Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On a lighter ♫...(pun intended)

Have you ever sung to a little child to comfort them? Before today, neither had I. After doing it while holding and comforting ten-year-old Son-son (short for Touson in his full name Jean Touson Dimasnche) while he got the staples and bandages removed, I highly recommend it. Although he’s ten, he’s the size of a seven year old and probably weighs 60 lbs (due to malnutrition, a lot of kids in Haiti are VERY small for their age). But what he lacks in size he makes up with heart. As I sang “Wavin’ Flag”, “Somewhere over the rainbow”, his favorite “This time for Africa”, and every Haitians favorite: “We are the World”, he refrained from flinching while we held him down as the bandage was cut off. He’s a crazy brave little kid who’s endured so much. Of course he lived through the earthquake which is enough trauma, but eight years ago, he had an accident with boiling oil. It left the right side of his face (eye, ear, scalp) and some of his torso badly burned. Now he’s running around the hospital like he owns the joint, wheeling around in unoccupied wheelchairs, following doctors around, begging for my bandanna (which I gave him) and glasses (which I kept), all while singing Shakira’s, “This time for Africa”. We've played soccer and he's played my guitar while singing (videos and pictures will be up....later).
[edited 7/2/10]

Continuing with the music theme, I’m currently listening to “Hands Held High” by Linkin Park, while I don’t agree with the exact way he presents the issues we share some of the same concerns. It kind of reminds me of Noah Gunderson’s “Jesus, Jesus”. Good songs, look ‘em up, and watch the F-bombs if you have sensitive ears.

And while we’re talking about listening to things, ever since reading “Crazy Love”, I’ve been listening to Francis Chan’s sermons online ( I stayed up till almost 2am last night listening to his series on “Living a Life that Matters” (the series starts back when I was still 17…on 10/26/2008). Take a listen, they’re long, but worth it.

[don't forget: Lebron, D-wade, and co. become free agents in less than 4 hours!!!!]



I feel the need to reiterate that I’m not generally emotional person. I’m not heartless, I just compartmentalize fairly well. Today was not one of those days. Did I break down? No, but I came pretty close. As I walking upstairs this morning I ran into one of the OR translators who was on the phone. I wanted to say hey and follow up on something he had asked me yesterday, so I waited for him to finish the conversation. Instead of greeting me with, “Chief! Sak pase?” he told me it was his brother on the phone, and his mom died. I don’t know if you’ve had the misfortune of being with a person when they hear the news of a lost loved one. NOT an experience I’d like to have again anytime soon. I can imagine other people in my situation struggle to find words. I couldn’t find any, so we just sat in the ramp for nearly ten minutes, me holding his hand as he cried, praying silently and aloud, listening, trying to wrap my head around the situation. Losing a parent isn’t a Haiti problem. It’s something everyone can relate to on some level. Keep the Pètion family in your prayers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blogger's Block?

[Generally when I post something I have an idea in mind, write it out in word then paste it here. I feel that I should post something, but I don't really have anything I want to say so for the first time, I'm making this up as I go. Who's excited?!]

Today...was slow. I think I've mentioned this before but ever since Dr. Nelson left things have drastically slowed down. On top of that, there's no ortho clinic on Sunday so even fewer people were in the hospital.
Yesterday I slept for about 5 hours during the day so I couldn't sleep till 3am (as Aubrey and Israel can attest). After today's morning meeting, I opened supply, I had a spiritually uplifting conversation with Patti, moved new supplies into central, I went around the hospital with Nathan checking the floor plans to make sure all the doors were in the right place, listened to some Adventures in Odyssey played some guitar...and that's pretty much it.

This evening I sat down and talked to the six other volunteers (not counting Amy, Brooke, and Nathan) that are staying here (all-time low) about Ching Hai, ate peanut butter M&M's, went up on the roof and took a few pictures (Jillian Nicola inspired me), came down when the clouds burst open and the loudest thunder and brightest lightning of my life appeared, stood in awe of the storm from a balcony, went to my room, checked Facebook, opened iTunes, and sat down to write this blog.

Thus concludes the most candid, and probably the most boring blog post ever.

I'll leave you with this. Remember that you are so incredibly blessed and even when things get overwhelming, take comfort in the fact that God's got you, He has a plan, Jesus is coming back SOON, and we won't ever have to deal with stuff like this ever, ever, ever again. Finally keep Jesus and the center of your life and all your relationships.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tales from Room 2

Since Dr. Nelson’s departure the patient load at the hospital has greatly decreased. Because there are fewer patients there is not as much going on (things should be picking up starting tomorrow when another group from Cure arrives). Things in supply have been pretty slow as well, so I let Aimab and Herold go early and hung out in room 2 (the middle of the three rooms that make up central supply) until closing. I had two rather interesting encounters.

Obviously the World Cup is huge here. It’s pretty much all anyone talks about. There are three TV’s (that I know of) in the hospital and everytime a game is on, patients, staff, and volunteers gather around to watch. Those who can’t watch listen on the radio. I have to admit that its grown on me while most people are rooting for Brazil or Argentina, I’m sticking to my roots and reppin’ the USA! Landon Donavan’s stoppage time goal was the subject of more than a few conversations I had.

When the guys had left one of the x-ray techs came into supply and started to talk to me about the goal, the upcoming game with Ghana, and the other happenings in the World Cup. It ended up with the other guy saying that the US should beat Ghana because our goal/goalie/god is the best? I honestly have no idea which he said. If he was referring to Donavan’s last minute game winner, fine. If he was saying Tim Howard was awesome, fine. I just reeeeeeeally hope it wasn't the latter or if it was something just got lost in translation. Who is the god of America anyway (there’s a debate waiting to happen)?

Closer to closing time, Kervens, Gregory, and Juanito came over to supply to hang out. We talked about school, girls (oooooooooooooooooh), and as time passed they all took turns “playing” my guitar and singing. It started off as making fun of Mr. Francoise, me, and Brooke, but quickly turned to “Thank you Jesus that I did not die in the earthquake.” Stomach punch feeling. I couldn’t help but smile. I’m surrounded by amazingly flawed people. So blessed.

Shout-out to everyone @ the GC! Keep it Christ-centered!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

An End and a Beginning

An era has come to an end. For the first time since 1995 I did not watch the clinching game of the NBA finals. (This is actually a huge deal for me, but during my time here I’ve come to value sports less, which is a good thing. Will I continue to watch/follow sports? Ask me about it later). I made due with listening on I’m not sure I would have wanted to watch the game…so ugly. A win is a win I guess. But seriously, today marked the end of an era: Dr. Scott Nelson has left the hospital. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Nelson is an orthopedic surgeon who has been working in the Dominican Republic for the last five years. He came over to Haiti on January 14 and has been here (with a few breaks) ever since. His skills in the OR as well as his leadership will be greatly missed. Hospital administration put together a little ceremony for him. He and Lucia drove off to the DR at 6 this morning. He’ll spend some time there and will move back to SoCal. Bittersweet times, more bitter than sweet. But with every end comes a new beginning, every cloud has a silver lining, [insert other cliché here]. Dr. Nelson has left a humongous void, but some relief has arrived. Ladies and gentlemen, Nathan Lindsey, MPH, has arrived at Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti. You may be wondering why that is significant. He and his wife Amy (who will be arriving on Tuesday) will be here for the next YEAR (at least)! Nathan will be working as the assistant hospital administrator. We’re going through yet another transition period, things will continue to change.

Also as expected, the World Cup has been HUGE here. It seems that everywhere I turn, people are listening to the radio, watching TV and wearing colors of the teams they support. Walking through the streets last week (coming back from donating blood) people were crowded around restaurants and shops watching the action. One of the cell phone stands was blasting the radio broadcast over the loud speakers. Most people here are Brazil or Argentina supporters. During Brazil’s victory over cheers erupted all up and down the street when each of the three goals were scored. Go figure.

Tomorrow’s Monday, gonna be a kuhrayzee.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Best in Haiti?

The other day, Dr. Nelson told me some important “ortho-politician” came to the hospital while I was gone and was impressed with the organization of Central Supply. He said it was the “…best he’s seen in Haiti.” I’m not sure how I feel about that statement because it probably means four things: He hasn’t been around much; he’s a politician and was telling us what he thought we wanted to hear; our supply room is really the best he’s seen, and if that’s the case…other hospital supply rooms must be really bad. If any of the above are true…well...yeah...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to Save a Life...

[although I'm a fan of The Fray, this post has nothing to do with their song which shares the name of this post but if it adds to the experience go ahead and listen while you read]

I’ve said that there’s no such thing as a normal day here, still a true statement. However I’ve done a few new things in the last few days. Tuesday started like most days, wake up at 5:40(ish), wash up, eat, etc. Morning meeting at 6:30 the open central supply, wait until the guys come, distribute stuff, sort stuff, and move stuff.

Things changed with a phone call from Brook at 0921. Patients needed blood for transfusions and supplies needed to be delivered to General Hospital. After gathering the specimens and supplies Mark (one of the translators) and I headed off to General Hospital boxes in hand. This was my first time taking real public transportation AND... it wasn’t that exciting, it was just loud, cramped, and hot. After arriving at GH we made the deliveries and went to the Red Cross. We gave them the three test tubes and the prescriptions and they told us it would take a while. They weren’t lying…well they kinda were, I don’t think they were really planning on giving us any blood. (I understand there’s a shortage, but it was really frustrating anyways, what was also frustrating was the hospital “losing” one of the units that we had previously received, but that’s a different story.) While we waited I decided to donate, since we were there and they didn’t care about me being in a foreign country where malaria is a risk. The process is pretty much the same. I got to watch TV and got mango juice The differences: no questions about travel or family disease history, they used a tourniquet instead of blood pressure cuff, the bag wasn’t in a “rocker” it just hung on a pole, and they didn’t really bandage me up, just gave me a little circle band-aid (like the ones they give you after shots).

When I had finished donating, Mark and I stayed for a while, continuing to ask when the blood would be given to us, and not getting an answer. We ended up leaving empty handed after a few hours. Brooke returned to get the blood later that evening….and they still didn’t give it to us. Annoyingly long story short, Mark and I spent a good chunk of two days at the Red Cross and received…one unit of blood. It’s okay, Johnny Cherry, is got his surgery and is doing fine (another story for another time) and all the other patients are gonna be “okay”. Real life example of how giving blood saves lives.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I wish I could save a life.” Great news! This doesn’t just happen in Haiti, every blood donation has the same results. So if you’re over 17 years old (or 15 with parent’s consent), are in good health, and weigh more than 110 lbs, head over to the Red Cross, LifeStream, or your closest donation center and give the gift of life!
Top three reasons to give blood
  1. You give someone the opportunity to live longer.
  2. You give that person’s family and friends more time to spend with them
  3. FREE REFRESHMENTS (cookies, juice, etc.) after the donation!
Also it’s a cheap date. What could be more romantic than getting stuck with needle and saving lives together AND eating free food?! (yeah, one of the many reasons I’m single). In all seriousness, when you go, take someone with you. The more blood the better.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

There and Back Again

Happy Sabbath from Haiti Adventist Hospital. It’s good to be back. Words can’t describe my experience over the past ten days…here’s an attempt.

Walking into the airport in Miami was one of the more overwhelming experiences I’ve had. I “smelled” America as soon as I was off the plane. The things that immediately hit me were the excess space, so many reflective surfaces (windows, mirrors, etc), and climate control. As I continued through the airport I was making list in my head of things I didn’t realize I missed while in Haiti: familiar smells, seeing people of all different ethnicities, being able to walk fast without getting stared at, speaking English, being able to move freely, and of course flushing toilet paper.
But thing I missed the most was my family and friends. I experienced pure joy when unsuspecting loved ones would realize that I was there when they thought I was thousands of miles away. Seeing the looks on their faces was a priceless experience. Welcome back/I missed you hugs are the best! Half-hearted apologies to everyone for not telling you that I was coming back [whole-hearted apology to Angela Mae Payaban, I admit, that was kinda messed up, you love me though].
When I wasn’t surprising people I got to: eat… a lot (Guppy’s, Kogi, Del Taco, In-n-Out, pancakes at midnight, and everything that was cooked/made at home), worship, catch up on TV shows, watch the NBA finals (IN ENGLISH), watch an improv show, watch Ironman 2, have meaningful conversations with people I haven’t seen in a long time (special thanks to everyone who listened), talk loooooooong into the morning, play basketball (after 8 weeks of inactivity I can still dunk. FTW!), play Frisbee, play football on the beach, and go to RAA and RHS graduation.

[Shout out to all the 2010 graduates! Proud of you guys! LSU grads sorry I can’t be there tomorrow.]

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to see so many loved ones, eat a lot, and sleep…some, but every rose has thorns. “How was Haiti?” has become a dreaded phrase. I know it’s an innocent conversation started, but when it’s asked three things pop into my mind:
  1. READ MY BLOG!!!!!! [thank you]
  2. That’s a bad question: Asking in past tense is incorrect because Haiti still exists, and the answer to that question is probably not what you’re looking for. Your question is probably, “How was your experience in Haiti?” But even that is still incredibly vague. An answer I’ve crafted has been, “I'd say things are peachy, but that'd be a bold face lie. It’s been a struggle, but I'm learning, growing, God's working, and I have found joy and contentment.” That statement is 100% true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I could add, “And it’d be SOOOOOOOOO much better if people started living out their faith.” But I don’t, it makes people feel guilty and that’s not why they asked, we’ll get to that later.
  3. Why are you asking? Do you really want to know? Do you really care about Haiti or me…or neither? Are you just asking out of obligation? Are you prepared to have a life-altering conversation? Are you ready to feel super guilty? Do I really want to have this conversation right now? It’s hard to articulate everything. This next paragraph is attempt.
Haiti IS really bad. There are hungry people, thirsty people, sick people, homeless people, and worst of all hopeless, directionless people. I’ve been disgusted/disturbed/sickened by is the lack of care people have for the suffering of their fellow humans. Just because you can’t see the suffering doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I’ve felt a lot of anger over that last week; anger directed at family, friends, people in America in general. Not so much now, those emotions are still in me somewhere but the gravity of the situation/task at hand is my focus now. I’m sure they’ll resurface 11 weeks from now when I return home. With a few thousand miles as a buffer zone, all I’ll say now is: America really is the land of opportunity; capitalism sucks, but communism won’t work either (another discussion for another time); you are soooooooo incredibly blessed/fortunate/lucky/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and it’s not fair; “Christians” (and people in general, MYSELF INCLUDED) are so incredibly selfish/self-center/greedy it’s sordid (SAT word!) they DON’T love their neighbors as themselves, they’re picky with their food when there are people who won’t eat today, they complain about homework when there are people who don’t have the opportunity to be educated, they gripe their jobs when people have no way of providing for their families. they live in lavishly decorated homes and worship in ridiculously expensive churches when there are people who don’t have a tarp or tent to shield them from the rain, they spend obscene amounts of time AND money worrying about their “image” while people don’t…. well you get the point, you can rationalize this however you want, rationalizing is something we’ve become really good at it, but those truths remain. I realize that people in America also face legitimate problems, but they’re a different class of problems. I’m pretty sure you sleep in a bed with a roof over your head and you have the ability to eat three solid meals a day. The ex-psychology major in me knows that stuff like food, water, and basic health necessities are the foundation on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. ('s_hierarchy_of_needs) And if you’re going to discount Maslow check out the fundamental human needs according to Max-neef and others (this isn’t a research paper, in this instance I herby deem Wikipedia a credible source). I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: nothing in itself is bad, it’s all about context. For example everyone would agree driving a car isn’t a bad thing. Driving a car while intoxicated is because it puts people in unnecessary danger, right? So let’s try this. Wearing pants isn’t a bad thing. Spending $200 on True Religion (sweet irony) jeans when you could buy $15 jeans from Costco and cover someone’s living expenses for months with the $185 left over….just saying. And finally to those of you who have reminded me that I can’t change the world, I know, but I can change my part little part of it and if you’re reading this blog, you’re part of my world. So knowing what you know, what are you gonna do? (exhales)

Honestly I didn’t mean for that to sound angry. I know many people from many places read this blog and everyone interprets it differently. Please read past the (perceived) anger and take the deeper meaning. If you wanna talk about it comment, email (, or get in touch with me somehow.

(As the members of Team Sinai would say)

Shabbat Shalom

Monday, June 07, 2010

I'm home....

...till Thursday night, just a quick visit. Most of you have probably figured this out by now, if not, SURPRISE! I'm enjoying/loathing my time here, but more on that in a future post. All you get tonight is my article (written April 24, if I wrote an article now the subject matter would be VERY different.) that was published in the La Sierra Criterion. Enjoy!

I Never Thought I’d…
Greetings from the Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti in Carrefour, Port au Prince! I’ve been here for a few weeks now. I’ve been helping with food distribution, running the central supply department, and organizing volunteer transportation (all while growing my hair back). It’s a big job and I’m definitely still learning. But I have time. I’m here all summer, but I’ve already had so many new experiences.
…be in Haiti.
Until January 11, 2010 Haiti was a hot, humid country, with high infant mortality rates, low literacy and employment rates (easily 66%), as well as a being one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Why on earth would I want to go there? On January 13, 2010 Haiti was still all of those things, but it was also a country devastated by an earthquake. Even more reason to stay away.
I’d always felt bad about disasters happening around the world but I’d never done anything other than donate money. For a variety of reasons I’ve never been on a mission trip. But because of my circumstances (not having school for 6 months) and connections at Loma Linda University (thanks Dad) I was given a unique opportunity. God opened a lot of doors for me to be here and I am truly thankful that I get to be a part of this.
…miss having a cult around.
The Supreme Masters of Ching Hai is a cult that was founded by Vietmanese fashion designer Ching Hai. Her teachings include compassion to all things, so her followers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. It also means no killing, so no meat. They have a whole campaign focused on veganism because of the health and environmental benefits. One of the things they do is provide food in. They provided about 3,000 meals a day for the volunteers, patients, patient’s families, and the surrounding community. They were at the hospital for more than three months after the earthquake and departed the week after I arrived. The hospital kitchen has struggled to provide food for the patients and volunteers so things have been, interesting.
…hang out with so many “old” people.
I am by far the youngest foreign volunteer. Everyone I’ve encountered is at least old enough to be one of my high school teachers, if not my parents (some even act like it). I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this. I’m at a hospital where medical professionals are needed. People my age generally aren’t medical professionals. Even though many of them are more than twice my age I’ve made friends with everyone from med students, mission doctors, and retired plumbers. I’ve gained meaningful insights as well as new friendships.
(of course this doesn’t mean I haven’t made friends with Haitians my age, older, and younger!)
…develop such an aversion to “Junk for Jesus”.
“Junk for Jesus” is usually a positive term. Not so much in Haiti. It’s great that so many people and organizations have donated stuff, but in my time here I’ve encountered a bunch of things that have made me wonder, “What were you thinking when you sent this to a mission hospital?” I’ve seen single sample packs of medicines (written in Arabic), people’s old prescriptions, used sharps containers, random UNO cards, and every Haitian’s dream: DD breast implants. Even when medical supplies are sent, some are things that won’t get used here. Moral of the story: Think before you donate!
…thank God for power outages.
The internet here is kind of shaky. The wi-fi goes out periodically, but is easily reset by unplugging and plugging in the router in one of the hospital offices. It’s easy enough during the day, but at night the door is dead bolted shut and the person with the keys has gone home. Nightly power outages are welcome here because it powers off the router and turns it back on when the generator kicks in again. Dallas Koperski (amazing photographer and 4th year LLU med student) and I have spent hours in the volunteer break room hoping for the power to go out momentarily so we can regain our connection to home!
… ask “Why me?” this often.
The two word inquiry is generally uttered by people who feel that the world has done them some tremendous injustice, this rings true in my case as well. However in the past few weeks I’ve come to realize that this injustice is in my favor. Now more than ever, I find myself wondering why I was born into an upper-middle class family in a country where opportunities are endless, food is in excess, and the biggest problems are generally not having money to pay the bills.
Saying that the earthquake has caused significant problems for everyone is a grave understatement. It’s impossible to find someone who hasn’t lost a friend or family member. Moses, one of the hospital translators, was at school when it hit. He felt the building shake and ran as the ceiling, walls, and stairs starting collapsing. He made it out unscathed, but many of his closest friends didn’t make it out. When school started again at the end of April, in tents, it was difficult for him going back to school knowing many of his friends wouldn’t be there. I’m not an emotional person but that hit me hard. This kid is my age and he lost the people who he spent a lot his time with. I thought back to everyone that I don't get to see all the time now and so many "what ifs" went through my head; it sent shivers down my spine.
Other conversations I’ve had have shown me how significantly lives were altered. Many people have lost their jobs. Kids who were preparing to continue their education after high school have changed their plans. The vast majority of people I encounter live in tents.
…miss home this much.
I’ve lived in the Inland Empire all my life. The longest I’ve been away is fifteen days. By the time you read this I will have more than doubled that. I haven’t breathed “vitamin air”, been stuck on the 91 (okay, I don’t miss that. Haitian traffic is way more exciting!), led praise with a band, eaten at Del Taco, In-n-Out, Kogi, or Guppy’s, done laundry in a machine, slept in my bed, watched or played basketball, or seen the people I love. Am I homesick? Of course! But not enough to leave. God is doing amazing things here and I wouldn’t trade this experience for an In-n-Out 4x4 protein style with pickles!