It has been a tough few days here. There is a tropical storm sitting over Haiti right now. For awhile, it looked like it was going to turn into a hurricane, but thankfully it stayed nice and calm. I say calm, but it has rained heavily here the last few days, flooding roads so badly. In fact, my trip to Port-au-Prince the other day was delayed for several hours due to road blockage from rains and landslides. Last night, the wind from tropical storm Bonnie kicked up several notches…..it was pretty fierce. I lay awake most of the night, thinking of the camps and praying everyone was ok. We spoke to Charlotte this morning, and she said several tents fell during the night, right on top of people. Sigh.
Weather aside, it’s been emotional here lately. I work closely with my Haitian colleague, Mona. She and I became very close during my last trip here, and have only gotten closer since my return. We spend all day, everyday together, going from meeting to meeting, planning the community centre (updates in a later entry) and medical clinic (also another update!), and giggling and talking. She is like a sister to me. She is amazing. She was born and brought up in PAP, the middle child in a family of 7 children. Her mother died when she was 15, and her father died when she was 17. With her siblings’ help, she got through medical school and after graduating, she starting working in the north of Haiti, raising her son at the same time while her husband completed medical school. To reach this clinic, she used to ride a moto for two hours each way. All her siblings have moved to north America, but, despite their insistence that she join them, she wants to stay in Haiti. When she came to Jacmel with Haiti Village Health after the earthquake, it represented a new phase of life for her – she and her husband are finally together (well, on weekends….he travels in the countryside during the week with a mobile clinic), her son is in school and she is sharing her house with her two best friends. Last Saturday, she called me in the morning asking for the day off to spend with one of her housemates (Daphnee) and this housemate’s husband, since he was visiting (he also works in another town). Apparently they all had an amazing day together. As Daphnee, Daphnee’s husband and sister were driving towards Leogane, they got in a car accident. Daphnee’s sister fractured her arm badly and after a day in the local hospital, she was flown back to her home in the States for surgery. Daphnee and her husband both died. They are survived their 6 month old baby girl.
Mona is devastated. She manages to keep distracted during the days while we work, and I am happy I can be there with her and for her, distracting her and making her laugh. But that first day back to work was hard. We were in the car, quiet as I held her hand, and then she started to talk. As we drove through the streets, she talked about her friend, who was like a sister to her. She talked about her parents, she talked about the tough times she had in her life. As she spoke, we both cried. We went to Pinchinat and I felt so discouraged and so so sad for everyone there. We kept crying and talking as we went to the orphanage to drop of our vitamins for our malnourished girl (see “Updates and more!” entry). As we neared the orphanage, I saw the lineup of people, waiting for food, as I had seen them in March. There were so many children, hands clasped with siblings that weren’t much older. I was feeling like everywhere I looked, there was suffering and my heart completely broke for everyone. For camp residents, for the kids waiting for a meal, for Mona who has lost so many important people. I went in search for our girl with a runny nose and puffy eyes.
I saw her sitting up, her tiny body being supported by the side of her crib. She looked the same and as I approached her, I was about to burst into loud sobs. But before I had the chance, the best thing happened…. She reached out her arm to me and she smiled! Oh, it was like the sun burst out and I started crying and laughing. I was so happy for my girl, who had strength enough to recognize me and lift her arm right out. I held her hand and tickled her and yes, she ended up flopping down, but that’s ok. Baby steps. She will be ok.
There are days here when it feels like for every two steps forward, you take four back. But that’s ok. There were still two steps forward.