Flying back to Haiti, flight delayed,
ended up just making my connection in
Vegas. Thankfully my bags arrive, I get a room in a sleazy airport hotel. Miami sucks. Laying on the bed watching 60 minutes about Haiti, on TV a pregnant 13 year old girl walks into our hospital, you can see me in the background, feels like a world away, but its only an hour flight from my dirty hotel room.
Cargo flight over to Port Au Prince at 6am filled with fat American doctors and nurses. I put some peanuts in my pocket for later. The airport's a mess; but this time around PaP feels familiar I hop a cab and head back to the hospital. I first came to Haiti after the earthquake and all I saw was rubble, this time I don’t notice it anymore, what once shocked me has now become just a landmark “take a left at the crashed house” I tell my driver. Funny how fast we accept our reality.
Back at St Damien’s I meet a guy who builds shelters that convert into homes. He wants to meet Father Rick but I’m supposed to vet him. He’s a fraud, big talk and in way over his head, he’s desperate for money. We talk under the sun; he’s frail. I try to prepare him for Father Rick and I’m so happy to be back that I’m bouncing off the walls. I keep saying that Father Rick is a busy man and speak with him quickly and then leave. I feel like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now - the guardian of Kurtz. I tell this to him, he hasn’t seen the movie – fate sealed. I show him the door.
I tour our APJ schools with a Haitian architect, we see the three of the schools that APJ supports. Two are knocked down one still stands. The one still standing is sponsored by LionsGate it is my first time inside. It’s got 80 kids inside with some really great teachers. The architect is appalled at the condition of the school even pre earthquake this is not a safe learning environment.
We work with what we have here. I tell him.
Is it better to have kids learning in an unsafe building or not learning at all and the building stands empty? I don’t know.
Every school that is now abandoned has one thing in common, as you climb into the broken classrooms and step over fallen chairs and crayon drawing
s you notice that on every blackboard written in cursive reads the date January 12. It’s haunting.
Father Rick and I went to buy 20 foot long pieces of metal pipe, we rode on the
back of motorcycles - bought the pipe then realized we had no way to bring them back. Father Rick thought that we should carry them
on the bikes, he rides in front 20 feet and I follow below, we each hold an end, we have to keep that distance perfect the whole way or one of us will be thrown from the bike. They are really heavy and dirty; it's hot. We make it 5 feet and both fall off. Bad idea but good for some laughs from the crowd gathered to watch. We end up each holding a pipe above our heads for the whole ride, they are unruly, we arrive safely and retell the story many times over ice-cold Prestige beers. I like this place.
Food distributions all week long.
Load up helicopters to take rice to a town cut off by floods, the priest of the local mission meets the chopper in a field. Villagers watch as overhead the helicopter
approaches with its net full of food swinging lazily below. It touches down and a crowd descends upon the rice. Within minutes the food and net are gone. The next day we send the Italian military to do it, they succeed and fight off the crowd.
On Wednesday I head to a mission in LaKai to deliver rice. Three hours away it’s the first time I’ve left PaP. I’ve gotten to know PaP well, I’m now familiar with its streets and its tragedy, I’m immune to the rubble; I think. This changes as I drive on the back of a truck loaded with two tons of rice through the next town over. Leogone is destroyed.
I’ve never seen anything like it. Every house, every store, every school - crushed. I can’t help but weep. I think everyone is waving at me so I try to smile back and wave, but people aren’t waving they are trying to flag the car down and are begging for help, they are crying out for us to drop off just one bag. People are hungry
and people are desperate. We reach LaKai and a crowd forms immediately, it’s hot. We close a steel gate and prepare the rice; the next four hours are hellish. Mobs fight for supplies, a gun is pulled; old women fight over a cup of beans. I have to carry a big stick to hit off people trying to steal or cut the line. Everyone needs a slip of paper to get food; I have to turn people away. An old crippled lady cries for some rice, she has no slip. I fill a bag for her and pass it over the fence, others see, beg to me. We have to fight our way out as the food runs out.
OnPalm Sunday Father Rick and I drive into the mountains to his orphanage in Kescoff. It’s a beautiful collection of buildings and playgrounds perched on a misty cliff high above pine trees. Most of the 350 kids are mentally disabled. We have mass in Creole with singing and dancing, it’s really something.
Sat next to a kid that folded his palm leaf into a cross necklace and gave it to me. I’m touched, I give him a gold turtle pin I find in my bag, he smiles wide, digs in his pocket and gives me the only thing he has, a dirty piece of soap. I try to refuse it but it’s impossible, he is proud to give me his prize.
We play basketball and take pictures.
Been spending time at the UN camp, 500 young, mostly American volunteers living all together in tents. Debaucheries as you can imagine, I’ve heard stories that would make your head spin; these are best told over a few cold beers.
My days look like:
5am 7am – Unload containers of rice, hard work but a fun bunch of guys singing and telling dirty jokes.
7am – 8am – Mass with Father Rick in our little earthquake damaged church; I sit under the broken stained glass window of St. Francis
8am- 9am – Creole lesson
9am – Food distribution or meetings at the UN. Play with the kids at school and the hospital.
Dusk – More loading of rice and medical supplies
Night – Cold beers and grilled chicken on the roof of the hospital.
The days are hot and the nights are muggy, I have lost weight and gained muscle. I am improving in my Creole at a surprising rate. I'm sunburned and happy in this city of dust.