Blogger Shares Impressions of Haiti Earthquake

HAUT LIMBE, HAITI (January 15, 2010) – Editor’s note: The following is Thursday’s edited blog post from Janelle Peterson, a member of Faith Covenant Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, who is doing mission work in Haut-Limbe, Haiti. The community is roughly 20 kilometers west of Cap Haitien. Peterson is working under the support of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada (ECCC). Much of her ministry is assisting with the Eben-ezer Clinic, a partner with the ECCC. Peterson grew up attending Norquay Covenant Church in Norquay, Saskatchewan, and is a graduate of Covenant Bible College in Strathmore, Alberta. Her blog is “Peeling the Onion.”

By Janelle Peterson

It’s probably more frustrating being in the country right now rather than back in Canada. Digital phones are still not working so there is no communication. We haven’t had any electricity so we are relying on generators and batteries. Diesel prices are already rising and will continue to rise as resources dwindle (it all comes from Port-au-Prince).

The three clinic staff who went to Port right after the quake have returned with the person they were looking for. I’m not sure if he was injured or not. Dr. Manno (the local Haitian physician) left for Port this morning to find another person from the community that they were unable to find.

The past day and a half have been surreal. At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, I had just started my Creole class with my tutor. The building started to shake and my first thought was that a big truck or train was going by. That’s what it sounded like anyways. Then I remembered where I was and that there were no big trucks or trains to go by and that it was an earthquake. The desks in the classroom didn’t move, but we just kind of rocked back and forth for about 10 or 15 seconds. It ended and we resumed our class. A few minutes later, someone told us that it was worse in Port au Prince, but we had no idea of how bad.

I finished my class, went home to eat supper. Surprisingly, the electricity came on so I decided to watch a movie on my laptop because I did not want to go out in the rain again. That lasted for about an hour, then the power went out so I shut off my computer and tried to go to sleep. Around 9 p.m., Dr. Manno came up and told me that Port au Prince was destroyed. He said to “sleep” with the doors open so that I could get out quickly. He then said he was going over to the university to watch the news. I decided to go with him. Once there, I was able to call my family on a satellite phone to reassure them that I was okay. The cellphone network was down.

We watched the news for a while – there were only a few images coming in because it happened so close to sundown. We returned home and decided not to sleep in the main house under the concrete roof. Instead, we all (about 12 of us) moved mattresses to a room in the house that is being built behind the main house that has a corrugated metal roof. It was like a big slumber party – girls on one side, guys on the other – only I couldn’t understand all the Creole chatter.

I slept on and off through the night with my MP3 player going to drown out the sound of the rain on the metal roof. We woke up around 7 a.m., moved everything inside and started our day. There had been several aftershocks during the night.

As soon as I had showered (a very cold shower) and eaten breakfast I headed over to the James’ to get online and check emails, Facebook and just try to get some news coverage.  There were tons of messages to reply to and I was able to Skype with friends and family at home.

I pulled myself away from the computer later in the afternoon in order to do my Creole homework and go to class. After supper, we went to watch the news again. I’m kind of glad that I don’t have access to CNN all day. I think the reporters would drive me crazy. It’s amazing how ignorant people are of the realities of Haiti, pre-earthquake. I just wonder how long the attention will last on this country – probably not long enough, I fear. After the recovery effort is finished, reconstruction is going to take years.

It was a weird day here. Life just kind of went on for most people. Most people don’t have a radio so they haven’t heard any news. They definitely haven’t seen any of the pictures and they haven’t been able to communicate by phone. Everyone is sad, but I don’t know if anyone can really comprehend just how bad it really is. I think it will take several days, weeks even to know what this all means.

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