Saturday, April 21, 2012

Family, Bottles, Panama, Haiti TECH, Africa

Today our grand daughter Clara Rose all the way in the UK, is One Year Old. Thank heaven for SKYPE. We had sent her a very soft little dolly, which she looked in the face, then hugged and kissed her, and followed that by being a good mom and feeding her dolly with a teaspoon from her other gift, a little play tea set. Carl showed her the beautiful rocking horse he made her. It is so lovely! Too bad we haven't figured out a way to get it to her yet. Not that large or heavy - just awkward.

Again about the Buddy Bottles: you buy a bottle for $15 (stainless steel, choice of 3) and through your purchase we can send a bottle to Haiti as well, to the region where people should carry safe/filtered water with them. The person you gave this 2nd bottle to is now your Bottle Buddy! We left 50 in Panama, which was great. The bottles are not moving very fast yet, and that is in part because I'm not sure how to advertize them! On one of the busy days in Honesdale or Hawley I'll just have to set up shop on the sidewalk. The bottles really are very nice, and great quality, but there are SO MANY! (Due to the set-up cost). Most people give money and say 'take them all to Haiti! Which is indeed a good idea, but I am getting a bit worried here!
If you want a bottle either write to, or leave a message at 570 470 9386. Start your message, or subject line with the email, with "Bottle Buddy order". BPA free, happy-looking, great quality! And we have only 100 left ;-D

The trip to Panama was rocky but interesting. It is a beautiful country, even if getting from point A to B can be an experience, to say the least. We ended up seeing far more (as in distance) of Panama than anticipated. The medical project was a neat and good experience. I, on the other hand, had nearly nothing to do, felt like an idiot standing around most of the time, which is not exactly my 'cup of tea'. All in all interesting as an experience, but neither of us felt the urgent need there that we have experienced elsewhere. Learned.

A neat new project in Haiti that i am very excited about. My friend Melet Deroze contacted me for help with various things, one of them a brochure. As I mentioned before, they have started a program for a group of students, drawn from the region around Verrettes. I believe we're going on Skype today, which will be very helpful because some of it is too vague for me to understand, while the project and their drive is fantastic. It is basically a program that teaches/exposes the older students to community aid and awareness, organization in case of disaster and training to be effective in case of emergencies. Next to expose them to subjects and experiences not taught in the public schools there. Ginny and Ed, our dear Michigan friends, for example, are sending us two microscopes so students will have a chance to see what they normally only see on pictures. With the cholera now that it especially important. I am in contact with an emergency preparedness group who will go over there to train them. We're sending them at least one telescope, etc etc.
One step at a time. I believe they will end up calling the project TECH: technology, education, communication, health, which includes all the basic directions they hope to cover. "They" is a group of about 6 dedicated teachers and others who can take more administrative responsibilities. Very exciting!

Africa. Talk about need! Talk about aid! It is very confusing. There are so many programs and, oddly enough, the only help they want is money. Not people, not just a good hand or specialists etc. But the people I have spoken/emailed with there say the opposite: we need people to come and help! Help is needed in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi in particular. And none safe enough not to worry. I do not mind going - but do I have the right to stimulate others to go? Too much brewing and nothing like in Haiti, where such violence and genocide has not been for a very long time.

We'll keep eyes and ears and minds open: something always comes around that tells us what is needed most. that's how it works every time.

Be good, fellow earthlings.

Monday, March 26, 2012

all kinds of 'scopes' wanted.`

Needed to aid: Scope For Imagination, also know as No Limits of Possibilities.

A new program in western Haiti is pooling from5 schools some of the best, to expose them to wonders out children learn in or even before elementary school.
Together we can help.
Look in your attic or closet, and see if you still have that old telescope or microscope. They have to be in workable condition. Nobody needs junk. If it needs cleaning: we can do that!

These will truly be eye-openers to the students and teachers alike. Not kidding!

Please blog back, or email

Imagine how good you will look through each of them!! :-)

I will take them there personally and make sure they can be used properly. They have just, through video, taken a look into the ocean. Now imagine a hair, a drop of water, a seed. The moon, Milky Way, nebulae, Mars...

Stethoscopes will be great for their emergency aid and CPR training!

Thanks for wanting to educate and stimulate INDEPENDENCE!


Water, bottles, buddies, haiti, Panama, onebigboost,

Short but sweet:

Our spring fund raiser:

Buy a BUDDY BOTTLE (B`ot Zanmie, Botella del Compinche), provide one bottle for your BOTTLE BUDDY in Panama or Haiti, and $2 toward a classroom water filter (300 gall. day!)
These are for areas where untreated/unfiltered water can be a death-sentece, especially now with spreading cholera! (In fact: it really is right now, as I write and as you read!)

You buy your bottle (great gifts!) with lovely Buddy logo and either a really cool bottle or a great graphic, and..
you get one
we deliver one just like it overseas - right now!
$2 toward a classroom water filter to fill the kids' bottle for the evening.

If you buy 25 bottles (= 50 + a classroom filter!) we'll even send you free water! for orders
22 Revelstone Dr
Honesdale, PA 18431 for checks made out to OneBigBoost

Thanks, Buddy!

Uganda and Nepal and always more.

Nepal. A friend in Nepal, Shanker, director of the fantastic SOS project in Kathmandu (really worth googling!) informed me of a volunteer project there. One can come for 2 weeks, 4 weeks or months. They need English teachers and simple caretakers/homework supervisors - so crucial - at the orphanage and school. There is a cost involved, but it includes getting to know the region and its history and learning some of the local language. It also includes a visit to magical Chitwan preserve, or to the Annapurna Range.If you know anyone, young or old, who is interested in such work, let me know or contact SOS village in Kathmandu, Nepal. (google), or write me for contact. It will be a time never to be forgotten.

Next: we're looming for medical personnel, teachers, artists and college students, and enthusiastic high school students who want to help, and/or need to do a Senior Service project.

Note: IF (IF!) all goes well, students may be able to compete for a 50% scholarship to the SewaRwanda project!

For now I am working on a plan to join a Rwandan team of 12 to set up a unique project in north-western Rwanda that will combine medicine and education. The group calls themselves SewaRwanda, Smile Rwanda. They are set to make a difference, and saw our post on Twitter. what a wonderful contact! I went on skype with Christian twice, and plans are shaping! The majority of these people are illiterate. We aim for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of July 2013, and, to be truthful, will include trips to the jungle national park where the Giant Gorilla still lives, as well as to a drinking place where every size ear, horn and stripe can be observed. A guided visit to the mosaic-filled Genocide Museum will be the initiation to understand the harm that has passed the people we will be working with. The trip will cost about $3200 for 21 days and includes everything besides insurance, immunization and chosen tipping. There is a definite limit to 20, with medical staff, educators, artists and a film crew. Nobody gets paid and fundraising has to be done by yourself although materials (such a PowerPoint) can be provided.

Uganda: Mubiru, Principal of Happy Years School (who can ignore a place like that?) received a full set Dell desk computer. I can't put on the pictures now, but will try later.
Another step toward the life and knowledge everyone deserves.
I praise Mubiru for his efforts, and his belief that then children can do anything, and that he and his staff can make it possible. My compliments, Mubiru!

OK everyone. Thanks for taking the time to read this. It is exciting and fulfilling to have friends when so much needs to be done to adults, the elderly and children, just like yours.
Marianne Kuiper Milks

Bottle Buddies, Panama, OneBigBoost, Cholera, safe Water

Our bathtub is full. Just what you wanted to know. But ours is filled with water bottles! That's what you do when you have 200 beautiful, stainless steel water bottles ready to visit friends! Today FedEx delivered boxes full of the coolest bottles. Literally. And all had to be washed with hot water and dish soap, so the tub was scrubbed and in went the bottles! Made life a lot easier.
Our OneBigBoost project has a spin-off and I'll start with that. It is called Buddy Bottle, B`ot Zanmie and Botella del Compinche. All on the front. Buddy Bottles are an effort to find you a Bottle Buddy. No, not sat the street corner bar. That's a drinking buddy, although this is much the same.
Cholera is on the rise again in Haiti, as expected. Except this time it is at the end of the southern peninsula, in the mountains south of Pestel (near Jeremie). It is spreading fast and we received an email and call from Dr. John Carroll, who was there, battling the diseased and leaving the deceased. But the big agencies, UN etc, claimed there was no cholera there. Whatever.
OneBigBoost immediately decided to spend a big chunk of our cache, and used $6000 to purchase 330 highly effective water filters that serve HOUSEHOLDS rather than community wells. Reason: if a well becomes contaminated again, everyone can be affected or infected. this way, during such an urgent situation, it is limited to a household. We did what we were advised. But we're small, and we cannot provide for 250 000 people in the region. We do try.

Our follow-up is a filter that provides safe water (clean is great, safe is essential) for a classroom. Its output is 300 gallon+ each day. But that us not all.
The safe drinking water needs to be available as often as possible.
Here comes the BUDDY BOTTLE, a project where everyone wins.
You buy a beautiful water bottle.
For the low cost one is given to a person in a remote region such as coastal Panama or the Haitian mountains. He or she is now your BOTTLE BUDDY. (a "Buddy" is a friend, in American English). Safe water to take home from school or to your home.
And: $2 from each buddy purchase goes toward another classroom filter!

Each buddy purchase is only $15.
Two stainless steel bottles: one with our logo and a great graphic design at the bottom and a screw-on top, the other with our neat logo and a double, bright orange 2-piece top, for drinking and for filling (and ice cubes!)
The third one, which will arrive tomorrow, is bright dark blue translucent plastic (everything BPA FREE!) with a flip top and straw. They're SO nice!
A bottle for you, a bottle for your buddy overseas, and $2 toward a $48 filter.
If you look at the sporting goods stores, you will see the same one for quite a higher price: every penny for this goes to the project. 100%. As always. We don't need to make a profit.
Gifts, birthdays, kid playing soccer, you on walks, neighbor on bike rides..think of the possibilities!
Email at and we'll hop to it.
Yes: during Panama we'll take messages too. Well...I have friends, you know!
We'll add Panama pictures, including kids with bottles, soon!

Marianne Kuiper Milks

Panama, Haiti, Telescopes,Nepal...

Excitement is always part of my life, although highs are always followed by lows and highs again, like rain and sunshine. There are moments that I wonder what on earth I am doing, meddling in others' lives so far across oceans. Then I think of all the people who made such differences in my life - from thoughts to actions, from thoughtlessness to wisdom and the joy of warmest moments. Above all the friendships that each left a mark and made who I am. so much to be thankful for! And a message that it is ok.
Much has happened,needless to say. For the title: Carl and I are leaving for panama this Wednesday, March 28, and return too soon April 3. It will be a great taste of a completely different experience. We are joining an organization called 'Floating Doctors" a core of physicians and medical personnel who travel to different coastal villages to provide medical care, and medical and health education. All by 17ft sailboat!
They started in Haiti after the quake, still have their main home in north Haiti, but now have ventured to Panama and will soon serve really remote villages in Nicaragua as well. then back to Haiti. I'll be sure to write a follow up!
In the mean time, wnt3ing to step away from my digital camera yet not wanting a heavy digital SLR ( my fibro-myalgia hands cannot deal with that) and Sander advised the Olympus! What a treasure and pleasure! I'll post pictures!

Haiti. Many things done there, the last one of which is delivery of 330 household water filters to remote homes in the mountains south of Pestel. Pestel is a city on the northern coast of Haiti's peninsula, closest to Cuba. A cholera outbreak occurred the last spring and was, predictably much, much worse this winter. An MD from Illinois, Dr. Carroll, is there several months a year, for over 30 years, and contacted the UN urgently. Nope, he was told, there is no cholera there. What do you do then? The 330 filters were a drop in the bucket, but it IS a drop! They give a family about 1-2 gallons of perfectly safe water each hour!!!!
Now we are collecting for larger filters that provide perfectly safe water for a classroom full of kids, or a ward with patients, or in the middle of a group of dwellings. those are $48 each and provide well over 100 gallons a day.
I'd like to add that for the household filters we had a fund raiser, and had a huge contribution,$670, from Katie's small school near here, and contributions from Poland and Germany (and Michigan and Florida etc etc) as well. And an unexpected, fantastic collection for $173 from a tiny regional church!! What friends they have, in Haiti!

Other than all that I am enjoying the contact with my kids, and their kids, tremendously! Spring has come, seems long because we're had barely any snow, like in 1980 2nd 1981, 1986 and 1987,and some time in the nineties.
I keep track because snow is what I love most.
The world is clean and gentle as far as you can see, and you know that all promise lies underneath, waiting patiently. So I go to Panama, when I really cannot survive in heat. I think I will let myself be dragged behind the 17 ft sailboat, barring sharks and piranhas.

One last question.
As they have/had no idea what was under the ocean (surface), the students and adults in Haiti also do not know what is above.
I am looking for donations of all level strengths of telescopes (we can fix a bit, but they do have to work) and microscopes. Simple ones are fine! I will haul them to Haiti and give them to this bright and eager group of students!!

Be kind and be peaceful. Rowdy is ok - just have peace.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Haiti in October (2011) - 9 days.

Sunday, Haiti October 9,

As I write this date, I realize that I have been too busy to wish Matt and Tjitske Happy Anniversary, especially this year with now a family of three. So hereby happy, happy, happy, my beloveds.

I am in Haiti since last night. The Delta flight was good: they even gave us free coffee, tea, small snakes etc. A nice surprise compared to all the others airlines lately - one (don't want to say the name of this American airline..)wouldn't even give water on a long-distance flight. Unreal.
Sander took me to the airport, which I always find a wonderful treat. However, no trip is uneventful. At the airport the outside-checking porter told me I had to pay $155 extra. I knew it would be $30+ $75…but that total isn't even close! I made sure I paid by credit card and got a receipt from the grump. I had checked the prices 10 hrs before with Delta! bottoms of my 3rd bag, a duffel, gave out (can't blame it, I almost did the same!) and all my stuff rolled all over the sidewalk. Sander was still there so he stayed (sidewalk check-in) while I ran through all sorts of security and lines to finally get to a store (Brookstone, of all options!), where I bought a new $$$ suitcase. Run back out, Fill. The man, grumpy, then had the nerve to ask me for "a tip for the porter", with his head around the pillar so nobody would see or hear. It is not allowed. I said no, then added that I only had a $50 bill. His response: 'I have change" at which I gave him a cheerful smile "well, then you don't need a tip!" You have to have something to laugh at when things "come apart at the seams".

So far so good.

On the plane I sat next to a young woman and I was fascinated with what she told me. She is 50% of Haitian descent, 49% Italian (how's your math today?) born in France and later moved to Italy (her father.) She is a midwife, lives in Geneva and was sent to Haiti for 6 mo on a special project through the UN. It is her job to supervise and train the midwives who work in poverty of all poverties in 'Cite Soleil, City of the Sun, where fear, filth, danger and darkness rule. How ironic. In the middle of this greatest danger zone she works and teaches a midwife's difficult skills in Cite's only hospital. They deliver, normally, at least 70 babies a day (pop. 40 000, increased to 50 000 after the quake) and about 10-15 die at or soon after birth. They have no way of testing them for aids because the international aid org that is to provide equipment/testing for just and only this project, never has any money, even though this is THE project they serve.. These tests are free of charge to anyone in Haiti. And so are the meds. Questions, anyone??(Yes: it is run by foreigners - not by Haitians) She gave me the name of the organization and I am going to investigate**. Are they who they say they are? Where is the money? (they run on donations…and the project is specifically for Cite Soleil.) Is there another way to get this to the people? If they know at least which mother AND infant are positive, there is a step forward. As an option,anyway.
They do not have a pediatrician. Not even one - and they are desperately needed. Medicines Sans Frontieres, (Doctors without Borders) the biggest medical presence there, is pulling out completely. In fact: they are 75% gone and will be completely by February. Too dangerous. That leaves them with nothing. It is so hard to understand. I have so many questions running though my mind - first of all 'What is Wrong with us??' and I do not mean you, me, our friends…but with peoples as a whole, to have such hellholes on earth. To allow this. Where is our pride and compassion? When did the 'me more - you less' concepts start? Ah yes: according to ancient writings it was Jacob and Esau.
After that all hell broke loose.

On to happy things.
I had brought all my boys (Jean's family) a new school backpack, filled with a toy of sorts, several granola bars, packs with underwear, socks, pants and nice shirts. You wouldn't believe their faces. Each single pair of (printed) underwear was carefully examined, (boys ages 5, 12 and 15) and Claudy, the oldest at 19, had boxer shorts which he was immensely proud of. I saw Gladys later: she had stolen a pair from Claudy because she decided that they were great shorts-that I had made a mistake)
What was great that the four walked around the house all of yesterday and all of today yet,with their backpacks on.
For some great toys for older kids? Go to AC Moore or any such. In the back they sell little pop-out wooden models of planes, helicopters, dinosaurs, motor cycles…all for a buck! They never saw anything like it, and had to get it through their heads to be patient, not follow the picture but the drawn instructions. The first one to finish was Ewol, the youngest, to much envy of the others.
What really amazed me was the puzzle I had brought. Another $1 or so item. It is a giant floor puzzle (hand-size pieces) with the typical horrendous scenes of dinosaurs.
They had never seen a puzzle. Not a clue. They had never seen dinosaurs and asked if they lived in America. Didn't understand significance of straight edges, corners and looking at the picture. I sat with them (Rudy 15, Claudy 19 at first) until they were about 1/3rd through, and with a happy shout I was called later: "Manmie: fini"!. Well…the head of the one was under the *** of the other, but that was straightened out fast. All played with it many times after. More puzzles coming soon. More roaring dinosaurs.

Jean had lost soft and fuzzy "Dog" last spring, one bought at IKEA and much loved by him. He was desolate. I went back to IKEA and bought him "Dog" #2 who was cuddled with joy.
Last night I was given no choice but to sleep in the big bed. Jean, as always, cuddled up next to me, Dog in arms. A little later it was clear that someone else snuck in on the other side (It's a queen- no problems) In the deep dark finally a soft voice whispered in my ear 'can I sleep here too?'. Yes, Makezien, you can too.
So there I was: three little glowing-skin boys, a Dog and me. I slept late. When I woke up there was still One Little One in the bed…the rest had rolled over. It had to be Jean, clutching Dog. But he was too tall…it was 12 year old, quiet Ewol, snuggled up, with Dog in his arms. I looked at him for a while and tears welled up in my eyes. How little love and guidance he has had with both parents dead when he was only 4, and a then 17 yo sister who was just as lost. I snuggled up with him, age 12 going on 7, and asked 'would you like a soft animal too, next time I come?' The whisper 'yes' was very soft. One will be found.

The question, as always, plagues me: why some have so little when others (like me) have so much. Why some countries are always at war, when others seem to have peace for most of a person's lifetime. I feel so desperate. Gladys and Frantz asked why I was crying. I didn't realize I was. I told them "why is it that we have so much, when others have so little?" They didn't really understand then issue. It is the will of God, they explained.
God wants you to live in a bad world? Yes. If your house is dirty, does God come and clean it up? They thought this was hilarious. So I asked if they thought God should straighten out their government? So, then, how about poverty in the world? A great discussion ensued over dinner, and the more i heard, the more I understand their (sad) way of thinking that keeps them where they are.
The more i want to say, the less Creyole I can speak.

I am going to mix up the clay now so it will be ready for tomorrow. It is 4pm and I am very tired. The road is filthy muddy and people walking are working hard to go from less muddy to less muddy area. It stinks, it is brown, there is junk.
Each man and woman is dressed beautifully. Crisply ironed shirts and dresses, cheap custom jewelry nicely arranged, a hat for the older women. I end up crumpled at 9 am in a house….how do they do this?

More tomorrow.
As Carl always says: "it sucks to be poor".
And I see pride although we do not realize what it is.

Tuesday, October something.
One looses sense of time very quickly here. It is light by about 4-5 am, and is pitch-black by 5 pm, so at 6:30 I feel it is high time to go to sleep.

Yesterday was busy, and a later a nice day.
In the morning, hanging over the balcony, life seemed too difficult to me. The road was absolute mud and the holes everywhere bigger than I have ever seen here (on this street). It is virtually impossible to not get your feet disgustingly wet, and for some reason that has frightened me. Dirt everywhere. I never before realized how dirty Haiti really is. By yesterday, when I 'saw' more closely, people didn't seem as clean as before either. Fewer starched shirts, suits and ties. More t-shirts (with holes) and really old shoes. I didn't really see that truth yesterday. It was not a nice way to start.
My question was: is it always like this, or have I simply been seeing it all through my rose-colored glasses? Looking through my half-full glasses? Is that a good thing?
I don't know.

Gladys makes good coffee and, for the first time since the late'60s, I love sugar in it. While drinking it, i noticed that Claudy, the 19 yo, was not going to school. I asked him why not, and Gladys said that he can't because he doesn't have black sneakers.
Makezien and Ewol had just left for their 1st day of school, and Claudy's sneakers from year-end May were worn out and too small. I was appalled! He had new white sneakers on, but he explained that he cleans them very well - they are not new at all. No correct color shoes with the required uniform - no school. I was furious about such stupidity. Education comes above all.

An hour or so later Claudy, Jean and I walked to Jean's school. Dinah: I disagree with you! It is a long, hot walk up-mountain. ;-) especially in 100ยบ humidity!
Jean's school is very nice - nicer than any I have seen. Space well-used, clean, busy kids. Carolyn, the director, took me around all the rooms and it was fun to see the real thing after having seen Dinah's pictures. Each room for different levels (education here goes by ed. levels, not at all by ages), divided over two buildings (large rented houses, converted) with a million dollar view over the ocean. Breath-taking. SThe older students each have cubicles to work in, individual tables or one large one for the younger ones.
I was given a choice of two spaces: one windowless room (cool) with access to a stone courtyard with a cistern and a faucet, or an outside space, covered/enclosed by wrought-iron fences, with 3 big picnic tables. I chose that for all the classes, because it is not used and easier for the materials to stay. And more space to work. I'm happy. We'll start the adult workshop today, and the school projects tomorrow.
I am very grateful to Carolyn and Gary to let us use school space for the clay class.
I am still rather confused about when to or not to work with the younger kids, but so be it.

While we were there, the music teacher came. An older man toting an accordion gathered all the children on the landing and they sang. Those little voices…in tune (these were K-3), perfect English, singing all the songs my children and Carl grew up with. I loved it and will try to get in on film next week. (Note: I didn't - I wasn't there)

After dropping Jean off we walked down the hill, across town, down streets, back up, further left, down….oy…until we came to the market. I went to the bank to exchange money, gave Claudy 100 gourds - $2.50 by today's exchange rate - and told him to go to the market and get black sneakers. He was nervous that I would go to the store by myself but I just laughed. We went our separate ways. I finally had my shampoo, mosquito spray, cheese, peanut butter, an apple and fresh milk for Jean…the compromises one needs because the different and monotonous food gets to your system after a while. Last time I had 'the runs' for four months! Claudy had bought a pair of only slightly used black sneakers for school. Of course this is when I heard that the other reason he was not in school was because it doesn't start until next week…and the first day is a vacation day anyway.

When Jean came home we played games with the game book and the number 'domino' game. Interesting: you nave to match numbers, whether in picture form or actual numbers. He doesn't see those numbers yet (KG) but he instantly sees whether there are groups of seven, three, whatever. That is better than recognizing numbers at this point. I played a lot of games with Ewol, (Errol) also. I have my Kindle, and there was a series of games, including dimensional mazes. Quite complicated as a new concept. It took him a minute to figure it out and worked at them until deep into the dark. (Ewol is the one we worried about)

We've drawn a huge solar system on the wall, with planets circling, - except that Neptune fell behind the bed and we can't find it. Well, Neptune has always been out of sight anyway.So now we have "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us…never knowing how many (Nine/Neptune) and Peanuts/Pluto no longer being a planet shrunk the whole 'system' considerably - but still a lot of gazing for them. We also added glow-in-the-dark stars to the whole room, but I didn't say what they would do in the dark. Total amazement that night. So much fun!
None of them, young or old, know what the solar system is, by the way. I just can't understand this situation. What in %^@T@#* DO they teach these kids??? So happy Jean is in his American-English school!!

I just saw on tv (always on) about a new trade agreement between Haiti and Spain. Part of this is to aim for increased levels in education, with their help in faculty exchanges etc. Very interesting to see/hear that these positive steps take place.Since all was brought in Spanish, French and Creyole in turn, I actually understood. One carries a lot of 'language glue' on these trips.
Why is the tv always on? The lights? the Fans? Because otherwise you don't know when the electric goes off, or, more excitingly: comes on again. Easy.

There is a little boy living here as well, the 9 yo son of Gladys' cousins. Dario is here because, in their mountain village, there is no school at all. The mother pays something to Gladys for food, Dario has certain tasks (as do all the kids) and his is to empty the nightly bucket.
I do not like Dario. He is a sneaky little boy who quietly gets into everyone's things, especially Gladys' and now mine. I have 3 bags with syringes I have to take to the hospital, there are paints…many things to get in trouble with. No matter where I put things: he always finds them. I believe Dinah said much the same. I've tried to spend some time with him, but he is so strange. Another lost boy? Will keep trying.

Mid-afternoon Melet Derose came to visit. We are both members of EducationWorldWide, an international member organization for teachers based out of Denmark. There are ten of us, two from every continent, and the discussions can be very interesting at times. Melet and I have been corresponding some for about 4 years, and actively since spring with EWW. It was great to spend time talking instead of emailing. He is an English teacher in Verrettes, a lovely little town in the Artibonite delta, but, like many, is basically out of work. Recently married and trying his best. His English is really good and it was a pleasure to see him face to face. We hope to meet again at the 1st international conference next August in Poland. He has a great motorcycle :-)
I am going to Verrettes later this week to meet the principals of two high schools there, so we can prepare for the Hexagon Project at their two schools. Melet is very excited about the concept. I hope I can honor Beth and her concepts with the results. On my way I will stop in Dechapelles (hospital) to talk to the man of the clay shop there (they make dishes from molds) about their kiln, take the bags with syringes to the hospital laboratory and go and visit our friends in the woods, in their one-room house. Such lovely people. Money will be given to them for schooling, or maybe shoes. Or maybe food? Thank you, my friend back home. You did another good thing.

Today? Hot already. I will take a bucket now and wash my hair with real shampoo, 'brosss' my teeth, hope my hair dries by 2 pm.
Slept very well. Not so hot, fan worked all night, fewer 'skeeters and only one pair of little legs across my stomach.

One funny story. Yesterday we were on the balcony, reconstituting the clay from dry to moist. There was about a cup full of clean water left, but there were people below the balcony and no place to get rid of it in the house. (the clay plugs up whatever wasn't plugged up already)
Next to/below the house is a little shack, one room, cement floor, with a corrugated metal roof. It used to be covered with trash, but I had asked them to please clean it up and it was spotless. I took the cup and with a lovely wrist motion threw it onto that roof, to run down to the street like the rain. It made an unexpected, explosive sound and almost instantly a man appeared, bright white undershirt on, toothbrush stuck in his month and a terrified look on his face. It was awful and very comical at the same time. I quickly explained, apologized, he broke out in a big smile and we all burst out laughing. Thank heaven for Haitian humor!

There is a large cockroach on the ceiling above me. I SO love the tropics!

So today the first clay workshop has ended, and it was a wonderful experience.
Between knowing nothing about clay, and not understanding much of what I said (ok-it went just fine), they were really deeply into this. Claudy at 19 the youngest, and Frantz the oldest at thirty-something, all were excited and ready. Gladys had been told not to participate, because she just graduated from cosmetology school and I was afraid she would abandon that quickly out of envy and, perhaps, boredom. She quietly showed, sat down, worked and, at the end of the day said "look at me, Manmie!". And she indeed had done the best work.

We took a lump of still really wet clay, but there were no bad faces: they just took it. We played and rolled, smooched and squeezed until it was a the right consistency.
I then explained the reason for being here (mine and theirs) and that I expected certain things from them (such as being there and being on time) out of respect for me coming and doing this. Much agreement (i know 5 of the 7). I really like all of them. Some business information, and looking at the tile books to have a better idea what this was all about. We laid the clay slabs in the humid sun and went to draw given and free designs on 10x10cm paper squares. They saw quickly that a little flower must become a big one, etc. Two of the girls, as well as Frantz, are clearly artistic and are enjoying exploring.
We made several pinch pots, kept their best choice, and cleaned up. Before that happened, however, I quickly walked around one of the tables for some reason, and, my depth-vision always failing me, I fell off a rather high ledge, rolled against the next table and flat on the lower floor. Knee 'feels good', breathing is fine as long as it is not too deep and my right elbow makes its presence known as well. Oh boy. They were more upset than I was! I told Frantz that the only way to feel better will be a rum and coke...
I have to arrange a ride to Verrettes/Deschapelles tomorrow (for Wednesday) and a big one for Th or Fr to Port, for various fun excursions.
The 'mustik' are eating me alive :-P so I am going inside. Besides: Jean is climbing all over me wanting hugs, kisses and lots of games.

Wednesday, my 5th day here.
Still 'something or other'. Time moves at such a slow pace..

Today was good, in spite of my badly swollen left knee (in spite of my bounce I still don't have a good relationship with cement) and my back is hurting at the lowest rib.
So much fun!
The morning I spent at El Shaddai and I think I met all the teachers. There are several young girls working there, and one young woman with her husband, All are strongly motivated by religion.

One elderly man is a nurse. At this time he is supervising the oldest students but he is here to train a group of nurses. No previous education…he is 'it'.
That's not too bad, considering where we are. What he didn't know was that 200 students are waiting for him. That's not too bad either, until he just found out that there are no materials. No books, no stethoscopes or cuffs…nothing, He is starting the 24th,
Miraculously I have 3 bags of syringes Carl had given me to take to whichever hospital needed it most. He will get a huge bag of oranges for them to practice on, until he can figure out what to do. The poor man is just desperate. The least I can do is make a connection with a nursing program in the US to see if they have a few spare items. How to get them over there is yet another issue.

Th middle grades students' work in the hexagon project at El Shaddai was excellent. They understood and really were excited. The oldest students were interested, came up with good ideas but then petered out with the hexagon art part.What they expressed, however, was startling and very sad. These are mostly children who are born in the US to Haitian parents who kicked out their teens and flew them to El Shaddai. Talk about abandonment! Here they are in a new country, living in an orphanage their parents pay for, in a land they have never seen with languages they don't speak.
The clay group did, again, an excellent job and as yesterday we ran out of time. The class was about 3-4 hrs long. We concentrated on coiling, making slip, using slip and making pieces as tall as possible. They take this very seriously.

I took a little time to talk to Jean's teacher. and found out that he is in pre-K. He will be 6 in December, so thats is fine considering his start in life. She said that most kids here lag at least one year behind, and that Jean's problem is mainly his speech. I realized last year that his choice of words is both limited as well as hard to understand. Add English development to that and he needs more time. Not a problem at all. I really like the teacher and she has a loving grasp on what is happening and needed. I am spending much time with Jean just making the correct sounds needed for English and we are having a ball!
So all is well.

Today I am asking myself: why do I want to go home today? What is getting to me?
I just called Tjitske and had a wonderful conversation with her. Thank you for understanding, Tjitske, I really needed that!
As I wrote before: it is the dirt. And the lack of progress. The joblessness. The stopped buildings. The old, faded signs along EVERY road, main or small, that tells you that MINUSTAH, the UN, UNICEF, feed the children, HIV-Aid (haha), every kind of cross from red to religious, educational orgs (.org, naturally) and NGO (Not Good Onough!), medical groups, feed the pigeons, kill the birds or give 'em toppence…it all looks as bad as 10 years ago. It is all and a little of all.
I look at all the organizations that come here through church groups. I really resent that the .orgs here in Haiti are not honest, and tell churches at home what a pain in the &*(*&^ these groups are for them. It takes such organization here (I see that now), and food, and etcs coming out of your ears. What they need is your money. Your money from your flights and all the stuff you bring. They need to employ the Haitians and have THEM build that wall, improve that classroom and paint. They accept groups because they need their fundraising support from home, and because they at least bring some money with them. That is the sad truth that I have heard from multiple people, of various denominations and countries. They need you to use your effort fund-raising, not making yourself feel good when that is the wrong time. Not what people want to hear. Fundraising aid, large and small, is truly their greatest need - or teaching short-term (a subject to doctors or teachers, for example), or volunteering log-term. And another thing that bothers me about select groups that to one place only: they make a difference in place, but do not reach out unless there is religious…agreement. I don't see much about reaching out to fill others' needs. Don't get me wrong: there are SO many here who do make a difference whether short or long term. But there are also many who are just in the way.
Last time I saw progress. A lot of it. Now that progress has stopped again. I can't take it. I feel useless more than hopeless.
So what the heck am I doing there? Trying to justify that when I think of what I just wrote. Is it because I still believe that teaching is everything? I need to think that over when I come back home. In my frustration I am angry and unreasonable.

So…where did my starfish go? Where did it stop that it 'makes a difference to this one'?
It does. It really does. And like teaching: you never know how far your influence will go.
I'm trying - but I would like to go home tomorrow. No more trips by myself. There are certain creature comforts you don't need to give up to make a difference. Next time I will be in a place with a real shower and a toilet. Not a bad compromise.
I have to remember that I can still be a woman on a mission.

Mission aborted. Can't do it any more. And I'm glad nobody is with me, because I wouldn't want to do this life to anyone.
On a personal basis: the rippling rash on my neck, from chin on down, is burning and itching like mad. It feels and looks like lizard skin. Nothing has helped it except, temporarily, a huge block of ice. Who knows where that came from?? My knee is bruised - van Gogh would have had a rich palate to choose from, I don't sleep from the heat or my spinning mind and my entire body is a mosquito battle field. That's all.

This morning there was no bucket for 'shower'. and Gladys explained that a break in the road had drained the entire water supply for all houses. Claudy had gone down the road to get two buckets out of the community well (mind you - this is a city!!) and hauled them home. Half-way through my bucket-scoop-bath I realized that I was standing in concentrated cholera water, the worst region of Haiti. I have a family. Maybe I'm letting my friends down, but I do have a Carl and a family to think of.

I called Melet, who was very understanding (has been to the US a number of times) and asked him to arrange to do the Verrettes workshops as soon as ;possible. He said he would shoot for tomorrow and call back. Cellphones is the only thing that always works here, even shortly after the quake. As soon as my hair dries (like in 2 days in this humidity) Claudy and I will go to the internet cafe and look up when the next Delta flight goes home. I hope to be able to go to Tjitske and help her with Keegan who is sick. That's a big reason I want to be there also; I feel she could use my help now. Maybe I'll just be in the way, but then Keegan can always give me one of his lovely cuddles.

Across the street is a large blue and white truck. It has two very flat tires and has been there for at least two years. The ally next to it is the 'home' of a metal-working business. They repair/weld any metal work, build open sections on top of trucks and hang-on tops so people can ride there. They also make beautiful wrought-iron fences. There are always many people working there and they work from before daylight until long past. They have been there as long as I remember. I went over and asked them if I could shoot a short video. Of course they have seen me on the balcony many times over the past several years, They were very excited. There is also a man who makes furniture and I filmed him as well.
The 'GLAAAACE" man (ice blocks) just came past on his daily delivery route (remember from earlier blogs?)…funny to hear his monotonous voice with nasal sound (carries better). The business across the street, the 'moto' taxies hair-raising rides on motorbikes through puddles and narrow, slippery heights), the lotto sales and the night discos seem to be the only businesses that are always working. And, of course, the endless stream of women working on markets.

Gladys told me a funny story this morning. The owners of the house, Haitian-Americans, collect the annual rent and do nothing to the house. The bathroom is 90% non-existent, walls are starting to peel badly etc. Frantz, Gladys' live-in boyfriend for the past 4 years (great guy) is a certified electrician. This brings on a few chuckles on my part. Anyway: he has a good job inspecting etc. The owners did not provide electricity, i.e. no wiring or anything. The el. company allowed Frantz to bring in electric, and make some extra money by letting the other families in the house (4) pay him. So Frantz put in the wiring, which is now dangling happily from the ceilings, run across the floor and, for convenience, tied under the fridge. Sigh. The neighbor thought he should not have to pay Frantz, so Franz disconnected the wire across the hallway. When they were gone, the man came in and ripped all their wiring off the ceiling, walls, etc. Funny story? I suppose it is better to look at it that way. PPL beware!

I cannot see a word i am typing in this light, so the test and puzzle is on: if you want to read this, try your best.
Gladys and I were sitting on the balcony this morning, both crying in each other's arms, both about the same desperate situations but both for different reasons.
I can step out. She and her countrymen cannot. Hopeless.

Absolutely not even half a day without adventures. This morning I asked the boys, Claudy and Rudy, to take me to an internet cafe downtown St. MArc (that's the main and only paved road) We walked a long way, dodging honking cars, laptops, motos, taxis (all honking) , wheelbarrows, people hauling stuff any way they could and neatly suit-dressed, bible-toting men. We walked forever;. On our way we met Eddy, Dinah's friend who was hauling half his household on his motorbike. When we continued, and finally came to the cafe in a dark upstairs room: the ONE computer wasn't working. They did have a fan somewhere, and that was enjoyable. I had tripped in the dark on the way up the stairs - my specialty - and put a tiny dent in the port of my computer (fixed it later, which made all more annoying. No tools around,of course. ) We took a moto to another place, sort-of, dodging holes and puddles, rocks, donkeys, busses, wheel barrows, sidewalk business…well: you get the picture. "Over the rivers and through the woods" take on a lovely new meaning here.

We were dropped off, but that's not where the cafe was, according to the boys. I was sure I saw the place I had been to last year.. Not quite as grimy as the others. After roaming several blocks, we arrived at the place I had suggested in the first place. There was no internet there either, but that was not the 'adventure'. Just life.
When we walked in this short guy stopped us at the door, asking what we wanted. I told him 'internet for one hour'. That was 100 gourds, which is ok. He obligingly put the fan on for me, and left.
I tried to get on the internet (failed) when a man came from the back room, asking what I was doing. I had to pay. I already paid, I explained. Between the boys and I it became clear to him that someone had simple walked in, took my money and disappeared. I continued trying to get google. I offered to pay again (after all, what is 10 cents for an hour?) but he would only take the money back from that guy.
Everyone ran down the street (now about 6 people), found the guy and dragged him back, Was this the man? Yes. He screamed at me and tried to attack me: I didn't take anything from you: I worked for it!. The nine or so men gathered by now pulled him back and screamed back. I turned back around, ignoring the crowd, and went back to my google attempt. "But I turned on the fan for you!" he screamed, which made everyone burst out laughing. They finally got the money out of his pocket and the nearly 30 people outside all got rid of him. I never did get on google. I stayed with my back toward them mainly because I had to laugh so hard…not a good moment to antagonize anyone.
Although I was not afraid, I must say that I was happy that we climbed on yet another moto. I'd rather that the man in the orange shirt would not know where I am!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Friday late afternoon I moved into Le Gou-T, a hotel at the end of the street (sort-of). I was trying to take a nap and the tarantula above me on the ceiling didn't know whether I would be worth a little bite for dinner. I was certain and my cup had filleth'd over. I ended up in a small, very clean room in a nice place that gave me the breath of air i needed to stay. The A/C was great, the bed comfortable, the toilet flushed and I took 3 showers a day until I left. Food was included and the menu offered chicken or fresh fish. Being allergic to seafood, I chose chicken. The next day they offered fresh fish or chicken. I chose wisely.Same menu on Sunday. That was fine. I NEVER drink Coca Cola here, but am hooked on it there and that satisfied me for the day. Gladys was upset at first, which is understandable, but then understood and we spent all other time together. Jean spent the night.

We went to Verrettes to two schools to do the Hexagon Projects, and that was interesting because the schools were clearly quite different in their expectations of the students. The work that came out was good, but contained little art. They had NO clue about any design or expression other than words. Other than for the visiting doctors in nearby Deschapelles I have never seen Haitian art anywhere outside Port etc, and these children had not seen anything. In fact: they were stunned to find out (HS and teachers!!) that blue and yellow make green…red and blue purple, etc.
Where do you think colors come from?
From the store.
I had a great time with them.
I asked the teachers if the students haver have, or see, any art. They were puzzled. No, they explained, we do only school work. Art isn't considered anything. I explained the left-bran/right-brain thoughts and they were amazed!

Afterward we stopped in Deschapelles, even though the driver had to be back in Saint Marc. I tried very hard to find my friend Todo, married to Margarite (Tina put their daughter through school last year) but he was not to be found. Met tons of other 'old friends' there, with the usual squeals and hugs. Suddenly a big commotion: they had found Todo for me! (His nickname is Todo, because over the years he has always asked everyone if there was something to do!) After a joyful reunion, he told me he still doesn't have a job (3 yrs now), but Margarite does. After the cholera epidemic last year so many orphans were left at the hospital that the hospital had to open an orphanage. This is where Margarite finally found a job. My friend Betsy had handed my money 'for whatever needed' before I left and I quietly smuggled it into Todo's hand.
I felt badly that he had to have tears in his eyes for something the world owes this little man who ALWAYS works in hopes of getting a paid job. "Why sit at home" he asks me through his two missing front teeth. "I would get old!"
The hospital is urgently asking for help with the cholera, and to get a full-time pediatrician. I don't understand. Last February, Sander in June and I now again, saw no activity around the hospital at all. Very confusing. I didn't get to talk to the kiln man. Next trip.

The clay project had its last session in the shade at the hotel. They very kindly let us be on their patio, in the shade and under an umbrella. The tiles were made the last day and I am SO pleased with the final results! I left the clay, another new bag of it, and the tools and the book there for them to play with until next time, which will hopefully be in February.

I am not going alone again. I need to share the overwhelming sadness and frustration with someone, and receive and give encouragement and perspective from day to day.
And speaking only FrEolish becomes exhausting!

I changed my ticket to go home earlier than planned. The projects had all finished and the 2nd tile project, in Port au Prince, had not been possible because, well, sometimes things are out of your hands. That's it.
We worked until the last moment on Sunday, and Monday morning we left around 8 am for Port. Jean came too, and sat on my lap clutching me tightly the whole way.
Although the car almost broke down (transmission) we made it to the airport without any further events. When I got back in after getting gas, the entire…whatever part has the handle to close the door, wind the window etc, came off in my hand. I felt terrible but the driver said it was better without. Just push on the outside. I suspect it had done that before because I saw tape.
At the airport Jean and I both burst into sobbing tears. It was so hard to say goodbye, and seeing his little wet face made me not able to hold back my tears. We have forged such a close relationship, almost 6 years now.
Carl and I are so sure that Jean, some day, will make difference to others.

Between Saint MArc and the airport in Port au Prince, we were stopped several times by a number of motorcades, each preceded by BIG cops on BIG motorcycles. Some were zig-zagging across the road in pairs. Sirens, flashing lights: it was the day to celebrate the death of Dessalines, and a national day of festivals. Sure enough: the President and entourage raged by as well. Funny.

At the airport we had, as Sander had told me as well, to go through NINE checkpoints! It is a "Delta Special" and as annoying as heck! NINE!

On the way home I sat with another physician. She is a GP from NY and goes to Haiti 3-4 times a year for a long weekend. It is a special program that brings in medical personnel to this clinic in a segment of Delmas (Port au Prince), into the largest tent city in Haiti. They come for the sole purpose to teach one certain procedure to the Haitian physicians, nurses, techs etc. (Look at They also use people who can teach, in a variety of projects and settings and for all ages. I think this sounds like a good place to go to next February and I am trying all my aphrodesiacs on Carl to go there!! They really need someone to come for a few weeks, rather than a few days, to put certain protocol in place.

So much is needed. So many things to simply develop the minds of these children, help the teachers who often have so little education themselves. Teach mothers about nutrition for their families. Help young and older men to develop job skills. Save lives, one at a time. If you have any time, effort or, yes, money to spare please either send some to OneBigBoost, or to any organization you trust! By the way: Doctors without Borders is pulling out of Cite Soleil all together. Too dangerous. Imagine that.

This blog took place over nine days. It is long, but nobody said you had to read it :D
Thanks for your compassion to take some time to understand more of the difficult lives of others. Send good thoughts - they make a difference!!

Photos and a clip will be added soon. Marianne

** I have lost, in the shuffle, the name of this HIV/aids aid org and will have to do some research to figure out who that is. If you have a spare moment, can you help with that? It is an international org funded to administer free HIV testing and is (also, only?) used in Cite Soleil specifically. It is a big, international organization.