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Notes from My Week

January 30, 2013

I would like to introduce you to my neighbor, Barbara.  She was the first in her family to engage me, even before I had moved into my house, and very early on learned my name.  She is a three-year-old chatterbox who keeps track of me, is almost always there to greet me when I return home, and asks where I am going when I leave.  She has now learned where I go most often, so will call out, “You are going to Saint-Marc?”  There are usually cues for her:  if I am in long pants and carrying my backpack, I am going to work.  My market bag tells her I am going shopping.  If I am carrying nothing she knows I am probably making a social call.  When she is about to leave for school in the morning she likes to show off her dresses.  She informed me she likes Chitos, Haiti’s cheese puffs (they cost about 12¢ per bag and taste like it), so I made sure to get some.  Now she calls out to me that she would like some, then sits on my steps and carries on her rapid-fire conversation as I share them with her.  Her family finds all this very amusing.  I love that she is not at all shy with me.





I came across this little poem that was written in honour Larimer and Gwen Mellon, a couple from Arizona who gave many, many years of their lives as well as their family fortune to establish the renowned Hospital Albert Schweitzer at Deschapelles in the Artibonite Valley.  Their work is legendary here.  The poem, written by a friend of theirs, describes their approach.  To me it is the only approach that makes sense.


Go to the people.

Live among them.

Learn from them.

Love them.

Serve them.

Plan with them.

Start with what they know.

Build on what they have.


Y.C. Yen


Dr. Felix has asked me to accompany him to HAS to help negotiate an agreement to have some of our students do their practicum there.  We will be doing the same at a number of hospitals throughout the region.  On Sunday I will be traveling to Claire Heureuse Hospital in Marchand-Dessalines.   I have also been carrying on an email conversation with a woman in Scotland who is involved with the new Wesleyan Hospital and mission in Anse-a-Galets on the island of La Gonave.  When I hear from those in charge of that facility I will be make that trip.




Last Friday was a trouble-filled day in Saint-Marc.  A thirteen-year-old girl was killed when a MINISTUH vehicle hit the motorcycle on which she was riding.  Her driver was seriously injured.  As is usual here the people reacted immediately.  The driver of the UN vehicle had to seek shelter in the police station to escape being stoned.  The people have good reason to be angry.  Past experience has shown them there is little likelihood of justice.  The UN has refused to address serious incidents in any meaningful way, usually spiriting the offenders out of the country.


The other significant event that day, directly related in my mind, was a ‘manifestation,’ Haiti’s traditional form of protest.  Crowds gather and streets are blocked with barricades of rocks, trees, vehicles or whatever is available. Speakers address the crowds with bullhorns to inform them of the issue at hand and to express their opinions.  Friday’s manifestation was about the cholera epidemic and the UN’s refusal to take responsibility despite the fact that it has been scientifically proven to near certainty that it was UN troops from Nepal that brought the disease to Haiti.  As of January 15 of this year nearly three-quarters of a million Haitians had contracted the disease, and the official death toll was 7,965.  It is highly likely that the real numbers are quite a bit higher.  If this were to happen in the United States, things would be very different.  A lawsuit has been launched against the UN, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  As always, it is those who hold the power that get to write the story.


Graham Greene set his masterpiece, The Comedians, in Haiti.  In it he quotes the French version of Romeo and Juliet:  Le remède au chaos n’est pas dans ce chaos. which translates, “The remedy for chaos is not chaos.”  Apparently that is a lesson that has escaped most in this world.



Olivier, the sick friend I mentioned in my last post, is responding to treatment, but is still weak and in pain at times.  He made his way down the mountain to visit me Saturday afternoon.  After a time he had to make his way back to his bed, but not before admonishing me that if I had errands to run, I was to call him and no one else.


Another of my friends, Molet, lost control of the motorcycle he was driving this morning when a dog ran out in front of him.   As soon as I heard I sought him out and found him resting at home after being  treated at the hospital.  He has some really angry looking road rash on his left leg, left shoulder, both arms and his hands, but he seemed to be enjoying having everyone attending to his every wish.



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