I’m fascinated with their optimism, as you might be able to tell by the titles of my last few posts. I just can’t even fathom it. I consider myself to be mostly optimistic, but this is a huge learning curve for me. I don’t even know where this fits into my theology. I’d much rather not attribute any tragedy or great thing to God rather than completely in either direction, they both feel uncomfortable to me.
Today was a day that I needed to write down. Today we went about an hour from Port Au Prince, to Cabaert where we helped a team of volunteers distribute food to the families waiting. So let me explain the best I can what happened.
We show up and there is already around 200 bags of food divvied up and ready to be handed out. The pastor there handed us a crumbled piece of paper with a bunch of family names on it. Unfortunately we needed a bit more information. So we trained the four or so volunteers on what to do. Write their family name down in the book, write their name on their official distribution card, write down how many kids in their family and give them their food. All was working pretty well, we were handing out food at about one bag per minute. About an hour into the process things started to get a bit louder as more and more started finding out about the food and showing up to the church in packs. All of them were pushing to the front, yelling and trying to get their hands on some food.
I can’t tell you how intimidating this is, when you are the only two white guys and you don’t speak their language and you are trying to keep some order. Chris and I made a point that the distribution wasn’t done by us, but we just sort of coordinated from the back. There was so many people trying to push their way into the church that eventually we counted the rest of the bags, and handed out just enough cards till we were out of food. We thought this would send away people without cards.
Children were handing off windows, always making eye contact with you while they point to their mouths and make a symbolic gesture showing you they are hungry. A few of the older youth were making some trouble and trying to push their way to the front. You start to think that the only way Hatians can resolve conflict is through raising their voice. When the food ran out we had to lock the door quickly and we locked ourselves into the church for a half an hour as the crowd settled down. A few tried to take off with the large bags of food meant to go to another site, then a few others confronted them. We watched as they argued and fought with each other for quite a while. The scene would have been something CNN taped to show how unstable Haiti is, but really it was just a lot of hungry people upset that they didn’t get food. Who wouldn’t be unstable?
The ride back home was especially hard to deal with. We took a way home where we passed by quite a few military bases, where soldiers with guns sat in the shade. We saw the UN building that looks more like a fortress. Occasionally a van full of white people drive by with their bravest passenger sticking their head out the window taping the devastation. There were a bunch of makeshift communities where they were forced to tent without their homes. Some buildings had completely collapsed…some as high as four stories. It isn’t pretty.
Today, three things came to mind while we were driving that I wish would change.
- That peacekeepers could keep peace without automatic guns strapped around their shoulders.
- That water would be more readily available than Coca Cola is.
- That the news media would stop spinning stories to make this place look out of control or that we would stop watching these brutal news stations all together.
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