Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Trip to Haiti -- Part III

My bed in the guesthouse, with mosquito net.
Day 3 -- Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday was a relatively lazy day.  Amelia and I woke up early and had a relaxed breakfast of oatmeal with a very unusual and yummy flavor to it.  I said it was anise.  She said it was cinnamon, and after some good-natured arguing she bet me $5.  Later, we asked Eloise what the spice was.  She said it was cinnamon, and also some anise.  We called it a tie.

After breakfast, Amelia went to church and I wandered down the path to the edge of the area where the tents are set up.  I didn't feel comfortable going further back -- those are people's homes, and I hadn't been invited -- so I sat under a giant mango tree near the tent where the food is prepared.  I attempted to chat with Fatima, the baby's mother.  She is 19, and the baby's father was sent by his family to Port-Au-Prince when she got pregnant.  We tried to converse in French, but since it is neither of our first languages it was a stretch for both of us.

After a while a bunch of kids went up to the gazebo outside the guest house, which serves as the center for all activities on the property.  They decided to play school, and I joined them to watch.  After a while one girl started banging on a drum and the others played musical chairs.  It was truly amazing how busy they kept each other and how effortlessly they played together.

Two little boys ran around while all this was going on and occupied themselves by repeatedly sneaking up behind me and poking me in the back.  What could be more fun?  One of the little boys is Georges, age 4.  While he was generally having a good time, he burst out crying every time anything even vaguely didn't go his way.  I wondered if this was a post-traumatic reaction, so I asked Eloise whether he was like that before the earthquake. Sure enough, he wasn't.  Apparently he was hit by a beam in the quake and lost a big piece of his scalp.  His parents couldn't get him help right away, and, at 4, he told his mother he knew he was going to die.  He looks fine now, but the fear is still there.

I played with another little girl who was enjoying writing me questions in Kreyol which I would answer, in writing, in French.  She asked me my name, my age, and other basics.  Then she asked where my mother was.  I told her they were in the United States.  Then I asked where her mother was, and she simply put her finger against her throat and  made a slicing motion.  Her mother is dead.  She is 7.

In the afternoon, I was completely exhausted, mostly from the heat.  I was trying hard to stay hydrated, but it was not easy.  Most of the water in Haiti is not potable, and the drinking water at the guest house is bought by tanker truck and placed in giant barrels on the porch several times a week.  There also is no electricity since the earthquake, so they use a generator 6-12 hours a day.  This meant that when I went to lie down for a nap, I couldn't use a fan.  You wouldn't think a mosquito net would trap heat, but it does.  Luckily, a thunderstorm in the late afternoon cooled things off substantially, and I was able to stop sweating quite so much and catch up on my water.

Hillary, a play therapist from Canada, arrived and we began planning in earnest for camp the next day.  Before bed, I wrote in my journal,
I don't know how I feel about tomorrow.  I want to help. . . . (But mostly) I want to help right.  We'll see.

Tomorrow:  Herding Cats


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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