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6714: More on U. of Oklahoma Trip to Haiti (fwd)

From: qret6394 <pharris@ou.edu>

 I wander into a cemetery in Port-au-Prince near Fontamara with my
friend Jean Max. He and his sister are lawyers, and even with their
professional degrees there are times they only eat every four days or
so. Education has not insolated them from hunger that grips the nation.
Still they are better off than most. It is late afternoon and the sun is
beginning to set and it bathes the tombs in orange and pink hues. It
looks like a forgotten city, much like Haiti is a land that the world
forgot. It's quiet in the graveyard, no one sets off bombs here, no one
protests. But people do come here to die lest they die on the street and
land up in a morgue where the bodies are stacked up like so much garbage
waiting to be claimed. Looking around I see people laying alongside and
atop tombs in fetal positions, too hungry to keep going, ready to cross
over to a more merciful reality. Looking down I notice I am walking over
bones, a mandible here, a femur there.This is the house of the holy.
Only a short plane ride north people settle around their television sets
to watch "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Passing through Cap Haitian in the rain, seeing the "mud splattered
victims paying out all along the ancient highway torn between half
truths and vicitmization fighting back with counterattacks"(  fromVan
Morrison "Rough God Goes Riding"), that take the form of bailing water
out of muddy hovels in vain attempts to hold back the flood of life's
refuse. And the hovels stretch as far as they eye can see into the
distant horizon, so vast is this wasteland that it traumatizes my
sensibilities. I can only whisper to myself "Where is Jesus?" I see
their eyes on me as I pass, staring into their faces from the dry
comfort of my bus. I want to weep, but feel ashamed of even this desire,
because you see, they do not weep. Weeping never fed a person. Weeping
never cured AIDS or TB. Weeping never caused the government respond.
Weeping never caused the power brokers, the deal makers, the movers, the
shakers, to see their part in the creation and continuance of this
confounding rat's nest of human misery. And so I decide to stench the
grief inside of me, to swallow the bitter pill whole.

We reach Limonad in the dark and its still raining. We're looking for
DeReal and everyone we ask says "keep going" and this goes on forever
down a muddy bumpy road. Our vehicle gets stuck, so we get out to push
and get soaked. I decide to walk ahead with flashlight in hand and
ground guide the vehicle through. In a few more minutes without
realizing it we reach Dereal and I hear folks shouting "Ingrid your
people are here!" She appears in front of me as if by magic, under an
umbrella (of all things), and we embrace as sisters do. Ingrid was 16
years old when she left Haiti on a rickety boat bound for "the promised
land". She was just a girl then with big ideas, now she is a woman
manifesting dreams.In Miami she went to work for Dr. Pierre at the
Center for Haitian Studies with just one of those big ideas of her's.
That idea started the annual Racine Festival that raises funds for CHS.
She returned to her community in 1995 and lived in a tent. Since those
early days she opened the temple that had been closed for generations.
We are here for the baptism of her five month old daughter Annabel
Filomena in the temple. I am Marrin. She has planted Mapou trees that
thrive. There are many ancient Mapou's still there and she tells me that
during the anti-Vodou campaign many of the Mapou were cut down becuase
they were believed evil.. a place where the faithful gathered to honor
the spirits. And anyone who has the good fortune to rest in the shade of
a giant Mapou, to sense its revitializing and healing energy will
realize that it was nothing short of a crime to cut these strees down.

There are several children with foot injuries that have become infected.
One little boy's wound has eaten away to his ankle bone.I ring out my
first aid kit wondering what in the world it is I think I 'm getting
ready to do. I tell myself "OK Patti, you recieved 8 weeks of combat
medical training". Then I realize what a horrible joke this all is. I
put on my latex gloves, and clean the wound. It hurts like hell but the
little boy is to weak and undernourished to scream very loud. His head
is oversized for his body that looks like flesh covered sticks. He looks
about five years old but is probably seven or eight. I pack the wound,
put on a sterile dressing knowing very well that if he doesn't receive
medical attention he will probably lose his foot or worse. I talk with
my students and we scrape enough money together to get him to a doctor
in Cap Haitian. For every child like him there are millions more. I pass
him my plate of rice and beans. Not one small grain is left when he
finishes. Back home kids turn up their noses at broccoli and Brussel

After a few days we head on to Badjo. (more about this later).

On  leaving Haiti I allow myslef the latitude to cry. And I cry because
I have no idea what will become of my friends in my absence, how the
pressure of hunger and the relentless hard work of creative survival
will age them, rob them of their youth far too soon, whether fate will
roll the dice as they pass a treacherous curve on the road, weather a
truck will lose its brakes and sail into a busy marketplace and mangle
everyone in ts path as it did a few weeks ago outside of Gonaives, or if
a germ will float through the air and claim their lungs and ravage their
bodies, bodies too malnourished to fight off the simplest of infections,
or if I will ever see them again at all. Saying "so long" could mean
forever.Richard Morse cautioned me to never say "I don't see how things
can get worse" because you might be tempting fate. So I closed my mouth.
I know that for all my good intentions and all I would like to be able
to give, for all I wish I could do?.I am just one person with so little
myself, with  many responsibilities back home, and yet the need is so
overwhelming my obligations are puny by comparison.

More later.

Patti K. Harris
University of Oklahoma