Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A typical day in Haiti with the Global Therapy Group

from 12-3-12ish: Each day starts with a 6am wake-up and yoga practice.  Many days I am alone on my mat on the porch of the guesthouse and other mornings I join a small group private session in a lovely garden yard with flowering trees and a lovely landscaped yard.  Such a powerful way to start each day. Breathing and stretching mindfully in the warm early morning Haitian air.  Watching the sun rise over the mountains lifted my heart with the reminder of the fresh hope each new day brings. 

After yoga it's breakfast and a welcome cold shower to move the day into 'work mode'. Abner the driver comes at 8:30am to take us to the physical therapy clinic.  The distance is only 3 or 4 miles and the ride takes 30-60 minutes depending on traffic.  We wend our way through the wobbly, rocky and pothole filled streets through the hills gazing out the windows and into the nooks and crannies of Haitian life on the streets. 

We arrive at the clinic between 9-9:30am with typically 6-10 patients waiting outside.  They are lined up on uneven concrete sitting in the wheelchair seats that form the modified  ‘waiting room’.

By the time we arrive the Haitian PT assistant and clinic manager have gotten the early patients all signed in and taken their blood pressure.  Many patients have had strokes, and each day we see at least one or two people who are dealing with an injury from the 2010 earthquake.  Most often they have an arm or leg that was trapped underneath rubble and now need PT to help them establish better movement and use.

We look through the lists and the patient records and decide who should see which patients.  Each day I worked with 2-3 patients, mostly people who have been coming for a while and have exercises that a PT has already prescribed.

It is immensely rewarding to work with people who are committed to improving their physical well-being.  People willing to stare adversity in the face and give it what they have to make it better.  I mostly did typical PT exercises and added in breathing and yoga type stretches as I can.   I had fun playing with my French and Creole trying to get the patients to do the exercises.  Of course rhe Haitian clinic staff are there to translate as needed luckily! 

By 2:30pm we leave the clinic and make our way home.  Some days the driver picks us up and we often drive to pick up the children of our host family from school.  The ride home can sometimes be two hours, depending on traffic.   Many days we leave the clinic on our own and venture through the streets of Petion-ville seeing what we can see.  We stop and buy fruit from the market ladies and talk with the school kids who say things like, “Blan give me dollar.” We don’t give them money but we do smile and laugh, doing our best to make small talk in Creole. 

We arrive back at the guest house anywhere between 3:30 and 5:00 to a yummy dinner of rice ,beans, a salad and some type of meat.  When we are done eating, we have some quiet time reading, stretching, checking email etc.  When the family members come home they usually stop and say hi and we chat about life and share stories from our day and our lives.

It’s awesome.  I am as happy as  a clam here in Haiti so far. The routine will change next week as I transition from the Phsyical Therapy clinic to the Project Zen Yoga Studio.  I am so excited to work with them next week, teaching 5-8 classes,mentoring some newer teachers, and helping with a marketing and outreach plan. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tu as un boun-boun?

It's hard to believe I’ve been here for 9 days already.   The first week here I enjoyed a  good digital break. The wifi wasn’t consistent so I took advantage and hardly used the computer at all.  This week I've reconnected and am ready to share the trip with you.

So much and so little has happened.

Everyday is an adventure and everyday is mundane. It feels like many of the stories can get lost in translation.  How do you share a country and a people with words on a computer screen?

I guess through stories, so here is one:

The other day we were on our way home in a tap-tap, a pick-up truck converted into colorful and packed public transportation, and one of the volunteers decided to give her Creole a try.

She asked a little boy who was eating candy: "Tu as un boun-boun?" The little boy didn't answer.  She immediately looked at me and said, "I think I just used the wrong word for candy."

She took out her Creole dictionary and pointed to the definition boun-boun = vagina.  She just asked the little boy. "Do you have a vagina?"  Luckily he didn't understand anyway- but oh my did we have a good laugh.

The days are filled with funny culture-gone-awry and experiences such as that.  But they are also filled with the reality of the tough life in Haiti.

Two days ago at the Global Therapy Clinic we saw a little girl named Evaline who had just had her first birthday.

She was in very bad shape, incoherent, no grasp reflex, no eye contact and real sense of awareness of her surroundings. The PT's did an assessment of function, she was clearly disabled. But we were trying to understand to what extent and what we might be able to do to help.

As they did their assessment and asked more questions it became clear there was something more going on with the little girl. She was sick, very sick.

We told the father he needed to take her to a hospital right away. One of the PT's wrote a referral form to the free hospital nearby. They left and we hoped with all of our hearts they would take her.  We called the next day and they had gone to the hospital and Evaline had Cholera.  Please send her your prayers and love.

Today, Louise the PT from Sweden, worked with a little boy named Andy who was stuck under a building for hours in the 2010 earthquake. He suffered brain damage and damage to his left arm and leg.  He smiles and plays and is an amazing testament to the strength and will of the Haitian people.  He had been in last week and Madge made him a brace to help his arm, and today Louise confirmed that it is helping and created clever games to help him improve his strength and coordination.  You can donate to Global Therapy Group here to facilitate more great work like this.

This is the Haiti I am experiencing. A gorgeous vibrant country filled with amazing and resilient people. And little girls who are close to dying of a totally preventable disease and little boys who are doing the best they can.

I am honored and happy to be here on purpose.

Tommorrow is my last day at the Physical Therapy Clinic.  Next week I am teaching classes at the Project Zen Yoga Studio and helping them with teacher mentoring and marketing and outreach planning. So excited!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

setting off on a journey of exploration

This trip to Haiti is so much different than the last one, and it is so much the same.
...last time I went for 6 days, this time I am going for 3 weeks.  
...last time the country had recently been shaken up by a catastrophic earthquake, this time they have recently been doused by the edges of a hurricane. 
...last time cholera had just broken into an epidemic, and the first elections were being held.  This time cholera is somewhat under control and the current government has been in rule for 2 years. 
...last time I went to simply bear witness, and this time bearing witness is only one part of my plan. I have a longer time and more opportunity to explore. 
Over the next three weeks I plan to explore Haiti, her people, and her story.  I also plan to explore myself and my own journey.  I plan to be in Haiti On Purpose.

On Purpose to me means starting everyday with the Ashtanga primary series and a morning mindfulness meditation.  On Purpose means that I will honor the beauty of each moment and each individual I encounter. Doing my best to experience each moment and individual for what it is and who they are, rather than what I think it or they should be. I'll be volunteering with Global Therapy Project, Haiti-Communitiere and Off the Mat Into the World.

I look forward to sharing my reflections of this journey with you.