Meadows'
 Larks

Photo by D. Robert Franz

 

 

 

 

Visit to Haiti -- 1

The song you hear is "To God be the Glory," which is being sung by the congregation at the church service we visited the first Sunday.  It will play two times and then stop. . . .

Visit International Child Care ICC  Photos of Haiti and Dominican Republic

http://www.groupmumma.com/haiti/haiti.htm

Haiti Photo Album
Don's Journal Haiti: After Quake (new)

Larry Alspaugh and friend in Haiti

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Haiti: A Poor

But Proud People

Don & Janet Meadows Headed to Haiti

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Don's Journal of 2003 Visit to Haiti
Day 1 Day 2 Day3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10

NOTE: This journal was written on a hand-held IPAQ, with the help of a mini-keyboard. It has been edited to correct spelling and grammar errors (I hope) and some notes added to reflect the earthquake in 2010. Though it might seem disjointed at places, I have chosen to leave it as is because it expresses my thoughts and feelings at the time. I hope you will enjoy reading it. --- Don Meadows)

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Day 1 -- Dec. 4, 2003

Meeting Keith Mumma, from International Child Care, our leader, and a youthful group from Michigan, went well, although the Miami airport was a little boring. The flight to Port-au-Prince was delightful, even if the landing was a bit rough. Made it through customs with no problems; we did not have to pay the $100 we were afraid the agents there might try to stick us with

We arrived in Haiti on time, and it was an interesting start to the adventure. I was fascinated during the flight over, looking below at the green-looking waters of the Caribbean and imagining all the fancy resorts I had heard about.

Exiting the airport was in the rain, but the thing more disconcerting than the weather or going through customs was the number of children begging. The ride to the guest house was intriguing. I never have seen a worse condition for humanity to live in and call such conditions "home." There were literally thousands of people on the street, going every which way. Dozens of children would come right up to your moving vehicle and grab hold of the windows and hold out their hands asking for money. The people on the street were dressed in style and carried themselves in a very proud way, which belied their living conditions.

The guest house was St. Joseph's Home for Boys. A clean -- though smelly -- house, probably aided by an old dog (Mickie), very skinny with a large tumor growing right in the center of its face. You can't help but feel pity for the poor beast. It seems like it is a very good-natured animal, although the boys invoked a loud bark and growl while teasing it about its food.

We had a good meal (chicken) and a time of togetherness. Janet and I were assigned a room together, for which we were thankful. The bed was very comfortable, and I slept soundly until early in the morning when the power went off and so did my sleep machine. Also, a rooster started crowing about 2:30 and crowed until way after day break.

 

 

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Children Begging -- Common in Haiti

Common Cap Haitian Street Scene

Lady Sold  A Lovely Doll to Janet

 

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Day 2 -- December 5, 2003
Breakfast at 7 am, church about 9 am. at La Saline ("The Salt." ) We got a passing glimpse of one of the slums but did not venture there. We toured a school and went to church there and we were, to say the least, very impressed. The people worshiped God with great enthusiasm, and we were struck by the children and their bright, white dresses. How they got them so clean and live where they live is a testimony to the determination to put on their best for the Lord.

I did children's message with an animal balloon (which they call a "bladder"). And made balloons until about half-hour after the service. It was tiring but a delight. One little girl we met stuck with me all the time, and I loved it.

After church, we went high into the mountains and had lunch with an American woman (Carla) and met her friends, Ari (Harry) and Ja. It was soon to become a political discussion, and Ja did most of the talking. I don't buy everything he said, but I believe there is sufficient mutual understanding and I can call Ja a friend. He said I should come to Haiti and start a church, and if I did he would come - at least once. The name of the community we visited is DOA/BN and I am not really sure what its purpose is. Carla has been in Haiti since 1985 and is a real advocate for Haitian customs.

She provided a traditional meal, not exactly what we liked but no one complained. The home-grown fruit was delicious, and the ground corn and beans weren't bad. The smoked herring was a bit strong, but I got it down. Janet, of course, didn't even try it because she doesn’t like fish in any way shape or form.

After the meal, there was quite a bit of political wrangling. I probably upset the kids from Michigan with some statements about America's role in causing poverty by choosing a lifestyle that makes for low wages in foreign countries so we can have our stuff at a cheap price(?). It is so difficult to see yourself as others see you, and Americans really are blind to their greed and willingness to take advantage of others to maintain their standard of living. It is much easier, and comforting, to believe our lies that we are a wonderfully-generous country, kind of the developing world's big brother. If we are honest, we will recognize there are truths to both sides.

It was a difficult trip, transportation-wise, and very adventurous traveling back to the guest house. We are so spoiled with our highway and road system in the United States.  (We show more pictures of this trip in the Haiti Gallery)

We returned home to St. Joseph's for an evening meal of meatloaf, egg plant, potatoes and fresh tomatoes. We were late, but the food was waiting for us. One thing we learned is that one must take responsibility for oneself; and if the food is cold, it is your fault alone.

After a long session together to debrief, we were dismissed for bed. I was glad. Physically tired, climbing up a mountain (I rode the last 1/4 mile). Janet walked.

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Where the children live

Group at Church

Lively Worship

Carla at DOA/BN

   
 
Day 3 -- December 6, 2003

Began an early day trying to shower – and always in cold water -- that’s the norm. Girls get in the shower room very quickly and take a long time once there. I was the last one at breakfast...still had good meal, and all I wanted. Fruit here is delicious.

We went to Grace Children's Hospital. At devotions I was asked to greet the people. There was a large group of people who attended this service.

Then we went to terrible places: two urban health clinics. Keith didn't know the names of the places, but I can say one thing for certain. I shall never forget them. We were taken there to learn about a vaccination program, and it was difficult walking down the rocky street (?). We had to cross a bridge over a flowing stream of gray, smelly, running water. A pig was in the water, sticking its snout under the water for bits of food . . . and to think someone will eat those hams and bacon and think it was great.

I began playing the harmonica while the crowd was a loud rumble of human sounds, none of which I could understand since it was in Creole. Quickly, the noise disappeared, and all you could hear was the harmonica. I played "This is the day that the Lord has made," and soon nearly everyone was singing -- Haitians in Creole, Americans in English and the harmonica playing for both. Hands began to clap, and rhythm rushed to feet and we had a grand time singing "I will rejoice and be glad in it."

I wondered how people who live, if you can deem it so, in such conditions could still sing "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! But, they did and they were.

It was a good moment -- people who declare God is good in making this day and choosing to rejoice in it.

If we were shocked at this first clinic, we were horrified at the second. We descended into what could be best described as a cesspool of animal and human pollution. Refuse of every imaginable kind was in the water, on each side of the stream and everywhere you looked. In the middle of it, two large pigs were rooting for food. Sewage pipes ran out of second story living quarters. Someone flushed and it nearly dumped onto Keith, who stood almost under it. You learned quickly to look up, down and around you.

The people were very friendly and joked with us. Houses were built in such a way that it reminded me of a maze, narrow, dirt, pot-holed paths, wet with water. I was walking up one of the inclines and three teen-age girls came down one of the narrow streets, turned their palms upward as if to beg for food, patted my stomach and said "big." And, off they went laughing. I was told later that they believed I was rich because of my large stomach.

Janet and I got separated from the larger group, and Janet started to panic that we were lost. We just retraced our steps, came to a large, nice looking building and saw the larger group.

I was glad to see the Grace Children's Hospital van because the heat and the effort required to climb the hillside had taken a big toll on my feet and energy. It was hot, but just to sit in the van and look out the window was such a blessing. Besides, we were going to lunch at a restaurant -- a real, honest-to-goodness restaurant.

It was in Port-au-Prince, not too far from where we were staying. It is called La Pause, and I had a chicken sandwich, freedom fries (they don’t call them French Fries, because Haiti won its independence from France and they still are sensitive about those years when they were subjugated by the French, although most of the people there do speak French) and a large Coke. It wasn't diet Coke, either, and didn't taste as strong as American Coke. But it was cold, and that's what really mattered.

Following lunch, we went to the Super Market, rather modern and more to our understanding. The prices made you do a double-take, as they were marked very, very high. But, you had to do some math to understand the American price. If an item were priced at, say, $100, it would have been about $2.50 American, because there are 40 Haitian gourds (pronounced goodes) to a U.S. dollar.

Following lunch we went back to the Hospital, where we spent the evening with the children. I used all the balloons I had in my fanny pack. Tired, hot, sweaty, but very fulfilling.

Now, we are back at the Boys’ Home, waiting for dinner and hopefully an early bedtime.

For now, a shower... cold one, but a shower. Oh, for five minutes of hot water.

 

I don't know what these things are but they were some kind of good. I was the only one who ate them.

People in line to have X-Rays taken.  The X-Ray unit (below) is the one that a group led by Joyce Melick from Maple Street helped secure for the hospital.

See pig lower left.  Bridge made from an auto frame and refrigerator door.

Language was no barrier as we sang together "This is the day . . ."

Group looks for place to cross polluted stream, while beautiful girl (below) plays amid  the garbage.

 

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Day 4 - December 7, 2003

Up early. Small plane to Cap Haitian. Probably worse garbage and poverty than in Port-au-Prince.  Hotel Christophe was wonderful - there was running water and a hot shower. Something to look forward to this evening.

Trip to International Child Care Canadian (ICC Northern Office for Child Care International) office was informative -- though not very exciting.

Took van on a tour of several projects, but had difficult time, as recent rains had made roads very difficult. One destination we did not reach, Port Margot, and tried to get to a different one, only to be blocked. A health clinic and school combination. At Bas Limbe (ba lambay) had a picnic lunch and then there was a lecture from Chi Chi of ICC.  John Mark was our interpreter. I didn't attend the lecture but blew up all the balloons I had, and still needed more. In fact, it nearly got ugly and I had to retreat into the house behind a locked gate.

After the visit, as we were walking through the muck and mire of a banana orchard, some older girls wanted Janet's rings and watch. She told them they were gifts from me and could not part with them.

During this adventure, in fact prior to the lunch, our van was blocked by a truck that had a flat. Wickman tried to go around it, and nearly ended up in a ditch. The group got out and a group of people, mostly Haitians, pushed it back and clear. All of us breathed a sign of relief, as the van had nearly rolled over.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed some very miserable conditions. One really bothered me. We were going through Cap Haitian when I saw what I took to be a public garbage dump. Three children, a couple of pigs, goats and dogs were scavenging around together. I saw a child, about three or four years, dig something out of the pile of that decaying filth and put it into his mouth and chew.

Ironic, isn't it, that when we got back to the hotel and ordered dinner, most of us had filet mignon?

But, before getting back to the hotel, we stopped at the Market -- a place Keith said was safe. We bought several items, I a walking stick, Janet some napkins, and a old woman sold us a napkin holder after some dickering. We got it for $2 and she gave me a kiss.. Others paid from $4 to $6.

It was a wonderful warm shower, a full night of electricity and I slept for 7 1/2 hours.

 

When I gave the gentleman at right $5 for the shoeshine, I did not know that was the equivalent of five days of his usual income. He followed me around the rest of the day, carried our bags and I gave him another $5.  Keith told me the man was convinced that I was a very rich American.

Group at Bas Limbe lecture

Crisis over, we get back on the road

Where I saw children fighting goats and dogs for bits of food.

Housing in Cap Haitian

This man give one great shoe shine. Gave him $5, and he wanted to "become my boy" -- or permanent employee.

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Day 5 - December 8, 2003

Janet didn't do as well and woke up feeling bit uneasy. Keith was prepared, gave her a couple of pink tablets, and it seemed to do the trick.

We went to the Citadel -- a large fort built to counter a threat by Napoleon. We drove on some rough road, but nothing like we had been on the previous days. We got to the Citadel by driving up the mountain about half-way, then by horse (though I am convinced they were working ponies). I pity the poor pony that carried me.

I had two guys on each side, one in front and one in back. The one in back was constantly swatting the poor beast to make it go. The buy up front kept yanking on the rope to get the horse to go forward.

Janet rode, too, but I didn't have time to get a picture of her. She walked back down because she said the ride frightened her and she felt sorry for those poor horses..

The Citadel, near Milo. was very interesting. The joy of it, however, was ruined for us when the young people from Michigan insisted in walking to the very edge of the top wall. There was no retaining rail or wall. A slight gust of wind, a momentary incident of vertigo, or something so simple could send them plunging 600 feet straight down. I couldn't take it, and Janet and I went back down into the courtyard, a couple of stories below.

I used the men's toilet, and glad I only had to urinate, because when I lifted the lid there was no enclosure to contain the deposits. There was a hole, only it went straight - down with a view of about 550 feet. I could not have sat on that open space for anything.

The trip down the mountain was more difficult than going up. I stopped at one family's hut and made 5 balloon animals (picture to be posted soon), only to look up about 50 yards down the mountain and saw several families which had gathered to see the "bladder man" and, perhaps, also get balloons. We said bonswa (good evening) and they yelled back "Al-lo, al-lo," their version of hello, hello.

Most of the group stopped at the king's palace, but Janet and I stayed on the van because we didn't feel like walking down any more mountain. We reassembled and drove a short way to Milo and ate lunch at Lakou Lakay, a cultural center operated by a man named Maurice. He had served as our guide for the day, and his wife had prepared a fabulous meal -- including several things I had never eaten before, including Conk -- from the shell. It tastes like clam or crab. I liked it a lot. And another dish looked like fried bananas but tasted a lot like potato chips.

There was a band to entertain us, and dancers. We all danced with a young girl, and there were laughs galore when I did my best to gyrate to the music.

From there, it was to the Cap Haitian International Airport, and a 45-minute ride in a 16-passenger, single engine plane. The aisle was so narrow I had to struggle to get into the very back seat, and Angie rode in the co-pilot seat. We all prayed that she wouldn't tamper with the controls.

It was a good flight back to Port-au-Prince, and I was last to deplane. Janet let some airline people get my luggage off, and it cost me a dollar. But, that was OK. At the airport we were met by Pastor Susan, the volunteer chaplain and Grace and an elder on leave from West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Back to our guest house, a quick cold shower. Janet and I washed out two pairs of slacks for me.

Michael told us the story of St. Joseph's Home for Boys It's an inspiring story. Better than that, Michael ran an extension cord from the UPS (uninterrupted power source) to my C-Pap and I was able to get sleep throughout the nights after that. Thanks Michael!

 

 

                                                     

We learned if you don't argue prices, the venders would charge outrageous prices, but the items they sold could be had for less than half of what the first asking price was.  Janet used the napkins for gifts for those back home.

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Citadel at top, high in the mountain.  Trail, at times, got very narrow.

Janet & I couldn't take this so we retreated a couple of floors.

Scenic view from The Citadel

The short side of The Citadel

Thanks, Keith Mumma, for picture

It was dining with live -- really "alive" -- music and dancing.  That's Larry Alspaugh below.

Janet, woman talk about necklaces made from seeds.  Janet bought several as gifts.

 

Day 6 – December 9, 2003  

Slept until 6 a.m. It's nice to sleep late every now and then.

Today we went to the market. It was an experience but no fun. There were people wall-to-wall -- pushing, shoving, jostling. Flies by the thousands on everything, causing a new sense of appreciation for USDA. People walking in traffic lanes.

I did a belly bump with one of the vendors, to the delight of several folks around us. The trip to market was not easy for me. First the climb up the hill took a lot of my energy. We rode a "tap-tap," at cost of 5 gourds - or about 13 cents. A "tap-tap" is the usual mode of motor transportation. It’s usually a pick-up truck fitted with wooden benches, a cover for shade and painted in bright, multiple colors. I also could be a small bus, but always loudly decorated.

We walked back to the guest house, and learned from Keith later that we were close to a mild but potentially dangerous demonstration by some political dissidents. There were a lot of stories about what and who were involved, but never did we feel threatened.

We stopped at a grocery store - the Caribbean Market -- and Janet and I bought cold Cokes. Walked home and were picked up at 11:30 and went to lunch at La Pause, the same restaurant we had eaten at earlier this week. We returned to the hospital where we played with children until we went home for dinner. ((NOTE: The Caribbean Market was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake with substantial loss of life)). Here we also were very much aware of the guards, armed with sawed-off .12 gauge shotguns standing at the entrance and exit.

Pork chops for dinner. Mickie (the dog) and I took care of each other, even though we had been told not to feed him from the table. I mean, how can you look into those sad eyes of his and not respond. I really didn't feed him intentionally, but I was glad he was there when I accidentally dropped a bit of pork chop on the floor. He covered the mess quickly, and watched out for me. A good thing, too, because I bet I dropped half of that pork chop.

Then, our debriefing meeting and bed. Stayed up late to finish this writing now. It's nearly 9 p.m.

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Crowds walk in middle of traffic lanes

Janet & other members of the group squeeze into  the marketing center

Woman wanted money because I took her picture

Playing with children at Grace Children's Hospital

 

 

Painting Nails a delight

Wall Hanging

Janet & Larry and Residents

 

Day 7 – December 10, 2003

Today we are going to Wings of Hope at Farmathe, up in the hills. ((Also destroyed by the Earth Quake))

This was an especially interesting day for two reasons: 1) Wings of Hope is an exciting lesson of the resulting fruit of active faith. The youngsters there are physically or mentally challenged. They're happy in spite of their conditions. The facility defies description: It goes beyond clean, to immaculate beauty. It is inspiring. We ate at the Baptist Mission which was more US-like. Had a sub, fries, a Coke and 3-scoop banana split. Janet bought two bottles of real vanilla (which she still is using about eight years later. A little goes a long way when it’s the real stuff.)

We did some shoppinq (I bought a machete, only to learn it was made in Brazil). Picked up some news there was political unrest in Port-au-Prince, and Keith hurriedly got us back into the van and we headed home. When we got back to the city we saw some burned-out tires from earlier riots. Lot of rumors but we really were in no danger . . . The streets were eerily quiet. But at no time did I feel unsafe

Played dollar bill game with two of the boys at St. Josephs. It was a lot of fun. It took some work on my part for them to win the dollar. They continue to be fascinated with my stomach...

It’s about 10 p.m. so will take shower and then bed!

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Susan Kronbach

Day 8 – December 11, 2003

After breakfast we went to Susan Kronbach’s house. She is an ordained elder in the U.S. with the West Ohio Conference, and her husband is a teacher at university. The house is really grand, wonderful shade trees and a swimming pool.

The boys from St. Joseph’s came along to swim in the compound pool. They had a great time; I was impressed with the kids from Michigan . . . their willingness to play with the boys.

Sitting by the pool was relaxing. The boys' curiosity is unquenchable. They examine everything. One just tried to hear something out of my camera.

We went home about 3 pm. I went to bed for about a 2-hour nap. That was pretty much Saturday.  Starting to get really tired.

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Singers at MC

Presidential Palace before earthquake

Where We Ate

Near Palace

Downtown Shop

Day 9 – December 12, 2003

Sunday, the Lord’s Day. We went to the "big" Methodist Church in Port-au-Prince. The president of the Haitian Methodist Church was in attendance and offered prayer for the unstable conditions in Haiti. Keith introduced the president and the DS to us. The DS told me to come to preach for him the next time I come to Haiti. He said he could find me a church to pastor.

Following the two-hour service we toured downtown Port-au-Prince. We did not get a chance to see up close many government buildings because so many things were shut-down due to the political unrest. We did drive by the Presidential Palace, and it stands out starkly because of the surrounding signs of poverty.

Lunch was at a beautiful building, which a book and movie about comedians supposedly made famous. The place was owned by Richard Allen Morris (RAM leader. I am told that is a well-known rock group, which in no way causes me to flaunt having eaten there). We met him and he seems like a nice enough guy.)

It was back to St. Joseph's and we ate dinner earlier than usual. I wasn't hungry but ate anyway. I think it didn't agree with me because I didn't feel right afterward.

The boys did a dancing program for us. It was a good show and amazed us how the boys could move the way they did. Drummers were great, too. We all participated in the post-program and I was one pooped pup. Took a cold shower and got ready for bed. Janet and I finished all the packing we could do before going to bed. It was then I noticed that I had mucho mosquito bites. Sure hope our vaccinations do their thing.

Below are pictures of Boy's Friday Evening Dance Program

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Souvenirs purchased at airport shops

Day 10 – December 13, 2003

Got to the airport early for our trip back to Miami, then Chicago and then to Columbus. Keith gave us back our passports (he had taken them after customs entering Haiti so we wouldn’t lose them or they wouldn’t be stolen.) Had a little wait until the plane was to take off, so we toured the little shops. I bought a small bottle of rum (as of Jan. 17, 2011 I still have it, unopened) just because it is one of the famed products of Haiti. Some of the other folks bought as many large bottles as they could legally take back to the states. Flights uneventful, except for a slight discomfort in my stomach. I think we are approaching turbulent weather of O'Hare in Chicago so will close this account of our eye-opening visit to Haiti.

   

Janet and I are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit Haiti.  The Mission Committee, headed by Joyce Melick at the time, at Maple Street made it economically possible.  Thanks also to Larry Alspaugh for helping us in so many ways and to Keith Mumma of Internaational Child Care, for his wonderful and knowledgeable leadership.  And, those wonderful people from Michigan who were such a delight.  A special "Thank You" to Michael at St. Joseph's.  Our prayers are with you as you rebuild after the earthquake.  God bless you all!  Don & Janet Meadows

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Be sure to look for our Photo Album, of many, many pictures, to be posted in the very near future.