Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Day of The Thing

Updates on life in haiti since the quake: We are still sleeping outside in a tent. It's nice and cozy (a little too cozy for great sleep, but at least it's dry and mosquito free). There are a group of engineers here doing assessments on the buildings, and they will suggest to us what we need to do to make our house safe to sleep in again. We spend time in our home in the evenings and even get to watch some tv, so that helps us feel more normal. And we are thankful that we do have a home to retreat to, as many missionaries here have lost their homes, along with many haitians in our area. I've been performing a very unofficial census among my patients, asking them if they've lost their homes and lost loved ones, and it seems that about 80 percent of them have lost their homes, and almost 90 percent have lost at least one loved one. My patients don't often refer to it as "January 12th" or as "the day of the earthquake"... most of the time they say "The day of the thing". I don't know if that's because they don't understand what happened that day, or because not naming it makes it less scary.
We are very thankful to Community Christian Church for the shipment of non-perishables and tents and tarps that they sent our way. We are still looking for more tents and tarps to distribute, although right now shipping things here has become very tricky. Once we figure out a good way to get goods in again, we'll let everyone know how to help. When the first shipment of tents and tarps came in, we went to some of our employees' yards and erected some tents. It was fun, and also very encouraging to see that many of them had already made some temporary shelter of some kind. Many were just out of sheets and sticks, but others had scavanged through the debris and built little shacks out of wooden doors and frames and tin. There are many tent cities going up all over this area, and many families are building what are referred to in haiti as "kay pay"... houses built out of sticks, fronds, corn husks, or sugar cane bundles. In seguin a lot of people live in kay pay made out of corn husks. Here in leogane, there isn't much corn but there is an abundance of sugar cane, so the kay pays are going up with sugar cane walls. A haitian friend who grew up in this area and is back for a visit told us that 30 years ago, most of the people out here lived in sugar cane kay pays. So I guess life is reverting back to the way it was a long time ago. I'm sure it's hard for these families, who have worked so hard to build nice cement houses, to go back to living in stick shacks. They don't seem to be too discouraged, though.
In general, the spirit of the haitian people around us is hopeful. They believe they'll rebuild their homes, somehow. Many are finding work by clearing roads of debris or tearing down buildings. The market places are still bustling with local produce. Our employees still give big smiles of greeting when they pass us by. The church pews are full every sunday and the congregation sings just as loud, if not louder, than they did before the "day of the thing".