HODR initiation

Trip Start Dec 07, 2008
Trip End Feb 03, 2009

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

There's no better way to learn about a place than to get out in it.

Yesterday I ate a light breakfast in anticipation of a 3.5 hour SUV ride on horrendous roads from PaP to Gonaives, my home for the next 8 weeks.  All three of us newbies, Lea, Francois and myself, took some Dramamine and buckled up.  I was a bit concerned at first by how fast Gideon was driving, but after he didn't run anyone over during the first hour I dozed off for an hour or so.  No one believed that I was able to sleep through this ride which has turned several vols green already.

After a quick lunch and some orientation by Bex, we went to our first mud site.  The hardened vets told us how this was the easiest mud job they've ever seen, but it was backbreaking and left me exhausted after the 2.5 hours we put in.  The task was moving a foot of wet dirt from a covered outdoor space that was used for church and community functions.  Local kids pitched in while adults watched and teenagers chatted us up.  It was strange working with an audience of 25 at times, but they don't have any tools to help with.

Today I joined a group distributing tool kits delivered by OXFAM.  We unloaded the wheelbarrows, shovels, picks, bokets, boots, gloves, and dust masks.  The wheelbarrows were assembled by OXFAM volunteers without screwdrivers, so we spent hours tightening every bolt.  We assembled the kits, and proceeded with what the police on hand described as the most orderly distribution they had seen.  Families had received tickets over the past two days to arrive at staggered times to collect their work supplies.  Everything was loaned for two weeks with instructions to return them for other families.  But the wheelbarrows were so cheap, made of tin and poorly designed, that I doubt any of them would survive a few days of use.

I'm overall very impressed with the operation HODR has established in two months here.  They obviously have learned from their previous deployments and have a remarkably smooth operation considering the location.  But since I'm still new, I'll wait a bit before daring to describe my new community.
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