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Monday, August 23, 2010

Austin: Day 6

I'll just skip straight to the beach today, where once again, we met Antoine and the Energizer Bunny running child. I am still puzzled as to how he makes this trek each day. While unloading the sports equipment, Antoine came up to Jae and I and handed us a rock. Puzzled, I inspected the rock more closely and noticed that he had painted and designed rocks for all four of the male Charter students. He also gave us each a sculpture that he made. His dream is to be an artist, just like Donald. It is hard to express how I felt receiving this gift from someone I barely knew, but it instilled a sense of trust. I felt as though Antoine would be a great friend to have for the rest of the week.

Now I know it was wrong of me in a sense to do this, but I am still proud of my decision and will stick by it until the end. When we walked back up to the Salvation Army for lunch, the local children were all locked out of the compound because HFI didn't want them to accidentally get food. At this moment, there was a decision to be made. We (Yashwant and I) knew full well that if these children had green necklaces, they could come in and eat, but if we were caught handing them out, we would be in big trouble, and possibly lose all HFI trust. I think our morals got the best of us, because we decided to pass out the necklaces.

This turned out to be a more difficult operation than I expected, as some of the translators appeared to be on to our game. They began to stop letting us hand out the meals. Once again, there was not a shortage of food and this was a very contraversial move on our part, but as I said before, I stick by my decision. The children in Jacmel were just as starving and just as poverty-stricken as the children in the tent-city. Besides, everyone got food and everyone was happy. I do acknowledge however, that the situation could have escalated beyond our control, but I am very grateful that it did not.

It all comes back to my previous point. What was our mission in Jacmel? What were we actually trying to accomplish? A segregation of the community? I think not. We were there to help everyone and anyone that we could. I watched leftover rice leave the camp everyday and I watched starving children see it go. There comes a point when you get fed up with seeing someone who has already endured more than their fair share continue to be shunned and forgotten.

After lunch, Jae, Chris, Yashwant and I went with Donald to do more exploring of the town. We shopped for some souvenirs, which introduced us to another aspect of Haitian life: the world of bargaining. We were warned about this before we went, and I've been to other island countries where it is the same type of situation, but here? It was a necessity to get the upper hand in any negotiation, and you must use anything and everything that you have at your disposal. In one instance, we traded a baseball bat and five dollars for a painting. Welcome to Haiti.

Donald rents a motorcycle for 250 goud a day. 250 goud is about $6 US. He wanted to show us the darker, grittier side of Haiti, from the back of a bike. Jae and I obliged. It was an incredibly exilharating (not to mention, fairly dangerous) experience, but one I wouldn't trade for anything. He took us to his other house where his girlfriend and child lived, which was touching. We also stumbled upon a group of about 15 people sitting outside their tent. Jae happened to notice an Outreach International wrapper on the ground. This was the greatest news I could've hoped for. This is the organization that HLD plans to buy the meals from. If a wrapper is in the tent city, that means that the meals are arriving safely. On top of that, Donald gave the meals rave reviews, saying "Those are real good". Someone call Zagats.

We asked Donald to translate to the group of 15 that we would be bringing 10,000 of the meals back with us in December. As soon as he uttered the words, there was an eruption of joy and happiness from the crowd, and I have to admit that it was a great feeling. To actually see firsthand what your work is doing is the greatest reward you can give someone. That reaction made my day, if not my entire trip.

When we returned, we ended up having a small army follow us around everywhere we went. Donald, Antoine, two children named Bajo and Phillipe and the four of us. I'm sure we appeared menacing as we bought our trinkets. We decided to exhange addresses and phone numbers with Antoine and Donald, and hopefully we will become lifelong friends. This may be the address that we decide to deliver the meals to, but it still being chosen at the moment.

I am feeling myself becoming numb to the constant begging. I hate to say it, but it is starting to become irritating. Not the children themselves, but just the fact that they keep asking and there is absolutely nothing more I can do without completely throwing myself in HFI's line of fire. I have to just let the cries go in one ear and out the other.

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