Saturday, April 26, 2008


A Place Called Trasayel.

Eric and I went with a group of AMURT folks to a village called Trasayel this past weekend. One of the AMURT staff members (Jayatii) has purchased some land there and is starting to build a house for AMURT. Her hope is that it will be a retreat / resting place for AMURT staff and volunteers to get away. The people of the town hope that AMURT’s presence there will mean some projects/programs for their community.

The trip to Trasayel was about 3 hours of driving – but its difficult to say what that meant in terms of KM, because some parts of trip were so rough. The last hour was barely a road, and it was heading straight up a mountain. I’ve never actually seen a car do that. We joked that it was like an all –terrain vehicle commercial. And it was.

The house itself is on the absolute top of a mountain – further north and west from Source Chaudes. And the community there makes rural Source Chaudes seem like a modern city. It was SO isolated, SO rural. The nearest village is about an hour down the mountain (by car) – but even there, supplies were limited. We stopped at a small road-side stand there (the only place to purchase things in the area) to buy some spaghetti. But, they certainly don’t have the resources to provide multiple communities with the supplies/food they need. And so people live with what they have. They eat what they can grow. They build everything they need. And, if and when they are unable, they go without.

Its so difficult to comprehend. Jayatii was telling me stories she’d heard – about the community having food during the harvesting season and starving during the other times of year. About sick people having absolutely no access to medical care. About people dying on their donkeys trying to get to a doctor.

Its hard for me to understand that places like this actually exist. Even after being there. Maybe, especially after being there. It is hard to imagine the depth of the struggle that exists there amidst the vastness of the beauty. It is hard to imagine life, day to day life, on the top of a mountain in rural Haiti. Its hard to imagine life in a place called Trasayel.

Friday, April 18, 2008


As part of AMURT’s new Health program, they are running three clinics – one here in Source Chaudes, one in Coridon on the coast and one in La Gon (a very rural village up in the mountains). Over the past 6 months, they’ve renovated two of the clinics and have built the clinic in La Gon.

Each community has a health committee that AMURT is working on empowering to run the clinics. Ideally, the clinics will become entirely community managed and self-sufficient over time. The above photo is from an AMURT community meeting in Source Chaudes about the health committee here.


From the first day I met her, Sameeka has been repeating the same question to me in quick, rolling Creole. The phrase always includes ‘etazini’ (the United States) – so I respond by explaining that “Yes, I live in the United States.” and “Yes, I am returning there on June 3rd” and “Yes, it is cold where I live” (the regular questions). But, she hasn’t ever seemed satisfied with my responses. And I always conclude that, despite my desire, I just don’t understand.

Sameeka just keeps holding my hand.
And persistently repeating her question.

Today, I understood the words.
And the question was exactly the one I feared it might be.

Would you take me to the United States with you?
Would you be my mom?

What could I possibly say in response that would feel okay? I held her hand a bit tighter, touched her cheek, and told her that we could be good friends here in Haiti, but that I could not take her to the United States with me. And I told her that I would talk with her again tomorrow.

I know the question is fairly common – not only in Haiti, but around the world. All the staff here have stories of being asked to adopt people’s children. When I was in South Africa, a woman with HIV (that I’d just met moments before) asked me to adopt her daughter. The common-ness of the request raises many questions for me – about love, about quality of life, about desperation.

But, today was different. When the question came from the child. When her persistence broke through. And when she asked so directly: “Molly, would you be my mom?”

No, beautiful little Sameeka. I cannot. But, I will talk with you again tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2008


One of my first days in Source Chaudes, I noticed a painting on the gate to a home here. It was an abstract, green painting of a person – and I LOVED it. I loved it for the art itself, and would hang it in my home in an instant. And, I loved the idea of it – the idea of this bit of creativity, beauty, talent in the midst of the poverty and struggle here.

While looking at it one day, I noticed more art in the back of the little house. A painting on the front door to the house, another on the outhouse door. All incredible. I started greeting the woman behind the gate as I walked by, in hopes that one day I would work up the courage and the Creole ability to talk with her about it.

And I did. With slow (and broken) Creole, I tried to compliment her on the paintings one afternoon on our way home for lunch. And she lit up. She told us that the paintings were done by her son who was in high school in Gonaives (2 hours away – and yet, the closest place for students to go to secondary school). Her pride was evident and in her words, in her glow.

Since then, we’ve slowly started to become friends with the family. We communicate as much as we can in Creole. Eric has taught the other kids (two boys and one girl) a “secret” handshake and plays games with them. And every day when we walk by, they run up to the fence to say hello. It’s pretty great.

Last weekend, the mother stopped me to tell me that her older son was home from school and asked me to wait while she went to get him. She proudly introduced me to her son – Love, the artist. My best guess is that Love is 14 or 15. He is well-mannered, confident, kind – and has a pretty incredible name. He took us around the yard to show us the paintings he’d done. We asked him about his painting – about whether anyone had taught him to paint or how he knows what to do. He looked a little bewildered at our question. “No, no … no one had taught him to paint.” He told us that he could just see the images in his mind and that he knew how to paint them. He offered to make another one for us to see, and we told him that if he made it on something for us that we’d buy it from him. His eyes widened and he quickly agreed. If we understood correctly, he’s working on saving money to buy some new tennis shoes.

Love found us in town later that day to show us the three paintings he’d made for us – on the back of corn flakes boxes. They’re beautiful and I can’t wait to display them proudly in my home in the US – as a constant reminder. A reminder of the great tragedy there is in knowing there are people like Love who have great talent that will most likely never be recognized or cultivated. And a reminder of the great beauty in knowing that with or without training or payment or recognition, artists around the world are painting on whatever surfaces they can find.

[Photos: Some of the art at love's house, the paintings he made for me, Love].

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The View From Here

A few photos I took while sitting the porch of my house last week. I know, I know … its hard for me to believe (too) that I can see a pig from my porch.


Enok is very friendly. We pass one another on the street at least once a day – and he always pauses to say hello and shake hands with Eric and I. And, despite the frequency with which i talk with him, I know very little about his life. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

* Enok lives in Source Chaudes.
* He is the nurse at the new clinic here. As is typical in rural Haiti, the nurse is the person with the most medical training at the clinic. The entire staff at the clinic consists of a nurse, a nurse assistant and an administrator. Compared to other clinics in the region, this is considered very well staffed.
* He thinks my name is Molly on some days (pronounced like Mary) and Maggie on others.
* One of his brothers works for the AMURT Bio-Sand water filter program and another is the pastor at the Baptist church in town.
* On one of my first days here, he stopped me to share one of his only English phrases – “Molly, you are nice.”
* He is very (very) thin.
* He asked to have this photo taken, and set up an appointment with me to stop by the clinic. I tried to explain that the photo was digital and that I can’t print it anywhere in Source Chaudes. He didn’t seem surprised at all – in fact receiving a copy of the photo didn’t seem to be his motivation in asking for it.
* This was the first day I’ve seen Enok in scrubs – and they looked brand new. He wore them with great pride.
* He has a great smile – and, at the same time, he carries himself with a distinct heaviness, a sadness.
* I really like Enok.


The Internet doesn’t work here sometimes. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me – the ebbs and flows of Satellite Internet function. But, I figure that it all boils down pretty simply to what I need to know – sometimes the Internet here works, and sometimes it doesn’t (for days!).

And so, I thank you for your patience during the periods of time that I’m unable to post updates or photos. Thank you for continuing to check back. And please know that a lack of new*ness here does not mean that I’m ignoring this little Ubuntu site. I love sharing my experience with you, as often as I am able.

From time to time, I get a blog comment or email from one of you – and I am so grateful to know that you’re here and reading. Its good to know the thoughts and stories I send out onto the vastness of the World Wide Web are actually reaching real people … real people that I know and love.

Thank you for being the people that keep checking back.