Thursday, January 14, 2010

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.

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