Friday, April 23, 2010

Armaral and the Angry Choir.

Armaral grew up in the orphanage then left and fell into the toughest gang in Cite Solie.Despite being a thug, Armaral would always look after Father Rick in the slum. At roadblocks meant to rob passing cars Armaral would stop Father Rick, give him a hug, throw him a stolen bottle of rum and wave him through unharmed. If there was a kidnapping in the slum of one of our teachers Father would call on Armaral to get them out.

Three years ago Father Rick hired Armaral here at the hospital, still highly respected in the slums and one of the nicest people you’ve ever met, Armaral is a good man to have by your side.Monday was Father Rick’s right-hand man Armaral’s 30th birthday.

In the morning as the sun rose red, Father Rick, me, Armaral and a few others loaded up bags of donated clothing in the trucks and headed to Titoneia - a tent city on the edge of town.

These drops are getting increasingly violent as more aid groups are leaving town and supplies are drying up. We always roll up in a pretty big posse of former gangsters and reformed thugs who are fiercely protective of Father Rick and now me so I fell pretty safe.

Titoneia is hungry and desperate. Our truck pulls in, things get ugly fast, thouadn surround us, there is a scramble to get order. Armaral carries a huge stick to beat thieves off; even he seems flustered by the chaos. We can’t control the crowd and might have to turn the trucks around without passing anything out, the most dangerous option since the crowd has no incentive not to riot and overtake us. Father Rick jumps off the back of the truck and grabs the leader of the camp, he whispers something into his ear. The camp leader smiles, begins to sing loudly “Happy Birthday” in Creole to Armaral.

The mob is stunned for a moment then all join in the singing, Armaral still swings his stick when he hears the entire crowd sing to him, he flushes then smiles his toothy grin. By the end of the song the yells have turn to laughs and order is back, clothes are passed out and we drive out unharmed, the broken morning has started off well.

Triplets were born last week prematurely. We see a lot of preemies

after the earthquake; there is so much daily babies come out early; our hospital is filled with them. The triplets each weigh less than 2 pounds; I spend a part of everyday with them and check on them every night before bed. They are fighters and the tiniest creatures I’ve ever seen. They remind me of my sister’s baby hamsters. Two died yesterday morning.

I helped bathe their bodies for burial with incense and oils.

The surviving sister still fights on; it’s a long journey these babies took to come out into the world only to die a week later. I was with the mother when the first baby died, she cried then started to sing to herself and did a little dance; a beautiful Haitian tradition that I have sadly witnessed too many times.

Politics in the office back home. Feel like shit about it and get pretty torn up. Father Rick finds me sitting on Tuesday night on the wall of the chapel looking rough, I tell him what happens. He tells me on the grand scheme of what is important in the world this is towards the bottom. He picks me up and tells me to join him for songs in the Chapel; I’m not really up for it but join anyway.Thomas, my friend, and the mentally handicapped adopted son of the hospital administrator Vern, sings Amazing Grace loudly and hugs me while he sings. At the end of the song we all laugh and dance while Father Rick sings Mexican love songs and plays the guitar. He’s right, all else is bullshit. The world is all about Love, Kindness and Compassion that’s all we can do, and I’m learning it and seeing it everyday.

Father Rick told me that you always have to FIGHT for the very poor and it’s not easy. I realized that even in my own head I had sold out the very poor kids because it wasn’t appealing like the other idea. It blew my mind to realize this struggle. We have an incredible opportunity to give the very poor and the overlooked a place to learn and be proud of. This is dignity, this is love, and this is the struggle.

After nearly being defeated by LA politics Monday I have come out Friday on the other side with a forceful commitment to focus and drive APJ and myself to serve the very poor; I am not tired anymore; I am clear; I am strong; I am excited.

Amazing Grace.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Saint Joan and the forgotten ones.

Sister Joan came here 60 years ago and built a school for the deaf, disabled and blind street kids of Haiti. She died a few years back during the earthquake her school was destroyed her life work reduced to a pile of rocks and her students left homeless and out of school. This was a special school where written on the wall still stands a passage from the bible it reads in red cursive: “The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the crippled will dance.” She made these miracles happen everyday. By giving the blind Braille she gave them sight, by giving the crippled prosthetics and physical therapy they danced and lastly she created a bell choir for the deaf that was purely based on feeling the vibration of the bell ring. The deaf could now hear.

Father Rick knew Sister Joan well and saw that the school had collapsed; he approached me in the early morning and told me we were building the school again on our front lawn. For everyday this week we have worked tirelessly from sun up to well past sun down moving containers, lugging supplies and rice; organizing, sweating and struggling. The containers need a crane to move them, they are unwieldy and stubborn. The center container wouldn’t budge from its place and was crooked. I asker Father Rick if we should call the crane back to adjust it slightly so that it would be inline with the others. He smiled deliriously and said, “It’s fine Bryn, thank god it’s a school for the blind, they’ll never know, if they were architects we’d be in trouble!” You need to have a sense of humor here or you will be quietly consumed.

“We should have been on Gilligan’s Island” Father Rick tells me as we roll a tire hub full of cement to be placed as the base of a container. I laugh so hard I cry. Sometimes it gets hard to tell the difference between crying and laughing. We sit and drink a beer on the crumbled wall looking at the skeleton of our new school. I ask Father Rick what we will call the school, he looks up at the reddening sky, thinks for a second, smiles and says, “Saint Joan.” Normal canonization rules do not apply here.

It is a disadvantage to be born deaf, blind or crippled in the states but in Haiti these are death sentences, these kids have nowhere to go but when we finish this school, which will cost 20,000 to build and 60,000 a year to run they will have a home once again. That’s a miracle.

Triplets were born three days ago they weigh less than 2 pounds, I spend the days with them, one I was just told is dying going to see her now.

More later – so tired can’t think

Heading to the beach later to drink rum sours with David Belle and sleep deeply.