When did I become the “old guy”

fire 13

Silence interrupted by deafening sounds created within a brain refusing to disengage from endless chatter bleeding forth through a radio stationed not far from where my head lays motionless. A county never sleeps, fire departments responding here, rushing there, fellow brothers and sisters not even being afforded the very moment my stupid brain will not allow me to enjoy. Head filled with echo’s of each and every call they’re responding too, returning from or currently enveloped. Where is my family? Are they home yet? Which district boundary are they traveling through? Or have they nestled peacefully into bed? Whose family is wondering the very same thing without the same general knowledge my ears are so privy too at this very moment? It is my curse, my sleepless, frustrating, torturous curse.

Then it happens, as it has thousands of times during my 19 years of service, the warble tones scream, letting everyone know to cease radio traffic for another 911 call is being dispatched, you wait and wonder? Will it be our tones? Is it our turn? And then our tones ring, forceful and true, setting off a chain of events that could only be described as a technological ballet. A printer springs to life, chattering away, printing the story of our impending response; a light shines brightly inside each and every room of this glorified 6 car garage/hotel, awakening us, blinding us from darkness in conjunction with a horrifying bell whose sound is remnant of electricity coursing through your veins. Doors open, computer screens spring to life and it all crescendos with us, moving from the dead to the undead or in my case no man’s land, the neutral zone, or as some would say; a grey area of lifelessness. Yes we all begin to move, from those who actually are blessed with an ability to sleep at the drop of a hat to station zombies such as myself. We move, swagger, stagger, stumble and charge forth like an attack straight from “the living dead”.

Meet at the map board, wipe the sleep from your eyes, then identify a map page, cross street, address number, a house, business, parking lot, freeway, intersection, country residence. How do I get there, which way is fastest, what type of call is this? Is it a medical aid, structure fire, vegetation fire, vehicle accident, mutual aid, automatic aid, haz-mat, or a public assist? Is this another call we will see in our dreams for years to come, will we return home feeling accomplished as our training has once again paid forth with huge dividends or will we laugh at some absurdity only humanity or the human spirit can bring during a ride home?

Through the final door, at the rig, is everyone here, what gear are we donning, is everyone seated, are seatbelts in place, have I unplugged the shore lines, opened the bay doors, started the engine so Cap (the captain) can get on the radio? So many boxes to check off a list wedged inside my head.

Making a right turn onto the main thoroughfare, I grab a glimpse of the two seated directly behind Cap and I. They look like kids. It’s hard for me to believe this time has passed, I am no longer the fresh-faced lad; heart racing before each call, nervous to ask questions, pie eyed wondering what will await us upon arrival. They look so young, so damn young and yet even though I joke about my age on a regular basis (I am only 48), in reality I am not that old; I do not feel old in any way shape or form. Yet here we are inside this Engine, I seated in the engineers position and one of my closest friends now my boss seated to my right wearing the “red hat” or Captains helmet. WE are no longer the long-term future of this department, the up and comers buried in classes, spending thousands of hours and dollars obtaining every certification we can load into a leather binder for future uses. WE instead are now this department’s core, the steady, the constant, dare I say it? (Swallowing hard) The old guys…

fire 8
My graduating academy class 1995

In what feels like a millisecond I went from riding backwards to driving, from taking classes to teaching classes, from becoming an Engineer to an Acting Captain. Some days I am considered middle ground between Cap and crew other days I am the Captain with those around me looking for direction and advice. Are you kidding me? When did all this happen? What myriad of events led to someone handing me a red hat and saying today this crew is yours? What person ever thought of placing me behind the wheel of a 44,000 pound rig, then running it code three (lights and sirens) through the busy streets of town unabated? It is lunacy I tell you, pure lunacy!

I talk with college kids, fire academy kids, our new kids, probationary, first year and second year firefighters too. They all look so fresh-faced, innocent, not damaged by what is to come. They all retain the very same attitude we had, the same attitude those who came before us had, and the same attitude all that will ever pass through these hallowed halls after us will have. One of ignorant bravery, one of unabashed cockiness, an attitude that says I am here to help, to learn and nothing will ever hurt me. How little do they know, for no matter how much you inspire, mold, guide or lead “it” (that attitude) will be with them until one defining moment in time forces them into change.

It is the same for us “old guys” we see it in each other’s eyes, feel it through our words, and absorb it through a hug, a hand shake, a nod, a bad joke, a look. It comes with time on the job, experiences that for some may seem the same but in reality each and every experience in this line of work is dependent on the job. Each wrinkle upon our faces has been earned, each grey hair grown from the memory of something we’d rather forget. Eyes once steeled, are now softer, kinder a tad more gentle. We can’t talk about some portions of the job with anyone else but our peers. They are the only ones who understand and where a young one will sit and listen to tales with dreams of someday having stories of their own, us old guys hope they do create stories of their own, yet secretly hope in the same breath some of those stories never come true.

The young guys are loud and brash, quick to jump on a topic, any topic and beat it up with theory, formulas and standard operating procedures. Watching them from a distance I can only chuckle as they work out their problems and only through the rationale of an old guy are shown an easier, faster, less labor intensive way of completing the very same job. The young ones, smash and break things to reach their goal, the old ones walk gently, using a “try before they pry” philosophy. The young ones talk loudly, while drilling each other for knowledge, the old ones walk softly and speak only when needed. The young ones let everyone know when they are promoted things will change. The old ones let anyone who asks know; when they retire things will most certainly change.

The fire service is a young man’s game there is no doubt, but you need the wisdom of the old guys to not kill yourself participating in such a wonderful career. Creating memories of your own is important, good bad or otherwise but developing a bond with these people, this second family, well that’s what lasts a lifetime. I love these guys, would do anything for them, passing on that aspect of the fire service is every bit as important as how we do the job.

I don’t know where I am going with all this, it just seemed odd to me as another night passed, another round of service calls were answered and as I looked into the baby-faced gleaming eyes of those young firefighters surrounding me. That I in fact had transitioned from a young guy to one of the very guys we looked up to 20 years ago and now these kids are now looking up to me. WTF!

fire

I hope, no I pray I can do a good job filling those boots.

fire 11

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Eye of the storm

eye

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

IMG_2249

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

 

A head in the sand

Unknown-5

Oh life would be so infinetly grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

There would be no hunger, there could be no strife

Each day would bring joy not the taking of life

Those who are accused could do so un-judged

A mistake forgotten a reputation un-smudged

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

Women would be considered on the same plane

While chivalry stayed true our manners not tamed

Equality for all would surely make us smile

While punishing those who are striving will cease bringing denial

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

Politicians would serve one or two terms

Then return to normal jobs and quit leaching like worms

With my head in the sand people’s voices are heard without wealth’s dictation

Our appreciation for those who stand tall would be with just admiration

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

Military members are held with the highest regards

While convicted criminals, thieves, scoundrels are called just what they are

Our monies to taxes are used for just purpose

Our budgets are balanced and left with a surplus

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

We’d care for one another like brothers, like sisters

No fighting or bullying, emotional scars bulging like blisters

A country as one that’s just what we’d be without our heads in the sand like you and like me

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

The cost of a gallon gas would mean nothing to me

With my head in the sand I am rich I am free

Everyone would drive their vehicle of choice

Burning clean, or electric,  we all have a voice

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

A house we could own, or rent, a place we could live

The banks couldnt screw us with money to give

With my head in the sand, all lending is fair

Interest rates don’t matter, bankruptcy is rare

Oh life would be so infinitely grand, if I lived it like most with my head in the sand

a world without over population that is where we would live

No starvation, no hunger, no diseases to give

All Gods children have food and fresh water, clean clothes for their backs

Not milk cartons for shoes, their lives lived from a sack

With my head in the sand life will bring me no stress, what do I care about life’s ultimate mess!

I will stay here not heard from, content uninspired. A life filled with darkness my selfishness mired. For you see it’s not my problem, and soon my life will have passed, with my head in the sand the world see’s only my ass.

That is the legacy I’ll leave far behind. A life truly wasted, time spent so unkind. For the selfish only center themselves on one thing.  With my head in the sand I am my own king.

If any of the problems I have listed above, make you crazy, or ring true. Then your head is not in the sand, hurray! Good for you! Now do something about it for time it is fleeting!  Then we can share stories at heavens gate, where one day we all will be meeting!

God put us here for a reason and it’s not to be sedentary. Make a change, do some good, I promise it’s not too much burden to carry.

LIFE IS MUCH BETTER WITH YOUR FACE IN SUN!

flat,550x550,075,f

Haiti revisited six months later….

 

7414930404_2140663491_m

Yesterday I was blessed with the opportunity to speak to our congregation in regards to the Haitian mission trip we participated in last June. John (Our leader) asked if the entire group would come speak. There were three presentation opportunities and we could choose all three or just one. Being the overachiever I am (sarcasm) two seemed sufficient.

Now being one to prepare for such an occasion (not) I decided to procrastinate, so much so that I walked into church with absolutely nothing to say. That’s right, not a word, no outline, no paragraph, no pictures, nothing. Let me reiterate NOTHING TO SAY!

Our Mission trip leader John arrived organized as always with a perfect outline combined with knowledge, experience, emotion and a closing statement. He sat next to me and asked if I was prepared. I laughed the nervous laugh one gives when out matched and simply stated: nope gonna wing it! John laughed and said good luck. Or something to that effect, I don’t know seeing his preparation my heart rate had already doubled and sweat was rolling down my back. Nitro anyone, I believe I am having chest pain…

Now don’t get me wrong I have spoken in front of large crowds without so much as a glitch! Stood before city council and read a resolution, spent the better part of my youth on the altar in church. Crowds never have been a problem for me. You want me to stand up and talk, heck yeah I got this! But you must remember, I say what comes to mind andi-phone pics 067 there in lies the problem. Some may find me humorous, others serious with a message, while a handful I will just downright piss off! History has shown there is no in between when it comes to me. I don’t just make you uncomfortable, or miffed, I just piss you off to the point of hatred! I think its my face (something I can’t change without plastic surgery, thanks god), or maybe my irish ancestry that tends to arise when its something I am very passionate about. Either way this would be one of those occasions where nothing would sadden me more than sending the wrong message to a group of people yearning for knowledge.

John stood up, and gave a very factual rendition of our trip, he covered highs and lows, but most of all he recognized the importance of God in our lives on a daily basis. The entire time he was talking all I could ponder was what moronic statement would come from my steel trap of broken dreams! Right before I rose to speak an argument arose inside my head: Self, you write all the time why couldn’t you write a prepared statement for this event? Why? Of course I answered myself with a very sarcastic; read your own blog you idiot, you already wrote over 12,000 words on the topic! Duh!!

Before I could retort myself; John called my name. I stood up, rubbed my sweaty palms together, took a deep breath and decided for some ungodly reason to visualize Tony Robbins while walking towards the stage! Suddenly I was 6 foot tall, perfectly combed hair and teeth larger than a Clydesdale! Perfect! Inspiration here I come!!!!

Now I could replay word for word what happened next, but see that’s the beauty of winging it; it’s never the same story twice and telling it with the same emotion as the very moment it leaves your lips is near impossible. The simple gist, try something you think you never would do, I said no a million times to this trip and am so glad I finally said yes! Mission work is not for everyone, but what is for everyone is shedding the trappings of our over scheduled disposable life and returning to basic humanity once in a while. As far as the presentation itself, the point that really needs to be made is this; I believe there was a reason no preparation was necessary. There was a higher power in control of my abilities and he knew if I wrote everything down I could never tell the story appropriately. Even more important is I believe I needed to relive those moments back in June for anyone to even understand the message that needed delivering. When it was over I was surprised, not just by the story, not just by the delivery or who was listening or the fact it was pulled from the vast wasteland that is my brain!. No I was 9-11-2011surprised by how emotionally moving/draining it was, almost to the point of tears when referring to my son, his experience, the wonderful people of Leveque and how much I hated it there,(hot, sweaty, large scary bugs)! Leaving was so incredibly hard, because even though you couldn’t wait to go home, see your family, actually drink something cool and have a moment when sweat wasnt running down your back, your front, oh hell everywhere! You didn’t want to leave those people, so full of love, and faith, the belief there was a better tomorrow on the horizon. For a little while the Haitian people filled a jaded man with love for humanity..

I would liken the experience to carrying a guilty burden for years, acting like it never happened until the very moment you spill the beans to the authorities. You know its over and there may be consequences but its out, and you feel nothing but relief…

The presentation went well, everyone seemed to understand the message, enjoy the small journey they went on that morning. Many came up to us and offered genuine thanks afterwords for our work and the ability to share. I was relieved. No one hated my face….

As for my alter ego that morning, well I put Tony Robbins back on the shelf for a future date when I may need some self-help super powers.

I am going back to Haiti in the spring, looking forward to refueling my love for humanity once again….

9-11-2011 010

Haiti Mission 2012 part 7: Raise the roof..

 

Monday June 11th, 2012

Last night before going to bed, my 11-year-old called to say hello.  Within seconds there appeared to be tension in our conversation.  When asked about his apparent discontent he slowly started whimpering and within seconds it became a gale force storm of tears.  Jake wanted Cody and I to come home. He cried and through his whimpering, I deciphered he missed us terribly.  I felt helpless, as a father should I suppose; usually when he misses me a short trip to the firehouse will bring quick consolation; returning his normal demeanor. But there was no short trip, no hey buddy I’ll be home tomorrow, instead he is regaled for his bravery being the “man” of the house while his brother and I are away.  After a few moments of pandering to his needs, he calms down.  I miss him, I feel horrible there is no way to comfort him, to hug him and make his fears go away, but slowly he comes around, he pretends to understand.  After a few “I love you’s’ and I’ll be home soon, he giggles slightly when I tell him goodnight. “Goodnight turkey lips” usually works every time and this time was no exception.

The good news? I slept all night! Yep that’s right, soaking sweat, dogs barking, parties next door and all! Nothing a good set of ear plugs (thank you John C) and a few days of mental and physical exhaustion can’t break you down too.  It was fabulous!

Once again we met after another of Madame Lulu’s wonderful meals. Today was a big day for our crew. No more playing around, a full days work lay ahead and there was plenty of work to go around.  After meeting with the crews, discussing the heat index, water intake, our urine output and covering our job site safety bullet points we all set to taking down beams.  The beams ran the length of the building tying the trusses together.  They needed to come down as one piece, all roughly 90-100 feet of them. There were five  beams on each side of the building.  Slowly we started unbolting then cutting away the supports.  With one person per truss holding the beams in place after each was cut away we would slowly slide them down the apex of the truss until they reached the edge, then let them drop to the ground where an awaiting crew would systematically cut the unions and stack them for recycling.

Amazing is a understament when describing the well oiled machine that had become our crew.  Working together, sweating together, accomplishing big goals in a very short period of time.  I know I have said it many times but the human spirit, is an inspiring thing to behold.  By lunch the beams were gone and we were ready for trusses.

truss/trəs/
Noun:
A framework, typically consisting of rafters, posts, and struts, supporting a roof, bridge, or other structure: “roof trusses”.

The trusses were a little trickier. The needed to have all supports tying them together cut. Ropes were then tied to the peak, applying tension from either direction for stability; then with John C on one wall and me on the opposing wall we would simultaneously cut away the ties that attached the trusses to the cinder block wall allowing the rope crews to slowly lower the trusses peak onto the floor.  Once the peak hit the floor another rope was tied to an upright end formerly attached to the wall and with a great big pull the truss would slide diagonally down the cinder block wall until it fell onto the floor.  Once on the floor the crews would make quick work of cutting the truss in half, removing it from the building then stacking it neatly outside for recycling.

By 3pm/15:00 there were all but three trusses left.  It filled us with a great sense of accomplishment.  At the end of the day we gathered our group to thank everyone for working so hard and staying safe.  We had Caz tell the Haitian crew how honored we were  to work alongside them and how we looked forward to another safe productive day on Tuesday.

Today, being our first full day of work I also fully understood why we quit working at 3pm.  The heat! The humidity and heat hits a high around 3.  Its stifling to say the least.  For anyone who is not acclimated to this type of heat feels like a Sahara death sentence to say the least.  After today I never once thought about 3pm being an idiotic time to stop work again.

The kids are back, a soccer game is afoot.  Bubbles continues to be the phrase of choice as Paul once again takes time to play with the smaller children.  Mason is also surrounded after every soccer game.  They are teaching him Haitian-Creole, he is taking notes and trying his very best to understand what they are saying.  The interaction between our two cultures is fantastic.

Everyone worked very hard today. Watching Maggie, Cody, Caz and Marcanie pull on trusses, then tear them apart after they hit the ground was pretty cool.  Jan, Heather and Mason were troopers carrying off all the scrap metal. The entire crew continues to inspire me every minute of every day.  Everyone has a job and even if they have never done anything like the task they have adopted all of them sure look as though they know what they are doing.  They are fantastic human beings, with great spirits inside them.  Once again the day is finished and as I sit in my chair atop the balcony quipping one joke after another with these people I feel as though I am surrounded by family.

Speaking of family I am calling my wife tonight. I miss the sound of her voice more than I can describe.  Its one thing to be away from each other while still communicating every night or even several times a day. Its completely different when you are not able to speak with her for days.  I find myself praying she picks up the phone, and though there is doubt, after all her schedule is very busy tonight; I pray for only a minute or two, just hearing her voice will be all the revival I need to carry on for a few more days.

The phone rings………

 

Haiti Mission Trip 2012 part 5: Bonswa!

Saturday 9th 2012

Another sleepless night! Currently three nights in a row and I am not sure how much longer my body can take this lack of sleep. The problem for me remains the same, Haiti never rests! Being a little Haiti naïve, I was under the assumption that being away from the main city life would be a little slower, a smidge quieter, yet nothing could be further from the truth! Behind our compound are houses hidden in the mango/banana trees that appear to be the collection point for those who never sleep! Music like that of a Caribbean polka pumping from the residence all to the hoots and hollers of its inhabitants!  Lying in my bunk sopping in sweat, cursing the heavens above because there is no escape from this dreadful noise! My ear plugs have eluded me in the dark, and I am afraid to wake the lucky ones while searching my bags with a flashlight.  As for all the music I uploaded into my iPhone for just such an occasion; I made the mistake of storing everything using the “cloud”, and since all my data functions are disabled to keep from being charged an arm and a leg at AT&T it can’t be retrieved.  So all I have are eight songs placed directly onto my phones memory. Eight songs for eight days, yeah I’m screwed! Somewhere around 1 am exhaustion gets the better of me and I pass out, only to be rousted from bed at 3 am by the sounds of two dogs barking at each other! This continues for around an hour and is immediately replaced by the wonderful crows of chickens singing to the rising sun!  Now if all of that weren’t bad enough for yours truly; Marcanie started snoring around midnight and never quit.  Snoring in itself is not so bad, living in a firehouse with 4-6 other guys for 1/3 of my life, snoring is something you get used too.  But this man (Marcanie) is the king daddy of snoring, the Gandhi of bear growls, Lord of the buzz saw, the champion tree chopper, I am pretty sure some of those sounds could not legally be registered on a decibel meter! Long story short, another rough night and the hot Haitian coffee could not be poured soon enough.

Upside; Cody and Mason didn’t hear a thing (ahh to be young and able to pass out at the drop of a hat) they slept right through it all.  At least some of us received a welcomed night’s sleep. Everyone else was awakened at one time or another, dog barking seemed to be the complaint of choice.

Breakfast was at 7am on the nose and it smelled heavenly.  We were treated to spaghetti? I know it sounds strange right? Spaghetti for breakfast! But it was the best spaghetti ever! Nothing like what you would envision spaghetti to be, it was spicy, with vegetables and no sauce over the top! There was fruit and cereal, coffee and tea. The food was perfect.

 We gathered our tools, marching downstairs to meet with the incoming workers at 0800.  Today is Saturday which means it will be another half day of work for everyone.  Our goal this morning is to expose the steel trusses by removing the tin sheeting from the roof.  A few of us have high hopes that we may actually have a truss or two on the ground before noon, but that may be nothing more than wishful thinking.  Caz, Marcanie, Pastor Charles and the ten of us meet inside the church. A quick safety briefing is given along with mentioning what our goals are for the day.  We collectively decide that Opening up the concrete windows to create air flow and removing all the tin sheeting on the roof is our goal.  Everyone is pumped. Excited and ready to go! Once the concrete windows are knocked out with sledge hammers we can begin on the roof.  The Haitian crew decides going onto the roof and removing tin from the outside is the best plan.  Mean while a different plan is taking shape which places ladders inside the exposed trusses as makeshift scaffolding, allowing us to work in the shade and not risk someone falling from the roof.  Yes the tins are bolted to the trusses but they are bolted on using J-hooks.  J-Hooks are just what they sound like; they are bolts in the shape of a “J”. With the nut outside on top of the roof, the “J” passes through the tin with the “j” portion grabbing a steel truss securing a piece of tin sheeting tightly.  This is where the four bolt cutters we brought with us come into play.  Instead of unbolting the hooks from above, we are having two crews safely move up and down the length of the building cutting “J” hooks from the inside using ladders as scaffolding. Safe, easy and fast it worked as planned! The tins came down one at a time, everyone (who wished to go up in the scaffolding) took turns cutting the “J” hooks as bolt cutting a couple of hundred of these things can become a little tiresome. It went fairly quickly and we finished before noon which allowed us ample time to formulate our plan for the beginning of the week.  The beams and trusses were next to come down starting Monday and we definitely were going to need some sockets or crescent wrenches for this project.  Realizing the deficiency in our tool cache Paul suggested that we head into Cabaret (the next town over)with an interpreter to retrieve these items from a local shop.  John G, Mason and a few of the Haitian workers wished to tag along as well.  It sounded like great fun and an adventure to boot. 

Cabaret (Creole: Kabarè) is a municipality in the Arcahaie Arrondissement, in the Ouest Department of Haiti. It has 63,450 inhabitants. During his dictatorship François Duvalier renamed it Duvalierville in 1961 and a megalomaniacal construction project was begun. The project failed, but the name was kept until Duvalier’s successor, his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, fled the country in 1986.

Marcanie took us across the street from the compound where we stood waiting for a Tap-Tap to drive by.  A few loaded Tap-Taps passed us by but finally after about ten minutes one happened to stop. It appeared to be loaded with too many people for our group to fit inside, but not thinking like a Haitian I was wrong. So with a long gaze and a long deep breath we all stepped forward to receive our first lesson from the University of Tap-Tap.  Pushing and shoving, jostling and contorting, we all squeezed on, in and even hung a little off to the side. It was unsafe, crazy and something that had my Spidey senses abuzz but it was exhilarating! We all loved the ride into town and couldn’t wait for another Tap-Tap ride back to the compound!

We arrived in the town of Cabaret to witness complete controlled chaos! In the center of town the markets were open, people were everywhere! Hustling, moving, buying and selling Cabaret was alive!  Our guides took us from tool shack to tool shack looking for a simple crescent wrench or some socket wrenches.  There wasn’t a free place to move or stand without running into, bumping or moving out-of-the-way of another person, vehicle or motorcycle. We traveled through side streets, down alley ways into areas where people were fixing cars and bikes, Marcanie took us everywhere and we talked with quite a few friendly and helpful individuals.  At one point we ended up in a two-story building that resembled a shabby apartment complex filled with building supplies. There were two men sitting in the front entry staring at us as we went upstairs and it was the only time I ever felt a little uncomfortable, on edge. It seemed as though they really didn’t want us inside. Just my opinion though, I could have read the situation wrong, but it sure felt that way.  In the end we arrived back at the first store we visited. (Isn’t it always that way?) Even though the store only had two crescent wrenches available it would be enough for the task at hand on Monday. While Paul haggled with the owner over the obvious inflated prices on our behalf, John G and I were drooling over the brand new Korean and Chinese manufactured motorcycles that were for sale in front of the store.  At one point the owner informed Marcanie we could purchase them for $1000.00 u.s. dollars.  I wanted so badly to purchase one on the spot, then cruise the streets of Haiti! Nothing would have been more exciting than traveling home knowing I survived Haiti’s traffic chaos on a motorcycle! But most importantly it would have been nice to go off on an afternoon cruise and discover a little Haitian culture on my own.  Before concluding our business with the local shop owner, the price had dropped to $950.00. I am pretty sure with a little haggling $800.00 would have left me the proud owner of a Haojin 125cc motorcycle.

The afternoon trip turned out to be quite an adventure! We had walked through Cabaret, met a handful of locals and strolled into a little store for a soda. I felt uncomfortable, out of my element and excited all at the same time. Slowly working our way through the crowds back uptown towards Tap-Tap central, our construction friends grabbed the first empty Tap-Tap we came upon. Ushering us inside and after back filling the Toyota truck bed with as many people as humanly possible we slowly made our way back to our temporary home in Leveque.

The entire group gathered upon our return for prayer and lunch.  Afterwards, Paul had made arrangements through a few of his new friends for our group with the assistance of an interpreter to go on a walk about. We heard of a village in the hills behind us and it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to stretch our legs while introducing ourselves to some of the local residents. Our walk took us alongside the highway past many shanties and half destroyed homes.  Residents sat or worked in their front yards under shade trees hiding from the heat of the day.  Most waved hello, some smiled sheepishly while others looked confused at our presence.

Turning left onto a washed out dirt road leading up a hillside, the road took us through groves of bananas and plantains.  The country side was a strange mixture of tropical beauty combined with modern-day refuse scattered about without care.  After witnessing the crowded, dirty streets of Port-au-Prince and the jammed hustle of local Cabaret this little excursion was a peaceful respite for our crew. After walking with and passing many locals we came upon a concrete irrigation/drainage ditch where many children were playing in the water.   There was one small pathway leading over it and we waited patiently as donkeys and motorcycles all carrying passengers made their way across. 

Once we crossed groups of small children seemed to arrive from nowhere. Running alongside us shouting, taking our hands, some would beg for food, some would beg for water, and others were just content to receive the attention we provided.  Around a mile in we encountered our first housing encampment. Built by a group called Samaritans Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse is a non-denominational evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that works worldwide to assist people in physical need alongside their Christian missionary work. The organization’s president is Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham. The name of the organization is based on the New Testament Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus uses a parable to teach people the second great commandment – how to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Samaritan’s Purse works in more than 100 countries around the world. International headquarters are in Boone, North Carolina, with additional U.S. facilities in Charlotte and North Wilkesboro, N.C. Affiliate offices are in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Field offices are located in some 20 countries across five continents.

The buildings were of many different sizes, some seemed to be small in the 14×16 foot range while others looked a little larger. There were central outhouses along with meeting halls.  At one end of the project sat rows of larger 20×60 building that for some reason reminded me of a Japanese internment camp from the 1940’s.  But they were all clean, neat and orderly.  Most were weather wrapped and it seemed every one that we saw had occupants.  Smiling and waving, we were always greeted with a smile and wave in return.

Moving farther up the hill while holding a small child’s hand I began to feel somewhat guilty.  We were walking into these peoples’ lives, staring at them, taking pictures as though they were some kind of circus attraction put there for our amusement.  Personally there were a few occasions where making eye contact was hard because of the guilt I felt inside.  My mind was racing, what were they thinking, how did they feel about themselves, about our intrusion, or the hand they had been dealt since the earthquake?  Were they grateful for the housing and assistance provided, or angry because many of the projects seemed unfinished? Had these Haitians truly been helped or hindered by the short-term assistance that eventually became less and less?  

At or around mile two we came upon another community erected by Mission of Hope

Mission of Hope: as an organization following Jesus Christ, we exist to bring life transformation to every man, woman, and child in Haiti. Mission of Hope was founded in 1998, and continues to serve Haiti daily by meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the Haitian population.

At Mission of Hope, we desire to serve the nation of Haiti, and see lives changed. Our passion is to see the hopeless find hope through Jesus Christ, and empower future generations through education to bring their country out of poverty. Mission of Hope website http://www.mohhaiti.org

The housing at the Mission of Hope complex was refreshing to say the least.  Houses were all neatly in a row with independent yards, fences and gates.  The inhabitants looked happy sitting on their porches and all welcomed us with large smiles and a hearty Bonswa! We arrived at a church and were warmly welcomed inside where we gazed at the simplicity of their building.  A place of worship built on rock in the middle of nowhere and it was perfect. We all enjoyed spending a few moments inside.  As we traveled onward through the project children swarmed us, grabbing our hands. Laughing at our faces and all of them wanted to play.  Taking a few moments at an assembly building we took pictures while playing with children.  It was nice, even Cody got into the action.  Everyone of us had a child taking very special interest in our arrival.  It was the first time during the walk I wasn’t feeling ashamed for my presence.

As we made the corner heading for home one of our guides pointed up the hill to a similar housing complex also built by Mission of Hope.  This one was strictly for the deaf community.  How wonderful to have an entire community of like-minded individuals living as one.  In America they would be considered handicapped and maybe in Haiti they still are but in this village no such phrase exists for they live, farm and work together as one. Inspiring.

While walking towards home I asked one of our interpreters Marcanie; Why if we say nothing to an individual in passing do I feel contempt coming from the person we passed? But if I smile and say Bonjour/ Bonswa (good morning/afternoon) as we pass every person lights up with a gigantic smile then waves?  Marcanie proceeded to tell me that by saying good morning or afternoon in passing you are showing a sign of respect towards that individual.  Out in the country is it expected to show respect not only for your elders but for all individuals as human beings or children of God.  If you choose not to say good morning or afternoon after making eye contact you are showing, superiority or you feel as though you are better than they are; which in turn is extremely disrespectful. Here in a country where hard times and strife seem to be an everyday occurrence, the simple principles that our country once lived by still exist.  Say good morning or good evening to a complete strangers in our country and you are looked at as though you are crazy. It is sad.

We arrived back to the Leveque Hilton to another wonderful meal prepared for us by Miss LuLu.  We prayed, we sat for devotional and then we once again partook in something that is sadly missing from our everyday lives.  Together like a family we sat on the porch and talked. Every single one of us, for three-four hours! We laughed, and joked, telling stories about our day, sharing our experiences, our personal feelings, the highs and the lows. It was pure bliss!

I want to build a patio and shade cover in our back yard so that after dinner, no one is allowed to go their separate ways, but instead all will meet for devotional time, laughing and talking about their day.  Just like we used too, as families before technology, dual working parents, after school sports and just plain old life got in the way..

Haiti Mission Trip 2012 part 4: Dust in the wind…

 

 

Dust in the wind…

Inside the church had a simple layout, one main hall, a dividing wall with a “pastors” chamber to the rear.  The inner walls were constructed with standard grade two by fours sheeted with (4×8) plywood; the entire ceiling was also covered with plywood, painted and set with a ½ inch trim plate.   I had brought one of my spare tool belts for just such an occasion.  Laden with a single jack, hammer, crows foot and pry bar, I quickly set to peeling trim while John G, took to making a purchase point for the ceilings plywood.  Our entire group looked like a WWF wrestling cage match, all circling the ring waiting for someone to “tap” them into the fight!  Two days of travel and unspent energy were waiting to wreak havoc upon this old building.  John G and I were able to clear an entire span of trim work allowing us the advantage of exposing corners of the plywood for prying.  Together with an inch gap on either end of our first board we gave it the old heave ho on the count of three.  (Now is that 1, 2, 3 or 1 and 2 and 3, or do we just go on 3?) This Lethal Weapon quote/play on words would haunt us for the duration of the trip. 

The board came down unexpectedly easy, along with 62 years of dirt! Within seconds it was black as night inside the building and everyone was scrambling for fresh air.  John and I both simply placed shirts over our mouths, braced for the tornado then stood still until the room cleared.  Laying eyes upon each other we both started laughing.  Covered from head to toe with an easy inch of dirt, we both resembled “Pig pen” from the peanuts.  The dirt fueled our fire and after acquiring a few dust masks the ceiling started coming down rather quickly.  We formed two teams on either side of the room taking down plywood, framing and roof supports all while other members cleared debris.  Everything that came out of the building was placed into neat piles for recycling later.  Nothing goes to waste here, if it can be reused somewhere else it’s either put to use immediately or hauled off to someplace else for distribution. 

A work day on the job site consisted of working from 0800-1500 with an hour off for lunch.  When informed of this my inner, self-centered workaholic, could not believe it! How will we get any work done in six hours I asked myself?  I would learn in time there was a reason for this modified work schedule and it had absolutely nothing to do with how much work one could accomplish. (i’ll discuss this revalation later)

We had arrived late on Friday afternoon starting work around 1300 and by quitting time (1500) the entire inside of the structure was stripped bare! Nothing left but four walls, steel trusses and a tin roof overhead.  It was exciting to say the least, everyone was pumped!  It was our first moment working together as a team, and we succeeded! Everyone was feeling a sense of accomplishment, which was a great moral boost after the last 24-30 hours.

Mason had pulled out his Nikon camera and started taking pictures right away.  At first I was a little bothered by this action since there was work to be done.  But after 15-20 minutes of watching this young lad with his camera, I realized it was selfish of me to think this way.  Mason held an obvious passion for taking pictures, this proved to be invaluable during our trip.  Someone once told me everyone has a “purpose” that purpose may not be immediately evident, and it may not be what you wish it to be, but if you pay close attention in time it will reveal itself.

 Mason’s purpose ended up being two-fold, one he became our official recorder with his outstanding photographic skills and the second part was his uncanny ability to relate one on one with all the children.

 While most of us traveled up to our second story perch, figuring out how tomorrow would unfold while trying to knock dirt from our clothes; Mason was already introducing himself to the local children.  His camera was an instant tool of acceptance.  He would take their pictures, showing them afterwards; this of course tickled the children greatly! This action became his personal bliss, these children where his muse; that was until a soccer ball appeared.  Futbol’ or soccer as we refer to the game is the nation’s favorite sport.  Our team was quite prepared for this fact with Mason and Paul’s church donating quite a few sporting goods for the trip.  Of course that meant soccer balls.  The minute a soccer ball hit the dirt children from all over came running to play.  This would end up becoming a nightly routine. Work ended, soccer began, and Mason would play the game of his life every night to gleeful smiles of many a child, and Caz as well….

Paul also held a disarming charm that resonated within the community! He would walk where he wanted when he wanted introducing himself to everyone. A personality trait I actually envied. At one point Paul hauled out some toys to share with the children. Two bubble blowing guns appeared and within minutes, from the second story balcony bubbles rained down upon the children like snowflakes.  This of course was accompanied by Paul yelling at the top of his lungs “BUBBLESSSSSSS”.  The children laughed, danced and chased the little soapy spheres, all while screaming “BUBBLESSSSS” in return.  Paul had an immense amount of positive spirit and energy!  We teased him for this, but it was all in good fun.  In reality some of us secretly wished we could harness some of his incredible power to use for ourselves.  Paul actually made a statement that nothing could deplete his endless bounty of energy and enthusiasm. (Not his exact words) This would be tested during the week. 

Maggie as Mason also had a way with children. She wandered downstairs and was quick to fall in love with the small children; it appeared the feelings were mutual.  There was something about Maggie’s name that led to children saying it over and over again.  It became quite humorous. Every night after the first night you could hear off in the distance some small child sweetly, quietly, saying “Maagggiiiieeee”.

 As we sat in our chairs overlooking the work site a combination of sweat and dirt pooled at our feet. (Have I mentioned yet that it is really hot here?) The word came a shower area was arranged for us on the second story of the adjoining building.  John, John, Cody and I strolled over with our solar showers to set them up and prepare the room for a barrage of dirty people.  The room was an intended shower room with tiled basin and drain.  Next to the basin sat a 50 gallon drum filled with water and a small container to draw water from the barrel.  We filled one of the solar showers and the three of us with Cody standing on Johns shoulders set to hanging the bag for use; once accomplished we also hung a curtain across the open doorway, a veil attempt at privacy from the house directly behind the structure. It was a perfect set-up! A little home away from home, except for one thing; the shower never really worked with the mass amounts of dirt and sweat stuck to our bodies. Nothing short of a pressure washer was removing that gunk! All gave it a try, and everyone (including yours truly) came back regaling the therapeutic values of just dumping a half-gallon, cool bucket of water over your body after a hot, hard day’s work.

After all had showered we were called to dinner by Madame Lulu.  Circling the table like hungry vultures, John C. settled us down by having us hold hands while he led us in prayer.  Madame Lulu spread out her arms, welcoming us to our dining experience with a warm Bon Apatite!  Having never tasted Haitian cuisine previous to this trip, I was pleasantly surprised by the fare we had dined upon at the guest house.  But I am here to say very proudly that; Rachel Ray, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay have nothing, and I mean NOTHING on Madame Lulu!  The woman is a goddess in the kitchen! To make things even more impressive she does it all with nothing more than some simple canned good, seasonings, frozen meat and a propane converted oven/stove that we carried up two flights of stairs and placed inside our temporary dining room.  No million dollar kitchen, no stainless counters, no kitchen aid cooking utensils. Just some simple utensils, a table, a few bowls and one stove! It was fantastic, it was heavenly, and for eight days her cooking was the center of many discussions. What is she going to be cooking tonight? There is no way she can top last night? But she did, she would, and we all loved her for it!

The night ended with some light conversation about the upcoming day along with some devotional time.  During devotional time, John C. asked us to recount three things.  What we liked about today? What we didn’t like about today? And where we had seen God today? 

There were a number of wonderful responses. I remember feeling at ease with the people who surrounded us; blessed by the souls sitting in this circle of trust. Cody was quiet; I believe he’s trying to figure out his place on this strange adventure. Thank goodness he’s formed a bond with Miss Maggie, Heather, Anne and Jan.  They keep him laughing and he returns the favor on a consistent basis.

It had become my turn to answer these three little questions.

  1. What did I like about today? We were finally here after months of planning. All the anticipation of traveling to this land far away and I couldn’t wait to see what unfolded over the next several days.
  2.  What didn’t I like about today? Emotions; overwhelmed by all we had seen up to this point. I thought I was prepared; I studied online and read until my eyes crossed.  Some nights I felt as though Television static was all that buzzed through my brain. 
  3. Where had I seen God?  I had seen God in the faces of all who came together today.  10 individuals who never worked on a project together, combined with 5 Haitians who didn’t know what to expect from us Americans and yet somehow, language barrier and all, we gelled together for one combined purpose.  Destroy an unsafe building furthering the town of Leveque towards building a new safe temple devoted to worship.  Really quite moving when you sit back and think about it?

As the night grew thin, we all sat on the balcony talking, texting, writing, reading and playing games on our phones.  It was nice, very family like when you think about it.   No one could run off and hide like back at home. No television to dull your senses and turn off your ability to interact with others; Just our twelve (Caz & Marcanie included) all sitting in a line, on a balcony, with our feet up, laughing, joking and regaling each other with our own little triumphs during the day.

Heaven is truly where you find it. 

Goodnight Johnboy….

Every 15 Minutes

Steam rises from the hood as a faint wail can be heard off in the distance.  Sound is muffled, vision distorted he doesn’t understand the images placed before his eyes.  A kaleidoscope of colors passing through a spiderweb prism is all he can associate.  Looking to his right he finds a pair of shoes.  Not just any shoes but the Sketchers he bought his girlfriend for her 16th birthday.  Why? He wonders.  Why are they there on the seat of my car and how are they standing on their toes.  The improbability of shoes standing on their toes is more than his mind can process.  He shakes his head trying to clear the cobwebs but the alcohol in his system wont let it happen.  So he stares at the pink Sketchers in disbelief.  

The pink Sketchers he bought his girlfriend on her 16th birthday are in fact not standing on their toes.  They are still connected to her feet, feet that lead to her legs, legs that stretch through the windshield of his 2004 Nissan where she lay motionless on the hood. Dying.  The girl he loves is dying on the very hood that steam now rises from while a faint wail can be heard in the distance.

She cant seem to make it stop.  She doesn’t remember taking a nap, but now that she has found peaceful slumber she only wishes for what ever is dripping on her face to quit!  She dreams of water or syrup sliding across her eyes.  Swatting at the sticky substance she is not sure whether its real or part of her warm comfortable dream.  Then she feels it, starting out as a low uncomfortable burning, her dream translates it into fire.  Surrounding her, leaving her trapped yet somehow she knows better, fighting resisting the dream. Her eyes finally opened by the rush of adrenaline surging through her system, brought forward by the searing pain across her face. The sticky substance now identified is blood! She screams then screams again, taking in all the air her lungs will allow.  Her seat is covered in blood, the dashboard is covered in blood, her clothes are covered in blood.  Wait a minute; she thinks to herself.  Calm down and relax; is all she can say.  Her dads voice ringing in her ears for all the times she felt panicked and he calmed her down with those four little words.  Honey just “calm down and relax”.  She remembers getting in the car with her friend, they were headed to a friend’s house for a study group..  Wait her friend! He was driving them! She slowly turns to the left and its then her world is changed forever!

She now knows where the blood is from, oh sure some is from the head wound that burns across her scalp.  But the majority is from him.  He lies motionless against the door pillar, color gone from his face, lips barren and dry, a sandy glaze across the whites of his eyes he breathes no more. Still, lifeless, anything but the laughing energetic young man he was a mere 5 minutes ago.  She screams for him to wake, he doesn’t budge.  She slaps his face praying for a reaction! Anything! Anger and fear rip through her as she comes to realize he will never wake up, never move again, the charming, smart, dorky boy she had known since 5th grade was gone forever. She lays against him crying. Not knowing what to do or where to go, she cries.

The faint wail off in the distance is not a wounded animal, it doesn’t come from a piece of machinery or a child who has just been punished it comes from a shadow, a silhouette, an anomaly spread out on the pavement 25 yards away.  It twitches and writhes this anomaly of disproportion.  The top half in a serious battle with the bottom half. A losing battle from what can be gathered at first sight.  This shadow seems to be swimming on pavement, for it surrounded by liquid.  A red lake that ripples with the breeze it appears to be flowing to the lowest level it can reach.  Moving closer we see the shadow, the anomaly is wearing softball gear.  A bat off to the right a cleat off to the left stuck in the center of what appears to be a childs water-color.  Smeared across hot black asphalt lay various shades of red.  She doesn’t know why she is face down and can’t move her lower half.  She doesn’t understand why she is vomiting non stop. She feels a “fight or flight” reaction that she can’t control.  Like a trapped animal she howls, claws and fights against the chains that bind her to this place.  An abdomen that wont flex, a pair of legs grotesquely deformed, rotated and broken, she fights.  She has fought her whole life against those who said she couldn’t.  She has fought her whole life to achieve her small successes in school , at home and on the field of play, now she fights purely for her life.  She cannot move anymore yet she still fights.. 

He has shaken the cobwebs and moved beyond the pink Sketchers.  Trembling with fear he opens the car door and stands up to survey the origin of steam rising off the front of his car.  He cannot believe what lays before his still blurry eyes.  Two vehicles are heavily damaged, the front end on his car is folded up like a piece of paper, his girlfriend lay on the hood. Bleeding. Unconscious. It appears he has struck another car in the driver’s door.  A portion of the drivers head lays split open on the center post of the car.  It appears another occupant, most likely a female is crying and shaking the driver looking for a response.  As he walks around the front of his car, pulling out his cell phone he see’s a bloody pile of clothing fighting against itself on the street off in the distance.  It also appears to be a female and she has a bat, glove and is missing her shoes??

What has he done?  How did this happen?  It was only minutes ago he was at a party, laughing, drinking and having a good time with his girlfriend.  What is he going to tell his parents?  What is he going to tell her parents?  This can’t be happening he is going to college in 6 weeks!  What does this mean for his future?  It was only a couple of drinks right? He tells himself he is fine and there is no way the cops will ever know..

He makes the call to 911…

Every 15 minutes a person is involved in an alcohol related accident.  This is the premise of the Every 15 Minutes program held at high schools across the country prior to Senior Prom and Graduation.  Every 15 Minutes is a two-day program focusing on high school juniors and seniors.  The program challenges them to think about drinking, driving, personal safety and the responsibility of making the right decisions.  The program also focuses on the impact these choices make on family, friends and the community. 

The story I wrote above was about our scenario today April 26th 2012.  It is an re-enactment or compilation of many accidents I have responded to over the years.  For as the Every 15 Minutes program has an impact on the children and their families. Drinking and driving has an impact on all first responders.  The firefighters, the police officers, the ambulance crews and the hospital personnel who fight for your child or family members life.  People who are advocates for their survival.  These are images I carry with me always.  Images I can’t erase or just forget! People whose lives were changed forever from one poorly made decision. I remember them all and share them with you so you will remember to never get behind the wheel of a car after you have been drinking. 

Dont drink and drive. 

 All pictures are of high school actors who volunteered to help raise awareness to teenage drinking and driving. I am very proud to be a part of the Every 15 Minutes program and the lasting effect it has on our participants, their family members and the audience that witnesses the event.

Versatile Blogger Award

I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

You really like me………

I have been nominated for the Personal Blogger Award by Vanessa Chapman http://vanessa-chapman.com 

This is an award bloggers award to each other as a way of showing appreciation for the blogs they enjoy. I am humbled and honored.

(I plagiarized the rules from Vanessa as I feel there is no reason to re-invent the wheel.)

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post. Easy-Done

2. Share 7 things about yourself. Ok hope I don’t scare anyone, but easy-done.

3. Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers. Fail! Only could nominate 13! 😦

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award. Will let them know as soon as I’ve posted this

Seven things about myself;

  1. I am 45 years old and I can’t wait for retirement. When I refer to retirement it is not in the sense of me walking away from a career, gold watch in hand to sit on some god forsaken island, smoking pot until I die.  On the contrary, I cant wait to start the second half of my life.  To re-invent myself and live life twice.  I have had a stellar first half, the second half can only get better.
  2. I can walk into a burning building, rescue people from a crushed or damaged vehicle, repel off a 5 story building with confidence and walk under a ladder without fear of superstitious reprisal.  But I cannot, and I mean no way, no how can I stand being in the proximity of a spider.  Those eight legged little freaks get me every time.  You want to hear a full-grown 200 pound man jump and scream like a 6th grade school girl then toss a black widow my direction.
  3. My ability to tell the dimensions of something from sight are frustratingly astounding.  Spatial relations are my thing and I am borderline “rainman” about it.  Have a picture to hang, I can tell you one side is off 1/2 inch any direction just by looking at it.  Just had your new bookshelves installed, I am the guy who within 20 seconds of being in the room knows exactly where the carpenter “cheated” or “shorted” you on material.  It makes me crazy and it makes my friends crazy as well.
  4. Scary movies are stupid and a waste of time.  I laugh through them which annoys everyone.  I can tell exactly what is going to happen when it is going to happen. 
  5. 1950’s pin-up girls are awesome.  You can have your skinny, anorexic, vegan, boney butt tooth picks.  I like my women with natural curves, and clothing that leaves something to the imagination. 
  6. When I was 10/11 while walking up my long driveway (we lived in the country) a car pulled up with a creepy guy in it who asked me if I wanted a ride.  Then told me to get in the damn car. He had one hand on the wheel and one in his trousers.  Thank god I had enough sense to run.  I still have nightmares about that guy even at 45. 
  7. I am terrified I will fail as a father.  I put up a good front, but deep down inside I always feel as though failure is right around the corner.  It’s why I write this blog.  It allows me to laugh, vent, and share my experiences.  I can look back on it when I am feeling low and remind myself of all the good I have done with my children.  I know they will laugh looking back on all this as adults.

15 bloggers to pass this award along too.

Soshi-Tech- http://soshitech.com

More valuable information in one blog than should legally be allowed in the states of California and Utah.  Everyone else is OK!

A Detailed House- http://adetailedhouse.com

I love houses and the fine art of decorating them in some of the finest trim.  If you are a closet design geek such as myself who also thinks you can take on any project, than this is the blog for you. The photography is very well done also.

Raising a Realist- http://raisingarealist.com

Scott is a mild-mannered high school English teacher. This blog is his attempt to capture all of his daughters moments.  As a parent of four, I can relate with his tag line. “126 kids but only one will wipe my but when I am old”

Mayahood- http://mayahoodblog.com

Adventure seeker, world traveler turned mother.  She has a mixture of her views on motherhood along with guest posts.  It is an entertaining blog.

Bucket List Publications- http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com

This one is near and dear to me as it is a blog that completely follows the premiss of getting out there and doing all those things you keep putting off.  They even pick some of your bucket list suggestions and through donations make it happen for you.  It’s quite the premise and I enjoy reading it immensely

A Confederacy of Spinsters- http://confederacyofspinsters.com

This is one of my favorites!  Three women from Texas, each one taking a turn writing about life trials and tribulations all under pseudo names.  Grace, Mae and Kate.  Its is always witty, relevant and fun!  I look forward to new postings they way one waits at the window for a long-awaited package from UPS. 

Musings of a stay at home Jewish Father- http://stayathometatte.wordpress.com

Another blog dedicated to a male role model at home raising his child.  Its funny and real with great pictures as he chronicles the day-to-day life of a stay at home dad.

In My Opinion- http://diane-ownes.com

Diane is on a quest to ask a different, relevant question everyday for a year. Interesting concept and I find the answers entertaining.

Debut Dad- http://debutdad.wordpress.com

Brenden is a first time dad who lives in Australia.  He blogs about juggling the changes in his life with the birth of their first-born child. Good luck Brenden and keep em coming. 

Vanessa Chapman- http://vanessa-chapman.com

Vanessa nominated my blog,  and although she is already nominated I enjoy her blog and look forward to every new edition she puts forth.  From superstition to the purchase of a new pair of boots.  She is funny and I find her blog to be a good way to blow a little time at work! Ha!

365 trinkets- http://365trinkets.wordpress.com

This blog is a reminder of how much crap we accumulate as adults.  His mission? To get rid of 365 trinkets he has stored as treasured keepsakes over a 25 year period.  The blog revolves around taking pictures of each one (for memories sake) then getting rid of said item. 

maggiemaeijustsaythis- http://maggiemaeijustsaythis.wordpress.com

A blog dedicated to writing poetry and personal trials and tribulations.  I enjoy the freedom with which she expresses herself.

Take a shower- http://takeashower.wordpress.com

A blog about Eloise and the raising of her five children.  She writes about the past and present, reflecting on the moments in time with the raising of her five children.

I am sorry to say I only have 13 to nominate for this award.  I fail!  But the thirteen I have chosen I follow with great intent.  I enjoy many other blogs but they are new to my collection and I havent gotten the chance to know them well enough yet for a nomination. 

Vanessa you were right, I also anguished over my choices.