The House of Life: Chapter 4

Today, I am here in Haiti attempting to bring knowledge and medical care to individuals who have limited or no access to resources, which are basic essentials in my life at home, such as water, food, and shelter.

As a pediatrician and human, I come to Haiti because it settles my mind and quiets my heart to hear the voices of those who are not heard. It reminds me of how important it is to listen and acknowledge the needs of others whether their request can be resolved or not. 

Acknowledging what can be done or not done for someone is a reality throughout the entire world. It is a reality that I deal with as I see a child with developmental regression that I cannot do anything for, except educate the mother about exercises and tasks she can perform on a daily basis to encourage that child to reach his or her full potential.

The Haitians embrace every little thing that is provided to them as an opportunity that has opened up to them that they didn’t have before. It may be as simple as providing them with a multivitamin, a bar of soap, hypertension medication, or diabetes education. 

Embrace opportunities to help those in need. 

-Chris, DO (Doctor of Osteopathy)
November 2011

 

 

*

 

 

To this day, Dick doesn’t know if Harry was trying to mislead him, or just wasn’t paying attention to his question, but when Dick asked if Father LaBourne spoke English, Harry said yes. That wasn’t exactly true—in fact, it wasn’t true at all. Father LaBourne didn’t speak any English.

Father LaBourne was a Frenchman. He was a small, soft-spoken man, who never raised his voice in conversation. When Dick met him, he was in his early forties, almost the same age as Dick. He spoke French and Creole, the latter of which he learned while attending seminary. He was from an order of priests whose sole purpose was to work in Haiti, and it would be the only place he ever served. Father LaBourne had seven adopted Haitian children he, along with his housekeeper, a Haitian woman named Lorriane, cared for. They all lived in the rectory of St. Dominic’s Church.

In the early afternoon, a few hours after they had left Port-au-Prince, Harry, Alice, and Dick reached the church in Jacmel. They got out of the car and mingled about while they waited for Father LaBourne, who pulled up to the church in his car a short while later. He got out to greet them, saying Bonswa, “Good Afternoon,” as he reached out his hand toward Harry. Harry understood what Father LaBourne had said and shook his hand. Harry then turned to introduce Dick. Confused, Dick went along with the introduction, shaking Father LaBourne’s hand as he politely smiled. Following a few short exchanges of words in English and Creole, and nods and smiles, Harry said goodbye to Father LaBourne. Eager to continue with other PTPA business, he and Alice headed back to their car.

Dick, confused, followed, catching up with Harry. “Wait a minute, Harry. I am going to be with this guy, by myself, and he doesn’t speak English?” he asked. Dick did not understand how he was going to be of any help to Father LaBourne if they could not understand one another.

“Don’t worry, Dick. You’re going to be fine,” Harry said, ignoring Dick’s concern, as he opened the car door and pulled out Dick’s bags and boxes of donations, setting them down on the ground.

Before Harry left, he explained to Dick what he had gathered from Father LaBourne about their schedule for the weekend. Once again, the trip to Marigot to see St. Dominic’s Church would be postponed. Instead, they were to go to Marbial, about six or seven miles northeast of Jacmel, for Feast Day. During Feast Day, the priests from all the parishes in the area gathered at a certain church to celebrate Mass together, and it was important for Father LaBourne to be present. After Feast Day was over, Father LaBourne and Dick would then be on their way to Marigot.

Dick couldn’t believe it—at this point, he still would not be going to Marigot for a few more days. His scheduled four days in Haiti was not going to be enough. Before Harry left, Dick asked him to call Barb on his behalf to let her know he would be staying longer than he originally anticipated. Dick knew St. Dominic’s Parish was large, and if he was going to see any of it, he was going to need to extend his trip.

Dick loaded his things into Father LaBourne’s car, and they headed out of Jacmel toward Marbial. As they drove, the road led them through the Grande Rivière de Jacmel, which, at the time, was not much of a river at all. It was the dry season, and the river was nothing more than a rocky stream, shallow enough to be passable by car. Father LaBourne stopped the vehicle and looked out through the passenger-side window past Dick, pointing to a cornfield in the distance.

 “Mayi,” said Father LaBourne.

Dick looked to where he was pointing and turned back to look at him.

 “Corn,” said Dick. They both laughed, and Father LaBourne continued driving.

Dick and Father LaBourne had communicated despite their language barrier. It was their first small bit of communication, which would develop for many years and become part of a special way they corresponded with one another. Barb would later describe their relationship as quite unbelievable—they never spoke the same language but they were always in sync. Dick and Father LaBourne used hand gestures and facial expressions to get their point across, and they became so good at communicating, even a translator would be behind on their conversations.

 

*

 

The drive from Jacmel to Marbial took about an hour. Dick and Father LaBourne arrived at a small church where the Feast Day celebration was being held and went inside the parish hall to meet the other priests, all of whom were French, with the exception of one Haitian priest, a pastor of a church in Jacmel.

After being introduced, Dick rested at the rectory of the church while Father LaBourne continued his conversations with the other priests, talking about the issues in their own parishes. When dinner was served a few hours later, Dick joined the priests in the church rectory. He was seated next to the Haitian priest he had met earlier. His name was Father Redori, and he spoke Creole and English.

 “Are you American? Do you speak Creole?” Father Redori asked Dick.

Dick told him he only spoke English.

Father Redori smiled widely. “I speak English too!”

“You sure do!” Dick said, overjoyed. “I haven’t been able to speak to any of the priests since I got here. Nobody understands what I am saying.”

Father Redori assured Dick he would translate for him the best he could. Dick relaxed immediately. Over dinner, Father Redori translated the other priests’ conversations for Dick, as well as explained how the priests in the local parishes handled visiting so many churches. Each week, they rotated which churches they visited in their own parishes, visiting one church a week, until they had visited every church in the parish, and then they would start over. Since the priests were not scheduled to be back at any one church for many weeks at a time, multiple marriages and baptisms were often scheduled on the same day. On top of all the ceremonies, they were also responsible for holding Mass and hearing confessions. They were indeed busy, just as Harry had said.  

After dinner, the priests all retired for the evening, and Dick went to his room to get some rest. It had been a long day, and he was exhausted, but also pleased with how things were turning out, especially since Father Redori had been able to clarify so much for him. The next morning, Dick got up early to prepare for Mass. As soon as he was dressed, he met Father LaBourne outside of the church. Father LaBourne positioned Dick as cross bearer in the procession, making him one of the first to enter the church. When he walked through the doors of the church, he could see that it was packed inside. Hundreds of Haitians filled the benches and lined the walls. They spilled out of the doors and leaned in through the windows. It was amazing. As Dick walked by, every Haitian he passed reached out to touch him gently and affectionately. He had never experienced anything like it before.

 

When it came time for Communion, Dick stationed himself for distribution. But the priests soon realized they had a problem—they had not consecrated enough altar breads for the enormous crowd. They gathered to discuss how they should proceed. The priests did not want to disappoint anyone, so they decided to run through the consecration again so that everyone could receive Communion.

After the second consecration, Dick was directed to stand by a side door so he could reach the Haitians outside the church. A Haitian nun brought people to him one by one as he distributed altar breads. The crowd was immense. It just seemed to go on forever. Dick was stunned to see the number of people who wanted to participate. And every Haitian he saw reached out to grab onto him in a loving and caring way. They touched him gently on his arm, or held onto his hand to show how grateful they were for him to visit Haiti and come to their church. Dick had never felt so loved, least of all by strangers. He knew he was getting to be a part of something special. He would never forget his first Mass in Haiti. For him, it was one of the most touching experiences of his life. The Haitian people were so in tune with being a part of Communion, and it moved him beyond words.

When Mass was over, Dick, Father LaBourne, and Father Redori spoke to a few church members who mingled about after the service. Father Redori introduced Dick to a Haitian man who had asked to meet him. The gentleman was well dressed and proud to tell Dick about his job. He was a senator and the church was part of his jurisdiction. He talked about his son, who was in the United States working as a doctor. The senator boasted about how successful his son was working outside of Haiti. Dick asked the senator why his son did not work in the country where he was born.

The senator replied, “There is no money in helping his people.”

Dick was discouraged by the senator’s answer. Finding out that Haitians who were fortunate enough to get an education and become doctors did not even want to work in Haiti and help their own people was deeply disturbing for Dick. If Haitian doctors didn’t want to work in Haiti, what doctors did?

*

 

The next day, with the Feast Day celebration behind them, it was time for Dick and Father LaBourne to go to Marigot. At last, Dick was going to see St. Dominic’s Church. Before they left, Father Redori said he would like to go with them to translate for Dick. Dick was elated. Not only were they finally going to St. Dominic’s, but now he would be able to understand so much more with Father Redori along. As the men left in Father LaBourne’s car, Dick’s spirits were high.

When they arrived a few hours later, Father LaBourne pulled through the iron gates of St. Dominic’s Church, and parked outside of the church rectory. He took Dick inside where he met Lorriane, whose warm smile and cheerful demeanor struck him immediately. Not only did Lorriane take care of the rectory and the church, she also cooked, did the laundry, and made sure Father LaBourne’s children were fed and went to school. She was also in charge of Father LaBourne’s schedule, making his appointments so he knew which church he was visiting on which particular day or week. She welcomed Dick into their home, delighted to have a guest, as well as someone to help Father LaBourne with his duties.

Father LaBourne then showed Dick to his guest room. It was small, with only a bed and one open window, but it was comfortable, and more than enough room for him alone. After he unpacked, Dick went back outside, eager to walk around the property of St. Dominic’s Church, which he had waited so long to see. He walked passed the parish hall. It was sizable, but basic—made from concrete, with six doors and windows on all sides. He noticed the church was directly in front of the rectory. An old stone and block building with a metal roof, the church was marked on the front with three large metal doors. On the sides of the building, the windows were nothing more than openings in the walls, allowing for sunlight and air to flow freely. Dick thought it was a nice church. It was much larger than the church in Marbial—soon he would find out that St. Dominic’s Church was one of the nicer, and bigger, churches in the whole parish. Many of the smaller, poorer communities had churches that were nothing more than thatched-roof huts with no walls and dirt floors, which offered standing room only, barely big enough to cover more than a few dozen people. St. Dominic’s had a concrete floor and could easily hold three hundred or more.

Dick walked up the few stairs that led into the church. Inside were rows of wooden pews and folding chairs. The walls of the church were painted a gentle light blue. A white stone altar stood at the front of the church, with a lace cloth gently laid across the length of it. A simple wooden cross hung on the wall behind the altar. All in all, it took only a couple of minutes to see the few buildings that made up St. Dominic’s Church. It was as plain as Dick had expected it to be, yet it was lovely, and Dick walked out feeling content to have seen it for himself after such a long trip to get there.

It had already begun to get dark outside by the time Dick headed back to the rectory for the night. As he approached the building, he walked under a wide oak tree. Just as he did, the tree began to shake. He paused, and the shaking stopped. Then he moved again, and the tree shook again, this time more aggressively. Dick was scared. He looked up, terrified, only to see turkeys roosting on the branches above his head. He was relieved to see only birds, but after getting startled like that, he knew that in certain ways he still felt uneasy, even though he was much more relaxed than when he first arrived in Haiti.

The next morning, Dick woke at sunrise, and before he even had a chance to raise his head from the pillow, a chicken flew in the small open window next to his bed. It walked around for a moment, then jumped back up and flew away. Less on edge in the daylight, Dick thought it was funny to have a chicken fly in his room, making the scare he got from the turkeys the night before seem that much more ridiculous.

After breakfast in the rectory, Father LaBourne drove Dick and Father Redori around Marigot to show them the town. Marigot is a small fishing community, with probably fewer than a thousand residents. Dick remembered when seeing Marigot for the first time being surprised by how simple and quiet everything was. Few automobiles other than Father LaBourne’s car were on the roads. The exception seemed to be beat-up buses and old tap tap trucks. He didn’t see any motorbikes zooming up and down the streets. Most people he saw were walking. There were no restaurants that Dick could see, and very few businesses—he only saw people selling food from under umbrellas or on small tables made out of salvaged tree branches. And almost no one had electricity—only a few lights shone from the houses or small shacks they passed. Outside, many people, mostly women, cooked over open fires, having made fire pits by stacking rocks into a circle on the ground. Father Redori explained that most everyone cooked outside of their homes because they didn’t have electricity for electric stoves, and cooking indoors over open flames was too dangerous. There was no way to safely ventilate when cooking inside. Father LaBourne gave Dick a tour of the schools in the churches, showing him how St. Anthony’s funds were providing educational support for the children—he had purchased things like desks, pencils, paper, uniforms, chalk, and textbooks. Dick met students and teachers as well.

The next day, they visited churches and homes just outside of Marigot, in some extremely remote areas. Dick got a deeper sense of how people lived in rural Haiti. He saw humble houses made out of bricks with thatched roofs and mud floors. Other houses were made of wood with tin roofs and appeared unstable, almost as though they were ready to crumble in the slightest wind. He saw homes so small that family members took turns sleeping throughout the day and night because the floor was not big enough for everyone to lay down at once. He saw children with muddy faces playing in dirty water, near trash-filled canals. The children wore torn, old clothes and had no shoes. He saw families begging for money and food. He saw people that looked sick and weak, not having enough food to eat, or clean water to drink.

As they continued their routine for the few days of Dick’s trip left, Father LaBourne tried to show Dick as much of St. Dominic’s Parish as he could. As he attempted to take it all in, absorbing what he was seeing, Dick became overwhelmed by sadness. He knew that Haitians had few options for making better lives for themselves. He knew few jobs were available, and education was hard to come by—school, even for the youngest children, cost money that most families didn’t have. He found himself becoming more and more frustrated now that he could see how much was needed in Haiti—much more than he had ever thought.

When it came time for Dick to return home, Father LaBourne drove him back to Port-au-Prince to catch his flight. Dick’s short trip had turned into a weeklong visit. Before he left, he told Father LaBourne he would be returning to Marigot. Just as Harry had hoped, Dick had enjoyed his time in Haiti, and he wanted to come back and get a chance to do more to help.

When he got to the airport, Dick was not as intimidated as he had been when he arrived. As he sat waiting for his flight, he thought about the past week—all the wonderful people he had met, and all the tough realities he had encountered. The need in Haiti was greatly evident to Dick at that point, and more real than ever before. He knew that when he got back home, he wanted to tell everyone he could about what he had seen, both the good and the bad. He wanted to tell people about the difficulties Haitians faced every day, but he also wanted to talk about how beautiful the country was and how kind the Haitians were, how much they had made Dick feel welcomed. He wanted to tell everyone about how strong the Haitians were, and appreciative of everything they had in their lives, even if it was very little.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Dick wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with Father Redori again. Father Redori had many of his own responsibilities in his parish to attend to, and he would not be available to translate for Dick when he returned the next year. They would not cross paths again in Haiti, but the relationship had still been an important one—it had given Dick a feeling of friendship with a Haitian for the first time. Even though Dick couldn’t have predicted it then, Father Redori would be just one of many Haitians that he would come to know well and grow close to along the way.

 

*

 

When Dick returned to St. Dominic’s Parish the following year, he decided before he left home that his trip would last a week. He would again stay at the rectory at St. Dominic’s Church. Since Father Redori would not be there to translate, Father LaBourne designated an interpreter for Dick during his visit—a young Haitian named William Penn who served as an altar boy at the church. He wanted to attend the seminary when he was old enough, and he was trying to make a good impression on Father LaBourne, so he offered to translate for Dick. William Penn’s English didn’t turn out to be all that great, but it was better than Dick not having an interpreter at all.

Dick packed eagerly for his flight, again bringing donations from the St. Anthony’s congregation with him. This time, he was much more prepared for his trip. He knew what to expect when he got to the airport, and he had arranged to have Father LaBourne pick him up in Port-au-Prince, feeling confident that he would be there as planned—and on time.

Father LaBourne picked Dick up shortly after his plane arrived, and they made their way to Marigot. When they arrived at St. Dominic’s Church, Dick was welcomed instantly—Lorriane, Father LaBourne’s children, and all the Haitian church members he had met the previous year were delighted to see him again. For the Haitians, his return to Haiti not only meant that St. Anthony’s Church was still supporting St. Dominic’s Parish, but, more importantly, that Dick cared about them enough to come back. It made the Haitians feel as though he was a true friend to them.

It was nice to be greeted so warmly upon returning, but Dick found himself feeling slightly disappointed as well—not much had changed in the year he was gone. Marigot still looked the same as it had when he left—he didn’t see any new construction, or new roads. It didn’t seem that anyone in town had electricity that hadn’t already had it before. It was as if time stood still. It was hard for him to see so little change for the community. Even though he knew the amount of money St. Anthony’s was sending was small, and it was only for a specific purpose, he was discouraged thinking about how hard it was going to be to make a lasting difference for the people in Haiti. Any kind of change was going to take a long, long time.

            Dick had spent most of his first trip to Marigot observing, trying to get an understanding of the lives of the Haitians he met there. Now that he was more familiar with St. Dominic’s Parish, however, he was ready to participate. Starting the next day, he and Father LaBourne spent the week visiting churches. In the morning, they would pick up William Penn and head out to visit a different church each day. They performed Mass, and first communions. Father LaBourne performed weddings and baptisms, and heard confessions. They never stopped moving—it seemed to Dick that they were constantly having Mass. On one occasion, Father LaBourne performed eight weddings in a single day. Dick offered a hand in their activities the best he could, and he enjoyed being a part of it all.

            On his trip, Dick also got a chance to learn about Father LaBourne’s other projects. Father LaBourne did as much as he could for as many individuals as he could reach—he bought seeds and handed them out, hoping to give Haitians an opportunity to grow food for eating or for selling in the market. He bought livestock for families to raise goats and cattle for milk or to use for hauling carts. He even got Lorriane involved. Knowing women might speak more candidly with another woman, he asked Lorriane to spend time talking to ladies at the churches, asking them about their particular concerns. She would then report back so Father LaBourne could try to address their needs.

It was evident to Dick that Father LaBourne cared a great deal about the Haitians he served, and his dedication meant the world to the Haitian people they encountered. Father LaBourne was well respected for his work, and Dick was receiving that same respect. In fact, the Haitians treated Dick like royalty when he visited. He ate well for every meal—it always seemed as though an abundance of food was on the table whenever he sat down to eat. And if Dick needed anything at all, he got it right away, even though he did not ask for much. It was important to Dick that he returned that respect to the Haitians, and he was able to do so for the most part—except in one way, which bothered him greatly. In all the time he was in Marigot, Dick never ate a meal with Father LaBourne’s family.

Dick would walk into the kitchen of the rectory when it was time to eat and see only two place settings at a table that could easily host ten people. Father LaBourne would join Dick at the table, and Lorriane would serve them and then leave. Dick could hear Father LaBourne’s children in the next room, and, every once in a while, one of them would peek their head around the corner and then disappear just as fast. He didn’t have to ask why they ate alone—he knew it was custom for visitors to be served without the family, as a sign of respect toward the guest, and he knew he couldn’t do anything about it, so he didn’t try to argue against it. But it bothered him because it made him feel privileged and set him apart from the Haitians, which he didn’t like, and that feeling stuck with him always.

            The end of the week came rapidly for Dick, and when it was time to return home,  he was already looking forward to coming back to Haiti the next year. He had enjoyed being able to help Father LaBourne and was especially humbled to have participated in so many intimate celebrations. He had gotten a chance to see more of Haitians’ culture and traditions, and it had meant a lot for him to be a part of such important times in their lives like weddings and baptisms. They were all so generous to let him share in the festivities, and it made him feel close to the Haitian people. He loved how they celebrated life and was amazed by their resilience. He was infatuated, and consumed with the idea of returning to Haiti to continue to help the people he had come to care about so much. Just as Harry had wanted for him.

 

*

 

In February of 1982, Dick made his third trip to Haiti. This time, Father LaBourne planned to take him to the mountains to visit a chapel in Seguin. Located high above Marigot, Seguin was colder and wetter than the less mountainous regions in the country. Because of the harsher weather, the living conditions were also tougher. Even though Seguin was mostly a farming community, many families only owned small plots of land, not offering them enough space to both grow food for their family and grow food to sell for income, meaning the people of Seguin were very poor.

The road up the mountain to Seguin was treacherous. Made of packed dirt and rocks, it was so narrow that it was almost impossible for vehicles to pass one another. Although the two towns were separated by a distance of only fourteen miles, it took more than four hours to drive from Marigot to Seguin. Since the trip took such a long time, Father LaBourne planned to spend the entire weekend at the church. William Penn went with them to translate, and Lorriane came along to cook and schedule events.

            They began the trip up the mountain in the early afternoon. Father LaBourne was driving slowly. Dick sat in the front seat, bouncing up and down as the vehicle crept up the mountainside. He held onto his seat so he didn’t hit his head on the roof of the car while he clenched his teeth with each bump. At one point during the trip, Dick looked out of the driver’s-side window and saw a Haitian man on a horse approaching the vehicle from behind. The horse was trotting along rather quickly compared to the speed of the car, obviously accustomed to the rough terrain of the road. As the man and his horse passed them, he waved and smiled politely. Dick did the same, in disbelief that a horse was passing a four-wheel-drive vehicle. He started laughing. When Father LaBourne heard Dick’s laughter, he began laughing too. And then Lorriane and William Penn joined in, which made Dick laugh even harder. Dick didn’t think any of them knew what he thought was funny, but it made the uncomfortable ride easier for them all.

After arriving in Seguin in the early evening, they settled into the church rectory to get some rest for the night. The next day, Father LaBourne heard confessions in the morning and conducted weddings in the afternoon. It was a rainy day in the mountains as usual. As Father LaBourne and Dick stood outside of the church to greet guests as they entered, Dick noticed a bride riding a horse slowly down the muddy path. As she made her way toward the church, the horse slipped, and the bride fell off, landing in the mud and ruining her white wedding dress. Dick was horrified. But before he could react, the guests who saw her fall started to laugh. The bride even starting giggling as she sat in the mud, the moment of shock from falling off the horse having quickly passed. Dick was baffled, but as he looked around, he seemed to be the only one who was upset. He decided not to worry about the sodden bride, as she got off the ground uninjured and proudly walked into the church with a smile on her face, just as confident on her wedding day as any other bride Dick had seen.   

Those longer weekend trips away from St. Dominic’s Church like the one in Seguin were also the trips where Dick learned to drink alcohol. It is not that he didn’t drink alcohol before. These were just the trips where he learned to drink alcohol—more specifically, rum. Father LaBourne was a drinker. He could put it away. Every night after they finished working, he would pull out a bottle of rum and he and Dick would finish it before dinner. Father LaBourne would mix rum with Sprite or juice and then add ice. Dick was always surprised about the ice. He couldn’t understand how Father LaBourne was able to get ice in Haiti. He never saw a refrigerator at any place they stayed when they traveled. Finally, one night, he realized Father LaBourne was buying the ice and keeping it out in the yard, buried in a burlap bag so it would stay frozen.

On their second night in Seguin, Dick and Father LaBourne ran out of Sprite for their rum and Sprites, so Father LaBourne sent William Penn out to buy more soda. He came back with grape soda. It didn’t seem to bother Father LaBourne a bit to not have Sprite, and he went right ahead and mixed the rum and grape soda, and Dick went along with it. When the rum ran out that night, Father LaBourne looked at Dick.

“What should we do now?” Father LaBourne said, staring at an empty glass.

“Well, we could always get some sleep,” Dick replied.

“Oh, no, we can’t do that. It’s too early. You like scotch?”

“I don’t know if I like scotch.”

Father LaBourne pulled out a bottle of scotch, and that is when Dick learned how to drink scotch—after the rum ran out.

 

*

 

Barb went to Marigot with Dick for the first time in 1983. She had the summer off from school, and, with the exception of Martin, all the kids were older and had moved out of the house. Martin was eight years old at the time, and since he was out of school for summer break as well, Dick and Barb brought him along.

It was particularly hot during Barb and Martin’s visit. On previous trips, Dick had stayed in a small room in the rectory, but with the additional guests, Father LaBourne moved them to a slightly larger room with four beds and a sink. The room had very little space for them to spread out and only one small window, not allowing for much airflow. They tried in vain to cool themselves at night with a small fan set up in the corner. But even though the accommodations were cramped, Dick was thrilled to have Barb and Martin alongside him in Haiti. He was excited for Barb to get to see St. Dominic’s Parish and how St. Anthony’s funds were being put to good use. He was looking forward to her seeing how close he and Father LaBourne had become as well. And, of course, he couldn’t wait for Barb to get to know the Haitians as he had.    

Father LaBourne was also delighted to have Barb and Martin with them. He was eager to show them the parish, especially knowing Barb was involved with raising funds for St. Dominic’s Church back home. Father LaBourne, Dick, Barb, Martin, and William Penn would all pile into Father LaBourne’s car to make the rounds each day. As they drove through Marigot, Barb had a lot of questions for Father LaBourne. She asked about the churches and Father LaBourne’s responsibilities within them. She asked about the schools and what the children learned. She asked about how Haitian families lived, and what was difficult for them in their day-to-day lives. Barb’s interest was sincere, and Father LaBourne was impressed by her. He spoke more than usual with Barb around and answered all of her questions as thoroughly as he could. Dick found that he learned a lot while Barb was in Haiti—she was good at asking detailed questions he had never thought to ask.

Since Father LaBourne wanted to show Barb and Martin a special time, they traveled more than usual, which was fun for everyone. Father LaBourne took them to the Grande Rivière de Jacmel, the same river he and Dick had passed through years earlier on Dick’s first trip to Marigot. This time, however, it was the rainy season, so instead of a small stream and endless flat rocks, the river was rushing with water. In fact, the river was so deep that a tap tap bus had gotten stuck while trying to cross to the other side. They all watched from the car as angry passengers leaned out of the windows of the bus, yelling at the driver for getting them into the predicament.

A few days into their trip, Father LaBourne suggested they all visit a nearby town, La Vallée. Dick had never been, so Father LaBourne thought it would be nice to take them all somewhere new. There was a church in La Vallée, and although it wasn’t a part of St. Dominic’s Parish, the priest was a friend of Father LaBourne’s, and he had offered a place for them to stay for the night. La Vallée, like Seguin, was in the mountains and also required traveling up a gravely, narrow road to reach. Thankfully, it was much closer than Seguin—it only took an hour and a half to get there by car.

When they arrived in La Vallée in the early afternoon, the road took them right through a busy market in the center of the town. The market was packed with vendors, and Barb wanted to look around at the local fare. Father LaBourne parked the car, and they all got out, making their way down the crowded street. Suddenly, Barb sensed someone walking directly behind her, so close that she could feel the heat of their body against hers. A hand gently touched her shoulder to motion for her to step aside. When she turned to look, she saw a man with an entire severed cow head balanced directly on top of his head, only about six inches from her face. It scared her half to death.

That evening, back at the church, everyone sat down together for dinner in the rectory, hosted by Father LaBourne’s friend, the priest. When the meal was ready, a large platter was placed in the middle of the table. Right in the center of the plate was the main course—a whole cow tongue. Dick and Barb knew what it was immediately, but Martin looked amazed, and then puzzled. He poked Barb.

“What is that?” he whispered.

 “Beef,” Barb responded. Since they were guests, she didn’t want him to get turned off by the idea of eating any of the foods that were given to them, and she figured he probably wouldn’t know the difference anyway. And he didn’t. Martin went ahead and ate the tongue along with everyone else.

A few days later, after returning to Marigot, Father LaBourne told Dick and Barb he needed to go to Port-au-Prince. He had made plans to have dinner with a group of priests the following evening, and he wanted Dick and Barb to come along so he could introduce them. But Father LaBourne explained that although he would like to include Martin, he didn’t believe it was a trip for young children. Martin was welcome to stay at the rectory, and Lorriane could watch over him along with Father LaBourne’s kids.

Dick and Barb were unsure about leaving Martin behind. They knew he was safe at the rectory in Lorriane’s care, but it was Martin’s first time in Haiti, so they worried about him being alone without them. Although it seemed like Martin was having a nice time, having made friends with the other children, it made them nervous, and they couldn’t decide what to do. Finally, they simply asked Martin how he felt, leaving the decision up to him.

Martin didn’t seem bothered by the idea of Dick and Barb being gone for the evening. He enjoyed being at the rectory around other kids his age. Just like Dick had, Martin was learning to communicate with the Haitian children even though they did not speak the same language.

Dick and Barb went to Port-au-Prince with Father LaBourne the next day. By the time they returned from dinner, it was dark outside. They found Martin inside the rectory with the other children, quietly playing a game. He had had a good day, but Dick could tell something was bothering him. He told Dick while they were away, he ate lunch by himself. Just like Dick, Martin had been treated as a guest, and did not eat with Father LaBourne’s children, who waited until he was done with his food to have their own lunch. Dick asked him how eating alone had made him feel. He said he didn’t like it—it had made him uncomfortable, but he did not protest. Dick explained that it was custom, and they couldn’t do anything about it. Martin had been right by not refusing. But he also told Martin he was proud of him, especially at such a young age, because Dick didn’t like eating without Father LaBourne’s family either.

One of the most touching experiences Dick and Barb ever had in Haiti was on that particular trip with Martin. Martin had never gotten chicken pox at home, even after being exposed to them a few times from his siblings and classmates. But he managed to get chicken pox in Haiti with ease. Martin was miserable. Lorriane and some of the other women from the church helped take care of him. Lorraine would wipe his head with a damp cloth and make sure he was as comfortable as it was possible to be while hot and itchy and stuck in bed.

The Haitians were incredibly concerned for Martin. Father LaBourne’s children came up to the bedroom to visit him, and, even though he was contagious, they held his hand and gave him hugs to try to make him feel better. Dick and Barb were deeply touched by the willingness of Lorraine and the children to disregard their own well-being to comfort Martin. They were amazed by the level of love and compassion shown to their son. Dick had seen it before in the churches in Marigot, and he had talked about it with Barb. But now Barb was getting to see it for herself.

When it was time for the Hammonds to return home, Father LaBourne once again drove them to the airport in Port-au-Prince. They had all had a lovely time. Even Martin had had a good time despite his illness. But Dick and Barb could tell he was exhausted and ready to return to the comforts of his own bed. As their plane took off down the runway heading south, Martin gazed out the window. Once in the air, the pilot turned the plane around to head north toward Miami. Martin, with his sense of direction confused, became fearful of returning to Haiti in his tired state and screamed loud enough for all the passengers to hear, “Oh, no! We are going the wrong way! We are going back!”