Saturday, March 16, 2013

More frustration in Haiti

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dear Family & Friends,

Today Jim went with Berthony and Julio first to the church to pick up another driver and car.  He was to follow them to the border so that Julio could eventually drive that car back to his home in the Dominican Republic. 

As they drove they contacted the people that owned the property where we wanted to drill a borehole for the upcoming youth conference.  The people would not let them come, saying that the director wasn’t there.  Julio still tried to just let them come and look at the site but they wouldn’t let them! This whole trip is getting to be ridiculous.  We spent a lot of money to get nothing done while here. 

They continued to drive to the border since Julio was going to drive home from there and so he got in the other car and the other driver went back with Jim and Berthony.  The traffic was so bad that many times they stopped completely.  They were gone from 8:30 AM till 6 PM.  It was a long and boring trip, and they were all frustrated.
Julio and Jim in front of a huge salt water lake (Lac Azuei).
This lake rises each year and in fact you can see houses sticking up out of the water. 
They keep pushing earth to hedge it up, but it just keeps rising.  It is near the border of the DR.

In the meantime I had a pleasant day, using the workout room and the pool, watching TV, working on the computer and on my Spanish. 

Julio told Jim that since everything is standing still, we won’t turn this country over to the other couple till a project is on its way.

Berthony and wife Ramon after dinner with them at the hotel.  We asked them how they met (at a church activity before his mission).  The most interesting thing was that he had a dream before he became acquainted with her, that this was the girl he was to marry.  He asked again after his mission, and he was given the same inspiration.  This doesn’t happen often, so it must have been important.  He is really a fine and faithful man, and she is lovely.  She does not speak any English, so she must have been bored, but we tried to include her in some translated conversation.

Tomorrow will be another relaxing day with nothing to do but enjoy the hotel, except Jim will be able to do it with me.  Today had been set aside to write and sign contracts that can’t be accomplished now.  We head for the airport Sunday morning.  We feel like we have been wasting money while here, getting hardly anything accomplished.  It had been frustrating finding a project in the first place, and now we will have to tussle with the government and have a bit of a standoff.  We will get it done our way or not at all. 

I’m over my jetlag now—time to get it back again.  Berthony insists on taking us to the airport even though the hotel has its own shuttle service.  I believe it is because he feels responsible for any visitors and he wants to make sure that they get out of the country safely.  So, we go home, and then we wait and see. 

Mom & Dad, Jim & Karen, E/S Greding

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pictures, Fort National area, Haiti

This young man has made a business for himself--buys water from the truck and sells it--this is at one of our intended water points.

This is the best picture I could get of the ocean.  The air pollution is caused by the black smoke we see coming out of the back of cars.

Jim at one of the kiosks, the contractors in the back looking at plans to repair  broken  water pipes.

A very fine supermarket, the Caribbean, in Port Au Prince.

Berthony knew his cousin lived in the Fort National area, but he never thought  he would run into her.  She was living right next door to one of the kiosks we would like to renovate.
Typical narrow walkway with sewage and garbage alongside in the ditch.

Look at that cute girl with the pretty bows.

"Can I have a picture too? "  Sure, why not!

More garbage.

A nice so nice house in the area.
One of the kiosks we want to refurbish.  Julio and Berthony on the left.  They like to graffiti  in Haiti.

The rubble has been removed, but it does not look like these home will be rebuilt any time soon.

The kiosk where we found two families were using to sleep in.

Marie looking into the kiosk that had been taken over by two businesses.  They said they would move out  if the water were brought down to them.

Typical 3rd world need of garbage collection and hygiene training.
One of the narrow streets in between homes in Fort National area of Port Au Prince

There is some construction still going on in Haiti.

One of the tanks we want to use to bring clean water to the people.  Right now many are using them, making it their own business--they purchase water from a truck and sell it for more than it will cost when/if our project can be done.

Walking in between kiosks we want to refurbish and bring water to.  In front on the right, Julio with Leopaul Montes, project manager.  On the left in front, Jim with one contractor, in the back in the red, the other contractor.

The nicest house we saw in this area.  An old man across the street wanted us to build him a home just like this one.  He had a tarp in front of his dwelling.  I told him we were there to bring clean water to the area.

The good, then the bad, in Haiti

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Berthony arrived at 8:30 AM with Julio, we picked up Marie at the church, and then headed for the project to meet the contractors for a job walk so that they could better bid the work and know exactly what we wanted.   Marie also needed to interview the local people to find out how we might best organize the hygiene training. 

Haiti is so much different than West Africa.  Their slums are all concrete walkways and houses, except for the occasional tent/tarp or tin house.   They all have electricity.   Jim said that we’d be walking on paved roads.  He was right, except that he didn’t mention their crumbled condition.  Today I felt like I was actually working because I got all hot and sweaty as we walked up broken concrete stairways and paths.  Some places were rather steep so we got our exercise.
A view from one of the streets in Fort National, the area of our proposed water project.

The other day Jim and I were joking that these houses were so close together that they probably had to walk through someone’s house to get to theirs.  Imagine our surprise when one of the contractors (who is Haitian but has lived most of his life in the US) told us that this actually happens sometimes with those closely built houses on the hills!

We were so pleased with our progress, the contractors seeing what needed to be done and Marie interviewing all the influential people in the community.  They said that they had a bad reputation but when they know why an outsider is there, that no one would bother them as they did their work.  We have heard various conflicting reports about working in this area.  One contractor told us that they had to pay off gangs so they won’t sabotage the job while they do their work.

The job walk took all morning so we were happy at last to be able to leave and find a place to eat and cool off.  The buffet was not being served at the hotel we went to yesterday and Julio really likes to eat, so we went to another hotel with a buffet.  The serving area was open to the swimming pool and we could see that this hotel was a favorite of NGO’s and humanitarian and aid workers, or just kids ‘doing their thing’ for two weeks.  I was jealous that so many of them found time to use the pool.

I was intrigued by the Haitian people and asked Marie what their ancestry is made up of.  I have noticed many that look like Africans, some like Americans with dark skin, and many other varieties of distinguishing features.  Marie said that it was because they had so many conquerors, that there is a huge melting pot of cultures intermingled with the people.  I noticed that the women here aren’t as diligent in going to the hairdresser as they are in the parts of Africa we have been to.  In Kenya and Sierra Leone even in the villages they were rarely without a wig or hair piece weaved into their hair or at least braided.  They do all that here too, but I saw many women and older girls that just pulled their hair into a short ponytail in the back.

After lunch we met with Mr. Mouscardy who was to take us to DINEPA, the government ‘water’ people.  The man we were looking for was at another building so we had to leave and drive to another place, but we eventually got to visit with him and his colleagues at about 4 PM—only one hour off our schedule.  We were finished at 5 PM.

Marie and Berthony interviewing a man near one of the water tanks and kiosks that we want to bring water to.  Right now a man pays to have water trucked to the tank and then sells it.

I wish that was the only part of the story to tell, but when we got there we received the same treatment we usually get from government people—they don’t care much for their people, unless it benefits them.  We had to sit there and listen while they said that all of a sudden the water ‘wasn’t available’ and that they wanted to give us a BOQ (bills of quantities) for the job we wanted to do.  This means that they intend to use their contractor, and in fact we think it is Mr. Mouscardy that is the contractor and is the one that brought us to the project in the first place.  I was so tired at this point of the day that I had to chew gum to stay awake, but at the same time I think if they could have gotten site of me (I was hidden behind a computer screen) they would have seen steam coming out of my facial crevices.  On a previous trip, Jim said that they told him to give them the money and they would do the job.  Jim told them that we don’t work that way.  This is their way of getting the money, so they think.  If need be, we will have to walk away, and after all this work and preparation by everyone.  I get so frustrated by 3rd world governments.

We found this family sleeping in one of the kiosks, along with another family.  We found another kiosk being used by two businesses, but we were able to solve these problems—if we bring water, they will leave or at least sell water for us.  A few kiosks had been taken over by individuals buying water from trucks and then selling to the people. 

I was alternating between being very mad and praying.  Julio whispered to Jim that this was the time to give a ‘good speech’.  Jim did not let us down.  He said later that his inclination was to get up and leave, but instead he gave this eloquent speech.  He let them know that we had money to spend every year in Haiti IF our first project is successful.  He also let them know that we had a budget that we had to adhere to (meaning we doubt if we will ever use one of their contractors with their overblown prices).  We hope they got the message.  It was our intention to meet with them the first day, which would have saved all of us a lot of work. But Julio told Mouscardy afterwards that this project was funded in 2012 and that if we couldn’t use it, it would be gone, and if it wasn’t within the budget, it would not be used in Haiti.  We are sure he will take this back to the others.

We are now here at the hotel and tomorrow I will actually get to enjoy the facilities.  Jim is going with Berthony and Julio to check out an area where the church wants to drill a borehole in time for a youth conference this summer.  Luckily, it does not belong to anything DINEPA has their finger on. 

What a day!  I’ll take a shower and go to bed early…I need to lose my desire to strangle someone…

Love, Jim & Karen, mom & dad, E/S Greding

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Haiti Day 2

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It has been a long day.  I was fighting jetlag while sitting in meetings listening to French, then the translation.  Berthony picked us up at 8 AM and we met Julio and Maria at the church and drove over to a group that we were considering using to do our hygiene training.  We wanted Maria to work with them first, and then take over for future projects.  At first the meeting went very well--we could see that they had the same method in mind for the training and are made up of only Haitians, who understand the culture and what works and what doesn’t.  Then we asked what it might cost, which was a huge amount of money, which grew larger when they began to not only add the cost per person trained, but the six months it might take.  It was an astounding amount, and without any translation needed, the lady talking with us knew that we all thought it was insane.  But we told them we would send them a better description of what we wanted, and perhaps even a top price we would pay. Otherwise we might have to do it ourselves from the beginning.

The meeting took longer than we expected, so we were two hours late meeting with Mr. Mouscardy, the man who was the former Deputy Mayor in the area where we are going to do this project.  That was a short meeting and then we went to lunch, about two hours later than planned.  We ate at a hotel and had the buffet.  We ate guinea hen and found it to be better than beef—it was so tender and delicious.
This is the Tap Tap and is the cheapest form of transportation in Haiti.  They take the back of a truck, add a riser, put a camper shell on top, and squeeze their customers in.  We even saw one that had a TV inside—really? 

We dropped off Julio at the church for a meeting, then Berthony drove us back to our hotel, but we kept Marie so that I could make sure she received all the training materials.  She needs to adapt them to this particular project and then translate them into French.  There were a few training materials that had already been translated and even a darling hygiene puppet show.    

Tonight Jim met with our project manager who looked great at first but has been a bit difficult ever since.  But Jim was able to get things started anew and we will continue to use him for this project.  I hope things work more smoothly from now on. 
Local leaders wanted us to keep our trip down to a minimum because Berthony is so busy.  In doing so, we are not sure how we can get it all in and that what we thought might be settled probably won’t be before we leave.  Every contract will have to be written and then translated into French.

This is just one dwelling in a tented camp.  You can’t see into the lane just ahead that spews sewage and all the lovely smells that go with it.  When their tent gets a hole in it, they just buy another tarp, throw it on top, and tie it down.

Interesting Haiti fact: last evening Berthony took Jim to the grocery store.  It was huge and had everything, including real milk.  Of course, the prices matched the variety.  It must be very expensive for people to live here, although I am sure they eat from the street vendors instead.  Nevertheless, we are continually surprised about Haiti. 
We saw these adorable girls at the church in their school uniforms.  They are so cute, but didn’t understand a word we said…we also saw the missionaries who were both from Haiti.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pictures, traveling to Haiti

How do they access their homes here?  Berthony told us they walk?  Can this be right?  They must be in great shape!  He said that if this area crumbled in the earthquake another million people would have died.  This is the view out our hotel window.

This is our own personal balcony.

This is where they hold conferences, hold weddings, at the hotel.  There is also a restaurant in the building.  Don't you just love the beautiful tropical flowers?

Traveling to Haiti

Dear Family & Friends,                                                                               Monday, March 11, 2013

We are enjoying the luxury of a Marriott Hotel near the Miami Airport.  Tomorrow morning we fly to Haiti, which is my first, and now my last trip there.  We have been assigned another country and Haiti will be given to the couple that takes care of the Dominican Republic because they are trying to consolidate our areas of focus.   Instead of Haiti we are now in charge of Mongolia.  Our boss quipped that we’ve been ‘banished to outer Mongolia for obvious reasons…’  I think I am going to need some Yak clothes; I don’t think my cotton blouses, breezy skirts and open toed shoes will make the grade even in their brief summertime.

We left for the airport this morning at 5:45 AM (not one of my favorite hours, making it worse by waking at 1:30 AM), on an American Airlines flight to Miami.  It was on time, and took the said 5 hours.  We had chosen our seats well, but our ‘exit row’ seats as shown were regular ones and I was in the middle of the three seats—we were surrounded by exits but we didn’t get one.  When the head flight attendant told us over the PA system to ‘sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight’ I kind of wanted to bonk her—shouldn’t she say those things to those who are not in coach?  However, I did not get nearly as rung out as I usually do after those long trips to Africa, even though we are in more comfortable seats and get fed well.  I almost looked human when we arrived, even if Jim bumped my juice and it ran all over us.  What saved me was my blanket so I didn’t have to travel all wet and sticky.

It seems that wherever we go we see someone that we can make a connection with.  We saw three young lady missionaries board our same flight—we didn’t get a chance to speak as they buzzed on by us so we didn’t know where they were headed.  Just as we collected our luggage to de-board, a young man asked me if my husband’s watch was from Kenya, and of course it was.  It turns out that he is the son-in-law of one of the former mission presidents in Kenya by the name of Boucher that had left just before we arrived.  I can’t remember how to spell his name but remembered hearing about him from others…what a small world we live in.  This man was headed to Barbados, poor thing, but then it was just for business.  Thinking of his wife I asked him if she ever got to come along and he said she had requested a trip there, so she will get some benefit from his travels to places that sounded like nice places to take vacations.  Strange, I wonder why he wasn’t going to Haiti.

I thought as we arrived in this nice hotel how much I wanted to stay here, let Jim go to Haiti, and then I could exercise, swim, lay in the sun, watch TV, take naps on the pillow-top mattress, and eat myself sick on good food.  He didn’t go for it…oh, well, a girl can only try…

Comfy room at the Miami Marriott, nice pillow-top bed.

While in Haiti we will be choosing a contractor, signing contracts, meeting with government entities, and training our new hygiene manager.  We are going to repair underground water pipes that were broken up in the earthquake.  The water is stored by the government in large tanks and pipes take it down to kiosks where the people come to purchase their clean water.  We will also repair some kiosks.  The people are used to paying for their clean water, and the majority of the people don’t have water to their homes. 

Tuesday: We arose early after a good sleep.  We are now in Haiti and I don’t feel any bad vibes about being here—perhaps it has changed.  Besides, a majority of the people on the plane appeared to be NGO or humanitarian workers. There were teenagers and old folks like us and every age in between.  When we arrived Jim was shocked because Haiti had a regular, brand new terminal.  It was air conditioned, they had lanes where they took your passport at immigration, and they had carousels that brought your luggage.  Before this was accomplished all outside in the heat, and everyone crowded around one spot to get through and they threw your luggage in a pile for pick up.  As we walked through the terminal there was a group welcoming us with their fun Haitian music—Jim said this is the only thing that was the same. We asked Berthony who built the new terminal and he said he couldn’t remember, except that it wasn’t the government—no surprise there.  Our flight was comfortable because this time we were in an exit row and they actually fed us.  Even though our 5 hour flight netted only a soft drink or juice, this one actually had a snack even though it was only a 1½ hr. flight.  I was very surprised at how pleasant the weather was.  I thought it would be more like Hades--although warm and humid, it was not all that hot. 

I was not at all surprised about the scenery since I had seen Jim’s pictures from his earlier trips.  Berthony picked us up at the airport and had Julio with him.  Julio is from the Dominican Republic and will be taking the place of Bennie Lilly, who was the Area Welfare Manager.  Gee, we like him as much as we do Berthony.  It took forever to get to our hotel because of the traffic-choked roads.  When we arrived Marie had also arrived and will be doing the community development and hygiene training.  As we ate lunch together we planned our week.

Having lunch at the Karibe Hotel in Haiti with Marie, hygiene manager, Berthony Theodor, & Julio Cesar.

Okay, I don’t want to go back to Miami—this hotel is grand!  There are palms everywhere, sometimes sporting some colorful birds, lovely spots to eat in and out of doors, a very large pool and Jacuzzi, tennis court, spa area, and a workout room.  Our room is quite lovely and roomy, and in the bathroom there is space to put all our belongings.  And, they have an ironing board, blow dryer, fridge, safe etc.   But the best part is that I get to unpack all my stuff! 
Before landing in Port Au Prince, we skimmed along the coastline and watched the terrain change from lots of farming squares with a few houses and trees to a hillier area where the dwellings were jammed very closely together. The houses were patched together on the very steep hillsides so closely together that you wonder how the owners get up there. I was surprised that Haiti doesn’t look as tropical as I thought it should—the most palms I’ve seen is around the hotel.  There are the typical slum areas with rusted tin roofs, all jammed tight and thick as thieves.  We asked Berthony about the estimated count of how many people are still in tented camps—it is down to about 200,000 now.  When Jim first came it was 500,000, so they are making progress, however slowly. 
Hope we have time to take a swim at the Karibe Hotel pool.

I could be very happy here—if only I didn’t have to leave the hotel…

Love, mom & dad, Jim & Karen, E/S Greding