My Last Trip to Haiti
I wanted to take some time now to describe my last trip to Haiti. It has been a little less than a week since I got back to the states, so I am going to describe the things that I was doing during my last trip. The main purpose of this trip was to make sure our house was ready for Jess and Sophie to move in on May 9 knowing that this would be my last time down before that happened. So I left on April 21 and came back on April 26 to get ready for our fundraiser. I really only had 4 full days there, but I was arriving at 12:30 that Thursday and I was hoping to get things accomplished in Port Au Prince that day so I would not have to make another trip in. In addition to that, on my last day there, after I was dropped off at the airport, we had a pretty major setback. Our driver was hit by another truck on the way home and our truck was damaged (as you can see in the picture). We are not sure how badly, but we are really hoping that it is ok! Here were the things that I needed to do:
- Make sure the electricity at the house was installed correctly, was working, could last through the night on battery power, and that I could understand everything.
- Figure out a water filtration system that could make our water clean enough to drink. After getting the water tested we found out that there was bacteria in the water that made it undrinkable for us. I did not know where to start.
- Begin organizing the house and getting things in place.
- Get our furniture (that had been previously delivered) put together and ready.
- Buy propane tanks and then drill holes to connect it to our dryer and over and run plumbing to our washing machine.
- Get paint for Sophie’s room and have it painted (every other room was painted by our wonderful LaGrange group!).
- Get a path built from our house to the kids house.
- Go to different grocery stores in Port to find out how much formula, baby food, and diapers cost as well as how easy they were to find.
- Buy light bulbs (something that I had forgotten previously), a level to hang curtain rods, paint, and gas cans for diesel for the generator in Port.
- Ensure that the second floor of the kids’ house gets finished and move the girls out of our house.
I’m sure there were other things that were going on as well, but these were the major things that I needed to take care of in 4.5 days. Going in, I knew I would not get much sleep and I was a little stressed, but I also knew how important it was to get as much done as possible and I was hoping to get everything done in Port so I had one less thing to worry about, but this is where the first problem occurred.
I had been talking with one of our employees, Lener, about making sure there would be someone to pick me up from the airport. I told him what time I would be there, what truck I needed, and even the driver that I needed him to send. Somehow, and looking back he admits to making a mistake, he got confused on the day that he was supposed to send someone. He thought I was arriving the following Monday, so nobody was there to get me. The other thing is that I had asked him to send my phone with the driver because I left it in Haiti the previous trip. So I was at the airport with no driver, no phone, and no wifi to use my phone. Luckily I had a friend at the airport (if you have been before you know Big) who helped me find someone at Christianville. So instead of leaving the airport at 1:00 and beginning to get things done, we left the airport at 4:15 and everything in Port closed at 5:00. I got nothing done that day and things were not shaping up well.
The next day, I scheduled a trip back into Port, a meeting with our electrician, and a time to talk with our employees about moving our girls into their new home the next day. I also met with the owner of the land behind our house to get a path built between the 2 places. He initially asked for $150/month for the path and we settled on a price of $500 total including building the path for us. Our employees all agreed that we could move the girls the next day (Saturday) even though the house was not all the way ready it was mostly ready. I went in to Port and found everything I needed and had a meeting with the electrician that went really well and I learned everything that I needed to know. Friday was a successful day.
On Saturday I took the kids to soccer practice and found out that the boys had a game that afternoon at 3. So I knew we needed to move the girls in between the practice (we got home around 10) and the game (scheduled at 3) because this was very important. As soon as we got home, I called Jeff and Lener and got our security guards and boys to help and we began moving the girls out. If you remember our last “bed problem” (click here to read about it if you missed it last time) you probably know that we are about to run into another one. This time, even after cutting all of the beds, they do not fit up the really narrow stairwell. So we have to go and get some rope and pull each bed about 12 feet up onto the balcony of the second floor, untie them and then bring them into the rooms. With the first room, it worked perfectly. The door was big and there was not hallway to get through. In the next 2 rooms, there was a really narrow hallway and small door. The beds, again, would not fit. So the workers who were getting the second floor of the house finished cut the tops off of the beds so that they would fit into the rooms…crisis averted and all of the girls were moved in a little less than 4 hours! We have really hard-working employees!
Starting Sunday I would begin staying at our new house, getting it ready, and making sure the electricity would work. In the meantime, that Saturday, we bought 3 propane tanks from the store where we had purchased the furniture. We had them delivered and I made sure that they would send someone to put our furniture together (I had paid for this when I purchased it but they had yet to send someone to do it) on Saturday so that I could start organizing the house. Well, the propane tanks got there, but they did not send a person to put the furniture together. Another setback, but if they could send someone on Monday I would still be fine.
At this point I still had to figure out the water, get Sophie’s room painted (which I had already setup and they started on Saturday but I had to make sure it was finished), have the furniture put together, get the washer/dryer and oven installed, and spend a couple of nights in the house to make sure the electrical worked well. In all honesty, I knew everything else was handled, but I was still not sure how to take care of the water situation. This was huge. To have clean and drinkable water was by far the biggest issue and I had no idea how to start. Then, a friend of mine suggested that we get in touch with GE in Haiti because he heard that they do these things. So I googled companies who did this in Haiti, and the company 3M has a branch in Haiti that installs chlorine injection systems into home specifically to kill any bacteria in water. I called them, got a quote, and setup a meeting all in about 30 minutes. It was the easiest thing that had happened so far and it looked like we were going to be good. Until they called back and told me that they did not have the filter in stock and would have to order it. This has still not been installed, but I left money down in Haiti with one of our employees who will take care of it by the time we get back.
The last thing I want to tell you about is my first night staying in the house checking out the electrical situation. As you know, we run our house on solar energy which means that our panels charge batteries during the day which in turn run our house at night. The problem that can happen is that the batteries do not have enough charge or power to last through the night and you can run out of power when the batteries get down to a certain percentage. This is what I was worried about the most on that first night. So when I went to bed that night, I turned on 5 extra ceiling fans, plugged in our refrigerator for the first time, and left lights on throughout the house to see if we could last all night…We did! What a relief to find out that the electrician had done such wonderful work and I have confidence that our electricity was installed well.
There are so many other things I could tell you about this trip, but I will end here just to give you a taste of what life can be like there. In the end, I accomplished almost everything I set out to accomplish, but that does not always happen. Things seemed to go really well until the last day when the truck was hit, but we are still hoping and praying that it can be fixed easily and be ready to pick us up from the airport on May 9. There is still a lot to do, but GOD really stepped in and allowed us to accomplish the major things we needed to do to be ready to move in.