Port au Prince, Haiti Day 5, Trip 3

Internet has been spotty and time is seeping away. This is a very busy trip as I am both counseling and setting up a longer term staff support program, which means hiring, training, preparing people.

Today I rested for a few hours in the mountains, at a friends home. The cleanliness, silence and beauty was a dramatic contrast to Port au Prince. It is easy for me to forget how lovely Haiti is when I am spending so much time in the destruction. We spent a small part of the afternoon looking for tiny little frogs that live in the highlands and make a shrill sound, like the high pitches of a xylophone. No luck today.

Two evenings ago we celebrated a friends birthday–a young birthday. She is not yet 30. Most of her family was killed in the earthquake. She lost the center of her life, and has struggled since, uncertain as to why she should even go on. I have no idea what a birthday means to her; I know what they mean to me: Family. Friendship. Prayer and reverence and reflection Celebration.

Throughout the evening she “disappeared”, her eyes wandering and at times vacant; the space where she sat felt empty. It was a lovely evening, and— the absence of everything that she orients to, organizes around, lives for felt to me like a booming hole of silence. I cannot stop thinking about the evening. About what wasn’t. Its very hard to put this into words.

There are several places downtown where bones are piling up. As more and more rubble is moved, bones emerge. The French embassy is sending pieces of femurs to France for DNA testing. At east 33 are dead, some are still missing. So now there are several piles by each former building: Small rubble. Big rubble. Bones.

A friend described sitting in the tent camps in BelAir–a slum where much of the past gang violence has occurred and where gangs are supposed to be emerging again. The woman rocks a tiny baby on her lap, cleaning its feet. She is sitting a few feet from a site that is covered in charred remains of burning–the place where the finally burned all the bodies that had piled up. Black dust and bone shrapnel and this is the only place to bathe and comfort a baby.

There are several half complete structures there– when the violence showed early signs of re-occurring, all the NGO’s left. Left half built outdoor shower stalls and some tents and a little food and water that will soon be gone. So the community sits and waits, and waits, and waits, and waits. They have decided to “re-do” their image–so they are forming neighborhood cooperatives and gathering materials and doing what they can to complete projects, clean their neighborhood up, and provide safety for their families and the many children there. While they wait.

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