[June 9, Monday | 8:48 pm] I'm writing by iPhone light while I offload footage from today—I'd type, but I'm trying to save my laptop battery purely for dumping files. Electricity is out at the orphanage and is spotty at best. They have a generator that has kicked a fan on in my room and it's glorious, but there's no working lightbulbs in my room, so I make do.
On two hours of sleep, I boarded for Haiti. I'd been warned to have an inconspicuous bag to shove my camera into—what good that did next to my bright blue backpack and tripod, I have no clue, but I conceded out of fear.
"I don't know what I expected...to fly with pirates or ravaged souls staking out passengers for what electronics they have on them..."
But of course, no. Almost entirely youth groups, humanitarian aid workers, and the like.
Konked out on the plane window and woke up somewhere over the beauty of the Bahamas, and yet I still can't get that article out of my head. Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Landed in Port au Prince, passing over corrugated metal shacks and littered brown water, but yet greeted by warmth and the rising notes of a light Caribbean band—stationed right by the gate as travelers deplaned. Charles (American, co-founder of Relief for Kids in Haiti) landed. We got his bags and proceeded past all the intense offers to help with bags or to taxi us somewhere. But Marc (Haitian, orphanage director) greeted us with hugs and smiles, and picked us up.
The driver put me up front so I could take footage; they insisted it was okay to film out the window, but a friend's warning made me much more cautious. I raised it only a few times, encased in my hoodie (The only use at this point is for the refrigerated plane ride back. Seriously Delta, you should remedy that.) Random observation: Traffic laws are mere suggestions.
My room is upstairs—one of the few in the house not shared by kids. Somehow I landed the privileged room, and I feel a little guilty. Flip flops shuffle dirt across the clean tiles. It's bare, save for a mattress, a chair and a fan—oh and a mosquito net that Charles brought today.
Within the compound, I'm safe, though one semi-Jason Bourne-leap would put me at the hands of the rooftop owners next to us. They've built a fire somewhere within their crumbling walls. I can see a few flickers of lightning over the water.
The port horizon is visible through a sigh in the building walls that surround us. There's a constant chatter of random sounds; the road, a horn, a child, a dog, far-off music. The air is warm and heavy, but the evening wears it down and smells of island and deet. The weather reminds me so much of Majuro—
"...the familiar layers of sweat on sweat is oddly comforting."
I go with them tomorrow to film at their school. The kids are adorable—5 boys, 6 girls. Laura cooked an amazing meal of rice, beans, eggplant and fresh watermelon juice. I timidly watch Charles and cautiously proceed with the meal as he does—I've heard the horrors of consuming local (albeit, delicious) fresh food.
While we eat, the older kids continue lessons on the back porch. School only goes for 4 hours usually, because schools can't afford to feed them lunch. So the kids come back here and continue their school day to catch up as some were on the streets only last year. They remind me a lot of the kids from Majuro too—really the kids anywhere.
"They love the camera, latch onto you and indulge their fascination with Asian hair."
Charles had ten of them suction cupped to his arms, legs and lap as soon as he walked in; they all love him and it's so apparent he loves them all too.
The condition of Haiti is frustrating—funds available, but a corrupt government. Meanwhile, rubble is everywhere. The congested city of cinderblock, metal and tarps mingle with random trades and/or small items they've scavenged enough to sell. Street vendors either sit at their shack or carry the spoils on their head.
Underlying all, however, is definitely the sense of pride I read about. They dress and present themselves well and work hard for even a single Haitian gourde (about 2 US cents), adding up to the national average of $2 a day.
Lovely people so far. We'll see how tomorrow goes.
[Check out my GOFUNDME Campaign to raise money for a solar power setup for the orphanage]
|The backyard—through that tree, you're actually able to see the ocean horizon.|
|P.S. For those who are curious, you flush and shower with a bucket of water.|