Preparing for our trip
Preparing for our third trip to Haiti has been a bit stressful. The week before we were to leave Weston was in a mountain biking accident and dislocated his shoulder, broke his humerus bone and scraped up his face and arm pretty badly. For a few days we weren't even sure he was going to be able to go. He was in immense pain, hardly sleeping and on pretty strong meds. Meanwhile, due to his accident I skipped both of my long runs for my 50 mile training. And I can't run while in Haiti, which means I will be two weeks behind in my training when I return from the trip. I realize this is not the end of the world, but was still tough to work through, emotionally. Running this race means a lot to me. Once Christina comes home my training will be drastically reduced, so this is my last time to train for a race like this for a while.
The Tuesday before we left Weston's doctor cleared him for the trip, saying he can be in pain at home or in pain in Haiti, it really didn't matter.
So we left for Haiti at 11:50pm Thursday night, after a long day of work for Weston and packing for me.
When originally booked the flight, Weston Sam and I had aisle seats scattered all over the plane. But the lady at the ticket counter was nice enough to find us three seats together in the very last row. I wonder how three seats were suddenly available in the same row when there weren't even two seats together when I booked the trip a few weeks ago. I am not complaining, I am grateful she accommodated us, more than anything just curious.
The first 2 hours of the flight were pretty turbulent. We tried to sleep, but the bouncing keep jarring me awake. I am pretty sure I dreamed that the plane was ripping apart due to the rough air.
It finally settled down and I was able to get a couple hours of restless, uncomfortable sleep.
We landed in Miami at dawn and had about 40 minutes until our next flight boarded. Just barely enough time to make it to the gate, get a much needed cup of coffee, buy some bottles of water and use the bathroom. Again we were able to get three seats together, this time the second to last row. Unfortunately the lady behind me was obviously sick and kept coughing all over my head. Her cough was so violent that she kept grabbing my seat back to steady herself, jerking me backwards and whacking me in the head with her rings. Not a fun flight. It will be a miracle if none of us catch whatever it is she had.
Arriving in Haiti
It is never dull on a plane to Haiti. As we arrived at the gate and waited to deplane, a woman who was wearing at least 5 dress hats of various sizes, shapes and colors (I kid you not, they were stacked up on her head! Remember that book you read as kid, Caps For Sale? She had them stacked up, just like in that book!) started shouting and singing and using giant arm motions. I have no idea what that was about but it was entertaining to say the least.
Sam had expressed nervousness about two things: getting through the airport without being mauled by people trying to take our bags, and meeting Christina and discovering she doesn't like him.
So he was a bit nervous as we entered customs, but he did a great job. He wheeled the heaviest two bags and navigated the crowd like a champ. We got through customs with no trouble (I have mastered filling out the customs forms!). But I accidentally made eye contact with a guy at baggage who took that to mean he could grab my baggage stub out of my hand and find our bag for us. That little mistake cost us a tip, although he did find the bag fairly quickly.
We walked the long, hot sidewalk to the parking lot, where we hoped our driver would be waiting for us, saying "no, meci" to anyone who tried to "help" us. Our driver found us almost immediately and we carefully navigated our luggage through pot holes, weaving in and out of the sea of cars trying to get out of the parking. The whole airport experience is one great big chaotic mess.
We arrived at the car and while our driver opened the trunk for our bags, a man grabbed Weston's bag, lifted it two feet to the trunk and demanded a tip. We refused. He was slightly put out, but at least he left without making a scene.
Ahh, at last, safely in the air conditioned car! Traffic was typical Haiti: crazy driving, honking of horns, motorcycles weaving between cars, cars making their own lanes. Sam was fascinated (and a bit nervous). He couldn't believe the insane driving and was very impressed with our driver's ability to weave in and out of the cars.
Arriving at the orphanage
Weston saw Christina first when we arrived at the orphanage. He said she had a hint of a smile and seemed to recognize him. But by the time I walked in, after unloading the car, she was shy and withdrawn, no smile to be found. We sat with her for a few minutes. She sat on my lap but was mostly unresponsive to questions or snuggles.
|A little reserved at first...|
Meanwhile a few of the kids had tackled Sam, sitting on his lap, tossing their balloons at him for him to bat back to them. Sam was so good to the little ones, snuggling them, playing with them, letting them climb all over him. He really seemed to enjoy playing with everyone. One little girl was smitten and spent most of the afternoon on his lap or in his arms.
There are a lot of new faces at the orphanage. Lots of toddlers, probably 10 months through 3 years. At one point I counted 19 children in the main area but I know I missed a few who were upstairs. The baby room was full, too. The little girls we played with during our first two visits were gone. We found out two had finally joined their adoptive families and two were at some sort of summer day camp and would return later that night.
Christina was a bit nervous about Weston's arm being in a sling and was pretty standoffish towards him. So the little boy who latched on to Weston during our last visit once again found his way onto Weston's lap for a while.
We played with all the kids for a couple of hours, watched them dance to Boy George, Michael Jackson and a weird remix of Abba instrumentals.
We were served very strong, thick coffee and a snack of saltines. Christina enjoyed playing a game where she hopped up onto the third step of the stairs and tossed her ballon down to Sam. Pretty soon 3-4 little ones joined in the fun, until I, the overprotective American mom, stopped the game because I was afraid someone would tumble down the concrete stairs.
A little while later we ate lunch with Christina: canned tuna and onions (sounds gross, but it was actually pretty good) and some sort of potato dish. And a cold beer which tasted great, it was so hot and humid!
The rest of the children ate in the main room, but the routine was not the same as it was the last two times we visited. Before, they all prayed and then ate together at the large table. This time I never heard them pray and they ate in shifts. It seemed a bit chaotic. Maybe because there are just so many kids now, and some are so young they can't really feed themselves.
Finally Sonia arrived to take us to her house. She was late for a good reason, earlier that morning IBESR had called her asking if she would take in a five day old baby that someone had found abandoned in the streets. So she had an unscheduled trip to pick up the baby and get paperwork filled out. She let us see the baby for a minute, she was so tiny! And so very lucky to have been found. A few hours in that heat and that baby would have died. I fear that this is going to become even more common now, moms abandoning their babies. IBESR is implementing new rules on August 20, 2012 that will make it harder for parents to relinquish their children to orphanages. And children will not be adoptable until after their birthday. You can read the new rules here, on our agency's website. I know IBESR is simply trying to protect the children, but I wonder if these new rules will end up creating more abandonment situations.
We shared the ride to the guest house with Stephan, a german man who is also staying at Sonia's house tonight. He and his wife adopted twin girls from her orphanage 2 1/2 years ago and he was back to meet with the girls' biological parents. They had not been able to meet them during their adoption process. Stephan and his wife were in Haiti to bring the girls home when the earthquake happened. He said they had considered staying at a local hotel instead of Sonia's guest house that trip, but at the last minute decided to stay at Sonia's. Their change of plans saved their lives. The hotel was devastated in the earthquake. He said hardly anything even shook at Sonia's. He talked a little about being in Haiti during the week after the quake, and that they couldn't get a flight out in the confusion. Luckily they were able to get one of the last buses to the Dominican Republic and took a flight home from there.
The driver drove us by the hotel where he and his wife almost stayed; it is beautiful and slowly being rebuilt.
At the guest house
We had dinner (which consisted of some sort of beef, rice and beans, avocado and tomato salad and some sort of fried tuber veggie-- Sam is in love with the food!) with Stephan, who said meeting the girls biological parents was hard but worth the trip. They answered questions about their family and why they made the decision to relinquish the girls. They have two older children and simply couldn't afford to care for the twins. The unemployed father is in his late 40's, and the average lifespan for a Haitian is around 50, so he knew he probably wouldn't even live to see the twins grow up. The parents made the incredibly tough decision to relinquish their girls hoping they would have a better life. I can't even imagine having to make that choice.
After dinner we sat outside on the back patio. Christina decided it was time to explore the house a bit, so I followed her around to make sure she stayed out of trouble. For the most part she is obedient. I sometimes have to repeat myself 3-4 times before she follows directions, but overall she is pretty good about listening.
She brought us book after book after book to look through (I couldn't actually read them, they were in German). She loves to look at books. A kitten appeared from the bushes and came over to us for us as we sat on the patio. When Christina saw the cat she leapt up onto a chair and started whining, visibly frightened. I am not sure she has ever seen a cat. After a few minutes she was willing to look at the cat, but did not want to get anywhere near it. It will be interesting to see how she reacts to our cat and dog.
I took Christina upstairs for a bath. The air conditioning in our room does not seem to be working; I think it must be 95 degrees in our room. And we cant open the windows because the mosquitos are thick. The cool water in the bath felt good to her, and we got on her pull up, pjs, brushed teeth and snuggled into our bed. I rubbed her back for a few minutes and she was asleep.
I put her into her crib and took my own shower, which felt great. I was feeling so slimy and gross. Our room is so hot that the minute I stepped back into it from my shower I started sweating again. It is going to be a rough night in the heat. Weston's arm is pretty swollen and very sore and the heat isn't helping. But we are all exhausted so I am going to call it a night and attempt to sleep.