Hello All -Esther and I arrived safely yesterday afternoon. Flying to Port au Prince was uneventful (except for zero sleep Sunday nite)…trying to get though customs and out the front door of the airport was an adventure. We had been pre-warned to not let ANYONE help us with our bags, but to get out to the sidewalk where Johnson, our pre-arranged taxi driver would be waiting with our name sign. At the luggage carousel we were SWARMED with eager helpers – they said the MOSQUITOS would be bad! Hands came out of nowhere, grabbing the handles of our roller bags, “help you, help you” we heard. “No mesi,” we kept saying. As we got through the door, more hands, more “No mesi”…then a football player-sized young man grabbed my bag handle and wouldn’t let go. He kept saying “come to parking lot” I kept saying “no” and I wouldn’t let go, and he wouldn’t let go, and he was dragging me with him to the parking lot. I kept saying my “taxi man” – and he said “no taxi man” – he finally stopped, said, “look at me lady. Your taxi man no here. You go with me.” I said yes, my taxi man here, he said no, and we progressed being dragged along until taxi man Johnson appeared with our sign. My eager helper was not happy to see Johnson. Helper left muttering something about a “stupid lady.”
Shuttle plane to Pignon was a beautiful flight over the mountains of Haiti. Plane dropped us off, left quickly and we were sitting alone under a shade tree in a beautitul setting. Not like LAX at all – grass…goats…children appearing and disappearing through the mango trees. They would ask us soemthing in Creole – when we responded “Pastor Francois” they smiled, nodded and ran off. We were also pre-warned that Haitian time is like Kings Valley time – no sense of time. So we weren’t worried, we waited, and finally Pator Francois and Papi Mark (Abby’s Dad) showed up.
The only photo I got loaded here is out the back window of the truck, driving through Pignon towards orphanage…to be continued…
to share Esther’s final words last night: ”So…this is the end of a good first day!”
DAY 1 continued PART 2…Driving through Pignon –bouncing, jolting, swerving – brightly colored cement buildings, tin roofs, crowded streets – burros, motorcycles darting in and out, goats, dogs, children everywhere crawling over porches, ditches, rock piles – brayings, laughing, shouting, clucking, rrrrom of motorcycles- every small building a storefront, grocere, auto repare, hair stylee, Loto, restaurante-people, noise, people.
We turn into white stone compound of Philadelphia Children’s Home of Haiti. Exterior wall has been torn down by government for road repair – white cement church, then open-air classrooms, then interior gate opens to Orphanage. I thought the compound was further from town, but it’s right on the edge. Gate opens to another world. Children light up as they see Pastor Francois and Pappi Mark – they grin and wave. As we get out, they are more cautious…back off a bit. Madam bursts through door of dining hall – “Bon jour!” She gives me and Esther a crushing hug. You are my family!”
Pastor Francois introduces us to the children: “Gramma Lynn and Este’!” Big curious eyes look up at us. Silence.
Then Pastor points at me and says, “Denny Mama,” and at Esther, “Denny Sista.” Then the children bounce and grin, “Denny Mama, Denny Sista!” They grab our hands, touch our hair, lean in close. They haven’t let go since! They called me Denny Mama for a while, now it’s Gramma Lynn. And Este’.
They have also not exhibited silence or inhibition since. They are always laughing, running, playing. The children have no toys . None. Yet they play 12 hours a day. (This is Easter week and so school is out – otherwise they are in school half the day.) They play with little stones, chase each other around, climb on anything climbable. The older – 10 yrs or so – do chores, mingled with play – wash clothes in buckets, haul water, help in kitchen, sprinkle water over dusty courtyard…
Whenever Esther and I sit down we are swarmed by little bodies, mostly girls, but sometimes boys – leaning in or elbowing for a spot on our laps. As they showed us their rooms, I had 3 children on one hand, two on the other, each holding a finger.
These little ones ooze joy and gratitude. And they crave love and affection. I watch them play and laugh and I forgot that they are different from the other children in my life. But these children are alone in this this world. Francois and Madam have provided them with a very loving, healthy home – but there are 50 children. I look at their sweet faces and my heart breaks when I realize they have no Mommy or Daddy that cares especially for them – at night no one tucks them in, reads them a story – they wander off to bed when they get tired. Or an older one takes the hand of a younger one, and they go off up the hill to their rooms. Many sleep two to a bed because they choose. There are empty beds. The empty beds, to me, signify the lack in their lives.
The first night, Esther and I were so tired, we went to sleep with the sounds of the children playing in the dirt courtyard, in the dark. Laughing and singing. Pignon has many churches, and at night the air is filled with Creole hymns, full of joy and praise.
I go to sleep, knowing others are praising God for me….