Whether or not Americans think so, the United States is still the land of opportunity. More than 40 million immigrants, the US is still the top destination in the world for people moving from one country to another.
The Pew Research Center put together a map of where each state’s largest immigrant population was born. For 2010 (the last time the US Census was conducted), the answer for most states was Mexico. One hundred years earlier, the answer would have been Germany. Take a look and see where the majority of your state’s immigrants come from.
A few weeks ago, friend and fellow blogger BosGuy and I were meandering about United South End Artists Open Studios event – a weekend where local artists open up their work studios to the public. I have to say, I was incredibly surprised by just how many inspired artists there are in my neighborhood – I had absolutely no idea!
While I like paintings, my eye definitely gets turned on by photography. We stumbled on photographer Stephen Baumbach’s studio with his gorgeous landscapes and cityscapes of Boston and beyond (seriously, I’ve contemplated 20 purchases already), but what really stuck out was Baumbach’s “Pride Retrospective” – a collection of photographs from Boston Pride Parades over the years.
As we kept walking, we noticed a display on the wall of a man’s hand holding a postcard with different years on it, much like the one below. Needless to say, we were intrigued.
It turns out that the young artist behind the project is Mike Ritter of Ritterbin Photography. Mike is trying to collect photographs of cornerstones of different buildings in Boston throughout the years. I can’t begin to do the project justice, thankfully Mike provided a brief description of his project “Boston(s)” (see below). and then check out the photo gallery here. Mike also has a spreadsheet of all the locations – if you discover a cornerstone, fill in the spreadsheet for the appropriate year.
There’s something about this project that intrigues me. I’m not entirely sure why, but at the very least it has given me a new appreciation for cornerstones and their evolution over time. With as much history as Boston has, this is sure to be an interesting endeavor. Best of luck to Mike on completing it and telling an amazing story.
If you happen to be out and about in Boston this Memorial Day weekend, stop and take a look at some of the corners of the buildings you pass. If you find a cornerstone, take a picture and note the address of the building – and then help Mike out!
Boston(s) Photo Project by Mike Ritter of Ritterbin Photography
“Buildings is like people. I mean they got stories, and they got secrets to tell you. All you gotta do is look.” – Tony, Brinks Job
This project evolved out of a simple idea. I wanted to find a cornerstone for every year from 1900-present within Boston city lines. I began believing there was more to this idea than simply collecting 115 photographs of 115 Boston buildings.
Each building is a fragment of the time that created it. And, telling the story of each building would collectively begin telling the story of Boston itself. What was the original purpose of the building? What has it since become? Who used it in the past and who uses it now? On that note, another focus would be capturing people with some relationship with the building whether they live there, work there, or are just passing by.
This will not turn out as many other photo-essays on Boston seeking beauty and the well-known. Some notable buildings will make it into the project but the seeming randomness of what buildings have cornerstones will dictate a unique architectural collection. Hopefully it turns into a look at overlooked and well-known Boston buildings while remaining cohesive.
Yes, I’ve gone on the record as saying that late night service on the MBTA is a horrible idea until the system is better funded. Yes, I still contend that it’s a terrible idea, especially considering the MBTA just announced another potential round of fare hikes.
But I also fully support the idea of extended hours. albeit with a well-funded system that fixed many of the current problems that plague the MBTA. Therefore, I fully intend on supporting the expanded hours when I’m out and about in the city late at night.
Bostonians, the MBTA asked what you wanted, and you told them extended hours. For once, the MBTA listened and is giving you a one-year trial period. If ridership is lackluster, the program will get the axe next March. In the words of the great sociologist RuPaul, “Don’t fuck it up!”
I previously posted that I’ve been traveling a lot for fellowship interviews and commented on some of my travel habits and was curious if anyone else has any flying rituals.
Well, after traveling a lot, I’m feeling less than warm and fuzzy toward my fellow travelers and am now on to the things that drive me absolutely crazy.
- People slowly walking in the airport. Um… hello!? It’s an airport; people have places to go!
- The security line – the TSA doesn’t actually bother me at all. Frankly if they are keeping me safe, I’m all for whatever you need to do. What drives me crazy are the people in the security line who don’t realize they have to take their laptop and toiletries out and their shoes off. All of which means that the security line takes long.
- The confused look on people’s faces as they try to find their seats. Um… the seats are in numeric order…
- Passengers who put their coats in the overhead bin… immediately after the flight attendants ask passengers NOT to put their coats in overheard bins.
- Having to check your carry on baggage at the gate, and then discovering there is ample room in the overhead bins.
I’m sure there are more. Feel free to chime in!
I’ve been traveling around the country a lot recently for fellowship interviews, and all that travel got me thinking about vacations. If you’ve ever been somewhere out of the United States, you’ve likely purchased a travel guide for your destination – something like Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, or Rick Steeves.
If you’ve ever read these guides, you’ve no doubt noticed that they often warn Americans about some particular local customs, or to be “wary of pick pockets” even in the safest of European cities.
I’ve always wondered what a guide to the United States would say written from the perspective of a foreigner. Well… I saw this on a friend’s Facebook timeline and I got a chuckle.
Here you go folks. 11 French Tips for Visiting America. I think #11 might be my favorite.
You might as well rent a locker in either Atlanta or Charlotte, keep an extra suit, pair of underwear, or a tie there just in case. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there and you very well might be stranded.
Having already flown through these two cities several times in the past few weeks (including Atlanta yesterday), this would actually be ideal.
I posted an article to Twitter recently about how United was planning to shut down its hub at Cleveland Hopkins. I wasn’t planning to blog about it – after all, it’s not exactly health care or public health related – but an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about how Pittsburgh can sympathize with Cleveland caught my attention. The article reports that a group of prominent business organizations were touting the United magazine spread about their wonderful city as a hub for the airline – two days before United announced that it would be slashing flights. Yes, Pittsburgh went through a similar disappointment and betrayal by USAirways, but after reading the article, I couldnt help but wonder if perhaps Cleveland was being a little too smug?
United Airlines decision to abandon Continental’s old hub at Cleveland shouldn’t have surprised anyone. United claims the hub is a money losing operation; no doubt the hub was a money-loser under Continental, and the city of Cleveland’s fortunes haven’t exactly been stellar in recent years. But further more, Cleveland should have looked at the writing on the wall. If recent history serves us right, the airline industry is rife with examples of medium sized cities in the nation’s heartland being stripped of their hub status. St Louis lost hub status after American took over bankrupt TWA, Pittsburgh (a mere two hour drive from Cleveland) saw enormous reductions and loss of hub status shortly after USAirways merged with America West, and Delta just dumped Memphis this past summer having gained the Tennessee hub from its 2008 merger with Northwest.
Promises from the airline industry that mergers would bring “additions, not subtractions” have thus far largely been untrue – one only need look at St Louis, Pittsburgh, and Memphis as prime examples. Even Delta’s Cincinnati hub has seen dramatic cutbacks from it’s hub heyday under Northwest The only bright spot for some of these cities has been the addition of “low-cost carriers” like Southwest, JetBlue, and Spirit. But with the impending merger of American and USAirways, certainly other hub cities should be nervous. After all, upper management at the new combined airline will be largely spearheaded by USAirways executives – the very executives who slashes Pittsburgh and quietly let go of Las Vegas as hubs when USAirways and America West joined forces. Additionally, many of the American and USAirways hubs are located relatively close to one another – potentially putting a number of them on the chopping block. Certainly the new airline will not want to maintain expensive hub operations at close geographic cities like New York/Philadelphia and Phoenix/Los Angeles. And while Charlotte and Miami may not be geographically close, they play a similar role for both airlines in feeding an extensive Caribbean network. Phoenix, however, may have the most to worry about – geographically, it’s between American’s home airport of Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles, a huge market where American is now the largest airline.
Much like health care, the airline industry is again consolidating – a move that only produces winners and losers. Some of these cities (Phoenix, Charlotte) were winners in the last wave of mergers, and may soon find themselves losers in the airline wars. Time will only tell if new airlines will sprout up to fill in the gaps lefts by the legacy carriers and what role the “low cost” behemoths Southwest and JetBlue will play.
I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling in the next few months for fellowship interviews, having flown to Charleston this past weekend. While waiting at Logan Airport for my flight to take off, one of the segments airing on CNN was about people who are afraid of flying and how some people have “flight rituals”.
I thought about it a little more and realized that I do actually have a few airport rituals. I definitely have an airport food ritual. For one, early morning flights are always accompanied by a grande coffee from Starbucks (never Dunkin) while afternoon flights usually require a diet coke and medium fry from McDonalds (one of the few times I allow myself to visit this fast food obesity corporation).
My only inflight ritual is that no matter what I’m doing before take-off (listening to music, reading a book), I immediately cease doing whatever that was and look out the window of the plane during take-off. Paying attention to the safety instructions? Not a chance…
Do any of you out there have airport or travel rituals that you want to confess to? No? Oh… well then.
Yes, those of us who live in Boston and actually use the MBTA for public transportation would love to see extended hours on buses and subways throughout our city. It would be life altering.
It would also be completely idiotic, and I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my thoughts. Joseph Levendusky wrote an opinion piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe highlighting precisely why extending service hours on the MBTA is a poor choice. Levendusky echoed my sentiments from an earlier post when I said that the MBTA
…shouldn’t even be entertaining the idea of extended hours until the agency can offer frequent, efficient, reliable, and sustainable service to the areas it currently serves – and without a negative operating margin. Without those fixes in place, public transportation service during extended hours will be subject to the same delays, inconsistencies and breakdowns, and will be yet another source of discontent with the MBTA for Bostonians.
Seriously, if you think late night service with the way the MBTA is currently run is a good idea, then you should hop onto Twitter and search for #mbtaannoy. The MBTA should be focusing on fixing what it currently has before overextending itself. Levendusky’s comments are perfectly stated too, noting that
Now is the time for our political and transportation leaders to focus on presenting comprehensive plans to address crowding and service issues that are currently infuriating T riders, and to sketch out a vision of the MBTA of the future. Our Commonwealth’s competitiveness and our quality of life will not by improved by a T that is open late unless the T first succeeds at the core mission of providing quality service during traditional hours of operation.
Ever been stuck in a traffic jam before? Stranded on the tarmac waiting for your plane to take off? Amtrak train delayed due to a breakdown?
Yeah… who HASN’T been there is probably a better question. America’s transportation infrastructure is poor at best. I’m sad to say that my home state of Pennsylvania has the worst bridges in the entire country. While Europeans benefit from an integrated high speed rail system and most European capitals have expansive functioning public transportation systems, America is well… generally not doing so well.
Now there is something you can do about it, and yes – it’s an app. It’s called “I’m Stuck” – it’s free and it has some unlikely partners supporting it. The app was created by the bipartisan coalition Building America’s Future – a group co-chairs by former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
So what does it do exactly? The app gives users the option to select the mode of transportation that is currently irritating them and then sends an email to the user’s US Representative and Senators from the users home state. Traveling out of your district or state? No problem – the app uses GPS to determine the appropriate Representative and Senators.
See… you too can be a political activist, all from your smartphone.
After completing 10 surgeries that day, candlelight mass was a nice moment of relaxation and thought. The busy operative day left little time to think and process the true magnitude of what we had just accomplished. 10 surgeries in one day. Most well run surgical centers in the United States can’t even complete 10 surgeries in one day. Amazing! And exhausting. I don’t remember Father Rick’s homily that night, but I wasn’t surprised that even this candlelight mass was a funeral mass. Father Rick had been away, which meant that the souls of the deceased before us had been waiting for their funeral mass and their salvation.
As always, the number of “bodies” at the funeral mass never correlates with the number of names that Father Rick reads. Although it looked like one body, there were several children under one of the burial shrouds. Every time the shroud is lifted and more than one child is under there, I catch my breath just a little. As I’ve commented before, death in Haiti is all too real and ever present. Despite seeing patients meet untimely ends in the United States, nothing prepares you for what can be an overwhelming sense of death in Haiti. And for all the work we had done that day, here before us lay several who could not be helped or for whom help came too late. And yet, this wasn’t a sad occasion, for there was a great sense of peace at the funeral mass that night. The hymns sung by Father Rick and Sister Judy hang in the night air as a soft, cool breeze makes its way through the chapel windows.
I stayed after Mass to help a group of volunteers bring the bodies over to the morgue. I’ll honestly admit part of me wished I hadn’t, but part of me will never forget what it’s like to carry the body of a lifeless infant and child from the chapel to the truck. As we arrived back at the main entrance of St Damien’s, a woman carrying a baby came out of the hospital and approached our truck. The baby seemed very sick and almost lifeless in her hands. No crying and very little tone. She had been turned away from St. Damien’s because there were no available beds, and she had no clue where to go. The ER physician (Donnie) sprung into action, taking a look at the baby, assessing the situation, and trying to figure out what to do. Thankfully Father Rick was still with us at this point, and he told us to take the baby over to St. Luke’s.
Once again, a feeling of helplessness washed over me. I’m not a pediatrician, and I don’t routinely deal with sick babies. Not knowing what to do or how to help is an incredibly frustrating feeling for any doctor, but particularly for surgeons who are used to jumping in and getting their hands dirty. We transported mom and baby over to St. Luke’s, and Donnie got an IV started thanks to the pediatric nurse in the cholera clinic, started some antibiotics and checked a finger stick for blood glucose. Throughout all of this, the baby hardly moved or made a sound – not a good sign. After what felt like hours but was probably more like 30 minutes, Donnie got the baby situated for admission. We climbed back into the truck and were getting ready to pull out of the gates of St Luke’s.
I would have taken a picture of what happened next if it would have been appropriate, for it would have been a picture that speaks a thousand words about what life is like in Haiti. As the gate of St Luke’s opened, a young man was being helped off of a motorcycle and into a wheelchair to be brought to the Emergency Department. It was clear that he was in poor condition as he could barely stand up and certainly couldn’t walk. To get a ride to the hospital, he had likely given his last few dollars to the motorcycle driver. Not an ambulance ride, but a ride on the back of a motorcycle, clinging helplessly to the driver in the dark on the terrible streets of Port-au-Prince. He had given what meager money he had in order to come to St. Luke’s, where he knew at the very least his care would be free and a doctor would see him. Had he chosen the General Hospital, he may have died sitting in the hallway, waiting to be seen.
And on the street behind the scene of a semi-conscious man being helped into a wheelchair was a UN truck, sitting idly and watching. Watching and not helping, waiting for the motorcycle to move so that the UN soldiers could drive past. Yes, the picture would have said a thousand words. It would be the perfect picture to describe why the Haitian people dislike the United Nations, and it would speak volumes about the poor, the sick, and the desperate in this country.
I think it’s safe to say that when we woke up Sunday morning and headed over to the hospital to begin our surgery “clinic” – we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. Did the patients think they were just being evaluated for surgery, a final yes or no as to whether they were appropriate candidates? Or did they think they were coming to be operated on immediately? We were certainly prepared for both possibilities but Alyssa, Jim, and I were not entirely sure. Would anyone even show up?
When we arrived, the triage area was packed full of patients. Immediately, I began to panic. There were easily 50 people in the triage tent. There was no way we would be able to get through 50 surgeries in one day; we might not even complete 50 surgeries in a week! As it would turn out, not all of the patients were for us to operate, many were there to be evaluated by the urologist (Mitch) in the clinic.
We walked into the surgical suite and sprung into action. I began setting up for our first case while Alyssa and Jim assessed the patients. Our first case turned out to be a patient who had a previous hernia repair, but his hernia had recurred. Great… way to start out easy. Given the amount of scar tissue from the prior hernia repair, his case took the longest of the day. Alyssa brought some Prolene mesh with her from Arizona, so we were able to perform a Lichtenstein repair (I realize I lost some of you on that one. A little background first: hernias are essentially holes in the tissue that holds our muscles together known as fascia. Many people think a hernia is the lump or bulge that they see or feel, but in fact the hernia is just the hole. Traditional hernia surgery involves sewing muscles/ligaments together in order to cover the hole, however this has a high rate of recurrence. A Lichtenstein repair basically uses the mesh in order to cover the hole.)
Because this man’s repair took so long, we ended up performing only 3 surgeries before lunch time – another hernia repair and a huge lipoma. The morning had started off slow both in the operating room and just logistically trying to coordinate patients in pre-op and post-op. We went back to Villa Francesca, inhaled lunch, and returned to St Luke’s recharged.
The problem we had in the morning was that the air conditioning was only working in OR #1 but was broken in OR #2. Despite attempts to fix it, OR #2 was stifling hot. We figured if we left the doors between the ORs open, that some of the air would flow from OR 1 to OR 2. We decided that major cases would be done in OR 1 while minor cases would be performed in OR 2, given that it still wasn’t all that cool in there.
I think it’s safe to say that we then kicked some ass. We ended up doing another 7 procedures that afternoon – 4 more lipomas, a neck mass, an unknown leg mass (which we sent to pathology out of concern it might be cancer), and a large epigastric (above the belly button) hernia.
We finished up and headed over to the candlelight mass at 7pm. Father Rick had returned from Canada, which meant church was back on. After a long first day, it would be a good moment to sit and reflect.
I can’t for the life of me remember which morning it was, but bright and early at 7am Mass, Father Rick read the gospel according to Matthew. The passage that morning was from Matthew 6, which also includes the words to the Our Father.
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men.
And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I can’t imagine that this reading was handpicked by Father Rick while I was in Haiti, but the timing was all too appropriate. For I feel that this passage perfectly describes so many of the religious aid groups that travel to Haiti. When you arrive at the gate for the flight to Port-au-Prince, you can spot them immediately (I’m assuming it’s the same everywhere though I’ve only flown out of Miami to go to PAP). They always have matching brightly colored shirts; the “T” in Haiti is often turned into a cross or there is some reference to God/Jesus or they have vaguely religious sounding names like “Helping Hands”.
I fully realize I’m being judgmental (you already knew that – it says so in the blog headline, and yes I realize it’s wrong), but there’s something that bothers me about those shirts. Now, I’m not a total jerk – I know that a) it’s nice to wear matching T-shirts in order to create group unity, b) to have something tangible to remember the experience by, and c) it’s easier to locate everyone when they are wearing a brightly colored T-shirt. But I often wonder what exactly these groups are doing in Haiti. Are they providing medical care? Are they teaching sustainable farming techniques? Are they building houses or infrastructure for clean water and sanitation? For the groups that claim they are “teaching”… what exactly are they teaching?
Or are they doing what so many before them have done? Are they swooping in, imposing their (Christian) views and values, thinking they are superior to/more intelligent than Haitians, and then leaving when the money runs out? What lasting impact are they making? Is the work they are doing sustainable or will it die out once they leave, leaving Haiti no better than when they started?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I highly doubt that every organization is similar to the St Luke’s Foundation and Nos Petit Freres et Soeurs. I doubt that each of these other organizations is making efforts to teach orphaned Haitian teenagers skills that they can market in the future for a job. I doubt that each of these organizations has built a bakery, a restaurant, a brick making factory, a mechanic shop, an auto repair shop, a clothing factory, housing units, three hospitals, multiple clinics, a rehabilitation facility, and multiple schools. I doubt that many of these organizations have created micro-economies within the neighborhoods and towns in which they operate.
I’m probably being harsh, as there are many other groups that go to Haiti that do amazing work. However, sometimes lending a “helping hand” can actually be counter productive; much like the aid that Haiti receives from other countries may be counter productive when Haitians do not control where the aid money flows. But there’s something that bothers me about those matching T-shirts; it’s as if they are like the hypocrites, and the shirts are meant to be flashy in order to broadcast the supposedly good deeds of those wearing them. There is something that bothers me about the “Christian values” being imposed on Haitians, especially since many of those same values often poison the social and political discourse in our own country. For his part, Father Rick does not require Haitians or the volunteers to attend religious services. Non-Christians are equally welcome, and the Catholic values of nurturing the sick and aiding the poor are the only ones that are imposed at St Luke’s.
I can only hope that I’m wrong about those groups. But until proven otherwise, those matching T-shirts are still going to bug me.
I sat around Saturday at Villa Francesca feeling frustrated and defeated, and annoyed that I couldn’t be helping as much as I should be. I mean, this is Haiti after all! I came here with a skill, people at St Luke’s knew I was coming, and yet things were essentially a giant dead end cluster.
And then something magical happened. I can imagine it is much like discovering an oasis in the desert. A whole new team of people arrived from the United States. And everything changed.
An ER physician and an anesthesiologist from Indiana. A general surgeon, a vascular surgeon, and an urologist from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Critical care, long term care, and outpatient urology clinic nurses from Mayo Clinic in Arizona. They arrived, with large suitcases filled with supplies, and were eager to get to work. We marched over to the hospital, barged into the surgical suite, and began to organize what would become our supply area for the week. The urology team went off to set up their clinic, and the rest of us inspected what was available and what would be needed.
The “team” brought with them such enthusiasm that was quite frankly – infectious. We figured out how and where we would patients would be held pre-op, where all the IV start sets were, where patients would go post-operatively. The ED doc (Donny) and the anesthesiologist (Art) got to work on the anesthesia machine, getting together supplies and medicines to perform spinal blocks, and gathering endotracheal tubes for general anesthesia. The general surgeon (Alyssa), the vascular surgeon (Jim) and I made quick work of what was in the OR and what the team had brought with them for supplies. Sutures, drapes, sponges, instrument kits, prep kits… organized and arranged quickly and orderly.
We accomplished together what I would never have been able to do by myself. And I felt that in the end, the day had not been all together wasted. We arrived at Villa Francesca to a feast of pasta. It turned out the urology team had finished early, went to the market to shop, and started on dinner while we were organizing in the OR. I guess sometimes life really does hand you some lemons… and you need some helping hands to make lemonade.
I quickly want to thank everyone who has been following my trip to Haiti on Facebook, Twitter, and here on the blog. Your comments have been both touching and inspiring, so thank you very much for your kind words.
I haven’t been able to blog as much this trip as I would have liked. The 12-hr days in the operating room have been long and tiring. After quickly getting food and a beer or two, bed time rapidly approaches – especially when you are waking up at 6am.
I’m heading to Toussaint L’Ouverture airport shortly to begin the trek back to Boston, but I have a few more Haiti posts tucked in the recesses of my mind to share with you. This trip has been extremely productive and holds great promise for future surgical trips to Haiti.
In the meantime, I highly encourage you to visit the St Luke’s Foundation for Haiti page as well as the METI Project homepage to get a better sense of what these two fantastic organizations are doing here in the Tabarre neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. If you have access to hospital/medical supplies or work in purchasing or central supply for a hospital or medical practice, I highly encourage (read: begging) you to contact me to see how we can get desperately needed supplies to Haiti. Even though the earthquake was 3.5 years ago – the need is still here.
I spent most of the day on Saturday incredibly frustrated.
I woke up early in the morning in order to head over to St Luke’s, to assess the operating rooms, and to perform inventory and collect supplies. I remember the limited resources that were available in the surgery suite when I was here in January, and I wanted to see what remained in place. I arrived just outside the surgery center only to find that the door was locked. The hospital administrator nor the surgical coordinator could be found. The day was not starting off well already. Strike #1.
I started to walk back to Villa Francesca – thankfully it was still early in the morning so it wasn’t very hot outside yet – when I ran into Conan, one of the main people in charge of NPFS. He called the surgical coordinator and the hospital administrator and got the surgical suite unlocked. I was pleased that things seemed fairly organized but it was obvious we would need to go to the storage depot and get many more supplies.
The storage depot was unfortunately another dead end, locked door. The guy that was supposed to be working at the depot had taken the key home with him. He also was clearly not at work since the depot was locked. No one knew when he would arrive since he was already supposed to be there. Access to the storage depot denied. Strike #2.
There weren’t many patients in the triage line at the hospital and none in the Emergency Department – strange considering my experience in January with very long triage lines – perhaps it was just because it was Saturday. For the first time (but definitely not the last time), I felt useless in Haiti. I came here to help after all; they knew I was coming, yet I couldn’t gather supplies. I could not catalogue the entire surgical suit by myself. I went back to Villa Francesca feeling incredibly defeated. It’s incredibly frustrating to be a medical provider in a country with such great need and yet not be able to help.
Haiti:2 – Ginger: 0
Finally got back from the hospital at a decent hour to do some blogging. So here goes.
I arrived in Port-au-Prince on Friday afternoon. By the time the flight arrived in PAP, it was already 4:30pm. As we were approaching the airport, dark thunderclouds appeared over the capital – typical for the rainy season in Haiti. After landing, there is the usual trip through customs and then baggage claim – which oddly enough takes less time than it does in the States (the airport isn’t very big here). I will fully admit that baggage claim in PAP is probably one of the few times that I feel completely out of place. A 6’3″ ginger standing waiting for luggage surrounded by Haitians as well as “aid workers” from the United States in their matching T-shirts. I stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s somewhat amusing.
After getting luggage and going through customs again, the next tricky step is finding the driver for Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs, Max. There are two problems: one – Max does not speak English and two – I don’t have a Haitian cell phone. Now picture a 6’3″ ginger standing outside of the PAP airport, in a light rain, surrounded by “enterprising” Haitians who are offering taxi rides and who will help you find Max… for a $5 tip. While you wait for them to find Max, various others approach you with little trinkets. For the first time in Haiti, I had my American background thrown in my face; when I didn’t want a bracelet from one of the men peddling his wares, I was told that since I was American I should be able to afford it anyway.
Eventually Max arrived, and drove me to Villa Francesca – the St Luke’s “compound” for volunteers. Most of the activity at the hospital winds down by 5pm so it was a little late to be traveling over to check things out. Turned in early after eating dinner in order to get an early start the next day.