Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm not sure what I expected

I don't know exactly what I expected our time here in Haiti to look like because there were so many questions as to exactly what we'd be doing, but knowing how emotional I am, I should have known that this trip would pull at the heart strings.

They hadn't even finished unloading from the bus when I pulled my sunglasses down to hide the tears.  It only took a few minutes to know for certainty a couple things.

1. They are thrilled to be at Camp Jake... a majority of them for the second time.
2. There are a lot of them and with that a huge range of handicaps.  There are several blind and deaf campers as well as a fair amount in wheelchairs, all with unique stories and needs.
3. They love, love, LOVE each other and care for each other well.

I could honestly talk about the first day and some of the campers we've learned the stories of for awhile, but in effort to make sure I actually keep up with the posts I'm not going to put every detail onto these pages.  I hope to share enough to let the family and friends supporting us from home feel connected to us and what's happening here.

Today was a total whirlwind.  It was emotional, it was fast paced and slow moving all at the same time (I'm learning about Haitian time and how to tame my Type A tendencies quickly), and it was intense.

Getting 45 campers into their rooms across two floors (some in wheelchairs) was tough.  Helping to get them seated and fed was also tough.  But getting them into the water to relax and swim which they don't have the opportunity to do at the orphanage was easy.  Getting them to grab instruments and participate in creating music (for a couple hours) was also easy.  The best part is that the music came as a plan B for tonight's activities... only when our French dvds wouldn't play on the American dvd player did we have a change of plans.  Regardless, it didn't make much difference.  On a whim a few of the musically inclined counselors started playing the guitar and drums at the end of dinner for fun and that quickly transpired into a camp-wide activity that only thunder and lightning could out a stop to.

To avoid the storm we piled into our meeting space and picked the beat right up where they left off.  The most beautiful part was when the songs turned into worship music, completely at their direction.  When they started singing, "We Worship You" I honestly couldn't take it.  I teared up watching them sing those lyrics from the heart.  I know it sounds cliche, but it was anything but.  This group is faced with some hard challenges daily and despite that their faith is like a rock.  They sing with pure joy in their hearts.  It's inspiring and not something I'll soon forget... you simply can't forget such beautiful souls.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

We've Arrived in Haiti

We arrived in Haiti around 2:30 yesterday afternoon after some intense traveling.  I won't go into too much detail but originally we had a 6:00am flight out of Norfolk which was cancelled (after midnight), so we rebooked a 7:20am flight out of Richmond.  Brutal, I know.  However, the other person traveling to Camp Jake from Norfolk, Kelly, was really great and recruited her Dad's SUV and generosity to get us there.  After that, everything felt into place as planned.

Once we arrived in Port-au-Prince things got crazy, which we were warned they would.  Not in a bad way, but in a OPEN YOUR EYES sort of way.  They have one carousel for luggage and then a big open area where bags just are put out for pick up.  There are so many people hoping to provide service to arriving travelers the minute you walk in.  Our group had a ton, and I mean a ton, of bags.  People brought all kinds of snacks, games, and gifts for the campers which led to over 20 suitcases for about 10 counselors.  We loaded them onto an open truck, hopped into two vans, and made our way to the Kaliko Beach Club about 2 hours away.

Kaliko Beach is amazing.  We are staying in colorful bungalows that are so close to the ocean that I could hear it as I fell asleep.  The food has been different from the states but good so far, things taste so fresh- even the juices are made on site.  Everything about where we're staying is much nicer than what I expected... which I felt weird about at first.  I guess I felt like we were coming to a third world country and it seemed odd that we'd be spending our time at one of the nicest resorts in the area.  I wasn't sure how that would help us understand and relate to the true poverty right down the road.  And then I understood.  It's not about us- it's about the orphans coming from St. Vincent's and what this experience will be like for them.  The campers that are coming here tomorrow are the ones at St. Vincents that do not have families to visit or a place to go when school is out, so they are coming here for their summer break.  Their comfort, interests, and needs are at the root of every plan in place for the next two weeks.  I have never met a group like this group.  Tom, the camp director has thought of everything.  He has purchased and planned for things I would have never thought to bring for or do with the campers that will make their time here and their perception of themselves that much more special.  I wouldn't even know where to start with examples, but I'll try.  I think as things come together and I share the stories with you it'll be easy to see what I mean.

For now feel free to also follow The Red Thread Promise's blog, as Sonya is blogging consistently from Haiti during the trip.

Counselor bungalows
View of the pool and the ocean just beyond it

Sunday, July 8, 2012

sweet goodness

I'm not sure what it is (well, I do), but whenever we have people stay at our place I get crazy about cleaning.  The irony in this sudden and short lived obsession is that I focus so much on deep cleaning that I quickly tire out and don't get everything done... big and small!.  So for example, while the inside of our kitchen trash can could be completely disinfected and wiped down inside and out, I will have completely forgotten to take out the trash throughout the house.  This sort of thing carries into every room.  I'll dust the ceiling fan in our bedroom but won't vacuum the stairs.  I mean seriously.  Who is going to go in our room and run their finger across one of our fan blades?  No one.  But who will travel up and down the stairs noticing all sorts of things along the way?  Everyone.

This is all coming out now because we are preparing for our trip to Haiti and as result need to get the house ready for our Tank's sitter/our friend.  I spent hours in my room tonight and have 2 bags full of clothes for goodwill... but the laundry is still piling up, I didn't change the sheets (which was actually on my list), and I created more work for myself finding proper homes for things.

I've still got a few days before we head out.  Wish me luck to get everything done and for Josh to actually feel like the house is clean at first glance... because I already know under close inspection the most random things will pass.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

everybody else is doing it

I feel sort of lame doing this but I feel like you see everyone else doing it constantly, so here it goes.  Guys, feel free to stop reading now (yes, there are a few gentlemen that do read my blog).

I was really proud of this little ensemble I pulled together a few months ago which I debuted for the second time today.  Please note that I changed the shoes and added the necklace to change things up just a tad.
I should have taken this in the morning pre-food belly and putting my hair back.
My groupon necklace from Esme (designed by Murphy in Charlotte)

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Last weekend Jake and I hit the beach so he could play volleyball with some friends and I could soak up the sun.  Surprisingly (for Jake) we stayed a few hours and I ended up getting a good little tan before my trip to Boston... which was much needed considering the week called for me to be in dresses.  That's beside the point of this story though... the best part is what went down when we left.

As we walked back to our car, we made comments on how packed the streets were and how living at the beach would be tough this time of year but at least people couldn't park in your driveway.  Jake told me that if people parked in your driveway you could have them towed, but you'd still have the inconvenience of doing so.  The idea that people would find it appropriate to block a private driveway blew my mind, it just seemed so inconsiderate.  

Maybe a minute after this short exchange we crossed the street only to see a busted old rodeo parked perpendicularly behind my car and the car beside me.  I looked at Jake and something along the lines of "seriously?" was all that came out of my mouth.  We'd literally just been having this conversation and now found ourselves blocked in our space for no reason other than this person clearly didn't want to go a little further to find an open space.  Immediately I became annoyed because it was well over 100 degrees and I was certain with how crowded the beach was that we were not going to find the owner. 

My next move was to call a towing company who directed me to the police since it was public property.  Apparently they can only tow illegally parked cars and this car was not illegally parked, just inconveniently.  I called the non-emergency line and had just requested an officer come out when I see two older women approaching- one shaking her finger and yelling.  I tried eavesdropping on what she was saying to Jake and quickly discovered she was the owner of the clunker blocking me in.  I let the operator know the owner had arrived and that I would call if an officer was still needed.  Wait, the story gets better.

Once I was off the phone I could hear her better and everything about her and what she was saying was r.u.d.e.  She basically told us that we had no right no park in front of her property and that gravel area was parking for a private residence.  I politely explained that before parking I checked for private driveway signage but there wasn't any nor was there a house # or visual of her home for me to know that.  She said that her signage was ignored in the past so she took it down and the police would never tow anyone so she just started taking matters into her own hands.  She let me know that she was sick of people doing this and she could easily go back down to the beach and leave me hanging there unless I paid her $20.  

Now, I started to get fired up.  I had been apologizing and telling her I honestly wouldn't have parked there had I known it was residential parking and that while I understood her frustration, I wasn't someone who had parked here before and she was treating me like a repeat offender.  While it made sense that she was frustrated, I wasn't going to pay her to move her car.  I explained that if she wouldn't please (yes, I was sure to say please) move her car that I had already requested an officer come out and I was sure they would ask her to do so.  She responded that she knew for a fact that they wouldn't make her do a thing because she wasn't parked illegally.  This got my wheels turning...

How is that she could be blocking a car in a private drive and not be illegally parked?  Also, why wasn't she able to have cars towed or receive help from officers in the past?  Well, probably because technically it was public property.  There wasn't a mailbox or house # because I think her property was a guest house of some sort in the back yard of another beach home.  So in reality she had no driveway.  Should she?  Probably.  But she made no effort to deter folks from parking there.  Surely a cone or no parking sign (even if i wasn't legitimate) would deter some people.   Then if someone consciously disregarded it surely that isn't someone you would feel little sympathy for when blocking them in.  It's a risk they took, right?  Regardless, I continued to apologize and tell her that nothing was done maliciously on my part, but her behavior was intentional and I refused to pay her for simply turning her car on and moving a few feet forward.

So what'd she end up doing?

She moved (hesitantly and complaining, of course).  Did she pull into my spot?  Nope.  She reversed just enough to let me out and blocked the other two cars parked to my right.  She got out and said she hoped I didn't know the people who owned those cars because she wasn't moving again.

Oh, and I forgot to mention her friend's commentary during the breaks in conversation.  She went on an on about how if we're from the beach we should know better than to park in front of people's homes.  Again, I'm still wondering where said home was... but that is neither here nor there at this point.  Jake explained that we were very familiar with parking which is why we've never had this issue before now.  He also told them that they should know what to expect during summer and that any type of signage would be better than nothing and responding the way they had.

We ended up finally leaving.  No police or cash was involved.  Maybe a few sassy comments ensued on the ride back, but can you really blame me?  Seriously.


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