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Part two: MUST READ -Haiti Up Close and Personal

I want to continue posting Starry’s story until I can locate her family’s blog.  Again, Shannamar has an introduction:

To answer a few questions/concerns briefly: These letters are also being posted in a blog set up by Starry's family...  HAS, the hospital I worked from and the home base that Starry will get back to when its safe enough to travel is normally about a 3 hour drive form the PAP airport, along the coast and then up a valley...Hopital Albert Schweitzer is in good shape but overwhelmed with patients...already in dire financial straights, they will have problems with supplies.  You can see their site and updates at http://www.hashaiti.org/.  Starry has posted pictures on her FB page and tried to set them open to anybody, "friend" or not, so if you want to see them they should be accessible.  Most of her images look like many of the ones in the media...

All my best!


Starry begins:

We spent the next day attending to the burial preparations for Manmi.  The crypt where her husband is buried is right in front of the house, and they feared that when they opened it there would be a very bad smell, so they suggested that everyone take a walk while they did it.  I decided we should try and make it more of a play morning at the nearby beanfield turned soccerfield that I had seen the day before on my walk.  We sent one car with the least mobile of our family, and the rest of us followed on foot.  The kids played soccer, and played with the toy dumptruck we brought, and a long-lost dog of our family’s came running up to us (she had found the neighbor’s house more welcoming and set up camp there).  I was so happy to see her (Topaz), she has new puppies and she definitely recognized us all and was glad to see us.  Maybe we’ll take a puppy . . . . if we could even imagine what our lives will be like in the next year, and where we will be living . . . . .

It was as pleasant as it could be out on the field, we waited there a few hours then returned to the house.  Erlantz and I had to search the whole house for nails for the coffin, because they couldn’t find any to buy.  We pulled them out of boards with pliers.  They managed to buy one large piece of plywood, which they shaped into a coffin.  It was barely finished by the time the pickup truck came up the driveway with Marie Claude’s body and the priest.  The family took about 15 minutes to gather themselves (some of us put on more appropriate clothing) but when we got up to the crypt we found the masons putting her coffin in and closing it up.  The priest had been in too much of a hurry to wait for us, and had given his blessings without us.  I had to yell to convince the masons to stop what they were doing and move away from the crypt so that we could have at least a moment of silence and reflection.  One of the few neighborhood men that had showed up led us in a prayer and a song.  The family was too much in shock, and too angry at the priest, to do much else.  We stood around as they closed the crypt, then people gradually disappated back to their places of comfort.  We ate plantains with a little bit of canned salmon afterwards, then used the last of the charge on the batteries for a little bit of electronic distraction (net, TV, etc.).  That night was a low point for me, probably for all of us.

The next day we had to run the generator to recharge the batteries, which means that we could use all the electricity we wanted to while it was running.  It started mid-morning.  All the TVs and video games were in full effect, Jasmine got to watch her beloved DVDs (Caillou, Dora), and every outlet was busy charging phones and cameras.  All the people that are at the lower house (Claudine and Rickerdy’s) most of the time came up to enjoy the electric magic.  Every computer with an internet connection was working full capacity, uploading and downloading and chatting with family in the US.  I discovered that I can use Rickerdy’s camera to upload my pics, and can charge my battery with his charger . . . . so I posted some pics on facebook, and will be posting more.  It should be open to everyone.  Please figure it out if you want to see them- I can’t attatch to emails.  The whole household was energized by the power- our mood was lifted, despite the fact that they had CNN on constantly- and most of you know how depressing it is to watch that coverage!!  I just don’t . . . .

What I find more valuable is what we hear on the local radio, and what we hear on the streets and from our friends here.  This family is well connected to the pulse of the public health scene, NGO’s, etc.  They are very savvy.  They joked that this is my first ‘quarantine’ experience, but definitely not theirs.  They have faced times of crisis like this many times, mainly due to political instability.  We know that the crime rates are going to soar, and that concerns us, but the place where we live is far enough from Port that criminals wouldn’t come all the way up here, and they are sure that the threat can be avoided by avoiding certain parts of the city and by NEVER TRAVELING IN THE DARK.  They said that if they aren’t worried, I don’t need to be, and I believe them.  We are hopeful that the incoming troops will be able to help keep order even better.  We must wait a few days to see how effective they are, and how the situation develops before we make decisions about where to go and when.  For now, we are as safe as we can be here.  And yes, we do have some firearms to defend ourselves at home.

Rickerdy and Nathaelf will go to the city today for a meeting for their work (an HIV education program).  They hope to discuss new strategies, and learn more about the overall plan for the country.  Erlantz believes it is very important to participate in the meetings of the big NGOs that will happen this week in Port, to represent HAS and to be sure that he will be in a position to reason with them about the public health strategies they are taking.  I want to get to the countryside (HAS) to get back to my work, but I realize that not much work will be getting done for a while still.  I’m sure they’re rationing their fuel supplies at the hospital and would not have the fuel for me to go out in the field, anyways.  So, we will sit and wait.  We’re worried about our dwindling cash reserves and the closed banks.  We’re almost out of propane for the stoves, so I am going to try to make charcoal today, using branches we will cut from our small forest in front of the house.  It will be a learning experience, and something that I’ve meant to learn how to do for a long time, to understand how much wood it takes to make how much charcoal, and how much labor it takes . . . it will help me in my economic analysis of charcoal production as an income alternative for tree farmers.  Charcoal is what most of the country uses for fuel for cooking.

Erlantz must stay here today, because the other two men are going down, but we’re seriously considering sending him down to the coast guard station tomorrow- they need doctors badly, and we hope that they will be able to give us some diesel fuel.  In fact, he can’t go down unless they can give him fuel, because he wouldn’t have enough fuel to return.  I worry about sending him down there, to the heart of the quake, where his route would take him through a lot of the devastation and the most desperate areas . . . but in the end if he thinks he can do it safely, I must trust him.  We’ve asked the Coast Guard people if they have armed security, and if there are crowds forming around them . . . so we’ll wait and see.  I do not plan on going myself, unless they require my presence to pick up some specific aid (I’ve been hoping for a satellite phone and a water purifier).

<written later in the afternoon> send to FFA and kelly

We heard from the coast guard that they now have everything they need- doctors, supplies, etc.- except for enough fuel to keep their generators going!  So Erlantz probably won’t be going down there!  I spent the day directing activities for making charcoal.  We ended up cutting down three very large branches (maybe 8 inch diameter)- one from a eucalyptus, one from a grevillia, and one from a cypress, all of which were hanging over the driveway a little too much.  That was a lot of wood!  I had three helpers with machetes, which is all they used to cut everything.  We had to carry the wood a long way to the bottom of Claudine’s property to make the charcoal pile, which will burn overnight.  We were worried about making it in a place where we couldn’t easily see it- to make sure no one comes and steals it- but we also wanted it far enough from the house not to be giving us too much smoke.  But the smoke of the cypress smelled good.

A neighbor came to the house with tomatoes, beans, parsley, and small leeks, which she paid for with all the coins we all collected from our pockets (which is not to say that we don’t have any bills, we do . . . but we’re being very careful with our cash).  We also found that there were a bunch of ripe chayote growing in the bottom of Claudine’s yard (when we went down to look for a spot for the charcoal) so we picked them and we will have wonderful stewed vegetables tonight (augmented with cabbage and eggplants bought in the Artibonite before the earthquake).  We are very lucky that Rickerdy had bought a TON of vegetables when he was passing through the Artibonite Valley last week (they’re cheap and good there), it’s the main food that we’ve been living off of.

This is a fantastic way to diet.  I’ve NEVER dieted in my life, always relied more on exercise.  But I’ve discovered that my eating routine was much more about habit then hunger- because we are rationing our food now, we eat some crackers or bread for breakfast, then go until late afternoon before getting our main meal, and I’m not even really feeling hunger pains.  Then we don’t really eat anything at night, except for maybe some more crackers, and I’m really not missing the food that much at all.  I hope I can keep this up in some form after the food rationing stops!  If anyone really wants to suffer along with us, try eating like we are now!  And we are the lucky ones- our homes have not been affected, and we are close to agriculture to buy direct from the farmers.  And we have some money to buy with.  And we have trees to cut for fuel.  The charcoal we made today will hopefully prevent us from having to buy any for at least a few weeks.

Starry Dawn Sprenkle

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