Friday, May 3, 2013
Yon Ayisyen, Yon Pye Bwe One Person, One Tree
Today is a national holiday. Emanuel, who teaches with me, says we will not have class and no one will go to work. In my bed, long before it is light, I hear the men singing as they walk to their farms. It is a call and response song that is far away and then right beneath my window and then fades as it goes on down the road. I am sorry when I can no longer hear it.
I know that many people work on holidays. The men, who sing, must take care of their crops and the midwives in the hospital, St Thereese and the midwives, far up into the mountains and the mothers washing school uniforms. They work on this holiday and remember workers rights; international efforts to increase minimum wage and make work places healthy and safe.
In the United States, where I was born, it is a day when children hang small baskets of flowers on door knobs to surprise friends and neighbors. It is also a time for May Pole dancing; a lost art of weaving brightly covered ribbon aroudnd a pole in a dance on the schoolyards of one room school houses across the country. May first is a day to celebrate the flowers of spring.
Emanuel tells me that it is a day to celebrate to celebrate farms and the crops and that people go outside to dance and eat and pick flowers.
I can see that people are walking about with small trees in black plastic wrappers. People are playing music and hundreds of trees are being given away. It was then that I learned that the president had declared this the Year of the Environment for Haiti and that on this day they were going to plant 1.2 million trees. There are baby trees everywhere.
In the field where we walk, there are hundreds of holes dug beside the many paths.
When I look in the holes, the dirt is rich and black and moist; a perfect place for a tree. Later the school teacher asks to take our photo by the tree project and we happily agree.
The next day, I travel by pink jeep to one of the sixteen mobile clinic sites, that are located far out into the countryside. The land becomes increasingly bare, dry and void of all vegetation. They say that 98% of Haiti was once covered with multi-layered hardwood trees as well as fruits and nuts and medicinal plants. We drive for a long time, the dust from the road choking us and filling our hair and eyes with what was left of this once great forested land. and the soil that gave it life. The women who walk the road with their babies, things to sell and water jugs are thin and struggling. We drive and they walk and meet at a small, deserted house that serves as the mobile clinic site. I can not imagine how they farmed there or how they would ever get to a hospital in an emergency. We pass two funeral processions. There are rows of school children walking with their teachers in front of a casket carried by men who are followed by the women. They said an old matrone had died. I ask who will take her place and they shrug. I ask if they will then go to the hospital even as I know how foolish the question is.
I talk about how they might prevent a postpartum haemorrage in the most basic ways I know - pee often, breast feed right away, don't push till you feel the urge, never pull on the placenta. They listen but they are hungry and they live in a dry, waterless place far from town; a place that can not grow food because the tress were all cut down and there is not enough rain.
They walk a long way to get to the once a month clinic. They walk miles to get water from the pump. They accept that women die and are carried down the road, in a procession led by school children. A woman shrugs and laughs as a toddler reaches for a breast above her lap already full of a new baby growing inside her.
A small boy holds a tree from yesterday's tree planting holiday. Thirty to forty million tress are cut each year for firewood. The smoke of the charcoal maker drifts through the windows. I watch the small boy and his tree. I look out at his place in the world and wonder how this tree and this boy can survive. He is hungry and is not in school. He holds tightly to this tree before beginning his slow climb up the mountainside with his mother.
One tree, one person. Late that evening it rains and I think of the one small tree in the boy's arms. and his mother and the baby inside her and of all the 1.2 million trees planted and how the rain is watering them. Espwa (hope)
The placenta is called the tree of life. When you lay it out and look at it you can see the rich deep roots and branches that nourished the baby; connecting one life to another; one generation to the next. One person, one tree for Haiti.