Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 3 - Acclimating

Wow. This marks my second full day in Haiti, and my spirits are great. I'm smiling as I write this. Yesterday, my first full day, was a bit overwhelming, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't for one second consider whether or not I had gotten myself in over my head. The actual work at the rubble site (Project Paul - see photo below) was incredibly hard. I was gassing out. Sledging is not easy stuff, and I didn't have my form right - I was trying to put all my strength behind every swing, when it reality you really just want to let the mass of the sledge and gravity do most of the work for you. I was sucking wind constantly, and felt like a car with a busted radiator. So, so hot.

Project Paul though, from what I've been told from the more veteran volunteers, is a particularly nasty rubble site - a big two story house (likely owned by a rich man) that collapsed on itself in such a way as to create big slabs and beams angled awkwardly. Anyway, not to bore you with minutiae but suffice to say, swinging a sledge sideways or at an angle is a lot harder than the straight up, straight down. The people leading the team were very cool though, and were totally understanding. They encouraged me to pace myself, ease into it, particularly given the length of time I'm going to be here. So I did, and today was much better. I'm really looking forward to what's to come. 

I've volunteered to join a small HODR team that will be rendezvousing with the mayor and his staff here in Leogane to try and establish a more efficient and effective relationship between the local government and the nonprofits here. Kim, one of my new friends here at the camp, assures me it will be nothing if not challenging - government here in Haiti is anything but easy to navigate. That isn't a judgement call, simply the way it is. We shall see...

The Haitian people are great. As I mentioned in my first post, we have local Haitian volunteers that come out with us to the work sites, and I'm gradually learning their names. So far I've gotten to know a guy named Ga, 26, the best, simply because he speaks Spanish so we can communicate. Haitian Creole isn't exactly in my verbal repertoire (yet!). Ga is hilarious. I saw him sporting a pair of familiar looking sunglasses yesterday at Project Paul and he told me they looked too good on him. "Black on black. The way to be." And while I did have to concur they looked damn sharp on him, I also had to steal them back. I may not be able to rock the black on black ensemble, but they don't look too shabby on this white boy as well. I'm looking forward to getting more time to pick Ga's brain - he was here during the earthquake, "Lots and lots of dead." I didn't press in, but I do want to know more of the firsthand experience. As we get to know each other better I'm sure we'll have the chance.

In other news, The World Cup is the greatest sporting event in history. By default the Haitians all back Brazil, but given Brazil (Brasil!) is out, they've divided down German and Argentine lines. Out at Paul whenever Germany (Aleman!) scored you could here the neighborhood erupt. Little kids would run down the dirt road past us, or stop and dance to some of the MJ tunes we were playing on our portable iPod dock. I attempted, very badly, the Thriller shuffle. They laughed. On the ride back into HODR basecamp for lunch, packed into the back of the small pickup trucks (called tap-taps), parts of Leogane were celebrating and making some noise. I joined in - "Aleman! Aleman!". Lots of waves and laughter. Makes you forget Haiti is supposedly a dangerous place. These people have the greatest smiles.

On that note, lunch break is wrapping up. Paul still has quite a beatdown coming to him - I imagine at least a week or two left on that project - so I need to grab my gloves and find my team. Until next time, Aleman!

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