I had the chance to help someone directly affected by the earthquake today. A friend of a friend’s mother lives here in Jacmel, and I was asked if I could check in on her to see if she was alright. With the help of one of our Haitian volunteers, we tracked her down. We had been heading into town to go to the market, and stopped at one of a few street vendors who simply have a wireless landline phone, which one can make a local call for 15 gourdes. I was told that the woman speaks no English, so Jamson made the call. We got directions, and walked the half hour towards her home. This was a new part of town, being up on a ridge with a view towards downtown and the bay beyond. We passed the old Minustah building, the front half unscathed, the back half gone completely. Shortly after, there was the most striking vista – a ray of sun shining down from a hole in the overcast sky onto the bay, making it sparkle. In the foreground was a line of white tents. After stopping a few times to confirm directions, we ended up at the end of a dead-end street. We knocked on the gate, and a young woman confirmed we were in the right place and invited us in. Her daughter was delighted to have a visitor, and was enamoured by my camera, and I obliged her with a picture of her smiling little face. The woman’s mother whom I’d come to see, Marimathe, finally came out, and apologized for making us wait. Through Jamson’s translating, she told us that she and her family had all been home when the house shook. Her arms flailing in recreation of her reactions to the event, she thanked Jesus for saving her and her family. She also thanked him for delivering me to carry the concerns of her son and friend. She showed us the crumbling walls of the house, and told us that she’d been living on the street for two months, only just recently getting one of the ‘Shelterbox’ tents that have been deployed around the city. While still a tent, these are more sturdy than most and may survive the coming rainy season. As we parted, I held her hand and palmed her a 1000 gourdes note. The equivalent of about $25, that would cover a cheap dinner out for two back home, but here it would help feed her family of five for a week. It felt wonderful to be able to give directly to someone who lost their home in the earthquake, and to brighten their day.
It was certainly the high point of my day, having spent most of it at camp, listening to the constant coming and going of planes and helicopters at the airport during the last day of the Canadian handoff, lying down and trying to get over the cold that set upon me yesterday. It was a shame because it would have been a perfect beach day. We hopped moto-taxis back to camp, and around 7p I hopped another one back into town to enjoy a dinner that was a break from rice or pasta. At Au Petit Coin, I ordered the fish and was treated to a wonderfully cooked whole fish, served with fries and plantains. I’ve seen people be able to eat fish, leaving all the bones intact, but I am not one of them. I messily picked at the fish, building a pile of bones on my plate, but savoring every morsel.
Yesterday, I resisted the oncoming cold as much as I could, given the need to work hard. We had enough rubble to create a pathway to the street, and pushing wheelbarrows full of cement uphill was no easy task. I did some shoveling and pickaxing to break up the body stress. We’ve now mostly cleared the section we started working on Tuesday. I really wish I’d gotten a before shot to compare with what it should look like on Monday. We’ve moved somewhere near 1000 cubic feet of cement in 4 days. After coming home, I crashed for a bit before dinner.
Then a bunch of us went to see the ‘Speakerman’. Not a specific person, but a title associated with various establishments which have speakers aimed at the street. The other day it was a small general store, with chairs right on the sidewalk, playing salsa. Last night it was a Caribbean style restaurant playing Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, and Haitian rap. We shared rounds of Barbancourt & Coke, and cemented the friendships with a few of the volunteers. While I do not know if or when I will return to Haiti, I am comforted to know that my world family will be a little bigger now.