Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Getting to Haiti

I had the opportunity to visit Haiti, January 1st - January 9th 2016. Our trip all started in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with two professors from the agriculture department, two grad students from UNI, and 2 former agriculture students from Hawkeye, along with one current student at Hawkeye other than myself. While checking in at the airport, we were asked by the airport staff, “What was bringing us down to Haiti?” We basically told them we were going down for mission work.  Out of nowhere our baggage tags had priority stickers and our seats changed from the economy seats at the back of the plane to first class, without any of us even noticing. We went on with our interesting flight schedule and landed in Chicago, after spending a couple hours in the airport, we continued, looking out the window of the plane, looking down on Chicago at night was amazing. After leaving Chicago we continued to Charlotte, North Carolina, then to Miami where we spent the night.

The next day we finally landed in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Going through the Port Au Prince airport was an interesting experience in itself. I have never been approached by so many people wanting to know if I wanted to buy a souvenir or if we wanted help carrying our bags, but we were told no matter what to tell them no. When they asked for a tip, because they walked you to your car, you politely tell them to talk to your driver, eventually they will give up and leave you alone. Then began the 3 hour ride up the mountains to Cayman, where we were staying. Nothing prepares you for the roads in Haiti because as JeanJean says “Iowa has level B roads and Haiti has level Z roads.” We consider a gravel road in Iowa the worst roads to drive on, driving in Haiti makes our gravel roads feel like an interstate.  Roads in Haiti are dirt roads, with deep roots in the middle of the roads. Improving the roads in Haiti aren’t always a main concern because statistically only 2% of people have cars and 5% have a motorcycle.

After a long bumpy ride we finally arrived and settled. We then took a tour of the UCI Campus. After 10 years, UCI has improved, they now have a university, 7 nutrition centers, 2 worshiping centers, an elementary school, a medical center, and land for university gardens and animals. After our tour of the UCI campus we then went to take a tour of a local farmer’s crop land. The man showed us how he irrigated his gardens, he has raised rows of crops, then runs water through the channels, and he only waters his garden every 15 days.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Use Your Manure

This morning started by visiting the 5th and 6th graders again. We discussed the questions they had from yesterday but went more in depth with fertilizer and rabbits. We showed them how you can use manure, plant material but more so the sugarcane remains called bagaz and compost and how it is a good fertilizer source to the crops and the soil.

Animal raising is a very well known agriculture production practice here in Haiti. The only thing is that it is much different then how we do it in the United States. Two students today, one of them being myself discussed hog production and dairy goat production practices used in the United States. It was very informational because us teaching them  also gave the opportunity to learn more about how they raise these animals in there own country. Lots of questions were answered by us and the students. After the discussion they thanked us and we're very grateful for what we were doing to help them learn of what is possible for agricultural practices here that they can improve on and we were even grateful that we were able to make discussions and share ideas in production practices.

Next was a little bit of time spent teaching English to the third graders. We taught them some colors and walked them around outside asking them what objects were and how to say it in English and even what color the objects were. We even asked a few students what the word was in Kreyol. 

The campus has got a few goats. They showed us what they do with the goats and we even got to pick up them and hold them and pet them. They told us a way to preg check is they hold the mouth and nose shut and when they start shaking there leg then let go and if they pee then they are considered pregnant. 

After playing with the goats we got to walk on a hike to the bat caves up a mountain. Only a few of us though decided to walk farther into the cave and do some rock wall climbing to a different exit farther up the mountain. It was a very long walk where we saw a lot of bats in the caves and different places that voodoo drawings were drawn at. The hike was a short 4 miles there and back but it was a good workout to help work off my winter fat.

To end our day, we went to a church service. People from all over the town walk to church no matter what day. Religion is a big part in Haiti and they come to sing and pray and have a good time. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

From Garden to Market

We started out on January 4th by going to a market. Everything could be bought that was imaginable. All of the students tried to buy a goat for a family in need of one but when our group was seen as the buyers, the price jumped dramatically. Since the goat purchase was not successful, we decided to go to the local bakery and buy some delicious bread made by hand.

After the market, we took a walk to Saul's irrigation farm that the UCCC students also utilize and plant a variety of crops. The irrigation garden has a cement channel that runs through it with water that is pumped out and used for the growth of crops.

Teaching first graders after lunch was an experience that was quite something with words from the colors to the months to even a dance session.

Feeding centers in the neighborhood are used for children to get a bite to eat two times a week. There are eight of these centers and we got the opportunity to help hand out the food and then play some games with the children. Each child brings there own bowl and spoon and handed us the bowl to be filled with a rice and beans mixture that even though was very hot, it was consumed in a very quick manner.

January 5th began with a morning of teaching 5th and 6th graders about agriculture. This was even a very good experience to learn more about the agriculture used in Haiti. We then took a trip back to the irrigation gardens to take soil samples with the college students that was later tested. While at the gardens we got to hand plant leeks and to give some suggestions to the students on how to better the production of how they were growing the crops.

Later on in the evening we went out to the classroom with the students that pulled soil samples and tested them for N, P, K, and pH. We then described to the students the importance of the nutrients in the soil.

The long day ended with a few games of volleyball and then supper and a few more games with the students and some visitation time to learn more about them.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

On the "Level Z" to Haiti

I am a student from Hawkeye Community College studying abroad in Haiti for the week with 2 faculty members and 6 students and then 2 farmers traveling with us. We will be traveling from January 1,2016 to January 9, 2016.

Our trip has been a wonderful time starting with the airplane ride. When getting to the airport in Cedar Rapids, it was mentioned what we were doing and ended up on first class from Chicago all the way to Haiti. Our trip though was long because we spent a few hours in airports starting at Cedar Rapids then to Chicago, then out to Charlotte and then Miami before flying to Port Au Prince. After arriving in Haiti we took a 3 hour road trip up the mountains. According to JeanJean the roads here are not level B they are level Z. We got here and got settled in with a campus tour.

Today started out by going to a Sunday school with the little children and then a church session learning about god and his work preached by JeanJean himself. After that we took a bus that has been shortened out to a feeding center to hand out Christmas presents to little Haitian boys and girls. After the handing out of presents we took a drive out to an irrigated garden where the farmer was growing black beans and while we were there he was irrigating it with a pump and having trenches that he allowed the water to flow down. He mentioned that he irrigates the black beans every 8 days and plantains were every 15 days and it takes about 3 hours to irrigate his whole garden. During the dry season he grows black beans and in the wet season it is planted in corn. The beans take around 1 and a half months and corn takes 3 months before harvest.

The final thing done today was a delicious supper of chicken legs and some noodles made by JeanJean’s sister before finally taking a rest for the day under the shade tree talking to one another and having a guest named Nelson who used to be a voodoo witch doctor who is now converted over to the church.