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 arête”—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!