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!