Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thoughts & Conversation in the Woods of Wellfleet

It was treacherous walking through the National Seashore to Long Pond, above, and Dyer Pond yesterday. Icy paths, snowdrifts …

ME: I can’t remember a year when snow on the ground has lasted this long. (The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Impossible to gaze off into the distance and not have Robert Frost pop into one’s head. It’s cold. My feet are cold. Not a Nordic type like you, I forgot to wear wool socks and now must suffer the consequences. After sending a contribution to Haiti through the Red Cross, it feels good to turn off the television and get outside. What a difference a day makes. The Prime Minister of Haiti estimates losses at over 100,000. Mother Nature can bring disaster, too. I’m taking such long strides, longer than usual.) How fortunate we are to live in a place not subject to earthquakes! (It feels good to walk. Past the puddle where a green frog hangs out in summer. No frog today. Just a frozen puddle. Dyer Pond is white, not blue, covered with an inch of fresh snow. Not as lovely as usual, just stark beauty and extreme silence, so different from the chaos in Port-au-Prince.) Let’s take the quicker way back, past Long Pond. (A paved road to revive my toes, numb by now.)

SVEN: Why?

ME: My feet are cold!

SVEN: Okay by me.

ME: Wellfleet has a connection to Haiti, did you know? That international music group, students who went down with Lisa Brown? (I hope no one from Wellfleet was present during the earthquake!) How about a little history lesson on Haiti?

SVEN: It used to be a French colony. The slave Toussaint L’Ouverture led a revolt.

ME: Wild name! (How beautiful these woods are!)

SVEN: Papa Doc became the dictator in the early 1950s. Then there was Baby Doc. They pronounce it “Ha-i-te.”

ME: (If only our summer guests could see Wellfleet in winter!) Why was it called Haiti?

SVEN: Not sure. We’ll have to Google it when we get home. You know, the Caribbean colonies made men rich.

ME: Because of the sugar cane, right? (Also white, like snow. Sugar, honey, honey. You are my candy girl …. What silliness we retain as teenagers!) How different Long Pond looks in the snow.

SVEN: Port-au-Prince was a buccaneer town. Foreigners made fortunes there.

ME: (The only fortune anyone made in Wellfleet was bananas. Unusual foodstuff + eager consumers = $$$)

SVEN: Remember that exhibit on the slave trade we saw in France?

ME: I do. Look! People skating. Think it’s safe to walk on? (Wonder why there have been so few reservations for summer? When is this recession going to end?)

SVEN: It’s really a pleasure to go skating on ice like this. In Sweden, I used to skate all the time. You can go for miles and miles.

And off he goes, on foot, to chat with one of two ice-skaters, doing pirouettes on the frozen pond ...

This morning, the following email arrived in my in-box, sent to the Wellfleet community: "Over the past 18 hours, Partners In Health staff in Boston and Haiti have been working to collect as much information as possible about the conditions on the ground, the relief efforts taking shape, and all relevant logistics issues in order to respond efficiently and effectively to the most urgent needs in the field. At the moment, PIH's Chief Medical Officer is on her way to Haiti, where she will meet with Zanmi Lasante leadership and head physicians, who are already working to ensure PIH's coordinated relief efforts leveraging the skills of more than 120 doctors and nearly 500 nurses and nursing assistants who work at Zanmi Lasante's sites. We have already begun to implement a two-part strategy to address the immediate need for emergency medical care in Port-au-Prince. First, we are organizing the logistics to get the medical staff and supplies needed for setting up field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince where we can triage patients, provide emergency care, and send those who need surgery or more complex treatment to our functioning hospitals and surgical facilities. To do this, we are creating a supply chain through the Dominican Republic. Second, we are ensuring that our facilities in the Central Plateau are ready to serve the flow of patients from Port-au-Prince. Operating and procedure rooms are staffed, supplied, and equipped for surgeries and we have converted a church in Cange into a large triage area. Already our sites in Cange and Hinche are reporting a steady flow of people coming with medical needs from the capital city. In the days that come we will need to make sure our pharmacies and supplies stay stocked and our staff continue to be able to respond. Currently, our greatest need is financial support. Haiti is facing a crisis worse than it has seen in years, and it is a country that has faced years of crisis, both natural disaster and otherwise. The country is in need of millions of dollars right now to meet the needs of the communities hardest hit by the earthquake. Our facilities are strategically placed just two hours outside of Port-au-Prince and will inevitably absorb the flow of patients out of the city. In addition, we need cash on-hand to quickly procure emergency medical supplies, basic living necessities, as well as transportation and logistics support for the tens of thousands of people that will be seeking care at mobile field hospitals in the capital city. Any and all support that will help us respond to the immediate needs and continue our mission of strengthening the public health system in Haiti is greatly appreciated. Help us stand up for Haiti now. If you are not in a position to make a financial contribution, you can help us raise awareness of the earthquake tragedy. Please alert your friends to the situation and direct them here for updates and ways to help."