Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 3: Back In The Swing Of Things

Lunch time here at base. Just got back from a run down to Little Venice, the bar at the end of the road run by one of my favorite families in Haiti. Paddy and I were fiending a cold soda. It's not half as hot here as it was when I landed in Haiti the first time (July 1st of last year), partly because it's been grey and rainy for the last few days due to a tropical depression southwest of the island, but also probably because I'm able to acclimate a lot faster given my prior stay. Still, "not half as hot" still means hot here. And the humidity never quits. Cold soda indeed.

Being back has been great, and strange. The base is largely unchanged from before. Sure, some familiar tents are gone, and familiar faces absent, but other familiar faces remain, and the flow of life around here is as it was before. There are far fewer people on base than when I arrived last time, and the volunteers seem a little more mellow this time around, but that is nice in a lot of ways. I've been largely focused on the work I'm here to do, so, while I'll never be able to totally relinquish my social animal, I'm also not particularly indulging it this time around. It's different to come in knowing exactly what role I'm taking on, and where my attention needs to be. I like it. I'm invested. I was before, once I assumed the role of biosand team lead, but now, with the major investment All Hands is placing in the project, and working in tandem with Paddy, one of my oldest friends who also came back because of the biosand project (he's the official biosand project coordinator and the newest member of the All Hands staff), I feel we're going to be able to really accomplish things that I couldn't before.

Right out the gate we've seen some positive signs. Yesterday Paddy and I and a small team went out to the Masson community to follow up on biosand filters that my team installed there back in January. We didn't quite know what to expect in terms of long-term adoption of the technology, but, with a few exceptions, we were really happy to see that most families loved their filters and were using them every day. The filters were in good condition, and the recipients knew how to maintain them. They told us they felt their water was far better both in taste and quality, and that they had seen far fewer illnesses since the filters had been installed. That made me smile. They told us their neighbors would come over to drink the water, and that the community was very interested in getting more filters installed. Alrighty then, we can do that. It looks like Masson will likely be the first community we install filters into for this reboot of the project. It's a good choice - the community is aware of what biosand filters do, are familiar with All Hands (besides biosand filters we also built them a school), and seem to have taken to the technology. The pieces fit. But first, Paddy and I are working on getting a local Haitian staff put together, and then need to retrain ourselves and train them. We're getting the foundation solidly in place before we begin executing. The goal is 250 filters installed by end of year, starting fresh (not counting prior installs), which is totally doable (we have the capacity to produce four a day) so we have the time to make sure the machine is well oiled before we turn the key.

Going back to Masson was great. The kids were out in force, as they were last time, when I took this video:

The rowdy ones.

They remembered me, and once again followed us around. I think at one point we had about ten of them crammed into this little house with us while we were checking out one of the filters and talking to the owner. Here's a photo of a few of them from this time around:

Where we go, they follow. That works for me.
I feel I've clearly made the right choice in coming back here. I feel like I've unfinished business in Haiti, and with All Hands. As I've said before, if Haiti Round One was testing the water, Round Two is all about swimming as far and as fast as I can. This choice doesn't come without sacrifices. I miss my pup, and my brother and family and friends in LA and elsewhere, and I'm guaranteed to be flat broke once I leave here, but I'm OK with all of it. And even though it was many months ago now, the original choice I made not to follow someone I met here last time to London and pursue a relationship with her has been something on my mind constantly. I think being here is finally beginning to give me confidence I made the right choice, and put something in its proper place. Yes, coming back here is sometimes intense in regards to her because of the simple fact that the entirety of our relationship happened here - the memories are planted in all the nooks and crannies of this place. It goes almost without fail that the first question out of the mouths of my local friends after we've hugged and said our hellos is "Koman se Mathilde?" (How is Mathilde?) but I'm OK with that. I'll lie in my tent at night, and think about our prior time together for a while, then pick up my book, read, and drift to sleep. Morning comes and I'm up, hoping there's still some coffee left in the pot, hunting down a spoon for my cornflakes and powdered milk, and then it's off to do what I came here to do, and what more and more I'm feeling is exactly what I should and need to be doing right now.

Life affirms.

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