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.


Emily said...

It's so good to finally hear from the two of you. You have a lot of people back here in the States that love you and pray that you make it home safe soon :) It doesn't surprise me to hear you being as upbeat about the whole situation as you are being; that's just who you guys are! What a story you will have to tell your kid when they get older! You'll continue to be in my prayers, as well as the people of Haiti and your friend and his family. I loveda you!

Anonymous said...

Karen! You are pregnant?!!! That is so great! But, yes, tell everyone at the UN and get out of there before food rations run out. I am so glad to read these great updates. I just asked for prayers at church tonight for you and Adam and I'm glad to know you have been in fairly good shape food and basic needs wise.

Amelia said...

Incredible stuff. Please keep us updated! Amelia and I have called all the numbers we can find and passed on information about you. (We started on Tuesday night!) We're hoping to see you soon!

And if we need to drive down to Miami to pick you up, we will. Just get back!

You're in our prayers, as is the whole country.

Joel said...

Whoops. That was me.

Bryson Family said...

Loved reading the updates and have asked everyone to pray for you guys! The kids keep asking about you and Annie wants to watch the news. Tonight though she asked me to turn it off because it's making her scared. :( She is very concerned and has asked constantly if we have heard anything. She will be thrilled in the morning to hear about your posts! Love and hugs to you three!! We'll keep praying that you can get back home soon!

disillusioned said...

So happy to read your update! Yes--praying for you, and the people of Haiti, and will add Erick and his family to the list. Seriously---just happy to hear from you!!!

Mary P.

Maggie said...

Thank you so much for your update. I am on the board of Pazapa in the US and have been desparate for news. We had heard that Marika and her kids were OK, but we don't have any news on any of the other staff. If you learn of anything, please let us know. My thoughts are with you both and I hope you can find a way home soon. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I'll check your blog regularly.

General Tso said...

Whew! That's what I've been waiting days to hear. I think I was checking your blog every 2 hours. I'm so happy that you're safe and together and taken care of. Get home soon so you can revel in your new celebrity status!

Erin said...

It is so good to hear that you guys are safe and o.k. Tom and I were talking the other day and trying to figure out how we can help. The only donations that the Red Cross are taking at this point are financial, so we will look and see what me might be able to afford to part with. You will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers along with the people of Haiti and Erick and his family, and if you can think of anything else that Tom and I can do to help, let us know.

Matt and Lisa Gee said...

We are very sad for Haiti and all the loss and suffering it is now experiencing. Amid this sadness we are happy to know that you three (!) are faring well and on your way home. We love you.

Lisa and Matt

brooke said...

If you hear of anything in particular that can be done for the children, please let us know.
We are praying for your safe return and for the people of Haiti to receive the assistance they need!!
Brooke, Lanny, Wesley

Hanna said...

A BABY!!!!!! So happy for you both!!!! Reading your blog has inspired me! You're both so strong and focused, and pregnant!!! I went sailing with Dan for 2 weeks at 24 weeks pregnant and was a nervous wreck, sure we were all going to die. My hormones were everywhere! and i did it through choice! so glad all three of you are safe and soon, hopefully to be home! XXXX

flor said...

What an extral ordinary people, am so pround of you guys, so strong as ever, in such a devastation situation , you remain strong and gratefull, you such a good example to people around you.i'm so gratedull to HEAVENLY FATHER FOR whom you are. i can't stop thinking of karen condition in that situation, at the same time i knew how strong you must be.can't wait to hear your voice, my prayer to you and the people of you very much

Linley said...

I've now read all the updates on your blog and it makes me feel so sombre. Grateful that your family is fine, but amazed at what you're going through! Please keep safe and thank you for taking us along on your heroic journey.

Not-so-tiny Tim said...

I'm glad that you two are o.k.! Yes, you guys have been on some local news reports. However, the ones that i've seen are lacking in journalistic quality. The best stuff they use is quoted from your own blog, along with the pictures that you guys posted.

I can't wait to see you back on U.S. soil & to hear the rest of your story.

Chelsea said...

I think your last two paragraphs (on day 11) really brought it home for me. The small act of seatbelts or motion detectors in the bathroom on the lights--what a world we live in.

Rest well!