Thursday, August 26, 2010

tout sa ou bezwen se ami

Two more domes went up in the last two days.

this kid's name is Giovanni and he kept whispering to me in the cutest voice.

Two more domes went up in the last two days.
Wednesday we got a surprizingly early start, considering how long you normally end up waiting for a hired tap tap driver to show up, but this one, Gingin, he is different, he showed up at 8:30 am, ready to go and we were ready for him, my crew of 5 Haitian teens and I. I had invited Hannah, who is visiting from SF, to come along on what promised to be a really great day. We were going to visit Judy, who I had met on my 3rd day in Haiti, about a month ago now.
this is Judy
She was one of my favorite people I had met so far in Haiti and I was anxious to go and see her and her kids and build them a dome. So, we loaded up Gingin's tap tap (why is everything being repeated? it reminds me of kava kava. is it not the same as kava? but i digress......)
When we got it all loaded, Gingin looked dubious at the weight of all the stuff, but we talked him into going for it...
It was an easy build, there was not alot of prep needed at Judy's place, she has a well drained yard and honestly, she has a really good scene there. She has a good support network, the kids are well cared for emotionally and physically.
this kid's name is Nixon. He was very curious about how the dome was put together. He helped out.
these guys were having lunch on a little table behind the dome
I decided that I was going to kick back and take it easy on this build, not only because, well, I had just gotten over an alleged bought of malaria, but more importantly, I wanted to test the kids and see how well they were learning how to build the domes themselves without me.
So I chilled and talked at length with Judy, who speaks English really well and admitted to me that she speaks French better than Creole. "but if anyone else said that to me, I would be mad!" she laughed.

i still haven't gotten a ladder...
All I can say is Nellie, Nephtalie, Marco and the two new kids, Madson and Watson (i am not kidding) did a stellar job. They kicked serious ass and needed minimal guidance from me.

I still had to be the one to climb up the dome when it came time to pull the cover over it, but otherwise, I let them figure it out. Nellie had a few ideas on how to do things and I let her take charge. Marco is totally always one step ahead of the game.
'Tali is pounding the sledge and keeping up with the boys just fine, laughing the whole time.
Hannah chillin' in the shade..

The two new crew members, Watson and Madson, are keepers, they work hard and are total sweethearts. They live next door to the sisters and they have all grown up together like siblings. I'm having a great time hanging out with these kids.. On the way back from the job, they were getting a kick out of teaching me to curse in Creole and laughing their asses off when I said the words with angst and made up songs using the new lexicon at my disposal.

On the way back we stopped at the grocery store so I could buy some spray paint. I am planning on doing a little beautification project on the side while I am here....
We got back to the base and the kids unloaded the truck, I paid everyone and they left.

When we pulled into the compound I saw a dude with about 20 cans of spray paint lined up on the top of an SUV. I knew right away it was Jerry, Haiti's #1 graffiti artist. I am a huge fan of his work I have seen on the streets of Port Au Prince. So I was totally excited to meet him and I showed him my stencil painting of Joe, my cat, which is on one of the palettes that my stuff was shipped here on. We had a great conversation about Banksy and turns out both of our favorite stencil artist a french guy named Christian Guémy who is also known as C215. He paints all over Brooklyn, actually.... Anyway, Jerry was there painting some portraits for the Give Love Project's Container House's outhouse. He painted Bob Marley, Che Guevera and Patricia Arquette. And then he invited me to come out with him the next time he does a street piece. That was really exciting for me.

I was not as prepared for the next day, this morning's build because last week I had left my notebook in this other tap tap and never gotten it back. Inside the notebook is all the notes on every assessment I have gone on since being here. Which is fine, mostly, because I still have the list of all the orphanages telephone numbers and addresses, except one. This one that I promised a dome to. I really liked the guy running the place alot and I feel really bad that I lost his contact info. His name is Roberto and his orphanage is called the Upper Room. The only person I know who knows where it is is Julian, my translator friend, but he got a job in Jacmel so hasn't been around. He told me the other day he really feels like he should be with me, we are the ones that went around together and assessed all of the orphanages and he is very involved in the project. So I called him up this morning and asked him did he think he could explain how to get there over the phone to the driver well enough to get me there and he said "sure" So I decided to show up unannounced at the Upper Room and just throw up a dome for them. We loaded up the tap tap and drove off after Gingin had a conversation with Julian over the phone.

I dont know why I felt so confident. Haitians are notoriously bad at giving directions! They also inexplicably and pretty universally can't read maps. So we drove really fucking far and got really fucking lost. We were sweating our asses off too, of course and everyone was getting a bit frustrated. We were asking people on the streets, everyone was telling us different ways to go, we were following arrows spray painted on walls until we pulled up in front of the most destitute orphanage I have ever seen.
this is where the arrows led us

We asked them did they know where the Upper Room Orphanage was. No, they did not, but they obviously needed help, more help than the Upper Room, honestly. The kids were sick, the shelter was flooded, they had no food to speak of, some of the kids were naked, I assumed because they had no clothes.

petit fleur
I spontaneously decided, after the man, Henri, showed us around a bit, and showed me a significant amount of official paperwork including a Haitian Organization Quittus and the deed to the land in his name, to build the goddamn dome right there instead! It was a blessing that we found them at all. I felt like maybe it was providence that guided us there. Who am I to argue? I apologized to Henri for not having more to offer but a few jars of organic peanut butter and some liquid Dr. Bonner's soap. We went up the street to have lunch and when we got back, unloaded the tap tap and the kids got to work building the dome.

I pulled out the soccer ball and made friends with the kids. They were shy, but affectionate. One or two of them spoke English, but my Creole is getting a little better, so we had fun.

My crew needed even less guidance than yesterday. In fact, when Nellie would ask me a question, I would tell her she already knew the answer and then she would realize she did.
Half way through assembling the frame, there was a major pwoblem, though. A blue strut was missing! The dreaded missing strut! It showed it's ugly head and we were way out in the middle of no where. No chance of running back to get a spare back at the base. So, we improvised. We put it together with a large door opening and it worked fine.
What a relief!

After the dome was nearly completed, I found Nellie sitting alone on the sandbags, holding a small naked child and looking really sad.

His stomach was totally distended, he had scabs on his knees and his eyes looked deeply sad.

Nellie said, "look at his ears, they are so dirty"
We both started crying a little, feeling so desperate to help these kids. I reassured Nellie, "dont worry, we can help them now that we've found them"

On the way back to the base I called Big Paul to see if he could send a couple nurses with me tomorrow to do a de-worming on the kids and he told me to call him back in three hours, which is right about now. Hold on, while I give him a ring to see if he can send a medical team out with us tomorrow when we go back to fix their water drainage problem....

I just got off the phone with him and he said he wasn't able to find anyone available to go out there with us in the morning, but to write down the directions so they could try to go at a different time. Directions? Directions in Haiti is insane. There are seldom any street signs and the landmarks move around constantly. You can't say turn left at the cow and hang a right over by the giant puddle next to the pile of rubble and expect anyone to know where you are talking about. But we will try.

I am going to stop at the grocery store on the way over there tomorrow and buy them some food. I can't show up with nothing knowing that these kids dont have anything to eat!

Henri and this other very sweet man showed Nellie and I the back area where they have this make shift shelter with a row of bunk beds in it. The floor floods everytime it rains. It's raining right now, incidentally. He also has a bunch of rubble where his house once was. So we described to him how he could clear out all the beds, bring in the rubble to build up the floor, dig a ditch around the whole thing to divert the water away from the beds and then he told us he has no tools. So I said I would give him one of our shovels. But I knew that was totally insufficient for the job.

So after a little thought, I told him we'd be back in the morning and would leave a couple shovels with him so he could get started. I asked him to have all the beds out by the time we get there so we could get right to work. I am staying on track because I just did an assessment, found another dome site and built dome number three all in one day!

When you are basically a one person organization, you have the freedom to make spontaneous decisions and see instant results. I like it that way. These people woke up this morning without any idea that they were going to go to bed in a new house. They got one today just as soon as they realized it was going to happen, it did. Life should be like that more often.

I wish I had more resources available to me to pass on to people like this.


  1. I love you and I'm so psyched you're doing this. You are inspiring me to change the world too.

  2. Di...
    what you are doing is truly a miracle. It must have been ordained by some higher power for sure. Keep following the voice in your heart and your gut feel about what to do next, and these miracles will keep on happening. Your life certainly has taken a major turn. Don't look back.
    Let me know if I can help. maybe soon I will have s ome resources and can hellp in that way as well.

    Love you,

    U Sam

  3. lopi, you are a force of nature, such as typhoon and/or earthquake! and so is your dream dome teen team. much love to you. -anna

    Love you.
    -K bizzle