This one snuck up on us.
With Hurricane Isaac, we had days of warning. Everybody went to the store. Everybody warned the people in their sphere of responsibility. I had long conversations with Madame Meristel, plus the three guards Ceyab, Venice, and Johnson.
Not so with Sandy. I knew there was a storm in the neighborhood of Haiti, but the just-above-a-sprinkle and overcast skies were not fear-inducing Wednesday. I was genuinely surprised when school was canceled for Thursday.
Note on that. The Minister of Education sent out a communique canceling school on Thursday at 9:00 pm Wednesday night. Then our director forwarded it to the staff, and we had to try to get ahold of the kids. I mean, I guess snow days work like this in the States, but it just seems so arbitrary and disorganized.
Wednesday night through Saturday it just rained like it was going out of style. Hard, soaking rain, for three days straight.
This video got passed around Facebook by all our Haiti friends. It's from Le Nouvelliste, a French-language Haitian newspaper.
The Grise River, in a suburb of Port-au-Prince called Croix des Missions, was overtopping its banks, taking away pieces of houses and businesses along its shore. Many poor people build on land that is probably not legally theirs, just because it's free and available, and that often happens in ravines, flood plains, and along riverbanks. When the waters rise, your house goes away.
After the storm, all three guards said they had had "water in their house", but I was unable to determine the extent. I didn't know enough words to get specifics.
Madame Meristel says her concrete roof is "preske fini", or almost finished. She and her five kiddos will not be under a tarp roof much longer. Click here to read about their roof beginning construction.
Last week four of her five kids were at my house for some reason, outside talking to our guard. I was overjoyed to run into them. I had met the 5-year-old Kristel before, but never the three boys, who I would guess are between 10 and 15. They all shook my hand and said their names.
One of the best parts is that all four had on school uniforms. Madame Meristel and her husband are undeniably very poor, but their kids are in school, which puts them above 50% of the children in this country. They are both employed, and they have a house that is (almost) not a tent. I'm not saying I want to trade places with her, or that we're going to stop helping them, but there is hope.