Friday, February 4, 2011

The Journey to Nicaragua.

On Tuesday we ended up spending quite a while in Omaha due to bad weather in Houston (Our layover). So we read books and grabbed some food (Our last Taco bell).

It was about 1:40 pm when we left so we were a little late getting into Houston. In Houston, we still had a little bit of time so we were able to eat a little bit and fill up our water bottles. The flight to Managua was not very long, about three hours. The airport i Managua was pretty dead, but even still there were a few people outside to get us to pay them to help with our bags.

We got all our stuff and crossed the street to the hotel that we were going to stay at. It was pretty nice, it even had air-conditioning which we did not use (By 'we', i mean Jeff-Jeff and I), because we want to start getting use to this weather. We all explored the hotel grounds a little, since it was still early like around 10 or 11. So after we had found the pool, we came back and went to bed, because the pool was closed.

The morning came and we all woke up. we ate a good breakfast ad then took a short swim. Like in most 3rd world countries, everything is on a different schedule. So our bus showed up in the afternoon. The guys on the bus were a little surprise because Jeff-Jeff, Ryan and I, jumped onto the top of the bus and starting to help them pack the bagged, this way it didn't take quite as long. Once we were done packing, we all got on the bus and started the trip.

I decided that i would read the 'Hot Zone' book on the trip since it was going to be a really long trip. I fell asleep many times, but i think that was once it gotten dark. the seat that i was sitting in broke in the back and the seat wasn't really good, but what seat are good on these buses anyways??? eventually we stopped for dinner, which made me happy because earlier that day, we had eaten at Subway, which is okay, However: I'd rather eat native food. I had my favorite beans, rice and plantains; It was so good!!!!

After that, we got back on the bus and there were extra cushions from seats that had been broken in the past. In this location, we put some backpacks and laid on the cushions over the tires and slept there; I think it was me, Jeff-Jeff, Brittney Nunez, Aron, Ryan, and David Skua. It was alot of fun trying to sleep since the roads was just dirt and had many many potholes in it. So i think i didn't really fall asleep until about 3 and woke up around 7:30. We kept driving and driving; so we kept taking short naps and reading. At some point; most people went back to their seats. I stayed in the back and continued reading. The roads were very dry at this point so there was a lot of dust coming in through the cracks in the back of the bus. I fell asleep reading my book, so when i woke up and sat up everyone looked at me and laughed because i was covered in dust, expect for where my sunglasses were, It locked quite silly. Brittany ended up joining me, but she didn't get covered as me.

We came to a big river and had to take a ferry across. When we all got off the bus the local people gave me some funny looks. We crossed the river to a small own, then got back in the bus. They told us that it was a supposed to only take 30 minutes to get the the next town, Puerto Cabezas which would mean that we were only 3-8 hours from Francia; this however: was not the case. it ended up taking more than an hour. once we got there, Ryan and I were sent to a hardware store to but building supplies for the mission. Un fortunately, most of the stores were already closed at this time. It wasn't bad though, we got to practice our Spanish and explore the town a little bit. After doing that, we came back and Jeff joiner told us that we needed to go to another store, which was also closed, but oh well. Then we got to eat dinner. Galle Pinto (Rice and beans), Cabbage salad, and fried plantain chips (Really Good). After that we loaded the bus with all the supplies we had bought (mostly food that had been bought by the other members of our group). David and i tried to sleep in the back again; horrible idea, at least for me. the road was so bumpy and I'm to tall. We were laying on bags full of watermelons, pina and other things so the bumpy ride did not feel to good. I ended up curling up around some boxes and tried to to stay more on the backpacks that were in the back too. We eventually arrived in Francia ad the pastor cam down with his truck t pick all our stuff.

Over the past few days we done a quite a few different things. O Friday when we woke up, we worked in the new building moving materials around. we ate lunch later that day and after that we organized our stuff. Sabbath was great because we went to church and i got to help translate for children's sabbath school. I also translate the sermon for my group that i was sitting with. After church, we ate lunch then went on an hour hike to a river when we jumped in and went through the eddy's and holes. it was a lot of Fun. When we came back we ate dinner.

After dinner most of us stayed up for a while; then we all went to bed early. Our lights out/no noise is at 9 pm; we don't necessarily have to go to sleep, but in reality it's not that bad since there really not that much to do that late. Sunday, which was yesterday, we worked on the septic system, digging a drainage ditch (that was Chris Block, Jeff-Jeff and I) After Lunch, we took some siesta's, then sprayed the new building with a diesel/chemical mix that keeps termites and other bugs from getting in the wood. After Finishing that, Jeff-Jeff and had it all over, so we took a bath in the creek where the locals bathed. Many of them who were passing by, gave us some weird looks. When we cam back, we ate dinner then just read books and chilled. Some people studied, however it wasn't required because today is the first day of class. This morning, we went running and it was really fun; we race some guy on a bike up a hill and then kept running for about 20 minutes and then we turned around. We are now waiting for class to start, It goes from 10-12 and then from 2-4. So we'll have a good day of classes.

P.S- Oh, Yeah- our Internet isn't working well yet, they are trying to get the satellite working so that students can have more time, it should be up within the next week.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Haiti: God's Hands and Feet in Action

As many of you may know, I have been studying International Rescue & Relief at Union for the last few years (with the exception of last year when I was in Spain). In this program I have gained many skills; EMT, search and rescue, advanced EMT skills, etc. Over the years, this program has been developing and the greatest desire of any IRR student, is to be able practically use the skills learned in all the classes that we have to take here at Union (like Disaster management, HIV & emerging diseases, HAZMAT, etc.). So when the earthquake struck on January 12, I along with the rest of the students at Union, were shocked to hear that a large earthquake had struck the poor island nation of Haiti. Responding to the disaster, we were told by administration of International Rescue & Relief would be possible, but would also be delayed for about ten days due to safety and logistical issues. That was on Wednesday.
Friday, the whole group that was interested met to talk about USAR building markings and what to possibly expect in Haiti. Little did we know however... That night, one of the group coordinators, Aaron Kent called us and asked if we could be ready to leave on Sunday. I thought to myself as I was talking to him, "wow Sunday, we are getting to leave already? That’s crazy” So I said, "sure, I could be ready and I'm pretty sure that I have all my immunization and I have my passport as well". A group of students had been drafted as a tentative first group to respond. I was told that I would be a backup, just in case someone couldn't go. The group that was chosen was composed of 4 students: Ginger Hany, Sarah Sexton, Justin Woods and Pierre (who was the only student that speaks Creole). In the meeting we were briefed about some basic things: what we would need to bring, what to expect, immunizations, etc.

Saturday morning, we met again to finalize things. Unfortunately, Pierre was not able to go because of some issues with his passport, which meant that I was able to go. I felt bad for Pierre, because if I had been in his place I would have been devastated to not be able to go. So the rest of Saturday morning was spent in the meeting with the administration and IRR staff getting us ready to leave. After the meeting, we rushed around Lincoln and called up to clinics in Omaha to find the typhoid shot because we all needed it. That was just crazy, but as we were about to see, God was beginning to move in awesome and amazing (sweet nif there you go Justin, I said it online) ways.

Justin, Sarah and I feverishly ran around Lincoln trying to find a clinic or somewhere that we could get the typhoid shot. We went to LinCare a nearby clinic, because a man that Sarah worked for suggested it as an option. When we got there he was there talking to the clinic staff. Unfortunately, they did not have the shot and neither did any of the other places he could think of. So we deliberated about what to do next; the idea of going to the travel clinic where Justin had called earlier came to mind. So even though they had said no, because the nurse responsible for giving those immunizations was gone, we decided that we'd give it a try and see what happened. We arrived a little before they were about to close and were told to wait. We were sitting there for what seemed like an eternity. Sarah turned to me and asked if she should go ask; we were both thinking that they were going to tell us no, that we couldn't get the shot. Fortunately, God was looking out for us, and not too much long after that, we were told that we could get the shot and that if there was anyone else in our group, that they needed to get there ASAP. So we called Ginger and told her to get there as soon as she could because the clinic was about to close for the day. She got in a car that minute and was on her way. We filled out some paperwork as we were waiting, payed for the shot and then got the shot. Ginger arrived and fortunately they were willing to give her the shot. The whole staff there was very encouraging; they thought that what we were doing was such a great thing. After that, we went back to Union to eat lunch and spend some final hours with our friends.

Saturday night, we went back over to IRR and packed up things. The school nurse had also drafted up immunization cards for us and she had reviewed them thoroughly. She told me that I needed a Hep A booster so I got it that night also. After packing, Justin and I went to Walmart to get some last things we needed, then headed back to pack up our personal gear. That night was crazy. I packed up my stuff and then went to Justin’s to put everything together and to sleep. Unfortunately, Justin took a long time to pack and so we both ended up staying up forever: me on the phone and the Internet talking, and him packing and watching movies and such. Lol. I love you Justin, you are really funny man.

In the morning, we woke up and went to the IRR building and the administration and some other people we had never seen before prayed with us and then wished us well as we departed. Tara was there as well to say goodbye (she is such an amazing girlfriend). We drove to the airport and checked in; unfortunately we had to drain our water bottles and couldn’t take our stoves or gas (because of TSA regulations); which meant that a lot of the food we were taking (to be self sufficient), we couldn’t eat. We went through security and then got on our plane headed to Houston. In Houston, we didn’t have much time to get to the next plane headed for Fort Lauderdale. Once we got to Fort Lauderdale, we drove around to find a Home Depot and food before heading to the hotel where the rest of the ACTS Worldrelief group was staying.
We went to Home Depot, because David Canther had called us on Sunday, enroute to Fort Lauderdale to tell us that our assignment had been changed from working in a hospital/orphanage, to doing some search and rescue work. So we scrounged together what we could find. Home Depot is not really the best place to find rescue equipment. There range of ropes, carbineer’s and pulleys is very limited. We ended up not buying any pulleys, because the ones they had weren’t acceptable for rescue work. We ended up buying some D-rings a rope, a couple of hardcore shovels and some hard hats. We went to a few other stores, just to find out if we could find some better equipment. Unfortunately, since most stores were already closed and some wouldn’t be open the next day because of Martin Luther King Day, we weren’t able to find exactly what we wanted.

After that, we ended up going to Sweet Tomatoes and had some great food before going to the hotel. After going to the hotel, we decided to get some more food since a majority of the food we had packed we wouldn’t be able to use because we weren’t able to take our stoves. The stores in Florida are really awesome and they have a wide variety of precooked foods. We ended up buying mostly granola bars and precooked beans (we called them “squeezy beans”). After that, we took the food back to the hotel and then Justin and I raced the carts back to the store. When we came back, we knocked out and woke up early the next morning to eat breakfast and meet with the ACTs group. Justin and I met the Haitian rapper, JuanG or whatever his name is; he was a pretty cool guy. He helped to fund quite a few things as well as helped to organize things with the Haitian government (or what’s left of it).

After breakfast, we packed up and drove with the rest of the group to Opa Locka airport (Turnberry Aviation). David Canther is an amazing person; God has really used him as a great instrument to do His work. The biggest thing to remember when working with him, however, is that you have to be flexible; (which was one of his points) flexible to do whatever God wants wills. We were broken into groups; the IRR group was to be team 2, on the second flight to Port-Au-Prince. To get there, the officials of ACTS were making calls and receiving substantial donations from many people so that we could charter flights out of the country. As the day went by, we began to see God move in crazy and amazing ways. David Canther and the rest of the first group left and the rest of us were left and God continued to show us how amazing He is really is. When people say that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (as well as the hills), its really true. So many people came out of the woodwork wanting to help in any way they could. Some guy showed up during the day with a bunch of water to donate. At this point, we weren’t sure exactly when we were going to be leaving just because of some logistical issues. This guy had some friends that were willing to donate huge sums of money; even to fund a flight on a 737(that would be $70,000) so that the entire group could go down at once. Unfortunately, the US Airforce wasn’t going to give ground clearance to more widebody planes that day, so we were forced to go down in smaller groups, of 13 people, in leer jets for around $30,000 a flight

The hanger at Opa Locka Airport we waited at on Monday

The group waiting to leave from Opa Locka

Our group left around 5:30 pm that day after spending a day sitting in the hanger getting to know the rest of our group. We met a lady, Jainey, who had a search and rescue dog, trained to sniff out live and dead people. His name was Zeus(He is an amazing who we all love so much. He also weighs 130 lbs.). We climbed into the leer jet after a day of just sitting around, getting anxious and wanting to leave the whole time. It was just crazy, we flew in a leer jet!! The guy that donated the plane came on, he was some really cool, rich, Jewish guy. He was amazed to see Zeus sleeping on the floor of his leer jet.

Theres the leer jet we flew in!!

Zeus bored/asleep, waiting to leave.

John Thomas and I sitting at the table in the back.

Ginger, Justin and Sarah excited to finally be leaving

After leaving Opa Locka, we flew to Port Au Prince, which should have been a fairly short flight, but we were forced to circle the airport for over an hour because there were so many planes in the air. It took a while for us to get clearance to land, but eventually, we got clearance to land. Once we landed, we had to unload the plane; it was so loaded down, so it took a really long time to get out onto the ground. Once we got out and got our stuff together, we found out that we were going to have to sleep at the airport till the morning, because the U.S. military had started a curfew throughout the city.

The scene at the airport was amazing. There were planes from around the world; hundreds or thousands of people, coming together to help the people in Haiti. Seeing that just amazed me and showed me God's love in a way. The people were there to be the hands and feet of God, even if they didn't realize it. So, we slept about 20 yards from where the huge air force transports were parking that night. It was just crazy, because Justin and I slept outside of the tents on our thermarests with toilet paper earplugs in our ears and with the crazy air from the engines of these huge planes blowing grass and cochroaches at us. Its kind of funny, but it wasn't too bad, except for waking up every couple hours.

This is our leer jet next to all the military transports

Unloading/organizing supplies at the Port Au Prince Airport

In the morning, waking up to the Haitian sunrise was kind of neat to see. After we woke up, some people went to see if they could get us transport to the hospital. Eventually they found a dump truck for us to put our stuff into and then finally headed to the hospital.
Sitting in the dump truck, getting ready to leave to the hospital

Leaving the hospital finally!!

Before coming to Haiti, I anticipated the worst: dead bodies in the streets, all the buildings lying in heaps of rubble, essentially a war zone. This is not what I saw when we first arrived. I realize that we did not go to the worst sections affect by the earthquake, but I also think that the news media tends to exaggerate things very often (that’s not to say that the situation in Haiti isn’t bad, because it definitely is). I also think that because I have seen large-scale destruction before (like the two times that I went to Mississippi to help with relief and reconstruction work), I think that I have somewhat been desensitized, (as bad as that may sound) to seeing some of these kinds of things. The drive to the hospital was about 30 to 45 minutes long, and along the way we saw a body in the street as well as many, many buildings that were either partially destroyed, or completely pancaked to the ground.

On our way!!
One of our first real views of destruction

More on the way to the hospital
People camping in park along the way

People waiting in line for gas

Once we arrived at the hospital, we put our stuff down in a room where we were going to sleep and then were informed that we were going to start working in about an hour. So we got equipment together and then headed out with a group of Haitian nationals on a search and rescue mission. The first building that we went to, was a multi-level building that half of the building had almost completely collapsed and the other half had had not collapsed completely, but the bottom was damaged pretty bad; a couple levels were smashed together and a body was partially hanging out. This day was trying, just because we walked around all Carrefour, the suburb where the hospital is. The stories the family members would tell were of how they had heard their loved ones either the night before or a few days before. It was just sad, because Zeus would search the rubble, smelling out to see whether or not there was any life present. Unfortunately, Zeus never found any life in any of the spots where searched. At one house, the house of a lady that was leading us around, we met with a Colombian Search and Rescue group, which was amazing because I never thought that I would have a chance to use my skills of Spanish, but little did I know; God can use you in ways you never know as long as you are willing to let Him lead your life.
Arriving at the first building

The first building

This used to be a 6 story house

This was a school where we found two dogs trapped

Looking up at the hills

The rest of the day was spent searching, unfortunately, we never found anyone alive. When we searched a school, that had mostly collapsed and was leaning over threatening to fall over, we didn’t find any children, but two dogs were rescued; the Colombians actually went under part of the school and we helped them get the dogs out. After the school and a few other places, we headed back to the hospital. It was sort of funny, just because we were walking around with the Haitians, who were supposed to be our guides to the city, but we got lost a few times and ended up walking for a very long time; eventually we reached the hospital. It was sort of funny, just because we were walking around with the Haitians, who were supposed to be our guides to the city, but we got lost a few times and ended up walking a lot. After resting a bit, we went downstairs and organized some a medical supplies room.
Looking up from hospital

The rest of our time in Haiti was spent working at the hospital. I will tell you all more about it in the next post.

Well I found a couple spare minutes, so I guess that I'll continue my story.

The next few days were spent working at the hospital during whatever, whenever it was needed.
At around 6 am the next day, we woke up to the building shaking and people running to get out of the room that we were sleeping in. Some doctors in the group panicked so much that they ran out onto the roof and jumped to the ground; it’s a wonder that they didn’t injure themselves. The patients downstairs were so frightened by the aftershock that they ran outside, not even caring that they might worsen their injuries in their rush to get outside. The aftershock was very short; it was over in a few seconds. As soon as the aftershock was over, David Canther assigned us to asses the structural stability of the building. After a quick meeting with him, we were told by John Thomas to break into groups of two and walk around the building and asses each crack. This was a fun task; Gloria, a videographer that has done work with IRR in the past, followed us around(which at first was kind of annoying, but I realize its her job and dealing with the media is something that we have been trained to do, so after a while, it became a little more routine, thanks Gloria, you’re awesome.) We walked around the whole hospital. Looking at the cracks in the structure and rating them on a scale from one to ten. After inspecting the building and deeming it structurally sound, we had a quick meeting with the other members of the group to inform them of our findings. There were a few additional aftershocks this day and it seemed like every time or almost every time after one would happen, we would have to reassess the cracks in the building. I'm not sure if it was that day or a different one, but a few official structural engineers visited the hospital to officially assess the building's structural integrity. They all reported that the building was in great shape and as we had previously said, there was no real threat to the patients or hospital staff.
View from upstairs(Adventist Hospital)

After the meeting, the four of us decided that we would work in triage for the morning. This was a really fun job. Getting to help treat minor injuries and processing patients(which was mostly my job). Asking them questions and filling out forms. What an experience. It was just me, justin and a few Haitian translator dudes for a while. So we would ask them there names, age, where they lived and what was wrong. The cool thing was that even though they were speaking in Creole or French, I could understand a little of what they were saying(I kind of want to take French now just to add another language to my skill set). We worked in triage for a while and then the French medical corps came to assist us. The French medical corps is sweet nif, seriously. (more to come this weekend) After that, we were involved with many different things: transporting patients, directing patient traffic, etc... Eventually, after doing that kind of stuff for a while and helping Sarah with an IV, two of the residents, Eli and Jason called us, to kind of get a crash-course in casting. So we kind of assisted them in casting this lady's leg. We sort of made her the three of ours' patient. We stayed with her for a couple hours; not only when the doctors were casting, but also when they put her arm in a sling and then tried to put her dislocated arm back into her shoulder without breaking it. It was really a cool experience, and because Sarah can speak french, we could sort of communicate with her. For some reason or another, the lady seemed to love me and kept calling me her friend. Since Sarah was already holding the ladys one hand, I took the other. The lady just seemed to hold my arm tight; not wanting to let go. When the doctors put her arm back into the socket, both Sarah and I had to help restrain her. Even though it caused her pain, she appreciated that we were there, restraining her and just letting her know that we cared. After that, we had to wait for radiology to come over so that she could get another set of X-rays to verify that her arm had gone back in correctly. We waited forever and ever; eventually, we left to attend the nightly hospital meeting because radiology had not notified us, so we figured that a few minutes wouldn't hurt. So after the meeting, we returned to find out that our patient still had not been sent to radiology. So we talked to the radiology staff again and ended up kind of arguing with the lady in charge about whether or not our patient had gotten her new X-rays. Eventually, we proved to the lady in charge that our patient still needed the second set of X-rays and had not received them yet; she told us we would have to wait a little longer, so we stayed with our patient a little longer(her room was air-conditioned, so we liked staying in their with her). Eventually radiology returned for her, so Justin and I carried her over on a stretcher and left her with them. After transferring care to radiology, we headed upstairs to eat and settle down for the night.
Another one of our nightly meetings
The next day, wednesday, we were again, assigned to assess the building a few more times; seeing that we experienced a few more aftershocks. During the morning, Justin, Sarah and I were assigned to getting patients from outside in the "tent-city" in front of the hospital as well as moving patients to post-op. We retrieved a few patients and were also told that we were to retrieve a the body of a dead women who had died out in the camp(probably during the night). When we went to find her, but couldn't find her because she had probably been moved.

Another hostpial meeting, with the whole group

Later in the day, after taking a short break, we went through the tent-city giving out water with O.R.S.(Oral Rehydration Salt) packets in it to dehydrated patients and patients under speacil care. Going through the tent-city was crazy; there were so many people!! For each patient of course, there was a family of four or more people. So there were several hundred people living around the hospital. In our journey through the tent-city, we saw our patient from the night before; she very happy to see us again.

After doing that, John told Justin and I that we needed to work on a few things: open a crate that contained an autoclave that Loma Linda had donated, get the autoclave into the sterilization room in the OR and get it hooked up and running. This took quite some time; first we opened teh crate, which wasn't that bad, just had to unscrew the boards off. Then we had to figure out we were going to wire it to the wall, because it ended up being run off 220, and normal appliances in Haiti run off of 110. So with the help of some of the Haitians there, found some wires to use to wire it into the same box as the air conditioner in the sterilization room. After figuring that out, we tied two pieces of our rope together and dragged the autoclave in to the sterilzation room on a sled of sorts(the bottom piece of the crate). Once in the OR we hooked up the autoclave to the same box as the the air-conditioner and got it to run, but not without turning the air-conditioner off, because the wires would get really hot when we ran both at the same time.

After getting it to work, Sarah recruited us to help her clean the sterilization room and the doctors told us that we were going to be running the sterilization process as well. So after a few hours of cleaning the room out of old supplies that probably couldn't be used anymore, we started washing instruments and sterilizing them in the autoclave(when we could get it to work properly). The autoclave was from the nineteen seventies and probably hadn't been used in quite some time; so we had to kind of rig it so that it would work. Eventually we got it running "properly", but every time the power would go off, we would be stuck with instruments inside the autoclave and couldn't get them out until the power came back on. The three of us worked until about 10:30, 10:45 in that sterilization room; it was crazy because we were so tired and really wanted to sleep. Finally a group replaced us and we were allowed to go to bed.
Justin tired, but smiling
Sarah smiling

The next day, when we arrived in the sterilization room, we were met by a nurse, Peg, who taking over of the OR since Julie was getting ready to leave. So we showed her how the autoclave worked, since it was kind of ghetto and didn't work normally. Then she showed us how things in sterilization rooms kind of works in the states. Anyway, so we worked with her for the day in the OR. During that day, we worked in the sterilization room all day. It was an interesting day to say the least however; some aftershocks came through the OR it was either that day or the previous day.
Inside our sterilization room
What a mess

Speaking of aftershocks... a rumor of a potential large earthquake was being circulated by an unknown source throughout not only the hospital, but most of Port-au-Prince. So, it was either because of this or some other unknown reason, that the French security forces who usually were posted at the gate of the hospital were not there. Dr. Laura Asher as well as John went to town to do logistical things; such as find out if they could get flights out of the country. Anyway, Dr. Laura went to the U.N., the U.S. militray as well as the French military to find out if we could get some kind of security force back at the hospital, but to no avail; no one would come. Back at the hospital, the rumor was circulating around and people were getting worried. So many people, besides those who were already scheduling to leave that day, were packing up their things to leave. Our group was kind of out of the loop on the story, and so when we talked to David Canther around lunch time; he asked us if we were staying and we said yeah, like it was nothing. He said, " I knew I could count on you IRR people" or something like that, but we had no idea what he was talking about. When we returned to the OR, there was an emergency meeting called for all OR staff. We were informed of the story and then Dr. Carlson told us that basically, he was ready to die and that we needed to make sure of where we were with God and that we needed to think about the situation that we were in. Justin, Sarah and I all joked about it, but we all knew deep down in our hearts that we were where God wanted us, doing His work. Being there made us all realize that as Christian medical professionals, it is our job to stay with the patients and if necessary die with them. Sure, personal safety is a must, but what do you do when your patient is missing a limb or is simply unable to move themselves out of the building. Sure you try to remove them as well as yourself from the building(in a real dangerous situation), however when for example, the building would shake it was crucial for us to not show fear when around patients and to stay by their side to comfort them. We continued the rest of the day, in spite of the rumorworking in the OR, washing and sterilizing instruments for the doctors. The whole OR staff was so friendly and encouraging. We learned so much from them. It was cool; they would tell us what certain instruments were for as well as allowed us to watch a few surgeries and explain the X-rays to us as well as explaining the procedures being used.

So after work, we went upstairs and went to bed. Not too long after going to bed, John woke us up and told us that we had 30 minutes to get our stuff together and leave. So we got our things together(or so we thought) and hopped into the back of a truck. We drove through Port-au-Prince in the dark to the airport, where we filled out evacuation loans and then got on board a C-17 Air Force transport and flew to Sanford Airport outside of Orlando, Florida.
Inside the C-17

Looking down out of the C-17
Our ride home a C-17

The rest of the story was simply us getting back to school. We have been back in school for a few weeks now. It was kind of hard at first; having to catch up with the homework we missed and such. Right before leaving Florida to return to school, I learned that the Belize mission trip group had decided to go to Haiti instead of going to Belize. Unfortunately, I had given up my place before the earthquake struck Haiti, because I wasn't able to raise any money. So I asked around here at school to see if there was anyway I could go back to Haiti, during spring break. Eventually, I was told that if I got $800 dollars by Friday, the fifth, that I could go. So somehow, God got me the money so that I could at least be in the tenative group. I still have $650 dollars left to raise, but I am sure that God will get it for me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Que Ha Pasado

So, I know that I haven't written in a very, very, very long time. It's not that I did not want to, its just that I got completely caught up in life here at CAS. Seriously it is so hard to believe that I have been here since the middle of September; how long is that? Like almost 5 months and there are only about 4 left. That is just crazy to think about. In that there are only 4 months left, I am going crazy. Sure, I do miss home, there are so many things that I wish they had over here, but at the same time, I love Spain. What I am experiencing over here is definitely a major blessing from God. So, because I have not written in a while, I will fill you all in on what has been going on over the last 5 months. During the first quarter, or trimestre, I was in Grupo B, which is the intermediate group which is great, I mean, I did not really realize this at first, but think about this, I took 2 years of highschool spanish, two years!! Thats not very much compared to everyone else here. A lot of them took spanish in highschool, and have also taken some in college. To be at the same level, above, or a little bit below them with just this, well for me, its amazing. God has seriously blessed me with this gift. Of course, because I am not a native speaker, my spanish will never be completely perfect, but that doesn't mean that I can't continue to make myself better, and continue to use it in whatever way God shows me. One thing that I do have, that a lot of other kids here don't however, is that I have had many life experiences, where I have simply been in the right place at the right time, and Ive had to use the spanish that I know. For example, I went to Guatemala for a summer and lived there with a Guatemalan family, they didn't speak english. The next spring, I went to La Republica Dominicana, and had to translate for church, because no one else would do it(this situation, it was kind of an obligation that I had to fulfill). Then, when I went to Peru, I helped translate with my uncle Paul in a clinic in Calca, un pueblo pequeño in the Sacred Valle. So, anyway, I am very blessed by God, that is what I have realized. Anyway, back to what has been going on these past months. Seeing that I cannot remember when everything happened specifically last trimestre, I am going to summarize it, and try my best to remember things. We got to go on an awesome trip to the southern part of spain, Andalucia, to Granada, Gibraltar, Marruecos, Marbella, Sevilla and Cordoba. Im not sure if we went anywhere else, you see my memory is failing me. Anyway, you probably have seen pictures on Facebook if you have looked. For those of you that haven't they are there, mostly from other people just tagging me, because I am horrible at remembering to take pics, I just want to do stuff, and not take them. So yeah, that was an awesome trip, got to go to Africa, I know, its only Marruecos, but its still Africa. So yeah, Andalucia is really cool, like the mountains there are really awesome, and I hope that someday, maybe while Im still here that I get to go back. Other than that, and Christmas vacation, I haven't had the opportunity to travel very much. Just going to Valencia, almost every week, has been enough for me. Just to experience the culture here, is enough for me. I have made so many friends also, and have gotten to know my roomate, Juan Carlos pretty well. He is so funny, sometimes he will just randomly start talking to me in Portuguese because he just forgets, and then Ill be looking at him, like what are you saying, and then he will be like, oh sorry Jeff, I was talking in Portuguese, wasnt I? Its pretty funny actually. During the last trimestre, some more Portuguese and Brazilians came to CAS as volunteers, so now, another Brazilian and one Portuguese are always in my room. Wesley and Ricardo, they are so cool, seriously crazy though. Oh, I think it was before the trip to Andalucia, but Im not quite sure, we went on a campout thing to this camp called Entrepeñas which is actually near Madrid, kind of. There, was where I really got to know a lot more people from the school, and from the church, just cuz a lot of the youth from the church and pretty much all the internos go too, so it was really fun. It kind of reminded me of highschool, like bible retreat. So yeah, I became friends with John Mejia, Michelle Modad, Elena Acosta, and a whole lot of other people. Those people were the only people that i met however who really speak english though, seeing that they are Americans. John, is a theology student here, and is from Minnesota(well he says that he's from Cali) anyway, Michelle is a menina and she is from Missouri, and Elena is a student at Southern who is working as an sm here this year, teaching english. So yeah, with all these people, and many more, I have been enjoying Spain. Going to the beach, at least once a month, and even though this sounds slightly crazy, going swimming, at least once a month. Another thing that I started doing last quarter, was going bouldering at least once a week, when I can in Valencia, at Vents. Its a salon de bulder or Rocodromo connected to a sweet little climbing shop. So that has defenitely been a great way to relieve stress, and to just have fun.
Now, onto Christmas Vacation... That was defenitely a wonderful experience; it was crazy, but it was defenitely really awesome. I won't go into great detail about everything about that, but I will just tell you that travelling through Europe with good friend, and with Tara, the love of my life, it was defenitely, and seriously so cool. Stayed at school until the last day pretty much that we were allowed to, just because Tara wasnt getting here until the 21st, so we left here on the 19th, and went to Madrid where we met here on the 21st. I was pretty much with John in Madrid. We stayed in a hostal in the city, near the center, which was really awesome, and pretty high tech I thought. Went to church on saturday, its the church where a lot of guys from CAS go, its their home church. Eder, Josue, Dani, Sergio, and theres probably someone that I am forgetting. After church, we got a ride to Eder's house, with some really important dude from Telefonica, which some of you may recognize because it has holdings in Central America, anyway, sorry thats pretty random. Then went to his house, ate lunch, and then he toured us around the city. To be continued....

Monday, September 22, 2008

La Empieza De Un Año Escolar

So, I've been here in this crazy country now for almost a week. Its been crazy since I got here; I like it a lot though. Last Sunday, I got up at like 7 am, and my parents drove me down to San Francisco; that was a humbling experience. Realizing how much my parents really love me, and how much they will miss me, and I will miss them. So, I got on the first plane, bound for Toronto, Canada. This flight wasn't too bad; I got to watch some movies, and I had an aisle seat also. As soon as I got to Toronto, I had to hurry to my next flight; it was already boarding when I got there. So, I got on it and we left Toronto for Madrid, España. We had the screens in the back of the seats once again, so I watched more movies, slept and listened to music. In the late morning, I got to Madrid. Now, I had been praying that nothing would happen to my luggage, because I had heard that people's luggage gets lost a lot. So, when I got to Madrid, I went by the luggage carousel to see if my bags were there. I saw only one bag, so I was kind of worried; worried that it might not get on the other plane, or that my other bag was lost, and hadn't made it to Spain. So, I was praying all day that nothing would bad happen. I had several hours to rest and relax in the airport, waiting for my next flight, to Valencia. It was so hard, because there wasn't much to do there, and I had almost the whole day there. I didn't want to go to sleep, because I had my computer, and other important things, and didn't travel with anyone. So I had to watch all my stuff. Finally, came the time when my plane left for Valencia. This flight was really bad; I fell asleep, and woke up by the plane landing. The pilot was not good at landing, obviously. So, I got off the plane, and headed inside; to find that the bag that I saw in Madrid, was not there. I talked to the SpanAir people and they told me that they would find it and I would get it within a couple days. Now, I got here, on Tuesday; they didn't find the bags until Friday!! Fortunately I had enough clothes in my backpacks to last me for a little while. All this time, I never stopped praying. Praying for my bags to be found, so that I wouldn't have to worry about them. And of course, God found my bags, and got them here, to me.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Climbing

So, my friend Stefan and I wanted to do some climbing this summer. So, my friend Stefan and i were like, okay, we just have to figure out when we can go and do some major climbs. So, after a while, we decided that we would climb Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. When we consulted our parents however, they were not so encouraging. Our moms really didn't like the idea of letting us go and climb without any one else. Anyway, Stefan's mom decided that to prove ourselves, that we needed to go climbing at Lovers Leap at least once so that we could get more multi-pitch climbing under our belts. So, that is what we did. For me, it was crazy, because I had never done any mulit-pitch or trad climbing before, so, in a way, I was glad that we went to Lovers Leap to practice. The climb was fun, that is for sure. It took us a lot longer than we thought it should've.

So, the next week, we embarked on our adventure. We drove up to Tahoe, and started down 395, down the Eastern Sierras, which were so amazing!! It is amazing that people can look at Mountains like those, and not realize that God exists. Anyway, we drove down to Lone Pine, CA. We went to the Ranger Station to pick up our permit and bear canisters. We were in for a surprise there, however. One that most of you probably don't want to know about. In the Whitney area, they require that overnight backpackers carry human waste containers. Its kind of dumb if you ask me. So, Stefan and I had these bags that we had to carry, and we had to go to the bathroom in them. They had this odor cutting powder in them too, but it sure didn't help much. Anyway, that was kind of a drag, but we were there to climb, so we weren't too worried about it.

So, we hiked in that night, starting at about 8,300 ft at the Whitney Portal Store. We hiked for like maybe 4 hours, up to Upper Boyscout Lake. That was some hike, I mean, we thought that we'd be able to get to Iceburg Lake before dark, and we probably would have, but we decided to save some energy for the next day. So we got up the next day, and started hiking from Upper Boyscout Lake, to Iceburg Lake, and then, to the bottom of the climb. That hike was probably one of the hardest that Stefan and I have ever done. On the way there, we were complaining about how long the hike was; we just wanted to start climbing.

So the climb itself was really fun. It was pretty easy too. Stefan led the entire climb, but still, it wasn't too bad, even for him. It was around 10 pitches. It took us so long: 9 hours. This was partly because we stopped to eat and checked the guide book out quite a bit, to make sure that we stayed on route. We finally reached the top, and were trying to figure out how long it was going to take us to get down. Being on the top of that mountain, was so amazing. We were once again reminded of how big God really is.

We hiked back, in the dark; the moon was out, and we had our headlamps, but coming down the Mountaineers Route, in the dark, without ice axes and crampons, was very difficult. We got through it though, with God's help. We got back at about midnight and ate some bagels, and then went to bed. We got up the next morning, and while Stefan was still asleep, I attempted to call my parents, and Tara, because when we were on the top of the mountain, neither of our phones were working. So, I started praying that my phone would work that morning; I called both my parents, and Tara several times, and finally got through to Tara (who, is my amazing girlfriend, who I love so much, by the way.). I only got to talk to her for a few minutes though, before the connection went out again. So, after that, we hiked down the trail, and drove back to Sacramento. All in all, it was an awesome climb, and an amazing adventure. It took us 19 hours total; which was insane.