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Life in Pierre Payen

July 4, 2011

When I was living in the round house I enjoyed a peaceful co-existence with the rats.  I soon learned not to leave food out and tolerated their often noisy foraging excursions into my kitchen at night.  The Foxes, however, have

Koby and the rat

declared war.  Bryan purchased traps in Port-au-Prince, and the other night claimed his first victim.  The rat proved to be tougher than expected, and although caught fast in the trap, did not succumb and fought franticly to escape.  Hearing the racket, Bryan jumped out of bed and hauled the critter outside to dispatch it.  The commotion startled our guards who had hitherto been enjoying an uneventful night.  The next day the boys took great pleasure in displaying the trophy.


The mango Francique on the big tree in the work yard were starting to become lunch for the woodpeckers, so Preval climbed into the crown and pulled them loose with a long-handled net.  He lobbed the mangoes down to one of the workers on the ground who caught them in a cloth basket.  It took me a long time to get a picture of him; moving nimbly among the branches he was most often hidden by the dense foliage.  It almost seemed he was deliberately hiding from me, and sure enough he was.  Bryan told me later the others were razzing him about not being cleaned up to have his photo taken.  As you can see, there is plenty of fruit to share with our friends.


It's a long way up (or down)


Preval high in the mango tree









Here comes the pitch









Nice catch!


















Melix with our mango Francique crop










Canada Day was kind of strange.  Everything went on as usual.  No one even mentioned it.  It is on my calendar, but in such small print that one would hardly notice.  Today was much the same for the Foxes.  The 4th of July passed unnoticed here.  I feel a strange disconnect from Canada.  And though I love Haiti, I do not yet feel the connection I felt with my homeland.  I am in this land but not of it.


Last week Barb introduced me to Junior, a young man whose plight has touched me deeply.  He has a growth on his jaw about the size of a tennis ball that has displaced some of his teeth.  He is beginning to experience difficulty swallowing and is in considerable pain.  Junior cannot afford analgesics.  I did not have to understand the language to hear the fear this man is suffering, as well as his foreboding, knowing that here in Haiti, someone with deformities faces a life of rejection.  Barb had me look at it, and although I am not trained to diagnose such things, I have seen similar cases in the past.  If unattended, I suspect this man will die in the near future.  Due to its location, the mass has undoubtedly compromised facial nerves.  Even if he undergoes surgery to have it removed, the operation will most probably do damage.  Barb has mobilized people in the community and we have determined that surgery will be available in a Haitian hospital.  The cost will be prohibitive in Haitian terms, but very affordable in Canadian terms.  Barb and I and a paramedic from Vancouver who was here representing a community development group, have decided to finance Junior’s surgery.  We cannot help everyone, but we simply cannot do nothing.

This brings up monumental issues for me.  In Canada this would never happen.  The growth would have been attended to early with a good outcome.  Facial reconstruction would have been readily available if necessary.  But here, poverty takes it toll in so many ways.   People here die from things that Canadians have attended to in a visit to a walk-in clinic.  And the world lets it happen.  I cannot imagine the anger and grief God feels.  I certainly know what I feel.


I bought myself a Creole Bible and a copy of Chants d’Esperance (Songs of Hope), the songbook used in churches here.  My motivation was threefold.  First, I want to be able to follow in services.  Second, the books will put Creole in a context with which I am familiar, and hopefully help improve my language skills.  Third, Haiti is my home now, Creole is the language of my home, and I need to be functioning in it as much as possible.  I’m finding the wording of Bib La interesting; occasionally it provides a slightly different perspective.


Last night the Foxes and I had Barb and John Hilare over for supper.  Bryan made Philly cheese steak sandwiches and steak fries and I made a potato salad and red cabbage coleslaw.  Barb had informed me a little while back that cheesecake was her favourite dessert, so I made a key lime cheesecake.

That proved interesting since some ingredients are seldom if ever available here.  I had some graham wafers but the boys made quick work of them.  I couldn’t find any more, so I bought a package of a type of cracker that is popular here.  A little experimentation and I had a very passable crust.  Bryan did his magic in finding me sour cream in Port.  On my last trip in I couldn’t find it, but I did manage to get some cream cheese.  I decided on key limes because they are readily available in the market and I love anything lime.  The whipping cream I found in Saint Marc turned out to be quite unlike anything I’ve ever used.  The label said it was real cream but it was spoonably stiff right out of the carton and required almost no whipping at all.   So I put what I could find together, candied some lime peel to make a slightly bitter topping that nicely offset the sweetness of the filling, and voila!  The end result was a hit with all.

The dinner conversation was interesting – sometimes English, sometimes Creole.  It was decided soon after our guests arrived that since John Hilare neither speaks nor understands much English, the dominant language for the evening would be Creole.


I have written personally to many of you, but some will not be aware that my mother, who passed her 91st birthday last week, is ill.  Initially I was told that she had cancer again.  Her first bout with it was several years ago.  At that time she had her entire stomach removed and had no further problems until now.  My understanding now is that she has shown symptoms that may indicate cancer, but since she is refusing any invasive diagnostic tests, it is impossible to make a definitive diagnosis.  Since it became necessary for her to move to a personal care home this past year she has lost her will to live and she has decided to forego any treatment.  She will stay in the PCH where they will attend to her needs and provide pain medication as necessary.  It’s hard to be away at times like this, but I trust in God’s love and mercy.


For those of you who have not heard, Chris and Leslie were blessed with a son on Sunday.  Alex Chris weighed 9 pound 11 ounces.


God has been doing things in my life here that confirm that I am here to stay.  Some of you will know what I am talking about; the rest of you will have to wait a bit.  He has blessed me richly and continues to do so every day.  I am at peace here.

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