Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jan 29

Friday was a rough day all around. For starters I was psyched to find out that I had an air mattress to sleep on. I fell asleep quickly only to wake up an hour later with it deflated. As a result I slept very little including an hour I spent in the front seat of one of the cars. Such is life as I can't really complain with what is going on around me.

We started out by following some of the pih docs to one of the medical tents in the tent cities. These cities are really not to be believed. Very mad max after civilization has fallen feeling at least visually. That said everyone is amazingly friendly and smiling as long as you nod to them first. I'm assuming that is because I have a camera and they are tired of cameramen as there seem to be two or three per Haitian.

To give you an idea of the tent cities imagine central park filled with tents. Not tents that you would buy by the way but tents made out of anything they can find. There is a saying here that everything goes to the dump but the only things that end up there are rocks and dirt. I watched as one man was pulling nails from a piece of old wood, straightened them, and then used a rock to hammer that wood on the top of his lean to.
The other thing is that there are kids everywhere and they are constantly asking for food and more specifically water. They don't look malnourished but to have a 5 year old come up and speak creole to you until you realize he wants water is completely heartbreaking.

The problem is that if you give something to one of them you soon have a swarm of people and there is potential for a problem. It's tough to figure out what to do. I've taken to giving things out as we leave an area and handing things to anyone who asks while we are at a light. I don't know. It's very hard.

One of the really weird things is that most of the out of towners - the docs and journalists - are white so you have a situation where the lighter skinned people have water and food and the darker skinned folks are looking everywhere for it. It's truly disturbing. One of the emt guys we met from NYC told me he'd been eating at the military tent. I asked him why they didn't mind and he responded oh they'll let anyone white in. Disturbing.

We left the tent city and sadly I realized on the way the I had lost my still camera. The cam I could care less about but it means all my movies and stills are gone. Again nothing compared to what surrounds me.

We then boarded a military boat and headed out to the US Comfort a floating navy hospital ship that holds a thousand patients. The Comfort is where the more serious patients are sent and one of the docs wanted to do follow up.

You may have heard about the port being shut down to ships and we saw why. Huge cranes on their sides in the water and a roadway the size of the 405 now completely submerged. Mind you this wasn't a bridge but a road that just cracked off and sunk. It's hard to imagine that kind of force.

We spent about two hours on the comfort following the pih doc as he checked on patients he sent ahead. I won't go into the particulars as it was really tough to see. These are the worse off patients and a lot of them are kids. It's heartwrenching. They were taking info to get in touch with family and let them know they were ok. In some instances there is no one.

As we move around I am overwhelmed by what is going to happen next. The emergency of the quake is slowly fading. People are getting fixed up and others are even starting to rebuild. But what happens when someone is done with the hospital and is sent home but has no one. Where do they go? As we drive at night there are no lights so it's really dark and our driver needs to slow down at corners because people are sleeping outside And in some places even in the street. They are afraid of going back in buildings and that's not really going to change. Where will these people go? There is talk of real tent cities being built but no one seems to know where. And what will happen when the rainy season starts. The people here have already been hit hard and this will only make that worse. Wish I had answers.

Since i got here I've been thinking about what the future of Haiti will be. Why not offer people here solar - free hot water free electricity. We were interviewing one of the pih docs yesterday and at one pint he said do you know what killed more people after the earthquake than anything else? I expected him to say infection but instead he said lack of electricity. Apparently the days after without electricity they had to stop working on patients after dark with few exceptions. How incredible would it be if there were solar panels charging batteries to light the areas they needed to work. I know it's a pipe dream but is that bad?

I'm babbling. I think that psychologically what we are seeing is beginning to effect me. At first I could close my eyes and disconnect if I needed to but now it's not possible. We've see too much and while most is not as bad as I thought it would be it's extremely tough nonetheless. One of the things I cant seem to shake is the smell of the bodies. It's not everywhere like I expected it would be but you can generally tell which buildings buried a number of people by the sweet sickly smell coming from them. It's something i'd like to think I'll forget but doubt I ever will.

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