Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 8 - Wrapping Up in Pierre Payen

I write this sitting here in Pierre Payen, belly full of rice, beans, chicken and a tart onion salad of sorts, topped off with a Haitian Coke (think Mexican Coke). Truth be told, I've been eating better here than New York it seems - the portions are ridiculous. I have to reign myself in or else I'm far too food coma'd to really function during our after lunch biofilter training. I also can't help but feel a bit guilty - a blanc (that'd be white guy) stuffing himself whilst huge portions of the population here struggle to find food.

We (the HODR volunteers - Paddy, Leah, Will and myself) leave here tomorrow after lunch to head back to HODR HQ in Leogane, four biofilter molds in tow. We've learned how to make them and install them, and with the molds and the resources at HODR HQ we should be set to start to roll out production and begin training other HODR volunteers in all things biofilter. It is exciting to me. Yes, the overall problems Haiti (pronounced Ay-EE-tee in local tongue) are enormous, almost impossible if you take a negative view of them, but, as I was told by Chris & Leslie, the missionaries that have been on the ground here for years, if you allow yourself blinders of sorts, it helps. Break it down to the basics - every filter built and installed, and every family educated on its usage, results in less sick people, and especially, less infant mortality. That's no small thing. One child saved as a result of a filter I build is already leaps and bounds more valuable than any online ad I've sold or product I've pitched. I came here telling myself I wanted to get into the work from the ground up, start small, get my fingernails dirty. In that I'm succeeding (and, not surprisingly, the small bit of fingernail I actually have is, in fact, filthy). I value that. I want to know the realities on the ground. I'm very much looking forward to going out into local Leogane communities to install the filters and see firsthand how the Haitian people really live. I also want to learn Haitian Creole as soon as possible. I get incredibly frustrated when I can't communicate with locals that want to communicate with me - the Haitian guys who are here training with us for example. Spanish has actually been an unexpectedly valuable resource. Some Haitians have spent time in the Dominican Republic, which is Haiti's eastern neighbor here on the island of Hispaniola (named by Columbus). Their specific dialect of Spanish is very different than any I've heard before, being mixed with Creole and French, but I can stumble through it for the most part. It's a start anyway, as my Creole improves.

It has been interesting to watch how the local Haitians here with us interact with one another and us blancs. Leah, the only girl of the group, has been getting more and more frustrated with them, as has Paddy. In Leah's case, many of them simply don't treat her as someone who can do the work we're doing, which is anything but the case. Leah's completed officer training in the British Army and is looking at a career in Search & Rescue. She's solid. But still, they'll come and grab the shovel out of her hands and insist on showing her how to mix concrete correctly, for example, even when she's already doing it correctly. Other times they'll interrupt something she's working on (screwing on a mold, etc.) and simply jump in and finish it. I chalk it up to a cultural difference, and don't let it bother me, but then again, I'm not in Leah's shoes. She gets very frustrated, as does Paddy when they come and take tools he's in the middle of using. It is almost as if there is a bit of a competition between everyone - who can build a filter the fastest, who can do the work the "best", etc. It certainly has a bit of machismo to it, which I'm familiar with, having grown up in Mexico. I recognize machismo, and the pointlessness of it, and I suppose I let it roll right past me.

Little Olivia, the two and a half year old Haitian girl Chris & Leslie adopted, is adorable. I've posted pictures of her previously, but one thing I find totally irresistible about her is her insistence on changing outfits multiple times a day. She will swap out clothing four, five, six times a day. Right now they've taken her hair out of the little braids they had it in - she's rocking her natural fro - and I can't help but want to grab her and play. She's wonderful. I just took a quick webcam shot of her here:

Olivia, fashionista to be.

Love that kid.

Five minutes and it's back to work. Time to wrap this up. Hasta pronto.


  1. pienso irme a san miguel en agosto..........que te opinas??
    Con el Gulf Spill, parece que la Florida no tendra mucho valor ya pronto.
    te extrano, Quinn!!!!!!!!!

  2. Dale! I miss San Miguel. Eat a street corn on the cob and a bag of jicama con limon y sal for me. XOX.