Ke Kontan

Ke Kontan

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cause Every Little Thing.. Gonna be Alright

Life in Haiti has twisted my mind on a lot of things. It has really changed a lot of previous outlooks and beliefs I have had. I keep struggling with sleep lately, its a battle that I just can't seem to win despite the exhaustion that has overcome me. For some reason I have been feeling unsettled, unsure of a lot of things, and questioning others. I have been battling with my head and heart a lot- something I am not used to doing. I have always been one to ignore the head and to indulge in anything that tugged at my heart; but now I am beginning to realize that by doing that I am putting too much trust into those who I care about and have end up hurt by it. I guess it has to do with me always seeing the betterment of people despite their flaws that I am consciously aware of. I seem to always have faith that they are just struggling with their own demons (as we all do from time to time) and just need a hand to assist them. But right now I am feeling disappointed and unmotivated after being let down by a few people. And it's the worst feeling. It has been a long, long, time since I have felt that way. And it worries me, as I cannot afford to feel this way here.

Although my mind is boggled at the moment, my vision is still clear. This is still where I want to be and where I feel as if I need to be. Nothing will change that. I may however, just need a little break to get back to focus I haven't had time to think, to process, to question and to search for answers from what little I know from life. So no worries on that. I am attempting to take a step back from a few things and let go of others and take some time to myself to clear this blurry head of mine. This past week I have a felt like a train with tracks that have seem to be never-ending hitting bump after bump and I'm about ready to break down- emotionally and mentally. I have come to the conclusion that I can't always fix others problems and that I need to stop running myself dry attempting to do so. So from now on, I shall sit patiently when a problem is presented to me or when I feel these tugs at my heart, and wait it out, make sure it is what/how it seems to appear before I give my heart out. Thankfully I have Justin here to hold me up and keep me going and THANK GOD he has the same horrid sense of humour as I do. So this is the mental mess that I am going through in the midst of my amazing life here in the Caribbean.

On a lighter note, we had our past volunteer Brandon arrive in Haiti with his Mom, Sister, and Brother. They have come with funds and supplies to rebuild Tiny's house in the mountain- a project that I have been hoping to complete for awhile now. Today we headed to MSC in the morning bright and early and loaded up on some basic supplies, doors, hardware, and lumber. We are going to purchase the cement and blocks locally in Montrouis. After buying a few things, we decided we had better take a quick visit up to Montrouis so we can have a better idea for the plan. We spent the entire afternoon on the mountain digging to lay foundation and breaking down what remained of the old house. I always love visiting the family, his boys hold a special place in my heart. They always scream and jump at me when they see me and cling onto me the whole time I am there. It's moments like this that remind me that sometimes following your heart and giving trust to others is worth it. The worst part though about going up to visit Tiny's village is seeing all of the naked children covered in dirt with descending bellies that are full of worms. No matter how many times I see it- it is still just as difficult as the first time. I wish I could do more. It tears me up seeing children like this and knowing what they deserve or what lives they could have if they were in different circumstances- this is another thing I am constantly struggling with as well as deciphering what is a need and what is a luxury for them.

On the way home to Port Au Prince we discovered a new little beach and resting ground. It is our new secret little paradise surrounded by sparkling blue water and gorgeous mountain tops. We were absolutely covered in dirt and dust and probably other things that I do not wish to acknowledge and the water was so absolutely refreshing. Normally, I hate swimming in the ocean- but this place was way too beautiful not too and the water was just perfect. I could have stayed there for hours, however, after a quick ten minute dip we hoped back onto the taptap and were on our way again. We hit traffic and it seemed like we would never make it home. I slept most of the way on the taptap even though every bump we hit I'd either come close to falling out or I'd hit my head off the side. When we pulled up the house the only things I could think about were food and bed !!! Although, like per usual I was in for a surprise. Before I even got to the gate I had a mom from the tent city come running at me and pulling me by the hand. She had been waiting for me to return all day. A little girl- 10 years old- was running around outside and tripped and fell and split open her chin. She did a good number on it. She had done it earlier in the day and the mom had taken her to two different hospitals yet for some reason there was no doctor available to stitch her up? - TIH (this is Haiti). The hospital and stuck gauze in it which was a mess when trying to remove it to see what damage had been done. I laid her down, removed the disgusting and dirty gauze from her chin, and began to work. Luckily I had two assistant by my side. We were able to clean it properly, put some butterfly bandages on it, treat it with triple antibiotic ointment, cover it up well, and give her some pain meds to sleep. My main concern is infection- so I will definitely be checking up on her daily.

Tomorrow we are heading back up to Montrouis and are planning to spend a few nights at the old orphanage !!! Ahhhh will bring back lots of memories. Good and bad. But I am sooo excited to get this house finished for Tiny and the family. It is going to be a long and tiring week for sure, but if we get it finished in time and find an extra day or two on our hands then our volunteers have asked to take a trip up to Jacmel- one of my most favourite places in the world.. and a good place to clear your head :) So now I am going to make sure we work extra fast.

Today I have been feeling homesick in a sense- not to the point where I miss my country or home- but just missing my family and friends and wishing they were here with me. I am really missing my little brothers, my mom for her advice and telling me to just "suck it up princess", and for my dads awesome hugs. I'm missing all of the girls nights with my friends and laughing for hours on end and missing my best friend Brock who always brings me Dairy Queen whenever I am down as he knows anything with chocolate in it cheers me up (could really go for one right now). I have realized recently how much I have pushed my loved ones out of my life- not purposely- and not because I don't want them in my life or because I do not care about them (because I do a lot). I have have always been huge on family and friends. They were and still are my everything and my solid ground - but I believe I have been doing this because it is my defence mechanism for protecting myself. I have been selfish and ignoring messages or avoiding calling back home even when I really want to talk to family or friends- just for the simple fact that it hurts me and that its easier not knowing things and not hearing from certain people. It's difficult living here and I am always missing everyone back home, and it's even more difficult talking to everyone or hearing something is going on with a loved one and I am unable to be there as a shoulder to lean on. I have subconsciously been pushing everyone slowly aside so that I do not have to deal with the sense of loss. It's easier. It sounds horrible, and it is, but it's difficult to stay focused here if my mind is constantly drifting back home. I want those who I have done this to to know that it is not something I have meant to do or want to do and that I do think of you CONSTANTLY- even though it may seem as if I don't. And that I am from this day forward going to work on changing that. It's funny caring for these children. Although many seem the need to point out that they are not "mine"- which I am clearly aware of, I love them and care for them as my own. I made a vow coming here that I would do anything and everything I could to help these kids- that means they come first. Always. And I think that I have pushed people away due to the fact that I want to make sure that they remain my focus and nothing strays me from them.

Anyways, Lilly is wound for sound and not wanting to lay down and go to sleep. She has been improving wonderfully and no longer growls at everyone that passes her by (only a select few). It's the best feeling walking into a room and seeing her face light up and watch her little feet scurry towards me with open arms. She came into my life at the perfect time. She is able to fill my heart completely just as my other children do. After I wrestle with this little one to get to bed, its then onto to Tyson, then all of us are going to spend the evening watching Patch Adams - one of my all time favourite movies and then HOPEFULLY sleep and get a good rest so we can work hard tomorrow.

Friday, 22 February 2013

It's the little things..

Our house is full. That's right .. no vacancies. We have seven wonderful volunteers (including my daddy) and we have a bunch more coming in the next few weeks. I have been begging my Dad to come to Haiti since I began volunteering here a couple years back. He has always refused. But he didn't have much of a choice. I live here, this is my home, and these are my children. It's not so easy for me to jump on a plane and to go and visit him anymore. So... finally, he decided it was time to come and visit me. He couldn't seem to wrap his head around why I would want to come to a country that is full of disease, crime, and poverty. He couldn't understand how on earth I could find this enjoyable. That was until yesterday.

Yesterday morning I dragged him out of the house at 9am with Jodnise and Jodline in hand and headed down to Wharf Jermaie to visit their 18 year old mother who had just given birth to a baby boy (my Godson). Just driving down to Wharf the questions came flying. "How do those woman carry everything on their heads? How do people get clean drinking water? How do people live like this? I knew Haiti was poor.. but I figured it was like the other islands I've visited like the DR or the Bahama's where there is just certain sections that are bad.. but's all bad.. it's always right in front of you.. how do you do it?" We arrived in Wharf Jeramie and I brought him to the clinic that I had first volunteered at. Explained to him how things worked there. This is where we waited for the twins mom to arrive. As we waited we were approached by many others. I would talk and laugh and joke around with them. Dad just stared and walked around taking in the surroundings. While we were gone the other volunteers remained at Ke Kontan and cleaned up our yard and finished building book shelves (they had built me a change table the day before). When we arrived back at the house we loaded up the car (yes 9 people in one small SUV) and headed to Montrouis. When we first arrived we went to visit our old orphanage which is still the exact same way as we left it. No furniture, no running water, no working toilet sink or shower, no proper beds, nothing in the kitchen. It amazes me going back there and seeing how little we had and how we were able to live like that. I laugh and think of how at the time we just didn't know any better. We were used to it. We didn't need much, just the essentials to survive. I miss the beach and the mountains and the small village atmosphere. But I am still glad we made the move as life has become a lot more easier as we have better access to clean water, food, and we are closer to hospitals. Tiny and his family were at the house and after Pedson climbed up the palm tree to get us coconuts we headed to Tiny's old house. We piled 5 of us (Pedson, Petile, Tiny, Chaba, & myself) onto a moto and the rest of the volunteers followed behind in the car. When we arrived at the top of the mountain I was greeted by smiling, naked, and dirty children calling out my name. These children seriously have nothing, little clothes and no toys- but yet are so happy and loving. My friend Lucho met us at the house to take measurements and to make a plan for rebuilding the house. We visited with the family, danced with the kids, and then ran up and down the mountain side. I came across a mother who was holding a little girl- Lilian 2 years old- she was completely naked and covered in dirt literally from head to toe (she even had dirt in her mouth). I noticed how malnourished she is and that her brother & her were completely full of worms. The mom begged me to take the baby girl as she said she is scared because she is so small and always sick. She walked me down to their house which was made of mud and small sticks. The house is the size of my bathroom back at Ke Kontan. There was one small bed and one pot. That was it. I played peek-a-boo and chased Lilian all around the mountainside as she was laughing and growling at me. She can't talk much but can say Wi and Non. She was scared of me at first- but after a few times of tossing her up into the air she wouldn't leave my side. I agreed to take her back to Port Au Prince to take her to a hospital here and have her checked out and to see if we can get her on a nutrition plan. We jumped in the car and headed back to PAP as she slept the entire way in my arms. When we arrived at the house you could tell she was terrified- most likely never seeing lights or electronics let alone everything else in the house. We bathed her- the water was completely black after- she even had dirt packed into her ears. Her mom had pierced her ears (God knows with what) and left string in them so the holes wouldn't close. After we bathed her I dug through our suitcases of clothes and found a pair of PJ's for her. Before bed I had her dancing to Justin Bieber, eating bananas, and she found 2 new babies that NO ONE is now allowed to touch (stuffed bear and monkey). She slept through the night cuddled up beside me- her foot and hand had to be touching me at all times. It breaks my heart to see children such as Lilian. But it warms my heart knowing that I can help her- even if that is just by giving her a safe and clean place to stay temporarily and filling her belly for a few weeks. It brings me such happiness seeing her laugh and play and love her new toys. And this morning she definitely won me over by imitating everything I was doing- she watched me get dressed- she attempted dressing herself- she watched me brush my teeth and the whole time she was mumbling- finally took the hint that she wanted to brush her teeth too... so I ran to the storage closet and grabbed her a little pink tooth brush- she stood by my side and began brushing. When I stopped she stopped. When I spit she spit (although her spit went all over the bathroom). When I was finished I put my tooth brush in the cup, and of course when I looked over, hers was next to mine.

The best part about all of this, was last night. After I had tucked Lilian into bed and before Dad and I went to bed, I asked him what he thought of all this, and that I wanted his honest opinion. He said he is just astonished, he didn't realize how many people we were helping, how many kids we were caring for. He told me he is so proud of me and supports what I am doing 100%. He told me that before, he wasn't really supportive because he didn't really know what I was doing here, he thought it was just a phase I was going through. He expressed how amazing he thinks my kids are and that he just doesn't understand how I'm doing it as he had a difficult enough time just raising my brother and I. He had no idea of the mass amount of people living in poverty and the kids that are walking around without shoes and who are not attending school. I absolutely love having my Dad here. He has helped around the house, loves holding the babies- him and Tyson have become pals, he feeds them, plays with them, and most of all.. he's getting to see what my new life consists of and he's actually taking the time to understand it. I have never felt so happy before just watching him wake up at the crack of dawn to open the gate for the tent city boys and to start a game of soccer with them while everyone is still in bed. I hands down could not ask for a better father. I am dreading tomorrow evening when he will be leaving Haiti and heading back to the cold country. Even though his stay has been short, it has been great. And I really hope he returns again.

I want to thank all of my volunteers who have come down this month to help- Shannon, Aaron, Pete, Justin, Mackenzie, Starr, Dad- you have been a blast and have allowed us to accomplish so much. Thank you to Starr and Mackenzie for hosting a fundraiser to not only come down to Haiti to help us out but to also help out the families around us and the tent city. They bought enough food to give the tent city near our house a good meal and also bought one of my boys (Chrisnel) from the tent city clothes and shoes as his mother passed away and his father pays no attention to him. Every day he comes here he is wearing the same dirty clothes and shoes with holes in them. They have also bought the supplies for us to build a chicken coop, bought food for the other children we are supporting, and paid for groceries for us. I truly appreciate your hard work and generosity and for also thinking of the others we are supporting around us !!!! I am enlightened that you both are willing to reach out to the community and I know they are very grateful. Thank you to the men- Justin, Pete, Dad, Val, Aaron for your building skills and hard work. Thank you to Shannon for always taking the crying and poopy diaper babies. And thank you to all of you for helping to make our yard look a little more beautiful. As I am writing this Shannon, Aaron, Val, Justin, Pete, and Dad are at MSC Plus buying our chicken coop supplies and I have just come back from buying our first 3 live chickens !!! WOOOHOO

Looking back at my life now I have realized how all the little moments in my life have added up to this. To where I am at right now. How the things I thought would never matter in the future, actually take up the biggest part of my past. If I would have followed the crowd, if I would have done what I was "suppose" to do, look at all I'd be missing. My life isn't perfect. We have our ups and downs, we struggle, but it's not me alone, it's us- as a family. Most days I wonder how we will survive the next month let alone the next year. Each day I wake up exhausted- physically, mentally, and emotionally- whether it be from crying babies keeping me up, memories that haunt my dreams, or my own damn head over-thinking and worrying about the things I cannot control. But then my kids and those that surround me here in Haiti remind me that although life here is tough (and extremely frustrating at times), my heart is always full, and that's enough for me. That's enough to keep me going. That is all I will ever need. The rest will figure itself out. Even through the exhaustion and chaos, I constantly find myself smiling- that's gotta mean something. I am happy. I am right where I am "supposed" to be.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Chaotic & Content

Where do I even begin ?
These past three weeks has been a whirlwind of events starting with my kids all getting sick with colds, chest infections, and fevers to cholera rummaging through the tent camp near my house. My first week back consisted of 5 days without sleep, 3 days without a meal, and 2 days without a shower. It was constantly go, go, go. I didn't have time to even stop and think. Whenever an emergency arises my mind stays totally focused on that cause, nothing else. As soon as I would get into my room and about to lay on my bed, something else would come up where I had to dash out of the house in an instant. It was exhausting and draining, but something I have realized is that I truly love this lifestyle. I love being kept busy and always on the go. On top of everything else going on this past week, we received the call about Jodnise and Jodline's mother who had just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. However, she refused to hold him or breast feed him and as soon as I walked into the hospital room the Dr was laughing and said "congratulations". The hospital is not a sanitary hospital at all- the baby had not been bathed, the sheets had not been changed, and the poor mom was laying there completely naked. I spoke with the mother (who is only 18 & now has 3 children under the age of 2 years & no home) and told her that she needs to keep her baby. I told her I would help her when I can and that I will continue to care for her two twin daughters until she is able to get back on her feet (she also had a C section). She has asked me to be the Godmother of the new nameless baby boy- which I have agreed to do.

So back to the tent city issue- we had 13 people in the camp fall ill with Cholera within these past 2 weeks- including 2 children under the age of 2 years. It was terrible. I had people constantly coming to the gate letting me know that another was sick. After distributing rehydration salts, clean water, and fever reducers- I decided that still wasn't enough. That is when I met with my friend Lucho from the organization Give Love to discuss how we could improve their sanitary condition. They are currently going to the washroom (yes #2) in plastic bags and leaving those bags inside their tents. They wait until nightfall until they scurry from their tents and dispose of their waste on the streets. Well, this street is right in front of my house and is downhill- whenever they dispose of their waste and a rainfall occurs, it gets washed right back into their little community. The hard thing about this camp is that there are so many people enclosed into one tiny space therefore as soon as one becomes sick- the others do as well. Lucho and I decided that the most important thing right now is to create a hand-washing station for them to help prevent the spread of germs & bacteria, we have also discussed about putting in compost toilets as well. Lucho is a very busy guy but literally dropped all of his other projects for those 2 days and focused on this tent camp. He put his heart into and I admire the way he works. He not only gets the job done but also gets the community involved, we all worked together. After meeting with Lucho and discussing the potential project, he called me the very next day and asked if I was ready to head to the MSC store to purchase the supplies needed to build a hand-washing station. We jumped in his truck and we were on our way !!!! On the way there I received a call from Val about another baby that had fallen ill with cholera and was in serious condition. We got the supplies then I headed home to check up on the baby. She had been vomiting and had diarrhea for 3 days but the mom was too afraid to let me know- as cholera is something that is looked down upon in Haiti. I gave her rehydration salts and bottles of water and we kept her hydrated. Lucho and David (a friend of Lucho's who also does environmental work in Haiti) stayed up all night working in the dark on the hand-washing station. The next day they came to install it. We walked down to the tent camp and not only installed the hand-washing station but also sprayed the area with a natural product that rids of bacteria, as well as cleaned up a lot of the garbage and shovelled it into the back of Lucho's truck which he disposed of. It was a very long day, but also a very successful one indeed !!! I got really excited today when the men from the camp came over with the empty barrels to fill with purified water and asked for more handsoap. I am extremely pleased to inform everyone that the camp is improving day by day and we have only had 2 outbreaks this week !!!!!!!!

I have been thinking a lot lately about the lessons I have learned in Haiti and how when I first came here, I thought I knew so much.. when really.. I knew nothing. I look around at my life today and just simply laugh. I paused today in the midst of what I was doing and took a glance at all of the baby toys scattered all over our living room floor, how we have an entire refrigerator full of just baby bottles, how the two twins had spread apple pieces not only all over the ground- but also all over themselves and Tyson, how I am sitting here typing this blog while trying to entertain the two babies on my lap, and how all of this is just become so normal to me. When I first arrived in Haiti I knew next to nothing about the culture. I thought it was weird that people kissed each other on the cheek to greet one another, however now, when I return home I lean in for that kiss and have to stop myself reminding me that's not what we do in Canada. I thought that being so squished together in a taptap or on a bus was weird, but now I climb right on up and invite everyone into my personal space. I thought how people sang and danced in the streets was weird, now I absolutely love it and sometimes it even changes my entire day around. I thought that every child I passed on the street I had to give money too, but now I understand that sometimes it ends up doing more damage then good. Riding on the back of a moto with no helmet has become normal, holding three babies on my lap in the front seat of a car is normal, sitting in the pitch black trying to change a diaper is normal, having absolutely no privacy- even when showering as you constantly have kids entering your room asking you questions is normal, burning your trash in the backyard- including plastics is normal. Its funny how your definition of "normal" changes. I laugh now when volunteers come and are worried about bugs, bucket showers, trash on the ground, riding in vehicles with no seat belts, how you can drink prestige on the streets or in a car, how they get so frustrated when there is no power or running water... now I laugh and say TIH (This is Haiti). I am still learning more about Haiti every day as I am still naive about many things. But I do love this culture, I do love the lessons I have learned, and I do love what it has taught me about myself.

There has been some things weighing on my mind lately that I am really struggling with. I had an interesting conversation the other night with two of my Haitian friends, who managed to put some issues I've been having into perspective. They asked me if I went through culture shock when I arrived in Haiti, and wondered how I was able to adjust. I told them about my initial feelings and thoughts when I arrived (kind of what I stated above), and talked about what things were hardest for me to "get used to"- primarily it was the pollution and poverty that were so hard to get over. I explained to them how I've had to adjust to the level of dirt, grime, and overall unsanitary conditions you are faced with on a daily basis in Haiti, how people throw trash everywhere without seeming to care, and the huge disparities between the rich and poor, and how little involvement the government has in their people. It hurts me to see the lack of health care and education and how the value of life is so low. The first thing they said is "well you just have to get used to it and start shutting it out. You have too big of a heart Emily, you are just going to overwhelm yourself. If you get upset about these things you will be upset all the time because they aren't changing. In short; desensitize yourself". It was funny to hear them say that as the "desensitized" issue is what I have been struggling with the greatest. I have always reminded myself to never become bitter, to always keep my heart the same as it was when I first arrived, but now... taking a step back I have realized I have not been listening to myself or taking my own advice. I find my points of weakness are when the exhaustion hits. Driving around today and having volunteers ask questions I have realized I have become somewhat desensitized to the poverty around me. When I first arrived here, the begging children on the streets of Port Au Prince really shocked me and put me in a state of gloom. All I wanted to do was help those children. I was advised to never give money because then more children will come out of nowhere and it could lead to a riot in the street. I struggled with that for the longest time- the not giving. After spending more and more time here though I find myself getting annoyed with the beggers, which is really upsetting me. I think the desensitization is possibly a personal defence mechanism I have obliviously obtained through time against the feeling of being miserable and guilty 24/7. But I still am pissed at myself with becoming annoyed with the demands for money- as I truly know and believe that those people do need it more than myself and I can always spare a little change. I don't have any idea what it is like to be so desperate for the essentials. It's kind of a viscious cycle where we feel bad for the children, then get annoyed through our desensitization, then we feel miserable for having become desensitized. Can you choose the degree to which you are emotionally distanced? I know that no matter how desensitized I think I am, when someone comes to me with an issue- whether it be their health, their home, their food, their family- and I look into their eyes, I realize how wrong I am. Although I may be desensitized to the things around me, such as the enivronment, when it comes to human emotion or need- when I actually hear their stories and see their struggles and put myself into their shoes.. I don't think I will ever be able to become desensitized to that, I will never be able to ignore personal connections and the guilt I feel as once again my heart begins to ache and I get drawn back into the motion of rushing around trying to figure out what I can do to help them. So I guess my biggest goal right now is to stop trying to ignore what is going on around me- to still take it in- even if it does hurt and to grow from it like I did when I first touched down on the Haitian soil. I want to take more time getting to know people and their stories. My goal is to never become so desensitized that I stop making connections and stop helping those that need it the most.

Last Saturday I headed to Okap (Cap Haitian) with a few friends to participate in Haiti's annual carnival. I had gotten a taste for the Carnival this past summer when I spent an afternoon at the Flower Carnival in Port Au Prince- but man was I ever in for a surprise. It was the craziest, chaotic, yet the most amazing and exhilarating event I have ever attended. Haitians really do know how to party. Thankfully I had some connections that were able to get us up onto a stand and to visit the different floats instead of being trampled to death on the ground below. I can honestly say that this trip is one that will stick with me forever and thank you to all of my amazing friends that made this trip that much better !!!

My Dad is arriving in Haiti in two days and I am extremely excited. When he told me he was ACTUALLY coming this time I found myself with tears streaming from my eyes. I have been waiting for this day since I first started my volunteer work. I can't wait to show my Dad the side of Haiti he doesn't even know exists. I can't wait for him to meet the people that have stolen my heart and I am even more excited for him to meet my babies and understand why I have chosen to stay. Right now we have a rather large group of volunteers- 3 from my home town, and 3 that were previous volunteers. It is a full house !!! We spent the day yesterday in Cite Soleil at the school that Bridge2Haiti sponsors for a dance party. It was a blast especially with the Cyborg dance team. However, I am now resembling a lobster due to my sunburn. Which has added to my ongoing exhaustion. Today we spent the day at the beach with the kids and the volunteers- swimming, dancing, playing soccer, and enjoying a feast (and of course I remained in the shade) !!! On the 25th we have a family coming down that has sponsored the building of Tiny's house. I am really looking forward to finally getting this project started- and finished.

Well, I am exhausted and Tyson has finally cut his first tooth- which means there has been many recent sleepless nights and probably a few more to come. Sweet dreams.