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A few final shots from Port au Prince. Above: panorama from the overlook spot 3200 feet above sea level.
Below: the scene from the roof of our guest house in Port au Prince.

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Meanwhile, we arrived safely in NYC and are headed to our last dinner together. The GPUMC Haiti “Special Ops Team” accomplished its mission and will soon be completing its physical journey and the individual faith journeys of each member of this team. Thanks for all your prayers and other support.

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Hot weather and many gigabytes of data overheated our laptop power supply and burned it out, leaving us unable to update the blog for several days.

Our last two days were tremendously productive, as walls started going up around two classrooms. Our in-house construction expert, Nate was happy to see us pouring reinforced concrete beams to give the structure much greater resistance to earthquakes.
It was truly remarkable how much we all enjoyed working with the Haitian crew, too.
We will have lots more pictures to share and stores to tell about the work we did, the hope we brought to those we served, and the faith that grew within each of us. Come back again soon.

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Long days here, but very productive. Lots of pictures on the Shutterfly Gallery page elsewhere, but no updated tonight. Here are Eva Cobau’s thoughts after Monday’s day of work.
2.17.14
Today was the first day on the work site. The day started off very productive. I was very well rested and fed a wonderful Haitian breakfast of pancakes and banana with peanut butter. We arrived at the Harry Brakeman school ready to work. We worked rigorously passing buckets of rocks to fill the foundation until approx. 11:30, and by then we were putting sand in the second portion of the classroom and finishing the re-bar on the first. In due time- we were ready for a break, and recess began- the kids were all over (hence we were working in the school yard). They were fascinated by all the blan (Haitian word for us white people lol). They were touching all over me! Their little hands were all over touching my tattoos, plugs, my hair and anything they could reach! I made the mistake of taking out my camera; they pushed and shoved to be in pictures as well as grabbing my camera for about 20 mins until I got tired of it and recess was subsequently over.
It was time to get back to work. I soon realized doing re-bar (tying wires for concrete foundation to be poured over) was difficult to do with my bulky leather gloves. I dreamed of my hot pink gripped gloves I had left in my backpack at the mance.
The water for the workers was empty so my dad and I decided to make a trip back to the mance. We thought we’d have a ride until the worker began walking down the road. Us three, two of us white walked the streets of Petit Goave, Haiti. My dad and I didn’t mind I thought in my head about the dangers posted online about walking in the streets of Haiti. I felt no danger and called ‘Bonju!’ to the people we passed called back and smiled. Well most of them at least. I had dreamed of the day I would break the barrier of us walking among the Haitians versus riding along the road in the car. It was not the glorified image in my head, as I read most of their body language and hid as they stared blankly into me – I thought they must think I’m a stupid blan American girl. Perhaps Haitians (minus the small children) are NOT fans of Americans. It hurts that they might not know we are here to help, even if we can’t undo what some blan may have done to this country some other time. Even though I was a bit uncomfortable, I am finding that Haiti is not the place of political turmoil, danger, and shady people write of online. As long as you are polite and kind you can be confident you will be just fine.
We finally arrived at the mance, we all ate a banana and some crackers and headed to Rev. Dorselys truck with two water holders for the workers. We went to a place called ‘top glace’ where all the water is treated with reverse osmosis to prevent the spread of cloquine(?) a bad bacteria that attacks your GI system. I saw him exchange from what I saw to be 50 gouds- a lot of money for filling 2 containers of water. He then loaded them into the truck and we headed back to the site. When we returned I was exhausted. After a mile walk to the mance and lifting all the rocks I was hungry even before we had left for the mance, and now I was famished. I will never say starving again because some here are actually starving. Americans do not know starving until we see it ourselves – especially the ones who have anorexia and CHOSE not to eat. Which is disturbing when you see the need here. That just will always bother me now after being in Haiti. I ate two ham and cheese sandwiches and drank a fruit champagne (Haitian equivalent to cream soda) and realized the sugar crash was real. I then decided that the sandwiches weren’t enough, so instead of overdoing myself, I decided I would cut wires for the re-bar with Joan who was originally assigned the task. I was pooped so we talked about the Haitian kids and how much fun they had with the balls the church donated, our own lives and Haitian politics, I really enjoyed that. We also discussed the language barrier and how frustrated we felt not being able to communicate with one another. It sucked to say the least. I wished I had taken French instead of Spanish, I really do. Communication is such a key thing- it’s everything, which reminds me of a paper for speech I still have to write on three things I can’t live without.
Anyways, soon after we finished the day and left we came to the mance where I saw Samuel, one of the hired help at the Dorsely household working on homework. He introduced me to his friend Ricot. They were working on matematicas or geometry in English. I helped them with their English until dinner. They both have 2 sisters and 3 brothers, I felt a connection as I have 3 brothers and 1 sister. The Dorsley girls came along and giggled at Ricot’s failed attempts to communicate with me. Soon after I headed in and saw a friend of Samuel’s setting up shop on the Dorselys front yard!! Me bringing almost $300 specifically to move the economy and help someone somehow. I bought 2 metal salamanders, a butterfly bowl, a sign saying “God bless my family,” and a heart rock. They were all so beautiful and probably priced in America for $75. I hopefully will bring them home and drag friends and family back to this beautiful country full of talent and love. I showered and had dinner soon after- I then fell asleep promptly, missing devotions yet dreaming crazy things in my head. Here in Haiti I have dreams- which never happens in America, probably due to the no a/c in our room- but still nonetheless weird. Sweat and heat will definitely become my friends here in Haiti.

Hard work has never been so hard! (or fun!) If any of us weren’t already physically exhausted, today certainly made sure of it. At the school building site, we spent the entire day bucket brigading concrete from the mixing location, uphill to the classroom floor. The work here is hard, monotonous, and not how we are accustomed to seeing things done. But, working in this manner (using buckets, shovels, and string line as opposed to concrete trucks, pumps, conveyors, and laser screeds) ignites comraderie in ways which have also become foreign to us.
At the end of each night, we have gathered to share some of our joys and struggles from the day. And each night at least one person, if not many, voice their struggles with the language barrier. I am always one of them. I spent some time trying to learn some of the basics in Creole, getting ready for this trip. I am able to say Hi, and ask where some things are, and introduce myself and others, and learn peoples names. But then I hit the wall, unable to go any further, unable to get into the substance of any conversation. It is frustrating, and we are all feeling it. Luckily, we have an amazing interpreter (Ricardo, who we learned today is in study to become a UMC Pastor!).
I enjoy razzing the Haitian Workers a bit, just like would do at one of my projects in the states. Since I am certainly not good enough to get deliver a joke in Creole, I employ Ricardo to do it for me. For instance, we went back to the parsonage for a lunch break, and upon returning I had Ricardo tell them, sarcastically ” we stayed at lunch for an extra long time, hoping you’d have this thing done by the time we got back!” They seemed to get a kick out of it.
This morning, we arrived to the site at about 9am, while the other workers had been there, working, since about 7am. So, of course, I went right up to them, with Ricardo, and said “It is OK. We are here! Now the work can begin!” The chuckling was quickly interrupted by a man, saying “No, No. Blan e Ayisen, Konye a nou kab komane travay ansunm!” Which is Creole for “No, No. White and Haitian, now we can start working together!”
And all I could say was “AMEN!”

Nate Starkey

  2/17/14Our work officially began today.  Four of us headed to a clinic, and nine were off to the school where we will be building classrooms.  It was a solid day of hard labor.   Lots of shoveling stones and cutting wires and packing the earth to prepare for the concrete slab.  We worked with about a dozen Petit-Goave locals, all men. Together we formed bucket brigades in the morning to haul stones and in the afternoon to transfer cement.  No machine — just two very strong and tireless Haitians with high rubber boots and shovels blending sand and stone and water and cement mix.  It took us about 3 hours to lay a 5′ x 33′ stretch — about a tenth of the area we have to cover.

But that was just one aspect of the day.  What will really remain in our memories is our connection with the Haitian people. At recess, hundreds of elementary school kids poured onto their playground — a gigantic field of concrete with broken basketball  nets at each end.  They didn’t care about basketball.  They quickly discovered the brand-new soccer balls we had brought, and a spontaneous match broke out. How these kids could tell their teams apart I’ll never know. They  all wore identical uniforms – gray pants and yellow shirts. But the action moved up and down the “field,” and an occasional goal prompted shouts of triumph.

Other, less energetic students were captivated by what we brought.  Sunscreen, bug spray, cameras, sunglasses, hats etc. all roused immense curiosity.  With the help of our interpreter, Ricardo, universal gestures and rudimentary French, we managed to communicate.

Beyond the play area and the uniforms and the kids themselves, there is little at this end of the school grounds that we would recognize as a “school” setting.  The area surrounding the court is strewn with trash and boulders.  Our U.S. sensibilities were jarred; the Petit-Goave kids didn’t seem to notice. There is also a family that lives on the property. As I understand it, they serve as gatekeepers and guardians. Their home is a 10′ x 20′ dwelling.  The kitchen is essentially outdoors.  Roosters, hens and chicks are everywhere, and their puppy scored a big prize for cuteness. 

– Dave Versical 

Chuck Day is updating our blog tonight. It’s been a busy day, starting with a powerful worship service. We had a taste of the construction work ahead, and our mission supplies arrived. Find photos on https://gpumcoutreachvolunteers.shutterfly.com/
Since we do come from the Methodist heritage, Chuck’s first commentary is about food!
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We have already experienced many blessings in the slightly more than 24 hours since we arrived.The one I want to tell you about is the food! Personally, I was not really sure what to expect in this area before we arrived. I can tell you it has been nothing short of wonderful. Beyond just the food, I want to give you an idea of meal time in general. We are staying in a guest house attached to the home of Rev. Dorcely and his family. Rev. Dorcely’s wife is named Mode and she and a few other women have been preparing our meals. We gather in a large common room at two long tables and our meals are served family style. The tables are completely set from one end to the other, and they are covered with interesting and unique Haitian cuisine. Here is an example of the food we have enjoyed. Dinner yesterday included a main dish of a traditional Haitian vegetable stew called “ragu.” We topped plain white rice with the stew and accompanied it with garden fresh bright red tomato slices, sweet onions and crisp lettuce and freshly baked dinner rolls. Mode surprised us with wonderful dessert bread called Comparet which is a specialty from a nearby town called Jeremy and it is a fantastic blend of coconut, ginger and cinnamon. It was slightly moist and heavy like a big soft scone. The beverage at each meal has been a blend of sweetened lemon juice and sour oranges. The food we have enjoyed is a great representation of the authentic Haiti that we have just begun to experience.

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Glad to get to Rev. Dorsely’s home and guest house in Petit Goave. Plantain or banana trees in the front yard. A bit of laundry drying on the roof! The accommodations are excellent.
It’s not a Methodist gathering without a meal. We are blessed to be here and ready to begin whatever work Christ has called us here to do.

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