From Haiti, With Love

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I was sad. The world and my place in it – both seemed so heavy. There’s Haiti. I want to help and I feel useless. There’s my life. I feel unsettled and it’s wearing on me. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I still don’t have a job. So, today I did what I often times do when I’m having a bad day. I went to the grocery store…twice. Walking the aisles – piles of applesorangespotatoes, jars of jamsjellieschutneys, bars of milkdarkfruitynutty chocolate – is my therapy. I always feel better at the grocery store. Always.

I bought a bottle of Chardonnay, a can of garbanzo beans, a can of fire roasted tomatoes, fresh spinach, Gruyère cheese, a bar of dark chocolate and a honeycrisp apple. On my way to checkout I managed to stuff half of the espresso brownie samples from the bakery counter into my mouth, thereby dulling my hunger pangs. When I got home, I realized that it’s been exactly one week since my last Happelsauce entry. I have no intention of blowing my New Year’s resolution, at least not yet. So, I ditched dinner, opened the bottle of wine, poured myself and my roomie each a glass, and here I am.

I don’t have a recipe today. Instead, I want to share an email from my sister. Ellie wrote from Port au Prince early this morning, while I was still fast asleep. She had returned to New York from Haiti last Sunday, a couple of days before the earthquake hit. She had been there visiting friends whom she’d met in earlier years while working for SOIL and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. I swear that so much of life is about timing. And Ellie’s was good. Unfortunately, there’s never a good time for a massive earthquake. Particularly in the poorest country in the western hemisphere where as Ellie said pre-quake, “Nothing works and nothing is easy.”

Ellie had an incredible time visiting friends and exploring more of the country that has always had a hold on her heart. Her photos are beautiful and lend perspective to the devastation that took place last Tuesday. There’s one shot in particular that Ellie took of  a neighborhood in Port au Prince upon her arrival. The New York Times posted a similar shot on their homepage taken after the earthquake. It looks like all the homes were squished by a giant bulldozer. It’s entirely surreal.

Ellie returned to Haiti on Saturday, where she has been assisting in the relief efforts. I think I wrote in my senior yearbook that she was “my inspiration.” Almost twelve years later and that’s still the case. So, I figure the very least I can do is spread her message. I would hop on the next flight down there if I believed I could be of help, but I don’t speak Kreyol and I’m not medically trained, so I will be patient. Maybe in a month or so? I would love to do more.

Here’s Ellie’s email. Edited only a teenytiny bit.

January 19, 2010

I am well, but I am not SUPER useful.  I definitely think the best thing for people in the states to do is 1) Study Haiti–read The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer, read other books, learn about why relief is so hard here; 2) Organize folks in the US to give money; 3) Pressure companies/corporations who can help.  Gas is a HUGE problem. Hospitals and hundreds of US docs are no good without gas to transport patients.

Today was a crazy, inspiring day.  Tonight at the House a team of doctors from Colorado amputated a man’s leg.  Sasha, Beto and I buried it in the backyard.  We also brought a few new patients to the house–a woman with a fractured femur, another with a severe kidney infection.  I have only felt safe and hopeful around the people.  While the leg left this man’s body, out back a truck came with hundreds of bags of food.  We distributed it peacefully.  Sash and I talked about how when the people who distribute have guns (the UN, for example), people are more likely to riot.  I think that so much of the problem we see now reflects centuries of mistrust.  I think the only people who should come here should speak Kreyol.  For now.  There are plenty of capable Haitians who are ready to help.  Work gives a sense of purpose.

Incredible days.  Really sad.  I have not seen one dead body.  I have not seen one fight.  I have seen lots of people cleaning and cooking and cutting hair and striving for normalcy.

Earlier on today, the doctors saved a man who came in with a spurting aorta.  They do all the serious cases in the kitchen.  There is blood on the wall.  I eat soup and look around and feel incapable of taking it all in.

To reiterate – for now, just work state side!!  We will find things to do and maybe come down in a few months when things have organized/calmed.  People who don’t speak any Kreyol are not so useful.  We should all begin to practice!  I really don’t speak great but tonight I translated for two docs while they checked out new patients.  Humbling.

It’s 11:52pm. I’m posting this just in the nick of time. Goodnight friends. Goodnight Haiti. Goodnight world. Sweet dreams.


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3 thoughts on “From Haiti, With Love

  1. What a lovely post. Sweet Dreams and Good Luck to you, Sweet Anno. You and Ellie are inspirations. XOXOXOXOX Pom

  2. Nana,
    This is a lovely entry. Your words depict honesty and authenticity, thank you for sharing both yours and Ellie’s. Hope to speak tomorrow 🙂

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