Tuesday 21 January 2014

middle of the night

Day 14: I can hardly believe it.

I'm up at 4.30am which for most of us is the middle of the night.

It's a bit of a struggle dressing whilst contorted in a limited space, like being below deck, with my back taking a few seconds more to adjust after a night's sleep on the hard ground.  But within minutes all is well and I take the short walk over to the convent for a freezing shower, a cold shave and clean clothes.  My head full of the dreams of the night before only add to the surreal stupor I'm in at this hour.  Then into the church where the sisters are gathering for their morning prayers.  I follow their lead in standing and sitting through alternating psalms in a sleepy haze.  They sing with such fidelity - their demeanour is serene - voices sharp and arresting.  Through the open window the hill still sleeps.  The church is dimly lit and has a comforting, prayerful ambience that offers the best antidote for a rude awakening.

Darren and I have a great routine going.  I return the key the usual spot and he gets up soon after.  We compliment each other quite well - and work great as a team.  It was quite random how we came together to share this adventure - or so we think - yet, we also acknowledge that other higher things are at work too.  And by our own strength we are nothing.

After prayers we sit and breathe in the soft electric light.  The arrival of the priest is signalled by headlights and a noisy diesel engine . . then he sweeps through to the sacristy - its early for him too.  The mass is swift and in French.  I can easily keep pace of the order but certain sitting and standing is out of the sync with the ebb and flow of the English Mass.  It's wonderful all the same.

After breakfast I'm standing on the edge of the road watching thick traffic and waiting for Jude.  We agreed 7.30am.  But I didn't hear back from my text yesterday checking if we were all the set for today.  I met Jude two years ago, he's the proprietor of a guest-house in downtown Port-au-Prince (PAP).  Delmas is a busy, run-down district close to the airport.  His house is large with balconies and balustrades, tiled floors and ceiling fans with no shortage of plasma screens and wifi.  The house completely survived the earthquake, Jude was out in his car at the time.  He's a rich bloke by Haitian standards.   His dad lives in very different surroundings, an hour north of PAP and runs an orphanage which we were due to visit today.  After some time, while I was standing watching the road, Jude cancelled by phone - Friday instead.  The orphanage is a desperately poor place - you'd think they'd receive plenty of help from other quarters but sadly not.  And so regardless of the reasons or criticisms I recognised their need and wanted to help somehow.  There are about 25 children there, situated in Arcahaie, mainly boys; rough and resilient.  And ever since my first visit two years ago I've wanted to try and help bring some stuff for them - especially play equipment for the boys.  There's a huge climbing frame in the container for them and a few beds.

While watching the morning rush I was impressed by the smiles from everyone - the warm summer stream of bodies and buses.  Bikes arriving and braking, immaculately dressed children sandwiched between driver and parent.  The innocence of it all . . and the parent's strict determination to get the child through the gate in time.  And the child, with sleepy complacence, oblivious to it all.