Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One last (amazing!) article

Here's another link to the LDS Church News that called for a phone interview.

(It's our favorite.)

You're invited...

Adam and I would really love to see everyone that has been following our journey (even if you've just glanced through the posts....we know....they're pretty long!). Feel free to stop by this Saturday at an open house here in Lawrence. It is open to anyone, so even if we don't know you very well (or at all), that's totally cool! We will provide some punch and dessert, but please bring something to share (it doesn't have to be a lot)!

Here are the details:
Saturday, January 23, 2010
7:00 - 10:00 PM
Lawrence Institute of Religion building
1629 W. 19th St. (across from the KU soccer fields)
*Parking is limited, so if the lot is full, just park on a side street.*
Lawrence, KS 66044

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Thanks! We hope to see you there!

Telling our story

Adam and I were interviewed last night for the University Daily Kansan. They incorporated that interview with some of the pictures and video we took while in Haiti. It was nice to actually describe what happened, knowing that it was in our words and without playing "Telephone" with the press (which is why we have been said to be in Haiti building a school, a church, and a "handicapped orphanage" - don't trust everything you read!).

Click here for the brief story of how we were able to (miraculously) leave Jacmel.

Click here for Part 1 of our video interview.

Click here for Part 2 of our video interview.

We just heard this morning that there has been a 6.1 aftershock in Haiti. It has been over a week now since the initial earthquake and we fear that this will affect just as many people. After a week, people were starting to feel more comfortable in their homes (if they were still standing) and we are not looking forward to hearing how much devastation this aftershock has brought. Please continue to keep the Haitian people in your prayers. I am speaking with someone from Pazapa today about fundraising, so hopefully I will be able to pass on vital information to everyone who has been following our experiences. My dad shared a quote with us this week, which really hit home. Hopefully it does for you too!

"I can't do everything about everyone everywhere, but I can do something for someone somewhere." - Richard L. Evans

Monday, January 18, 2010

Home at Last!

Somehow, with all the craziness that this last week brought, Adam and I flew back to Kansas today on our original flight to come home. We were supposed to fly out of Port-au-Prince on Sunday night, spend the night in Miami, then fly home Monday afternoon. Clearly, that first part didn't happen. But, it was nice to have a direct flight home that we had already paid for (and didn't have to eat the cost of it like our return flight from Haiti. Not huge fans of Air France right now - they cancelled all of their flights in and out of Haiti indefinitely and will only give us a nonrefundable, nontransferable flight voucher that expires in a year. Too bad the nearest airports they fly out of are San Francisco, Miami, or New York.). After so many miracles, you would think we would be able to make it back on our own. But no. The Lord stepped in once again to answer even our smallest prayer. We left Haiti with about 8,000 gourdes (about $200 USD). We know it's not a huge amount, but to's pretty substantial. The airport in the DR wouldn't exchange it, so we were hoping to find one in Ft. Lauderdale that would. About an hour before our flight took off, Adam went to find the currency exchange booth at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. We were in Terminal One, it was in Terminal Four (which you had to take a shuttle to get to). The entire time he was gone I prayed that he would be able to make it back in time so we wouldn't miss our direct flight home. Five minutes before they started boarding, he came rushing back in. When he finally found the booth, there was a sign saying it would be closed until 11 AM (our flight left at 11:30). Adam became slightly discouraged, but sat down to wait a while. He overheard a man talking about going to Haiti, so he approached him. The man was flying to Cap Haitien and Adam explained that we had quite a bit of Haitian currency and the man bought our money from us! At a much better price than the airport would have! We were so happy and grateful that there are such good people out there...and they all seem to be on our side. Another little miracle - we had forgotten to check in online to Southwest until an hour before our flight, so we were pretty sure we'd be in Boarding Group Z. However, when we got our boarding passes, we were in group A, numbers 24 and 25! We checked with each of our parents and none of them had checked us in. So...whoever did - thank you! We were able to sit next to each other on a very emotional flight.

Our flight landed in KCI 20 minutes early. Adam was pretty sure his parents would still be there, but I predicted my family was still parking (but had welcome home signs). We were one of the first off the planes - and no one was there. We waited about 10 minutes and finally our families came. By that time, two news crews from Kansas City were already there and in the process of interviewing us, but it was so exciting to hug our families! We had good interviews where we tried to focus on helping the people of Haiti. We also had another tv crew come by this evening, along with two different newspaper interviews. We feel like we should have just held a press conference or something! We're grateful that we have had some time to reflect on our experiences and hope that we can use this attention for good. We're including some of the reports that have been done already and we already have connections for when we are advertising about fundraising for Pazapa.

NBC Action News


Initial UDK article

Initial LJ World article

WIBW interview - You'll have to click on a link, then search for our video.

Second LJWorld article

LJWorld Interview and Channel 6 News

Kansan interview

Kansan photo gallery

After staying up way too late to watch the 10:00 news, we finally were able to make our way back to our little home. Our 350 sq. ft. apartment has always seemed too small and almost unbearable, but after seeing how so many people live in Haiti, even before the earthquake, it's hard to be anything but grateful for it. It is clean, safe, and we have indoor plumbing and consistent electricity. We have two separate rooms, a bathroom, and full kitchen (not going to lie...that is still really small!). We have closets full of clothes and a home full of things. Things that really aren't at all important. Adam's mom surprised us by having our refrigerator and pantry full of good, healthy food - complete with enough meals for the week. She left paper plates, bowls, and cups that we have promised we will use all this week so we can take it easy. So much love continues to be shown to us! One of the best feelings last night was getting into our own clean pajamas and climbing into our own clean bed. Our family prayer was full of so much gratitude. What more can we ask for ourselves?! We are still pleading for those in Haiti to get the resources and peace that they so badly need, but we definitely feel that we can take a backseat now. We've seen more miracles in just a few short weeks than some may seem in a lifetime. It is completely evident that God is in the details of our lives. We still can't get over the timing of everything. All the events leading up to the earthquake made it possible for us to be in a safe place when it hit and get the help we needed to stay safe during all the aftermath. This little kiddo must be somebody pretty special!

***I just found a number of videos about the destruction in Jacmel, made by the Cine Institute (Haiti's only film institute, based in Jacmel). They are incredibly painful to watch, but give a very real understanding of what the earthquake has meant to the town of Jacmel. There's none of this dramatic, sensational journalism that Adam and I continue to see on US news stations. This is it. This is real. Click here for the videos.***

A Mother's Point of View

My mom has a blog for the Topeka Capital-Journal and her entry from this past week was about our experience in Haiti (big surprise, huh!). If you're interested in reading her perspective, here's the link. Again, it was pretty hard to read all the thoughts and worries that she had during those first 14 hours before we could get in contact, but it definitely makes her experience more real to me. I cannot express how excited I am to see our families at the airport tomorrow! I am going to cry like a big baby, which will unfortunately be captured by video for the evening news...not cute.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Transition Home

Well, we have been in the US of A for the last 48 hours. Once again, time has been completely distorted. The past two days have flown by, while the three days we spent in the UN compound seem like they lasted forever. It's been a surreal experience and our time in Haiti already feels like a dream. We're still trying to process everything that we went through, but I think it's going to take quite some time. However, this weekend has been a good start! Adam's sister Amelia and her husband Joel drove six hours to meet us in Ft. Lauderdale yesterday and we've spent the weekend with them. It's been so interesting to hear their experiences in the last week. To be honest, I think Adam and I had a much easier time than our families back home. It's really hard to learn that your parents were starting to worry about your deaths or safety, especially when we really were protected. I'm glad that our story has a happy ending, but unfortunately, so many do not. There are so many unanswered questions and missing's so difficult to even imagine. One thing that we continue to remind ourselves as we see pictures of the mass graves is that these people are not forgotten. We know that our Heavenly Father knows each and everyone of His children. He knows who each one of those unidentified people are and loves them and cares for them. Knowing that this life isn't the end definitely helps soften the enormous burden that this disaster has placed on so many.

Last night I was trying to find information about the other refugees that were in the UN compound with us. I found a news report from Chicago where Sue's mother was interviewed. Having met Sue and been with her as she learned of her best friend's death, the interview was especially touching. Adam and I were trying to figure out a way to get in contact with her mother so we could let her know how amazing and strong Sue has been through such a difficult tragedy. Imagine our surprise and delight when we received a phone message from her mother! It turns out that she had a friend from Topeka, KS visiting her in Chicago who knew my mother, knew we had been in Jacmel, and was able to contact us to find out about Sue. It was so good to talk with her and relay any information that could be helpful. Jacmel is so isolated from the rest of the country right now because of the destroyed roads and communication lines, but Sue needs to return home and is bringing the remains of her friend. We have a few contacts that we are trying to make and we gave her mother a few possibilities that our families were going to pursue to reach us. Please keep Sue and her family in your prayers that she too will be able to return home.

We also received an email from Marianne, one of our amazing Danes. They are now safely home! We're not sure when or how they left, but it was so good to know that they are no longer stuck in Jacmel. They had lost everything, except the clothes on their back, but they were so generous and caring. It was hard on Friday night to be at a hotel with a king-sized bed, room service, and no threat of aftershocks when we knew everyone we left was still sleeping on a mat outside, eating nutritional biscuits. And even now that they are safe, there are hundreds of thousands of Haitians that have lost their homes, families, and are lacking in food and water. Through trials, we've never really asked ourselves, "Why me?" but we are definitely asking ourselves "Why us?!" as we have experienced so many miracles and so much protection and safety when so many others are suffering. It's hard. We're just hoping to do as much as we can to help as many people as we can.

We were hoping to go to the Haitian branch in Ft. Lauderdale for church today, but were sad to find out that it no longer exists. Instead, we went to two different wards for their meetings and were able to see many people from Adam's mission. Each Haitian family we spoke with was waiting to hear news and we offered the best advice and support we could. I think the highlight of our weekend was meeting Erick's brother and sister. We gave them the biggest hugs and told them how much Erick meant to us. It is so good to know that Erick and his family are safe! There are other happy endings! We also found out that the church building in Port-au-Prince is still standing (which is another's just down the street from where the Palace collapsed) and many church members are staying there now since they lost their homes. I still wonder and worry about all the missionaries that are serving in areas affected by the earthquakes - and their families! I just pray that they are all safe and protected.

We got locked out of our room twice tonight, but it gave us a chance to speak with one of the hotel employees. She had family in Haiti and we were able to really relate to what her thoughts and feelings were about the earthquake. We are grateful that we had been in Haiti before the earthquake hit, so we have a sort of baseline of the people, lifestyle, and culture. I think that helps us better understand the reactions we see on the news or the information we read. We're beginning to realize that as traumatizing as this experience has been, we needed to be in Haiti when this happened. We needed to witness this firsthand so that we can know how to better help those in need. We have always had a connection to Haiti because of Adam's mission, but we definitely feel that we have left part of us in Haiti. We don't know what all we are needed to do in Haiti, but we definitely feel like we can help in small ways, especially with Pazapa. We just received news that they will continue the program and will rebuild if necessary. As soon as we return to Kansas, I plan on meeting with the Dept. of Special Education to figure out the best way to raise funds. My mom wants to even contact Oprah! We'll see. Every little bit helps.

Information about Pazapa

Today the Board of Directors for Pazapa are meeting to discuss the next step, which includes whether or not the program will rebuild. When we return to Kansas, we plan on putting together some type of fundraiser to help them in whatever way we can. Please visit their website to learn more about their program. They have also started a blog to provide the most current information about the status of the school, staff, and students. So many Haitians have been affected by this horrific disaster. It can be hard to know how to help or who to help. However, a school that is making real change in Haiti is exactly what Jacmel needs (and especially what the students need at this time of turmoil!).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day Eleven in Haiti - Jacmel/MINUSTAH base/Santo Domingo/THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! (1/15/10)

This would have been our last day at Pazapa. As horrific and devastating as this entire earthquake has been and will continue to be, I still can’t help but think of all the students that attended this school. Many had been abandoned and were living in orphanages, but were able to come learn and socialize with their peers three days a week with loving teachers. Though the school didn’t have all the resources that we take for granted in the United States (tons of books, papers, high-priced educational toys, equipment, and even cutesy wall decorations), they had an amazing program. Their teachers were dedicated to their students and were able to teach to their needs, even without sitting through hours of classes to receive training. I love the lesson I observed in the early primary grades where the teacher was working on articulation. Some of the children had difficulty creating a “p” sound, so she crumpled up a piece of paper, put it on the table, and turned it into a game by having each child try to blow the paper to the next one. The children loved doing this and it helped many of them learn how to make the proper lip form in order to produce the “p” sound. There hasn’t been any word as to whether or not the program will rebuild, but I can only hope so. They have blessed the lives of so many children and their families in the past 20-30 years and are helping to change the stigma that follows individuals with special needs here in Haiti. We’re hoping to help raise money when we get back for the school, but it all depends on whether or not they will try to rebuild.

With our recent internet connection, we went to bed much later last night than we had previously. We were so amazed at the overwhelming love and concern that people have expressed for us. We are glad that we can let them know that we are safe! Again, we can’t NOT express our thanks to God for our safety and that we are together. There were so many variables and “coincidences” that we know were taken care of by Him. How do you react to something like that? Why were we SO blessed and safe when so many have lost so much? It’s really hard to hear all of the continued updates because we once again have nothing to complain about in life. We are trying as hard as we can to do all we can to help others, but we are definitely crippled being foreigners and at the UN base.

This morning, at 6:30 AM, George (who is actually Jorge from Mexico City, but he introduced himself as George, so that’s what we’ll keep calling him!) stopped by to take us back to the runway. We actually did a pretty thorough job for working in the dark last night! There is a helicopter coming this morning with medical supplies and to pick up the Danes, so we wanted to clear even more debris so it wouldn’t get kicked up when the chopper landed. There were twelve of us – Adam and I and our Haitian “boy scouts.” We started picking up trash and soon got a lot of spectators. A young boy and girl (probably 11 and 14 or so) came pretty close, whispering and staring at us. I went over, picked up an empty trash bag, handed it to them, said “Merci!” and turned back to work. I heard some giggling, but soon they were helping pick up litter with the rest of us. Adam calls it our “Make Haiti Beautiful Again” campaign. While this country may not have a lot in its favor these days, it has a beautiful runway in Jacmel now! We also started making a large pile with all the rocks that we were finding. As I threw one, it bounced off the pile and chased after two of the boy scouts. They started laughing and I yelled out, “Sorry!” I didn’t know how to say it in Creole, so hopefully they understood. About two minutes later, Adam did the same thing to the same boys….I bet they think we are after them now! When George came to pick us up, we had to really squish in the truck, since the back was now filled with trash, not just people. Adam sat in the front seat and as I was hopping on his lap, I totally whacked George in the face. About two minutes later, we drove over some huge rocks and I conked my head pretty bad on the ceiling. George’s response? “Payback!” We laughed so hard. I continue to be amazed by the good humor and spirits of these workers who have maybe had three hours of sleep in the past three days. We asked Angus if he would sleep at all last night and he said “Not until you lot bugger off!” I love it.

Oh! Good news! We got a message from Rommel, Erick’s brother. Erick and his family were in a part of Port-au-Prince that wasn’t badly affected from the earthquake and they have since left Port-au-Prince and are in Gonaives. Thank you for your prayers! We had heard yesterday night that no one had made any contact with Erick and we immediately began calling his phone through cell phones and Skype, but had no luck. It is so good to know that there are people that are safe. Especially in Port-au-Prince.

We’ve started catching up on and it is just horrific to watch. We were just there. We have pictures of all these places that are now demolished. It is unreal. It’s all just too much. We’re here and doing alright and after seeing the news we are reminded how blessed we are. Adam wants so much to run out and fix all the problems in Haiti, but that’s not possible. There’s just so much to be done and not near enough resources to fix the problem. Before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the western hemisphere. After the earthquake, they are still the poorest in the western hemisphere and now even more discouraged and disheartened by the earthquake. Small efforts by people like Marika at Pazapa and countless other organizations across Haiti have come to a screeching halt. The slogan on the Haitian flag says “L’Union Fait La Force”, which roughly translates to “Working together makes us strong”. A popular Haitian proverb says, “Men anpil fe chay pa lou”, meaning “Many hands make the weight less heavy”. It is this slogan and proverb that gives me hope for the people of Haiti. Haitians and foreigners alike have to work together to help Haiti. There is so much work to be done and the more motivated people with resources that can help, the better. I just pray that the people organizing and distributing the relief, in whatever form, can do so speedily and with care.

The helicopter landed, bringing much needed medical supplies, as well as a (another) Danish journalist. We were so excited for our friends who would finally get to go home after losing everything they have here. We were about to call Adam’s dad on Skype when they came in and asked if we were packed. We said that we had everything all together and they told us to get our stuff ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Now, we didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we had hoped that if there were a couple extra spots they would take us with them to Santo Domingo. When the pilot came back, they told us we were leaving and NOW! We had enough time to send a quick email to our parents and off we went! As we were leaving, the Danes told us there were only three spots on the helicopter, so they wanted Adam, me, and our luggage, to take the helicopter. Keep in mind that they had been trying to arrange this helicopter since the night we got here, are paying for it with their own money (at least $7,200 USD, if not more), and have families back home that are worried about them as well! But, they insisted that we board and we had a very tearful goodbye. We love them and are so grateful for all they did for us while we were together at the MINUSTAH camp and are overwhelmed by their love, concern, and generosity in trying to help these two American kids get home. We will never forget them and just hope to be able to help others as they helped us.

SO! At 10:30 AM, we got on a helicopter and left Jacmel! It was such a surreal experience. It was bittersweet to leave, mainly because we were the first to get a chance to go home. As we were leaving, Angus (the Scottish director of security) kissed me on the cheek and told us Angus would make a great name for our baby. We cannot express how much we love all the people at that base! They have been amazing in their untiring work to help the Haitian people, as well as care about the few refugees they had around the camp.

The helicopter ride was very short, but very significant. It’s only about 30 miles from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince as the crow flies. We had to stop in Port-au-Prince first to get more fuel before heading to Santo Domingo. It was just so crazy seeing things from a bird’s eye view. As we flew into the Port-au-Prince we immediately started seeing flattened homes and other buildings all over the place. We could see entire hillside neighborhoods toppled over on top of each other and brightly colored refugee camps dotting the city. I noticed that the earthquake did as much damage to the rich as it did to the poor. Actually, from what we could see, Cite Soleil looked like it fared pretty well considering everything is on one level and made of wood or aluminum. Huge mansions as well as small homes were equally devastated by the quake. I can only imagine the thousands of people below us grieving and/or searching for their friends and family. We arrived at the airport and landed in the grass near the runway. Military planes, commercial planes, helicopters, and small planes were darting across the tarmac getting fuel, dropping off aid, journalists, passengers, and heavy machinery. It really was a sight to see. Our pilot, Felipe, landed the helicopter, arranged for more fuel, and took off without any communication with the tower. They were too busy directing the larger planes and incoming Military planes. Felipe was a very jovial character who spoke very good English and liked to joke around with us. He was very nice and refused to let Karen carry any of the bags because she was pregnant. He even tried to keep her from carrying a water bottle for fear that it was too heavy.

After leaving Port-au-Prince, we headed towards the Dominican Republic. We passed over the border and the transition was almost immediate. We started seeing well-paved roads, organized neighborhoods that looked well constructed, and small trees all over the beautiful mountains. We stopped at another small airport in Barahona, Dominican Republic to get the last bit of fuel before landing in Santo Domingo. We changed to an air-conditioned helicopter and headed across the beautiful ocean and high mountains. We never got the name of our pilot because he didn’t really talk to us, but played the radio for us instead. We landed at La Isabela International Airport and walked into the office just off the tarmac. We had no idea what to do when we got there but they directed Karen to a computer and I went with our new friend Peter to get some juice and bread for us to eat. Everywhere we were walking we saw televisions with news reports of the earthquake in Haiti and I wanted to get as much information as possible. Karen found a plane that would land in Fort Lauderdale through jetBlue, but we were at the wrong airport. We landed at a small private plane and helicopter airport and needed to get to Las Americas International airport to board our plane. Peter took us through immigration and hailed a cab for us and explained to the driver that we would need to get there as soon as possible to catch our flight. The drive through Santo Domingo was very interesting. We saw a very well developed infrastructure with well built and maintained highways, bridges, a commuter train system, and even countdown timers for the full duration of some of the traffic lights at busier intersections. I’m so happy to see so much development in the Caribbean. The sad part was, why weren’t we seeing these same things in Haiti? Haiti was established long before the Dominican Republic was and has many of the same resources, if not more. The misuse of resources and a track record of corrupt government has really crippled Haiti’s potential. Long before this earthquake, Haiti has had problems. Hopefully, with international attention on Haiti, some of the problems can start being addressed and resolved. It will probably take a few generations to reach where Santo Domingo is now, but I really think it can happen.

We made it to the airport, paid our driver ($50 USD, but who cares – we are on our way home! He also had to drive across town for 45 minutes, so it’s pretty reasonable), checked-in, went through security and immigration, and bought a real sandwich – ham and cheese. It was delicious. Even though it really was just bread, ham, and cheese, we enjoyed every bite, texture, and flavor. Being here at the airport has been a stark dose of reality. We are still incredibly nasty, dirty, smelly, and tired. Everyone around us is clean and polished. It is a strange feeling. Seven hours ago, people in the same conditions surrounded us. We had been through a common, traumatic experience. And now, we are coming home to a place where people are experiencing this earthquake in a very different, removed way. We are amazed at all the aid that has already been promised to Haiti and especially touched by the texting donations. People are genuinely good. They genuinely care. Here we are in America in the middle of our own financial crisis, but everyday people are doing what they can to help a country that most have no connection to. It is truly a miracle.

When we got on our flight, we were on the very last row in the last two seats. Once again, God is good! How else would we have been able to buy plane tickets for an international flight two hours before it took off for less than $200 each?! And with just enough room for us?! We really are amazed at how blessed we have been and continue to be. It is ridiculous (in a very good way)! Adam spoke with all the Haitians on our flight and it was good to connect with people who were going through similar situations. Our flight was about two hours and we enjoyed getting juice, nuts, and cookies! Our plane took off a lot later than expected, so we didn’t get to Ft. Lauderdale until 9 PM or so. We went through immigration and customs, got our bags, called our families, and made it to the hotel that Adam’s sister and brother-in-law arranged for us. We can’t describe what it feels like to be back home in America.

We ordered a pizza (we’d been craving it since we found out that Wednesdays are pizza nights at Guy’s Guesthouse in Jacmel, but sadly, that clearly didn’t happen) and took glorious showers. We decided not to use anything in our backpacks, so we felt like royalty with the little hotel soaps, shampoos, and conditioner. It was an amazing feel to be clean, step out of the shower, and then stay clean. We didn’t have to immediately put our socks and shoes back on, slather ourselves with sunscreen, or spray insect repellent all over our nice clean skin. While I was taking my long shower, the lights went out. My first thought was that the generator had gone out and we would just have to wait a while. I called for Adam, but he came in, waved his hand over the light switch and it came back on. Motion detectors. It will really take a while to get used to America again! Adam pointed out that when we were driving in the shuttle to the hotel, neither of us put our seatbelts on. Probably because when we were in Haiti, there were NEVER seatbelts in any of the vehicles we rode in. We’ll get there.

We tried changing our Monday flight to Kansas City to tomorrow, but we would have to pay $700 more. Umm…we can’t do that. So, instead, we will stay here at the hotel and unwind for a few days. We’ll do our laundry (in a washer and dryer! NOT a hotel sink with unclean water and then hung across the room!) and sleep. A lot. We’re hoping to go to church here at the Haitian branch where Adam served as a missionary. I think that they will be beneficial for both of us, especially after last Sunday and the subsequent week. We look forward to coming home and seeing everyone, but we are not looking forward to jumping into normal. It will take us a while to process everything we’ve been through and so far, when we’ve talked to people at the airport or the hotel, it’s just not the same. So please, talk to us about normal stuff as well as Haiti. We need normal. But continue your prayers and aid to Haiti. They will need it long after the media attention dies down.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day Ten in Haiti - Jacmel/MINUSTAH camp (1/14/10)

So much sleep! It’s amazing how nice it feels to sleep on a thin mat on a tiled floor after sleeping on the ground outside the night before. There were still two aftershocks during the night, but it was not nearly as horrible as our first night here (which was only yesterday….crazy how time has morphed since the earthquake). We slept from 8 PM until midnight, woke up at an aftershock, then went back to bed until 5:30 AM or so. It wasn’t the most restful sleep ever, but after running all day yesterday on only three hours of sleep, we needed anything we could get. We shared an orange and some bread (thanks to our friends the Danes!) for breakfast, which was lucky. George, from the UN, came by in the morning to update us on their situation. They’re quickly running out of rations and diesel, so we will really have to be careful with how much we eat because we don’t know how long we will be here. Hopefully there will be aid flown in sometime tomorrow, so they won’t be as limited. They still have some reserves, but those are only to be used in extreme emergency and strangely enough, this isn’t quite at that point yet.

We tried calling David, our local contact with the Embassy, and the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, but neither number worked. We still weren’t sure if the US knew we were in Haiti and in Jacmel specifically. Angus had passed our information onto the UN station in Port-au-Prince, but we’re not sure where it went from there. The UN lost at least 150 people in Port-au-Prince – all of their top officials were in a meeting with the Chinese ambassador when the earthquake hit and we’re pretty sure all were killed. The hotel where other UN workers were staying also collapsed. We are incredibly blessed to be here in Jacmel and at the UN station. The UN in Port-au-Prince are on the streets in tents just like all of the people. Last night we heard that there were about 500,000 possible fatalities in Port-au-Prince, but fortunately that number has gone done a lot. They are now saying 100,000+ have been killed. However, it’s going to be near to impossible to really know for sure because the government has no way of knowing how many Haitians there are in the first place, let alone how many and who was killed or missing in the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

Our day was made at 8:30 AM when the director of operations here offered us her apartment to go and take showers and wash laundry. How glorious!!! We were wearing the same clothes for the past three days and we were pretty dusty and dirty from everything. George took the seven of us (the four Danish filmmakers, their Haitian friend, and us!) to the nearby apartment and left us there for two hours. Mary Poppins helped again by providing laundry detergent, shampoo, soap, and Q-tips. We still had enough clean clothes for a couple of days, so we didn’t do any laundry, but we definitely took showers. We all reveled in our cleanliness and enjoyed sitting on real furniture. You could see the cracks in the wall and the ceiling, but the building was deemed safe enough to be there. We’ve begun to be a bit paranoid when it comes to aftershocks, so we will often look at each other to confirm if one really happened or if we just imagined it. For example, I was lying down with my head in Adam’s lap, trying to rest, when I felt a rumbling. I jumped up and asked if it was an aftershock. Everyone else laughed because they had just asked Adam if I was asleep, he had nodded his head, and that body movement felt like an aftershock to me. It’s been happening to all of us and we think it will probably happen for sometime.

As we drove by the airport (which is right across from the UN station), we saw that they were beginning to take all the tents down. They are trying to move all the refugees to a different spot that way aid helicopters can be cleared to land here. The place is completely littered (Haitians don’t really use trashcans anyway, but having 3,000 people trying to survive out there really doesn’t help). We told George that we WERE going to help with the clean up, so hopefully later today we will have something useful to do!

When we got back, Angus gave us an email (the Danes have been getting emails all the time from their Minister of Foreign Affairs and children making plans to come get them, but we’ve never gotten one) – we were so excited! He warned us not to get our hopes up. It was simply a statement from the U.S. Embassy to let us know…..there had been an earthquake in Port-au-Prince and that we should seek shelter. We had a fun time being very sarcastic when people around the base would ask us what we heard, “Did you know there was an earthquake?!” All kidding aside, they did include some additional numbers for the Embassy, as well as an email address, so if we ever get an internet connection, we’ll be able to make better contact. We do know that they know we are here. However, we don’t think that they know I am 18 weeks pregnant and that food rations are running out. We’re hoping that if they’re aware of our situation, we might be able to get a little more priority (otherwise, we could be here another week or more). The Danes joke that I should stuff my shirt with all my dirty clothes and claim to be much further along than I am to make them REALLY listen to us. They told me I might need to be dramatic, which we all know wouldn’t be a problem. It’s crazy that we are all just joking and laughing throughout all of this. We were also talking while doing laundry – we are lucky to be with people who are giving and caring, just like we are trying to be. So often, it is natural to react to these situations by trying to be greedy and only look out for yourself, but we are making great friends and sharing what we have. We have received fresh fruit and bread and much needed toothpaste from the Danes. Adam and I had only packed a travel size of toothpaste, thinking it would be enough, but we were planning to go out to buy more the night of the earthquake. The last two days we had been brushing our teeth with Listerine (but we were running out of that too). I know that brushing your teeth is probably considered a luxury in the situation we are, but it makes you feel human each morning to do it. And we need to feel that!

Sue, the American whose friend was crushed by their hotel, has been at the site trying to get machinery to find the body. She had to call his family this morning to let them know and is now trying to make arrangements to incinerate the body (once they find it) so she can bring him home. Each time we see her we are immediately reminded of how blessed we are to both be here and together. Most stories we hear do not have that ending. Heavenly Father has been working overtime to protect our little family and we are trying to do all we can to help His other children. Sue let us know that there was a nice Indian man in one of the UN offices who had let her make a call to the US over the internet. Satellite calls are pretty expensive, so we were lucky to make a brief one yesterday, but we still wanted to touch base with our family. We found the office and the man was more than happy to help us call home. The internet connection wasn’t very strong, so after Adam spoke to my mom for a short while, it disconnected and we couldn’t get it to connect again. In all honesty, we had probably given her the information we needed – where we were exactly, to contact the senators or representatives, and to somehow let the Embassy know that I am pregnant. Fortunately, the man let us use his personal account to make a very long distance phone call so we could finish the conversation with our family. We were surprised to hear that there has been local media attention (what picture did they use? It better be a cute one!) and are really touched by all the work and support our family and friends have already provided. I don’t think we’re fully aware of the situation since we have no news or communication. We only know the brief updates we get here.

We’ve actually had a much more exciting day than we had expected. On top of our shower and phone call home, we had mentioned to Angus that we all have laptops and an Ethernet cord and he arranged for internet to be made available to us! So, right now, there is a man working to string a cable from one of the offices into the restaurant (cafeteria) where we are staying. This provides SO much relief because now we can be in charge of our communication. I don’t know if it will help get us home quicker, but we are able to give current information without having to harass the already busy UN guys (who are doing an amazing job here).

While Adam was trying to take a nap, the rest of us jumped up when we heard and saw a small airplane by the airport. We found out that it was a group of Scandinavian journalists that were here to do a story about the Danes here. They had been making arrangements with a Danish TV crew to take them back to Santa Domingo, but unfortunately, this was a different group. In fact, after the four journalists took their photos, video, and interviews (including me…I’ll be famous in Sweden!), their plane took off and now they are stuck here as well (though I think the plane is coming back tomorrow….I heard they were having a hard time finding a hotel, so maybe they figured a free night at the UN would be better than nothing…). As a result, we now have four new people vying for the internet. I know that it is their job to stay connected, but it is also hard to have to wait when we have been through this disaster and are just now able to make contact with those we love.

We also made arrangements with George to clean off the airport runway so it could be safer when planes and helicopters land. It really wasn’t a huge deal because the Jacmel airport is a building with a really wide driveway (basically). The UN had to move the refugees earlier today from the airport so aid could arrive, but tensions were still a bit high (these people just lost their homes and now had to move again. We completely understand). The UN decided it would be safer for everyone if we waited until it got dark to go and clean. So, we went out (along with Haitian “boy scouts” – a nickname George gave to a group of young men that volunteered to help in any way). It took us less than an hour to sweep up and clean about 60 meters of the runway (that’s all they needed cleaned immediately). Because it was dark, our flashlights came in very handy (Santa, you did it again). We even made cleaning into a game – one person would stretch out the trash bag with their feet, while the one with the broom would try to sweep it all in – goal! We’ve had a fun day.

Since coming back, we’ve been able to check our email and eat some rice. After three meals of UN biscuits, we are grateful for the change. Sadly, some of the Haitians here with us aren’t eating it because it doesn’t have any sauce or meat with it. I’m sorry, but we are hungry! We are also very grateful for the many multivitamins and prenatal vitamins that we packed. It will hopefully make up for the lack of nutritional value we’ve had in our food recently. Today has really been a great day: things to do, progress with the recovery effort, and contact with our families. Adam’s also a bit excited to swap stories with the two photographers that are now stranded here for the night. In fact, now with the internet, he’s going to try to send some of his before, during, and after pictures of the earthquake here in Jacmel. We may be really famous! More than anything, we are continually grateful to be together, healthy, and safe. Everything else has just been a bonus. We only hope we will be able to get home soon.

We love the internet! We just got done talking to my mom using Skype, a fantastic Voice over IP service that allowed us to talk to our family for free! How amazing is that! We hear that we are a big deal and that things in Haiti are absolutely horrible. We are SO blessed to be here in Jacmel and at the UN station. We will try our best to make contact with our friend Erick in Port-au-Prince but nobody seems to be able to make calls to people there. We have some people here in the camp who received calls from people in Port-au-Prince but nobody is able to call them. We are so grateful for the many prayers for us and our safety but we hope that everyone will pray for the people of Haiti and specifically Erick and his family. We are safe with food and water and a likely chance we can get out soon. These Haitians are staying here and will have to start the slow process of rebuilding. I heard someone say that this will set Haiti back 10 years, and I believe it. Maybe more.

Day Nine in Haiti - Jacmel/MINUSTAH camp (1/13/10)

Our day started pretty early – a 6 AM aftershock wake-up call. Keep in mind this was over 12 hours since the initial quake. Our Danish friends gave us an orange to share for breakfast and we waited to hear any more updates. All through the night, we had been trying to get an internet connection to email our parents to let them know that we were safe, but with no luck. The internet connection was spotty and no one was able to get a message out. We continued to have aftershocks, but luckily they were lessening in force. People began bringing in reports from the town – homes destroyed, schools collapsed, streets torn up, etc. When we had left, Pazapa was still standing, but we have since learned that the entire back wall has fallen in. We still haven’t heard what happened to the guesthouse where we were staying.

The UN brought us sandwiches and yogurt for breakfast, along with more water. The morning went by fairly quickly – we passed the time by counting the aftershocks, picking up trash, and getting to know our fellow refugees better. There’s also a group from UNICEF stuck here and one of them had a satellite phone that we were able to finally phone home. Adam called my mom (it was 5 AM or so in Kansas, so we knew she would be up) to let her know we were alive and safe. After that phone call, we were really struck with the intense love and concern all of our family and friends have had for us. We knew the entire time that we were safe, but it was so hard to imagine what everyone back home was wondering when they heard about the disaster on the news. We are so grateful for those 60 seconds we had to connect with those we love and to reassure those who were worried about us.

It’s now just been a day of sitting and waiting. We’ve been well fed (Sri Lankan curry for lunch, eaten with our hands!) and protected from any danger. Sadly, the UN reports that the town is basically a war zone with looters and violence. People are angry and upset, so it is good that we, who are seen as outsiders, are protected. We’ve kept busy by moving our chairs and packs every hour or so to stay out of the sun. Somehow, the day has gone by quickly. Aftershocks continue to come, even more than 24 hours after the original quake. Marika, director of Pazapa, came to visit and was relieved to see us safely here. Sadly, Pazapa is no longer in workable condition and her preschool is completely demolished. We’ve heard reports that there are two schools where students are still trapped, but luckily all of the students were out of both of Marika’s schools before it struck.

We were surprisingly more prepared for this situation than we had realized! All day today, we’ve been able to pass out aspirin, anti-itch gel (one of the Danes was boiling water when the quake struck and it fell on her foot), a camera cleaner, laundry detergent, and we even gave up our laptop bag! We’ve gained the nickname “Mary Poppins” because we seem to have everything people are in need of – including phone and laptop chargers. We are grateful that we can help others and grateful for the generosity and help that we continue to receive.

Our next mission is to figure out a way to get home. The UN is unable to take private individuals in their helicopters, so we won’t be able to chopper out of here. There was talk of an armored convoy taking everyone to Port-au-Prince, but that was nixed after it was discovered that the road had a 30km stretch that was completely destroyed. Now, it seems that people are trying to make it on their own. The Danes and UNICEF people were talking of chartering a helicopter to take them to Port-au-Prince, but I don’t think we’re invited in that party. The UN won’t be able to really drive us anywhere because of the roads. We also have no clear way of communicating with anyone to actually make plans. We don’t have a car or phone which isn’t a huge deal now since both are relatively worthless considering situation right now but when things do start to work again, we won’t have many options. We’re not sure that the US Embassy knows that we are here, but they are dealing with so many American causalities in Port-au-Prince that I’m sure we’re pretty low on the totem pole. We’ve said a family prayer that we might be able to know what to do and be safe in our journey home.

After a whole day of doing nothing but waiting anxiously, we decided to try to relax by watching a movie (there’s electricity at the station, so we’re able to charge our computer, even though there’s no internet). After about 30 minutes into “Casino Royale” we gave up. We were tired and watching a movie about spies, gambling, and women wasn’t really helping our situation at all. So, at about 8 PM, we curled up in the restaurant and tried to fall asleep.

Day Eight in Haiti - Jacmel (1/12/10)

Adam still wasn’t feeling very well when we woke up, so we decided that after breakfast, he would walk me over to Pazapa, then head back to the hotel to sleep. For breakfast we were told to sit in the back to eat, which was fine by us. The night before, we had eaten dinner at the front of the hotel and we felt like we were in a zoo with everyone peering in and talking to us as we were eating. The waitress never brought us a menu; she just started bringing out food – white bread toast, Haitian grapefruit juice (it’s very sweet), and fried eggs with salad. A very interesting breakfast, but we just went with it. We’re not getting too picky when it comes to our food here anymore.

We walked down the street and went to Pazapa. It. Was. Amazing. I fell in love immediately! There were little children running around, eating breakfast, greeting their teachers, and staring at the two foreign visitors. Ti Joe (Little Joe) greeted us and reassured Adam that he would take care of me. After Adam left, Ti Joe gave me a tour of the school. There are four different classrooms, the “babies,” early primary, late primary, and intermediate. In the older classrooms, they really want to integrate their students in the community, so there are typically developing peers who go to school at Pazapa in the morning before attending their school in the afternoon. The facilities aren’t amazing, but they are clean and the teachers are amazing with the students. I was just smiling SO hugely the entire tour – it was awesome! After the tour, I went into the early primary classroom to observe. Even though I didn’t understand the language, I still had a fairly good idea about what was going on. Students in any country are always excited when there’s a visitor in the room and these little Haitian students were no exception. I sat at a table with about eight little boys, all who would shyly smile at me, then quickly turn away when I asked their names and how old they were in Creole. The teacher was giving a lesson about the color green and passed out leaves from a plant outside and even I was picking up the Creole for green – ve.

Next, I went to the classroom for the babies – infants and toddlers. There were only about four children there, but their moms came with them and stayed the entire time. It was so neat to see the network and support that these mothers had through each other and it was clear they loved their children as well as the other children in the class. Each child had a very different reason for being at Pazapa, but all were equally sweet. There was even a child there for the first time with his mom and grandma and after being observed and filling out paperwork, he became the newest student there! I loved playing and interacting with these little ones. No language is really needed to interact with them, though I was soon saying, “Bravo!” and clapping after a little girl successfully stacked rings. She loved to clap and would often stack them again and stare at me, waiting for the clapping.

During recess for the early primary classroom, a little boy led me to the center of the courtyard, pointed to a chair, and I sat down. I was immediately surrounded by all the students, who were all touching my skin, hair, and notepad. They loved taking my pen and making little scribble marks on my paper and were even more amazed when I would trace their hand on it. After tracing about five hands, with plenty more waiting, one of the teachers had me sit on the side of the courtyard so the students would be able to run around and play, rather than just surrounding me.

I spent the last 30 minutes or so in the baby room. Adam came in and sat with me, playing with that same sweet little girl. It was exciting to be able to tell him everything that I had seen that day and my plans for interviewing the director, teachers, students, and family about the school itself. As horrible as we had felt the day before, I was so happy to be here at Pazapa and knew that it was worth it! It is such an amazing program – even in American standards (though the resources are very different). They only have the school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, but I was excited to go with the physical therapist for home visits on Thursday morning and to see their school for the deaf in the afternoons.

We decided to wait to see the school for the deaf until the following day because Adam still needed to take it easy and I could use a little break as well. We went back to our guesthouse and ordered lunch in the back room. Adam got a ham and cheese sandwich with fries and a salad and I ordered rice and beans – exactly what I wanted. We then headed upstairs and watched “Starsky and Hutch” on the laptop and then drifted off to a nice nap (with the many noises of Jacmel in the background – roosters, car horns, motorcycles, Haitian mommies yelling, etc.). We slept for a solid two hours or so before Adam got up to take pictures from the balcony of the hotel and I did a little reading in the room.

I left Karen to sleep while I got up to take some pictures of the street from a second floor balcony and church right next to our hotel. It was a nice day and the beautiful singing was coming from the church next to us. It sounded like a choir practice and they were singing “Ave Maria”, one of my favorites. I was lining up a shot of the hallway in the hotel and the ground started shaking. At first I thought a big truck or something was driving down the road but then the ground was shaking even more under me and the church next to me started falling apart. I aimed the camera in that direction and started sporadically taking pictures. I was right outside the door of our hotel room on the second floor while all of this was happening. The ground stopped shaking and I ran into our room to find Karen alright. It’s hard to tell how long the earthquake lasted but it lasted anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute. Our perception of time is a little distorted.

So while Adam was actually seeing the disastrous effects of the earthquake as they were happening, I was still in our room. When the ground started shaking, I started to freak out – was this an earthquake? Is that what an earthquake feels like? What am I supposed to do? Run outside? Hide in a doorway? Where is Adam? Is he okay? So, instead of doing any of those – I just stayed on the bed, frantically looking around at the roof and the walls. As soon as it stopped, Adam ran in – we were SO happy and grateful to see each other. We sat together on the bed briefly talking about what happened, had a family prayer, and then decided to walk out to the balcony to see the damage. As we were up there, people from the street yelled at us to get out and on the ground. We quickly ran to our room, put on shoes, grabbed the camera bag and made our way to the courtyard behind the neighboring church.

It’s really, really difficult to express what this experience was like. Cars and mototaxis were still driving in the street, through huge piles of rubble. People were wailing, praising God, and everything in between. We sat through a few aftershocks behind the church, but luckily there didn’t seem to be further damage. After waiting over an hour (and because it was getting dark), we decided to head back into our hotel, which had no sign of damage. We found some of the employees and they told us we would be fine in our second floor room, gave us a kerosene lamp, and we tried to relax. About ten minutes later, a woman (presumably the owner) came through telling us we needed to get out of the hotel until we got the all clear. It turns out the entire street is built on a floodplain and they were worried about further damage. We grabbed our flashlight, camera bag, and laptop bag and headed into the street to wait.

By this time, it was about 6:30 and getting dark quickly. It seemed that everyone in the town was fleeing in the same direction. The owner told us we would be walking to the beach for safety, but we ended up staying in the street across from the hotel because her parents couldn’t make the journey to the beach. We stood around just waiting for nothing when a nice Land Cruiser drove up with a Haitian in the driver seat and what appeared to be an American in the passenger seat. He asked if we were American and I ran over to him. It turns out his name was David and he worked for the US Embassy here in Jacmel and was just driving around town looking for any Americans. We showed him our passports and we hopped into his car and we headed up to where the MINUSTAH (United Nations) base station was next to the airport. We arrived but then I went to go back with David to grab the rest of our bags from our hotel room since we left in such a hurry.

The twenty minutes that Adam was gone were the longest in my life. There was another American waiting with me whose hotel had crumbled down behind her and on her best friend. There were four Danes whose home had crumbled as they ran out without luggage, money, or passports. There was an American who lived in Jacmel whose home was also destroyed. I knew that Adam was safe with David and that our hotel hadn’t suffered any damage, but in a situation like this, it is easy to speculate. After Adam got back, Angus, a tattooed Scot who is the head of security, came to give us an update. There had been a 7.0 earthquake 10 km outside of Port-au-Prince and already there had been a 5.9 aftershock. The airport was closed (both here in Jacmel and in Port-au-Prince). There went our plan to fly to Port-au-Prince, and then head home a few days early! The UN troops (from Sri Lanka) passed out brandy and cookies - we drank our water and ate a lot of cookies (we weren’t sure when we would eat again!).

At least once an hour, but often more, we would feel rather large aftershocks. We were in a big open parking lot, so while we felt safe, we also knew that if it was this bad two hours outside of Port-au-Prince, it was probably even worse in the city itself. As it got darker, the aftershocks seemed to get worse. The worst part was hearing the screams and shrieks coming from the direction of Jacmel. After a few more updates from Angus (including that the threat of a tsunami had passed……glad we weren’t aware of that beforehand!), dinner from the UN (the worst crackers ever and pieces of bread with a marmalade), and a few more aftershocks, they passed out a few mats that we could use to sleep on. We headed to the UN cafeteria, which had been cleared out, and cuddled up on a mat. By this time, there were about 50 Haitians who had been let in the UN station with 3,000 more out on the tarmac of the airport. However, within 30 minutes of being inside, we felt three more aftershocks, one that was really bad, so we decided not to chance it inside and to head back to the parking lot. Haiti can get pretty cold at night, so we used Adam’s hoodie as a blanket for the both of us and tried to rest. By this time it was 2 AM and the last aftershock came at about 3 AM. Finally, we could get some sleep.

Day Seven in Haiti - Traveling to Jacmel (1/11/10)

Since we had done most of our packing the night before, we were able to sleep for a bit longer before heading to breakfast and checking out of the Oloffson. Our bill was a bit higher than we had anticipated (but then again, we had only planned to stay one night and have one meal there… ). Still, we can’t complain because we needed the rest and enjoyed the atmosphere, company, and internet! While we were eating our breakfast, Adam met up with Eric, a graduate student from Columbia University finishing up his Master’s thesis, who he had met the night before. He also met Daniel Morel, a well-known Haitian photographer that has shot for Newsweek, the Associated Press, and several other major media sources. Adam was able to toss around some ideas that he had for a future photography project in Haiti and got some feedback.

Erick was going to pick us up, drive us to the bank in Petionville, then take us to the bus station. About an hour and a half after our original meeting time, another member of the church pulled up in Erick’s car to pick us up. Erick had been held up at work, but was able to make arrangements for someone else to take us on our errands (and now we feel horrible because we can’t remember his name!). It took about 20 minutes to drive up to Petionville, which is not as impressive as what I was imagining it would be. True, the roads were nicer and there were actually stores in buildings rather than on the streets, but I think I was expecting Boca Raton or something.

There are only two banks in Port-au-Prince where we could do a cash advance from our bank in the States, so that’s why we had to go up to Petionville. When we arrived at Scotiabank, it felt like we had entered a bank in the States. It had modern architecture and lighting, catchy advertisements for personal loans, and plenty of bank officers that tried to look busy while everyone else waited in line for one of the three tellers. We were in line for about half an hour when Adam realized we would probably need his passport for the transaction. We were third in line at that point, so Adam ran out to the car while I held our place in line. After five minutes, he came back empty-handed. We shove our passports in secret compartments in our backpacks, but they can be hard to get to with everything else in the pack. I was so worried that we had left his passport in our hotel room, but decided to check one more time, just in case. Luckily, it was there…just way at the bottom. Still, Adam and I were both too happy to care!

Finally it was our turn! We had a couple transactions – a cash advance, exchanging US dollars to Haitian gourdes, and exchanging smaller Haitian bills for larger ones. We had to pay a couple fees to make the cash advance (and we’re pretty sure we would have enough to get by anyway), but we decided we’d rather be safe than stranded. The entire transaction took another 30 minutes, but it gave us plenty of time to talk with our teller. She was highly impressed with Adam’s Creole for never having been to Haiti before. Soon, she was asking him about his mission and the beliefs of our church (Legliz Jezikri Pou Sen Denye Jou Yo or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). We told her to look out for the young guys with white shirts and black nametags riding around on bicycles – and she said she had seen them before! We’ve seen the missionaries at church since we’ve been here, but we’re still hoping we run into them on the street. It brightens our day!

Finally we were able to make it over to the bus station. It was a lot later than we had expected, so we were starting to get hungry. Still, we don’t really feel comfortable buying most of the food off the street and the bus stations are full of people selling things! After trying to fit our bags on two smaller buses, we had to bite the bullet and load our stuff onto the dreaded school bus. This time, we weren’t so lucky with our seats. We were near the very back and we were separated. They were only seating people two to a seat (rather than three), so we felt a little better about our upcoming journey. However, it wasn’t too much longer before they started shoving in more and more people. Adam ended up in between a woman and a grown man and I was between a pretty big young man and a dad and his six-year old son. Across the “aisle” (which doesn’t exist when you sit six across), there was a man with a chicken tied to his seat.

By the time we got moving, we were both pretty done with bus rides. This one only cost $2.50 each and was supposed to be about 2-3 hours, but our excitement about experiencing the real Haiti has quickly faded. The seat cushions aren’t actually attached to the seat, so I spent half the ride sitting on a metal bar with the cushion under my thighs. Adam had it even worse – his seat broke halfway through, so he sat with one arm on the window (to keep from crushing the woman next to him), one foot flat on the ground, and the other pitched forward, twisted on the hump of the wheel. Add to that the exhaust, fumes, and dust that were coming into the bus and you have two very unhappy campers. Both of us were trying hard to fight the urge to throw up (we learned this all later as we swapped stories of how we would have done it – Adam would have used his handkerchief and I would use used the emergency exit window). It took everything in me NOT to throw up the last 30 minutes, especially when the little boy right next to me did. Twice. I realize this probably isn’t pleasant to read, but that was our bus ride. Never again (okay, we may have to this Saturday, but hopefully we can arrange other transportation).

There are no taxis in Jacmel, but everyone gets around on mototaxis (motorcycles). Because of our bags, we had to each get on one to take us to the school, which is right by our hotel. After the three scariest minutes of my life (driving is crazy in Haiti, but even more so when you are on the back of a motorcycle!), the guys dropped us off in front of a brightly colored locked building. It was not Pazapa. It was not our hotel. Adam had seen our hotel on the way there (and pointed it out to them), so we got back on the motorcycles and they drove us back to where the school actually was (about one block from the bus station….grr). They claimed they had taken us to where Pazapa used to be, but we feel like it was just an excuse to get more money. We paid them double what we had wanted, but frankly, we just wanted to be done and go to our hotel. We checked into Guy’s Guesthouse and were pleasantly surprised with our room. Yes, it’s small, but it’s clean and has an actual shower (we had expected a bucket and a hose). They also have electricity (we had been told to bring flashlights because they don’t have a generator), just no internet. Oh well. We will survive. Correction: Karen just took the first “shower” and she wanted me to revise our description of the shower. Karen says, “I’m discovering that the water coming out of the sink is actually warmer than what’s coming out of the shower so I think I’ll just use a washcloth and the sink water for my body and the “shower head” to wash my hair.” Maybe a bucket shower wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all?

We decided to eat dinner and then go to bed because we are tired. It gets dark fairly early here, so we were glad to find out that the Guesthouse has a restaurant, so we didn’t need to leave. I ordered an omelet and Adam ordered lobster with butter and garlic (it was only $12! What a deal!). We had to get some more passion fruit juice and tried grapefruit juice mixed with milk – an immediate hit (the grapefruit here is much more sweet than the kind at home). As we were waiting for our food, we took the time to plan out some of the objectives we want to accomplish with our time at Pazapa. I’m hoping to interview the director of the school tomorrow, then the teachers, students, and family members later in the week. I’m so excited to see a school that is so in tune with what should be happening with special education, especially in a country where education doesn’t really seem widely available.

We’re finally going to bed now but the church next to us is in full worship mode right now. Lots of yelling and loud singing. Maybe it’s just because it’s been a long day, but I’m getting kinda tired of how everything in Haiti has to be so loud! The cars, buses, music, churches, babies, you name it, they’re all very loud.

We're Alright!

We just wanted to let everyone know that we are alright!!! We are currently at a UN base station in Jacmel, Haiti next to the airport. The earthquake has also devastated much of Jacmel but we are safe with food, water, and all of our belongings. We are so blessed to be together and healthy! We will be posting our journal entries shortly.

Thank you so much for your prayers and keep them coming for the people of Haiti! We'll be home soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day Six in Haiti - Port-au-Prince (1/10/10)

We didn’t have to wake up until 8:30 AM, but my body must be used to 5 AM wake-up calls because once 6:30 hit…I could not go back to sleep! It didn’t help that we had gone to bed fairly early the night before. Well, after tossing and turning for two more hours, I finally got up. I was taking advantage of the internet in the lobby when I glanced down at my watch and realized it was somehow 9:15. Keep in mind I had come downstairs at 7:45 and Adam was still in bed (we were getting picked up for church at 9:30). As I rushed upstairs, Adam was walking out and we figured out that our iPod (which has been our alarm clock) had reset to Central time when we had hooked it up to the computer the night before. We had enough time to change, grab some breakfast to take with us, and hop into Erick’s van and head to church! When we got there, there were already a number of members socializing outside. We enjoyed meeting everyone and I even found someone that wanted to practice their English with me (and tried to teach me a little Creole as well).

I’m pretty sure Adam and I had very different experiences at church. For the first hour, we split up into classes – Relief Society for the sisters and Priesthood for the brothers. I could follow along with the hymns we sang in French and some of the scriptures we read, but as for everything in between…it sounded like everyone was learning and sharing , so I just tried to imagine what they were saying based on the few words I could pick out. Next, we had Sunday School where I was reunited with my English/Creole speaking husband. We played Hangman to figure out the topic of the lesson and somehow, I was the one that figured out the word first (it was “preordination” – spelled the same in French AND English). I was also asked to say the closing prayer in English, which I was happy to do. Finally, we had sacrament meeting. We sat next to the missionaries at the back and it was so nice to look ahead and see such a full church full of faithful Haitian members! The ward is so much bigger than ours in Lawrence and full of returned missionaries and young families. It was so exciting to see how strong the Church is here in Haiti.

My experience was different from Karen’s because, well, I know the language. After feeling pretty horrible the day before, I felt a lot better today and church was an amazing experience for me. It was such a beautiful sight to see so many faithful Haitian members that were living the gospel in such difficult circumstances. The lessons in Priesthood and Sunday School were very well prepared and really showed that the members were confident in their understanding of the gospel. It has always been a dream of mine to see fully functional church units in Haiti and today that dream was realized. I cried a little just seeing how many families and returned missionaries there were in the ward. This truly was an answer to prayers!

After church, we headed back to the hotel. Since we hadn’t had much for breakfast, our bodies both needed some food! We discovered our favorite sandwich here – The Cuban. It’s on chicken, ham, and mozzarella cheese on a baguette. So good. After eating, we headed upstairs for a much-needed Sunday nap. As we were in the middle of changing out of our church clothes, a hotel employee started coming in to bring new towels, so Adam (for the second day in a row) had to frantically yell, “Pita! Though slightly awkward, it still gave us a good laugh about the perfect timing that the employees have here. After that excitement, we drifted off for a long nap.

We woke up with enough time to wait for Erick to pick us up for a fireside at the Church. However, in the street right in front of us, we heard a loud brass band playing music and saw a crowd gathered, blocking the intersection and surrounding blocks. As we were waiting, we got a video of the music and dancing, then realized that the crowd was growing and moving in the same direction that Erick would be taking to pick us up. We went out to the street to find out what was going on and were told that it was a celebration gearing up for Carnival (Mardi Gras). We got a hold of Erick by phone and he came to the same conclusion that we had – no fireside for us tonight! He had started making his way here, but police were redirecting traffic and it would’ve been impossible for him to get here and then to get to the church.

Instead, we’ve taken the evening to catch up on posting pictures on our previous entries. We also have been searching the internet to catch up on our Haitian history. Turns out, the path to the Citadelle isn’t 7 km. It’s 11 km…or seven miles. Wow. We’re both kind of glad we didn’t know that as we were hiking it the other day! We’ve also gotten to know a few people here at the hotel. One of them is an American who lives in the middle of nowhere in the southwest part of Haiti called Grand Anse. Another is a radio journalist for the United Nations and he told me stories and showed me pictures of some of the stories he’s covered. He also explained how the United Nations is structured with jobs and it’s something I might look into more when we get back. Our new friend from the UN was about to leave but then the sky opened and dumped buckets of rain. It was raining REALLY hard! It stopped the Carnival band and made everyone go inside (including the hundreds of blood-thirsty mosquitoes). Now we’re going to dodge the streams of water from the leaky roof as we make our way back to our room. So far, no leaks in our room but we’ll let you know in the morning.