Saturday, April 3, 2010

Haiti: Day 1

First Impressions

It's been a great day. I'm on the balcony of the Residence Filiariasis, after a long day of travel and scouting. My colleague James and I have been very well received, as everyone here has been exceptionally warm and welcoming. It hasn't been the easiest road here...after some confusion at the airport, our ambassador Alexa (rather, Ali, who has been a Godsend) was able to obtain transportation from Toussaint Louverture International Airport into our final destination, Leogane, roughly 30 miles away. It turned out to be the best way to travel, as we got a tour of Port-au-Prince along the way, and I got to take some remarkable pictures. Photos to come soon... Along the way, several thoughts bounded through my head.

The poverty is palpable here. But it's not a Western/New York slum/G.I. type of poverty. It's a poverty which is more of a standard of existence, rather than a poverty that is easily juxtaposed with examples of decadence nearby. These aren't a people who live in the corners of urban sprawl, forgotten by those who walk/drive by, mere feet away. Here, they make do. There's something much more real, much more attuned to the human experience about it. But unfortunately, the lack of those very resources which spoil us in the U.S. makes it very hard to compete in our modern world, and things get left behind. Like sound construction and retrofitting. So when something so destructive as the quake happens, the effects are devastating.
But as I said, people get by. Tent communities are alive and well throughout the metropolitan area, marketplaces continue to function. Schools start up again on Monday. Today, families prepare to celebarate Easter tomorrow.

I look forward to the opportunity to engage the community...I'm eager to dive in and help. James and I took a little tour of the compound upon arrival, and it seems we will not be short on the opportunity to contribute. The residence is run by The University of Notre Dame, a pill that I am forced to swallow as a University of Michigan alum. The building is nestled between a hospital (made of quite elaborate tents) to the south, and the Nursing school to the west. We first walked over to the nursing school, which is at present being occupied by the Japanese Red Cross, and met a lovely nurse named Nami, who told us about their goings on, and suggested we visit the hospital. At the hospital, we were lucky enough to be allowed in, received a tour of the facilities, and met a couple of the doctors (Jennifer and Sharon.) The field hospital is coimplete with an ER, OR, L&D and a general medical unit. Sadly, no iinpatient psych unit;). In speaking to the staff at the hospital and here at the residence, it is certain that our services are desparately needed here. There have been no psychiatrists rotating through the hospital as of yet, but there is frequently need of one. Though our primary function is to train the nursing student here in Leogane, our direct services are very much needed in the hospital, at least in a consult/liaison capacity. We'll see how that works out.
For now, though, I'm off to bed. It's been a long day...

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