Im BAAAAACCCCCKKKKKK!

im back

Hello dearies’ Betty is back.

So lately I’ve really been having a hard time coming up with anything to write about. My life has held quite a few ups and downs and along with the occasional 5pm nip’ to sooth the soul, well let’s just say Betty is plum tuckered out!

But not to fret! Today while working around the station I made a promise to myself that tonight would be the night, and if it meant writing about the very first thing popping into my shriveling brain (age you know) then darn it so be it!

Tantalizing huh?

Anyways I am seated at the computer and well, ok, uh, here goes, we are writing about the very first thing that POPS into my brain. Hmmm-maybe after I adjust the seat a little…. There we go, now how about a sip of lemonade? Yes, yes I feel something profound coming on….. Turn off the phone, maybe a little music to stimulate the senses, that may work don’t you think? Ahhh wait a minute I think I may have something, Yeeees, yeeeeeees, YES!

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!peanut butter

Now everyone who’s enjoyed old Betty’s company knows that alongside the world-famous hot dog there is nothing I like better than a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich! The thought of one right now leaves my taste buds drowning like the bottom of Niagara falls! Beloved by children around the world this little piece of culinary mastery has been the staple of lunches for generations! Bringing smiles of pleasure while ingesting with a crisp cold glass of milk and a Oreo cookie! (We will cover Oreo’s at another juncture)

MMMMMMMMM-M! Yep, filling, satisfying, tasty and good for you too! (Don’t give stats on nutrition I don’t care as far as I’m concerned it’s next to perfect) But where the real secret in the Peanut Butter and Jelly (PB&J) sandwich lies is in how it’s made or “crafted”! I know freaking crazy huh? All this time you were just slapping those two ingredients together and BAM! You thought you were in the clear! Sheer perfection done! But no my children, sadly it’s not that simple. The preparation, the dynamic, the love placed into every one of theses sandwiches is legendary and with its tradition must be honored or held with the highest regards! But before I get into the specifics let’s take a stroll down memory lane to understand the origin of the PB&J.

History

In the early 1900s, peanut butter was considered a delicacy that was only served in New York City‘s finest tearooms. The product was first paired with a diverse set of foods such as pimento, nasturtium, cheese, celery, watercress, and on toasted crackers. In a Good Housekeeping article published in May 1896, a recipe “urged homemakers to use a meat julia davis chandlergrinder to make peanut butter and spread the result on bread.” In June of that same year, the culinary magazine Table Talk published a “peanut butter sandwich recipe.” The first reference of peanut butter paired with jelly on bread to be published in the United States was by Julia Davis Chandler in 1901 in the Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. By the late 1920s, this sandwich eventually moved down the class structure as the price of peanut butter dropped. It became popular with children. During World War II, it is said that both peanut butter and jelly were found on U.S. soldiers’ military ration list, as claimed by the Peanut Board. –Wikipedia

Good enough for a soldier than damn sure lip smacking good enough for my little heathens I say! Julia Davis Chandler I love you for thinking outside the box, throwing caution into the wind and not allowing Boston’s elite to scoff at the idea of pairing the ever so coveted peanut butter with a poor man’s ration of smooshed up fruit! Humph!

Hey that reminds me; you got your chocolate on my peanut butter! No you got your peanut butter on my chocolate! Hee hee, a topic of peanut/chocolate/ desert delight best held for another time.

Now I am not sure sweet caring Julia knew at the time, but to build a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich one must choose the proper ingredients, hand-pick the perfect bread and place them all together in sequence or you just end up with a soggy poo sandwich!

  1. The bread must be white! Not that marketing ploy I am healthy for you fake wheat/white bread they are selling oh no! Smooshy, white, bleached white, squishy, soft, smells straight from the oven white bread! Now for a more sophisticated connoisseur, gathering a few slices of sourdough in place of white and serving the sandwich as such will wring the hundred-dollar bill from any man, but for the heart and soul of this sandwich nothing less than real white bread will do!
  2. Jelly is a sticky subject (all pun intended). There are spreads, jellies, jams, preserves and whatever that stuff is that comes in the white wrapped generic bottles from the bottom shelf of every grocery store in America! In my humble, little ole opinion, jams and preserves are the only way to go! If you are taking the time to enjoy the fruits Mother Nature has provided on a sandwich paired with the butter of a peanut then for the love of god it had better EXPLODE with fruity flavor! Now there are multiple choices when it comes to the jam/jelly arena of battle! But for my taste buds only Strawberry or Blackberry will do. You can use what you want, but please remember this; marmalade is not a jelly, I don’t care what anyone tells you! Oh it looks like jelly, its labeled jelly and its makes a good attempt at tasting like jelly! But jelly lives on the wrong side of the tracks people! Over yonder where the rich kids dare not go! So never and I mean ever pair that homemade blue-collar, loving life jelly with a marmalade! baconYou are just asking for trouble and the next thing you know kids in the town are going to want to dance! And hold a school dance on the outskirts of town in an old grain mill… Sorry got stuck in the 80’s for a minute. But even so, It just aint right.
  3. Peanut Butter comes under many guises. We have creamy peanut butter-smooth and soft like a fat baby’s underbelly! Heavenly taken from straight out of the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup! Crunchy peanut butter-rough, gritty, nutty it shouts I am alumberjack lumberjack, or Sasquatch lives here! This crude creation melded so slightly with white collars soft frailty overloading your senses with a feeling of all natural while sliding into something from Ralph Lauren. And of course last but least there is Natural Peanut Butter all oily and un-mixed, kept in a fridge for fear it will actually age and turn more disgusting. Yah that’s all I got on natural peanut butter. I see that jar come from the fridge and I instantly roll up a newspaper and smack that person on the nose screaming; NO! NO! YOU PUT THAT BACK! NO! BAD PERSON, BAD PERSON!
  4. Last but not least. Place an equal amount of peanut butter on one slice of bread as you would jelly/jam on the other side of bread. Too much peanut butter and the sandwich sticks to the roof of your mouth which can be like asking your tongue to wrestle stretch Armstrong. Too much jelly and a diabetic coma is in your future complete with desert like thirst and the need to lick some coffee grounds to even out the sweetness. Place both halves together gently, careful not to squish as squashing creates oozy, seeping jelly bread and enjoy!

peanut butter 2

So there you have it, the first thing that came to my mind encompassing the four major components of the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.

Hope you all are glad I am back! Hee hee hee!

pb&j

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Returning to normal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piti piti zwazo fè nich.

Little by little the bird makes his nest.

Meaning: Many incremental changes will eventually make a significant difference

Haitian proverb….

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

Haiti, I will see you again someday….

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Time and tide wait for no man

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There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

                                                                                                                                                                          ~William Shakespeare~

Like ants are we; a stream of human flesh winding effortlessly through pathways towards one common goal. The shoreline.  Its 0330 a mass exodus has begun. Not one person missed the 0300 wake up call, every bag has been transported by head, back or drag, they are all accounted for on the beach and now many stand in awe under such a brilliant night sky.

I stand alone, facing a blackened shoreline, no light outlining its many features yet I still stare, eyes wide open hoping to trap light, any light, so I may gaze once more into the heart of this village. Our time here is finished, no grand parade, no tear filled goodbye, no one to see us off, just 10 half-awake missionaries, 6 passengers, and 5 crewmembers lining the sides of a freshly built rock formation known as the boat dock.  My heart aches for the people I leave behind, the unknown in regards to the future of many and the state of being in a village run by tyranny.

As we begin to board a warm breeze covers my face, our boat is creaking with every movement of the tides, expanding then contracting under pressure from the water for which it lay.  Loading is done as many hands form a chain, ensuring all contents and passengers make it aboard without a slip into the water or injury from the sharpened volcanic rock from which we are perched.

A pile of suitcases fill the belly of this wooden albatross, a vessel measuring at least 16 feet wide and 5 feet deep.  It is the same sailboat that ferried us into Source a Philippe, therefore we are very familiar with its lack of substance.  Looking more like a gigantic canoe with a series of sails attached there are only a few locations for passengers to travel; so we sit lining the rails, bow to stern.  Captain Jackson fires up a 75 horse outboard motor, then directs crew members to slacken all lines and like a leaf in the breeze our ship slips quietly into the night.

He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea.

                                                                                             ~Thomas Fuller~

Silently we glide under the stars, it’s would be shameful not to notice the brilliance of this night’s sky.  No ambient light to ruin its majesty a canopy of shimmering light from one horizon to the other is amazing. Looking around I notice people are chatting, some staring into the distance obviously half-awake and a few showing the signs of nervous stress, twitch about as the thought of making this journey again is more than they can bare. While taking account of all aboard I find Ms. Melissa half-awake; due to a combination of sleeping pills and anxiety medications she quickly has found her 6 foot by 2 foot piece of real estate aboard this SS Minnow and is drifting off to sleep. Looking at her peaceful demeanor one would deduce she has in fact found the only planks aboard this rotting vessel that resembled a sleep number bed! Eyes closed tight, slight smirk on her face, oh how I envy this mental state of mind.

Ten minutes into our journey the winds appear have picked up quite a bit.  Trying not to become overly worried, I do my best shrugging off many thoughts rapidly filling my head.  For you see if the winds are picking up here within the protection of this reef then out on the open water they will become much stronger, creating waves that I am sure will leave many aboard leery at best.  Striking up a conversation with Preston, hoping to squelch my thoughts, he asks what the men standing in front or on the bow are doing.  I reply they are using the stars to navigate us outside the reef.  Little do I know (but find out later) they are using the stars not just to navigate outside the reef, but in hopes we miss a giant boulder that lays just beneath the water’s surface?  A boulder that has damaged or sunk many a ship navigated by the inexperienced. Preston bluntly asks how I seem to know something about everything. Chuckling I explain that I really don’t, I am just one of those guys who clifffocusses on things no one else would normally pay attention too.  A mind filled with loads of useless information! I ask him if he’s ever heard of Cliff Claven? When he replies no; I laugh and suggest he watch an episode or two of Cheers, when he gets home, then all will become clear! He agrees; turning away I quietly take my potato that looks like Richard Nixon and put it back in my backpack as I now know Preston would never understand.

Gazing over the ships side, luminescence from plankton are brilliantly lighting up every wave that splashes from beneath the boats hull.  This sight is amazing! There are so many wonders of this earth I have not seen! I yearn for more and am saddened at a lack of being able to video all nature’s beauty surrounding me.

Water is spraying every now and again with the rise and fall of our ship’s bow.  Brent and Preston are taking the brunt as I only catch about a half of the water they are now wearing.  My wife who is sitting to my right has leaned in to tell me she doesn’t feel good about the way the ship is moving.  I respond with an understanding nod of the head, then in my simple honest way (which I hate and wish I could control better) tell her it’s going to get much worse! When she inquires as to how I know, I respond: I just know.  Great answer huh? In the end it’s much easier than explaining wind, tides, geographic shelter, trade winds, along with the lunar gravitational pull on earth.  When Preston hears this, he too inquires as to how much worse it could possibly become? My only answer is this; I have done a lot of fishing, and one thing I know for sure, if the wind is blowing here, the farther out we get the harder it will blow, for there are no land masses to slow any movement of air.  No one seems to like my answer as they both smile a nervous smile in return. Jacy is hoping I am wrong as she hates when I am right, and unfortunately I am almost certain I will be right once again. Judging from the looks of this group and the age of our ship, I pray really hard it’s one of those times I am wrong. Not just a little wrong but dead wrong! So very wrong that being made fun of for being wrong will feel right and eating crow will be my pleasure.

30 minutes aboard and our ship has begun heaving to and fro. No doubt we have cleared the reef as our ship now slides down the back sides of waves as opposed to riding high upon their crest.  Captain Jackson’s father is in charge and he calls for full sail. The crew scurries about rigging block and tackle, pulling lines and unfurling the main sail.  The waves have increased in intensity and now this wooden relic is not only fighting the pull of a half unfurled sail but seems to be unable to find its way out of the trough! Up and down, back and forth, side to side this ship is moving about as though it has been thrown around by a tub bound five year old! People aboard are becoming worried, we have hit pretty hard on the downslope of many waves.  Jacy nervously watches as our crew is bantering about! Leaning in their general direction she is hoping to pick up a misspoken word during the heat of the moment! She is not disappointed as suddenly crew members begin yelling at each other! Jacy sits up, leans into me and says; this is bad, very, very bad! When inquiring how she knows, she looks back and replies; because that’s what the crew just said! Astonished, before I can reply to this revelation our crew is tossing life vests to everyone within arm’s length. All of us now fully understand the dire situation we are in as no time is wasted putting these neoprene vests on our bodies. It becomes quite a challenge doffing these vests as our ship continues slamming down hard from bow to stern then rolling violently from port to starboard, resting mostly on its starboard side!  Soon a rhythm develops and just as it feels as though we may be evening out, the sail fully extends and we are hit very hard from the port side by a gust of wind! Our ship yaws hard to starboard with the mast almost touching the water! The crew is screaming and motioning for everyone on the starboard to side to get up and move onto the port side for ballast! Water is splashing overboard, people are terrified, and I have a death grip on Jacy and Preston! My butt is sitting on the side of this ship, not the rail, not an inside plank, but the outside of the ship!  My hands are locked tight upon the two of them and my foot has something hard underneath it for pushing against. We roll upright for a second and then are hit by an even bigger gust of wind that drops the boat upon its side once again.  My only thought is if the mast catches we three are going over the high side, not forward into the rigging. Then we can swim around and hopefully assist those who need help getting back to our boat! Looking around taking mental note of all aboard not everyone has a life vest and hopefully the boat capsizing will never happen, but ever the doomsday prepper I have mentally come to terms with what may or may not happen within the next few minutes.

The next few minutes turns into 10 as the ship continues riding hard over onto its starboard side?  It’s like riding a horse out of control, left, right, unstable for a moment then just enough stability to gather your seat! There is no Haitian coast guard here to rescue us, there is no distress signal to give, and there is no radio to send one.  No one will know where we are, no one will know what happened to us, no one will come rescue us; there will be no one! So what do we do? Jacy is praying, Alisa is praying, Preston is quiet, Brent is reciting scripture, Heather is quietly wondering what the Hell! Melissa is sleeping, oh to be Melissa.  Richard is terrified and holding Jacys leg while standing in the hull of the boat fighting the urge to vomit (which he loses valiantly).  Jacy has begun unravelling a little and starts yelling what do we do?? Who do we call? No answer is forth coming from many terrified individuals.  She leans over to Richard and yells even louder over the wind and waves; who do we call Richard, who do we call? Richard without missing a beat responds; GOD!

Alisa has pulled out her cell phone. Now there is no cell service out here, we have all tried many times during our tenure on and off La Gonave.  But strangely enough here, at this moment, somewhere past the reef, out in the open ocean during a particularly stressful combination of events, one cell phone has service.  Alisa quickly calls her husband Reuben per Jacy’s request! Reuben answers and Alisa spends the next few seconds telling him she loves him, where we are and what is happening. Then she tells him to listen carefully, explaining that if he (Reuben) doesn’t hear from her in 4 hours to call the American Embassy and report us missing.  He agrees, and through tears Alisa hangs up the phone.  That was the moment this situation became real for many of us.

Jacy quickly grabs the phone and tries reaching Sara at the guest house.  When Sara IMG_2181answers Jacy explains our situation to which Sara replies; Ya-all think you may need to get into the center of the boat? Jacy say no the boat is tipping over and feels the safety of its crew and passengers are in jeopardy.  Sara now grasps the urgency in Jacys voice. Jacy then repeats the very same request given to Reuben not more than two minutes ago; if you don’t hear from us in 3 hours please send out a search crew as we have most likely capsized and are in the water.  Sara says she understands and will pray for us, before Jacy can answer her back, the phone is dead, no more cell service.  Both women look at each other, Alisa looking nervous and Jacy still wondering what will become of us.  During this time on the phone our boat has pitched wildly several more times to the gasps of several passengers.  Some are beginning to vomit, others are holding one another, and the crew is still scurrying about.  Still frantic, Jacy is doing her best to ensure everyone is ok when Kristina yells from across the boat; Jacy! PULL IT TOGETHER! Perfectly placed at just the right time my wife straightens up, takes a deep breath and agrees to this powerful suggestion.

Rocking and tipping, rolling and creaking, our boat continues bobbing around like a cork in a washing machine.  This dance of hard wind gusts, our boat leaning all the way over, water spraying us from one end of the ship to the other along with heavy hits as we slide from the apex of one wave into the trough of another goes on for another 20 minutes to a half hour.  We are all beginning to feel exhausted from battling the hard movements of this ship, when suddenly we are in a sustained rhythm.  The boat seems to be gliding not bucking and our Captain has ordered full sail! We pick up speed as she cuts through the night air with less resistance from wind and wave.  A sigh of relief overcomes me as I feel the worst is over. The darkness has definitely been the hardest part of this excursion.  Not seeing a horizon line to focus on during the turmoil has indeed made this whole adventure more challenging mentally as it lends itself to those with a heightened sense of disaster. As IMG_2178the sun slowly rises Preston begins to feel the warmth of a morning sun.  This boy is soaked from our 30 minute adventure upon the high seas and his teeth have been chattering for most of the last hour. Leaning in to ask me a question; He wonders what I was thinking during that moment of near disaster, I simply reply; faith. One has to have faith.

There are still sudden slaps of the hull every now and again, Jacy is pressed up against me and lets out a tiny gasp.  Her nerves as with many others are a little frayed. She asks me if I was scared. If I thought we would die? I reply yes, for a moment I was scared.  She smiles and looks away, to check in on Richard between vomiting spells, the poor lad was not born to be a mariner.  Truth be told, when the mast almost hit the water my heart jumped, I felt the same panic as everyone else, but I had already devised a plan and when you have a plan, fear can be conquered, used to your benefit.  But overall, yes the whole event made me nervous and for a moment I was scared.  What strengthened my resolve during this moment of crisis?   Faith! A calmness overcame me at some point during the calamity, I remember it vividly as a warm feeling enveloping my soul. My heart rate lowered, my eyes opened a little wider and my breathing relaxed! It was as if I knew everything was going to be ok.  I had faith.

The next three hours or so are spent slowly spreading our bodies back across the hull.  Everyone soon has a new spot of real estate claimed as she (the boat) rides gentle, slowIMG_2176 and upright in the water.  An ocean filled with waves of the slow rolling variety await our journey, which suited this group much better than the previous encounter.  Melissa has come out of her coma every now and again, only to chuckle at our inability to stay calm and sleep through disaster! She definitely is the smart one in the group.  Richard is still vomiting but now spends more time curled up in a ball then actually throwing up in a bucket. Alisa joins him at one point but she also appears to be much better now.  I lay upon the deck marveling at this ships hap hazard construction and pondering just how many journeys this old battle horse has made? Before long, to our relief the shores of Petite Gonave are in sight.  Jacy picks up a cell phone to inform the guest house we are fine; A few chuckles, some banter and Jacy is off the phone.  Alisa calls Reuben, I can only imagine what this man has been thinking for the last 3-4 hours.

Gently we motor into harbor, the sails come down, and before we can count the number of crab pots passing by the crew drops anchor and a small skiff makes it way our direction.

Setting foot on hard ground feels great, if the terra firma wasn’t covered in bits of garbage I believe dropping to my knees and kissing it would have been appropriate! Standing under a coconut tree in a small courtyard the gravity of all we have encountered/accomplished begins to set in; there are the many people we helped, the pharmacy we stocked and surviving this final journey back to the mainland. It is mentally more than I can handle as delirium takes over.  Gazing at my friend, my face grows long and my heart becomes heavy at the thought of saying goodbye to Caz. It feels like yesterday we reconnected after a yearlong absence and I feel as though we barely spent any time together. Milling around we gather our bags, head to the street and begin loading the transport. It appears after our voyage on the high seas all any of us can think about is getting back to the guest house for a little sleep and possibly a relaxing swim. Exhausted, covered in salt crystals from the waves coming over the side of the boat and dirty the thought of riding inside our transport is not appealing in the least.  Please lord let this trip be safe and quick.

Driving through the streets of Petite Gonave, we are hot and sweaty, there is no air conditioning, the temperature is in the 90’s and humidity is at least 40%.  Add a few hundred cars, streets filled with burning garbage and pollution from unregulated vehicles that race up and down these tiny corridors making up the provinces we are passingIMG_2187 through and well our ride is interesting at best. Our driver swerves, then weaves, runs up to 60mph on side streets then sits gridlocked on thoroughfares. This reckless driving goes on for two hours until Preston needs to use a bathroom. Our driver slows down checking a few places until finally stopping at a little hotel on the beach. I find it to be a quaint little place with all the charm one can muster on a dilapidated road between Petite Gonave and Carrefour.  Once back on the road I have come to the painful realization my ass is killing me! It seems after four hours of sitting on hard wood in a boat, this jump seat I am currently perched upon is leaving my ass and lower back writhing in pain! Looking around the van it appears we are all in various stages of nodding off, the early morning has taken its toll upon the masses.  Looking over at Kristina  she seems determined to fight off any chance of an asthma attack by wearing a respiratory mask! A good thing too as it seems every corner we turn has burning garbage, rubber or plastic! It feels as though you can taste the air with your tongue.

Entering Carrefour and Ronald is on the phone in what appears to be quite the heated exchange. At one point Ronald hands the phone to Richard who also ends up sternly speaking to the recipient on the other end?  Confused by what is transpiring, Jacy leans in and whispers to me that Francois is on the phone.  Ronald has asked Francois (his father) where the tip money we left them is , Francois has responded by telling his own son there OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAis no tip money for him to have! Our suspicions have now been 100% confirmed. Francois is a greedy crook! As we stated earlier any father that would stiff his own son is dirty, rotten and untrustworthy! Our little ruse to flush him out has worked as planned! Although I feel sorry for Ronald, it really was the only option we had to flush out his father.

In Carrefour we also end up dropping Ronald off on a side street.  He politely says goodbye as we thank him for all his help during the week.  It is more than obvious he is dejected by what just transpired over the phone, but in the end it is probably better as hopefully Ronald will realize to become a great translator for these missions groups he may need to think about destinations beside his home town and working alongside his father.  I truly wish him the best as he slings his backpack over his shoulder and disappears into a very crowded street.  We are two and one half hours into this trip when low and behold we end up in a minor fender bender while doing some not so favorable jockeying through the market of Carrefour.  Our driver Johnny gets out and begins waving his arms about while yelling at the driver of the other vehicle! It appears from the outside as though two Italians have squared off with an astounding round of insults! At one point it also appears as though the two might exchange blows, but to those of us who have been in country we know this is a normal exchange between Haitian men that ends with a wave.

Four hours of winding through city streets and we have finally entered the guest house compound! Sara greets us as we stretch our backs and shuffle off towards our rooms. Tired and sweaty we quickly all jump into the pool for a much needed swim.  After an hour in the pool laughing through delirium about all aspects of our journey home, complete with aOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA little Melissa bashing for sleeping through the entire journey, we crawl out and begin to go our separate ways. Jacy and I pull Tom, the guest house director aside to discuss some of the issues we witnessed and wrangled our way through in Source Phillip.

Tom is astonished at some of the things we tell him.  There had been some murmurings about Francois’ abuse of power but nothing had been confirmed.  We spend the next hour talking about costs, matching funds, paying the nurses, staffing the clinic and expired drugs in the pharmacy.  Tom suggests we meet with Pastor Jackie who will be stopping by this evening.  Reluctantly we agree as our mission will not be complete without some form of closure in regards to the issues at hand.

It is time to say goodbye to our interpreters.  Richard gives us all hugs, emails are exchanged and kind words are shared.  He leaves with many new clothes for the children he supports at a school he has founded back home.  Caz also gives hugs all the way around.  When he reaches me, we hug for a long time.  I love this man, he is seriously one of the kindest human souls I have ever encountered.  Last year I presented him with our department coin.  This was my personal challenge coin so I would have to earn a new one,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the coin cannot be given away unless a person has done a selfless act thus upholding the standards, morals and ethics befitting a firefighter.  He had done all that and more! It was a privilege to present him with my coin and earlier in the week he showed me he still carried it a year later. This man will do great things in his country, his love for all humans and God is very powerful and resonates when you are around him.  Caz and his family are in my prayers every night.

After a small nap and highly anticipated dinner (none of us had eaten since the night before.) we hold a debriefing with Sara where everyone’s feelings about our journey are OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAheard and processed. She is amazed by what she hears and offers good support to all who listen.  We have been at the guest house for only a few hours and this trip is already beginning to feel like a memory.  Jacy finds me sitting alone, I am cranky and I don’t know why, I really don’t feel like talking, I have heard all I need to hear, my brain is fried and emotions confused.  I am worried about the little ones we left behind, I am exhausted from continually playing this financial game of extortion with François, I no longer need to worry about the responsibilities associated with being an assistant to my wife, and my overprotective side is no longer worrying about the health of all associated with this trip. I’m tired and I just want to cry but I really have no reason too.  My insides feel as though there is no pillar to support me should I collapse emotionally. Trying my best to explain the way I feel to my wife I just end up sounding like a selfish jerk.  She says I don’t sound like a selfish jerk and she understands, but to me it’s just the opposite.  I am supposed to be the one who helps people, I am supposed to be the one supporting you when you are down or taking care of you when you hurt.  For me to feel as though I need help when I can’t even place my finger on one singular problem causing disillusion is unconscionable.  I say goodnight to all, kiss my wife and disappear to bed, sad and blue, wanting to cry but not knowing how.  Eventually I end up sitting at a table downstairs while everyone sleeps, listening to neighborhood dogs, feeling the cool moist air of a storm front rolling in and writing.  Even now at 2345 hours almost one month to the day as I sit in the comfort of my fire station, recalling this very moment my throat is tight, my chest hurts and it’s all I can do to keep tears from streaming down my face.  But why?

A question that I suppose will remain unanswered…..

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Eye of the storm

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Wednesday June 12th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Psalm 127:3 KJV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Faith

(Another small break from our mission trip story. A new installment will be online by tomorrow. Thank you all for your patience and understanding.  The grammar in this little story isn’t perfect, but I was thinking about this topic in church today and felt I needed to share.)

belief

What is Faith?

As human beings we walk through life filled with pessimism, optimism, and hope.  Sure our lives are also filled with despair, anger, sadness and regret, but without pessimism to keep us wary, optimism to give us guidance and hope which stems from the human race always trying to see the good in everything; in my opinion, we would never have faith.

So where does “faith” come into play?

Faith to me is a feeling, an inner knowledge, a mental security that no matter what happens during this moment in time you are a participant in its outcome. Good bad or otherwise.

When I was younger I had faith. As a church going lad, who worked his way through the ranks from 6 to 16 as an acolyte in the Episcopal Church, I questioned many beliefs, including my belief in God. But the one thing I never questioned was my ability to always have faith.  Faith in myself as a human being, faith that no matter how bad things could seem they could always be worse (and sometimes were) and faith in life’s way to throw curve balls around every corner! Yep I had faith alright!

What I didn’t have was an awe inspiring faith in God.  As I previously stated I constantly questioned my belief in an almighty supreme being that all should worship blindly.  It just didn’t make sense to me. The bible reads as a really good story, one that Hollywood should make into a block buster movie or television mini-series. (Oh yeah that’s already been done) But really, come on, a heavenly power that listens to our prayers and guides its people through the word of the lord? (layman synopsis) I wasn’t buying it!

Here’s the funny thing about faith, until you come to terms with yourself emotionally (i.e. who you are, what you are, how you wish to be perceived, what moral code you follow.) You never really have faith, you are not ready to open yourself up to the teachings of others.  A person who walks through life putting up walls can never hear the whisperings from the next room. The more walls a person places in their wake, the harder it is to be reached and at some point that person can never be found.

Faith for me changed the day I met my wife. (I know sappy huh? but true) Many walls I had selfishly placed in my wake, life was turbulent to say the least and the only “faith” I held was that tomorrow sucked, the next day sucked even more and the only future for me was one filled with despair, anger, resentment and hate. Several incidents occurred during this period, challenging my belief system and leaving me with unanswered questions. My wife listened, believed me, then set to changing every negative in my life, helping me answer those questions (not overnight mind you) with persistence, love, an occasional angry moment with the former me (I know hard to believe huh?) and a never wavering faith in my ability to become a better person.

I have rewarded her by trying my best every day.

Today, my mission is simple. Have faith.  I use this term quite frequently and those who know me have heard it recited on more than one occasion.  Have faith! It really is that simple and I am not saying it to be pompous! HAVE FAITH!  If you believe in God then you know the answers are out there for YOU to discover and a general calmness will come over you.  Have Faith! Just because an answer isn’t immediately apparent doesn’t mean its not lurking close by waiting for you to accept faith, thusly removing your blinders to witness the options.

Every moment we live, leads to an alternate moment, which may affect someone else’s moment and like a pebble tossed in the water our ripples reach far and wide (stolen from my wife), Have faith those ripples are leading to bigger broader shores!

Our faith is based upon what we believe, who we are and how we live our lives.  I choose to believe in a better picture for all of mankind, brought forth with faith, love and prayer.

Having faith has allowed me to remain calm when things turn bad, believe and encourage when discouragement should rule the moment, and have love, true heartfelt love for my fellow man. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my days filled with negativity, anger and discouragement but in the end I always have faith at some point it will all turn around.

Jacy re-awakened my faith in God, her living example guided my stubborn narrow minded beliefs into enlightenment and openness for all. Today she stood in front of our congregation and spoke about our recent trip to Haiti! Watching her speak left me in awe of this amazing woman who I am lucky enough to be married too.

Participating on these last two mission trips are a direct result of my wife, her persistence and love for all mankind. These trips have changed my life forever, filled a void left in my soul and allowed me to see the world in a different light.

Mission work is not for everyone and at one point I too believed it was not for me. But because I answered the call in faith, I feel the need to tell all who will listen of its benefits both emotionally and spiritually.

So ask me a question about our trip, I will do my best to answer. If you see me strolling down the street stop me, lets talk.  Most of all remember I had faith God had my back while we did his work. I had faith our church was behind us all the way. I had faith my children would be safe back here at home and I had faith this story I am writing about our journey will reach someone, and change the way the feel about mission work, allowing them to have faith enough to go.

I will go on additional missions, for that I have faith we will succeed.

I have faith in God.

I have faith one day together we all will do great things.

I have faith my love for this woman, my wife is eternal.

I have faith……..Do you?

I love you Jacy… Thanks for being my best friend, partner, wife, mother to our crazy children and all around coolest human being I know….

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Merriam-Webster defines Faith as;

Definition of FAITH

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty

   b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

   b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious       beliefs <the Protestant faith>

On faith

: Without question <took everything he said on faith>

 

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 time for healing?

goat

Haiti is Haiti! What do I mean by that statement? Well you can be on the mainland associated with the Dominican Republic or on an island the locals have aptly named “forgotten Island”. Haiti is still Haiti. This place is incredibly beautiful, amazingly loved by its people, adorned with symbols of God, faith and trust. It is also extremely loud! New York may be named the city that never sleeps but Haiti is the country that never sleeps. On the mainland everything is connected by streets, side streets, corner alleys and of the course the main highway. So no matter where you are day or night a reverberating ring of car horns, and loud vehicles never goes away. On Source a Philipe the small fishing village on the island of La Gonave there is only one vehicle so traffic noise is not an issue. But there is instead 100 or more goats, gridlocked by a packs of dogs, while burro’s and chickens wander aimlessly through traffic unaware of whether its day or night. Animal noise (especially for this country boy) really shouldn’t be an issue but at midnight a couple of goats baying outside your window for hours on end, can have a tendency to make someone a little cranky.
Oh by the way have I mentioned the weather yet? It’s the only place I know that heats up after the sun goes down! It doesn’t really, but it sure feels that way with the cinder block rooms of our guest house radiating the day’s heat while no breeze is moving through our building at all. I liken it to living inside a pizza oven. What the Hell!
Ok enough bitching…
Bleary eyed and tired I wander aimlessly around my room feeling as though I am ready to go home. This of course was a purely selfish thought and not surprisingly the exact same thought I held last year after the first night on the job site! Shuffling slowly up to breakfast feeling neither hungry nor willing to try and eat. My only goal was to put on a smile for everyone else, giving them some comfort in case they too had a bad night. My wife was awake, bright and smiling, a breath of fresh air to my dreary morning. We chatted about her IMG_2111presentation, cracked jokes with Alisa, Heather and Melissa about what may or may not have landed on someone’s face last night! A nice morning prayer some breakfast and idle conversation brought us all right up to dressing for church. Meeting back at the guest house we all did our very best to look appropriate for a Sunday tradition.
As doc, Gail and I talked about the clinic, Jacy was just inside the guest house reading her notes. Brent was keeping everyone else in stitches when we suddenly realized it was after nine and we were late for church! The strangest thing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoccurred to me while walking towards this little church on a hill. I don’t see anyone walking this way, not one soul looking to head towards church! We were late and we all should have seen someone, anyone walking into church! There had to be at least a couple hundred in this village and last year in Leveque the town’s people came from everywhere ten minutes early for church! So where was everyone?
Making my way up the steep staircase with our group, I am thinking; well, maybe I just didn’t see anyone because I was busy talking. Slipping through the white and blue doors there appeared to be hardly a soul inside. A very small handful of handsomely dressed children, a half a dozen adults and a group of students from next door. Where is the town? Where are her people? Why does this feel so strange? When Doc asked where everyone was she was quietly told they were all coming! She was told they would be here because they were coming to see us! Almost as if they had been ordered too? More, strange, curious feelings arise.
Around 9:30, ten or so more adults arrive but this church should have been teaming with parishioners. The pastor allows many of his flock to speak, and read scripture from the bible. These people are humble, honest and a blessing. The pastor spends time placing children up front calling them the future of the church and having them proclaim their importance to the community. This also was cute but seemed odd or staged. The children are embarrassed the way any child would be when placed in front of a crowd. But they do a nice job and are cute. The pastor takes a moment to thank us for coming to his small community and lets us know the word of our arrival has been spread throughout all congregations on the island. This was very good news as we hoped to see as many patients as possible during our week long stay. He then calls upon my wife to come up and speak, Caz joins her IMG_2104for translation as they teak their positions in front of the congregation. Caz smiled as he rose and a quick glimpse was had between myself, Caz and Jacy as he recalled the promise made in regards to translating exactly word for word how Jacy delivers this sermon. You see earlier during a bought of storytelling Caz was reminded about a scripture reading that took place the last time they were together two years ago. Their second translator trapped between a rock and a hard place started making stuff up because the speaker from Jacys team was insensitive with comments during his reading. Caz thought no one knew about the altered translation but him, what he didn’t know at the time was Jacy spoke French and understood some of what the translator was saying. This brought a hearty round of chuckles as they imitated the reworked translations with statements like: Oh lord in heaven, this group of missionaries have humbly come before you, bringing Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for everyone on the island! PRAISE JESUS AMEN!!!!
Caz promised no matter what, he wouldn’t change the words, but OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhen Jacy started speaking he broke stride for just a moment and smiled. I knew why he smiled and I quietly chuckled.
Jacy’s sermon was brilliant! It was moving, meaningful and came from the heart. I was so very proud of her and a tear formed while watching this woman I care so deeply for shine in front of this group of fellow Methodists. She stepped down from the pulpit with a smile like no other, sat next to me and held my hand. (She is my everything, and we always feel closer to one another in church. Even if that church happens to be thousands of miles from home). The pastor spoke a few more times and an offering plate was brought forward. This offering plate slowly made its way around and as a bead of sweat rolled down my back I turned towards the associate pastor (Francois) and began apologizing as I (the treasurer for the trip) had been so focused on not being late the offering had been in fact forgotten. Francois smiled, then quickly ducked out the side door and made his way onto the pulpit through an additional side door. Leaning into the pastor’s ear to whisper, I quickly note the pastor staring at me intently while they speak. I didn’t make much of this uncomfortable moment at the time, but it was uncomfortable none the less and later on in the week it would make perfect sense as we (Jacy and I) began to learn the inner workings of Source a Philipe.
Church lets out and we are warmly met by a handful of members from within the community. As with last year after church it is so amazing how easily love for one another is shared without being able to speak a word of the same language. The Haitian people are absolutely wonderful. Their sense of community is like that of the early 1900’s and is a pure joy to be around. I love them all.
Heading off to change from our church clothing and grab some lunch, we are close to opening the clinic. Jacy and I had spoken to several key members of the community and although Sunday is strongly OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAconsidered a day of rest for all Haitians, they readily agreed that opening up the clinic even for the afternoon was a good idea. We throw on our scrubs, unlock the doors and set into our prescribed positions, hoping this half day will help work out any kinks so our team may become more efficient as the week goes on. With people traveling from afar to visit us over the week, the quicker we can get them through the better. Kristina is excited to get started and her excitement translates to us all! The pastor during this morning’s sermon equated our being here to Jesus having been born in Bethlehem, ( a stretch but hey, when in Haiti) people would come from far and wide just to lay eyes upon the doctor and her staff. It was humbling to say the least. We start the ball rolling by cleaning our interpreters teeth just to get a rhythm going and before long we have a line developing around the building! Everyone wants to see us and we quickly learn that “Cleaning” in a Haitians mind meant “filling”. We are here to pull teeth, as our situation is so primitive no other options are plausible. Kristinas son Preston is to handle all children comingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA through the clinic, check their teeth, show them how to brush and floss then send the ones with dental needs our direction. Heather was alongside him and they were housed in a room alongside the pharmacy. As the line grew I took a moment to get a feel for these people outside, since we arrived there really hasnt been a chance to do so and I thought it would be nice to share a Bonswa and a smile. Wandering around the outside of the building I take notice of the children playing on a patch of dirt adjacent to the clinic. These were some of the very same children that met us as we stepped from the boat, their friends, brothers, sisters, they were all there, happy and playing and very, very, thin. I mean sickly thin, some look gaunt. My heart is breaking at the sight of these little people so thin and frail looking. Is it a lack of food? A lack of water? Or all of the above? Questions start forming as my mind begins pondering their situation. Patting many on the head and trying my best to speak with a few who ask my name, I slowly break away and head inside. It’s time to start, time to get this show on the road.
Finding the whole dental process quite interesting Kristina (doc) places me with Gail assisting! I realize I am really enjoying all aspects of her work! Gail and Kristina start showing me the instruments and I quickly start teaching myself other tools and products needed so I can be of more help. Patient after patient, extraction after extraction, one OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtooth here, six teeth there, and every one of these people are fairly thankful when its over to have rotten, broken and in some cases fully abscessed teeth removed. I also learn their teeth have longer roots than most and a jawline which is incredibly strong. During the afternoon I also partake in some basic BLS care of sick and injured patients. It was nice treating people who truly needed the assistance and were very thankful for the care when you were done. Jacy bounced from place to place, helping Orson with post-op, cleaning trays, ensuring the line was being taken care of, and always bringing a smile to the Haitian people.
After a little while the flow was moving fairly well when while taking a break, Jacy walks up and whispers Francois has an envelope and is charging people for our care! This of course could not be happening as we raised all the money to be here providing FREE dental care to this villages inhabitants! But it was happening! We can’t let Kristina know as it could ruin her ability to keep going so Jacy took to dealing with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe issue and I resumed keeping Kristina in the dark. My wife and I work well as a team and she was doing an awesome job as the team’s leader. Jacy gathers a phone and contacts Pastor Jackie directly who informs her that no clinic is free! The goal for Source a Philipe is to have a permanent clinic fully staffed for the people. If they receive free health care and don’t become accustomed to paying for it, then they will never come in when the clinic is opened. To some extent this makes perfect sense as the charge is nominal. But WE still brought all the supplies, we are providing the care and someone is profiting off this little dichotomy. Through conversation Jacy brings to pastor Jackie’s attention this fee is different depending on who you are. Does this mean social status health care? In a little fishing village out in the middle of nowhere! Social status health care! Really! Pastor Jackie is miffed and short with Jacy for questioning this way of doing business, so she takes it a step farther by asking the children not be charged. He doesn’t seem to like this proposal either but agrees if they have no money to pay they will still be seen by the doctor. Jacy comes back and tells me about the phone call, I am furious, and really have no words for the information I am now privy too. No one can know for now, we agree to keep it quiet and she works hard on creating an amiable solution to this strange turn of events.
All of us are back at our stations working when Jacy comes to get myself and Kristina to look at a young woman whose tooth we pulled earlier in the day. She is pregnant and made very clear to us her worry for the baby during the tooth extraction. Her blood pressure was good and she fell within acceptable parameters for oral care. Her tooth OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcame out and she went on her way. Now back she is seeking help in regards to her baby. It seems earlier she was afraid to talk with us but now after the extraction she trusts Jacy enough to ask her some questions in regards to her baby. She is having pain, lower left quadrant, she hasn’t felt the baby move for roughly 15 days and she states her belly is shrinking. I grab a stethoscope, palpate her belly and listen to all four quadrants. I start with listening to where I know the baby should be, hoping for a heartbeat, some movement, something, anything. I hear nothing. After covering all four quadrants the only applicable noise I hear is some grumblings coming from this woman’s stomach. No gas sounds, no bowel sounds at all, no baby. Doc comes in and examines her as well, many theories are tossed around, but in the end she needs to go to a hospital. Not an easy task. I walk by Jacy heading back into the dental room, lean in and tell her I hear nothing, there is nothing there, and the baby is most likely dead. Jacy responds by reminding me with lower left quadrant pain and belly shrinkage she believes the baby is dead as well and she probably has an infection. 15 days is a long time, this is not good. We can’t send her home, we can’t just take her to the hospital as in this impoverished area everyone will hear of the “free ride” and flock to our door, possibly causing a riot. We talk about waiting until Thursday and smuggling her out with us, but that’s just too long, she could die.
During devotionals the Wesley Foundation team headed up by their leader Katie, make the call. This woman is going to the hospital and imagesCAJGGNREshe is going tomorrow morning! I assume these kids are least likely to be noticed as after almost thirty days of building and fixing everything they can lay their hands upon they come and go as they please throughout the area. Katie, Jacy and Graham quietly devise a plan. In the morning Katie and Graham smuggle this young woman out first thing without any problems, taking her by truck to a hospital over two hours away. God bless them and the courage they show by doing the right thing.
Back in the clinic poor Brent is having a hard time keeping the charcoal fire lit for sterilization. Oh did I forget to mention we are sterilizing tools over a fire in a pot filled with filtered water? Yep old school all the way! This man Brent is absolutely amazing with his cheery attitude and can do spirit! We are blessed to have him as part of our team. The locals all want their pictures taken with him as we have notified them he is famous. Our group is just having too much fun carrying on the folly that is the man of mystery! So we told the locals he was indeed the famous actor Daniel Craig! That’s right citizens of Source a Philipe those clean tools in your mouth were sterilized by none other than 007 himself! They bought into the hype and we had fun at Brent’s expense. But secretly I think Brent was having more fun at our expense!
At the end of the day we saw a little over 30 patients in 5 hours’ time. It was exhausting and incredibly fulfilling at the same time. I personally witnessed our team come together and form a bond. We have four more days of treating folks from far and wide, but I definitely feel as though it will be a time for healing like no other in this little corner of the world.
On a side note, as I type this I am sitting on a concrete ledge, under a banana tree, in a place with no electricity. Close your eyes and wonder for just a moment how big and beautiful the sky above me must be. You got that picture in your head? Now magnify it by 10.

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The Rooster has crowed

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

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

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

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

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

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Children its storytime…..

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This story like many others, is filled with a cast of hopefully interesting characters. A story containing intrigue, mystery, villains, heroines and of course the village people. No not the 70’s disco band! The people of a very proud little village helping bring this story together so that you the reader may understand this particular villages plight. Now before you get excited and start rubbing your hands together proclaiming; hurray Betty is going to tell another great story! Well my children, it will be a great story but let me warn you right from the go, this story is a tad bit sad. Now I am sorry for that, but it was not of my making. It is a story of truth told through me, by me, and also consists of witness accounts, recollections, and facts. Personally holding the hands of desperate people who want nothing more than the ability to awaken and see the sun shine another day! People who need to know there is a future for themselves and their children. Living with these people, working alongside this wonderful cast of characters and being given the ability to tell this story to you, my readers became an almost overwhelming responsibility. But God has provided the means to purchase a laptop and I ten fingers to type with and for that I am thankful.

Where to start? Hmmmm, I guess from the beginning?

Mission work is not for everyone. When I went forward on my first mission at the ripe old age of 45 it was an enormous step in my growth as a human being. It took me a month after returning to realize the impact that trip made upon my life, but an impact it did make, for you see I never wanted to go, I felt mission work was for the liberal, we must take care of all, granola eating, bunny huggers of the world. Not the gun-toting, you want it you earn it, it’s all about the money, capitalist that I was and to a small extent still am. My wife (god bless her resilience) hounded me to go after returning from her own mission trip to Haiti. Citing personal growth, perspective and a regeneration of feelings towards humanity as a whole, she told a wonderful tale and I was interested for I felt an empty void in my life.

Our dear friend John G. leaned on me a bit as well for you see he was going to be the co-leader on this latest expedition and felt my presence would be an asset to this particular team. Finally after much prayer, and some introspection, it became very clear that I needed to go. I was empty inside and was looking for something, anything that might explain this empty feeling. It turned out to be an amazing trip, with a group of wonderful human beings who will forever be bonded to my soul. After arriving back home it quickly became apparent my life had been changed forever, my position in regards to our self-indulgent society reversed and empathy for those in need doubled. I felt as though I had been reborn. The emptiness gone.

The downside to all of this personal growth; my temper became much shorter in regards to the needs of us selfish Americans. I look at our lifestyle with a bit of disdain and my opinion about the current generation of sniveling whiny adults is negative at best.

After returning from that first mission trip there was a great feeling of accomplishment, a joyous moment where the human race in my world could work as one for a common goal and I felt as though I had seen, looked straight into the eye of what true survival during adversity was and had ultimately become for human beings in an impoverished country. From my perspective it felt as though recovery was on its way and having been just a small part of that was amazing. When I flew off the island of Haiti there was hope for her people, hope in a new regime, hope in personal recovery for individuals, hope for a growing economy and hope for a country to recover and put behind it a tragedy that changed the face of a nation.

I was right and wrong all in the same breath.

Like I said; Mission work is not for everyone and I almost didn’t make this 2013 trip. I signed on then off more than a half a dozen times. My flip-flopping was worse than a cornered senator trying to save a failing career! I had come full circle and was back to a selfish American way of thinking! My only care was in regards for our children, house, animals and belongings, it wasn’t about doing my part as a human being, or using many skills God had blessed me with for the betterment of others. No it was all about my little world. My little bubble and how this would affect me! Right here, right now! Finally my wife who signed on as team leader this time, explained to me the importance of having me alongside her while making this journey. Very humbly and quietly I conceded, tickets were purchased, our children were informed of our dual departure and my destiny was before me waiting to be written.

Today June 15, 2013 I am writing this on an American Airlines flight heading back to Miami. My heart and mind are filled with emotions that over the next couple of weeks I will try my hardest to explain through word. This was a much more difficult journey both physically and emotionally than last year so please be patient as my writing may ramble. My hope being when it is done I have taken you someplace you have never been. Allowing your mind to visualize things you would never see but always wanted too or could never see out of fear or reluctance. Sometimes we see more when our eyes are closed then when they are open staring right at a moment in time. Hopefully with a little luck when it is all over and you close the last chapter of this story, you feel what we felt and that moves you.

Please enjoy, and please ask any questions that may come to mind. The best question at any given moment is one that is asked.

Our mission

Simply put, arrive in a small fishing village on the North West corner of the island La Gonave to provide dental care to its inhabitants.

Gonave Island (French: lle de la Gonave) is an island of Haiti located to the west-northwest of Port au Prince in the Gulf of Gonave. It is the largest of the Hispaniola satellite islands, situated off the mainland. The island is an arrondissement in the Quest Department and includes the communes of Anse-a-Galets and Pointe-a-Raguette. Gonave Island boasts a population of 75-80,000 inhabitants. The island is known as the “forgotten Island” as attention to its inhabitants dwindled directly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

The North West corner of the island holds a small community known as Source a Philippe.

This small community holds a few hundred residents who survive through trade. Main trades include charcoal, fishing (fish, crabs, lobster), and home crafts for tourism at the larger markets on the other side of the island. There is one fully operating vehicle within the community, there is no running water or electricity. A large cistern for rain water containment was developed by the United Methodist Church and is in operation. A well is located 2 kilometers from the village and as of this writing is not functional. There is an operating school-house within the United Methodist Church compound area and a few new outhouses were just completed by a team from the Wesley Foundation after a 30 day mission on the island. There is a 3000 watt Honda commercial generator which can power through the use of extension cords only a limited number of buildings during the evening hours. The United Methodist Church compound also holds three guest houses and a medical building, all of which appear to have been built-in the 1950’s. The medical building is empty and has a room dedicated for a pharmacy. Limited pharmaceutical supplies are stored there for emergencies and no regular health care is present.

The task placed before us was simple. Arrive on a Saturday, meet the locals, set up shop and provide free dental care for the residents of this poverty-stricken area starting Sunday afternoon after church. Continue to provide dental care Monday through Thursday as word would spread across the island brining inhabitants from as far as five hours away.

Our team: Dixon Smiles for Haiti was composed of ten highly motivated individuals

Kristina-Dentist

Gail-Assistant

Mellissa-Assistant

James-EMT/Firefighter

Jacy-School Teacher

Heather-School Teacher

Bent-Retired

Orson-Waste water Management

Alisa- Child care provider

Preston-College student

All of us joined together through God providing a service to those in need. All of us holding skill sets that would become important on this mission along with a can do attitude that would bring a triumphant end to a very long hard week. Our group spent months fundraising and putting together supplies needed for our journey. Kristina spent endless hours working the phones with her crew obtaining every instrument needed to cover any possible contingency. When we left for Haiti on June 6th 2013 our team carried with us over $25,000.00 dollars in supplies. When it was all said and done we pulled 540 teeth, for a total of $127,000.00 dollars in dental care. Our clinic was also overrun with medical issues and the team stepped up providing many hours of treatment, from simple cuts and ear infections to severe lacerations, staph infections and full term pregnancy health.

We left tired, mentally exhausted and a little disoriented.

Here is our story…..

(over the next couple of weeks I will do my best to add a new chapter everyday)

Fear

fear

What is fear?

Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible….. Nice definition.

But why are we “fearful”?

Some say it is the perceived danger that awaits us in the future and yet when true danger becomes a part of the present we still handle that very same danger with no more fear than that of which we wasted endless emotion in the beginning. Should we waste precious moments of our lives fearful of what may or may not ever transpire? Allowing our minds to twist and distort unwanted images keeping us locked in fear for eternity? This thought process seems destined for depression?

 

Fear of success keeps us from succeeding, while the fear of failure leaves us tied to an individual’s perception of what success may become. A man can fear being hurt and still perform to the best of his abilities while another may fear being hurt only to huddle and hide never finding his true maximum potential.

The fear of the unknown, of being alone, the fear of repercussion, the fear of rejection, the fear of love or being loved, the fear of being hated, unaccepted, rejected by a group, a pod, a few, many, the whole. The fear of death or dying.

Fear freezes your ability to move, think react, while still driving, pushing you through the most unimaginable.  Fear can leave you acting out in anger or laughing nervously while immersed in distrust of those around you.

Is fear comprised of nothing more than a series of actions provoked through uncertainty and despair? Should we become friends with our fears, embracing our fears as one within ourselves or leave them as unattached, emotionless moments.  If I choose to become friends with my fears will I understand them better? May I distance myself from the future and live in only the present thusly conquering the here and now?

I feel as though a majority of the last 20 years my soul has thrived upon fear, the notion of being fearful, and all emotion associated with fear. My fearful mind tires from the endless onslaught of what ifs, and fearful disasters that never happen. My mind weakens a little more everyday from trying to become acknowledged or accepted out of fear of rejection. Fear of failure has kept my mind cluttered, cloudy and weighted with negatives for far too long.

I believe fear is what we make of it and if we make it out to be nothing than what is fear?

fear