Time flies, and in only two months we're heading home. We're almost ready!
It doesn't mean that we don't have a lot to do in the intervening time, however. In the last hello I said that we're likely to engage in another round of 100 arborloos. We're now 65 into that set of loos, and will be finished in another week and a half. The loo-team is seasoned, and moving faster now. We've covered parts of Ranquitte that we didn't get to last time: there were just too many missing latrines right around home to bother with getting out into the nether regions, although the need in those places is equally as great (if not more so). The "urban area of Ranquitte" (insofar as it has one) has hardly been touched: those folks are more likely to have a dug latrine, although those that don't are in a tougher spot since it's harder to hide to do any serious business. In Cap Haitien, and I suppose also in Port-au-Prince (the largest two cities in Haiti), it has led to the phenomenon of the "black sack": a black plastic bag, surreptitiously discarded along the side of the road. Don't open it! Danger!
In another arborloo development, we're starting to hear back from some of our first-round clients that their loos are full. That means a couple of things:
Anna's cough is definitely better, which is very good. We switched her to a different blood pressure medicine, and we don't know if that made the difference or not, but she's better. We're still tinkering with dosage, trying to get the BP down to 120ish or so. Interestingly enough, the four oldest ladies in the house all have high blood pressure, so we're collecting some data. Ray Jackson, President of Christian Flights International (CFI) and an emergency room physician, has told me that if I get six more patients than I'll be empowered to open a hypertension clinic.
Two groups have come and gone since the last hello. We had a marvelous visit from our Oshkosh, WI friends Joe and Cindy Palm, who came in with a seasoned team of three doing primarily evangelism. I considered that time as our "spring break": we didn't feel compelled to "do" a lot of things, but enjoyed visiting with our friends. Even so, Joe and Cindy wanted to participate actively in our lives here, and Cindy helped out at the clinic a couple of days (she's an obstetric nurse, and gave a little "pre-natal clinic" one day). One day we visited the preschool to distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste, and talked (and sang, with Joe on the guitar) about oral hygiene.
A highlight for me during their visit was a hike we took for "medical visits", culminating in a visit to a man in the final stages of hepatitis (or some type of intestinal cancer). Joe especially had been very good about praying for each individual, and it was an emotional moment as he asked for relief for the poor fellow's pain. The patient complained of gas, too, and whereas we usually dole out a few tablets of whatever sort will relieve symptoms (e.g. ibuprofen or mylanta), we just left the bottles with the man. He was going to need them in the struggle ahead. A few days after Joe and Cindy left, we had word that he'd died.
On the lighter side, Joe and I had some fun creating product labels for some of the products that we're promoting here on campus (not soon to appear in a supermarket near you, but you can pick some up the next time you join CFI for a trip to Ranquitte!). You might notice that we are intruding on international trademarks: it's part of our marketing strategy. We're hoping to get several major corporations engaged in lawsuits to shut down this enterprise, so that our ladies can get a spot on Leno or Letterman. That should be all the marketing that we'll really need -- another example of turning a problem into a solution.
The big news around here since the last hello is the work taking place on the campus. In particular, the agricultural arm of CFI led by George Derval has passed over the campus, and the place has been transformed:
I'm especially proud of the cistern: we were worried about a water supply for the nursery, especially in the dry season (about three months of the year). There are already some massive cisterns under the school, but they leak. So one option was to fix those up, and store water from the rainy period for the three months. That's a lot of water!
We struck upon an alternative plan when the mom/brother/pastor/friends' team was here in January: use the waste water from the pumps on the two wells on the property. We noticed the incredible waste when kids bring jugs to fill, jugs with tiny little mouths; and then try to hit the tiny mouths with a stream of water emanating from a pump two feet above. It isn't easy: the stream wobbles around, its muzzle velocity and direction changing with the pumping action. You can imagine the waste going on, and it was that waste that we elected to capture with a cistern. As constructed, it will hold about a thousand gallons, of water available all year round (since water is pumped year-round).
This is yet another example of a concept we now use as our campus slogan: "Turning problems into solutions". The waste from the pumps created swamps (i.e. mosquito nurseries); meanwhile we needed water. So we take the water that was creating swamps and use it to satisfy our watering needs. And everyone lived happily ever after.
Except that we were too successful at gathering water, and soon the cistern overflowed, inundating a new area of the campus. This gave rise to our merely temporary slogan, "Turning problems into solutions into problems". This was also an example of what George Bush calls "catastrophic success" (he was referring to the sudden collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime as "being so successful, so fast, that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in, escaped and lived to fight another day"). I knew that there were WMD (Waters of Massive Dimensions), and, in fact, I found them. And the WMD came back to bite us.
It was a problem of perspective, and perhaps attitude: I'd been so worried about the possible lack of WMD that I was not ready for the overwelming amount of WMD that we ultimately discovered. Fortunately, my catastrophic success did not result in five years of devastatingly futile war (but that's another story, which I hope will be written about for a long time, and never ever forgotten).
The "100 biosand filters" program (described in my previous hello) is now at the point of launch. My team of two has returned from training at Clean Water for Haiti, where they trained with two others for a week. They have returned with their diplomas, the compliments of the trainer, and the energy to begin the construction and installation phase. Tomorrow one of the guys heads to Cap Hatien to pick up a few hundred dollars worth of tools that we'll need, and have not yet purchased, and then we'll get started. We've got a spot on the campus where we can make them.
The families who will receive filters will contribute about $3, as a gesture of interest and commitment. Other than that, the filters will be donated (by those of you who have made donations to the "Peace Chest"). The $3 will basically pay the costs of transporting the 160 pound cement filters to their homes. We'll hire someone to do that work for us, probably on the back of some poor donkey. The first filters will be easy to deliver however: we're hoping that the first six will serve the school (although we still have to work out a water distribution plan with the school principal and the direction of CFI).
With some recent contributions to the Peace Chest, we now project that we'll be able to put a few "dry toilets" on the campus. That will be the last major project that I envision. The rest of our time and energy will be devoted to "mopping up". Other possible projects include another cistern (by the second well -- same swamp situation), and certainly more nursery work. We could use another shade cloth, more tools, etc. But those are relatively easy things to do. They don't require the energy of a "100 biosand filters" project.
Thad's life has undergone a bit of a change. He has left his class to be "home-schooled" for the rest of our time here. He'd been telling us that he's afraid of "the blue kids" (primary students wear blue uniforms): it seems that the blue kids were stopping by the preschool during their morning break, and using pretend firearms to "shoot" at Thad from the doors and windows of his classroom.
I discussed this with the principal of the school, and he called in several of the perpetrators; but the "hazing" continued. It then came to my attention that the kids in the preschool were sometimes unsupervised during parts of the day. So I stopped by one Friday to check on this myself. I went over just before the "blue break", and checked that there was a teacher present. Then I stepped off to the side, and had a chat with a college student friend home for the weekend. Shortly thereafter the blue recreation was sounded, and, as we chatted, I watched as the blue kids swarmed over to the preschool. I told my young friend that we should sidle over and see what's up. By the time we got there, some of the blue kids had moved away, but we found Thad's classroom bereft of supervision, some blue kids inside, and more blue kids at the windows and doors.
I took Thad by the hand, and we went home, to begin his home schooling.
We've since had a visit from the principal (who asked Thad, when he didn't know that Anna was listening, why he wasn't going to school anymore -- Thad told him that he's scared of the blue kids).
The next day we had a visit from the director of the preschool and his teacher, who asked Thad to return. But Thad emphatically responded that he would not be returning. "M pa vle net!" (Let's translate that as "Not on your life!"). So he's working at home with Mom and/or Dad in the mornings. It's too bad that school didn't work out better for Thad, but the good news is that he's already learned his Creole, which was his major success story at the school. He's constantly congratulated on his Creole-speaking ability.
What's really too bad is that the school doesn't have better control of the kids. We have been constantly surprised that kids around here are unsupervised, undisciplined, uncivil. As I described in my last hello, however, there is a long history in Haiti that argues against disciplining another's child: in the bad old days, if the child you were disciplining were the child of a Tonton Macoute, it could have been the last act of your life.
To some extent the same is true today in the US: how many of us let other peoples' kids run amok, because we're afraid that their parents will sue us if we intervene? Fortunately schools still manage to generally function as bastions of discipline (although some of you in the trenches might argue with me!;).
In the last hello, I described some pretty stark books about Haiti. I took a break from those to look into some books that Ivy lent me, by A. W. Tozer (The Divine Conquest; The Warfare of the Spirit). I'm in agreement with him only 50% of the time, but when we're in agreement it's the real thing. Tozer is very refreshing, but most Christians may find his essays disquieting. He says some of the things that I've been thinking for years, about the church's focus on money, about the abysmal secularization of Christmas in our society, about how we lead our lives in general.
He says extremely challenging things like these:
That's it for now. Take care,