A Long One

We hope that all of you have had a good week… ours has been quite the adventure. We warn you now… today’s blog is a long one.
Our plans changed mid-afternoon on Monday, when Jasmine spiked a fever of 39.5˚C (~104˚F)… deciding to give her some time to try to bring her fever down, Rick, Phillip, Rayna and Michelle took some of the gear early Tuesday morning to meet Mares (our mountain host) in Dabon. On the way there, they encountered a trench that had been dug through the middle of the road making it impassable, and requiring them to backtrack and take a longer route.Ironically, this was done in protest of the road conditions.

Mares had brought his mule with him, and so he took the heaviest packs back to his house. While in Dabon, Michelle and Rayna were sitting talking in the taptap when suddenly Rayna was given a pinch. It turns out a couple of little girls wanted to ensure that she actually was real, and alive.
With the change in plans, it was decided that in order for Jasmine to have enough energy to actually participate in any of the clinic, she shouldn’t make the long trek. Instead, a Land Rover was rented in order to be able to take the road to Beausejour on Wednesday. From there everyone would do what Phillip described as a ‘leisurely hike’ over to Mares house, where Jasmine could take a nap before starting the clinic in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, it rained Tuesday night… in fact, there was a torrential downpour. This meant that after Fondwa (a town on the highway from Carrefour, where we turn off and leave paved road), the road conditions were somewhat questionable.

Because we left early in the morning long before the sun was up, the roads hadn’t any opportunity to dry out. Even with four-wheel drive we still hit one stretch that required 14 men to pull us up the mountain.

This was of course after we had almost slid sideways off the mountain, and Rick had exchanged places with Pierre-Richard (who had never experienced using 4-wheel drive before). With everyone holding on for dear life, and concentrating mightily, Rick managed to get everyone safely to Beausejour where the monastery/convent is.

Breathing a sigh of relief, we all climbed out, and after a quick break, started the “leisurely” trek to Mares’ house.
Jasmine, still feverish and a little dizzy, wound up sliding partway down a slope on her butt, and Michelle took a bit of a slip on some loose shale. Our 4km walk wound up being almost a 2 hour trek down one side of a mountain and up another. By the end of it, everyone was hot, tired, and Jasmine was ready to pass out. Unfortunately, though everyone had been told that the clinic was starting in the afternoon, people had begun lining up early in the morning. So after another quick break and meeting the Haitian animal husbandry team, we headed over to the area designated as our clinic area. Words cannot even describe the bedlam and the overwhelming press of people and animals.Despite being told that people needed to keep back of specific markers for the protection of themselves, the animals, and the veterinarians (most Haitian animals are not handled often or trained, and no sedation was being used), the ongoing crush caused Jasmine to lose her temper twice and threaten not treat people’s livestock if they continued to get underfoot. This caused some initial consternation, as everyone was taken aback by the small ‘blanc’ yelling at them in French… unfortunately it didn’t last long before people realised no markers had been set on the other side and they could press in to watch what the ‘docteurs’ were doing. It also took some time to explain to the local team that given the shear number of animals it was important to triage and then go by first come first serve, rather than just treating the pushiest people and their friends first.
In a span of 6.5 hours, more than 100 animals were seen, and still people had to be turned away as it had gotten too dark to be able to see.
Absolutely exhausted, it was all everyone could do to stumble back to Mares’, have a quick bite to eat and collapse into bed at 8pm.
It began to rain at about 8:30pm and by 10pm was coming down at such a rate that the tin roof began to leak. Rick had to get up and shift his bedroll as he had ended up underneath one particularly good downspout. By 3am all of us were awake but forced ourselves to lie in bed until 5am, when we finally got up and started to get moving for the day. The trek back down and up the mountains from the day before seemed even longer (if possible), as the incline was steeper and the switchbacks at greater angles.So as a reward we paused at the end of each switchback and stopped for a break the few times we found shade. Of course the locals practically ran up the mountain, and a few of them passed us carrying things on their heads. By the time we were close to the top they sent someone back to look for us as they thought that they had lost us over the side of the mountain (because “la docteur, she is sick!”).

Though the pace was slower during Thursday’s clinic was more frustrating, as there were several cases of animal misuse. And while Jasmine was able to treat the wounds, getting the owners to understand that the methods of taming their pack mules was ineffective and potentially would shorten the animal’s work lifespan was almost impossible.
In total, over the 2 days, 136 animals were seen and treated and 7 local animal husbandry workers were given some training.
By 2:30pm we had packed up and were on our way back to Carrefour. Luckily the sun had been shining brightly all morning and the afternoon rain held off, so the roads were mostly dried out. Two places along the route had suffered landslides during the rain of the night before leading to a couple of dicey passageways, but other than that the return trip was fairly uneventful. On hitting the outskirts of PaP, it was obvious that the UN was gearing up to prepare for the threatened military action for the 18th, as there were several road blockades along the way. Being a vehicle full of blancs we were never stopped, however it was a definite show of power and readiness. They have an awful lot of really cool vehicles (and some of the guys weren’t bad to look at either!).
At home Jasmine made chili, and everyone visited with Lelia for awhile before heading to bed by 8:30pm. At this point we all feel like we are incredibly boring, but given that we are generally up by 4 or 5am, the early evenings make sense.
Today, we needed to return the Land Rover, so we treated ourselves to lunch at the Olafsson (one of the swankiest hotels in PaP). It is flag day, so while there we saw part of a parade of school bands. The hotel was like walking into a different world… completely apart from the poverty and squalor of the rest of the city just outside the gates. While we were eating, Pierre Richard was keeping us apprised of the state of the paramilitary insurgence. It was almost comical… apparently they had a late start… we decided that they must have needed to have a bit of a sleep in (since it’s a national holiday) and that none of them are morning people, since they hadn’t even organised themselves by noon. After lunch we met Pierre Richard at the car rental place, hopped into our taptap, and headed towards home. Michelle made friends with the guys in the press vehicle driving behind us, by taking their picture, thus making them laugh.

On the way, we also passed a mini-riot that had started over the handing out of free mosquito nets… though it seemed like an odd thing to riot over, it was astounding at how quickly it had grown, and we were cognisant of the fact that the mood could easily spread, and lead to something far bigger that had no bearing on the original problem.
We found avocados in the market today, so given the heavy lunch, the plan for dinner is fresh mango and guacamole with corn chips. Mmmmm… Meanwhile as we have been sitting here in the kitchen our next door neighbour has been playing 2Pac’s version of ‘That’s Just the Way It Is’ over and over… so we now know… “things will never be the same”.
Hope all of you have a wonderful evening!
Love as always,

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