Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 28: HODR Leogane - A Day In The Life


6:00AM - 7:00AM: Awake!

Wake up, surprisingly without the need for an alarm clock or any sort of timer, toss on some shorts and possibly a shirt, and head downstairs. Avoid roof lakes if at all possible. Make sure to zip my tent up behind me (forgot that once, one wet tent later and I will not make that mistake twice...).

6:30AM - 7:30AM: Getting Ready

Prep for the day. Eat breakfast, which includes the following wonderful options:
  1. Corn flakes w/ powdered milk. This is my default since the damn oatmeal always runs out.
  2. Oatmeal (if it hasn't all been eaten yet).
  3. White bread w/ peanut butter and jelly.
  4. Coffee
  5. Lipton Tea
Once breakfast is done, brush teeth, put on the right pair of shoes. If it is going to be a light day I'll usually toss on my sneakers. If rubbling or any sort of manual labor is involved, These New Boots come out to play. Check my email / Facebook. Avoid wandering hordes of fellow HODR Volunteer AM Zombies, who are relatively harmless but do tend to babble randomness like "" or "Ciiiiigarette.". Fill up my water bottle. Get ready to rock.

7:30AM - 11:30AM: Go Time

Go time. The entire HODR camp disperses to whatever job they are assigned to. If I'm rubbling, this means jumping on the appropriate tap-tap with the rest of my team and heading out to the rubble site. Rubble sites are all over Leogane, and have a variety of names, based on the last name of the owner of the collapsed house (Paul, St. Juste, Estime, etc.). If I'm working on biosand filters however, go time can mean a variety of different tasks, but I usually stay at base, as our worksite is behind the base, and any training materials, etc. that need to be put together are done so in the office on my computer. Today, for example, I'll be leading the biosand team here with Paddy. We're having a final load of small river rock delivered this morning to finish the foundation of the work area, so our team of volunteers is going to help us spread the rock and flatten it. Once that is done, a local Haitian with a compactor will come in and smash everything down to make it solid. Then we'll get started on building the massive tent (30' x 30' by 20') that will cover most of the worksite. Should be a good day. Today will be a day where I'll be wearing These New Boots (which, while having suffered a wound at the hand of a jagged piece of rebar, are holding up surprisingly well).

11:30AM - 1:30PM: I Like This Part

Ah, lunch break. All teams come back to HODR base to relax for two hours, which is nice, especially if you're doing heavy manual labor, as this is a very hot part of the day. Lunch is usually served around 12PM, and will inevitably include either rice, rice & beans, or pasta. Other sides vary. I'm going to start snapping some photos of all the food here - that'll be a different entry (thank me later Cort!). Once lunch is eaten, most people crash out. Expect to find sleeping HODR volunteers just about everywhere. You'd be surprised where people can seemingly get comfortable and doze off. Concrete slab covered in dust and wood chips and ants? My kind of luxury! Two hammocks are the ultimate score, but those are usually claimed quick. The rest of us do what we can. I don't tend to sleep at lunch though, I'm usually online messing around, or maybe I'll head down to Jackson Bar for a mid-day beer. Cold substance = good. Only one though. Any more than one beer in this heat will make you incredibly drowsy, which you don't want when you're swinging a sledgehammer around.

Even HODR staff get in on the lunchtime pass out action. Well played Miso, well played.
HODR veteran and staff member Chris showing us how it's done son.
1:30PM - 4:30PM: Go Time (Again!)

Aaaaand we're back to it. Occasionally various jobs are AM or PM only, so some people will switch tasks after lunch, but most go back to what they were doing before. If you're rubbling, I find the afternoon can be the hardest part, given the rubble sites have just had two hours to bask in the heat while we were all enjoying our respective shennanigans back at base during lunch. The result is (usually) a hotter work environment. Lots of water breaks are called though, or else you risk volunteers completely gassing out, getting lightheaded, or all together having to just lay down in any shade they can find and breathe for a bit. Occasionally an afternoon storm will roll in. This is a good thing. Even if it doesn't rain, the clouds provide a much needed respite from the Haitian soleil (sun), which would surprise you in terms of how much productivity can skyrocket as a result. The sun really is the enemy here. It is ruthless. I can work twice to three times as long without a break if I am working in shade. If it does rain, well, that's the best. Just watch the tools people - can't have sledges and pickaxes flying around because of wet grips.

4:30PM - 5:30PM: Work Done But Still Have That Meeting... (Oh, And Eating Is Good Too)

We survived! Back to basecamp for dinner and the 5:30PM meeting. Dinner will inevitably include rice, rice & beans, or pasta. Yes, every lunch. Every dinner. Again, a food-only post will come shortly. Most volunteers finish up dinner right before the meeting, or bring their plate to the meeting, as it is outside under a huge tent.

5:30PM - ~6:15PM: That Meeting

The meeting breaks down as follows:
  1. Hello To The Grunts (ie. The New Peoples) - introduce yourself, where you're from, how you heard about HODR, how long you're going to be here, and question of the day (provided by Alan, a Kiwi, and usually quasi-ridiculous).
  2. Daily Work Debrief - team leaders from all the projects stand up and tell how their projects went for the day. "We smashed lots of stuff." (rubble teams) and "Scabies babies." (baby orphanage team) tend to be recurring themes.
  3. Meeting Notes - anyone that has something they want to say tosses a note up on the meeting board and has their chance. Common notes involve misplaced things (cameras, iPods, money) and proper tool storage (South African Steve's meeting note of choice).
  4. Work For Tomorrow - work for the following day is broken out so people know what they can sign up for after the meeting.
  5. Goodbyes - anyone leaving has a chance to stand up and say whatever they'd like. This part of the meeting is commonly filled with "Boo!" and "Oh hell no!" whenever a particularly awesome volunteer is saying adieu. Nobody likes to see the good ones bounce.
Whenever The Meeting Ends - 10PM: Freedom!

After the meeting ends and everyone has signed up for a job for the next day, the HODR hordes are released! In this case, what you're picturing as a "horde" probably doesn't apply. There is no looting and pillaging. As a matter of fact, there is usually quite a bit of reclining on anything you can find, smoking cigarettes, and talking quietly amongst one another. It's a different kind of horde mmm k? Sometimes the horde gets really frisky and puts on a movie or TV show, ending all talking and resulting in a very, very mellow group of people, half of whom are usually passed out.

But not all of us are so docile! Joe's Bar is always an option, and inevitably, HODR volunteers will end up there so you can always find someone to have a beer or flask of rum with. Joe's also has a good sound system and is popular with the locals, so expect to see dancing. The Haitian men are rather keen on the international women, and much (weak) game is spit. Rarely, if ever, do you see one of the (very) persistent locals secure their desired prize.

Jackson Bar or Little Venice, the two other bars down the road outside of camp, are also popular options as they are a more accurate portrayal of a "real" Haitian bar (basically just a tarped area w/ a broken fridge filled with beer and ice) and they are also cheaper. One bottle of Prestige at Joe's will run you 40 gourde. 35 at Little Venice. 30 at Jackson Bar. Little Venice is also a popular cash changing place, as you get a good rate - 780 gourde for $20 American. At Joe's you're getting 760. I haven't tried it at Jackson Bar yet.

If you're not drinking beers or lounging, you may be headed down the road to the smoothie people to get your smoothie on. Other than the local bars and the smoothie place however, there isn't much to do in our neighborhood once the sun sets. The darkness in Leogane is pretty thick, given the lack of street lights of any kind. Most volunteers stay local (unless it's the weekend, but that's a post for another time). 

10PM: All Is Good Unti....

...aaaaand the generator just died. Lights out people. Quiet hours. This is a very obvious event, as the entire base goes dark, Joe's music goes silent, and Joe's patrons yell "Aaaaaah!". Most volunteers are ready to retire at this point if they haven't already. The tent city up on the roof and the bunks down below fill up pretty quick, but you wouldn't know it because how dark and quiet it is. For any of us still wanting to mingle, there is a very far removed part of the roof (above the tool shed) that people congregate on, but that isn't all that common. The daily work usually results in lots of bodies wanting rest.

Be sure to pee before you get in your tent. Don't drink lots of liquids before bed. Waking up at 3AM to have to walk the distance between the roof city and the bathrooms is a pain in the ass, especially if it is raining. However, should you find you do have to lighten your load in the middle of the night, at all costs resist the temptation to pee on the roof! One, it's f***ing nasty, since we all have to wade through the roof lakes that your pee will inevitably find its way to. Two, your ass is getting suspended for a week from base if you're found out and identified, as one poor volunteer found out last week. A week of winging it without support in Haiti, while certainly interesting, isn't something most people want to do.

When the time comes for tentage, you have two options - rain flap on or rain flap off. Upon acclimating, I've now been able to sleep with the flap on. However, if you're new and dying of heat, I recommend peeling the rain flap back to give you a fighting chance at sleep. Again, peel it back. Don't take the damn thing off completely. Haiti can and will rain whenever she damn well pleases. If that happens to be a torrential downpour at 1AM and your rain flap is folded up and you can't find your headlamp (you did bring a headlamp right?), well then my friend, enjoy sleeping with a snorkel on. Once you've made your decision, lay down. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to go to sleep. And here you thought you had some energy still left to relax with that book of yours and rea...



Coming Up Soon: A Day In The Life - Weekend Edition!

No comments:

Post a Comment