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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Haiti

Newland note: Eric Krantz is a friend, a grad of SDSMT in civil engineering. Until I got this, I did not know he had been to Haiti.


Just got home from Haiti again. Life there makes me see 2D when I come home, all flat screen like TV and so many cushions. The place is colorful and raw and wild, smelling of diesel and wood smoke, sweat, garbage and piss. The people are strong, beautiful and proud, tough as nails in cement, thin and ripped. I've never seen such beautiful human forms, perfect.

Our project is finally happening after 10 years. Other things in the works make me excited to go back if the grants come through. I think now is a good time to propose grants, put the cholera spin on water projects and the money to complete them will rain down like loas on our heads. Wishful thinking, but possibly true! Water is how cholera is transmitted, and clean water and adequate sanitation are the only things that will put an end to that nasty shit, along with fixing so many other problems the people have to deal with.

The cholera ward at the hospital had 120 people a month ago; they are down to 25-30 when I left yesterday. If someone can talk when they arrive at the hospital, that person will live, otherwise they might be too far gone. IV is the magic cure, get the body some fluids and it will take care of the cholera itself. A trip into the mountains on Monday by some of the nurse volunteers was lifesaving for one man. They brought him out to the truck, and luckily the nurses had brought extra IVs with them. The man could not walk and was in the last stages of survival. The nurses immediately put IV in each arm and were squeezing the bags to help it along. They loaded him in the truck and brought him back to Deschapelles and he slowly came out of it. They hadn't expected that, they were just visiting a dispensary. The mountain village is two-hour drive from HAS, so there was no way the man would have could have made the journey himself in the state he was in. They reported that the water supply up there was from a spring that emerged into a cesspool of mosquitos and algae and scum, that the people dipped into for drinking water.

Sanitation is a problem at the ward. The mountain people bring down their sick and stay with them; they've never used a toilet and are used to wiping ass with a rock or some leaves, so these things go into the toilets in the ward and everyday the toilets plug and overflow. Most have never used a porcelain toilet so they don't know how it can't take rocks or how to flush it. When the cholera hit, Jimmy the engineer at the hospital, still working out the earthquake nightmares, had to immediately turn an entire building into a patient ward. He had his men dig septic tanks and install toilets in the building, in the middle of renovating the entire electrical system and layout of the hospital among other projects. I don't think the guy sleeps more than 3 hours a night, and you can see it when you interact with him. He's got 40 things on his mind and constantly people are approaching him with questions about what to do next and problems and drama. The nurses in the cholera were talking one night at dinner about a man throwing up a tapeworm, 8 inches long squirming in the vomit in the bucket. I guess that's not an abnormal occurrence. We decided that cholera has the benefit of ridding the body of tapeworms.

Bruce and I, on a journey up the Ka Charles watershed mapping a pipeline, encountered a burning bush that mostly brought us to craziness, a very mean plant, similar to poison ivy, but it gets to know you right away. A little girl, maybe 8 years old, kept me from washing with stream water with her Creole warnings, and ran off into the jungle only to return with a handful of leaves to rub my arms and legs and neck down to quell the burning. Later when Bruce got into the water the burning came back and intensified. Mine didn't, but he didn't rub the leaves on his skin.

Hope you are all well and have a safe and fun holiday season!


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