Friday, February 7, 2014

Pain, Voodoo, Sanitation, Agronoms, and Hope

We have now been here about two full days. Currently it's about 4 o'clock (we're on CST, but Haiti doesn't use daylight savings time). It is a bit overwhelming trying to process field notes, emotional and mental notes, and simply recollect the past 48 or so hours. However, I'll give you a rundown of a few things that have really stuck with me thus far. Some I have seen before, though not as intense as here, and other things I have never seen before in my life. These five points will lead you in the journey we are on and look to see slowly unfold.

While any of us who have been to a developing country cannot doubt the power held within the eyes of the inhabited peoples, pain cannot begin to describe the dull sensation found deep in the hearts of those who look back into your eyes. The eyes are the window of the soul; their souls are hurting and hungry for hope. As I gaze into their longing, needing eyes, I pray they look back in mine intent on my heart, understanding I am here to help; not that I am a simple minded, rich white man who most likely brought AIDS and HIV to their people or that builds useless cities in the middle of desert ground with no water or proximity to market (attribute the latter to your tax dollars via Bill Clinton). No, I hope they can peer into my soul and see Christ through me, and know I hope to make their lives better.

There are only some fortunate enough to go to school where the education is free, but they cannot afford to make the uniforms (and definitely not buy them already made). For the others it is walking miles per day, many without shoes, on the rough and rocky road that runs from the market and "city" to the outskirts and farmlands. Some are unclothed, some are unshod, and all are uneducated. This vicious cycle of pain is inflicted through a lack of education and means of understanding a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Because of this lack of education, some live a barbaric lifestyle of oppression. Today I watched as David Vanderpool went to a woman whom his family often helps by bathing, feeding, and generally taking care of. This woman is of low stature and as we might call it "hunched." The Haitian people refuse to accept her in society and she stays literally locked in her mud house to avoid beating and shame. As David tried to communicate with her through the door we saw a hand, so dirty it was lighter than my own skin, reach under the wooden door frame. He passed her a NutriGrain bar; the hand quickly pulled it under and reemerged, again open and empty. He quickly came back to the truck and grabbed another bar. A second time, he placed a NutriGrain bar in the pale, dirt-varnished hand; it swiftly pulled away and reemerged with nothing. He held her hand for a few moments, as a few tears slowly streamed down my cheeks. The pain this middle aged woman has gone through is enough reason to educate the people, beyond their need to sustain life. Thanks be to God Live Beyond is working toward trying to construct a special needs orphanage.

Without getting into much detail on Voodoo...

  1. Voodoo priests poison people so they appear as dead for a few days. They are placed in a casket, and a couple days later the priest helps them bust out of the casket and feeds them an herb than enables brainwashing. Priests raise up armies to fight one another... Thus the origination of zombies.
  2. The demon Voodoos worship is Lucifer. They burn wood around a metal pole, get drunk off of sugarcane moonshine, and worship him by touching and licking the pole. Those who die did not have enough faith, while those who live usually end up at Live Beyond for medical treatment the next morning.
  3. Red is associated with Voodoo, so we don't wear it.
Flowing pure from a natural spring in the mountain, a old French aqueduct transfers the water down a series of channels, making it available to many Haitians. Sounds great, but the unfortunate reality is that this dihydrogen monoxide is used for bathing, cooking, drinking, cleaning clothes, and urinating in.. for everyone in contact with the channel. Then, once it reaches the valley, sometimes by aqueduct channel or by dug channel, it's used for irrigation, which is done by flooding the misconstrued (to me) rows of plants, that shouldn't be flooded.

Paige Graves (MS Horticulture, BS Agronomy; Texas A&M) and I have met with, along with David, the regional minister of agriculture in Thomazeau the past two days. He hold the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in Haiti in agriculture. While some things are totally unrecognized, I am very impressed with his abundant knowledge of agriculture. He seems to "know his stuff" rather well. We will be working more to see what can be accomplished.

Paige and I, as agriculturalists have found many practices to be.. unexplainable. In some cases, we can accomplish the Haitian frame of mind and bring understanding to the purpose for practices such as the crazy plant rows, but in more cases we cannot. Practices here are very indigenous and need to be improved. Luckily we are Agronoms (a description and title of an agriculturalist in Haiti), so we will try to bring forth change.

We will be working hard to try to change some of the practices that the Haitians do. We are working on variety trials for both seeds and practices (obviously with her expertise, not mine). We're looking at ways to add protein to their diet, change their cultural practices, and promote trades among children who cannot attend school. It is my hope to not only benefit Live Beyond and Texas A&M University, but to improve the lives of the Haitian people. Change cannot come by force or because Americans are doing it, but only through a diffusional progression that starts with culture. If we can dig into the complexity of a culture unknown to us, find a glimpse of understanding, and create a bridge of hope between us and it, I believe we can truly impact the lives of these people.. and just maybe when I look into the eyes of children and adults we have touched, I will see, not pain and hopelessness, but hope.. a hope for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next; a hope for a future. Without having to wonder if tomorrow might come, but being confident in facing tomorrow, we can teach them to be confident in facing eternity. I pray I get the opportunity to teach them both.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
-II Thessalonians 2:16-17

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