch my tattoo. One child in particular, a small boy who happens to be deaf from years of ear infections has taken a real liking to the large bird and cross on my back. Every day he stops me and points at my back, I kneel down and allow him to trace it with his finger. He smiles brightly and follows every line slowly and carefully until he returns to the starting position. After finishing his trace, he smiles again, taps me on the shoulder and walks away. He is adorable.

While talking with Brent and few others on the front steps of the guest house a loud commotion erupts from alongside the clinic. In a cloud of dust, filled with laughter, several young boys appear running our direction holding a giant bird! (Pelican) Others watch in confusion over the commotion as Jacy and I both start IMG_2248 IMG_2247laughing! These boys are bringing me a present! The present of a real bird they feel resembles the bird tattooed across my back. It’s flattering, it’s funny, and it’s freaking cool! We all laugh, the boys hang the bird up alongside my back for pictures and as quickly as they arrived the youngsters are gone, giggling, pushing, and I only assume by their body language praising themselves for a job well done. Funny how simple moments, arrive just when you need them most to change the course of a day.

After dinner a party has commenced in front of the school. Music, dancing, laughter and good times as many villagers are participating. Some of the College kids are present, Alisa and Heather are also in attendance. Alisa’s camera is working overtime while children jump up and down waiting for a chance to see a picture of themselves. Jacy and I stroll down to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAexperience the scene. Caz is in the middle of what some back home would call a mosh pit! The only difference being there is no “moshing” going on, but instead people are dancing up and down and everyone really seems to be enjoying themselves. These people are so pure, so honest and their love for one another is very apparent. All ages are present at this little soiree, and many of the women arrive donning their very best clothing. Caz cannot break from the group as he is loved by all. I envy his enthusiasm, his ability to show happiness and love for his fellow man at any moment. Rain starts to fall, it’s our cue to leave so we call it a night.

Arriving back at the guest house a young woman has made her way up the steps and lingers nearby, waiting, and staring, as if she has something to say. We instantly recognize her as one of three women who washed our laundry yesterday. Calling for Caz, he asks her if she is ok. She states no, she hadn’t been paid for doing our laundry! Richard asks her a few more questions and the picture becomes a little clearer. Now washing laundry is quite a simple business proposition in Haiti. You have dirty clothes, they charge a dollar an article, you have them wash your clothes and in return you pay a dollar an article to the Madame in charge. Simple process, simple math! Jacy explains payment was made this afternoon to the large woman (widow of the former associate pastor) who was in charge. She said yes she knew but this woman was refusing to pay her and the other woman for their work. She is distraught, hungry and very upset. Stuck between a rock and a hard place if we provide her with additional funding it will start a riot amongst our help. If we pay her nothing extra odds are she won’t receive a dime of the money owed her and continue to struggle without. In the end, we are told by our trusted interpreters NOT to interfere! We follow this advice tonight, but after this episode, our discussion with Kaiti and my walk around the village, it will be the last time we do so in Source a Philipe.

A long day has come to an end, wandering off towards my room, my head is spinning with uncertainty. Who is benefiting here in Source a Philipe? What will happen to these people when we are gone? Have we made the right choices? Jacy has done her absolute best! She is a solid leader, her people know this and trust her, and little does she know as she lays her head down to rest this evening, tomorrow will test her leadership ability even more.

On an up note? Kristina, with some prodding and the help of our leader, finally stepped ever so cautiously into the shower of doom! Praise be to God!

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Do YOU know Brent Watney

Betty feels as though she can’t continue writing without having a little fun.

So I ask?

Do you know Brent Watney?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This little question became a running joke on day one of our journey to Haiti.  Starting in the airport where oddly enough it appeared as though random people recognized Mr. Brent Watney, the elder statesman of our group.  Walking through various terminal areas you could always find Brent talking with someone, waving at a stranger or just stopping for a second to say hello.  He is a very personable man who makes it apparent right from the beginning that life should not just be experienced but actually “lived”.

austinSo with a lead in like that I ask once again; do you know Brent Watney?

Here is what I learned along the way about this man we fondly referred to as our “International man of mystery”!

He has a wonderful way of placing an anecdote guaranteed to make you smile into any situation.

He loves sports and can discuss any sport in detail at any time with passion.

His brother is in the college coaching hall of fame!  (I know cool huh?)coach

While in college he realized that hitting thousands of golf balls to participate on a team was just not as much fun as playing on the weekend, drinking a few beers with your buddies. (I totally agree)

US Open Championship GolfBrent’s son is PGA pro golfer Nick Watney, whom he is incredibly proud of and loves very much!

Sterilizing medical equipment is dangerous business and should only be done by trained professionals wearing dishwashing gloves in 96 degree heat while standing on the landing of a staircase! Seriously it goes without saying!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swimming over a green seaweed like material is not nearly as bad as walking through garbage left on a beach of pristine white sand.

When asked where he was swimming too after jumping from our dingy one afternoon he simply looked towards the open ocean and replied: the mainland’s that way yes? And continued to swim….

imagesCAVEUJCXWhen someone with broken English and a thick Creole accent points at you and says: James Bond? You simply smile and in your best Sean Connery respond: why yes? Then smile back sheepishly.

Or

When someone with broken English and a thick Creole accent points at you and says: James Bond? You don your best Daniel Craig imagesCA0CPEPCimitation; smile and rise slowly out of the ocean for all to cherish.

Knows how to pratfall for nothing more than the joyous giggles of Haitian children.

Enjoys a good book and an even better flashlight that will last through the tremors being attacked by thousands of bugs can bring!

Is the only man I have ever met who can walk away mid-sentence and IMG_2238leave you laughing because you have no idea what just transpired?

After rooming and working alongside this man for ten days, I found myself in awe of his personality, attitude and feelings towards life.

He is truly one of a kind and I thank him for allowing me the opportunity to make his acquaintance.

So I ask you, do you know Brent Watney?

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Proud to say that I do!

Children, can you hear me?

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Your thunder roared like chariot wheels. The world was made bright by lightning, and all the earth trembled. — Psalm 77:18

Laying upon my bunk last night, our world trembled, electricity flowed through the air with the power and majesty only lightning strikes can bring. Winds howled and water poured through every crack, separation and orifice surrounding us.  Feeling very small, humble and almost insignificant I am left pondering the meaning of this very moment.  We are entombed in a culture that knows very little in regards to social change.  We bring medicine and helping hands with a genuine hope of lifting spirits, providing assistance, and shining a light for a better future. But do these people really need our light to shine so brightly or is that just imposing a change they are neither willing to adopt nor ready to comprehend? As this storm looms overhead, cracking loudly and forcing my attention am I really listening to what it’s telling me or am I reduced to ignorance forced upon me from sheer exhaustion?

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.

Exodus 19:16 NIV

Is this our message? Are we like Moses translating a message from God? Is our purpose to spread Gods love through charity, education or both? No we do not stand atop Mount Sinai but we sit atop one of the highest points of this village. Does that mean something or am I delirious?  Just for the record I am in no way actually comparing us to Moses or God but are we not a voice in his absence? We are his children carrying forward, and spreading his word? Aren’t we?  If so why are there forces working against us? Why are we met with buffers at every turn and why would God allow what his happening to his people here on this small dot of landscape? I am challenged as I listen to the roll of thunder and crack of lightning. After a bit, quietly and slowly I tell God I am sorry, for peace needs to overtake my brain and in doing so I slowly place my ear buds in one side at a time, left ear, then right ear, asking forgiveness for not wanting to listen anymore then tapping the “Zen” music trapped inside my personal radio station.  Sleep comes quickly.

Once again our morning starts out fairly well. Gathering inside our little breakfast nook for prayer and a quick bite to eat, we pray for all inhabitants on this island, and the food we are about to consume. We also take a moment to pray for Madame Jackson as we know her recovery both mentally and physically will be a long road. I say a little prayer for Kristina, she isn’t eating any of the food out of fear, choosing instead to live on granola bars and water. She is also terrified of the shower, to which many jokes roll handily around the table at herOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA expense! She has a fantastic sense of humor. We begin reminiscing about the night’s torrential downpour and ensuing flooding.  The women apparently had rats running across the rafters of their bedrooms, and water pouring in through holes in the walls and ceiling. Rats are the sign of a sinking ship!  There is some humor in the thought of rats dropping poo bombs on people during the night, of course poo bombs are definitely better than waking up to a giant tarantula walking across your leg! Now before you start thinking this living arrangement is complete crap, and the least UMVIM could do is provide decentOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA housing for the mission teams, let me get a few things out in the open.

  1. It hardly rains here and they have cisterns placed all over the island to catch any rain water that falls from the sky.  The torrential downpour we witnessed only lasted a few hours and was an amazing event that we were privileged to witness!
  2. The buildings we are staying in where built by missionaries in the 1940-50’s.  They are seriously the “luxury” resort buildings of the island, so when a little water comes through you make due and know that 80,000 other island inhabitants are nowhere near as dry and comfortable as you are!

In the end, we are all lucky enough to have a roof over our head, a bed IMG_2145to rest upon and a floor to place our feet.  It’s more than some, less than others and if we need to move a few beds to keep a drip of water or two from falling on our faces well that’s just fine.

We open the clinic a little after eight as many are mopey and dragging from the aforementioned leaking roof and rats!  We are all surprised after yesterday’s rush there doesn’t appear to be as many patients waiting outside the clinic. Oh but wrong that assumption would prove to be! By nine we are in full swing and at ten the line is around the building with children playing in the courtyard.  On Monday afternoon we finished late, not by choice as is the case when treating patients, but because as with every day the sun through rotation of the earth is setting low over the horizon! Light was growing scarce. It was an awful feeling having to explain to those left in the waiting room they could not be seen until the following day.  As we started this morning I worried many of them may have suffered through the long stormy night with no cover or dry place to rest.  I worried they may have given up and gone home, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdeciding that a little pain for another six months was better than laying in wet sand under a tree.  I worry too much..

When the doors open every one of those tagged from the night before is there ready to go! A little rough around the edges were a few, but they survived and were thankful for the care.

Our day continues and I have to say the flow between us all is incredible. I feel as though we are just getting better and better as a functioning team.  I continue trying my hardest to look, listen, and learn anything and everything I can from Kristina and Gail.  I love learning new things! The opportunity to not only learn something new but to actually put it in practice is one I cannot pass up! There is no OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAother time I will ever get the chance to do otherwise and my personal goal quickly becomes progressing to where no one will need to ask me for anything, rather whatever is needed will instinctively already be in my hand.  I don’t quite get there, but I do give it the old college try!  Orson remains on his game with post operation, information and medication dispensing. One by one he OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAworks with the patients and an interpreter ensuring everyone knows how important taking the antibiotics are to their recovery.  Orson also has a vast knowledge of all the dental equipment which comes in handy on many occasions.  François is still lurking around every turn and whenever he is in the clinic, Ronald is his person of interest. They talk, point fingers and talk some more.  I wish I knew Creole so I could eavesdrop on their conversation.  I know that not right, but neither is the hinky feeling I get whenever François is around! Pastor Jackie has arrived on the island and everywhere he goes, children are bound to follow.  You can tell he is very much respected inside this community and pulls a lot of weight where ever he goes.  Heather and Preston are awesome with the children but soon enough the little ones or “ti moun” have run dry. Before long Preston is working by his mother’s side and Heather is working with Jacy.  Watching Preston, with Heather I am missing my oldest son Cody something awful and Preston unknowingly is filling a void with in my heart. Heather and I were on the same team last year and she worked alongside Cody quite a bit so the correlation is a little overpoweringOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Taking a break, my dear friend Caz see’s my obvious mental duress and mentions if I go down to the dock and walk to the very end, possibly there might be a signal.  Rushing down towards the beach I am feeling an overwhelming need to reconnect with Cody and can’t wait to hear his voice.  I reach the end of the dock, hold out my phone and stare as if doing so will make it work that much faster! 2 minutes, 3 minutes, no bars! 4 minutes, 5 minutes no gosh darn bars! I am frustrated and missing my son, and now that I have sat here for a while the emotional door has opened and I am missing ALL my children.  Just one bar that’s all I need, just one! But no bars show on my phone and after 15 minutes of standing at the end of the dock like a lovelorn fool, I wander back to the clinic, shoulders slumped feeling low.  It’s hard making eye contact with anyone as I work my way back to the clinic, but upon arrival I pull myself together and walk back through the door with a smile on my face.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jacy, has been busy dealing with village leaders, Pastor Jackie and the “oddities” surrounding anything financial in regards to this mission! She has also gowned up and is working the medical side of the clinic with tIMG_2246he ferocity of a lion.  She has done more care and treatment of medical issues than any of us thought we would ever see.  These people have ear, nose and throat infections, untreated wounds and a variety of insect bites, infestations and burns. There is even a gunshot wound! It is fantastic to see my wife flourish in this role.  At one point a team member leans over to compliment the fact as both co-leader and husband to this extraordinary woman I never once intervened or pushed her aside to handle any EMS problems. This person is also impressed I have not intervened during some of theIMG_2244 more serious political issues in this mostly male dominated society.  Replying with a thank you, I remind them my wife is more than capable of taking care of herself, I consider her my best friend, and an equal walking alongside me in life.  If she needs me, she will come get me, and come get me she has when the time has arisen.  (Plus once you get to know my wife you realize their really is nothing she can’t handle.) At the end of the day Jacy, Heather and Alisa have treated malnourished, infected, emaciated and just down right sick, infants, toddlers and small children.  They sing to the little ones hoping to calm their fears, the little ones cry, some scream and all the while these three women keep singing, choking back tears, and their hearts breaking over the little lives before them.  The sound of “Summer Breeze” can be heard floating through the walls.  That song OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwill forever be etched in my mind with images of small hungry Haitian children.  Hungry because no one can feed them, thirsty because their parents are not associated with the “right” group or cannot pay the fee for a bucket of water.  Sick and covered with infections, screaming because cleaning out deep infested or infected, lacerations, burns, and scrapes hurts, it hurts real bad!

At the end of the day I have lost track on the number of patients seen, but we extracted 145 teeth! As I have mentioned on numerous occasions the medical side was inundated once again and one point Jacy came and got me because it looked as though a pregnant lady was in labor! With no O.B. supplies I grabbed a couple gowns, a water bottle for flushing teeth with a small end on it to use as suction,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA surgical stitches, forceps and a scalpel. It was the best I could do and I am positive it would have worked, but when I walked into the room I had some doubt this woman was in labor. There were no real contractions, and after a thorough patient assessment it was obvious this delivery was not going to happen!  No baby Haitian for me!  But in the end it was truly a fruitful day! After closing up shop (and yes numbers were handed out once again for returning patients) our group looked like the walking dead! It was a rough day on us all both mentally and physically, we were bloody hot and we begged our new friend Captain Jackson to take us out to the sand bar some 300 yards of the coast where the water looked like a swimming pool! He said yes he would and we all smiled.  Walking towards the dock, I inquired as to Madame Jackson’s progress.  He stated she was doing well, taking her medication and that she had slept most of the day.  He promised us to keep her on the medications then shook our hands thanking us for taking care of her! I felt the real thanks belonged to Kaiti and her team for making the journey to the hospital, but I guess looking at the whole picture it really was a group IMG_2226effort. Once on the dock, Jackson called for one of his crew who brought us a dingy, we all climbed aboard and slowly rolled out into the most beautiful ocean God has ever created.  The Haitians all looked at us as if we were crazy, not because we were swimming with our clothes still on, or that we had placed more people than humanly possible into a 14 foot dingy but because we climbed aboard still dressed in our scrubs! That’s right we went straight from pulling teeth and treating people to an ocean swim in our scrubs! It was fantastic and the perfect way to end a very hot and taxing day.

Arriving back to camp all of us went our separate ways eventually meeting back at the guest house for dinner. The cooks are becoming increasingly irritated with us because our group is never ready to eat right at 5! I feel bad for them because their night isn’t over until we finish and cleanup is complete.  Tomorrow being a new day and we have all agreed to close shop at 5, not just for the cooks but because Docs hand is already giving her some trouble. She has formed some very serious blisters across her fingers from holding tools while pulling teeth.  If we can’t find a way to support her digits they will only get worse! I know it would take cutting her fingers off for her to stop, but there is no reason she should suffer. On an additional note- Kristina is still not showering! She is terrified of the shower in theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA women’s guest house! Just because it’s made of concrete with decorative cinder block windows and it strangely resembles something from cell block C or the gas chamber at your local prison is no reason to be scared? Once you are inside its easy getting used to the dark corners filled with living creatures of various shapes and sizes! But putting all that aside this woman really does need to take a shower! Of course Kristina claims swimming in the ocean has cleansed her body and there is no need entering this Haitian Dachau, but we all know that’s not the case! Jacy offers up showering with Kristina for a sense of security and hopes she will take the bait but this does not materialize. On the upside the offer does bring a slew of jokes which leaves us all laughing for a while.

After dinner all of us are lounging on the steps of the guest house reminiscing about the day? Talking about our experiences is helping keep spirits high as many lows have developed thus far.  Alisa smells smoke coming through the window of her room and before long we are all aware of its presence. It’s coming from a charcoal kiln just to the northeast of the guest house.  Kristina becomes agitated as smoke starts bothering her lungs and before we can react to this predicament she begins having an asthma attack!  Gail jumps into high gear, retrieving medications Kristina may need while the group moves her down towards the beach in hopes that clear ocean air will open up her lungs. Pastor Jackie who is still on the island is reacting to thisIMG_2237 situation very quickly with a handful of young men who are moving all of Kristina’s belongings into the men’s guest house! The men’s guesthouse is far away from where smoke is blowing so this move becomes very important in the grand scheme of things.  Down at the beach Kristina remains surrounded by our team along with many Haitian children. They’re all worried about the doctor who is here to help them. Kristina’s breathing has slowly gotten better after a few breathing treatments, she is still a little scared and so are we! Surrounded by villagers all worried about her fate, she smiles and eases everyone’s mind.  Thankfully after a half an hour she feels well enough to return up the hill to her new housing arrangement. Thank the lord!

During the commotion, Caz, Richard and Ronald head over and speak with the owner of the charcoal pit, hoping they can convince this man to smother or extinguish his fire for the evening thus allowing Kristina charcoala night of breathing easier. Many Haitians earn money by making charcoal and this fire was no different than any other on the island, it just happens to be right outside Doc’s window. The owner proceeds to argue with all three men for a while eventually appearing to give in, allowing us to cover the vent holes subsequently “smothering” the fire.  But when Caz, Richard, Ronald, Orson and I show up an hour later to cover these vent holes, the owner becomes enraged arguing with all three interpreters! While disagreements rage on a light rain falls on and off complete with thunder and lightning!  I have to tell you there is something very exciting about shoveling Haitian soil in the middle of a lightning storm at 10 o’clock at night!

Ronald disappears then heads up the hill with an extra shovel for digging. With two shovels and a hoe in our possession we proceed tearing into the earth, scooping its fine black soil and throwing it onto the kilns holes.  After placing my last shovel of dirt into the kiln/charcoal stove, I walk over and ask Caz to introduce me to the owner. The arguing hasn’t ceased and I feel it’s time for me to step in.  After introductions are finished I explain to the owner that as co-leader of our team, I appreciate the generosity shown by allowing us to cover his stove.  He rolls his eyes, begins making hand gestures while rapidly speaking and relays to me (through the interpreter) his concerns over losing this batch of charcoal due to our covering it up.  Now being one that fully understands the burning process in conjunction with Richard explaining to me (as a former charcoal maker) the entire charcoal making process! I know he is not out any money as our procedure merely slows the process down. I also know in this man’s defense his finish date will be delayed a day or two, which is worth something for the inconvenience.  I allow him the opportunity to vent all his frustrations towards me through Caz and when he finishes, I have Caz explain to him that as a business man myself I fully understand the importance of finishing a product on time for shipment and payment. I also explain that although our mission team did not come with a lot of extra money if he was so compelled to arrive at a specific number that might offset his losses I would return to our mission team and ask for help in a form of reimbursement.  But before I would do any of that I needed for him to ask himself one question: what would God want him to do? Would God want him to allow us to slow this process down, saving our doctor from further asthma attacks and possibly saving the doctors life? The only doctor this island has seen in six months! Or would God want him taking money for a product not yet finished, nor really lost for that matter as what we’d done merely slowed the process and wasn’t ruining his product. As I looked dead into the man’s eyes while still holding his hand I asked once again; what would God want you to do?  He threw his head back, stared up at the night sky and quieted down. After thinking about it for a moment or two he leaned over to Caz and said he needed to speak with his partner and his partner wouldn’t be here until the next day. I shook his hand, said bless you and as he walked away I crossed my Fingers hoping tomorrow a little good old fashioned American guilt would rue the day.

Heading in for the night, I looked at my watch to see it was almost midnight! UHG! Damp from a combination of sweat and rain, feet black from soot, and a smile on my face I lay down and stare at the ceiling. For some reason I don’t feel like a 46 year old man, for some reason I lay here with the smile of a kid etched upon my face! I am mystified by the power of God! I have faith in all things happening for a reason, always have. Maybe the grumpy old charcoal tender was supposed to meet us tonight.  Maybe he has lost his way and needed a reminder of what God needs from him.  Compassion? Maybe I am really exhausted and reading way too much into this whole episode.  Or maybe just maybe I need to sit up, quit thinking so much and stare out the window and continue watching the most beautiful fireworks show known to man!

As I stare off into the distance watching the lightning I pray for the people we’ve treated, I pray for no more tragedies to surface, no more suffering and I pray for a peaceful reserve to fall amongst both teams.

In the morning I find my prayers have gone unanswered……

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Culture Shock

Children I would like to introduce you to Kaiti Rees.

Kaiti was on La Gonave, in the village of Source a Philipe for 30 days with her team sponsored by the Wesley Foundation. Kaiti along with other members of her team became invaluable during our mission and our entire team felt God placed us together in this community for a reason. We cherished every moment spent together, I personally am humbled by this womans service to others and was proud to know her, if even for a little while.

With that being said; when those of you ask why we seem glum since returning, when those of you dont understand that a few are sad or mopey from this experience please understand it is not because we didnt succeed, please understand it is not because it was a horrible experience, please take a moment to recognize during this time (and ours was short compared to others) the human spirit touched many of us in different ways. The human condition, remains etched in our brains, the tradgedy left behind will always be left to question. all we have when we return is the knowledge we completed our task, God guided our outcome and that we remain “faithful” in our beliefs.

This is an excerpt from Kaiti’s personal experience and I beleive it says word for word what many are feeling.

Last night I pulled the covers up over my legs. I was cold. When I woke up from a bad dream I turned the lights on as I checked the house for monsters.

I woke up in the morning to the sound of rain- no roosters or donkeys or dogs or creole commotion. I realized for the first time in a month I hadn’t watched the sun set. Over an ocean. A mountain, such beauty.

Last night at the restaurant the waitress asked me what I wanted to eat. It took half an hour to decide.

I took a shower this morning. It was hot. Too hot. When I got out I dried off and stayed dry.

I went to the bathroom and put the toilet paper in the bowl. I flushed even though I only peed.

I opened my closet to pick out some clothes. More than anyone needs. Why do I have all of these?

I need to go to the grocery store, even though my pantry is still full of food.

I walk to the door but change my mind. I don’t want to go outside. There will be no “bonjou”s or “ka-tee”s. There will be no little hands reaching for me.

And i can’t help but wonder if the girls or Franslaine have eaten today.

My fiancé pulls me in tight. Kisses me goodnight. I roll over and actually sleep. I know he’s here holding me. But I dream about Haiti and I dream about her. Baby born and died in a bucket, how many more?

I keep looking at pictures and don’t know which stories to tell. Everyone wants to see smiles, hear it went well. But there’s a pain behind my smiles and I don’t know how to cry. So glad to be home, but still wondering why.

I want to run and not stop for an hour. A day. A week. I want to scream and stay silent. I want to sleep with no dreams. I want others to know and understand these memories.
I look at Becky’s stomach. 4 months to go. How can I not be exited? How can I not be sad? The same stomach Madame Jackson had.

I’m typing a note on my phone in the shower. No boys carried this water to a barrel above. No one will care how long it runs. No one will see the tears washed away in the scum. The shower walls and floor are white. No dirty rag or stains of mud. No cinder block window to let in the wind or sun. There’s no lizards and crickets to share my space. No rush to get out. No agenda awaits.
Culture shock hits you when the rest catches up. Checking the time but you’re not sure why it wont go. Sit in front of a tv you don’t watch. Eat what you want but i doesn’t fill you back up. You’ve poured out more of your heart than you know. The getting it back. It’s hard and it’s slow.

But you don’t want It back, and there lies the beauty. You want it changed- and that takes getting used to.
So you sit and you pray as you turn off the shower. Turn off lights you don’t need to use anymore. Pick a simple t-shirt and jeans from the closet to wear. Walk out the door, forgetting to even do your hair.

Life will go on both here and there. A life that’s unequal. A life that’s unfair.”

Thank You Kaiti- God Bless you..

 

Perception

Well children, Betty is terrible at asking for help, but its time.
While chronicling our Haitian adventure, please remember mine is but one perception of events during our ten days abroad. There are 9 other views in regards to every moment of every day. Although I am doing my best using the 2 hours a night of notes I kept, I am positive there are situations and personal feelings I am missing. For that I apologize. There are those who will be forever changed by this adventure and to them as a returning missionary I say; Have faith.
So please dearies, enjoy, use your imagination and know that we ALL walked through this adventure with God by our side and love in our hearts.
More entries to come…..
Much love,
Betty…

If you build it, they will come and come and come…

 

dreams

Wonderful night of sleep thanks to a little white pharmaceutical friend stowed away in my back pack. Drifted into slumber with James Taylor crooning ever so softly. It felt good allowing my brain to wander away from the troubles we’d already seen. So many questions running through my mind, I can only imagine what my wife is thinking as team leader? Although, I probably shouldn’t put too much stock into what she’s thinking right before bed as my wife has an uncanny ability to pass out within seconds of placing her head upon a pillow. Sadly I envy this trait.
Our morning starts very well, with a strong cup of Haitian coffee and a room full of anxious people waiting to see what this day will bring. Our team was warned before leaving the guest house that we would IMG_2234become inundated with patients. (a truth) This warning is imposed because the last dental team was more than six months ago! SIX LONG MONTHS AGO! Imagine just for a moment that you live where no medical or dental care is available unless you walk 5 hours or wait 6 months for a Mission team to arrive. Are you pondering that probability? Yeah it’s just like that for us too.
Our group mulls over a breakfast of eggs bananas and peanut butter. Some are doing fine with the food provided while others can’t bring themselves to eat. Kristina has allergies to so many food products, I am worried she will accidentally become ill through cross contamination. This of course would be detrimental to her health as no rescue is available off the island, so all of us remain on high alert when it comes to our food! In conjunction with this fear we seem to have a slowly growing health concern in regards to intestinal issues! Either one member hasn’t pooped yet (3 days in) or the pooping just won’t stop! Very dangerous with self-hydration being so very important! Either way poop jokes are rampant and just like school children we are laughing to no end! Water is at a premium here and ours comes from within the town’s cistern, which if you were to peer inside would never leave you willingly drinking any of its contents. (Mosquito larvae, bugs and all) But after gathering the water by 5 gallon bucket, hauling it up to the guest house, the water is then run through a UV filter, afterwards it’s run through a standard filter and finally we pour it into filtered water bottles, so chances are very good our water is clean. Still, many of us are wondering who will get “the cholera” first!
After breakfast while making the short journey towards the clinic a line has already formed and it’s blatantly obvious we will be busy again today. Walking through the people, greeting them with a hearty Bon jour and a smile, many greet us in return. They all look a little OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAscared. I assume it’s just like being a kid heading to the dentist in America. Irrational fears are clogging their thoughts. All of us are working very hard at calming those fears. Once the doors are open for business the very same process takes place as did yesterday. Wesline (the nurse) and her sister Catia, with Richard and occasionally Jacy are triaging patients, tagging them on the shoulder with the obligatory name, age, blood pressure and IMG_2241complaint. Again Francois has arrived to oversee our little venture, leering around every corner, walking into any room he sees fit at any time. Whenever he shows up, an uneasy feeling takes over the room and anyone who is assisting us clams up. Francois is once again collecting money, he is also instructing Wesline to collect money as well, but Jacy goes into team leader mode and once again does her best to circumvent this system. At our stations chairs rapidly fill, one by one we ask patients which teeth bother them, can they identify those teeth by pointing directly at them, Melissa then numb the patient, and eventually Kristina and Gail pull the affected teeth. So many teeth are bloody, some are hard, a few break and almost all of have some form of tumor, cyst or infection filled with puss. There are teeth so covered in plaque you would believe an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAadditional tooth was filling the voids. Other teeth are knarly and rotten, misshapen, with black gum disease and the smell is slightly overwhelming. We quickly learn of those who can and who cannot handle the sight of blood, this is a benefit as it allows for an easier transition during job vacancies. One by one, patients come in, sit down, lean back have their teeth pulled then one by one patients are given post operation instructions and slowly walk out the back door. By lunch time we are hot, sweaty and amazed at the resilience of the Haitian people.
Richard has grown on me, he is a quick study and incredibly enthusiastic about helping people. Before long we have him donning scrubs as he follows us around writing down every new word he hears. He has also become an invaluable asset in Jacy’s quest for answers. I am not 100% sure, but my guess is Richard is the one who helpedIMG_2231 break the ice with our nurses. It’s because of his direct and caring form of questioning that much light has been shed on this Source a Philipe medical clinic, its lack of contents along with inability to operate.
At lunch many of us are still wondering the outcome of our pregnant woman smuggled out of town quietly this morning. It weighs heavy on our minds as a little life lay in the balance. During lunch we learn she is in fact Captain Jackson’s wife! This information I wish I didn’t know. There is an old saying in my profession; “be personable but don’t make it personal”. It’s a simple statement that reminds us to always have a smile, for this moment is possibly the worst moment of someone else’s life. It is also a reminder; don’t get to know them personally, for that is when this job can no longer become bearable. It’s a hard creed to live by as caring human beings, but live by it you must or your personal life can become filled with mental anguish. So now here I am, or here we IMG_2239are worrying about Captain Jackson’s wife! We all really like Captain Jackson, his smile is infectious and you can tell he is really happy to have us here in Source a Philipe. Making matters even more personal, Captain Jackson’s daughter who is 4 at most 5 years old has taken a liking to Kristina! The feeling of course is mutual and the two spend a fair amount of time together outside our clinic! As she continues to come around the clinic we all fall in love with her for she is seriously the cutest darn thing you would ever lay your eyes upon! She is sweet, pretty, and tougher than nails IMG_2243this little Haitian girl! Later on in the week we will find out just how tough this little girl has been forced to become!
Inside the clinic our wheels become a little more fluid, smoother as the group is working well and patients are flowing inside. One problem-ok two problems have emerged. We can’t seem to keep an interpreter in front of a patient (they wander away mid operation) and the medical clinic (which we never really intended to run) is quickly being over-run. A few of the more serious patients have made their way into the dental clinic where I am able to break away and look at whatever medical issue needs addressing. After a quick assessment I simply walk into the pharmacy, grab the medications I need then come back to the dental chair and treat my patient. I get the stink eye a few times from those working the system, but really, who is going to stop me? I’d just look at them and smile, give a shrug of the shoulders and act stupid.
Later in the afternoon I begin to realize those with medical issues are no longer making it into the dental side. That is because Jacy has now become a general practitioner! (Yep we have all heard the stories about doctors who obtain their MD abroad because it’s easier-well its true!) Patients just keep coming with all kinds of issues and when Jacy tells Richard she feels unqualified to keep treating them, RichardIMG_2246 quickly responds with a terse; Jacy with your background and knowledge, in Haiti YOU ARE A DOCTOR! So Doctor Jacy is ordained and the clinic re-opens. Wesline, joins the two of them and single handedly they treat and release many people who are very thankful. The team has expanded and through God we are helping even more than we bargained for!
Our interpreter issue becomes more of a problem as there appears to be a conflict between Ricardo (The Wesley Groups interpreter) and Richard. Keeping a watchful eye on the situation there soon appears to be an identical issue between Ricardo and Ronald! What the hell! Not being able to speak a word of creole, body language alone is all that’s left for interpretation, I quickly determine that Ricardo doesn’t wish to be working in the clinic and he is venting frustration upon the other two interpreters. Others have noticed his frustration as well, due to the Haitian male’s way of verbally communicating. To put into perspective what people are witnessing one must first understand that Haitian men can be some of the most expressive human beings at arguing I have ever witnessed! Two Haitian men embroiled in a full blown argument make angry Italian women look as if they are playing patty cake! So the first assumption is always one of an impending fist fight! But then just as up feel like you have obtained ring side seats they are laughing and slapping hands! It is a very interesting social interaction to witness if you are into people watching. Which I am…
Taking a moment to come up with a game plan it becomes obvious Ricardo may need to also vent with me. In between patients I move over to his location, square up my shoulders and as the co-leader of the group inquire as to his semi hostile demeanor. He proceeds to explain that it is not his job to work in the clinic and he is upset one of the other interpreters has gone to town, (assisting Captain Jackson wife) leaving this void he is now filling. A 2-3 minute explanation of what, where and why proceeds and I continue letting him vent as long as he feels the need. Finally there is a small break for which I calmly place my hand on Ricardo’s shoulder and explain to him the truth; he is neither prepared nor left with any argument when I tell him;
Thank you so much for working with us today, all of us here in the clinic appreciate the extra time and effort it has taken for you to be with us, and even though you feel as if you don’t belong here, you do! Ricardo, we have all been watching you work, and all of us here need someone as compassionate, kind, and caring as you are for the patients. You never leave in the middle of an operation, you help with lighting and you actually make human contact by holding hands, listening and talking softly with a smile to each and every patient we have seen you with today. Please reconsider your feelings and stay. Remember you may not have chosen to be here today, but God has placed you here and for that we are thankful”
Ricardo smiles, lowers his head and says thank you. He is more than OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwilling to stay, and does so for the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the day we all want him to return and help us tomorrow. None of what I explained earlier to Ricardo was a lie, or exaggeration to keep him working alongside us because we were shorthanded. Ricardo is truly a compassionate human being who appeared as though he personally cared about each and every person he came in contact with, a quality you cannot teach someone. Ricardo is a big man with an even bigger heart.
Brent is kicking ass on sterilization! This man is a machine! Smiling joking and talking with anyone who stops by as he works. We fallIMG_2263 behind a few times and it becomes apparent hiring someone dedicated full time to keeping the fire lit and the charcoal full is imperative. But let me tell you, overall that man can hustle! Everyone is also feeling the heat! Kristina is soaked and keeping her hydrated is becoming a bit of a challenge. Alisa who has become our “den mom” has devised a short saying to remind us to drink. At any point and time ‘WATER BOMB”! Can be heard echoing through the compound. It’s at that moment we all stop and take a drink. Hydration truly becomes the key to this operations success. We can handle many other problems, but if one of us goes down due to heat stroke, exhaustion or dehydration there is no 500ml bags with I.V.’s to rehydrate us. So water management is the key.
Heather is looking a little red, but then I remember she looks that way all the time! (The whole red haired Irish thing) But at least she doesn’t IMG_2233have 6 inch round cankles like last year. She loves working with the children and it shows. Orson is holding up well, he is handling post-operation and cleaning trays. I still don’t have a read on how he feels about this trip yet, but I pray he finds what he came here for and the answer is fulfilling. Gail and I are both soaked in sweat! Gail is a hustler! Nothing slows her down! She is incredible with our patients! She hugs them, holds them, squeezes hands and is always smiling behind her mask! She has very caring eyes and the patients quickly pick up on her demeanor. Preston, the baby of the group, is working hard and I feel a change in this young man. I have only known him for a short time, but his demeanor is changing and you can see the personal growth happening. Working with these people of littleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA means who care so much for each other is showing him another side of humanity. When this trip is over I feel he will reflect on this moment for a long time to come. Melissa is running at Mach 10, bouncing from patient to patient setting everything in motion for Kristina. Melissa cracks me up! When things begin to feel a little heavy, there are two people (other than my wife) I look towards, Melissa and Heather! Both with the same quick wit dry humor that leaves me belly laughing! This morning as we started I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlooked out the window and there to my surprise was a small pack of horses and burros! Melissa and I share a love of horses and we both raced down to see them like school children running for the bus stop! When we started petting them, the owners thought we were crazy! After being away from our horses it was cool just to touch them.
Hardly laid eyes on Jacy the rest of the day. Apparently Dr. Jacy saw almost as many patients in her medical clinic as we did on the dental side! She is a very caring person and emotionally I am worried about her as I know she will take any outcome (good or bad) personally. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARichard stood by her side all day as they held their emotions in check and worked their way through one patient after another. Many superficial wounds, insect bites and burns. At one point she held a little boy who was deaf due to chronic ear infections from birth. Children with colds, scabies and staph, it was all there and the two of them did their very best. We could hear children with some of the more severe issues crying as they were being treated. We looked into each other’s eyes over our face masks as it happened with sympathy. But when a child has the ability to recognize at such a young age this pain is temporary, the fix relieves the pain forever. It really makes you think, no child should be forced to recognize these things. It affects you personally after lancing an infected, puss filled boil, then having the same crying child thank you with the biggest best hug ever! Given time these highs and lows can make even theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA emotionally strongest weak.
It is breaking Jacy’s heart.
Closing up shop, we once again needed to turn some people away, we had already worked until almost dark. Those turned away were once again given a number allowing them to be first in the morning line. Many of them were crying as once again this group of people had traveled from a far to be here. It’s tough watching adults cry. It’s hard to think about your own personal meaningless problems when a 50 year old woman is in tears after walking five hours in the heat to see the “white doctors”, only to be turned away until the next morning. Jacy came in and advised us one gentlemen in particular was a school teacher who walked many hours to be here. He had a few bad teeth and needed to be home in the morning to teach his class. The two of them sat in the waiting room chatting, sharing stories about their classrooms and she even showed him pictures of her students back home. Two human beings sharing a common bond formed from a love of teaching. We couldn’t turn him away for the night so while Jacy did her best pacifying those left behind, I walked the teacher from the building and smuggled him through a side door. He was our last patient of the day, Kristina made sure he would be in good shape for his children in the morning. The school teacher was very grateful and thanked us all the way out theIMG_2235 door. Gathering up our belongings and locking up the clinic, we receive word Captain Jackson’s wife has returned. She has delivered a stillborn baby, her uterus holds a very severe infection and she would have perished in days if not for our two teams. We are all sad for Captain Jackson and his family, many tears are shed between the two groups, but we must remind ourselves she is alive. Alive to raise her other children and still be here as Captain Jacksons wife. For that we thank God she will live.
By the end of the day, over 60 patients walk through our doors, 110 teeth are pulled and countless others are seen over on the medical side of the building. It is exhausting, it is thrilling, it is unnerving, and it is a gift from God. Some don’t see the pain, frustration, exhaustion, hunger, and sadness along with a myriad of other emotions and struggles we all experienced on our first day as a “gift from God”. But I do, for you see without struggle, we can never grow into the human beings God wants us to be. He puts it out there for us to experience, we just need to have faith that it’s right, in the end.
As I write this a monsoon (an exaggeration) complete with thunder and lighting is blowing overhead, it sounds like the world is about to fall in on our heads. In my life I have seen some severe storms, but I have to say this rain is one of a kind! Imagine the loudest thunder ever, the, most comfortable wind rushing over your body while standing under Niagara Falls! It is awesome.
Richard just rushed into our guest house to check on us and make sure we weren’t flooding. He is laughing heartily, when I enquired to his giggling he says the girls are flooding and it’s funny! I ask if they need any help, he says no, it’s just funny watching them react to the rain!
I love the sound of rain.

Sleep will come easy tonight.

moon

 

The Rooster has crowed

rooster

0600- Last night during orientation someone in our group asked Sarah if an alarm clock was needed to wake up on time this morning, to which Sarah replied with a sly southern smile; just listen for the rooster! Well 4:45 am Mr. Rooster took to crowing and let me tell you that is one cock who knows his job! Our group slowly gathered downstairs for breakfast bleary eyed and not so bushy tailed, yet spirits remain high as the thought of coming closer to our final destination loomed near. A quick breakfast of bananas, toast and Haitian coffee helped to upright our balance, preparing us for a two hour car ride then four hour boat ride over to the island of La Gonave. On a personal note, Haitian coffee is the best damn coffee on the face coffeeof the planet! Starbucks, PEETS, and all you other half cracked coffee hacks can bow down and kiss the Haitians bums because your roasted beans are no match for the superior flavor of Haitian coffee! MMMMMMmmm sipping some right now…. Oh yeah where was I? Our main interpreter Richard arrived and was introduced to the team. I don’t have a read on him yet, he appears friendly enough but to be honest he comes off as a bit curt and rigid. I am sure that comes with meeting 10 people you don’t know but will soon be living and working with for a week. I hope he adapts quickly because with our groups dynamic personalities we are not for the rigid!IMG_2173

The team loaded up, waved goodbye to our hosts, and headed out (once again through the UNLOCKED, UNGAURDED gate of the guest house-so promising). Moving through the streets I tried several times to strike up conversation with our driver, he was very friendly but his English was lacking, or should I say my Creole sucked. Always one for good humorous conversation it seemed as though this trip would hold no such luck, although somewhere mid trip our driver did locate a radio station playing Haitian/English Rap and let’s just say some of the music’s lyrics involved various parts of the female anatomy being used in various ways that well, just created a serious run of the giggles for those who could hear it!
Honking, braking hard, weaving in and out of traffic, it became clear that some things in Haiti would never change. The Haitian driving OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAstyle is terrifying to most foreigners, it was terrifying to me the very first time I rode through the streets of Haiti. But who am I to judge, it works for them. In America we use the horn to say: Hey asshole get out of my way, or you idiot, you almost hit me! Or Hey buddy I am telling you I think you are number one! Look over here, look over here at my waving “number one” symbol!!!! In Haiti they use the horn to say; hey buddy I need to come around! Then the driver in front will honk his horn in return as a symbol he understands and you may pass. It’s an interesting system devised of horn honking with a series of hand signals combining rapid acceleration and flat to the floor speed. It’s like NASCAR with horns and vans and Tap-Taps and Mack trucks and Water trucks and oxen with carts and-oh well you get the point!

In the town of Carrefour we were to pick up our second interpreter Caz. Now Caz was an interpreter on Jacy’s first mission and through OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsheer luck became the interpreter on my first mission. Caz feels like family, he is warm and caring, has the tact of a politician in touchy situations with the caring hand of a pastor. He loves his country, and believes in the resilience of the Haitian people to stand up and overcome all forms of adversity. When I left him last year within minutes I was missing my new found friend. I have kept in contact with Caz over the year and my heart is pounding at the thought of reconnecting with this dear man. In the distance we see the truck holding our supplies parked on the side of the road, pulling up we also see the driver has in fact picked up Caz. We roll by slowly and everyone waves, Caz is on the phone and gives a gentle wave out the window that is until he sees my child like pie eyed face beaming back at him! He jumps forward and waves excitedly as he realizes who is waving! Little does he know there are two more of his old friends wedged in the back anxiously waiting to give him a giant hug as well!
Continuing along the western coastline from Port au Prince, signs of recovery are everywhere! Sidewalks cleared, repaired and clean with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAresidents sweeping them as we pass by. Traffic, short of the normal craziness that is driving in Haiti is moving unimpeded. For those of us returning to this area once again it is a sight to behold. There are parts of this island that astound you with the level of destruction still remaining. There are other areas teaming with recovery efforts, and there are parts of this country that leave you feeling as though the recovery process is almost complete with gleaming buildings, painted or reworked walls and fencing along with courtyards brimming with banana plants and foliage! As we climbed into the mountains my breath was taken away by the sheer beauty IMG_2076surrounding this magnificent place! Plantations built into the mountain sides, lush green rolling hills and corn growing on any free space available. Rolling over our last hill before the drop into Petit-Goave, our final destination, I am wishing I had seen this place before the earthquake to know what it looked like prior. One can have a sense but unless you have lived in that time frame you will never truly know and I wanted IMG_2073to know. Pulling down a small narrow cobblestone street we stop next to a courtyard and are directed to get out for we’d arrived! Jumping out of the van Caz and I take one look at each other and start laughing as we give each other a great big hug! Quickly he spies Jacy and Heather making the reunion complete! He is overflowing with joy at the sight of our smiling faces as we are overjoyed at the sight of his as well! We all soon find ourselves unloading luggage from the truck, then shuttling it through a courtyard to a small slab of concrete and dirt where a small skiff is waiting to take us out to the larger boat. Once our luggage is loaded the skiff maneuvers carefully off shore where our sailboat awaits its arrival. Yep I said it, SAILBOAT! Wind driven voyager of the seas, a trusted form of transportation since the dawn of time! From the first moment some knuckle dragger looked into a hollow stumpOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, threw the stump into the water and thought; ugh I float in that, it take me far! Wait! If me put up large palm leaf, me harness wind and go farther! Yep the trusty old (an in this case I mean really old) sail boat! Capt. Jack Sparrow himself walking the port side couldn’t have made this day any better!
While our luggage is being hauled off to the boat Jacy and I meet with Pastor Jackie. Pastor Jackie runs this region for the Methodist church and is our point man for this portion of the journey. He is in his thirties, good looking and very likeable. We know from our briefingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA that he holds much respect in the community of Source a Philipe and is considered the future of the church. We move into a back room of the church alongside the courtyard where our crew currently waits to load into the skiff for a ride to the boat. Once inside we start to discuss expenses, there is $600 for the boat ride to and from the mainland. There is also a $50 a night fee per person for staying on the island. Then there is the associated costs of extra interpreters and such. Some of the costs are confusing to me due to various rates and needs. But we settle up and on the way out I feel even more confused by the whole process. Little did I know that confusion would grow stronger as the week wore on? Pastor Jackie stayed to see us off, letting us know he would be at the island on Monday to check in on our progress.
After a few more short journeys in the skiff shuttling people the last person climbs aboard, our crew pulls anchor and we set sail to the north for what turned out to be one of the most beautifully serene and calm boat rides I have ever experienced. The water is a color blue that not even I could explain and do it justice. The sky has billowing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaribbean clouds floating lazily overhead and the breeze is warm and damp. I am in heaven. The boat rocks gently back and forth, up and down and every now then a little water would splash up and get my dangling legs. A few of our members needed to crawl out of the sun and a few more unfortunately were dealing with motion sickness. But I was laid back, legs hanging like bait over the sides, hat over my face half sleeping, half hoping this day would OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnever end. My wife is in her element as well. Sun hat on, sunscreen slathered, that inviting, warm smile of hers lighting up the deck as she spoke of Haiti and how much she loved this county. She ended up in a conversation with one of our interpreters Richard. Richard told a story of his mother passing away, living with missionaries, being educated in the finest schools only to have no money to go to college. Watching painfully as his friends went off and became doctors and engineers while he stayed home and drove a Tap-Tap (multi-person taxi). It was humiliating! To make matters worseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA his family and friends all made fun of him for not being able to figure out how to get himself through college. He has since gone to college and he holds two Visa’s allowing him to travel in and out of the United States. He tells of others who have obtained the very same visa’s only to never return to their home country of Haiti. Richard states every time he goes he feels the need to come home, for you see no matter how educated he becomes he only sees his people, the people he cares for and wishes to help. The people of his home country, the people of Haiti. I am starting to like him.
After 4 or so hours of sailing across a magnificent sea in calm weather with nothing more than some heat stroke and nausea we slip over a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAreef into 4 feet of crystal clear water to arrive at the small fishing village of Source a Philipe. Once the anchors set another small skiff emerges from the shoreline to start an arduous journey of bringing us to shore then gather all of our baggage. My initial perception of this place is that of amazement! Source a Philipe should be on the cover of a vacation magazine! Yes the beach is littered with run down shacks, and the streets are not really streets anymore but run down pathways filled with cobblestone. But it doesn’t matter, it has beauty in its own strange way. There is IMG_2097garbage lining the sand and even more as you walk around, normal for this culture, shocking to us clean freaks and easily fixable with about a weeks’ worth of work. We are greeted by many townsfolk upon our arrival. As introductions are given we meet François. (duh da dunnnnn- villain music inserted here) François introduces himself as an associate pastor and the general contact for all things involving the community. If we need something we are to ask him for it, if payment to anyone needs made it goes through François, the self-described “Liaison” was there for our group at anywhere, anytime. François wanted nothing more than our happiness during this stay in Source a Philipe. Now don’t get me wrong, it all seemed friendly enough at the time, but Jacy and I both looked at each other and after 11 years of marriage no words needed to be exchanged. Something OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdidn’t feel right. François walked us up the hill towards a guest house where our belongings were to be delivered by the local youth. Standing on the steps the clinic is quickly spotted a few yards away and a few of us wander over, curious about what lay behind its walls. Francois follows opening the doors where we quickly discover three empty rooms, with the exception of one reclining chair and a couple of benches this is going to take a bit of creativity. Our sleeves quickly become rolled up and as medical OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbaggage arrives within a matter of a few hours we have transformed these three empty rooms into a room for dentistry, a room for education and a room for minor medical issues. We have added two more rocking chairs for patients, and a few more tables for supplies. It’s OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnot perfect, but it will do! During this time we also meet up with a band of college students from the Wesley Foundation who have been OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAliving on the island for the last month! They have fixed a cistern, some water lines and built a cinder block latrine! They are young and in good spirits, they seem to be a fairly tight knit group and are very happy to see us.
IMG_2147After setting up the clinic and meeting our new friends we all gather again (new friends too) and decide it is time for a swim. The boats captain- (Captain Jackson) offers to take us out off shore near the reef where you can stand in four foot of water, gathering starfish and sea cucumbers (also fondly known as “Kaka nan lanme a” or poop in the sea- a joke we will further discuss later) . We all make our way down the newly built dock and into our trusty skiff, laughing and joking with our new found friends. Three hundred or so yards out he stops the IMG_2125 boat and lets us know we can now get in the water! First person off is always the hardest as you upset the balance of a little skiff so when Doc rolled out into the water all heck broke loose as the skiff rocked hard from side to side! All of us laughed and joked like school children as one by one we plopped our tired, sweaty bodies into the ocean. It was fantastic! We swam as a group, we laughed as a group and we played as a group. The water was perfect and so was the swim. The OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwater is like swimming pool water, so crystal clear you can see to the bottom and the temperature is perfect! Ally came up with starfish and sea urchins, Orson found plenty of Kaka nan lanme a, to which we all chuckled! How could an animal of the sea look so much like a giant poop? Oh well questions that will never be answered.
After our swim while walking back from the beach we strike up conversation with a few from the other group and one in particular “Ally” seems to have the low down on the village! (sounds like a future alliance) Everywhere she goes children can be heard screaming her name; AAAALLLLLEEEEYYYYYYY!!!!! It’s hysterical! Reminds me of another mission trip where all you could hear through the village wasOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA children screaming MMMMAAAAAAGGGGGIIIIEEEE! (Maggie) Another young woman who had her finger on the pulse of a village through the children. Alley walks us around, giving us the grand tour explaining where everything is at, who is who and what is what. You can tell her time here has been very fulfilling as she speaks with kindness, love and generosity about these people. She breaks away after a while telling us she will meet up with us later and off she heads into the groups accommodations. It is nice knowing there is another group here to lean upon.
We finished the day off with showers and another wonderful Haitian dinner. François came back around and through conversation I met OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAour third interpreter “Ronald”. Ronald would be provided for us by the Haitian Methodist Church. We had not planned on a third interpreter but Ronald was very nice and quickly adapted to our group. Francois informed us of a 9am church service that we had already planned on attending. François thought it would be nice if one of us could speak as there was no pastor amongst us. My wife offers to speak, thank goodness because if anyone can pull it off she can! She continues to amaze me at every turn. Not because I ever think she “can’t” do something, but because over the almost 11 years we have been married she does any task better and better every time with grace and charm.

The women’s dorm is located inside the main guest house and the men’s is located on the other side of the Wesley Foundations (college kids) house. An interpreter is housed in each and we both had hired security. We all gathered and chatted for a while but one by one the day seemed to wear on everyone and we all sort of drifted off to our respective place. Saying goodnight to my wife, she was working very hard on her presentation for church the following morning. I read what she had prepared, it was powerful, to the point and moving.
Heather, Alisa and Mellissa were bunked up in one room, Kristina, Gail and Jacy were in the other. It was girls’ summer camp at its finest! (Let your imagination go wild). Orson, Preston, Brent and I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsaid our final goodnights and wandered off to our little corner of the world. Orson and Preston in one room, Brent and myself in another. I felt kind of special being roomed with the international man of mystery. It turned out to be one of my better decisions during the trip as evening conversations with this man were fantastic. I will always remember the time spent with our own Brent Watney.
Clinic set up, accommodations taken care of, dinner devoured, showers finished, goodnights all the way around, now for a little me time. Head phones on, sweat running off my legs, bugs swirling around my face and some Miles Davis. Just what the doctor ordered.
Tomorrow is a new day and only God knows what’s in store for this team and I trust he has given us a task that we can handle.

(Please dear readers be patient as Betty is trying her very best to tell this story, I am trying hard to paint a picture from my perspective and it is taking quite a bit of rewrite from my notes. I am terribly afraid I am missing key parts, hopefully as I continue through my emotions the story will come easier and quicker)

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