Tuesday, March 3, 2009

News from Haiti

Papa Bear here,

It is our final night in Haiti. I am not much of a blogger or IM person, so excuse my lack of internet shorthand. You will not see a lot of C U L8R in my post or BRB ;{

I left home around 0120 hours, on Sunday morning, and got into Ft Lauderdale around 2000 hours EST, or 1700 at home. It had been a really long day at that point.

In Seattle, they were asking for volunteers to bump their flight, in exchange for a 300 dollar travel voucher. I was so excited, because they had a flight that would get me into Houston an hour later then I would have arrived. Since I had a 3 hour layover anyways, it didn't bother me if I waited there or in Seattle. They thanked me profusely for volunteering, and then when the plane boarded, they told me I could board, and they didn't need my seat.

So, no 300 dollar voucher, but they gave me some nice parting gifts. I now have a voucher for.....Wait for it.....Settle down, I'll tell you....one Free Headphone Usage the next time I fly Continental Air. AWESOME!!!

The hotel in Ft Lauderdale was nice. It was a 5 minute ride on the free shuttle, and the room was nice. The kids for Spring Break have not arrived in force yet, so it was quiet and comfortable. The 3 am wake up call never got to my room, but I was awake at 0200 anyways so it didn't matter. I did get a chance to look around the area. About 4 blocks from the hotel is a BK and McD's and a Dennys. Since E and I are staying at the same place on the way home, this is great.

The ride to Cap Haitien was interesting. The people are very friendly, though I couldn't understand a word they were saying. At one point, I was standing in line, and another man tried to cut in front of me. A couple other men saw this, and yelled at him. There was a short shouting match between them all. I just waved my hand to show that he could go ahead, and all settled down from there.

I was reminded of how small the Haitian's are in stature, when they had me stand on the scale. I was already head and shoulders taller then almost all of them. When I stood on the scale with my carry-on, it read 210.0 lbs. I thought that was pretty good. There was a loud exclamation from the peanut gallery behind me, and several people were making comments. I thought maybe they were excited about something going on behind me, like fireworks, or dancing fauns...but no, they were all looking at me, and a couple were even pointing at the numbers prominently displayed for everyone in line to see.

I felt like a god though as I stepped down and everyone parted in front of me to allow me and my massive girth to proceed to a waiting chair. I like to think they were in awe of such a wonderful specimen of a man. But they were more likely just frightened of the giant American tripping and squashing them.

The flight was difficult. The plane is a small 17 seat, two prop, plane. The flight is about 2 1/2 hours through the Bermuda Triangle. The plane has single seats down the two sides of the plane. Across the back are three seats. The back seat is about the same size as the back seat of a VW Bug. With less leg room. I like to sit in the middle seat, so I can stretch my legs in the aisle.

Getting on the plane was good. There were only 15 on board. As the ceiling is so low, I have to bend over, almost in half, I was excited to see the back row still open. I raced to the back, and took the middle seat. All was good.

Then Mr. Grumpypants, the pilot came on board. He started yelling at the Haitian woman sitting in the emergency seat aisle. Asking if she understood English and was willing to perform the duties bestowed upon the person seated in this most prestigious of seats. Of course she couldn't understand a lick of English, and she was ..... portly. I don't think she could have been pushed out of the tiny emergency door by all the able bodied men on the plane.

He made her move out of this seat, and she squeezed her way toward the back of the plane. Straight at me. I thought about feigning sleep, but, as I had just sat down, this seemed kinda' odd. As she was now bearing down on me, I had a decision to make, move left or right or risk suffocation. I quickly darted to the right, into the open seat, as the women plopped down in the seat I had just vacated. She was not able to move into the seat on the left, so I was committed to the back right corner of the plane.

I slept fitfully throughout the next 2 1/2 hours, but awoke to a beautiful view of the sun drenched mountains of Haiti. The flight was bumpy, but mercifully over soon. We were greeted on the tarmac by armed U.N. soldiers lining the taxiway, guarding a U.N. Helicopter. Very reassuring. I felt like I was in a spy/thriller movie. "My Own Private Haiti." "Saving E."

The heat and humidity were unbearable. The landscape was drenched. As we had been flying in, I noted that most of the roads looked like streams. For the past two nights, Haiti had been pounded with Monsoon like rains. Right now though, the sun was shining, and it was beautiful.

I waited for about 20 minutes before COTP staff arrived and picked me up. The ride to the orphanage was different then last time I was here. The main road in CAP is now paved. But once you pass the road to the D.R., then the roads were worse then before. Every chuckhole was filled with water, so there was no real way to know how deep they were. A few were unavoidable and Lindsey, the driver, had to put the truck in 4wheel low, and crawl through ponds covering the entire road way.

Once we got the orphanage, E was waiting for us. The nannies had him bathed and in fresh clean clothes and sandals. He was grinning ear to ear, and came to me without any hesitation. He has been literally by my side since. I am only able to type this post now, because he is asleep and has no idea that I'm not there with him.

There were many changes at COTP. The new apartments look great. The lower office is completed and the upstairs apartments are in the process of being painted and tiled. The well and pump house are now enclosed with steel bar fencing to keep the youngens out, and the vehicle storage area is roofed.

In the kitchen in the guest house is the biggest change. The center island has been removed, and it is all open. They have all new cherry wood looking cabinets, and a dishwasher. The guest house feels very open and large.

As this trip is for E, I have spent very little time with the other children. I have been in there a few times with E, to let him say hello, or watch videos at night. But, he has tasted the good life, and is ready to go back to the Guesthouse after a few minutes.

I have been able to take several photos of the children. Mostly for sending to other parents. Everyone here is so supportive, and I think just as frustrated with the system as parents are.

This morning, E, myself and one of the volunteers walked down the road apiece to a little local cafe. It is run by a couple that I met last time I was down here. She was 14 months pregnant at the time we were last here, or at least looked that way. She now has a beautiful 11 month old girl. She was born April 2nd, and kept asking me about Kim. She remembered Kim's b-day was April 3, so she kept reminding me to say hello to Kim and tell her about her daughter's b-day.

E and I shared an orange colored pop. I was taken aback at first, because I was expecting it to taste like orange Crush. But it had a strong resemblance to Cream Soda. It was very good, and it felt very natural to sit in an open cafe along the road in Haiti. While speaking with old and new friends at our table, we would also have occasional passerby contact. It was a fun little adventure. I could probably get used to this lifestyle.

Speaking of tasting the good life...E will not eat the food they bring him. He has now eaten from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and realized that Papa's food tastes much better. Each meal now, I will fill my plate 3 times, and he will eat more than his fair share off my plate. It's gotten to the point, that he was very leery about the Vanilla Jell-o pudding I tried to give him for dessert tonight. It has the same look, feel and consistency of a meal the children have about 5 times a week. It took me awhile to get him to try a bite. He had to have 3 bites, before he finally realized that this was good stuff. Of course, he wanted more once we were done. I am saving the rest for the trip home tomorrow and Thursday. Momma Bear is pretty clever....She sent the vanilla pudding, 'cause she knew that if she sent the Chocolate, I would have eaten it all before I got here.

Everyone had a little going away party today for E. They made him a cake, and one of the workers decorated it like Thomas the Train. Very good work on the decorating. It looked store bought, and tasted just as good. E was so cute. He sucked his piece down and then helped the little boy next to him eat his. E picked up a handful of the boys cake, but instead of eating it himself, he held it out, and said something in Kreole. The little boy opened his mouth, and E shoved the cake right into the boys open piehole....or cakehole in this instance. E fed the little boy his entire piece of cake.

In the next 3 weeks, we will have 3 birthdays at our house. E is going to get home, and think that cake is a weekly thing. He may be disappointed a bit though once the birthday drought from early April to early September hits. That's a long time to go without cake...

Tomorrow is a big day. We will leave early with Arlen, as he has to run errands in town. His parents are flying in, as well as another couple, who are coming to take their two kids home. We will be at the CAP airport for a 3 hours before our flight, but that should give us plenty of time to get everything squared away. After we get into Ft Lauderdale, we will hit McD's for dinner and then bed time, after a real shower and bath. Then on Thursday, we take the big planes home to Seattle.

Please continue to pray for safe travels, good health, and quick and easy entry throughout the customs process. Thank you for all your support, and God Bless.

Papa Bear


Kathy said...

They weigh you in front of everyone????? AUGH. I probably would weigh 200 with everything I jam in my carry on too!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog post! You had me laughing and crying most of the way through. I love hearing about E. and his cake. Fabulous. Please blog again!

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the great entertainment. I really enjoyed the recount of your adventure. You clearly need to blog more often.

Anonymous said...

You forget J. - Grandma Bear's birthday is in May and Uncle N. in June - more cake for E. Can't wait to meet E. on Sunday. Nancy

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this!! I laughed out loud several times. :) Thanks for all the details about COTP, it seems to have changed a lot since we lived there. And I loved hearing about Johanne too, didn't know they opened a cafe. Glad you're finally home with E!
Katie B