Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It was pretty clear that the people living in cities like Leogan (the epicenter) and Port-au-Prince were impacted by the earthquake in a far harsher and more direct way than the people on the mountain. Although there were some who died in land slides towards the bottom of the mountains, and others trapped in concrete churches, most of the houses were wooden and thus did not collapse. Loss of life is always tragic, but the sheer numbers in the city are terrible. Every city person we asked lost at least one family member. Furthermore, over one million people are estimated to be living in tents. It definitely seems that the cities bore the brunt of the quake.
Besides the earthquake, we wondered to ourselves if the standards of life were better in the mountain or in the city, and where we would prefer to live. The mountain is pristine, slow, familial, and as close to nature as it gets today. Port-au-Prince, on the other hand, is dirty, with trash and rubble strewn everywhere, and is noisy, bustling, and cut-throat. When we thought about whether we preferred the dirt floors and bug-infested walls in the houses of Mon Bouton, or the tiny tents and shacks of the makeshift tent cities, we did not come to a clear decision.
In the end, we found that there were simply too many variables, such as living alone or with family, to definitively say where we would prefer to live. Although we felt that the organic life on the mountain produces happier people, as we saw in Mon Bouton, like many Haitians we decided that the exciting (yet questionnable) opportunities for advancement and success in the city were worth the sacrifices in living conditions. But seeing life in the tent cities post-earthquake with our own eyes has made us less confident of that conclusion.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
For the entirety of our stay on Mon Bouton, our water came from what the locals called the "Wash-Wash". However, it took us till our second night to realize this. Before then we had just figured the water came out of some pump or source nearby. We were maybe using more water than we needed, whether it was to wash our feet off, or to filter for drinking. What we didn't know is just what type of effort it actually took to get the precious water, and just how valuable it was to these people who had so little.
In the afternoon of our second day, after we had already used some water, we hiked down to the all important "Wash-Wash". We really weren't sure what we were in for, but soon found ourselves on a longer and more difficult hike than any of us had expected or hoped for. After what seemed like many slips and a lot of "almost there"s, an hour and a half later we finally reached the famed "Wash-Wash".
It wasn't what we were expecting, to say the least. It wasn't a crystal geyser or a water pump or an Arrowhead truck, it was simply a miniature waterfall which had tricked down from some unknown source high up in the mountains and continued to pour down the rocks. We have come upon a relatively larger part of the fall; a twelve foot rock with water rushing over the top of it and down into a shallow pond.
Exhausted and sweaty, we each took turns cupping the water in our hands and splashing it over our arms and face, failing to notice that we had done the same thing in Mon Bouton some hour plus hike away.
It then became obvious to us how precious water is. We had been undeniably careless with the water we had - both on Mon Bouton and back at home too. The Haitian people had inadvertently showed us what we had blatantly ignored all along.
The people of Mon Bouton used their water sparingly - a little to wash clothes and body, and just the necessary amount to quench any thirst they have. It really put a new perspective on something we all took for granted. It isn't something that is unlimited, nor is it something that comes without struggle or work.
Water, among other resources, is limited. The visit to "Wash-Wash" made us realize how the actual villagers made the best of what they had - which was almost always very little. And even though there was a source of water available to them, it was not a source that came without working towards. It was impossible to reach the "Wash-Wash" without a tough hike there, not to mention an even harder hike back while carrying gallons of water.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The journey up the mountain to Mon Bouton began (after a 2-3 hours car ride) with a fifteen minute “moto” (moped) ride from Darbone to the river at the bottom of the mountain. After crossing the river with the help of some locals, we embarked on the five-hour+ hike up to Mon Bouton. When it rained, we stopped along the way to sing songs and indulge in a few American snacks such as power bars and fruit leathers. Following the hike, we made an attempt at discretely filtering our water, which failed as our hosts were intrigued by our seemingly strange pumping activities. After a relatively short sleep on our not-so-comfortable mattresses (we never encountered a "pillow" so heavy), we traveled a bit down the mountain to work on the latrine by carrying and cutting bamboo, cutting wire, and transferring sand and rocks to make cement. While our fundraising and trip focus was always around helping with education related initiatives for kids in Haiti, the only way to bond and get to understand the locals in the mountains was by "service learning" and working together - and that is exactly what occurred. Despite our fairly athletic backgrounds, we found ourselves to be exhausted as we were unable to keep up with the strength and motor of the Haitian people.
Later that day, we returned to Mon Bouton and enjoyed our own version of the Bob Marley CD (using the boombox we gave them) that we brought with all of the people, as everybody sang, danced, and played their makeshift instruments. Following our dinner that day, we hiked to the "wash-wash", the mini-waterfall that is the water supply for the mountain, and experienced the strenuous hike that is required every time that the people of Mon Bouton need water. We witnessed the resourcefulness of the mountain people as they created a shower for themselves out of a piece of bamboo and a stick. The next day, we trekked out to the larger waterfall in order to see the place where there could potentially be a water pumping system. We swam in the pool by the waterfall, cooling off from the hot and humid weather. The Haitians, for the most part, could not swim, so they simply stood ankle-deep in the water with us. Later, we ventured down to the soccer "field" which was literally located on the edge of the mountaintop in order to represent the USA in a soccer match against team Haiti. Unfortunately, we were unable to adapt to the high-stakes conditions of the game, as we often found ourselves to be scared of falling off the edge of the mountain, and lost 3 - 1 in a respectful effort. Next time, maybe we should try to play shoeless as well.
in between all these activities, we spent time with the 7 families in Mon Bouton playing some "educational" games, showing them some computer programs, helping them with email setup (for the slight chance they will use it... they all asked for it), talking about soccer and music, etc.
On our final day, we woke up early in the morning so that our journey back would not take up the whole day. We said our goodbyes to all of the children and our respective hosts, and began the hike down towards the river. After two or three hours of descent, we crossed the river and got onto the motos for the last time. We crossed the river and reached Darbone, where we parted with our newly formed friends and began our journey towards the city. I hope you enjoy the video as much as we enjoyed our time in Mon Bouton (and in a few days we will post a photo gallery showing the living conditions, the beautiful surroundings, and the different world we experienced.)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Toma is simply the most appreciative and friendly person (image on top). Toma helped us with the coordination of our stay at Mon Bouton and also lives on the mountain (5-10 minutes down from Mon Bouton... or 45 minutes walk down for us). He was always gentle in his requests and gracious for anything we gave. Rony (other image), a 19 year-old from Port-au-Prince who was visiting family on the mountain, made us a little more uncomfortable on some occasions.
Rony also went out of his way to accommodate us (he would insist on carrying an extra bag, bring us extra water, etc.), and often accompanied us around the mountain to translate our desires to our families. But at the same time, he repeatedly asked us for favors to the point of pestering. He would give various contexts for why he needed things from us, such as wanting to open an English school, hoping to join the US army or wanting to become a translator. With each day, his needs diversified, with the only consistency being a want for a facebook or email account. First he wanted a laptop, then an English book, then a US map, and then a myriad of things from a boombox to work gloves to a soccer whistle. We could not help but begin to wonder what goes through his mind. Did he really need these things or did he just want to sell them? Is it mainly the desire for hope and connection with the world outside of Haiti? Were some of his stories just sly invention?
Once we got to the city, Rony's behavior started to make more sense to us. First of all, Rony was devastated by the earthquake. He lost everything, including two younger sisters, and moved to living in a tent in an area he described as being "the ghetto". Toma, while suffering from the earthquake, did not lose immediate family members.
But apart from the desperation from the earthquake, Rony has a "Port-au-Prince personality" that is more aggressive than the mountain personalities we encountered. In the city, blanc, or white people, are there to be taken advantage of. Unlike on the mountain, where help might come at year-long intervals and you have no way to seek it out, in the city you have an accessible option (at least in theory) but only if you take advantage of it. Therefore we have to stay alert in the city, where Haitians constantly confront you asking for money or selling goods, hoping to convince you into giving a few coins.
Rony wanted a connection to the US in any way he could, whether by email contacts or photos with white people, but at the same time wanted a relationship and was looking for ways to help. Stealing or did not even cross the minds of the people in Mon Bouton. Toma's influence made sure nothing took away from our unreal experience on the mountain.
We are going to stay in touch with Toma, and assist Rony by creating an email for him and sending him some books so he can study English.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The phrase "time is money" doesn't have any place in Haiti. Money is coveted by everyone, but rare to come by, and time is virtually irrelevant. There are no clocks, watches, or sundials in Mon Bouton (up in the mountains) and they don't really count. There is no 'official' time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. On Mon Bouton there is no such thing as time.
When we arrived in Mon Bouton after our 9 hour journey from the airport in Port-au-Prince, the timing of everything seemed completely normal. At 6:30pm we finished our hike and reached our new homes and met the small community, we ate dinner together at around 7:00pm, and due to our exhaustion from the long day before, we were ready to go to bed but filtering the water took us another 2 good hours.
We were surprised at what time we woke up the next morning. We each woke up and immediately turned on our phones to checked the time. Drew's read 6:20, Omri's 5:45, and Nittai and Omer woke up together quite later (but also slept very little the night before). What woke us up was what was different - it was the fact that none of the families on Mon Bouton had any care about what time it was. From the time the sun rose, families quickly began their day. Some pounded corn, some washed clothes, and others took care of the animals. There was no desire to sleep in or fall back asleep, no reason not to start the day, and no clock to tell them to do so differently. Drew's alarm was the sound of an actual rooster cooing it's traditional morning call. Omri heard the kitchen alive at 5:45 as his family pounded out corn and beans for breakfast, and Omer and Nittai woke up when they couldn't ignore the noise and heat.
We began our stay in Mon Bouton which only furthered our realization that time was an unnecessary means of measurement in the mountains of Haiti. Hikes were measured as 'near the Church', 'past the Wash-Wash', 'upstairs' and 'down'. Meals began when they began - breakfast (which can be spaghetti one day, and bread with ketchup-like sauce the next day) started at anytime after the sun comes up and visitors wake up, lunch could come soon thereafter, and dinner was any time after that. With all the commotion within the small community, by the time the sun sets, the entire village comes to a complete halt - whether it's 7 or 11, nobody really seems to care.
Time doesn't mean anything to the people of Mon Bouton. They know their daily duties, they have their routines and 'jobs', but they have no reason to concern themselves with 'when'. If the sun is up, then sleeping any later is wasted daylight - there is no reason to wait to start the day. They rarely use candles or other lights because by the time night falls, they have already done all that they need to fit in a day.
It seemed so out of place to us all. We have become so used to our lives which are determined by clocks. School bells, phone alarms, and microwave timers rule our days, and our schedules are regimented. And because of all this, our lives seem to revolve nonstop around what time of day it is and how much we can fit in to the 16 hours we spend awake each day.
On a trip where it seems everything must revolve around time - flights, car rides, meet-ups, and hikes - Mon Bouton showed us that we could take off our watches, turn off our phones, and just live out the day. Regardless of how early it started.
Friday, June 18, 2010
More soon. One Love
Wow. What an experience being here in Haiti! We've hiked for miles and miles each day (7 hours just to hike up here) visited a wash-wash and said bon swa (good afternoon) to many people along the way. After seeing where all of the water comes from, I am much more appreciative of every drop of water that I get to drink and bathe in.
Right at the edge of the cliff behind the last house in Mòn Bouton we can somehow get a signal. Everywhere we go the mountains around us are unbelievable. We traveled up the mountain with a Haitian girl, Sophonie, and it's interesting to see how she's doing as this is her first trip up from Port-au-Prince as well.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Yesterday, our last day at home, we spent the whole day packing. Since we will be traveling to Port-au-Prince and to Mon Bouton (or "upstairs") during this trip, packing was a bit more complicated than last time. We can only bring what we can carry on our backs up to Mon Bouton, so it would be in the best interest of our backs to pack lightly. In addition to each of our individual backpacks, we will be bringing one large bag up the mountain containing soccer balls, board games, cards, a boombox, and other things that we collected to donate to the people of Mon Bouton. In addition to this, there are five suitcases full of other soccer balls and soccer jerseys that we will be giving the the schools and children in Port-au-Prince.
Unfortunately, there is a 50 lbs. weight limit for each suitcase, so we were forced to take out some of the things from the Mon Bouton bag, which was too heavy, and spread them out throughout the different Por-au-Prince suitcases. Now, once we reach Port-au-Prince, we will need to quickly take all of the Mon Bouton stuff out of the Port-au-Prince bags and put it back into the Mon Bouton bag, all in the incredibly hectic environment of the airport. This process surely added some unexpected confusion to the packing process, but added some fun excitement to it as well. More to come once we reach Haiti!
In three hours we're waking up to catch our flight to Haiti, where we have a 3 or 4 hour-long car ride followed by a 3 to 4 hour hike up to Mon Bouton. I hope my excitement will not keep me up!
The Last Supper. A baguette of fresh Italian bread stuffed with crisp onions, bright green bell pepppers, and succulent tomatoes. Cucumbers, olives, lettuce, multiple cheeses, and flavorful sauce completed the delectable sandwhich. A bag of chips, a cold water, and the four of us sitting at a table for what would be our last 'real' meal. This Subway meal would be our last taste of reality, hours before we board a flight and head into a third world country of extreme conditions. Our last meal not consisting of rice mush or beans, and I hate beans. Yet while we sat there, each of us savoring the different tastes of our dinners, we wondered - about our flight, our upcoming hike, and the adventure we are about to begin.
As many deterrents as there are - especially the idea of eating beans - it grew even more real and exciting for me to consider where I would be tomorrow night at this time. Sitting in a village in Mon Bouton, eating some combination of corn and grain, and learning a lot about Haiti and the people I'll be living with.
I just hope there are no beans. ;) There will be though
Friday, June 11, 2010
- 51 Soccer Balls and counting
- Various soccer jerseys, socks, and more
- 12-15 pairs of cleats
- Over 3,000 pairs of shorts from Soccer International
It was really great to sit at Sunnyvale Soccer Complex and actually talk to some of the people who had heard about us or came to donate. Even people who knew nothing about our organization took a sticker and asked a question or two. The overall response from everyone was really positive. We handed out a ton of stickers, and hopefully some of you all followed the link listed on the sticker and are checking out the blog right now :)
As well, because of the response we received at the actual collection at Sunnyvale Soccer Complex, we're willing to do some follow-up pick up/drop off equipment collections in the next week before we leave. If you would like to schedule either a drop off or pick up, check the 'contact us' section to see how to reach us best.
Nittai, Drew, and Omri
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Sorry we haven't been able to update all of you as much as we'd like; things at school have been a bit crazy now with finals, SATs, ACTs, GPAs, and all of that good stuff. We do, however, have some fantastic news: in just a week (!) we will be traveling to Haiti again!
This trip will be a bit different, as we've recruited some other high school students to join the OneLove team. Omri Maor and Drew Eller (both adding to this post - read below), both students at Los Altos High School, will travel to Haiti with us as well as help with raising awareness and fundraising, as we'll be able to reach a broader scope of people within the local community. During the trip we will be working to improve on our computer program that we founded, organizing some fun and unique sports activities at schools, and even spending a few days with a rural Haitian community. Be sure to check out the blog often so that you can stay updated as the trip nears (we'll be leaving on June 16th).
I'd like to give a special shoutout to all of you who have been following and supporting us since our creation. One Love Advocates has come a long way and has helped a great deal of people who truly need help, and it is all in thanks to you. Whether you donated or helped us raise awareness by following us on the blog, on twitter, or on any of the other social networking devices that we use (there are so many!), your generosity and interest has been vital to our success.
When I heard about Nittai's trip to Haiti, I immediately knew it was something that I needed to get involved in. Whether it was by donating to his cause, following his blog, or even by eventually getting involved in a trip with him - and I've been able to do all three. As of 1-2 weeks ago, I officially made arrangements and finalized plans to join Nittai and his dad, as well as another friend of ours, Omri, to go to Haiti this coming summer. It is unbelievable that I have finally been able to get on board with this project, and it will undoubtedly be an amazing experience for me. After hearing so much about this trip, I can't help but expect to not only hope to make a difference among the people we are helping, but even more so experience a change in myself.
As great as an opportunity as this is, it took a lot of debating before I could finalize any plans. The aspect of sleeping on the ground and staying in the sweltering heat for a week is not the most appealing part of the trip. As well, my distaste for shots lead me to question whether or not the Tyhphoid and other shots were worth it, but in the end the answer seemed obvious. The pros outweighed the cons by far, and the more I've talked to about it with Nittai, my parents, and my friends, the more I knew this was something I wouldn't ever regret taking part in - even if it does mean dealing with a stiff back or a sore arm later.
I look forward to keeping you all updated on our upcoming trip, and am even more excited about the work and preparation we have to complete as our trip draws nearer.
A couple days ago, I met with Nittai, Omer, and Drew to work on finalizing the details of the trip to Haiti. Although Nittai invited me to join him on his return to Haiti shortly after he got back from his first trip, it only really hit me that we were actually going once we started talking about the details.
At the meeting, I was fast-tracked into all of the preparations needed for the trip. Compared with my life at home, I won't be living in comfort. We looked at pictures of the village we would be staying at for the first three nights, and I began to get an idea of what daily life was like there. When I learned that I would be sleeping alone with a host family, and would be helping with clearing wood or working on the farm, I realized I would be experiencing a completely different world. Although I knew the trip would have a powerful effect on me, I did not really visualize how it would do so until the meeting.
I want to make as big of a difference as possible in the lives of the people I encounter in Haiti. Now that I have this unbelievable opportunity, I feel like it’s my responsibility. I know that whatever help I can provide is necessary help to the Haitian people, but I want to give the most I can. Yet as I’ve tried to anticipate how this trip will affect me personally, I realize that it’s impossible to know until I’m there—which just adds to my eagerness before the trip.
With love and excitement,
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Wow! What a huge success we had our first day of collecting! A good amount of soccer balls, some nice shorts and jerseys, and some other miscellaneous items. As well, we received an INCREDIBLE offer from Soccer International, donating thousands of shorts to us! Thank you Brian Holmes.
We'll be out there again today collecting again, if you didn't get a chance. Thank you so much to everyone for helping us and for everybody who's donated or just stopped by to find out a little bit more about us.
So come, pick up a sticker, ask a couple questions, and check out the blog!
Nitta, Omri, and Drew