Monday, October 27, 2008

Wild, Wild West

Hello everyone,

I am at the UN base in Gonaives right now, and only have a second to give an update. Matt & I drove from CWH to Gonaives on Saturday morning, a trip which took us about 2.5 hours. A guy from AMURT hopped in the truck with us and gave us a tour of the disaster area (the whole city). It's horrible, and I'll share pictures later. People are shoveling/scooping mud out of their homes (what's left of them), and dumping into the streets. In some areas, the mud is mounded so high that the roads are impassable.

After our tour, we grabbed lunch at the UN headquarters (cheeseburgers, woo hoo), and then headed to visit another of AMURT's project locations in Sou Chod ('Sue Shode'). It took us 2.5 hours to get there, and it turned out to be the Haitian desert. Who knew Haiti had deserts? Well, they do, full with cacti and all.

Sou Chod is famous for its natural hot springs, in which we did get a chance to take a dip in the hot, hot water (over 100 degrees F). Even though the area is known for the springs, no one goes there because of how far away it is, and how bad the roads are. You can't call these things just can't. Anyway, we stayed there last night, and in the morning got up and headed for one of AMURT's really neat projects, a salt farm.

Our visit to the salt farm landed up being much crazier than I had ever imagined in that people who weren't hired to do work were shoveling away, and expecting to be paid. They thought they wouldn't get caught actually doing the work because it was a Sunday and they didn't expect anyone from AMURT to show up, but we did. Before we knew it there were 100 people there, and they were not happy :). I don't know where all these people came from, it was all desert as far as I could see, but they continued to emerge from behind cacti. When I say 100 people, it could have been more, because I did a rough count. People got so rowdy and angry that some Haitian fist fights broke out, and people were chasing each other around with machetes. Everyone carries a machete in Haiti, and it's something you just get used to as you walk around. But, this was the first time I've seen them swung at other people.

It seemed as if it was all for show (Haitians LOVE drama...especially out there in the wild west), but one guy did land up grabbing someone else's shovel and started banging it against rocks trying to break it. It didn't break fast enough for him, so he grabbed a machete and just chopped the handle in half. A useless shovel, wonderful...that was probably weeks worth of wages. Personally, I like the woman who grabbed two big rocks in her hands and started going after people. If I had a video camera I could be making money off this stuff :).

Don't worry, I didn't feel like I was in too much danger as Haitians normally don't bother foreigners, well aggressively anyway. Dharma, a guy from AMURT, seemed to get most of the conflicts sorted out, and he seemed pretty happy about the overall outcome.

After driving back to Sou Chod from the salt farm, I landed up playing the drums with a whole bunch of local kids. AMURT had just gotten a whole bunch of handmade Haitian hand drums, and I started playing one with one of the AMURT guys. Before we knew it, there were at least 20 people from the village standing around watching me play the drum with a whole bunch of Haitian kids. It was a lot of fun, and I have a lot of great pictures to show when I get back from this trip.

After the drum session, Matt drove us back to Gonaives, and here I sit at the UN base typing this update. I'm going to see if I can get any food from the cafeteria before we leave for AMURT's rental home in the area.

We leave first thing tomorrow morning for Milot to meet the EWB-NJIT group, I can't wait. I'll update the next chance I get. Toodles.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On a journey...

Hello hello,

Yeah, so I changed a few things around here with the pictures, I hope you don't mind. I just figured that having Ireland photos up while I was in Haiti didn't make much sense (but they were nice pictures, right?).
This post is going to be rather short and sweet today as Matt and I leave for Gonaives early tomorrow morning...and again, it's already way past my bedtime. We have the truck packed up with materials, and I just finished packing my clothes, but I figured that I should leave a quick post as I may not have internet access for the next week or so. I may just have to do one super-post when I get back from Gonaives and Milot :).

This week was great in that I spent the entire time in Filter Technician Training...and I am now an official Filter Technician, woo hoo! Actually, according to my diploma, I'm an official "Teknisyen Filte", being that the course was taught in Creole. I've learned a ton about how to set up and maintain a successful filter project, and that's exactly what Matt and I will be doing on our trip to Milot.

Our graduating class :). Chris & Leslie (the teachers) in the back center.

Yesterday, we (yes, myself & Matt) walked to our friend Ricardo's house who lives about 15 minutes away from CWH. We've been practicing our Creole with Ricardo and his friend Evans a couple days a week after work, and it's been working out great. The deal is, they have to speak English, and we have to speak in Creole, and it's a learning experience for all of us. So, for the first time, we decided to go to Ricardo's house instead of him and Evans coming to CWH. It was really neat to walk through the village and have some one's house to go to, and not just be walking around like a tourist. Plus, Evans was with us, so it was like a free pass to walk in that area. When we met up with Ricardo, he took us for a walk to a nearby lake that was gorgeous, and then we climbed to the top of a mountain just next to lake...again...awesome views.

Ricardo, myself, & Evans...the traditional Oreo cookie (when you're living in Haiti, you can say things like that without them being off-color :) ...right?)

View from up top: Pierre Payen, Haiti

Also, I know I've mentioned that Chris shot a rat some time ago, but today he shot a woodpecker with his BB gun :). They are rather nice looking birds, but it turns out that they peck at the coconuts on the property, and ruin perfectly good coconuts. So, Chris kills them when he sees them, and lays them on a rock at the end of the driveway. When little kids walk by, they take the woodpeckers home and eat he's really doing everyone a service...except for the woodpecker.

Chris with his prize...nice shot Chris.

Ok, I said this post was going to be short and sweet, but it's no longer short, so I'm hoping it's some variation of sweet. Please say a prayer that our travels go smoothly this week, and I will make another update as soon as I am able.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

City Power, woo hoo!

Apparently, city power hasn't reached CWH in over two months as a result of hurricanes, so they've been running on a generator that whole time (which costs a lot of money in fuel). Tonight, Chris was telling Matt & I how we're low on power because of all the people that are here (CWH has 8 students this week for a filter technician training course). A few minutes later, we walked outside and saw the indicator light on that let's Chris know that city power is on. We checked the batteries that store power for this place, and sure enough, they were almost fully charged...sweet deal.
As I mentioned, there is a Filter Technician Training class this week, which is where all of my time has been going. It teaches people how to successfully launch and maintain a biosand filter project, which is what NJIT's chapter of Engineers Without Borders is about to do, so this is very helpful. It's taught in Creole, which makes it rather difficult, but Leslie and Chris have been helping me out with translation as we go, and I've picked up a handful of words along the way :).
I know I've had quite a bit of steel talk in my past posts, and you're probably not interested, but I just wanted to let you know that we got the steel yesterday from the steel puncher in Port-au-Prince, and it's awesome. No plasma cutting or grinding required...just grab some pieces and get welding.

Chris, pleased with his fresh cut batch of steel.

I realized that with all of the pictures I've posted, hardly any have been of Chris & Leslie's daughter Olivia, whom entertains us often...and as you can tell...she's adorable. So, here's a shot I snapped today of Olivia sitting on a common Haitian made chair.

Too cute, wouldn't you say?

Ok, last couple things before I sign off here. Matt & I met a guy from an organization called AMURT (, and we were invited to visit their operation in which they have quite a few neat projects going on. So, before we head up to Milot on Monday, we're leaving early Saturday morning to head to Gonaives, and will be staying there for the weekend. It will cut some time off our trip to Milot, so it works out nicely in that respect, too. Gonaives is where the hurricanes did some serious damage recently, killing hundreds of people. I know the area is in bad shape, so I guess I'll get to see what it's like first hand.

By the way, for those of you that leave comments, I try to comment back on your comments sometimes, so check back to the ones you leave...I may have responded :).

Thank you, come again soon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moped Madness

Well, I already gave you a rundown on Friday's adventure, and the rest of the weekend continued to be rather adventurous. Saturday I got up, ate breakfast (made poached eggs for the first time in my life), read my book for a bit (Paul Polak's Out of Poverty: What works when traditional approaches fail), and then Matt and I got the mopeds out to go and visit a local orphanage.
Being that this would be our first try at the mopeds, it took us a while to find the keys, helmets, figure out how to get them running, etc., but eventually we headed off...and of course had some difficulties. I got about 15 feet on the driveway and my scooter stalled out. I got it started again, and then made it about 30 feet down the road, and it stalled out again. This happened continuously every hundred yards or so, until I asked Matt if he'd switch with me to see if I was just doing something wrong (plus, he owns a motorcycle and if more familiar with motorized bikes).
No, it wasn't me...but now Matt was riding the bad bike :), ha ha. We got about halfway to the orphanage, and we decided to head back because it wasn't worth stopping every so often, and it would take quite a few kick-starts each time to get it going again. We played the stop & go game all the way home, receiving confused Haitian stares all the while. First of all, what are two white kids doing on scooters on Haitian roads...that's too dangerous for them. Plus, why can't they drive more than 100 yards without stopping? Silly blan (white).
Yet again, Matt has stalled out on the side of the road.

We made it back to CWH and Chris immediately determined that the air-fuel mixture was out of whack, and made the correct adjustment. So, we were back on our way, to drive by the same confused Haitians the first two times we passed them by :).
We finally made it to Canaan (the orphanage), joined them for lunch (perfect timing), and got a grand tour of the place. It was quite an operation in that they have a school, dorm, cafeteria, and chapel, all on-site for the orphans that live there. They also have a pig & rabbit farm where they teach the kids breed the animals, and then they eat them :). One pig just happened to have 13 piglets the day before, so of course I snapped a shot of that.
Bacon, pork roll, sausage, ham...should I name each one of them?
After our tour of Canaan, Matt and I headed back to CWH for dinner, and then drove the new van back to the orphanage afterward for movie night. All the kids (including myself) crammed into the cafeteria to watch the new "Alvin & the Chipmunks" movie (well, I don't know how new it is, but it's new to me). It felt kind of surreal sitting there with a slew of orphans in Haiti watching Alvin & the Chipmunks be projected onto a screen (I don't know, maybe that's something you do often?)
After the movie, four of us foreigners grabbed a deck of cards and played a card game called "Oh, hell" (I had never played it before, but it was pretty cool). Back to CWH...and off to sleep.
Sunday morning Matt & I got up early (5:45AM) so we could head out on another moped adventure to a place called Capiat (aka...The Source). Capiat is a place up in the mountains where there is cold freshwater that bubbles out of the ground and forms a bit of a swimming hole. In order to get up there, we drove the scooters up the side of the mountain until we couldn't go any further, chained them to a tree, and then hiked the next half hour up to the spot.
Me cruising around Haitian mountains on a moped (a very bumpy ride I might much so that I probably shouldn't call it cruising).
Swimming at "the source" refreshing :).
I know that being white in Haiti draws enough attention in itself...but hiking up to a very central location for a certain community and going swimming there makes it that much worse. It wasn't so bad in the beginning because we got up there so early, but eventually there was a decent swarm of people (mostly kids), just standing around staring at us (and they don't get bored of it). They'll sit there and stare all day if you let them, so eventually we wrapped up our swim due to an uncomfortable feeling that you just can't shake.
We hiked back down and the scooters were still there, woo hoo! Before we got there, we were trying to decide if we would have to walk the whole way down because of missing tires...or missing bikes even.
We made our way back down the rest of the mountain, drove to Canaan's chapel, changed our clothes, and went to church. We had someone in the back of the chapel translating the service to English for us, which was nice, but there was lots of singing which was pretty fun to watch/listen. I can barely speak no, I wasn't singing in Creole...not one word.
The church...before it filled up with all the kids and locals...notice the uniform pews :).
Ok, I need to wrap this up because it's almost two hours past my bedtime already (11PM).
Later on Sunday evening, Chris introduced a British TV series known as "The Young Ones". We watched one episode, and the afterglow had this type of feel to it..."what on flippin' earth did I just watch?" It was 100% British humor, and unfortunately not much of it made sense to me. Matt was in the same I didn't feel like I was missing out on too much.
Last thing: I found the below map on a wall at Canaan, and it's rare to see a good Haitian map, so I figured I would share it. My current location at Clean Water for Haiti is on the central west coast, just south of St. Marc where the number 1 is. Next week, Matt and I will be heading up to Cap Haitien (northern coast), and then down to Milot (about 12 miles south of Cap Haitien).

A decent map of Haiti if you're interested.

That's all from me. Thanks for reading...and have a good week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Holiday weekend

As I mentioned, it's a holiday weekend here for us (Death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines: former leader of the Haitian Revolution 1806). So, I got to sleep in Friday and relax for a bit (up at 7AM). I slept in today too (6AM). I'm just on that schedule now, so I can't help it...and I like getting up early anyway. By the way, if you were, there isn't any night life in Haiti :).

Yesterday, Matt and I decided to go snorkeling. We grabbed our stuff and drove out to a spot about 15-20 minutes away, where we were able to park right next to the water and swim right from the truck. I was expecting the coral to be dead, but to my surprise we saw quite a bit of colorful fish and coral.

While we were still pretty far out, we had a Haitian guy named John swim out to meet us and ask what our names were. We introduced ourselves (in the middle of the ocean) and he tried to spell our names out loud. He spelt Matt's right, and made a mistake on mine, so I helped him along and told him how to spell it. I thought that he was just friendly and practicing his English...but I was wrong, ha ha. As soon as he swam away, Matt remembered hearing a story about a guy who would pull the same stunt and make bracelets with people's names stitched into them and try to sell them.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later (impressive speed I might add) this guy comes swimming out holding the two bracelets above water. First of all, we didn't want to buy anything, and you have to stand your ground when Haitians try to manipulate you, or else it will be a daily occurrence. So Matt says "I've heard about you", and John says "No, no, you heard about George, but I am John" (apparently George=bad and John=good, ha ha). We told him that we were out there snorkeling, not shopping, and that we forgot our money for the coral reef mini-mart (I'm teasing, we didn't really say that, but said something to the affect of "what would you like us to do out here?"). He told us he'd be waiting for us (of course), and we continued our relaxing venture.

About an hour later we headed back and met our new friend John at the truck (I do give him some credit for his craftiness and persistence...but I still wasn't giving in). He told us he hadn't eaten in 2 days and started to give us a hard time. He tied the "OWEN" bracelet on my wrist...and while he was working on Matt I untied it. I didn't want to be forceful or rude with the guy, but I probably should have been a bit more firm. I tried giving it back and he wouldn't take it. He told me he wanted me to have it because it had my name on it. Matt told him that he can't keep pressuring people into this scheme and John agreed...and continued pressuring :).

Long story short, Matt and I get into the truck, and John still wouldn't take my bracelet back. I didn't want to throw it out of the window at him (which Chris said I should have done), so we made it clear that we were going to drive away with the bracelet unless he took it back. But he wouldn't take it, so now it sits on the bulletin board here at CWH as an example for all future visitors.

The merchandise

After getting back from snorkeling we went with Chris & Leslie to their friends' house (where we had Canadian Thanksgiving) and we went swimming in the pool for the rest of the day. So, all total, I spent over 5 hours in the water yesterday, and I had a bit of sunburn to prove it (yes I was wearing sunscreen). Later on Matt and I watched the movie Ghosts of Cite Soleil, which is a documentary about significant gang activity in Haiti in 2004, but we found that the water had taken it's toll on us and we both barely watched the end of it through slitted eyelids.

I wish you a great weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Catch up

Hello hello,

So I've been having a bit of trouble trying to update the blog, and I think it's a combination of both the computer I'm using and the internet connection. But, I'll give this a shot and hope it goes through.

This week has been great so far, and tomorrow is a Haitian holiday, so we get the day off :) woo hoo! Monday I worked with AutoCAD again to create another set of drawings pertaining to mold production. This time, Chris was looking into getting a company in Port-au-Prince (capital city about 2 hours away) to cut the steel using a steel punch (just like a hole-puncher...but 12 ft. long) instead of using the plasma cutter as we've been doing.

Tuesday I got to go out into the Artibonite Valley on a filter delivery, which was awesome. This is what all of the work here at the mission is focused on, getting filters to people. Between myself, Matt, and 5 Haitian filter technicians, we installed 36 filters, which is the most that can fit on a truck. One pretty cool thing was that while we were out delivering, we received enough additional orders from people in that area for two more truckloads.

The truck being loaded with filters.

On the truck and ready to be delivered.

The way it works is...we take orders when people show interest, and they have to pay up front ($40 Haitian, or $5 US). The actual filters cost about $40 US each, but it is a subsidized project and the people pay $5. It's important for people to pay for them because then they feel like they had to work for it, and they then show ownership and actually take care of them.

Stopped at first spot to deliver. Loaded on top of the filters is all the sand & gravel in bags to be put into the filters once they are placed.

The experience as a whole was really neat because of the interaction with the communities. I don't think I would be invited into a Haitian home under any other circumstances, so installing filters all day I was able to really see what people live like, inside and out. I did get to take a few pictures of people smiling with their new filters, but you don't get to see much inside the homes, so I'll just tell you: mud floor, mud walls, one bed (sometimes a tin roof, sometimes not). The front door is usually a piece of cloth, and the walls are not always the most sturdy, so I wouldn't lean on them.

Doing my first filter installation :).

The recipients of the filter installation.

The actual installation of filters was a bit more involved than I thought it was going to be, but, I did learn, and I'm feeling pretty confident about it. Plus, besides the physical part of the installation, we also bring an educator to gather the women together and explain how the filters work, how to maintain them, and she also covers the importance of personal hygiene.

Kids just got out of school.
Eating lunch on the back of the truck: Spicy Haitian peanut butter and guava jelly on some bread picked up from the market.

Coming back to the truck after installing some filters. The guys in blue and orange are filter technicians from CWH, the rest are locals...just following us :).
Another happy family to receive their filter.
Did I mention there was a full moon? Just kidding...some kids in the area.

Wednesday, Matt and Chris ran errands in Port-au-Prince, and picked up the new mission vehicle, a Toyota Hiace (CWH's first vehicle with A/C!...very exciting). It's a 15 passenger van, which means that groups of visitors no longer have to ride in the back of the truck when they get picked up from the airport (I think they'll be missing out on the true Haitian experience honestly). It was purchased back in February, and they just got it Oct. 15th, so that should give you an idea of how things work in Haiti :).

Leslie with the new wheels.

Oh, so Matt and Chris also brought the drawings to the engineer's office in Port, and found out that they'll be able to save approximately $75 per mold by getting the steel punched... also very exciting.

To celebrate getting the new van, I offered to take everyone out to dinner, which is something Chris and Leslie only get to do when people take them out (they don't spend mission funds on eating out). It was very nice and relaxing, and the food was delicious. We went to the nicest resort in this area call Club Indigo, and it was overall just a nice night out.

Pool and ocean at Club Indigo.
The Rolling family (and my current host family): Chris, Olivia, and Leslie
Matt & I chowing down at the buffet...that might be plate #3 for both of us :).

Today, Thursday, we got up and found out that there were two flat tires on the vehicles. Yes, one was on the new van, and one was on a truck that had just gotten brand new tires. No one seemed phased by it. The roads are so bad here that flat tires are common. That puts the tally up to 3 flats since I've been here.

The project I worked on all day with Matt included designing a shield for the undercarriage of the new van to protect all of the exposed parts. It's not exactly a low-rider, but it just seems like a way of life down here if you want your vehicles to last.

I'm going to end it here, but if you'd like to read more or see any more pictures, check out Leslie's blog at:

Thanks for reading, come again soon. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Busy weekend

Hello everyone,

Sorry it's been a few days since I've posted, but the internet was down for a time, and it turned out to be a very busy weekend. Friday I cut a bit of steel with the plasma cutter, and then finished up the AutoCAD drawings I was working on. Not that you care, but I was able to get 10 molds out of 6 sheets of 1/8" and 1.5 sheets of 1/4" steel (I was happy).

Plasma cutting on Friday.

Saturday we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving because it turns out there are quite a few Canadians in Haiti. Why...I'm not so sure, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that some Canadians speak French already, and Creole (Haitian language) is French based. I didn't see much of a difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, except the fact that this one was spent with sweat dripping down my face as opposed to everyone being bundled up in sweaters. My stomach was bothering me a little so I didn't go all out on the spread of food (unlike me, ha ha), but everything was very good.

Notice the Canadian flag napkins, ha ha.
Canadian Thanksgiving in Haiti.
As I mentioned, my stomach was a little off, and I was feeling a bit light-headed, but I was still able to entertain these three children without moving from the couch. I am driving a truck and we are dodging a crater (aka Haitian pothole). No worries, they put their invisible seat belts on before we went anywhere :o).
Ok, now here's for the best part. The ride to and from our Thanksgiving dinner was better than any Six Flags roller coaster. As a kid, I always wanted to ride in the back of trucks if I had the chance (as most boys do I think), but it was usually unsafe or illegal. Now, being that the truck is the current transport vehicle, Chris, Leslie, and Olivia sit up in the cab while the boys (Matt and I), stand in the back.

The All-Haitian Scream Machine in the back there (New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure has the All-American Scream Machine...if you were wondering).
Now in order to stay aboard this 55 mph ride while it flies down dirt roads and dodges craters, goats, humans, etc..., you need to stand behind the cab and hold onto a red cross-bar (not quite visible in the picture, sorry). Taking pictures is not an option, and sunglasses are mandatory. I tried to take some pictures mid-ride, but I was unsuccessful because my one hand almost lost grip of the truck, and my other hand could barely hold onto the camera. Most importantly are the sunglasses (aka windshield). You need to wear them even if it's dark out, because otherwise you would have eyes full of dirt and bugs.
I'm hoping you can see the dirt and bug build-up on my glasses, because it's quite comical. Once I learn how to weld I'm thinking about welding on some extra guards on the top, bottom and sides, ha ha. Oh, and don't fix your hair before this ride, because it will look like this at the end :).
Ok, last funny thing before I go to bed. Tonight after dinner I was talking with Matt and Leslie in the house when I noticed Chris grab his BB gun, and do a quick lock & load. He didn't head outside, but headed to the kitchen. He put the sight to his eye, pulled the trigger, and I heard something drop and hit the ground outside. So it turned out there was a big rat on the kitchen counter near the window. There aren't any screens in the windows, so when he shot, it was a direct hit and the thing flew out of the window onto the ground...bulls eye :). Had he missed the bb would have gone straight thru a juice pitcher that the rat was in front of, but, no worries, Chris is apparently a marksman, ha ha.
Below are a few shots I took before dinner this evening. There were some Haitians out fishing in the sunset, it was quite pretty.
Pase bon nwi. (Good night)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Steel, steel, and more steel

Hello hello,

In order to make these concrete biosand filters I've been talking about, you need a steel mold to pour the concrete into (just like pouring jello into a jello mold, except this mold is a big hunk of steel about 4 feet in previous post). The more molds you have, the more filters you can a lot of organizations purchase molds from CWH, so they're always making molds.

This morning, I learned how to cut steel with a plasma cutter so that the pieces could be assembled into a mold. They take a big sheet of steel, then cut all the mold pieces out of it like a cookie cutter, except you want to do it so that there is hardly any waste, because steel is significantly more expensive than leftover cookie dough :) (plus we don't have the capability of balling up the leftovers and rolling it out to make more steel sheets).

But, instead of cutting steel all day, I shifted gears and hopped on the computer to use AutoCAD (drafting software) and figure out a way to minimize waste and the number of cuts made on each sheet. There are quite a few molds to be made, so I figured this would be a better use of my time...and it will save the mission some money :).

It's been years since I've used AutoCAD...I love this program :).
That's all for now. I'm going to see if I can go for a swim before dinner is ready.

First full day

Up at ten to six this morning, rolled out of bed, and I'm at the beach, and Haiti...sweet deal. Work day starts at 6AM here so all of the Haitian hired labor is here just before 6. Getting up so early is not a big deal at all, and I actually like it. We go to bed early (9:30PM), and I've always liked going to bed early and getting up early, so I'm liking the schedule.

The view from the back patio :).
I got a little tour of the mission here, met some of the workers and then Leslie made some delicious banana pancakes for breakfast :) (there are banana trees on the property). Afterward I headed off to start working on demolding some of the filters poured yesterday, taking the molds apart, greasing them up, reassembling, and then made new ones. That's the main thing I did over the course of the day, but I also had lunch and ran with Matt to the hardware store to load up 3 pieces of rebar and 66 bags of concrete.
Chris made us fresh papaya smoothies :).

Leslie made us fresh bagels with her bread maker :).

Matt is in yellow, and the other guys are painting filters and making new ones.

Me (the white one), vibrating the concrete in the mold using a rubber mallet.

The workday ends at 2:30PM, so from then until dinner I'm pretty much free to do what I please. I hung out for a bit on the back patio and rehydrated (it's quite hot here), and then Matt and I went for a swim. The water was extremely warm with a few cool spots, so it was still refreshing. I may even start swimming after work for some exercise :).

We had dinner and then watched an episode of MI5, which Chris described as a British version of the American show "24". No, we don't have a TV, which I'm happy about, but Chris is able to download movies off the internet, and we can all sit and watch them on Leslie's laptop for movie nights. Oh, I forgot to mention, there is a time difference between Haiti and Eastern Standard Time....well, only half of the year anyway. They don't do Daylight Savings Time, so while we flip back and forth in the US, they just stay the same all the time. So, right now, we're one hour earlier than E.S.T.

It's way passed my bedtime, so I'll leave you this one last picture which I thought was quite pretty.

The view from the back porch just before dinner.

Haiti arrival, safe and sound

Hello everyone,

Thanks to all those who left comments, it's not only encouraging, but it's also nice to sit at the computer and find that someone has been checking up on me to see how I'm doing :).

So, everything went smoothly yesterday for my arrival at Clean Water for Haiti. I had to wait a little longer in Miami for my connecting flight to Haiti because the original plane didn't pass it's routine check-up (some sort of failure in the wings). But, I wasn't too bummed because I'd rather fly the whole way to Haiti rather than making it half way and swimming the rest (I packed my mask and snorkel...but not my flippers).

When I arrived in Port-au-Prince airport, I stood on one of the many long lines to get through customs, only to find out 10 minutes later that this particular line was for families with children. So, I stood with a Haitian family and tried to blend in (just kidding, I had to go to the end of a different line and start over, ha ha). After I got through customs and grabbed my luggage, I exited the airport to find a total mob of people. There are tons of guys with red hats trying to help you with their bags so that you'll give them your money, and then there was one guy who said to me, "There is a guy looking for you, I know where he is, follow me...stand behind me". Being that Chris from CWH was there to pick me up, I thought about believing him for a second, but then my instinct kicked in and blew past him (which means I kept my money). In about three seconds time I heard Chris yell "Owen", and boy was I excited to hear my name. I looked up, saw that little white star in total darkness (i.e. Chris behind a crowd of Haitians), and went to meet him...woo hoo, mission complete!

Chris and I ran a bunch of errands on the way home (stopped at an engineer's office, picked up a new battery for his truck, tried to pick up a water tank that was being repaired but it wasn't ready, etc.). Oh, and every time we stopped, I had to push the truck and Chris would pop the clutch to get it going...hence the reason we purchased a new battery. We came back, I met Leslie and Olivia (Chris' wife and their beautiful adopted Haitian baby girl), got my room-key, drank some water, and relaxed on their patio out back facing the ocean...also beautiful. Leslie made us dinner (steak & potatoes, and salad...tasty), and we chatted for a bit and then I headed back to my room to unpack and settle in a bit.

They just built new dorms here at the mission for volunteers and people that are trained in their programs, and I'm sharing a room with a guy named Matt who's visiting for 6 or 7 months, and we are rather compatible, so it's quite nice. He's 24, from Ohio, studied mechanical engineering, plays guitar, has the same taste in music, likes backpacking, traveling, and also likes making clean water in Haiti, ha ha.

Anyway, here at CWH they have running showers, flushing toilets, wireless internet, and screens in the dorms windows (therefore no mosquitoes), and great people, what more could I ask for :). So yes, to answer your question, I am here, safe and sound, happy as a lamb.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Welcome :)

Hello and welcome to my blog,

I never considered having a blog before, but I have come to a point where I think having one for at least the next month of my life will be useful for myself and others. For one, I like to journal, but rarely make the time to do it. Also, taking this trip to Haiti has a few people worried, so the fact that anyone can check up on me whenever they want, it seems it may be an easy way to keep everyone up to date.

The plans stand at this: I will depart for Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday, October 7th, and will be returning home on Tuesday, November 4th.

The first chunk of my trip will be spent with an organization known as Clean Water for Haiti (CWH), which is located in Pierre Payen, Haiti (you can check them out at For the week of Oct. 26th, I will be spending my time with the group Engineers Without Borders (EWB) from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

Last year, I travelled to Milot, Haiti for the initial EWB project assessment trip. The group of students visiting this year will be in Milot for one week, and I will be traveling north to work with them during their stay (Milot is located 12 miles south of Cap-Haitian...for you map lovers). With EWB-NJIT, we are working on a project similar to that of CWH's, which involves a clean water technology known as a biosand filter (you can learn all about biosand filters at CWH's website if you are interested).

Please excuse all of the acronyms, I promise, I do not work for the government.

I think that's about all for now. You can check in sometime after Oct. 7th, and I should have some updates for you...letting you know that I'm alive and well. I know I can post pictures too, so I'm hoping they will spice up my posts.

Please say a prayer that my trip down goes smoothly :). Thanks for reading.