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Haiti-My first Medical Mission I'm helping Midwives for Haiti to educate skilled birth attendants. Haiti has the highest mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere. Here is where I will write daily journals of my adventure.

Day 14

HAITI | Saturday, 3 December 2016 | Views [238]

Day 14- Sugar cane. Coconut, Feeding center and Bassin-zim waterfall 

 

Good morning. Haiti, It is a nice, relaxing morning at the Midwives for Haiti house. I slowly wake up and the early risers have been up for some time. I make some coffee and eat some toast. This has been my breakfast nearly everyday since we left Cabestor. It is okay though because I am not sure whether or not to trust the food anymore with all the food poisoning we have endured. I just have to make it 1 more day and then I will be back in the USA and won't have to worry anymore. Well, for the most part.  

I get dressed and try to decide whether or not I really want to go to the feeding center. The girls all say it is heartbreaking. No one wants to go but me. I am unsure I can handle the emotional toll it could take on me to go. The girls all say I should go though to get the experience. I do want the experience, but I don’t want something that will make me a sobbing mess and give me nightmares for a few days. Tiffany doesn't want me to go by myself so she says she will go with me. We get ready to go and Shani decided she would like to go as well. Pleasure arrives on a fancy, shiny new moto. I get on with him and the girls ride with one of the other moto's we use frequently. It will be nice to have Pleasure there to interpret for us.  

We make our way through Hinche and arrive at the Center. It is a gated building. Similar to what we have at the MFH. It slides open and has barb wire on the top. There are a lot of people sitting outside waiting to get in. I don't know if they are waiting to go in to see someone there or if they want help themselves. I do know that space is limited and they have to turn away people all the time. Taking only the very, near death sick ones.  

The gate opens once they realize it is us. They know we are there to help them. We ride into a courtyard with 3 building around us. It is very clean and welcoming. There are stairs to the left and we walk up them. A women is leaving right as we are arriving. I don’t know if she is a family member or what her role is here. She didn't look like an employee or volunteer though. At the top of the stairs is a big open area covered with a roof but open to the air with half walls. There is a man and woman sewing. I ask Pleasure what they are sewing. It is either employee and/or children uniforms. They make the clothing for everyone. A lady is in a room and is alerted we are there. She asks us to wait for a few minutes because the floors are being mopped. We sit down on a bench. In the corner there is an area that has 2 walls around it. You can hear a woman teaching and students repeating what she is saying. I ask Pleasure what she is teaching. He says she is saying things like 'cat, dog, duck etc'. Sounds like she is teaching kids about animals. She must be showing them pictures. They sing a song or two. It seems that Haitians sing to learn and teach. The room has concrete floors. In the opposite corner there are some toys. They are very well loved and most are broken. There is one trike bike but is missing the steering wheel.  

The kids are let out of class and they come out. When they see us sitting on the bench, some come running over and start climbing on us.  I don't know how to react. There are too many to give my attention too. I start to play a high five game with some of them. They like it. I have one on each knee and I am hugging them as much as I can. Who knows how long it has been since any of their families have come to visit. Or how long it has been since they have been loved on by someone. They are very happy to see us. After a few minutes, they are told to go into the other room. We watch them walk away and wait for it to be okay for us to go in 

I see a little head peak around the corner of the door. He is in a crib. He smiles when he sees me and I play the hide my face and do peek a boo with him. He laughs and keeps doing it to me. We thought that if the kids were able to go in the room then we should be able to as well. The floor has to be dry by now. Pleasure gets up and goes and asks if we can go in. We get the okay and walk in. The room in filled with about 20 old, worn out cribs. Mostly empty ones. There are a few kids in a couple but most of them are sleeping. I follow the girls and they lead me down a narrow walkway out of that room. In the walkway, the kids we saw come out of school are lined up on benches. They have been given a snack. It is this thick, peanut butter consistency, snack. I am sure it has high caloric and protein value. The kids suck it out of the tube. We walk into another room full of more beds and cribs. They are mostly empty. There is one girl sitting up. Tiffany tells me she looks much better than she has the last time she was there. Tiffany said she had looked like she wasn't going to live much longer. She is 8 years old. I find out later from the Nun that she has a heart condition that is requiring surgery. But she may not live long enough to get it. There is another girl who is there, maybe about 6-8 years old. She is jaundiced and weak. She is laying down with her thick snack, sucking it out. She looks so sick. It is heartbreaking. I just want to crawl into the crib with her and hold her... 

We walk through that room and head into the baby/toddler room. It is another room full of cribs, maybe 20. There are a handful of cribs with babies in them. On the other side of the room there are about 20 toddler sized chairs with very still, quiet babies in them. They are all under 2, I think. The whole time we were there, these babies just sat in the chairs, didn't cry or try to get out. There is not one my kids or anyone else's kids I know that would've sat there like that for all that time. Quiet and still. I had mentioned that even the younger babies were sitting in the chair and not fallen out of the chair. Before we left though, one of the smaller babies fell out of the chair. She was right next to me but I couldn't catch her before she hit her head. Poor little thing. I grabbed her and held her until she stopped crying. I put her back in the chair. 

The babies that were still in the cribs were either sleeping or very, very sick. We walked past a set of twins. One girl and one boy, about maybe 4-6 weeks. Their mother had died while given birth to them. Such a heartbreaking thing. The family had brought them to the feeding center because with their mother dead, there was no means to feed them. The little girls tummy was protruding out and very firm. The little boy looked healthy. There is one boy who is attached to an IV fluid drip. He looks about 18 months and near death. He has a skin condition, maybe staph, all over his face. His lips are cracked and swollen. His eyes are goopy and his mouth inflamed. The girls say he didn't look like that the last time they were there. I just want to pick him up and hold him. But just the slightest touch is very painful for him. I hope he is a strong fighter and pulls through whatever is happening to him. It is hard to get any information about these kiddos. There are 2 or 3 women in there caring for them. It is snack time and they are very busy with it. Bananas cut in half and hard boiled eggs. If they can hold it they are put in the chair and they have to feed themselves. If they don't eat it then they don't eat. Really sad because some of these kids are so sick they don't have the strength to feed themselves. Half of them have running noses are coughing and sneezing. They are all just passing it on to each other. No hand sanitizer is used and no kleenex to wipe their noses . The ones in the cribs are given the paste to eat if they can eat. One of the boys is sitting up and has the paste. He has the most saddest face I have ever seen in my entire life. I will never forget it. I tear up now just thinking about it. I went over to him. I talked to him in a soft voice and stroked his head. He just looked at me with these sad puppy dog eyes. Nothing in his eyes but sadness and sorrow. Why is this boy so sad? He is probably 18 months old. I tried to do things to make him smile but nothing was working. I encouraged him to eat his paste but he had very little interest in it. I walk away after a few minutes to go see the other kids. One of the women there goes to a crib of a sleeping baby, about 12 months. She quickly jerks him up with one leg and tosses him onto his back from a deep sleep. The kiddo starts crying of course and I am deeply upset with how she just woke him up. She changes his diaper and then goes on to another baby and does the same. Geeez, you dont have to do it that way. There are other ways to do it kindly.  

Twin girl starts to get fussy. Tiffany is holding her brother and she wants some attention too. I pick her up and can't help but notice how round and distended her abdomen is. It looks very uncomfortable. I softly poke at it alittle. It doesn't seem to bother her at all. I hold her and love on her for about 15 minutes. I am asked by one of the ladies to help with the clean up of snack time. She has a bucket with a couple of inches of water in it and a washcloth. I am supposed to clean faces and hands with this. I start at the end of the line of kids and wash one face and hands at a time. I go and rinse the cloth in the bucket and go on to the next kid. I think, no wonder all the kids have runny noses. They are all sharing their snot, Some of them aren't done with their snack but  the lady takes it from them. Some don't care and others cry. They have been given plenty of time to eat so if they haven't eaten it by now, they likely won't. Even after they are all cleaned up, they still just sit in the chairs and don't move. Most of them just starring at us. No expressions on their faces. I can get a couple of them to slightly crack a smile but just briefly.  In an adjoining room, older children are having their snacks. They are about 4-8 years old. Shani is in there and helping them. I hear a girl crying and I walk over there and look around the corner. A lady had put her, abruptly, into a crib. She was crying and seizing. Shani tells me that this girl gets seizures. She had fallen and hit her head on the concrete and started having a seizure. She would stop having the mild convulsions and roll over into a different position and have more convulsions. She was aware of what was happening. Shani warned me to not look her in the eye or to touch her or she will scream. She is a very unhappy girl and cries constantly asking to go home. My heart just ached for her! What she must be thinking and feeling. It hurts my heart to look at her and since there isn't anything I can do for her, I reluctantly walk away.  

I go back into the room with the babies. I stop and look at the little boy with the staph infection on his face. I stare at him for sometime. I look at him and think 'what is in store for this precious boy? Is he going to die soon? Where is his parents and do they know he is this sick? Why isn't he in a hospital ICU? Who is managing his healthcare? Is a doctor coming to see him? Does the doctor know how critically ill he is?' I know I can't get my answers to my questions. I worry for him. I can't help him though. I really, really wish I could.  

The nun comes and goes all over the feeding center. She is from India. I was surprised when I met her, I wasn't expected an Indian nun. She speaks English. That means she speaks at least 3 languages. She is kind hearted and really wants the best for these children. I have the last blanket my Mom made with me. I wanted to give it to her for the feeding center. I hand her the blanket and tell her it is from my Mom. She made blankets for me to give to someone in need. The nun thanked me and told me to thank my Mom. She said God Bless you and your Mom. I told her thank you and also thanked her for what she was doing for these children.  

Before long it is time to go. Pleasure has been waiting for us and we have all had our fill. It is hard to be there but rewarding at the same time. One of the boys who climbed onto my lap when we first got there would come into the room and occasionally hold onto my leg. He was back again with his big smile and hugging my leg. I smile at him and tell him good bye. We walk out of the center and each place on hand sanitizer. Pleasure calls for the other mototaxi to pick us up. As we wait, another nun comes out to see us. Tiffany and Shani have met her before and they introduce her to me. She grabs my hands and leans in foa traditional kiss on each cheek. Tiffany asks her about a couple of the kiddos we saw and our concerns for them. One of the girls with the heart problem will be getting baptized tomorrow. She could die at anytime and they want her to be baptized before that happens. She is supposed to go to Port au Prince in the next couple days to be seen for her heart problem. I hope she makes it there and gets the desperate care she needs. I have a son her age and I couldn't imagine having to go through that with him. I hope her parents are alive and/or are aware. A lot of the children at the feeding center have loving parents. They just aren't thriving and need nutritional help.  

The mototaxi arrives and we get on and head back to the house. We arrive back and the girls ask how it went. Shani and Tiffany said it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been other times they have gone. I thought is was a sad thing to see but it wasn't as bad as I had imagined it would be.  

One of the security guards walks over to Tiffany and I as we sit on the patio. He hands us something and Joanne tells us it is sugarcane. I am excited to try it, I have never had I before. I was surprised at the texture. Tiffany and I have a laugh as we suck the juice out. A few minutes later he comes back to us with just picked coconuts from the tree in the yard. I am sooo excited to have this treat. My favorite scent is coconut and I rarely get to eat a fresh one. I drink the water and it is lovely. After, I grab a spoon and eat the meat. I get full quickly and offer the rest to Pleasure when he arrives for the waterfall trip. 

We change out of clothes and put on our swimsuits. It is time to go to the waterfall. This is something I have been looking forward to. I plan to spread some of my Dad's ashes there. In the morning, Joanne had said we probably weren't going to go because it was overcast. I told her I really wanted to go because of my Dad and the others also wanted to go even if it did rain. She said okay, no problem. Before long our driver is there to drive us in the Land Rover to the waterfall.  It is the same driver that I had the day before for Mobile clinic.  

I have my bag packed and make sure to grab my Dad's ashes. I grab money, a towel and a couple snacks. We will be missing lunch today. We all climb in and Shani gets in the front seat. She gets car sick and the front seat is best for her. Emily also gets a little car sick but as long as they both have fresh air blowing on them, they both do better. We drive through Hinche and pull off onto a dirt road. We take the road up and out into the country for about 1 hour. We pass houses and children run after us, sometimes naked. We finally arrive to a gate with about 8 people sitting around.  

There is a sign there indicating that we are at the waterfall. There is a fee to get in. Pleasure gets out and talks to one of the elder men. There is some discussion and it takes a while. I ask what they are talking about. The sign says foreigners have to pay $5 and locals pay 50 goudes or about $1. Pleasure is trying to talk to the man about the price. But he doesn't budge. He comes back to the car and starts to talk to us. But before he goes to far into it, I stop him and say, its okay, we will pay the $5, no big deal. These people need the money more than I doSo, we all pay $5 and they man opens the gate. We drive in and go all the way to the beach after being let in a second gate. There are a lot of people around. That loud concert music is playing. Food is being cooked and families are hanging out. We get out and are amazed at the pure beauty of the waterfall. All the water is coming from an underground source. There is a couple caves up the hill and they were formed from the water coming out of the ground. I immediately get in. The weather the last couple days hasn't been very hot, so I got a little cold, but it was refreshing. Tiffany and Shani also get in. Donna stays back and Emily walks in up to her knees. The water is an aqua green. Anytime I am in water that I can't see my feet in,  I also get a little weirded out. Shani is asking Pleasure whether or not there are snakes around or if they could be in the water. He said no but after that all I could think about was Discovery Channels episode of anacondas swimming around under water and I wouldn't be able to see them. I knew this wasn't the case but it still gave me the heebie-jeebie's . Could not get it out of my head the whole time. Especially when I pick the spot to spread my Dad's ashes. The only way to get to it is to swim. I pick a spot in the right corner of the pool of water. There is an old tree stump sitting in the water. I grab my Dad's ashes. They are in a lab sample tube, pink top. I hold it in my right hand and doggy paddle with my left hand out to the stump. It isn't very far, but about half way there I notice it gets a little hard to swim. Shani and Tiffany are sweet enough to come out with me. The current is going in a circle, like a whirlpool, from the water falling. I finally make it to the stump and grab onto it. Donna and Emily are on the shore and are taking pictures for me. I get little weirded out by the stump and start to think about the anaconda's again. I know marine animals and fish like to use things like stumps for protection. What am I treading near? I grab the top of the stump and start to climb up it. I don't need to climb all the way on top as there is a projection of the stump and I am able to stand on it just under the water. I take the top off the vial and tell my Dad 'here is a beautiful place to put you Dad.' I pour out all the ashes and watch them drift away. The bigger, heavier pieces quickly fall to the bottom of the pool. I fill the vial with water to rinse all the ashes out and pour it out. I do this a couple times. I sit there for a moment and it is time to go back to the shore. The girls are treading water and need to head back. Tiffany makes it back first. I am getting tired and she reaches out her hand to help me. I grab her hand and pull. This makes her loose her spot and she has to start swimming too. Oops, sorry Tiff. She tells me I should be able to touch and I stop swimming and put my foot down. Nope, I'm a shorty. I swim a little further and I am able to touch. We get out, dry off 

We are headed up the mountain to a couple caves. We grab our things and start walking up a pathway. A handful of young men escort us up the hill. I know what they are doing since we went to the last waterfall and those young men helped us up the fall in hopes to have a tip. We climb some steep steps, about 75 or so. That is just a guess. We come up to this area on the side of the hill that is somewhat a cave. It has strange pillar type formations, like the rock was shaped like icicles. There are 2 white candles burning. I ask Pleasure what the candles are for and he says Voodoo. Some areas of the rocks have black soot on it from burning. There is a fake floral bouquet on a ledge and graffiti. It smells likes mildew. After a few minutes, we turn to walk away and start heading up the hill more. At the top of the pathway was a series of creeks with pools every 10 feet or so. They lead us to an area where the wall opens up huge! This is quite the cave. I would estimate it was about 200 feet tall, 100 feet wide  and 2-300 feet long. As one of the young men leads me to the cave, I keep my hands to myself so he doesn't grab one. I feel as if I let him take my hand I will need to tip him. I didn't ask for hep and I really don't need it. He guides me to the opening of the cave. We walk along the stream and step on big rocks occasionally to get through the water. As we are walking he says something but I cant understand him with his accent. I soon look at the walls I am walking next and there are literally millions of bees and hundreds of hives on the walls of the cave! He was trying to tell me to be careful to not touch the walls because of the bees. You would think you could hear them buzz, but you couldn't. They were a cross between yellow jackets and wasps.  The hives are long and narrow and hang. So crazy to see that. I stop to take a few photos of it and Emily walks ahead with the young man helping her. We walk into the cave and through more streams. There is sooooo much graffiti, it is sad. Emily and I make a comment on how it ruins how beautiful this place is.  The young man points out there are old Indian carvings on the rock wall. I look at it and I can't help but think someone did that just to say Indians carved it. A few minutes later, Emily said that he guy said the same thing to her but she didn't think they were and I told her I thought the same thing.  

I look around the cave some more. Up and down and take it all in. At the end of the cave, the water starts. It is an underground water source that has carved out this cave and made the waterfall. There must be a lot of water underground! I don’t stay in the cave long because of the strong mildew smell. I walk out and try to balance myself on the rocks. I don’t want to touch the walls and get stung. I'm not allergic to bees but I don’t like the idea of a bee sting. They can be itchy! I walk back and meet up with the rest of the group. We take a small trail to the edge of the cliff and take in the view of the waterfall directly below us. It is so pretty and I am glad that I spread some of my Dad's ashes here. It's perfect for him. 

We walk back down all the stairs and head back to the beach. Our driver has started a game of football (soccer) with some of the men there. The young men that walked us up the path don’t ask for tips and head into the football game. The girls and I decided to sit down and watch. Pleasure sits next to us and a few little kids come join us as well. Loud music is playing and it puts all of us in a fun mood. There is a large group of people who arrive and walk over to a large rock that has a tree growing out of it. I noticed a lady throwing or splashing something at the rock and then drink something and spitting it onto the rock. She then hands the bottle to another lady and she does the same. Then hands it off to someone else. At this point I think they are doing some sort of ritual. I ask Pleasure and he said voodoo. I take a few photos and then think 'I hope they don’t get mad that I am taking photos and put some voodoo on me'! I watch them as they walk over to the stairs and head up the hill to the caves. They are probably doing more voodoo up there. 

We watch the guys play foot ball for about 30 minutes and then decide we are ready to leave. We all climb back in to the Land Rover and head back to the house.  When we get back we all pack our bags for the trip home. I have a lot of room left in my suitcase now that I have eaten and given away a lot of the things I brought. After we pack, we eat dinner.  We go across the street and buy some beer and rum and coke. This is  our last night in Haiti and we want to have a little fun.  Joanne asks us to meet with her.  We gather in a circle outside and she hands us some literature on MFH. She also would like to know how we felt the trip went, what went good, what went badetcIt was a good meeting and I felt like I wanted to come back and help this organization again soon.  

After the meeting, I grab our game and we put the mouth retractors in our mouths. Well some of us do. We drink and be merry and Donna heads to bed first. After we play a few rounds of Watch Your Mouth, we call it a night. We need to be up early for our ride to Port Au Prince at 7am. I take my Malarone and climb into my net. I place my oils on and do a little blogging. I take my phone and use the light from the screen to see if any mosquitos are trapped in my net. Shoot, there is one. I try a few times to catch him, but it is hard one handed. Eventually he lands on the net and I grab my skin so soft and spray it. Dead! No more mosquitos! I settle into my bed and go to sleep. I say good night to Haiti for the last time. It makes my heart sad.

Tags: feeding center, waterfall

 

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