“We aren’t asleep we are marching
In the light of God”
I am finally getting around to writing another blog post. I just had so much saved up in my brain that I needed to make sure I had a good amount of time to write it. So prepare yourselves for glory, ladies and gentlemen.
I currently am writing you from Gonaives, a good sized city on the West coast of Haiti, and the most Hurricane-destructo-flood-force area in the entire country. Basically it has been completely leveled and rebuilt twice in the last 6 years. Its built on a river delta, so I today decided it was the Haitian New Orleans, but maybe a bit less severe. Unfortunately they don’t have the money to put up intense and effective dikes like New Orleans, so there are several NGO’s in the area doing their best to create gigantic drainage canals, runoff mitigation and flood proof everything. WHY am I here? Good question. Two days ago Bruce volunteered myself and a fellow workmate, John, to come here and help a friend of his out because he is really far behind on work. So, after a 3 hour drive standing in the back of Bruce’s truck, we got dropped up without knowing how long we would be here. Drew works with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) doing flood mitigation and rehabilitation work in a partnership they have with USAID. Looking at the work they do and the name of the NGO, it doesn’t make much sense. Who migrates to Haiti? But hey, not much does make sense here.
In the last 30 hours or so we’ve gotten to see lots of different projects, including a couple dams, lots of irrigation canals and a couple giant flood canals which are either being constructed or design right now. Pretty interesting stuff for a civil engineer, let me tell you. We went around with a few of the Haitian engineers in the office here and essentially pretended to know exactly what we were talking about and appeared smart and confident. I think it worked. But I really have no idea what I’m doing. Hopefully this doesn’t backfire. We’re also doing a buttload of paperwork, reports, database stuff, and hopefully we’ll explore a bit in our free time. Bruce said we could be here 3 days or a week or ??? So we will see.
Its been cool to get away from the small village I have been staying in, but now its time to step back into the past to let you all know what’s been going on.
I think I finally know the name of the town I have been living in for the last two weeks: Passe Catabois. Weird french spelling or something. Cool little town about 15 miles from Port-de-Paix; an hours drive. Here is a taste: Roads are crazy. No electricity. People on donkeys everywhere. People bathing in the river with no concept of shame. People without shoes. Women carrying random enormous things on their heads without struggle. Kids with no pants. Kids with no shirts. Kids with no shirts or pants. Waving and screaming anytime you see people from the car – not sure if this is b/c we are white or b/c cars are so uncommon. People playing in the public water fountain… etc, etc, etc.
This is a new experience for me. I felt like I knew what I was getting myself into. I’ve done this before. But being here in this place is humbling. Not knowing the language, not being familiar with the culture, not understanding the way people interact and see the things around them – its kicked my ego down a notch. Its been tough. I’ve had to take a back seat a lot of the time here, something a lot of you know I’m not very good at. I am now the quiet guy when I’m with others that speak Creole well. It feels unjust somehow – I want to reach out and make sure they know that I can have fun and be interesting even though I can’t speak the language super well (yet). Its definitely a struggle, but I am gaining perspective and learning ways to be me without the language. A few highlights of this from this week: “Potem” and dominoes. Pote’m means “carry me”. One of the kids that lives right next to our house says this EVERY time he sees a one of us white folk (or Blan in Creole). Basically wants you to hold him upside down or throw him or whatever. SO I spent a good deal of time tossing him and his siblings about this week, renewing my spirit towards youth and that inner joy that has stayed hidden for a while. Yep, still there. I hope to sing Pharoah Pharoah with the kids soon. Secondly, Kester and I went on a walk in search for dominoes. We always would see them playing so we wanted to learn. We quickly found a group and they let us join. Ended up being the most basic game in the world… BUT, the loser had to balance a box on his/her head. Easy for Haitians. Hard for Josh. What happens when it drops? Well, I was soon running towards the street to run around this concrete fountain. The Haitians loved it, everyone was dying laughing. This stuff has boosted my spirits and so I’m trying not to put too much weight on the language deal anymore.
Turns out I’ve written a lot. Other exciting happens are as follows… Camp Beraca. We spent 4 days last weekend at this United Baptist Church of Haiti retreat deal. 7000 Haitians + church = real long service that I can’t understand. Bruce was able to translate some and the main pastor liked to yell a ton, so it was actually pretty good. It was actually really cool to see the way that the Haitians care about the church, saving money all year to come from all over the country to attend a 4 day church service. Pretty cool. They also had legit music, including the lyrics which I put in the post title. That was the theme for the whole event, so one of the Haitians wrote a song for it. I also got the chance to show off my mad basketball skills and us guys had the chance to relax and spend time with each other, which was a great treat. Risk and Monopoly ensued. We ALSO got to see Spain beat Netherlands. Sorry Yoh, but it just wasn’t mean to be. Go Espana! Other happenings included work around the “yard” (the work yard where Bruce has lots of machines and tools and whatnot) and a giant concrete pour. This reminded me a lot of Mexico and involved a lot of shoveling, wheelbarrowing and passing extremely heavy buckets of concrete. Lasted all day too.
SO, lots of interesting work going down, cool experiences, and a little exploration so far. Getting to know the other guys has been a treat as well. For the sake of time and to avoid the legacy which precedes me, I will end here and write more in a couple days. I leave you with a team photo, and yes, I am wearing a Mexican bandito hat of sorts. Keeps the shade off, right?
Love and miss you all dearly,