Saturday, September 25, 2010

c wrench

Friday, September 24, 2010

samde maten

My last day in Haiti. Swam in the ocean. Organized my tools. Moved into storage with Calvary Chapel who will be project managing my last dome build. I am confident in their abilities and happy and relieved that the last dome will go up in capable hands. It is good for me to step back and allow someone else to have the pleasure of giving a shelter to a worthy recipient.

Got rained on. Road a moto into town. Gave red leather to an old shoemaker. Received the sandals he made for me after looking at my sandals for 5 minutes, made out of 1/100th of the leather I gave him. I brought an interpreter who helped me talk with him about collaborating on some sandal designs. He is really good at what he does. It seems like a nearly lost art to know how to make shoes by hand.

Met with Abraham, who was building a wooden stage for the funeral of his Father tomorrow morning, early. Talked with him about the possibilities of working with the bamboo workers to make beds. He loved the idea and promised to ask the govt people about using their warehouse to build bunk beds out of bamboo for orphanages in port au prince and jacmel.

We talked in the truck without brakes while moving my container into the Calvary Chapel storage place. It's a relief to have a save space to store it so I can access it when I return in a couple months.

Met another artist dude, rasta on the street. Gave a soccer ball to Peter, who I randomly ran into in the ghetto playing soccer on the street in the rain. Drew our names on the ball.

Walked in the rain with dreadlock artist dude and went into a woodshop where they had a coffin they had made. Ducked in out of the rain in Jackson's house, who lost a leg in a car accident before the earthquake and is part of an artist organization that involves alot of the artistic community here. They will email me their project information as soon as they get it translated into English so I can post it here. Many of the artists I met are involved in this collective.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I went this morning to visit Pastor Joseph's orphanage. It is in a bad way. I brought them a 5 gallon bucket of organic peanut butter, a gallon of dr. bronner's soap and a soccer ball. I bought them a 50 gallon barrel to use to catch the rainwater that keeps flooding their shelter, so that they can catch the rain and use it for washing. I checked out the site, took measurements and I believe the dome can be built right under their existing structure. It will be perfect for shade so the dome is not so hot. The site needs too much work to be done in a day and a half. I am meeting with Dave tonight to go over plans for his crew to build the last dome. I will give him money for the rubble and to pay the crew and show him how to build the dome. I can't do it and do it right in the time I have left here. He is excited to build it because he already has a relationship with the orphanage and has an interest in improving their situation.

Yesterday my friend Badio took me to meet a shoe maker. He was not home, but I met his son. Today after I visited with Joseph, I went by Vie De France to pick up some of the leather I brought in from Brooklyn. I took it to the shoemaker and gave it to him. He was asking me in creole, "how much?" and I said "zero" and ou bezwen? wi mwe bezwen he said.
I think he is making me some sandals. I need to go pick up the rest and carry it to him.
My job right now is super fun. I get to give things to people. What a fun job!

I was walking after the shoemaker scene and this lady shouted out her front porch at me. "My Blan!" they call me "my white!' i stopped and said to her "mwe pa blan" and "mwe chan" which means I am not white i am tan. She really thought that was funny. She repeated me with gusto and soon we were both enthusiastically shouting "mwe chan!" at the top of our lungs. A few minutes later someone said "how are you?" to me and I turned and there was a very tall, very black young man walking next to me. He had a deep scar on his left cheek. He said in English, "what i need from you is a verse" I said "you need a verse? you mean you want a poem?" he said yes. I said to him "this is the first time anyone has asked me for a poem!" and "Everyone just asks for money and things" I talked with this guy, whose name, it turns out is "cool dog" and he is a rapper. I interviewed him with my little camera and then he spit a rhyme for me.
He loves snoop dog and I told him I met him before and then he said "please blow me up"

The building of the last dome is in good hands.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

fly birdy fly

I woke up this morning and realized I was getting distracted by the bamboo bed plan. I got sidetracked by the need for beds. However, I need to stay on point to complete my current project and starting a new project before my current one is complete is fool hardy. Especially if I ever want to get home. It''s good to have something to work towards, a new plan, but this final dome needs to go up. The bamboo plan is a good one, but it opens a huge can of worms I am not ready to deal with. It could take another two months.

I am at Cine Institute right now. It's a Haitian Film School located at a beautiful old hotel by the ocean. I met with Zaka, the filmmaker I mentioned a couple posts back, to talk with him about his work and ask him for any leads he might have on an orphanage that might need a temporary shelter. The orphanage he had mentioned to me the other day, turns out, doesn't need one. The director is a famous French Filmmaker. I dont know his name yet. Apparently, though, he has plenty of financial support and backing from France.

Zaka is a bright kid. One of his films is here: Cine Institute He told me that for this film, he wrote a screenplay, but the actors , who are some local guys he knows, cant read, so he told them basically what he wanted them to do and say and they improvised. The film has a documentary feel and follows these dudes through one day in their lives. Check it out. Zaka is headed to Vermont this weekend to do an installation of his work there.

After talking with Zaka, I gave Dave from Calvary Chapel a call. He is a good man and I trust him and his commitment to do good work with orphans. Pastor Abraham is an associate of his as well. I spoke with him about the possibilities of collaborating on getting this last dome up and occupied. It looks like he would be able to project manage it next week with some of his volunteers. It's not my first choice, but if I can't get it together to build in the next two days, I will fall back on the plan "b" to give him instructions and let him and his crew do it without me. He said it would be no problem and he'd be happy to document it with photos.

I would very much like to build it myself, but the time is slipping away and I have to get back to Brooklyn. Haiti time is not conducive to a "get er done" mentality and I am feeling I have reached a point where I really need to go home. Now. Sometimes one has to realize there are certain limits to their resources and let the ego go. As long as the dome is up and occupied, then my mission is accomplished. I really wanted to have the last photo of me, covered with mud, next to a dome with the number 10 on it, but it would be at my own detriment to do so just for a photo op and my own sense of victory.

Pastor Abraham lost his father a couple days ago. He was very sick with both Malaria and Typhoid. He is busy constructing a mausoleum for his Dad and planning the funeral for Saturday morning. I called him just now to offer my condolences. He sounded ok, but very sad. He told me that I am welcome to store my tools with him so that when I come back I can use them to continue my work in Haiti. This is a big relief. I can also leave my personal survival kit with him as well so when I return in a couple months I will be already set up.

So I am trying to tie up all the loose ends and get myself home by Saturday night.
Things are happening here that are not good and I cant really post about it other than to say I was assaulted this morning and it was pretty scary. I need, for my own safety, to leave as soon as possible. I will fly from Jacmel to Pap and catch a flight from there to arrive in NYC by Saturday night.

People that seem your friends are not always your friends. I think Bob Marley said it really well in that song "who the cap fit, let them wear it" Give it a listen.

thanks for reading. Au fum

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

sa ka pase

Today I woke up to a deluge of water. Actually, I went to sleep to one as well. The room I have been staying in is at the end of a row of rooms and as the end room one wall is the outside wall. There is basically no wall under the eaves of the roof until about a quarter of the way down, so plenty of water just pours in. Might open a tourist attraction to see the waterfall pouring down into my cowboy boots. A new roadside attraction! Me under my mosquito net with an led flashlight will entertain you further with shadow puppetry.

I went to tell the lady, the manman, that the dlo was coming in. I first consulted my creole book to see how to say it. la pli a ap vini nan chanm mwen. i said it a few times to get used to the sound and went to talk to her. Manman means Mom in Creole. Man man. Kind of like kava kava or tap tap. Man man! When I told her about it, she just said "un plus?" which means basically "alot?" and I said "wee" and thought something would happen, but she sent a dude to walk over and look at it, when we got in the room he was staring at the ceiling in the middle ignoring the torrent on the side. He then went outside and climbed up in the tree and waved the branches around a bit and then went back up to the front house to watch rap videos.

After a while, nothing else happened, so I looked into my book again to figure out how to ask for a different room. So I went and asked and they understood me and I got a new room.
I spent a bunch of time working on my budget and then we were supposed to go to complex bamboo to talk about getting beds made. I tried to shut my door but then it fell off its hinges.
The Manman and the Man were both gone for the day by then and I wanted to lock my door so I started to try to fix it myself. The wood was completely rotten, so there was nothing for the screws to hold on to. I managed to pound some nails into the wood using bottle caps as washers. It sort of closes now.

While I was working on my budget, Benoit was hanging out with me trying to sew patches on his jeans. The maid came and the little girl, the daughter of the manman. The maid girl really believes I am some sort of mail order catalog, I swear. Every day she is asking me for things. Yesterday she said to me "Lopi, give me the money" "The Money" Not "money"
Today she asked me for a bathing suit and some new jeans. I asked her if I am a mail order catalog. She said "oui" and I said to her "where is the money? Give me the money"
I tried to explain to her what she didn't bother asking me, which is why I am in Haiti.
Benoit helped with the translation. He is French so has an advantage with the language.
She didn't really get it, I dont think. I am sure tomorrow she is going to ask me for a Porsche or a pony or something. Maybe she will ask me for a unicorn.

We went and spoke with one of the craftsmen at Complex Bamboo. It's way more complicated than I thought it would be. My only question is when will my persistent belief that things are going to be easy die? When will the reality of making stuff happen in Haiti sink into my psyche further? I am still in a fantasy land, apparently. I dont have that much out of common with the maid girl after all. It is going to take awhile to set up bamboo bed production. I believe I can though. There is a warehouse where some craftsmen make bamboo furniture. It is owned by the govt, they take a percentage of the workers commission for allowing them to use the space. I am going to go speak with the minister tomorrow to see if they can donate the space to start making bamboo beds for orphanages...

If I can get it set up, many many beds could be produced. At the same time as making nice beds for kids, we could be giving good work for the craftsmen and creating demand for more bamboo to be grown in Haiti. All good. I think I can get this set up and then head back to Brooklyn. It will take about a month to have about twenty bunk beds made. I think they will be a good price, like around $35 bucks American per which is a whole hell of alot cheaper than the metal beds in carrefour. If I go back up to BK I can get access to "the money" and then come back down in a month to deliver beds. Nothing is instantaneous and although they need beds NOW, I am sure they will still need them then. Necessity is the manman of invention.

The two orphanages Dave took me to the other day need beds. Especially the one, poorer of the two places. It was pretty destitute, but at least with Dave's help they have a supply of food. The kids were really dirty but one of them was painting, I assume because he had paint all over his arms. The other place is the orphanage for kids with Aids and it is pretty well set up. It looks nice, its clean, there are already a bunch of beds and three nannies full time. I will help the needy one. I want to have a larger impact. I want to do so much more than I can with limited funds and limited time. There is also the problem of my own sustainability. I am sure all of this can be solved. Time. Patience has never been my strong suit. It's getting stronger though. My patience muscles are sore so that means they are getting bigger. Soon they will be huge and I will be like Buddha. Laughing all the time and dancing.

Last night I went back to this place in town by the beach where they have a big trailer set up for dj's on the weekend. This place makes great, clean food. By "clean" I mean it isnt fried and it isn't cooked in meat. It's boiled yams, bananas and avocado salad. I love it. When I got there it looked closed. Monday night is not hopping there. The chairs were wearily leaning against the tables. I went around to the side where the kitchen is and greeted the ladies. They were so nice to me. The manman there remembered me from the night before when I was trying so hard to say salt. "Sal" i kept saying, she kept saying "sauce?" i was like, no "sal"but I found out that salt is actually "sel" which is only one vowel off from what i was saying.

One vowel can ruin your whole day if you let it. Ask Vanna White.

I got a delicious meal, her kids sat with me and we communicated the best we could. I showed them my little water color and the boy, Peter was really entranced by it. He stared at it and it was like his eyes were caressing it. I drew a picture of him in red pen on my pad. He liked it, but said "pa senblan mwe" which is "it doesnt look like me" I agreed. I gave him the pad to draw on and he made two drawings of people with funny arms. One had a giant bowl of fruit on their head. He wrote by it "Pilo" and "Peter" He thought my name was Pilo, which is fine with me, I like Pilo. Maybe I should change my name again, it's been 20 years at least with Lopi.

I also went off the vegetarian wagon because I tried conch. It's called Lambi here. Oh my god it's delicious! It tastes like gourmet mushrooms.

I will call Zaka tomorrow and ask him to show me the third orphanage. I am all about wrapping this stuff up so I can return to the states. I love Haiti, but I really am beginning to think I will never get out of here. It's like trying to swim in quicksand all up in this piece. It's surreal at times. Today walking up the road in the rain the neighbor girl walked with me. She had a giant metal bowl on her head full of green bananas and a giant leaf from a palm as her umbrella. I walked with her and was washed over with this feeling of being in a dream world.

My old life was a frantic running from silence. The speechless full moon comes out now. (rumi)

thanks for reading me. for now, photos are a no go. comments are appreciated!!
My phone number in Haiti is 509 3110 7529
would love to hear from anyone out there reading this glob

Monday, September 20, 2010

pa pli mal

I can't believe I am still in Haiti. I believe it, but it's kind of amazing that I actually believed I could finish this first phase of the project in 3 weeks. It's been 2 months and 2 days. I am not done yet. Somehow, the finishing touches on this, the first phase of my first humanitarian effort, are hard to bring to a close. Things keep popping up to do.
Build beds out of bamboo, build one more dome, network with NGOs in Jacmel...begin plans my next project,,,,

I almost no longer believe in the random. Things happen that are supposed to happen.
Without getting too woo, I am starting to trust the universe more. Ok, that was pretty woo.

Yesterday, I was wandering around Jakmel, a lazy Sunday, looking for artisans, artists and shoemakers. I found the place of a shoemaker who I am going back to visit today. His name is Watson. I am going to bring him some leather and talk to him about designing sandals.

Lately I have been getting upset at people here who are constantly overcharging me because I am white. Almost every single person I meet tries to squeeze me. Its depressing. I basically quit my job to make a project to help Haitian orphans have shelter and instead of thanking me they charge me triple.

Occasionally I meet a Haitian person who gets it and offers to help me for free. Like Aldy. He came out on the last build in PaP and though he knew I was paying the crew, he said "I'm like you, if you are volunteering, so am I" I paid him anyway, because he is always working for free volunteering for other NGO's and I know he needs money. Also, Pastor Abraham gets it. He drove all the way to Port Au Prince and back to carry my project and me down to Jakmel and he didnt even ask for a penny. I tried to give him money for gas and he wouldnt take it. I like paying Haitian workers, that was part of my plan to stimulate the economy. But I am on a tight budget and unlike the other NGO"s here in Haiti, I cant afford to stimulate the economy that much!

It's a relief when I meet people who want to help because its a good project, not because they look at me and see dollar signs floating around me like amoebas. It's an illusion. Those are actually lice, home boy. That's what you get when you hang around a bunch of adorable orphans. I dont mind them, actually, they keep me company at night, the lice.

I was hoping to meet a certain artist here in Jakmel, but I had lost my phone, so that makes things more difficult. He is a friend of an acquaintance of mine and she had given me his name and phone number and encouraged me to call him. He is a member of an artist collective here in Jakmel. His name is Badio Joseph Junior. So I was wandering around, looking at the makeshift galleries by the bay and then walking on the beach taking photos of old boats. This dude who looked like Bob Marley came up to me and started talking to me in English. He seemed really nice and said he was an artist. I asked his name and he said "Pheonix" So I told him that a friend named Keely gave me a number of an artist to call and it turned out to be him. Its just the nature of the non - randomness of things. He showed me around at an ateliar of young artists and showed me some of his work.. He makes sculptures, collages, out of found objects. I love this type of art and I really enjoyed seeing things normally considered "garbage" come to life as something aesthetically interesting. He also makes paintings of a surreal nature. I took a bunch of photos, but am having some internet issues today (normal) and cant upload.

Yesterday I met another young Haitian artist named Zaka. He is working as a filmmaker. He studies at the Cine Institute. He is doing a documentary about an American artist who died in the earthquake. She was from Vermont.
This is an article about him in the globe and mail
He told me of an orphanage he knows of and I will call him in a bit and ask him to introduce me to the orphanage. I am also going to hire him as a translator so I can call all the orphanages I built domes at so far to check and make sure they are still ok, dry inside etc. I am also hoping to send more beds before I leave Haiti. More on that later in this blog.

So, on the way to town this morning on the back of the nice moto taxi guy who didn't try to double charge me, I see the two big school buses of Vie De France parked outside of this big place. I ask the driver to tally a bit and we drive inside. Vie De France is my friend zamni mwen Pastor Abraham's school. So I go inside and there are about 100 school children, orphans, and a bunch of white people wearing matching teeshirts and sporting fancy cameras. I see a large bag of soccer balls. I see Jean Claude, Abrahams driver and we hug each other. I love that guy, he is so positive all the time. He is the one who taught me "ang proteje nou" means Angels are protecting us. I believe it's quite possible that angels are protecting me and all of us. I mean, I can't prove it, but I can't prove otherwise either, so I might as well imagine angels flying around. It's fun to picture what kind of clothes they might be wearing. My angels wear vests for sure and suspenders and cool hats and cowboy boots or old funny shoes from the 30's

I turn and meet the only white guy there who is not wearing a matching teeshirt so I guess he is in charge of the teeshirt people. He has a sweet silver goatee and reflective sunglasses, so our entire conversation I am looking back at my own reflection and trying to imagine what his eyes are saying. His name is Dave Bird and he is a pastor. He instantly reminds me of my Aunt Mary for some reason. He has some sort of similar vibe about him.

Dave tells me he has a project called Calvary Chapel. They are working with orphanages doing a feeding program, building shelters and they play soccer with the kids. From the look of it, they are doing some great work.

I tell him about Domes For Haiti and he says he knows of two orphanages that might need help here in Jakmel. He says to call him later and he can come pick me up and take me out to visit these joints. I say sweet and go to get back on the moto. About 6 dudes shake my hand as I walk to the bike, "I'm Jose, I'm Frank, I'm Doodaddy" I get back on the bike and continue to struggle with the conversation with the moto dude who speaks dominican spanish. He shows me his little bottle of "cuervo" and (its about 8am)
takes a nip. He explains he likes to drink while he is working. His work is driving, so basically, I am getting a ride with a drinking driver. Awesome. Buenas Dias! I shout to him in the wind.

I get to town, buy a new phone to replace the old phone that a dude found after it fell out of my pocket while driving the motobike in PaP in a particularly hairy series of pot holes. The dude wouldn't give my phone back and I have been phoneless for about two weeks. Its made things unduly hard in an already arduous world, so I finally broke down and bought a new one and replaced the sim card so the dude with my old phone will not be using my Haiti number anymore and when I come back to Haiti I will have a phone already on arrival. The number is 011- 509 - 3110 - 7529 incidentally, and if you call it from the states, it is a fact that it charges my phone minutes up. So, please feel free to call me to say "hello, you are an insane weirdo" or whatever you want to say to me. It will add minutes! In Haiti, you buy as you go on cell phones. Call me, ask me smart ass questions, go ahead, I'll answer them the best I can.

I am hoping to wrap things up here pretty quick so I can get back to the states and figure out my life and start planning for my next project.

I am hoping to hire some furniture makers in Jakmel who work with bamboo to build some bunk beds for the street kids orphanage and the orphanage down here in Jakmel
I love bamboo and I want to support cottage industry utilizing bamboo. The furniture they make is so pretty too and its light weight, so it will be easy to transport it back up to Port Au Prince. The money people have been donating since Joan's article will be spent towards these new beds. My last little burst of goodness before I go back to Brooklyn will be to purchase as many beds as I can with the money I am finding in my paypal account. Thank you to all of you who are making such generous donations!

Joan is writing a follow up article about Haiti and will be featuring my budget in there, I think, so if you are curious about how the money has been spent, please have a look at the National Catholic Reporter in about a week. Or email me. I would be happy to send you a copy if you are curious. This project has a very tight turn around when it comes to donations. We hadn't been receiving any donations while I have been in Haiti until Joan wrote that article. It stimulated interest and we saw an immediate result. Thank You Joan Chittister for writing about this project! I am currently trying to figure out how to turn that money into cash in hand in Haiti so I can buy some more beds.

I will be going to meet with the bamboo people soon to negotiate the job of building bunk beds to bring back to the orphanages in PaP. I hope to get at least 5 made each for the orphanages that need beds. How many I can have made depends on how much money I find in my paypal and if I can manage to access my funds via a bank here. It should be doable.

I apologize for the lack of photos lately, it's very challenging to upload photos on limited internet access. It just doesn't work that well down here!! When I get back to Brooklyn, I will be uploading many many photos and some videos too. You can also take a look at my flickr account here:

The possibilities for networking here are immense. I keep meeting people from various NGO's that are in high positions. I hope that for my next project I have more support from the inception because having no funding last time really slowed me down considerably. Shout out to Will Etundi for helping me to raise the much needed funds to get this project off the ground!! Thanks Will!! Thanks to 3rd Ward and all of my Brooklyn Peeps. I love you guys.

I went the other day to a Shelter Cluster Meeting. It was pretty posh, the chairs had satin covers with red bows around them and they handed you a pad of paper and a pen when you walked in the door. The moderators were speaking Upper Class Creole which is very close to French. I sat near a man with beautiful grey dreadlocks who was translating for a blond american woman. My new friend Laura from SIDR and I sat close to him so we could hear what was going on. It was alot of ranting about bureaucracy and status and then they got to the really good stuff. The promised funding. They listed huge sums of money and what it was to go towards. This is what they call "soft" money. It's not actual "hard cash" but promised donations. It seemed rather dubious who would actually put their hands on the money and when but they were encouraging the NGO's present to make proposals for building permanent shelters with the funding. Very few actual permanent structures have gone up. I am amazed at the types of construction that I see on the ground here. Tin roof shacks which will splinter like toothpicks in a hurricane are prevalent. I met a man named Marco from World Hunger. The man with the grey dreads is from Konpay. His name is Joe. They are building shelters as well. I had a conversation with them about using bamboo.

I left the meeting to use the loo and couldnt help but notice what looked like a pretty good spread being laid out for the NGO's. Free Lunch!! Oh yea, it was yummy too, lots of vegetarian choices.

The problem with the current bamboo situation here is that the bamboo that is prevalent in Haiti right now is not good for building with. It has too much sugar in it, so it attracts termites. Cultivating a new strain takes time. Thinking long term rebuilding of Haiti, Bamboo cultivation is of the highest priority. In about 10 years they should have a really good bamboo farming industry here. It has to be cultivated in a certain way, so that the older stalks can be accessed with out cutting the younger ones.

Getting access to the money from the paypal is going to be an interesting challenge. There are no ATM's in Jakmel, apparently... I am probably going to western union some money to myself to pick up here.

I just phoned Dave from Calvary Chapel and he is on his way to pick me up to take me to see some orphanages. It should be good. I hope to visit an orphanage that accepts only kids with AIDS.

I just got back from the orphanage visit with Dave. He showed me two. One of them is in pretty bad shape and it looks like they could use a new shelter. Score! Also, they have no beds. Score! Looks like I have some work to do now. Maybe I will finish this project soon after all....

thanks for reading me. comments are always welcome!

paz y luce

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ang Proteje Nou

Me and Eva at the orphanage site...... she is a real sweetheart

Finishing up in Port Au Prince was not a simple task. What could have been simple
under normal circumstances became another obstacle maze to navigate. We
finished off both domes with front porches and sand paths leading up to
them, but we had to make a shade structure and the anchors needed to
set over night. I had been given a deadline to leave GRU because of
irreconcilable incompatibility. More about that later....

David and I had decided to go on the motorbike on Sunday to attempt to
construct the shade structure between the two of us. So, after packing
all morning into the early afternoon, we finally got on the bike to go.
After we were driving for about ten minutes, the bike started to swerve
back and forth in a somewhat alarming way. The back wheel had gone flat,
leaving us swishing back and forth like a drunken fish. I managed to
pull safely over to the side of the road. It being sunday, everything
was closed. But a couple friendly guys on the side of the road told us
in creole there was a place just a short distance ahead. So, I
determinedly started to push the bike, arduously in the hot sun towards
the distant wheel repair spot. The guys watched as they were
walking and then they started to tell me something in Creole. I figured
out that they meant to start up the bike and put it in first gear and
walk next to it, it would be easier. So I did, only I didn't realize you
could just let it idle, so I was sort of run/walking next to the bike,
clumsily trying to keep up with it as i gave it little bursts of gas.
David was walking behind and watching me.

The men started shouting at us again in Creole. We figured out again
they were saying you dont need to put the gas on, just let it idle and
it would go at a better speed for walking. Sometimes communication is
such a simple thing. Words just get in the way.

So, we go to the spot, I negotiate a price with the dude, quite badly,
actually, which creates an instant camaraderie because we are both
laughing at me and we agree on 150 gourdes which is just about 3 bucks
American, and they commence to fixing it. When Haitian tire fixer
vendors fix tires, they have an entirely different method than
Americans. They have this little contraption that you light up and then
it heats up a sort of metal press. They stick some gummy looking stuff
on the tire where its busted and shove it under the hot press, leaving
it to melt for a very scientific amount of time. In this case it was
exactly how long it took the dude to pry off the tire from a ginormous
truck rim. So he gets it all fixed up, i pay him, we get back on the
bike and drive away. The sky looks pretty ominous at this point and then
I go over a bridge and realize I am not going the right way at all. We
are lost! So, I ask David if he is hungry and he says yes, so we decide,
fuck it, lets go to the store and buy some food and go back to the base
and cook a vegetarian dish. We are both tired of the psuedo vegi food
we've been being fed for weeks now. Haitians dont really get the concept
of a meat free dish. They think as long as you pluck out the chunks of
goat meat or cow or pig or chicken or fish that its good to go. My
standards have definitely loosened since being in Haiti. I realized that on my
flight back to Haiti after my last visit to NYC when suddenly the airline was serving food
(surprise surprise) and then it was a chicken and pasta dish. I asked for a vegetarian
option, of course there wasn't one and I was hungry. So I just plucked
the chicken out of the pasta and ate what was left.

So we head back to the base and make dinner. It's my last night at GRUB.
BZ and Emma are cooking in the kitchen. We join in for a kitchen party.

David and I stay up late talking about building container houses out of
old containers with old cars attached to them in odd ways to create
bedrooms and chill out spaces. He is working with Give Love on Humanure and container houses. He is very into shit. He calls himself the shit man.

The next morning, David and I set out to make another attempt at
constructing the shade shelter before noon when Pastor Abraham is coming
with a truck to get me and all my gear and the last dome to bring it
all to Jacmel.

So, I make sure to get really good directions from Aldy and we jump on
the bike and go. I am driving and I am remembering the way. I am
notoriously bad at directions. I can drive somewhere 100 times and still
get lost. It's not that I am unobservant, I am overly observant, I
notice odd things, expressions on people's faces, bits of trash, a
skinny dog, an ancient man pulling a giant wooden two wheeled cart...
those things are not always good landmarks, though. This time I dont get
lost. I see all the landmarks. The UN, the painted wall, the police
station, the park with the clothes hanging in the trees, the broken down
hearse with the american flag in the garbage in front of it... Dr Roberts orphanage is on the way and we pass that too. Suddenly, the bike just stops. Out of gas! Brilliant.

So I coast up to a dude with a shelving unit on the sidewalk with diesel
fuel on top and gas on the bottom in plastic half gallon jugs. He puts
one half gallon in and then attempts to charge me the equivalent of 7
bucks american for it! I swear most Haitians equate "Blan" with "Lejan"
which is money, gat mo mo. I sometimes feel like I dont look human at
all to these people but more like a dollar bill with arms and legs. The
legs are only there to carry me to them and the arms are only there to
hand them cash. My head is just a bobbing bauble babbling bad Creole.
But it's getting better.

I definitely know enough Creole to shut them up when they start asking
for money. Mostly I say "Mwen Pov" which means "I'm poor" which they never believe and they usually respond with "Ou pa pov" or "blan pa pov" or "Mwen POV" to which
I respond "Nou Pov" which means "We are poor" But there are many
variations to this exchange and it sometimes attracts a crowd as I get
more and more animated.
I am better than tv, apparently. That's not saying much, tv sucks.

Anyway. I hand the guy 150 gourdes and say "Fini" and we get on the bike
and drive away. We have a shade structure to build! I drive for about 5
minutes and the bike starts feeling weird again. I pull over to the
side of the street and look down and sure enough, the back tire is flat!
Again! The scientific method from the day before failed! Marde!

These days when shit happens, I just deal with it, I dont even get upset
anymore. It's just Haiti. David and I theorize that the tire dudes are
throwing nails in the street to pop our tires to get more business, but
it's hard telling, no knowing. So, we look around. There are no tire
repair places in sight but there is a bicycle repair situation across
the street. So we push the bike over and indicate the pwoblem. They say
they cant repair it, they point across the street where I can buy yet
another inner tube for this bike tire. I had to buy one a week before in
Jacmel where we had a similar patch job go south. That was a two flat
day, that day in Jacmel. It was splendorous. Aldy and I ate in a fancy
restaurant while we waited for the guy to fix our tire. They had real plates, metal
silverware, ice cubes in glasses! The luxury was over the top.

So, we walk across the street and I buy an inner tube to go with my
inner teen who loves driving a motorbike so much. I go back across the
street and then the dudes tell us they still cant repair it. One of the
bicycle dudes, who are my people, incidentally, says he can find someone
and leaves to go retrieve a fixer upper out of the crowd of people in
the market across the street.

He comes back with a short kid with a big crescent wrench. I mean, he
is short because he is a kid, he is not a particularly short kid. The
wrench looks even bigger in comparison to him, though

You give a kid a tool and they can do wonders with it. This kid set to
work removing the back wheel while a group of grown men stood around
watching. Us Blan went to chill in the shade of a big tree and drink Tampico and
smoke cigs. Bad habit I picked back up in Haiti. The cigarettes are good here, no
chemical additives. David and I have alot to talk about.

Give Love responded immediately when I introduced the new orphanage
site. They set up a site survey the very next day to assess the
possibilities of the proposed site. Kevin from Kleiworks came out to see the site as well.
When they saw the positive potential they followed through with making
contact with the Director
I am happy to report that Give Love is negotiating to build a
compost toilet at the street kids orphanage. I love Give Love. David
tells me that I remind him of another woman he met from Brooklyn when he
was in Costa Rica, where he is studying permaculture. I ask him how I
am similar to her and he says "she was unstoppable" I take it as a

I look over and one of the dudes standing around nods at me indicating
that the job is done.
So we get up and stroll over. This happy dude starts saying Rastafari
and Hali Salasie to David and grinning because David is a Swiss German
dude with Blond Dreadlocks.
We laugh. The bike dude says its 100 gourde and holds his hand out. I
take out 100 gourde and give it to the kid. They all laugh. I pick up
the used inner tube and put it around the kids neck like a rubber scarf
and give him the equivalent of a high five, which in Haiti is a fist
pound and then you punch your heart. We get on the bike and have no
pwoblems and we get back to the orphanage.

Bruce Lee is there working and we are happy to see each other. David and
I start to construct the shade shelter. We take the giant tarp and spread it out
and roll up either side to the center mark to carry it over to the spot where we have two bamboo posts prepped to go up with the tarp attached to it. However, we happened to choose the windiest day I have witnessed so far in Haiti to put up a shade structure with not enough people and not enough time. The neighbor dude joins Bruce Lee and his builder friend to try to assist us. They start shouting at us in Creole.

We stop and go sit in the shade to show them our drawing. We have it all figured out.
Bruce Lee's broken English collides with my broken Creole and David's Swiss German to make quite a shit stack. The neighbor suddenly jumps up and runs to get another neighbor and returns with a well dressed guy who, it turns out, speaks English, Creole and Swiss German! What are the chances of that?

I am getting nervous because Pastor Abraham is on his way to pick me and my entire project up from GRUB to bring me to Jacmel. I call him and luckily he is stuck in traffic. It is buying me more time, but not enough to really build this thing. But I have 100 american dollars in my pocket. So I offer the dudes a job. They accept.
We explain it all to them, I give the builder dude my tape measure because he doesnt have one and I have two and we leave.

I get back to the base, have lunch with David and do last minute packing. Sam checks my suitcase and boxes to make sure I am not stealing anything. Thank God! I would hate to be accused of taking things that dont belong to me to help Haitians rebuild their country.

I visit and say my goodbyes to Kevin from Kleiworks, Lucho from Give Love, Emma from GRU, Joanne the cook and Aldy. Pastor Abraham shows up and we load up his truck. I meet Jean-Claude his driver. We set out for Jacmel in their truck heavily loaded with Domes for Haiti's tools and last dome.

The trip is spent well with Abraham and I having a great conversation about God, service, education and community. I really enjoy talking with him even though I am not a religious person. To me, God is not some dude in white robes sitting up in the clouds. God is a concept invented by humans. My version of God is simple.
God = Love

On the way, before we hit the mountains, we are driving at quite a clip and suddenly there is a truck coming right for us. Jean-Claude expertly navigates us off the side of the road just in time to avoid hitting a person on the side of the road and the truck coming at us! Then I learn a new Haitian phrase. "Ang Proteje Nou" which means Angels are protecting us.

I have been in Jacmel for a few days now. Internet access is spotty.

I will update more tomorrow or the next day to let you all know what I have been up to here in Jacmel.

Briefly I will say that I am still looking for my last site. I have decided with Pastor Abraham that my tenth dome could have a greater impact at a different site. I am currently networking in Jacmel to meet artisans, future project collaborators and to find an orphanage that needs a good temporary transitional shelter.

I am coming to the conclusion that my next phase is going to involve transforming the domes I have built so far into permanent structures by removing the skins and adding concrete. I am still planning this.

I am expecting to head back up to Port Au Prince on my way out of dodge for two days and buy some more beds for my orphanages and check in on them before heading back to brooklyn

Today I went to a shelter cluster meeting which seemed like a rant session but they did serve us a great buffet! I also met a great lady from SIDR.

more later..... thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

mwe parle creole tounkou chat

We returned full force to the street kids orphanage site early yesterday morning, the crew, increased in size from 5 to 7, was piled into Petends tap tap with all of our gear. Aldy in the front seat with Petends. I took the motorbike and passed them until I got unsure about the way and then would tally for them to catch up. We played leap frog through the Port Au Prince morning traffic,the ever present teams of yellow shirted Haitian workers lining the streets wearing rubber boots pulling all manner of slime out of the gutters and forming bucket brigade lines handing rubble, piece by piece into a giant mack truck. I thought to myself, holy shit, I bought an entire truck of that stuff for 2000 gourdes. How much does each worker get paid, I wondered.

We arrived at the site and got to work finishing up the drainage ditches. Moving rubble to fill in the muddy yard. Around 11:30, Nephtalie and I took off on the moto to go pick up lunch. We went to some obscure joint on a twisty dirt road to buy 8 plates of food only to find it shut for the day. We turned around and ended up finding another lady cooking on the side of the road. She had a nice set up with a sort of shack restaurant with tables and chairs. She smiled and said it would be ready in ten minutes.

We filled up three plastic bags full of styrofoam containers of food for the crew and magically managed to balance it slightly unprecariously on the back of the bike. We then stopped at this little store to buy drinks. Aldy had requested a Guinness Stout and they actually had one, which i took to be something short of a miracle.

We had lunch under the tree and got back to work, finishing up the second dome and making 6 anchor supports for the shade structure. Keeping 7 workers busy is like juggling peeled mangoes. It's slippery at best. Add in a language barrier and you become like a ridiculous mime juggling peeled mangoes. I am sure I was quite a site, covered with mud pantomiming various tools and actions with a creole word inserted here and there for good measure.

We took the crate that Greg Henderson made back in Brooklyn to ship all the struts for all ten domese in and made it into a front porch for dome number 8. We took the palette that Matt Sperry shipped all the dome skins on an made that into a little porch for dome number nine. We made two little sand paths leading up to each dome and they looked sweeeeeet. The porch on dome number eight features graffitti tags from Jersey Hammer and LMNOP. The stencil of my cat Joe is painted on it as is Domes for Haiti and Brooklyn NYC. Got to represent, yo.

We got it all done and the kids had a spontaneous dance party while tamping down the white paths.

It was a pretty awesome day, altogether, but I still have to return to the site today to put up the shade structure which we couldnt do yesterday because the concrete anchors needed time to set. I am using six bamboo poles, six anchors, 6 ratchet straps, some rope and a giant tarp with NEED CASH? written in large bold letters on the top. It has an 800 number on it too. No doubt this will increase their marketing scheme tenfold..... It's ironic as hell to be housing a bunch of street kids under a sign reading "need cash" maybe not even ironic, more just redundant.

Today I am packing up my stuff, getting ready to leave GRUB. Laundry, packing and sorting is actually pretty enjoyable for me. A group of us are under the mango tree doing laundry. There were a bunch of people laying on two cots drinking rum and beer, but they all disappeared. Maybe they went back to bed or to the beach.

I am excited and relieved to be this close to completion of the first phase of my first humanitarian project. I am super excited to spend a week in Jacmel, meeting people, building dome number ten and painting some portraits on the beach.

I will be sad to say good bye to some of the people here at GRU. It's been a long two months! Some long lasting friendships have been formed with both locals from the community and partner organizations and volunteers based here.

I collected a bunch of water bags and typical Haitian trash to bring back to the states with me. Yes, I am bringing Haitian trash back to the states! I am going to be experimenting with designing some sort of handbag out of plastic trash with the hopes of bringing the design back to Haiti in a few months to get a cottage business started transforming trash into money.

thanks for reading!

Friday, September 10, 2010

mud pies

I am still in Port Au Prince.

Making plans in Haiti is a silly person's endeavor. It always never turns out as you planned, so why do I bother with plans? I am a silly human, that is why. Humans are funny creatures.

I was supposed to leave here on Friday at noon to head to Jacmel to build dome number TEN. But then mud happened. It has been the hardest build of the entire trip.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, we are building a new orphanage. One for street kids.

Only, its a completely raw space, there is nothing there. I found out, day two, after we got hit with a doozy of a thunder and lightening storm on day one, that the water table on the land is extremely high. This makes it extremely MUDDY!

We returned the next day to find a veritable lake under the dome frames we had set up, two of them. It was completely perplexing situation, not to mention that I hadn't brought any rubber boots for the crew to work in, so I had to leave them to return to the base to collect all the rubber boots on the premises. Of course I got stuck in a two hour traffic jam while the kids were over there slogging around barefoot in the mud trying to dig canals. Worst day ever. My back went out too, so I was somewhat rigidly postured all day, in extreme pain. Wonderful day!

So last night, I was extremely disheartened and in total back pain when I returned to the base. I appealed to Emma, the Orphanage Coordinator at GRU to help me get more help to finish this project. This morning I was given a project manager, Aldy and two more haitian volunteers, only I would be paying them so they are technically not volunteers when they are on my crew. I was totally happy because Aldy is bon zammi mwe..

I am really very fortunate to have been able to work with pretty much only Haitian locals as my team. There have been a few volunteers who have helped who were north americans of some sort or other, (shout out to Hannah) but for the most part I have been solely working with Haitians.

It's why I came here, so this is important to me. I am learning Creole, feeling part of the community more and more here.

Yesterday was intense. When I returned to the site with the rubber boots, I was hoping that the truck of rubble we ordered had arrived. I had high hopes for a huge pile of rubble being spread out in a circle. My hopes were dashed into the mud. (oh the drama!) There was no pearly white shining rubble pile. Marde. We spend most of the time in Haitii waiting. Sometimes the thing that you are waiting for comes, eventually. Other times it doesnt come at all. Most times the pwoblem is machine related. Sometimes something entirely unexpected shows up. You make do with what you got.

We tried to find someone else to call to bring rubble, but to no avail. So the madame that lives there suggested we walk out to the road and flag down a passing mack truck full of rubble. I am not kidding you. We went out to the road, Nephtalie me and this lady. Pretty soon, sure enough, here comes a huge truck full of rubble. I start waving my arms like a mad blanc. The truck stops. We run up to it and start to negotiate a price.
They want 6,000 gourde! It's like 150 bucks american. I'm like, uh no, merci

And then we trudge back to the site through the muddy mudfilled mud lane dejectedly. I am feeling literally swamped. I had plans! In Jacmel! I felt like I would never get this build done. I couldn't put the domes up on top of mud, but I had a deadline to get out of GRU by Saturday at noon. Not self imposed. More about that later.

So, I ask the lady again, after a long coversation about why I dont have any kids. if she knows anyonne who can deliver rubble, today. She says oui. She calls a dude who says he can bring a load over and drop it on the site for 2000 gourdes, which is almost 50 US. So I say oui and pretty soon here comes a guy in a big mack dump truck filled up with rubble. I was excited!

The dude promptly got stuck in the neighbor's front yard. His giant tire was sunk in the soft soil. He seems quite irate and everyone is yelling ideas and suggestions at the same time. The guy suddenly starts to dump his entire load behind himself btween the rear of his truck and the road, thus blocking himself in. Because there is no way forward besides a very muddy area where he would never be able to make it. BUT there is a back alley way kind of path on the other side of the site that I had already noticed as a possible truck route for dumping the gravel.

The back of his truck starts lifting, rubbles start falling, I shout, "STOP!" "FINI!'
Until the guy stops. Immediately when he stops, everyone watching, all my crew, all the neighbors, even the kids, start yelling. No one is listening to anyone else.
Its a cacophony of sound, a calvicade of voices. I again shout "SILENCIO" which I think is actually Spanish. Everyone is quiet. I say listen to me, and tell Nellie to translate to the driver for me. I tell him not to dump the load there ,but to back the truck up instead because he would get stuck in the mud on the other side. Of course he didn't listen;
I told him if you dump the rubble there, I am not paying for it. He says I dont care if you pay for it or not, i need to get out of here. So he dumps it behind himself and then gets his truck unstuck and drives right up the mud driveway and just sinks his giant front wheel into a really deep sink hole. Blam. Stuck. Um, yeah, hate to say I told you so, and I dont know how to say that in Creole yet.

Anyway there is an even bigger commotion but then I get tired of this dude and all his drama, I pay him 1500 gourde, to be fair because he dropped the load where I did not want it, creating an entire extra day labor to move the stuff with a wheel barrow. If he had just listened to me in the first place, he could have driven it up the back way where it was firm and dumped in practically on the exact spot..

So we made do.

Now, a day later, we managed to get one dome up and skinned and the other plot mostly prepped, but it still needs more work. Also, it is raining alot right now, so
we'll see how good the canals work. I am sure it will be flooded around the dome, but I am pretty sure the dome itself will be dry inside. I am hoping.

One can only hope.

I had no idea this was going to prove to be the hardest build of all. I mean, I thought it would be a simple build, I was wrong. I am hoping to finish it up by tomorrow night, but this is Haiti. I got an extension on my deadline, more on that later.

I am getting very tired. I have alot of work to do tomorrow.
Shout out to Aldy and my entire crew. You guys are amazing.

I have many many awesome photos of this build! I haven't time right now to upload them, however. If you check back on Sunday night, I'll have them up.

Thanks for reading me!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ou se bon zanmi mwe

I am waiting for a truck to come and pick up my crew, equipment and myself today to go to Bon Repos to build two domes at one location. We are helping an organization start a brand new orphanage. I am extremely excited to be in a position to help the street kids of Port Au Prince be taken care of. A few days ago, Lynn Currier from the Haitkaah Social Justice Project contacted me the other day. She wrote a long email to me explaining how she has been struggling to find support for her project to build an orphanage to house the street kids on Port Au Prince, whom it seems, have fallen through the cracks in many ways and are without any support whatsoever. I was excited by her email and responded immediately telling her that if she wanted a dome built on her site she would have to move swiftly because I am leaving Port Au Prince on Friday to go to Jacmel to build there.
I told her that I would be happy to go and assess any sites they had in mind to see if it was an appropriate place to put a dome (or two)

Dr. Julie Bertrand of Kore Timoun met up with us and brought me to see two sites. The second one I viewed in the dark. I decided after lengthy discussions with this wonderful woman who started her own project when she was 12 (!) to support their endeavors with everything I could muster.

One of the beauties of being a small organization, with basically one core member is that decisions can be made quickly and acted upon just as swiftly. From the time she contacted me to the time I am building on her site is just 3 days. The domes will go up in one and a half days. We will build a shade structure over the two domes with some bamboo I am purchasing from my colleagues at Kleiworks and some tarps being donated by Dave Holmes from International Medical Corps.

Once the shelters are in place, the orphanage will start to take shape. There are several organizations poised to place amenities on the site, but they require shelters to be present before they can act. I am providing the necessary puzzle piece to start the ball rolling to get those kids in housing. Many of them are severely malnourished. Many of them are runaway restavecs.

I dont even know what the orphanage is going to be called yet!

This will be dome number eight and nine.

Dome number ten will be being build in Jacmel this weekend. I met a man named Pastor Abraham who runs a school and orphanage in Jacmel who I made a very solid connection with. He has 800 students at his school which he founded in 1999. His curriculum includes music, art, construction and dance in addition to the basic reading, writing arithmetic. My next project is forming in my mind as this, my first humanitarian project comes to a close. When I was in art school, a favorite teacher of mine told me to always start a new painting before the one I was working on was done. That way you would have your foot in the pool ready to start swimming again when the work was done.

I have my foot in a new pool. The connections I am making with Haitian organizations are cherished by me. This is what I came here for. To work with and for Haitians.

I am excited as well to begin designing a hub system for bamboo dome construction. When I was in Jacmel over the weekend we met with a Taiwanese bamboo expert named Jimmy Jine who is paid by the government of Taiwan to serve as a consultant for a Haitian Organization called Complex Bamboo. They support the reforestation of Haiti with bamboo, improved poultry production and the cultivation of tropical fruit trees among the peasant farmers in Haiti. They have a bamboo nursery, a bamboo furniture factory and they also raise chickens.

I absolutely loved Jacmel.
I am excited to be donating all of my tools to an excellent school where many people will benefit from them. I will be moving my entire project to Jacmel on Friday to wrap it up with the final build of dome number ten.

I am still waiting for this darn truck to pick us up. It's Haiti. It's hot. Part of my tent collapsed this morning inexplicably. I guess it sensed that my time is coming to a close here in Port Au Prince.

Our trip back from Jacmel was intense. We were on two motorbikes and we rode over the mountain pass at the perfect time of day to do so; sunset. It was superb. Many people were perched along the road in groups socializing as the sun set. It was a serene drive.. until we hit Carrefore. Then all hell broke loose! Mud!

Huge holes in the road, trucks, cars, people, motobikes all swarming around like crazy wind up toys who somehow magically dont collide. I videotaped from the back of the bike, but I cant upload it until I get back to my home computer in Brooklyn

I plan on spending a few days decompressing on the beach in Jacmel, doing some water color portraits and drinking coconuts before I return to the states to start resourcing for the next trip to Haiti.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Thank you to Emmaus for the donation of $500! Thanks also to the individual donations that have come in in the last few days. I went today and spent $300 bucks of it on beds for an orphanage in Carrefore that we had found yesterday after a long day searching for an orphanage to construct the dome we had in the truck on.

We got up early, thinking we had an orphanage lined up based on another organization's recomendation. I normally dont go blindly to an orphanage to build without first visiting and making an assessment. The reason I decided to do it yesterday was because I was getting a little desperate. I had spent much of the previous day calling around to orphanages and getting little results. We had reached one in Carrefore and they had said that they both needed a shelter and had space for one. But then a friend told me she had a spot for a dome that had been assessed by another organization to be in desperate need of a shelter.

The crew arrived at 9am, ready to go. The tap tap driver's truck had other plans other than functioning. It was functioning on its plan "b" which was to "not go" and take the "day off"
So I desperately called around to find another tap tap. Finally, we reached Gin Gin the dude that had driven us a few times. He agreed to send Caleb, his teenaged son (might I add, Angst ridden to that description?) if I agreed to pay $60. I said I would agree to pay $60 bucks if he was there in 15 minutes. Ha ha, that turned out to be a pretty good joke and a worthless bluff. An hour and a half later, he showed up.

We loaded up the truck and started driving. Emma from GRU decided to join us that day.
Emma is great. The Aussie Orphanage chick. It was her contact that had given us the thumbs up on the orphanage that needed shelter. So we headed over, it was in Bon Repos, again. We got there and it was a pretty awful set up. Half the property was under water and swampy. The other half was rocks and garbage, the other half ( i know my fractions are not lining up, its artistic license. ) was the front yard, which turns out the "master" would not allow building upon. Yes, I said Master. That's what the pastor, who was lying on a cot under a tree called the owner of the house. The worst translator ever was sitting next to him. We proceeded to have the most confusing and circular conversation in history. It made no sense whatsoever. He said the Master was kicking him out, but yet he was still living there. I am not going to explain all of the perplexing ins and outs of the conversation, but it was shady as hell, so we disentangled ourselves from him and left.

We decided to go to Carrefore to find this orphanage we had made contact with the day before on the phone. They had said that their shelter had recently blown away. Carrefore is pretty far from where we were, so we drove and drove and then the angsty teenaged driver Caleb, started asking and calling the woman at the orphanage to ask directions. It took alot of figuring out. The roads were insane. San Fransisco has nothing on these roads. Straight up the side of a freaking mountain. Dirt road with ruts and big huge holes and random piles of rubble and garbage. Beautiful scenery though. Gorgeous cliffs covered with stucco looking houses. Verdant Fauna, huge palm trees, banana trees, papaya trees. Just gorgeous. The Creole word for banana is "fig" thats rather confusing.

Emma in the back seat of the cab of the truck with me and angst boy who is beeping at kids and recklessly driving like an insane person. The giant container of peanut butter in the back seat with Emma spills. We have the great peanut butter spill in the back seat. It gets all over her foot. It looks like shit. We are laughing our asses off. The driver has steam coming out his ears. We finally arrive. We laughingly ask for some water to wash her foot off. That's our introduction. They look at us warily. We try to laugh it off.

The lady takes me and Nephtalie into a little shack. It s a gorgeous site, on top of a mountain. They totally totally need shelter, thank god. She tells me about her orphanage and the activities she does with the kids. I am understanding more and more of Creole. She points to the arts and crafts, the games, karate uniforms... I introduce myself and my project to her. I tell her I am a very small organization of one person. I tell her my community in Brooklyn raised money to send me. I start to get choked up at that point. I tell her I have a team of Haitian teens who I trained how to build the domes and I am paying to be my crew.
We ask her if we can build a dome on her property if she wants one. She says that they had been praying to God to send them a new shelter and she believes I am the answer to that prayer.

I dont argue about it.

We start to unload the truck and notice the thunder clouds and lightening. They say, "the rain is coming" I say to the kids "should we leave?" they are like "NO!" so we decide to build it in the fucking rain! So we get to work and build that shit. Quickly.

I go and meet the kids. They are sitting under a partial building watching the Lion king on a tv. They are super friendly and as all Haitian kids seem to love getting their photos taken.

I look at their chalk board and it reminds me of a Cy Twombly painting.

I make friends with the Turkey

We build it and the Pastor asks me if I am an Indian. I say, you think I am Indian?
He says "I am a spiritual man" I say "Yes! I'm an Indian!"

It was a wonderful day. On the way back it started to pour rain and I got in the back of the truck with the kids so that I would also get wet. No need for me to be the dry person in the front while they are all getting soaked.

I cant write a full account! I am trying to get out of here to go to Jakmel.

This is going to have to be enough for now. Check back later, I will write more about the dome being on the roof unexpectedly and post a photo of it. ha ha

I went to visit dome number one the day before yesterday to deliver some beds to them and was totally shocked beyond my wildest dreams to see that they had moved the dome!
It was on the ROOF! It was the most surprizing moment of my entire trip to Haiti.
Photos to follow and a much longer blog post.

We are having a mini burning man here on the base tonite. A few of the weirdos here built an effigy of a man and we are going to set it on fire at midnight.

Tomorrow I am going to Jacmel for the day. I am hoping to meet with a man named Pastor Abraham and see about donating tools to his technical college and building a dome for his orphanage.

I am gearing up to finish up this phase of my project in about a weeks time.

I am going to Jakmel to make a connection there to see about building a dome down there. Dome number ten. Monday I will visit Kay Famn and bring them the sewing machine that Kae Burke gave me along with all the fabric and notions I brought from MTFA (sorry! I know its supposed to be only for the five burroughs!)

Tuesday and Wed will be build days. Thursday packing day. Friday I hope to move all my shit to Jakmel.

I hope to be back in the states soon, eating blueberries and riding my bike.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ti fi kay

Today we built Dome Number 6. Yesterday we did not build. It was my birthday!
Monday we constructed Dome Number 5.

I will start with today and go backwards this time, just for a little change of pace.

We made our way back to Bon Repos to bring a dome to Dr. Robert's Orphanage and School. Dr. Robert's teaches at a nurse's school but he also is the director of a small orphanage as well. He is a sweet man who speaks some English and reminds me of Mr. Rogers, but instead of a sweater, he is wearing a scrubs shirt.

Pretty large and awesome yard the kids have to play in, with several big trees providing ample shade and appendages to support several swings. There is a shack with a chalk board and desks for the kids to sit at, kind of an outdoorsy classroom. They have a cement building where they prepare food and the girls have been sleeping. The boys have two large tents that they share. Today, we were building a dome for the girls!

Half way through the day, I realized I had forgotten the bag of zip ties back at the base. Also there was a guy at the base working who works also for an orphanage. He wanted to show me the orphanage so I could see if they need a dome. So, today's driver, Dan, and I went back to the base and I left Nephtalie in charge of the build. A first. Leaving them to supervise themselves and build it right.

the Dome Team!
So we went back, I got the zip ties and scarfed down a peanut butter sandwich. The Dream Team was eating spaghetti for lunch at the dome site but it had hot dogs in it which I dont care too much about eating. I dont usually munch on hot dogs, not since I was a kid and had serious food poisoning from a hot dog. Right, Jen? My sister remembers that trip to Buffalo. We had a great time puking on the train. But that is another story, another lifetime ago!

We arrived back at the dome site, handed off the zip ties and I checked the work. Perfect.
Dr. Roberts had invited a friend of his who also runs an orphanage "nearby" for me to meet.
He wanted to show me his orphanage to see if maybe I would put a dome there, I guess.
So, I decided to let the Dream Teens to continue supervising themselves on doing the hardest part of the build without me, putting the cover on, while I went with Jefflo and this other dude and the driver to check out the other two orphanages.

First, we followed dude in his totally new SUV to his "nearby" orphanage. It was totally far! I really get frustrated when people stretch the truth to suit their needs. Its pretty annoying. But, this is Haiti. So we finally arrived at the guys Orphanage. I immediately couldn't help but notice that he had Two Houses, which were completely undamaged in any way. It added to my feeling of irritation a wee bit that not only was his place not "nearby" at all, he clearly didn't need shelter. When I said this to him, in as polite a manner as possible, through a translator, he claimed that they didn't use the nicer of the two houses at all. As he was saying this I was taking mental notes of the fresh fluffy looking curtains in the window and the kids freely coming and going from inside the house he doesn't use at all. Truth was rather like putty in this fellows hands. When he realized I wasn't buying what he was selling, salt water taffy, he changed his horse midstream. "We need food" he stammered. I did not doubt this in the least. Everyone needs Mange. "I dont have food" I said to him through a translator, "I only have shelter, and clearly, you do not need shelter. Not like some places who have nothing. I hope you can agree that there are other places who are in greater need of shelter than you, oui?"

It's sometimes precarious for me to even visit an orphanage. I do not like the unrealistic expectations that my visits can unintentionally set up. It is by nature of the climate in Haiti that a person with my complexion from elsewhere is seen as some sort of potential savior. It makes me feel totally insufficient to their needs at times. I am being seen as a one stop warehouse for all the necessities of life when all I truly can provide is pretty limited to shelter. And a soccer ball. And a bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap and some organic peanut butter. A minuscule amount compared to what they actually require to survive.

We got back into the tap tap, Dan's tap tap, and drove off to find the other orphanage Jefflo's place. This time I was told, "it's really far' and it was! We went a great distance on a pretty smooth road, fortunately, so we could go fast at least. It was a beautiful ride into the country side, but according to the driver, we were still in Port Au Prince. They told me the name of the town, but I can't remember. I have kind of a terrible memory for place names...
The hillsides were spotted with an assortment of shacks made out of tarps, fragile looking wood, tin and cloth. They were chaotically dispersed amongst the greenery. The plant life was mostly bushes, not alot of trees, so to my eyes, the shelters looked hot. We passed at least one tent encampment, though, that consisted of a plethora of same looking orderly rowed shelters. All blue. Bright blue. I couldn't help but wonder whose color choice that was and why on earth did they think people would enjoy living in a bright blue community.

So we go quite far and up this winding bumpy dirt tract to the top where this kid's orphanage is located. Their gate consists of a wooden frame with a wool blanket on it. I would have taken photos but it seemed too objectifying at the moment. I wish I did, though, so you could have seen this place. It was on a beautiful piece of land. There were about 20 kids and some elderly ladies hanging around. A few men. Jefflo had told me that there were 70 kids living there. There was a rather large, rectangular structure, long and sort of narrow with a cement floor and a tin roof. Some of the walls were made of cinder block. Inside it was surprisingly cool and neat. Bunk beds lined the walls in an orderly fashion. There was an absence of the odor of urine. I thought it was pretty nice.

We went back outside and I sat down on the blanket next to an ancient looking woman with white hair braided in corn rows. She seemed startled by my sudden plopping down besides her and said "get the chair for her" I said in creole " mwen bezwen pa gen chèz" (i need no chair) Jefflo then started to ply me with reasons they need a dome. He pointed to a dilapidated looking tent and explained it was the old madame's tent. I hated to tell him that the domes were intended for orphans, exclusively.

It's hard when you know that people need stuff you have. But they are not the people you had in mind when you dreamed up the project.It's hard to stick to your plan when looking into the sweet old eyes of some lady sitting on a blanket on the top of a mountain.

I said, I didn't know and I'd think about it and we had to go now to pick up the Dream team

I gave them a soccer ball which the kids immediately started playing with

We left and went to check out dome number six. The house for the girls at Dr. Robert's
They were super excited and they ran up to me. "thank you thank you" they said in English. "Pou fi?" they asked me "for girls?" "Oui, ti fi kay" I said to them. They were super psyched and it was then I noticed a fierce rivalry between the boys and girls. "Garcon?" a boy demanded of me, pointing at the dome. "Pa garcon" I said and pointed to their two nice tents

I found it pretty funny and I think they all did too, within reason. I took a photo of the girls in frront of the dome. The kids there are pretty rough, compared to some I have met at orphanages. They seem a bit wild here. They are little wise guys in a way I totally respect. I was having alot of fun with them, they were making really funny faces when I was taking their fotos.

this girl was killing me, she was so adorable.

this boy spoke some english and said he wanted to be a musician

So that was today. Now a brief synopsis of Monday's build

We went to a church community center / orphanage and built them a dome.

we had a bunch of leveling to do on the ground before we built it.
We also had to dig a good sized trench or canal to allow for water drainage..

at this moment, Watson laughed at me and said in creole
not to fart in Nellie's face. Ha ha.

there were several fierce looking women with total new born babies.

this girl had quite a scar above her left eye.
I told her that I thought her scar made her very special.

this boy was rather shy but liked having his foto taken
He had a smudge of dirt on his face and when the other kids saw the foto, they pointed at the dirt and laughed.

this kid spoke english and asked me "do you love jesus?"
I told him I didnt really know him and then realized he would probably
take that the wrong way. So I added that I loved him, though
and then he told me he would love me for eternity

these ladies are in charge there, it seems. At one point, after we had the cover on the dome, Nellie told me, "that lady (the one with the white turbin on) just said she was going to sleep in the dome." That kind of pissed me off, actually. Being as how I was pretty specific that we were building the dome for the kids to sleep in. I didn't work for seven months to house this lady, quite frankly. So I had Nellie, who reluctantly agreed, tell her and the man there very pointedly and specifically that the domes are for kids, only. The man insisted, "two or three grown ups will sleep in there too" "No, absolutely not," I said. They then claimed that there was a rule there that a grownup has to sleep with the kids. I said, "ok, but just one' and they were still insisting on Two! I told them if I came back and checked and found out that the grownups were living in the dome, I would have no qualms about having the team take the dome down, immediately and give it to another orphanage that would use it for the kids, in the way it was intended.

I still think they are going to be sleeping in the damn dome. It makes me mad to think about it, but really, what can I do now?? I guess just hope for the best and spring a surprise visit on their ass. And bring the contract for them to sign that specifically spells it all out for them, in creole, exactly what the agreement is. I wrote it up last night. I will be bringing it to all ten orphanages before I leave country.

I got the kids all excited in the dome. they were being really dramatical
I was showing them how to freeze in cool positions and they caught on right away

Here they were showing me their tough side

Tomorrow I am going back to Desamours place to bring her the rest of the mattresses I promised her. There is a whole stack of mattresses in the giant dome warehouse at Grub, but gaining access to them is proving to be rather wrought with red tapes.

I have run out of orphanage dome sites. I will be scouting some out tomorrow with the moto bike in the morning. I've been mostly staying off the motorcycle since I got back this time, but it's about time I jumped back on the horse!

thanks for reading, and always, if you want to donate money, that is totally appreciated!
If I get enough money I can buy more beds.
I contacted two organizations that provide beds for orphanages today, we'll see how they respond to my request for collaboration!