Sunday, January 21, 2018

Saturday: Day 1

Posting this on Day 2 because wifi has not been working as expected.

We had no issues at the airport and no problems on the flight. The plane was about 80% white folks, many of whom were obviously going on church mission trips. The flight itself was really lovely. We flew over the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, which all looked like beautiful green curves with white borders, surrounded by turquoise water. Haiti was a stark contrast: the turquoise water was still there, but the island was mountainous, streaked with winding roads and rivers. As we landed, I could see the ramshackle rooftops and cluttered streets of Port Au Prince.




We made it through the airport with  ease, and quickly found Becca, my dear childhood friend who joined us from Virginia, where she is a school nurse. (She's been to Haiti a few times, so I invited her on this trip, and as an experienced nurse, she was more than welcomed). We also joined up with the group from Clemson Engineers in Developing Countries, which includes two students, a professor and a journalist (I have only met the professor, David Vaughn, so far). We pulled into two large vans, joined by our guided and translators (and current medical students) Malachi and Fritz-Raul, and drove though Port Au Prince, heading northeast to Cange.

Port Au Prince was a bustling, crowded, under-construction city. Markets were underway along the roads, so people and supplies were spilling out into the streets. There are a lot of walls made from limestone blocks, some of which are crumbling, and others look brand new. We passed a lovely square with a giant statue, dozens of tiny concrete rooms with words painted on the outside declaring what was sold within, lots of people on motorcycles, colorful billboards, and lots of trash. As we got more outside of town, there were small concrete homes dotting the sides of the highway, kids wandering through fields of small trees, goats, shacks, and more limestone walls. The flora changed from palm trees to cacti and back again to palm trees as we rounded more hairpin curves in our ascent.

We drove through a few small villages before arriving in Mirebalais, which has more of the feel of a small town. It seemed colorful-- I'm tempted to say tropical-- and cleaner and more low-key than the capital. Here we pulled into the rather amazing Mirebalais hospital to take a quick tour.

Mirebalais hospital was built sometime after the 2010 earthquake by Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante. PIH then added staff housing a few years ago, with an impressive lab facility that opened September of 2017.

A woman named Rupal Ramesh Shah, who was a master's of biology student who studied with our fellow parishioner Hap Wheeler, met us for the tour. She has been in Mirebalais since December and will stay there through end of March.

Her job is to run the TB lab. She walked us through the lab building, which includes a pathology lab, microbiology lab (BSL 2), and a BSL 3 lab. BSL = biosafety level. Rupal said this was likely the only/best BL3 lab in any developing country. The lab allows for experiments with TB usually not available in rural hospitals. They can test on-site for strains of different drug-resistant TB. (I have more photos of this, but have to get approval from PIH to post).


The lab portion. Mirebalais Hospital is behind us, and storm clouds are approaching.

Mirebalais Hospital
Awaiting our tour
Rupal Shaw, at right, addresses our team (from near to far: Fritz-Raul, Malachi, Fritzlene, Becca, Besty).

We left the hospital in a downpour and darkness. Our amazing driver navigated a street that had become a river and almost complete darkness to get us to Cange safely. The only issue for us is that our bags, which had been strapped onto the top of the van, were soaked.

The compound here in Cange is lovelier than I imagined. I've only been here after dark, though, so I'll do a full description another day. We enjoyed a tasty meal, set up our rooms, and headed to bed by 9 p.m., tired, sweaty and excited to be here.

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