Leogane, Haiti

From June to September 2011, I worked with the All Hands Organization to help rebuild the city after the devastating earthquake.

Leogane was the closest town to the epicenter of the earthquake and according to people who has visited before the disaster, the town was devastated. To me, it was hard to judge because Haitians walking on the streets dressed so well.  I also didn’t see any beggars or handicapped people loitering. The areas I went to in Haiti were covered in trash and plastic, but no where near the same scale as most places in India.

Highlights of the four months:
– Trying to learn creole. Believe it or not creole is a very manageable language to learn. There are not many tenses and many of the vocabulary words relate to French. It is basically a dumbed down version of French. The local volunteers at all hands have been pretty helpful at teaching me vocabulary and laughing at me when I make mistakes. It feels good to learn a language. It is challenging but is so rewarding when you can communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English. On my flight home, I sat next to a Haitian man and we conversed for at least 20 minutes about his job, family and the weather. It made him so happy to see a non-Haitian able to speak his native tongue.
– La Vista National Park: Hiking trip to the one and only pine forest of Haiti in La Vista National Park. Thought it was a long weekend that involved a lot of hiking (which I personally enjoyed) and being lost, the vistas were amazing and I truly got to see a different part of Haiti.
– Cocoyer Beach: went on a beach hiking adventure to discover one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever experienced.
– Jacmel: the first weekend in Haiti, my sister mom and I hit up this beach with a bunch of volunteers. It was a good introduction to Haiti and her beaches.
– School 13 Foundation Pour: These three days exhausted me, but they were well worth the pain afterwords. I took the role of bucket tossing, shoveling gravel and dirt, and stacking those buckets. It took us two and a half days to pour the whole foundation.
– Demo with Matt, Steve, Tim, Baby doll head: first house, structure… so much sledging that I got nerver damage in my thumb and two fingers on my right hand. Still don’t have feeling in them, but hopefully they nerves will uncompress.
– Nights at Joes: From trivia night to dancing to having great conversations, Joe’s bar has been a frequent place for relaxing and drinking.
Well, I’m heading back to Haiti after being on a ten day break. I originally was in Haiti for about five weeks working with All Hands Organization in Leogane. I enjoyed myself so much that I decided to come back.

Day One:
Well after about three hours of sleep, my mom and I headed off to the airport. O boy, that was interesting. Well apparently 430 am is rush hour for continental flights because the lines were quite long. After seeing Matt, a guy that was also heading back down to Haiti, I attempted to check in. Lesson One, you must have some sort of return ticket form Haiti. I had booked a one way ticket and unknowingly needed to have a return flight in order to check in. Therefore, I has to purchase a return flight at the counter. Matt suggested I do a refundable one, which is about $650, and then cancel it later. So, I have done that… hopefully, I can cancel it. Lesson Two: weight your bags. So, I put the bags on the scale and to my dismay they both weighed over 65 pounds. Oops. That meant $400 in extra charges. The attendant suggested that I get a third bag and pay $100 for that third bag instead of the two overweight ones. Eh. I was back to the drawing board. I was carrying a keyboard, so with Matt’s advice we decided to take that out as my personal baggage. I had a small backpack and so the keyboard would work as an extra carry on. That reduced the weight of one bag. For the next one I had to take a few things out (shampoo and food).
The next dilemma involved the flight from Newark to Port Au Prince. It was filled and there was not enough space in the baggage compartments for carry ons. Therefore, people who loaded the plane near the end had to check their bags. That created an uproar and ended in the flight being delayed by and hour or more.

Back in Haiti! Thanks to Kona’s superior manual driving and short cut knowledge the drive went back quick quickly. It felt good to see the colorful tap taps (taxis), broken down cars, rebar piles, portable pharmacies (aka drugs in a basket), coolers with coke, tampica, torro, ragaland, etc. It was also disheartened to see the piles of tents that people were still living in, the puddles of water in section sof the road that you knew were steaping with bacteria, including cholera, the lack of greenery, and piles of rubble on and along the street. Though as we got out of the crowded city and closer to Leogane, the corn fields, coconut trees and soccer fields became more prevalent.

Got back to base. Was a bit nervous coming back considering the circumstances on which I departed. A few people were around. We exchanged hugs. I gave them chocolate. The next few days were really hard for me. I believe that I was experiencing post tramatic stress from the accident. I was having difficulty sleeping at nights, very jumpy around loud noises, scared to walk past where Chris fell, and inability to be in large groups. I worked on school 13 with dave, dan, bill, alex, Charles, Schneider, nikolai, and a few others. We put up trusses for the roof. It was a lot of hammering, which I hate doing but am getting much better at. The work that we were doing was difficult and required lots of communication with the Haiti volunteers, which ended up being frustrated. I had a few melt downs over the course of the two days I worked at the schools. Thursday and Friday I decided to do housekeeping (cleaning base and burn trash) and work on a rubble site. That was a good way to reenergize myself.

This week we focused on preparing the base and ourselves for Hurricane Emily. For the past two days we organized, cleaned, moved and securing. I team led a group to clear off the roof from excess concer

Showering under the stars… in the dark
Musical water trucks
Man yelling aggressively ice cream
Passing people in the courtyard… watching everyone
Lunch hours


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