Journal April 13-19th, 2013
Saturday, Day 1
1:33AM Sat. morning and we are finally packed. It was a challenge packing the sink, well head cover, pump and the heavy duty hoses. We know we'll pay extra for the luggage but it's worth it knowing we will have the supplies we need. Cordella never slept but I managed to take a one hour nap. Steve arrived a little late so we didn;t waste any time. We quickly drove to pick up Rick's parents so they could keep the van for the week and pick us up when we return. We made it to FFL airport in under 1 hour. We took-off on-time and landed in Haiti at 10:00AM. Our bags made it fine and with just a little delay in customs and a few questions, we made it without paying any import duties. Unfortunaltely Aimond had car trouble and was delayed by 2 hours picking us up. We spent the time standing with our in-out porters who guarded us an our bags for over one hour($50). When Aimond finally arrived we had moved back to the sidewalk infront of the airport and we hired a taxi to take us to Aimond's house($40).
At Aimond's house we organized our tools, pipes, hoses, and bags while Aimond went to buy new batteries for his truck. We were finally on the road heading to Verrettes by 2:30PM as expected. Along the route we saw Port-au-Prince fade in our rearview mirror and the sites of route1 unfold. We passed a funeral procession walking along the road. We saw fewer refugee camps than we have on past trips. We saw a new town being constructed about 45 minutes outside the city. We passed throuhg many small villages and detours due to road construction, a sign progress is being made under the new president of Haiti.
BY 5:30PM we arrived at Zackary's house in Verrettes who welcomed us and took us to the Pastor's house where we would be staying the next few days. We moved into our rooms and then we were served a delicious dinner while we waited for the arrival of the drilling crew. The four man crew arrived after dark having completed a 7hour drive from Cap Haitian with very poor road conditions and traffic. After introductions we got down to business planning the next day and soon turned in for some rest.
Sunday, Day 2
The night was full of sounds from roosters, dogs, and sounds from the street which caused us to awake to inspect the trucks to ensure our equipment was safe. One man slept on the balcony to guard the trucks. We awoke at 6:00AM., had a delicious breakfast of hard boild eggs, coffee and toast and the drill crew soon left for the job site to setup. Aimond, Steve, Rick and Cordella ran around Verrettes to buy water, soda and ice and to pick-up a few workers who would help us on the project.
At the school we were met by many of the children and treachers who turned out to watch the construction take place. The crew setup leveling and stabalizing the drill-rig. The dug a two chamber settleing pit and filled 50gallon drums with water from the handpump well. The rig went up quickly and after a prayer they began drilling the first 4inch bore hole. After watching for an hour the rest of us began to work on our other tasks installing sinks, digging and laying new pipes. We had one unexpected delay due to us forgetting to bring the keys to our pump house. After a long discussion we had to arrange to send a man back to Port-au-Prince with keys to Aimond's house, get the keys to the pump house and return. We also had to make several runs into town to get small items we needed: mostly PVC pipe fittings, gravel, acetone, more acetone and more acetone. We worked on the site until the first 100 foot 4inch hole was completed. We removed the pipe sections form the hole and celebrated the first major milestone. Dinner arrived and we took a break eating delicious plantain and vegetable soup. After a quick meeting we decided to continue drilling. The crew setup the eight inch drill bit and began re-drilling. We erected a pole to setup some work lights from which several people connected their cell phones to recharge. As time passed, to conserve gasoline we shut-off the generator and ran a 120v inverter to power the lights. At 11PM we reached 86feet and were almost out of gasoline. This was a problem because there was a temporary gas shortage all across Haiti due to delays in the arrival of a Venezuelan oil tanker. Rick took-off 2 times with the crew chief to find more gas. They literally crossed streams, drove through 3 towns and knocked on doors but could not locate more than one gallon. Even offering $25 per gallon didn't result in locating any fuel. By mid-night the drilling compressor and pump ran out of gasoline. There was a big risk the well would close, the dirt would settle and the drilling pipe would be permanently encased in the hole. We said a prayer and called it a night. Everyone was exhausted. When we returned to the Pastor's house one of the drill crew, Daniel, fell into the open storm drain in-front of the house and hurt his leg. We lifted him up checked for broken bones and applied first-aid. He was in considerable pain and being the oldest on the crew he applied a it of rum to self medicate which eventually worsened the situation a bit. The rest of us ate a late dinner of porridge and went to sleep by 1AM.
Monday, Day 3
Rick awoke at 4AM and went out with the crew chief, Samuel, to locate gasoline. They went North, South and finally about 30 minutes towards the East they located a gas station that had been resupplied during the night. They purchased 12 gallons gas cans and then searched for another container. They negotiated with a women on the side of the road to buy her 5gallon water pail for $5 and then returned to the gas station who filled the bucket (highly illegal in the USA and very dangerous) giving us a total of 17 gallons. We returned to the Pastor's house to cheers. Being in a hurry to get back to work we didn't have time to wait for breakfast. We asked that someone bring breakfast or lunch to the job site and we left. Daniel was still in pain from his fall so the drill drew would be a man shirt while they completed the job. Aimond and Rick ran around picking up supplies: cement, metal bracket, acetone, water, ice, soda and more acetone. They returned to get Cordella and Steve and drove to the job site.
By the time we arrived at the site the drill crew had already resumed drilling the well. We were relived to see the drill was not stuck and within 3 hours the well was completed. We had a 100ft deep, 8 inch well. Steve examined the shavings that were carried out of the well by the water and he determined we had an excellent well with the last 20 foot in a pure limestone formation. The layer of clay that originally sealed the well was amazing to Steve and he explained the water we would be taking from the well fell as rain over 100 years ago. It was going to be a perfect well. After a brief celebration of reaching 100feet the crew removed each section of pipe from the well and then we assembled and inserted our 6inch PVC well casing and 20 feet of micro-screen.
The well crew was anxious to help us with our well knowing we would demonstrate our most modern techniques for developing a U.S.A. EPA standard quality drinking well. We first slowly added our 6-20 silica sand to the surround the screen at the bottom of the well casing. We then addded bentenite chips to seal the lower portion with a layer of clay. We then pumped in a slurry of cement to ensure there were no gaps. This encased our well casing giving us a well that would produce the best quality water in the region if not in all of Haiti. By 1PM the crew removed the rig from the drill site as they were in a very big hurry to start their 7hour drive back North to Cap Hatien. We paid them for their hard work, helped clean and pack the equipment and said our goodbyes.
We help a quick meeting as we planed what work needed to be finished to complete the project. We worked until sunset cleaning the site, digging trenches for pipes and drains and connecting water hoses to the sinks. We returned to the house by sunset using flashlights instead of our headlights to conserve the batteries on the truck due to the alternator not working properly. We arrived in time for a delicious dinner, showers and a well deserved sleep.
Tuesday, Day 4
Tuesday is a blur. I remember we slept in an extra hour until 7AM. We awoke and had breakfast. We ran around Verrettes buying supplies. Rick went to the welding shop for a piece of metal. We bought ice, water, soda and returned to the job site. We first had to inspect the well. We were happy to see the water level had dropped so we could now proceed with our original plan. If the well had remained alive as an artisian well we would have had to re-design everything and use a valve to control the pressure. We chlorinated the well. We connected the pump to the rigid supply pipe and lowered it 65feet into the well. We wired and worked on plumbing. We worked non-stop all day connecting electrical controllers, sinks, wires and cementing the cover on the well.
School was in session while we worked so it was a constant challenge as the children took breaks and walked through our job site to get to the hand-pump well for water. Cordella handed out photos from our last trip we had printed at Walgreens which the children were very excited about. Being the only mission group that has visited this area most children have never had a photo of themselves. Ya, think about that for a moment. We take so much for granted and forget how blessed we are to have so many things we rarely even consider a large portion of the world has never experienced.
We finished our work for the day knowing we would need a one more day to connect the water system. We left the site by sunset.
Wednesday, Day 5
We awoke by 6:30AM with every intention of finishing the project so Aimond could return to his job in Port-au-Prince by Wednesday. We ate breakfast, packed our bags in the truck and then ran around one more time for supplies. We bought a garden hose, PVC fitting, acetone, a sink drain and some odds and ends. We bought water, soda, ice and returned to the job site. We found the water level had dropped inside the well which was actually a good thing because at first it was a live artesian well. We were relieved to find our original design for the pump and well was going to work. We made the final electrical connections, and powered on the pump. At first we had good pressure and ran the hose out into the field but then the pressure dropped below the operating level. It took most of the day and one phone call to West Palm Beach to bleed the lines the correct way and pressurize the system. To have running water you must have water and pressure at the right balance. By late afternoon we had the system working and demonstrated it for JoDanny who was going to be the water operator for the school. We showed the children how to use the sinks and explained how to respond if they found leaks.
The moment had finally arrived we accomplished our goal and now had running water. They system has to be worked for about 7 days until they can drink the water with so many new glue connections, new tanks and chlorine in the system. We tested the water and explained they must use it but not drink it for 7 days. We were exhausted both physically and emotionally. We were finished. We cleaned up the site, inventoried the remaining parts and fittings, took photos of our work and made final checks to the system. We had a few items to give away as gifts: pens, hats and clothes and then we said our good-byes. By sunset we went back to the Pastors house for one more night. Aimond alerted his work we would depart from Verrettes by sunrise and be in Port-au-Prince by 9AM Thursday. They prepared us dinner and then Aimond, Cordella and Rick went out to the Number One Cafe to celebrate. This is a small sidewalk bar/cafe were we have been before and being the only white people in the region we are easily remembered by the owner and his wife. We sat at the table on the sidewalk and exchanged stories about our view of the world. It was a pleasant way to end our visit to Verrettes. We returned to the house to shower and take a short nap.
Thursday, Day 6
At first light we loaded our bags into the truck and made a quick dash for the Highway 1 back to Port-au-Prince, the single road leading out of Verrrettes. It was a beautiful morning. The air was cool (82deg.F) and clear. The green fields race off into the distance to meet the mountains which rise up and greet the blue sky, the scene gives an impression that this area could some day be a resort town. It was only 6AM but people were busily walking to school, roadside stands were setting up to serve food and children were walking to school in their uniforms which indicate the school they attend. The girls wear large loops of ribbon in their hair giving them a look as if they stepped from a colorful Caribbean painting. There was very little traffic and we made good time to Saint Marc where they are preparing for their annual Jazz festival on May5th. A detour took us directly along the coast where there was beautiful view which Steve spoiled by explaining the contamination in the runoff from the city into the ocean.
We continued South along the highway until we came to what looked like someone lost a load of plantains in the road. To our horror it turned out a small girl fell from a truck along with the plantains and was laying dead in the road. It was a tragic scene as we saw what must have been her mother running up the hill to her daughter. There was silence in our truck for the next 30 minutes as non e of us could even speak. We prayed and gathered our thoughts on how fragile life is and how a beautiful day could turn tragic in a second.
We arrived in Port-au-Prince at Aimond's house by 9AM. He changed and within 30 minutes a car from his work picked him up to take him 6 hours North to a job site. We said goodbye knowing he would not be back before we left the next day. He gave instructions to the caretaker for his property to take good care of us and then he left. We unloaded the truck and then immediately found a spot in the shade and took naps. It was a slow placed day of resting and getting organized for our return home. Rick hired a moto-cycle taxi to take him to the end of the street where there is a corner store that sells food, ice and drinks. He came back in about 30 minutes with yogurt, mac&cheese, Arizona ice tea and two bags of ice all strapped to his back holding onto the back of the motorcycle. The day slowly passed as clouds moved in and evening pushed the sun from the sky. We enjoyed having electricity for the first time during the entire week. We charged our batteries and put on some music. Cordella worked in the kitchen making a delicious serving of mac& cheese for us which we shared with the care taker for what must have been his first time ever tasting the purely American processed cheese and pasta delicacy. We finished with rum and 7up to celebrate our success.
Friday, Day 7
We enjoyed having electricity all night allowing us to use fans to move the cooler night air and displace the heat absorbed all day by the concrete. We awoke at 5AM, and as I lay awake contemplating our trip home, the electricity turned off. Having already packed most of our supplies we had to hunt for flashlights. After locating our lights we slowly made our preparations, dressed, moved our bags downstairs and waited for the taxi to take us to the airport. The driver arrived right on-time. We loaded our bags, said farewell to Sojo and entered the morning traffic. Our driver was very cleaver and took us on short cuts few, if anyone, know about. We actually drove through the dry riverbed and through neighborhoods we had never seen. We made such good time it was still too early so the art vendors hadn't opened their shops yet. We arrived at the airport and made our way inside unable to avoid one last pair of in-out porters whom we tipped $2 ea after helping us walk 20 feet to the line for Spirit Airlines check-in. After 6 trips to Haiti, this was the first time I didn't break a sweat trying to make it to the airport on-time. We checked our bags, passed security check-points, customs and staked out a spot in the waiting room.