Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 16, 2008
BTW: I'm not able to attach any photos because I'm shooting all RAW images that won't translate into JPEGS until I get home to our real computer!! Sorry!

Up at 8:45. Today was my day with the ABU (the Abandon Baby Unit) at Le Hospital a l'University.
We were dropped off by security at the front of the building. Blanca had been here plenty of times, so I wasn't too worried. But as soon as we entered the front door, there were people sitting, standing wandering everywhere. There were flies buzzing around the sky blue walls and peels and garbage in the stainless sink on my left. This was like no hospital that I had ever been to. There were babies everywhere!
But all of these babies were being attended to by moms and dads, grandmas and nurses. They were hot and tired and there was only the light from the windows that were in rooms farther away. These people had been there for hours and days. There were older women waving their arms and chanting over their little tiny babies who were obviously ill. There was some crying, but mostly these babies were so sick that they just laid there.

We walked directly to the ABU, but as soon as we got there, there was some commotion and were shoo'd out again and told to go check with the office. Something was going on. And I began to shake a little. I was with Blanca and her sister, but we didn't understand Creole and they didn't speak English. And my French was going to get us nowhere. I was getting even more nervous. There were people talking and kind of racing around us. Some were mad or confused. And I began to think we were getting ourselves into something bad.
But as I turned around and looked down the hall, I noticed John (our security) and his assistant walking towards us. I was going to be fine.
I began to walk towards him and smiled. The only thing I could say was, "Je suis hureusse". It's spelled wrong, but I told him I was happy.
He laughed because he knew what I meant.

We finally got into the ABU. After they had concealed whatever it was that they didn't want us to see. The women there are not trustworthy.
I'm finding that most of the people here are so poor that not many people can be trusted.
There were about 16 to 20 beds. Every one was taken - in fact there were two in some and in one, three. There were babies who could've been born last week and children who had been over 13 years old. How long they had been there I have no idea. But the bed that they were laying in was exactly where they spent nearly every second of every day. Getting out was not an option. They knew it and they (not one of them) tried to. If we got them out, they could sit with us in the small courtyard beside the unit. But they couldn't run around. Their legs couldn't hold them up. They had no strength to do it and sat in our laps and enjoyed the sky above and the single tree that shaded some of the area.
Most of the children were mute. They made sounds, but quiet ones.
I took pictures for almost an hour. But finally, I just put my cameras away and took a little one out the courtyard one by one. Spent 20 or 30 minutes with a few, walking in circles and singing the few lullabies that I knew. The courtyard was old cement that had cracked open with decades of ware. There were openings where sewage ran through and holes where the rats would run in and out. The walls on the sides of this 30 foot by 10 courtyard were at least 20 feet high, but it was an opening. The sheets and clothes were hanging here. The dishes were being washed there in tub of stale water and they kept splashing ammonia on the ground.

This ABU is a 1000 times more functioning than it was 5 or 8 years ago. Even though I know Susie is getting screwed in almost every avenue of these projects, I can't help but see that she is making a difference. She is making a change.
These children are being fed and some are getting adopted.
She is an amazing business woman and is a total inspiration. Blanca (Susie's personal Assistant), Charity (Susie's assistant), and Lupe (Blanca's sister) are all such amazing inspirations!
Love you all-Kim

A Whirlwind of a Day

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's been a whirlwind since 7:30 am. I'm still having a hard time sleeping. Susy offered me an Ambian (sleeping medication from her doc) but I was too afraid to take it since I had heard that people can get up in the middle of the night and wonder around, stuff like that. NOT on this trip!
We got to the airport, had an easy check in via a kiosk computer, Susy upgraded us to Business class (something I had never done) and our bags were at the Port au Prince Airport. MIRACLE! We waited in the customs line but were recognized instantly by 3 different people. We were pulled out of the crowded and busy baggage area and taken straight upstairs, offered a seat in a fancy sitting area and given a cup of esspresso while waiting for someone else to find our bags that were left there the day before when we didn't make it.

They security and our private chaperone got our bags in the car and sealed us up quickly in an armored vehicle. A UN vehicle escorted us all the way up into the hills, where we were staying at Le Ville Creole.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was amazing, scary, overwhelming. It's two separate places - the streets and the sides of the streets.
As we moved like quick little rats through an insane amount of cars, people and tap taps (their local transportation), the sidewalks, the dirt alleys and the two and three story cinderblock structures on every side had men, women and children selling their wares, used clothing and refurbishing shoes for resale. All of them underneath small beach umbrellas to shade themslves from the hot dry sun as sit still and unmoving watching the world pass by. It seemed as if these people, families had been sitting there all their lives.

And now, I understood WHY the doctor at the Travel Center wanted to prescribe motion sickness medication. This ride to the hotel made me SO sick! I really felt it coming on.

As soon as we sat down in the restaurant, I had heard that the clowns (Patch Adams, John Glik and their posse) were giving the kids at the orphanage an ice cream party! I HAD to be there. So the Security took me alone BACK down the mountain and to the facility.
Dirt roads, pot holes, goats, wild dogs and dust and another kick in the ass for not taking the motion sickness medication.

We beeped the horn and the guards opened the gates and inside, not much different from the out, were children, clowns and even more Security. I just started touching the kids, they began touching me, asking me questions in French, begging me to take their picture.
"Photo! Photo!" They were behind me, in front of me, grabbing the camera and my arms. There were others. The shy ones looked on and watched from beneath a tree and waited for me to come to them. They were already excited and silly. They were all playing with the clowns - running and laughing and happy. Music was coming from a boom box and a few of us were dancing in the dirt below our feet and damp from sweat and heat.
The Feed the Children showed up. They didn't touch the kids. They were visiting, observing Susy's program, but they weren't touching, laughing, playing. While Patch scooped ice cream and fed the children - they were doing business.

I held some babies while I shot the festivities. Less than an hour went by and the Security had to get me back.
I came back just in time to get to my room, unpack a bit, sit on the bed and cry. I was felling sick from the drive. I was tired. And I was scared.
How was I going to do this?
I laid down for a minute and wished I could call Peter. I had SO much to tell him!

Got dressed and washed my feet (everything is dirt and everything is dusty) and went back out to the poolside where everyone was going to meet up. We met John Glick formerly (he was one of the clowns who made this trip possible) and spoke to him for a while about what his experience was. Susie was afraid that because they were always in their clown outfits and make up that the general public might not take it well. The Voodo religion is paramount here and she was worried they would affend someone with their dress. And I guess they did, but not enough to cause violence. they were certainly kicked out of a few grocery stores.

Blanca and her sister, John and I had Security take us to the Visa Lodge to have something to eat and listen to their last Clown meeting. What an absolutely wonderful experience to listen to 14 or 15 kids, ages between 17 and 23, explain what the trip meant for them.
They were changing lives..... and at the same time they were changing their own lives.
We were home by 10:30. A tiny bit scary to be driving around half the city that late, but we made it.
And I went to bed. Slept great with a Tylenol PM. I wish the next night felt like that!......

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Same REAL first day in Miami

Thursday night, March 13
No kidding. I'm still in Miami...
We got half way to Haiti and the plane turned around because of a malfunction. We landed and were taken off the plane.
We later learned that the First Lady's plane had just landed at the Port au Prince Airport and the whole place was in lock down for the day....
Did the government have something to do with my plane malfunction????
Those Bushes!
So now I'm at the Wyndham Hotel by the Miami International Hotel and should be on the next plane to Haiti at 10 am tomorrow.
Tonight, I took a walk downtown and bought some fruit and wine, came back to the room and hung out with Susie.
I already liked her, but she is even more interesting than I imagine she would be.
We had a really fun time just girl talking in my room for a few hours.
So... Tomorrow is the REAL FIRST day....

The First REAL day

March 12, 2008

Today started at 2:11 am.
And it's been non-stop since then. I had banners to create for Modern's BrainShare, Susy and Kenny's stories to lay out and prepare for print, research about how to keep my downloads for the shoot on my laptop, emails to answer, invoices to write, an "I love you'" card to Peter, and I know I'm forgetting half of what I did this morning.
It has been an adventure already! Definitely Kim-style.
Dropped off kids, picked up Haiti suitcases, went to Pictureline to get guidance from Christopher and picked up more film, got stamps to mail the postcards for the show, went to the bank, dropped off files to Borge, did some more packing and then jumped in Stephanie's car to drop off the Modern print job, right before going to the airport. (Stephanie was prepared with even a granola bar because she knew I would have forgotten to eat)

Got there late (bad planning on my part!), ran thru the security just in time to sit down to call Peter and tell him I love him and cry just a little. I sent a text to Thomas, called Gabby at school and talked to her and turned off my phone. One of the last to enter the plane, found my seat and began to put things away when I suddenly realized that the empty space in my camera bag was there because I forgot to get the film that needed to be hand checked at the Security Desk!

Oh Shit! That bag of film had over 30 rolls in it and the plane was all seated and ready to go.
I promised to go fast, to run the entire way. They said to give it a shot, but that they wouldn't hold the flight for me and to take my bags if I got off.
So I did and I ran so fast I still can't believe it!
I made the plane. Luckily, the gate was A1 and literally around the corner and down the stairs to my film.
Does this mean I supposed to go or that I'm not supposed to go?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm at the Miami Airport, 3 hours early. I was so disorganized yesterday and was running from place to place, forgetting my film, etc.
I have had a very quiet 12 hours. Things settled down once I got my film. Made my connecting flight in Dallas and had a great flight to Miami. I sat next to a couple named Linda and Mike. They had been married for 37 years and were heading to a cruise holiday in Cozumel.
The 3 of us talked and talked and talked until the very last minute of our flight. I got to Miami International and found out that my hotel room was IN the airport! Well... THAT was easy! Had a sandwich and walked around. It's a HUGE airport! Got to my room and watched a movie and did some work on the computer. Being alone this much is strange.

Note: I'm looking at an interesting story about a photo booth that's called "The Human Race Machine". It's a photo booth that takes your picture and allows you to see what you'd look like as a different race. A what I thought I Saw story there?

So I've spoken to Susie by phone (she's who I'm going to Haiti with - the woman who's orphanage I'm visiting). At least I know that she's here. In the airport. I was beginning to think that I might be getting on the plane to Haiti by myself. When I checked to see if Susie was checked in to the hotel I was at last night, they said no. WHAT! I started to get scared! And then when she didn't answer her phone this morning... I began to panic just a little bit.
All is well.
I do find myself going in and out of being scared. I'm really not feeling too scared most of the time. But it's interesting. I'll be standing in line or waiting to pay for something and I'll just feel tears coming on. It's a warm, instant and overwhelming feeling and then I tell myself to "pull it together, Kim." And I do.
I'm excited to face this. I'm determined to be open to what is there, open to the shot. To remember to think, but also remember to be in the now and allow the shot to happen naturally and organically.

I'm missing my family. I'm missing having Peter by my side, as he usually is when I'm on an airplane going far away.
Thank you Peter for all your support and love.
I watch other families traveling together and it makes me miss the kids so much. I love you guys and I'm so proud to be your mom.

Thursday night, March 13
No kidding. I'm still in Miami...
We got half way to Haiti and the plane turned around because of a malfunction. We landed and were taken off the plane.
We later learned that the First Lady's plane had just landed at the Port au Prince Airport and the whole place was in lock down for the day....
Did the government have something to do with my plane malfunction????
Those Bushes!
So now I'm at the Wyndham Hotel by the Miami International Hotel and should be on the next plane to Haiti at 10 am tomorrow.
Tonight, I took a walk down and got some fruit and wine, came back to the room and hung out with Susie.
I knew I liked her, but she's SO cool!
We had a really fun time just girl talking in my room for a few hours.
So... Tomorrow is the real day....