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Haiti 2011 – day 4 – blocks and bathrooms

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Breakfast started each morning at 7 am. It actually wasn’t all that hard to do considering the fact that over the eight days we were there we were awoken by: wind, rain, puppies, horses, goats, roosters, and children. Breakfast was typically some sort of bread item (French toast, pancakes, etc), fruit, and cereal. I am not typically a morning person, so it was not until halfway through breakfast that I was ready to talk to anyone. Not to mention I couldn’t enjoy my Diet Pepsi with breakfast like I do every morning back home.

About halfway through breakfast the construction supervisor stopped by the eating area and told us he had a little project that needed our help. I mentioned it a little on my other blog, but they are building a new guest house to accommodate all the visiting teams. When we arrived it had a first story and the cinder blocks on the ground to build the second story. Between our team of 14 and the other visiting teams, there were about 30 of us ready to help. Logistically it made more sense for our large group to work on this project so that the smaller and more well-trained group of Haitian workers to continue to work on the actual building process.
assembly lineassembly line
I don’t know if the supervisor lied to us on purpose of just underestimated the size of the task (he told us he would only need us for 30 minutes) but we worked on moving those cinder blocks for almost two hours and we only made it about halfway through the pile.
"beasting" the bricks
I looked it up online when I got home (nerd) but the average weight for the types of blocks we were moving is between 26 and 33 pounds. This was no easy task but I was so proud and surprised by the people I was working with that even when we got beat up, we just kept working. The scars on my forearms from where the blocks cut me are just starting to fade. On day 4, I was already dealing with blisters from the paint roller the day before. One block caught me wrong and ripped the blister clean off. For my diabetes readers, this hurt worse than any blunt lancet poke or pump site insertion!
pile of bricks
Have I mentioned I am stubborn? I was on the roof portion of the assembly line at the time, so I just yelled down for a band-aid, borrowed a glove, and got back to work.
rooftop photo break
After we finished with as many blocks as we could move that morning, we headed back to Leveque to continue our work. We assumed that we would be continuing to paint houses, but there was a different project in mind for us this day.
the cinder block moving crew
I didn’t describe the details of the homes in my previous post. Each home will have a yard with fruit bearing trees and enough room that the family can expand the home if they would like to in the future. When you walk in the front door, you are in the main room of the home (living room). There are walls dividing the rest of the space into two other rooms (likely a bedroom for the parents and for the children).
painting progressyellow housegreen housefinished house with cactus fence
Notice what I didn’t mention. There is not a kitchen (sink, fridge, stove, cupboards, etc) as we would expect and also no bathrooms or set-up for indoor plumbing. If you were a diabetic on insulin, I am not sure what this would mean for your medication or how this would affect your life expectancy. The home set-ups are not because they are building sub-standard homes for this community. These are the typical homes in Haiti. Most of the cooking is done outside. The painting project we were working on this day was the communal bathrooms for the housing development.
bathroom building
The bathrooms were small structures with four stalls on each side. Two of the stalls on each side were empty and would be used for bathing (typically with buckets of water, there is no plumbing system to tap into). The best way to describe the other two stall would be similar to permanent port-a-potties. In the corner of each concrete stall was a concrete “toilet” shape over a very deep hole.
bathroompainting toilets is awkward
It is common on mission trips and in other Christian circles to talk about being a “servant”. I would say that just because you are serving, it does not necessarily make you a servant. I chose to go to Haiti knowing the types of projects that I would be involved in. That is not being a servant. That is choosing to serve.

Most people are willing to serve until they are treated like a servant.

my supervisor - what you can't see is me painting inside that stall
Psychologically, the bathrooms were far easier to paint than the homes from the day before. It was hard to have the feeling of “finishing” anything when you are painting a wall. On the other hand, on this smaller project, there was a sense of accomplishment any time you finished a wall or even one of the stalls. I will admit that it wasn’t the most pleasant experience considering the fact that some of the bathrooms had already been used. However, by the end of the day, the group I was traveling with had finished three bathrooms and the larger group had altogether almost finished five bathrooms.
paintbathrooms on the right, homes on the left
It was certainly not the type of construction project that I anticipated helping with when I signed up to return to Haiti. Once you see the beautiful faces of the families that will have a safe place to live for the first time in over a year (some for the first time ever), you would also be willing to do just about anything to get them into their homes as quickly as possible.
tan line or dirt line?
2nd story sunset
i love this picture!


2 responses

  1. I love looking at the smiles in your photos.

  2. Me too! I think that we see fake smiles so often around here, but the people we met seemed to smile with true joy – you could see it in their eyes.

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