It’s a…Blog!

I have learned many new things this week — patient evaluation protocols, Haitian creole phrases, the (very, very high) value of air conditioning, and even the disregard that chickens have for time. I’ve laid awake in bed multiple times this week wondering what chicken could possibly think the sun rises at 4 a.m. (and wondering why it chose to “bwak” directly under my window), but I’ve also used that time to reflect on the astounding things I have been able to experience in the short amount of time I have been in Haiti.

A view of the mountains riding into Jacmel

There was no manual or handbook that could have prepared me for what I have been experiencing in my days since landing in Port-au-Prince and traveling to Jacmel. No WKU student has ever completed their EXS 496 internship in Haiti, so there were no “past experiences” to rely on. It was necessary to go into this experience with an open mind, because I had no other choice. That didn’t stop me from worrying, stressing, and questioning my sanity (multiple times) on the day I hopped on a plane to Haiti by myself for 5 weeks. My worries have proven to be unnecessary, though, as I have been welcomed by CCH staff with open arms and have felt the love of Jesus with me every step of the way.

A typical day in my Haitian adventure goes like this:

  • I wake up (usually twice – once by the chickens at 4:00 and once by my 7:15 alarm). I brush my teeth using my water bottle and put on a little deodorant to cover up any sleep sweat that might have (definitely) occurred.
  • I head downstairs for breakfast at 7:30. CCH has full-time staff members that cook every meal for me. I’m spoiled!
  • One of CCH’s drivers or security guards takes me to the clinic every morning around 8:20. In the 7 minute car ride I can usually manage to ask 5 – 10 questions about anything and everything — I’m sure they’re happy when I get out of the truck at the clinic.
  • By 8:30 I am already soaked in sweat. My body is slowly growing accustomed to the heat, but I am always AMAZED when patients come into the clinic dressed in jeans and long sleeves and are perfectly dry and content.
  • The clinic opens at 9:00, but many patients arrive early and wait for us to open.
  • From 9:00 – 12:15 I am usually very busy observing the physical therapist, Juberson, or the PT aides, Babo and Baker. They normally talk with me as they are going through procedures with the patients, and try to throw in some creole words that I can remember.
  • At 12:15 a CCH staff member arrives with my lunch. As I walk to the break room I say a small prayer that the food doesn’t contain tomatoes or goat meat, but I sit down and eat it anyways.
  • The afternoons are usually pretty slow because most patients arrive in the early morning, but I use this time to practice more creole, discuss my homework assignments with Juberson (yes, he gives me A&P topics to research every night), and try not to show how much I am sweating.
  • At around 3 the clinic closes and a CCH staff member comes to pick me up.
  • We arrive back to the guest house around 3:15. I instantly change out of my scrubs and sit in front of a fan for at least 30 minutes.
My first dinner in Haiti
  • Apart from dinner at 6:00, I spend the rest of the night reading, working on homework, talking with CCH staff, and catching up with family until I decide I’m too tired to stay up any longer (this normally happens at around 9:30).
  • I take an amazing, cold shower to wash off my sweaty body, brush my teeth with my water bottle, apply a little more deodorant, and head off to bed!

There have obviously been some minute variations with this schedule, but I am already becoming familiarized with a daily and weekly routine. I have spent the past week working in the clinic, and this weekend i trekked through one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, got to walk around the beach La Co New York, and got to have pizza (!!!) for dinner. This coming week I will work in the clinic again, and next weekend there will (hopefully) be another adventure. There have been some setbacks in my regimen — I don’t always like the food, it’s sometimes hard to see the conditions patients are in, the language barrier is frustrating, I get lonely, it’s really REALLY hot (have I mentioned that before?) — but it’s all a part of the learning experience. Every night, I go to bed a different person than I was when I woke up. This is in part due to the amount of water I lose out of my pores during the day, but also because of the things I am seeing. And let me tell you — I have witnessed some really beautiful things. I have talked to impactful people, seen beautiful sights, learned valuable lessons, and have easily realized how blessed I am!


Animal House…but only kind of

So there has been a lotttt happening at the Isaiah 61 Guest House this week!

One of the kittens at the guest house – Mimi

For starters, I got back from the clinic in the afternoon last Wednesday to find two very tiny kittens with makeshift rope collars and leashes attached to a chair in one of the guest house rooms. I didn’t initially see them when I walked into the general area downstairs, but their shrieking meows gave them away very quickly. I investigated to find out where they came from, and learned that they will help keep the mice and critters away from the Guest House when they get bigger. For now, they seem to enjoy meow-ing at all hours of the day, and they spend a lot of time practicing their “puppy dog eyes”.

To continue the excitement, a 6-person mission team from a church in Baltimore, Maryland arrived to the Guest House on Friday evening. They are spending the week holding a youth conference at a local center in Jacmel, and have graciously let me join in on some of their fun. We went to a beach called “Family Beach” on Saturday afternoon, and enjoyed the sunshine, the ocean, and a little bit of soccer with some locals. On Sunday evening, they invited me to attend a youth church service at Ecole Bethel with them, and afterwards we attempted a game of Pictionary with the kids. They have been a very nice addition to the Guest House, and have welcomed me in to their games of Monopoly Deal and their excursions to find ice cream. Because CCH loves excitement though, another team arrived on Monday evening from the Winchester, Virginia area to host a girl’s soccer and empowerment camp at one of CCH’s partner schools. The team consists of 21 members with ages ranging from 13 to (I believe) 75, and they contribute to the grand total of 28 (!!!!!) guests at the Isaiah House. Needless to say, it has been a busy past couple of days. I have enjoyed getting to know the new guests, and have really enjoyed the company. They have also given me opportunities to experience new things in Jacmel.

  • For the past two mornings, I have “hitched” a ride with the girls soccer team to the clinic by standing in the back of a truck with 15 other members of the team. It was exhilarating to drive through the city without a windshield barrier, and was great to see the sights, hear the sounds, and to smell the smells of Jacmel.
  • Today, one of the adult team members (aka a soccer mom) joined me at the clinic and spent the morning providing occupational therapy to the stroke patients. She was able to teach techniques to me,Juberson, and the clinic staff, and we really enjoyed her talents in the clinic. I was able to do some hands-on manipulation, and was able to learn more about her job as a rural home health OT in the hills of Virginia/West Virginia.
  • Did I mention we found ice cream?

This experience has been nothing short of incredible, and I am continuing to realize how much I have learned. I feel more confident in my abilities as a future healthcare professional, and it is humbling to realize how valuable my skill set is to people all over the world. I am proud to have served with members of the community who have created such a sustainable organization in Jacmel. Their lives revolve around providing their community with resources – whether it be in health care, education, community wellness, or development – and they have a contagious passion for what they do. CCH isn’t a complete solution, but it’s a step in the right direction that the people of Haiti deserve. Sometimes the people we provide services to have nothing, but they still smile like they have everything. They make all of the hard work worthwhile.

Amidst all of the excitement, I have realized that in 10 short days I will be heading back to the States. I still have plenty of time left to learn, grow, and experience new things on this trip, but I already can’t wait for the next time I will get to come to Jacmel. I feel like I have just dipped my toes in the pool, and I want to come back to experience more, help more, and learn more. Plus, I’m really going to miss the rice and beans. Haiti rocks.

Koman ou ye?


Koman ou ye? How are you?

When I talk to my family and friends every day I am asked “How are you?”.
When I go downstairs for breakfast every morning I am welcomed with “Bonjou! Koman ou ye?” by the cooks and CCH staff.
When I arrive at the clinic the staff acknowledges me with “Koman ou ye? Ki jan te nwit ou a?”.*
When patients arrive in the afternoon hours they greet me with “Bonswa, koman ou ye?”

My immediate response is always “I’m doing well!” or “Bon, ou?”**, but there have been a few times this past week where I actually haven’t felt good. Culture shock is a real thing, and I thought I was above it because I never really experienced it on my semester-long study abroad adventure to Europe, but I have been proved wrong. A lot of things are just really different in Haiti — and it isn’t a bad thing, because I have quickly learned how great of a country it is  — but it has been a big adjustment for me (my wonderful mom and Hayden can vouch for that). Nevertheless, it has been my goal to remain positive about this journey, and I am truly thankful for the amazing things that I have seen and learned since I’ve been in Jacmel.

At first, I struggled with what I wanted to write about this week, but I thought it would be simplest to share some of the things that I just suggested to you that I’ve seen and learned.

Since learning is the most important goal of my trip, I will talk about it first. Learning is a pretty broad topic so I decided to break it up into multiple categories — cultural knowledge, physical therapy-related knowledge, self-knowledge, useful knowledge, and even useless knowledge — but since I don’t want to type a 400-page novel I will just briefly touch on all of these.

  • Cultural knowledge: I have been learning about Haitian culture from the people I spend my time with. For instance, Haitians really love soccer. They enjoy food a lot. They are very proud of their country, and there is a great sense of community in Jacmel.  They celebrate Corpus Christi on June 15th. Their gas is 225 gourdes/gallon. They don’t think the weather is too hot (it’s just hot enough), and everyone that I’ve spoken with who has been to the United States has basically frozen. In addition to my conversations and observations, though, I have also tried to use outside sources to really understand the history of Haiti (for instance the video I shared on my Facebook wall). I know I’ve barely dipped my toes in Haiti’s cultural pool, but it still feels rewarding to be able to share what I have learned!
  • Physical-therapy related knowledge: From patients with broken femurs to paraplegic patients to stroke patients to patients still rehabilitating injuries from the earthquake in 2010, I have seen so much. The list could go on for miles if I really wanted it to. I have been able to work side-by-side with Juberson (the PT at the clinic) to evaluate new patients, and have not only gained knowledge about physical therapy, but have also refreshed my knowledge of physiology and expanded my knowledge to design treatment protocols. I have seen Babo and Baker (the PT aides) use inventive treatment techniques, and have been able to assist them in their daily responsibilities. There are many things about the clinic that are different from anything I’ve ever seen — the few machines they have are outdated, the clinic is so packed in the morning that patients share beds, most patient evaluations are done wearing only undergarments (for the patient) — but the quality of the treatment is outstanding considering the circumstances. The staff really cares about the patients, and the patients really work to get better.
  • Self-knowledge: I don’t hate tomatoes as much as I thought I did.
  • Useful knowledge: This is also a category that I could write a lot about. I don’t think I can pinpoint many specific “useful facts” that I have learned, but this whole experience has really been very eye-opening and “useful” to me. I think that I will use and remember the things that I have experienced for the rest of my life. I have been reminded that it is necessary to rely on God at all times, and that a day is not complete until I have taken the time to thank Him for my blessings. I have an awesome support group, and there are a lot of people that care “how I am doing”.
  • Useless knowledge: I have found that rubbing a bug spray wipe on my phone charger cord before I go to bed prevents ants from crawling from the wall onto my charger and into my bed. LOL.

Apart from the knowledge I have gained I have also been able to see some more beautiful sights in the past week. On Saturday, I traveled to a private beach on the outskirts of Jacmel and spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun. It was absolutely beautiful and was very refreshing. On Sunday, I was able to re-visit Jacmel’s waterfront promenade after a nice dinner at Jacmel Pizzeria. There was a big soccer game finishing as we ate dinner (between Jacmel and Port-au-Prince I believe), and the city exploded with festivities and a parade after Jacmel won.

So. I know some days can be frustrating. I really miss my family and am dying to have a big piece of cheesecake. But I am so appreciative that I am even in this place. This internship was something that I worked really hard to organize and is providing me with memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I know I don’t always feel like I’m doing well and sometimes everything isn’t going great, but I am so glad that I am in a place where I get asked how I’m doing by so many people every day because that means I’m embarking on a worth-while adventure.

A la pwochen!***


*How was your night?
**Good, you?
***See you next time!