Welcome to my blog!

This blog was created with the intention of sharing my life and midwifery experiences with my community as I branch into international midwifery. I hope to keep people up to date and in touch with me, and with the places and people where I'll be.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Things have been going well. Better and better. There have been some recent events that were interesting and I thought I would share.

I went to HInche a couple of weeks ago and visited with everyone there. It was wonderful. I spent every day with Marthonie (who I used to teach with), and visited a lot with Genette, the other midwives, the MWH house staff, etc. Jamlex, who we used to spend every day with when we lived in Hinche, was really fun to be around again. He has changed so much in 6 months. He is about 2 years old now! The first moment he saw me, the first thing he said was “Blada”. He is used to seeing us together! He knew my name, but the whole time I was there, he always called me Blada. It was funny. I went to their house and spent a day there, with him and Diunney, his mother (the cook at the MWH house). It was so nice having time to sit with people. Marthonie and I miss eachother a lot. She is doing the classes mostly on her own now, with some “help” from the American volunteers.

Visiting the hospital was very interesting, as always. Man, I really miss working there. I got to see all the people I used to work with—the OB, the head ofmaternity, the midwives, some of my old students, etc. The first day I went, I just hung out and socialized. The second day, there was no one working in the prepartum room (antepartum) so I worked in there by myself all morning. Almost every single person in there was either preeclamptic or eclamptic. I couldn’t work on everyone so I chose the 3 worst cases, who needed the most immediate attention. It was 2 women who had already had eclamptic seizures, and one preeclamptic woman with a splitting headache (bad sign) who needed her labor induced and had super high blood pressure (like 190/130). I got all their IV’s and meds going, and just kept going between them checking their B/P, making sure the IV’s were running correctly, etc. I induced the preeclamptic woman. I also spent most of the morning running around, looking for the materials I needed to work on these very sick women. I went between 3 or 4 places all morning, getting things as I needed them. It is ridiculous! It’s just as bad if not worse—the access to materials and the porganization of materials—as when I used to be there. Yes, there are some more things that seem to be more in abundance now than before (because of the new director of the hospital), but the organization and access isn’t any better. This lack of access to basic supplies and medications is why preeclamptic women don’t get induced and then go on to have eclamptic seizures.

The new director of the hospital seems to be very proactive and forward-thinking. He is also very accessible and not a sociopath, like the last person. I like him a lot. However, there are people who DON’T like him, or the order and progress he represents (he has also been cracking down on hospital staff when they are lazy and apathetic about performing their jobs), and there has actually been a subversive wave of propaganda against him. No one actually knows who is behind it. But, there have been death threats, things on the radio, and there is red graffiti spray painted on some of the hospital walls. When I saw him and asked him how things are going, he smiled and calmly replied that there have been some “ti pwoblem”—“small problems”, that are always to be expected in a situation like this, but that things are going well. When he first arrived to Hinche last October or so, he used to always have these 4 large bodyguards with him—everywhere he went. Now, it doesn’t seem that he does. I guess he anticipated trouble before he came, I guess this is normal. People like to create chaos and impede progress. The last person who had his job, everyone was just too scared of him to ever try to intimidate him or speak out against him in any way.

The day I travelled from Hinche back to Jacmel was also pretty memorable. It was just another pretty normal day in Haiti, especially travelling such a great distance. Shortly after leaving HInche, one of the tires on the papadap (like a minivan—faster than a tap tap, which is a pickup truck) exploded, so we all had to get out and wait for another machine (general term for different kinds of vehicles) to pick us up. When the next machine came, everyone trampeded in, pushing and shoving (totally normal), and since I didn’t want to take part in that, I just waited and then got in. Well, my seat was now occupied—I didn’t say anything, and just started unfolding the little side seat with no back support that was now to be mine. As I was doing this, the metal support attached to the seat slammed down onto my big toe like a hammer (I am used to the seats just unfolding easily, not forcefully). So, I had a pretty severe injury to my toe, and was in great pain the whole way to Port au Prince.

I hadn’t planned to take a moto taxi in Port au Prince to the Jacmel station (you get dropped off in one place and have to traverse the city to get to the place where you can board a machine for wherever you are going)---I was planning on taking a tap tap, but now I couldn’t walk and I had 2 backpacks with me. So, I took a taxi. I chose the guy with the most innocent-looking face. He was nice enough, but was incessantly flirting with me the whole time, in a way that was really annoying. Like, “I may as well just die if I can never see you again.” Stuff like that. We drove past the national palace, which is still in ruins, all fallen and crumbled. People living in tents all around. The president doesn’t live there—he lives in Petionville, a part of Port au Prince where the rich people live. Anyway, the other thing was that this guy’s motorcycle must have stalled out like 4 or 5 times along the ride. One time I had to get off and walk across the street, which was hard because I couldn’t walk at all. Another time, we stalled out right as we were driving through a stream of muddy sewage water that smelled like shit. I had my injured tow, and really didn’t want to expose my injury to sewage water. He kept pushing the moto, trying to make it restart. He took one of his sandals off, his foot now in the sewage water, trying to give his moto a push start. Well, finally we got out of there.

Like I said, just another day in Haiti. It seems like it would have been stressful, but it wasn’t. Everything was normal. Just that I had a bad injury and couldn’t walk. Even the scenery in PAP is seeming more and more normal. I am pretty used to Haiti, but PAP is pretty bad. Most people who haven’t lived here wouldn’t be able to imagine it at all. And I don’t want to make it sound bad—this is peoples’ daily reality and daily lives. But, to an outsider who has not been forced to accept this as their life, I perceive Port au Prince as a hellish place to live. What I see is trash everywhere, piles and piles that people have to walk over, piles of trash burning while people are picking through it, tires burning, air pollution, sewage water in the streets, beautiful well-groomed schoolchildren carefully and nimble stepping through the dirty water and trash and mud as they walk to school…huge traffic jams…loud noises…decaying buildings…
Once again, this is not to say that this IS how it is. This is how I perceive it. I am less affected by it now. It used to depress me more.

Blada made a wonderful traditional Haitian food today: bouyon (boullion). It is a kind of soup, with starchy root vegetables, amaranth greens, meat…really special. We don’t know when I will get called to start working in Port au Prince, but I am just enjoying the present moment, living our little life here, making food together in our little house, going to the market and getting produce, negotiating prices, stopping and talking with people in the street…


So, things are moving fast now. We are packing up our house because I did get the job with MSF and will be starting on April 15th. We will still have our little house here but will hardly ever be here—it will be more like a storage room. Hopefully, I will be able to leave once in awhile and we can come here for a weekend. Blada is going to be living mostly in Ti Trou, apprenticing with Mackenzy (organic farming)—he is also probably going to start holding dance classes twice a week in Ti Trou.

We have a lot of organizing to do before we move. When I start with MSF, I will have to follow their security protocol, although they are willing to be somewhat flexible with me about leaving once in awhile. Normally, expats can only leave the residence in an MSF vehicle, to go to work. No walking around Port au Prince, no taking public transportation. This will be very different than how I have lived in Haiti, but it will be a new experience and I accept it. It is part of the new situation, and this new situation is such a blessing and I am so thankful. Blada will be able to visit me at the house on weekends, as long as my housemates and coworkers are not too jealous and upset about it (they don’t get the same flexibility). So, we will play it by ear. I am savoring my time with him, trying not to think about missing him later on.

We went to PAP a few days ago for a final meeting with MSF—I met with the head of mission there. We recently bought a motorcycle—we will sell it before we leave Haiti—now that we will be split between 3 places, it’s more of a necessity. So, we took the moto to PAP. Oh my god, driving in PAP is a nightmare. It is unbelievable. Motos there simply weave between all the other vehicles—huge trucks, cars, other motos, etc. They weave in and out, between vehicles—black smoke everywhere, people darting in and out between lanes—vendors—so much activity. It was stressful but we made it. We got stopped by the police on the way and had to bribe them to get away. Totally normal for here. The whole reason they were stopping people was to fine them—they don’t care if people don’t have all their papers in order or their drivers license or a license place—they make a big deal just to make you pay money so you can go. We had to stand there for like 30 minutes while things worked themselves out. (we don’t have all the papers in order yet for the motorcycle). At first, they were like, “madanm, misye arĂȘte”—like, “madam, he is under arrest.” Then it went from that to “you have to leave the motorcycle with us until you get all your papers in order” to Blada talking with one of them over to the side (what they had been waiting for the whole time) and offering a bribe of 300 goudes (about 7-8 USD). The guy was like, “come on, there are 3 of us (3 police sharing the bribe)—so then Blada gave him 500g (about 12.50 USD). After this, their whole demeanor changed, they were friendly, they were understanding, they even gave him their phone numbers in case we got stopped by someone else down the road. So funny. About halfway through PAP, I wiped my face and it was just covered with black soot. Luckily I was travelling with a rag and water, so when we arrived I wiped my face down. Black city grime. Blada’s beard was white from all the dust.

So…yes, things are suddenly moving forward…I am so grateful for this…this means that we will be putting off ourvisa interview until a little later than we thought—I am signing a 9 month contract with MSF—this means we will hopefully be coming up to NC next spring. If all goes well with the visa interview, which I hope and pray it will.

Thank you to all of you for your support and love!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Time is passing! I can’t believe we’re already in to February.
Things are getting better, life is happening. Around mid-January I believe is when I started coming out of my depression. It has been slowly receding--still there are moments where I feel really sad about it and when I reflect on the actual reasons and events that led up to this, it can be upsetting, because it is really just so ridiculous--all stemming from lack of communication and misperceptions--it all feels so wrong sometimes--like, this was all a huge mistake--but, nevertheless I want to be happy and appreciate my life for what it is, so I have been trying to move on and look for other things to do.
What have I /we been doing? Here in Jacmel, I am helping at Olive Tree Projects with structural improvements and writing of protocols for the clinic. So, I have been reading a lot which has been good. Also, recently I started going to Leogone (a town south of Port au Prince, it was the epicenter of the earthquake but looks pretty good now)--because a friend of mine named Angela who was a volunteer last year with MWH is there now laying the groundwork for MWH to expand their program there. In Leogone they have these health cluster meetings every 2 weeks where different NGO’s meet & discuss the work they’re doing in effort to coordinate efforts/avoid duplicating each other’s work…the reason I’m going to these is to start putting myself out there, to meet people, in hopes of landing some teaching jobs. I visited a nursing school/hospital with Angela and met with the administrators, who once they knew what I had been doing the past 2 years (teaching Hatiian auxilliares), asked me to come and teach a few classes for their nursing students. This is great--it’s a step in the right direction--but I need to find paying jobs too. All of it is good.
Kanaval has been good…apparently it lasts 1-2 months…we went on the first day and ended up getting painted with black sugar syrup and parading through the streets in a large group of people who were all painted this way…at the end, we arrived at the beach and everyone jumped into the ocean and bathed…so fun!
The people in Jacmel are very easygoing…a lot more friendly and less suspicious than the people in Hinche (in general)…even at Kanaval, no one cared that I was white…it was nice to feel like part of the group…

Things are going well. Kanaval has been interesting. Blada has been out of town for 2 weeks, working with Mackenzie (Kirsty’s partner) on their land in Ti Trou (in the southern part of Haiti). Kirsty is in Canada; she birthed her baby 2 weeks ago and is doing well and hopefully returning soon.
I am lined up to teach a few classes at this hospital & nursing school called Help, in Leogone. Another prospect is that I may be getting a job with MSF Holland, in Port Au Prince (MSF=Medecins sans Frontieres=Doctors without Borders). I met this MSF person at the health cluster meeting a couple of weeks ago and got a contact from her and I actually interviewed 2 days ago in PAP. It would be for an administrative/managerial role, which is somewhat new for me, so it would teach me some things I’m sure. The problem with possible working for them is that Blada and I will have to live apart. For atleast 6 months. I would be able to see him sometimes, like maybe every 2 weeks. This is a huge sacrifice that is really difficult for me to imagine, but at the same time, this seems like an amazing opportunity that I shouldn’t pass up. We will see.

Other good news: our fiance visa petition has been approved, which means that now we are moving into the next phase of the process. The next phase is gathering necessary documents and preparing for the interview at the US embassy in PAP. We are hoping to do the interview around May. After this, if we get the visa, we have to leave Haiti within 6 months. Hopefully getting the visa and working with MSF can both coincide timing-wise.

I have been thinking about what one of the days at Kanaval was like. I never take pictures here--I have very few pictures I’ve ever taken, although believe me all the time I see things that I wish I could record and share with people back home to show what life is like here. I have never felt comfortable taking pictures--I stand out enough as it is, people see me as different enough as it is, they see me as rich and provledged enough as it is…to then be snapping fotos in front of them, it just feels like something someone would do out of complete ignorance or indifference to the situation and power dynamics here. So, this one day at Kanaval, I knew a lot of people would be taking pictures, and I convinced myself to try and take some as well. Jacmel is an historic town, old architecture…Kanaval is interesting…the parade…huge painted paper mache puppets and marionnets and things…I found Kanaval here to be very very touristy…it was clear that a lot of people had come to Jacmel only for Kanaval…lots of white people…just a different scene than I am used to. Well, I took pictures during the day, and then later, during the next few days, was reflecting to myself how I felt about that…actually, it was like I was carrying around a guilty feeling, like I had betrayed something…that was what made me think about it so much…I kind of feel like I missed part fo the spirit of Kanaval because I was taking pictures…and not that anything is so wrong with taking pictures, especially on a day like this, where everyone knows it is a touristy occasion…just food for thought…
Then a few days later I was in a tap tap (public transportation) and there was actually this discussion going on in the tap tap about how NGO’s and white people come here and take pictures of poor people, without asking permission or anything…this guy was talking about it…a lot of people here think that the people who come here and take pictures go back and make money off of them…in some cases that’s true…in some cases they don’t make money but they still are taking something back with them that doesn’t belong to them…and using these images to promote themselves in some way…I have seen people come in with the most entitled attitudes, it is unbelievable…a couple months ago Blada and I were on the beach, and this white guy arrived, and he had a big camera in his hands…he didn’t look at anyone or say hi to anyone, except after a few minutes he came right up to me and shook my hand and started asking me questions….he was a journalist, doing a piece about “tourism in Haiti”--I was feeling uncomfortable because he hadn’t Agno ledged anyone else who was there, just me…I didn’t want to be a part of that…so, he walked away, and then…without saying anything, just started snapping fotos of the kids on the beach who were practicing flips on the sand…we left.
Anyway…just something to think about…
When I was in Port au Prince I saw an image that will never leave my mind--it was the kind of image that would have made a very compelling photo. In a tap tap, crossing an intersection. The road intersecting us was Martin Luther King Blvd. Right next to the road sign, was a very old woman holding a bowl (asking for money) in one hand…the other arm was horribly disfigured…it looked like it had been completely twisted around--and broken--from above her elbow--and never fixed. It was just hanging there, with the palm of her hand facing the wrong direction. We want to think that we have come so far past racism, but seeing an image as ironic as this, seeing such raw suffering right next to the name of someone who brought the movement forward so far and is remembered and honored for that…it is ironic. We have so far to go. The people here are still in chains. Poverty is a form of violence.

February went by so fast. Things are going better now than they were in Dec-Jan. Those were hard months! Finally, things seem to really be picking up and new opportunities are arising.
It has been nice visiting with an old schoolmate from Maternidad La Luz--for about the past month. Her name is Olivia, and we were in midwifery school together like 9 years ago. She is in Jacmel with her beautiful baby, Zora. Strong lady, coming to Haiti by herself with her baby! She has an organization called Earth Birth that is partnering with Mother Health International, which is the org that has been running the other birth center in Jacmel (there are 2). So, they moved locations and Olivia has been working really hard for the past month to make lots of things happen. We’ve been visiting and sharing lots of stories, and it’s been so great. It’s really cool seeing how drastically we both have grown and changed since we knew each other in midwifery school.
She has been hoping that I could work for their birth center--they have 4-5 Haitian midwifery apprentices who need more attention & training…it is nice to be wanted! But I do have my sights set right now on working with MSF in Port au Prince, and it is still uncertain but seems to be in the works. This would be such a good opportunity for me and I feel I can’t pass it by. Of course, I have mixed feelings because living apart from Blada will be hard…and we will have to put off starting a family still…but also, this feels like it will be so god for each of us, because we each will grow & develop ourselves in ways that are important (Blada will hopefully be apprenticing with Mackenzy, Kirsty’s partner, who is a master agronomist).

I taught my first class at Help nursing school a few days ago. It was on breech birth. It went really, really well. The staff was so happy with it (the head of nursing sat in on the class--I think they were already interested in me but wanted to verify if I could actually do a good job teaching)--that they started talking with me about becoming an integral part of their faculty! Teaching more classes, helping with clinical training of their students, attending events, etc. I dropped by yesterday before the Health Cluster meeting, to give them my CV, which they had requested, and the director officially introduced me to people there as a new staff member! They are making a file for me, an ID badge, etc. It is amazing, because all I had done originally was offer to teach 2 classes for them, and everything else from there has been their effort. It is very encouraging.
I really like Help, because it is well-organized and all Haitian-run. It’s awesome!! They have partner NGO’s and they receive funding from them, but, on the ground, it is all Haitian run. They do a wide array of community health services. They do health education, mental health services, rape crisis, community education, among others. Very impressive.

Another wonderful event that has left me in greater peace than before is that I finally met with the directors of MWH face-to-face this week. The reason they met with me was because it was strongly recommended to them by a volunteer who was laying groundwork/networking for MWH in Leogone (they will be replicating the training program there starting this September) that after she leaves, they contract with me to attend Health Cluster meetings as their representative, so that other NGO’s there (who MWH hopes to partner with) will see a continued presence and interest. So, this is happening now and I am glad. Meeting with them, for me, was helpful because I have been longing for resolution and closure. This happened to the extent that was possible. And, the fact that I am contracted to represent them in Leogone is good because it shows that we are not burning bridges.

I am finally going to visit Hinche! Next week. So so excited. Everyone there is too. I will get to see Marthonie and everyone else!