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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Six Months lLater

Haiti, six months later, is a continued lesson in extremes. Living side by side are the rich and poor, sick and healthy, living and dead. The frailty of life is so close to the surface of everyday living that it almost becomes invisible to the eye. Tent cities precariously appear everywhere as an immutable way of living. It scared me when even I passed them without seeing them in the midst of a bustling work day. Staying one night at the Plaza in Port au Prince was a surreal experience. An old Holiday Inn that easily withstood the 7.0 quake, the Plaza hosts celebrities like Sanjay Gupta, and Anderson Cooper who enjoy the good life of buffet meals, air conditioning and an indoor pool. Outside an amoebic mass of black and blue tarps surround the parks statues, where our attention was taken when a rock fight broke out in front of our car, necessitating our quick departure. It`s only been six months since the biggest urban disaster in the history of modern man. It took two and a half years to rebuild after the tsunami in Sri Lanka, so we need to keep the faith that the rebuilding will continue with conscious direction. There is little solace at least that major disease has not become rampant in the streets.

Visit with Nadia and Gaetan

We had a brief yet wonderful visit with Nadia and Gaetan last week at her home outside of Port au Prince. When Frantz, our driver, finally found the street after several passes, we arrived with big smiles and hugs for all. Gaetan is a perfect baby, with rolls and rolls of baby love. He barely cried when his Godmother gave him his 6 month shots. Their garden is large and flourishing and the house is rebuilding nicely. Unfortunately we missed Jonathon and Manasse who were out at school and work. We had planned to circle back and see them on the other end of the trip but had gotten delayed too much because of the fatal accident on National Hwy 1. I did get a chance to talk to Jonathon on the phone though. It didn`t matter that we couldn`t speak each others language. Language is incidental with us.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tragic Accident

Sent by Tom via text message, Saturday, July 17, 7:55 p.m.:

Just made the day even longer. There was a fatal accident on the road. Spent an hour stabilizing the driver for transport, with a broken leg and possible spinal injury. Made splint out of sticks and loaded him into our pickup truck - another day in paradise!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Finally Made it over the Mountain

Tom by text message 2:08 p.m.: Made it over the mountain and started surgeries three hours late. Going to be a long day ... very, very hot here, but at least we did not have an earthquake. Should we fly in and help with bury survivors? Send private jet, please!

Plan B on the Container

Tom by text message at 11:46 a.m.:

My phone is finally working again. Since my last e-mail, we could not get the right paperwork for the container, so we took three small trucks to no mans's land at the border and unloaded it. We sent half to the DR and food to the orphanage in Haiti. Dorothy was very happy, but a lot of IMA money was spent.

Today, we headed out with Sheila. One hour north of Port au Prince - it took us 1/2 and hour to climb up into the hills. One truck fell off the road, but we were able to get moving again. The road is washed out - we need to go back down and start over on a different road - nothing is easy here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Still Stuck at the Border

E-mail to me from Tom:

As usual, when I need this Palm phone the most it decides not work! Dorothy is off to see if she can get papers to cross the border. She doesn't want to put pressure on the powers that be as it makes people with jobs work even slower when pressed from above. So hopefully they will find an answer but time is ticking and the truck is costing $500 a day. If needed, I can be reached at the Plaza Hotel. Wish I could send pictures - they say a thousand words easily.

The plan is for Carol and Eric to join me here tonight. We will see. I told Dorothy to pack supplies for us to take to them to NLO in August. Off I go. Love to all - Tom

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Text Conversation Between Carol and Tom Today

Carol via text message at 7 p.m., detailing text conversations today between she and Tom:

Tom: Things are looking grim for our mission. We're stuck on the border - there are changes in the law and need for paperwork. Still waiting. Call me now, please.

Carol: Ruth got a room for you at the Plaza Hotel tonight.

Tom: That's great. We are still not across - going to make a run for it at the border without proper paperwork. Say a prayer.

Carol: Are you across?

Tom: No, but we hope to be within the hour. Rattle your beads.

Carol: Hail Mary.

Tom: Call our driver tell him to return to car - do it now. Leslie here.

Tom: Still in between DR and Haiti. Still hope to cross after dark. Leslie went away - he did not see us but saw Cedric and Widza - Leslie went in to Haiti.

Carol: Did the trucks cross?

Tom: No, we are still waiting but we have not been thrown out yet. Do not stress Dale with details - I'm teaching Dorothy to breathe - I just bribed another person $160.

Tom: No luck - gotta go to Port au Prince to get the right paperwork. I'm going to rest at the Plaza Hotel.

Stuck at the Dominican/Haitian Border

Today we loaded up the truck with gloves and drugs for the dental school. We found our 40 foot container, but they have changed the law about bringing in humanitarian supplies without charging taxes, and we need more paperwork. We sit at the border trying to get clearance amongst the worst chaos - you can't even begin to imagine. Carol will be doing surgery into the night.

We need a miracle to allow the truck to enter Haiti. I wish we still had a team of people to call on to research with their higher connections.

Warehouses of Unused Supplies

Tom via text message Wednesday, July 14, 5:42 p.m. :

After the OR was set up, Dorothy, Eric and I went to their warehouse where a small amount was obtained from the tons of supplies sent down for the quake, that either came too late or were too much of a wrong thing at the time. Mountains of them need sorting and need to be sent to a clinic of hospital that can use them. We already prepared one mountain for distribution. All in all, a good day.

Thursday we head back to Port au Prince with a 20 foot container of supplies and food for the orphanage.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Initial Impression of Port au Prince Six Months Out

It is just not the same crossing the border without Dr. Marc Pinard. What would have taken five minutes with Marc took at least an hour, with lots of hand gesturing and loud voices. There were road blocks every two to three miles.

Some 200,000 Haitians have fled across the border. Our initial look at Port au Prince does not seem as bad as I had imagined. The Haitians are getting on well. It's surprisingly normal, except for the presence of huge tent camps everywhere.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Our Arrival in Haiti Six Months Post-Quake

Tom and Carol via text message:

We arrived and made a successful rendezvous with Dr. Dennison (the dean of the Haitian dental school) and Duplan at the Port au Prince airport. The streets of Port au Prince are hot and dry with fewer people than I remember before the quake.

Cement blocks are stacked along the roadsides with many men shoveling piles of rubble to the other side of the road. Attempts at rebuilding are slowed to a snail's pace due to the oppressive heat.

It was great to see Nadia and Gaetan in the home they are rebuilding. Gaetan barely cried when his godmother gave him his six month old shots!

Luggage Issues at BWI

Tom texted me at about 8:45 this morning. He, Carol and Eric arrived at the airport to discover that each one of them could only check in two bags instead of three and not be able to pay extra to take on additional luggage. This caused them to sit on the airport floor and do a little creative rearranging! If you've ever been on one of these trips with the Ritter's, then you know that every square millimeter of their luggage space is utilized to the max!

One of their first stops after they land today is to visit Nadia and her family. Gaetan is 5 1/2 months old now - I'm sure he is just chunkalicious. I miss holding that little bundle! and look forward to seeing them soon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Carol ,our son Eric and I leave for Haiti on July 13th

Some good news from Haiti
People often ask Carol and I "Are things getting better in Haiti?"
I think this report from NPR says a lot about the current conditions in Haiti.