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Bernadette and Friends - Susan's Story

Posted by Susan Murray Olmstead on May 3, 2012 at 9:40 PM

When I first told Bernadette that I would go to the Messef Orphanage with her on our Puerto Plata trip – I didn’t give it much thought. My plan was to get away for a vacation without the children and far away from my responsibilities and the sadness of the past 2 years. As the time drew nearer and I started to ask more questions about the trip - things that Bernadette took as matter of fact (she has been there 3 times so she is a seasoned traveler to the orphanage) sounded a bit - well at the very the least uncomfortable. I was told the trip to the Haitian border would be around 4 to 5 hours and when we arrived there we were to be quiet and let our guides do all the talking. (No small task for me as Jackie kindly pointed out) The border did not open until 9 am and today was market day in the Frontier.

We were scheduled to leave at 4 am (or as Bernadette said 4 am Dominican time – I guess they have a tendency to be late?) So there we are – Jackie, Bernadette, and I sitting in the lobby of the Grand

Paradis waiting patiently and without a lot of life as we couldn’t even get a cup of coffee as it was too early to get one at the hotel. Linda calls to say they are running behind and all I can think of is I could have gotten another hours sleep or maybe it wasn’t too late to get out of this little trip and go back to bed.

Once on the road, with 6 of us squeezed into the truck and it loaded down like the Beverly Hillbillies (excluding rocking chair on roof) we commenced to share our life stories (after all we had 4 hours to kill) and enjoy the passing scenery. Just when I thought that I would never feel my legs or butt again – our kind chauffer stopped for us to have a little pit stop at a very lovely open air restaurant and to get a cup of coffee! (My prayers had been answered) Linda proved to be an excellent and knowledge travelling companion pointing out things of interest and giving us lots of facts about the country along the way. As we travelled we shared the lunch of PB and Jam sandwiches and assorted snacks I had brought along.

What started as a pleasant, though warm and crowded excursion ended when we reached the border. The reality of the situation started to sink in (This wasn’t no Sunday drive) As I said before it was market day and now I knew what that meant. There was a sea of people, carts, and wagons carrying goods of all kinds from bananas to clothing. There was no order and I could not even begin to fathom where the border crossings started and ended. There were armed guards and questionable officials everywhere. Danilo and Pastor Quirico took our passports and money (yes we had to pay to go into Haiti – imagine) and told us to stay in the truck and not to talk to anyone. Of course, Linda and Bernadette had been through this before, but Jackie and I were more than a bit nervous. While we waited children kept coming to the truck to beg for food and or money. After what seemed like a long time the 2 men returned and we started to cross the border only to find that we were missing the receipt that showed we paid , so the official made us go back. (a bit more nervous) Back into the building Danilo and Quirico go to get the receipt. This time they return with a receipt and we are allowed to pass. As we start to cross the bridge people are crowding around the truck and we are moving ahead at a snail’s pace. Questionable officials keep stopping us and I am not sure what is being said but I can see palms are being greased as we inch along. As this point Jackie and I don’t even dare to take pictures because we are not sure if the armed guards would like it. After we cross the river our guides announce we now going through Haitian customs – inside the guys go again, but not so long this time – and then we are officially in Haiti. My first impression is of a “No Man’s Land” sea of tents and debris along the river’s edge and so many people. It is just a short journey to the orphanage from here – we have almost finished our journey and we are still in one piece….Thank you God!

 I can honestly say that I am not sure I could do this journey monthly like Pastor Quirico, Danilo and Linda do – You guys are much stronger than I.   Bernadette is quite a trooper as well - she has done this journey 3 times and never even batted an eye.  Not only is she generous she is one strong woman.    

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Reply Linda Stapleton de Martinez
7:16 AM on May 4, 2012 
Thanks so much for posting this, Susan. I hope when you've had time to process a bit more, you may also give us your impressions of the orphanage itself, and the children, as that is why we are able to make this long, uncomfortable haul all the time. I certainly wouldn't choose to do it if I didn't love the children! I know the journey is so long and uncomfortable, that tends to crowd out everything else lol!
Reply Susan Murray Olmstead
9:13 AM on May 4, 2012 
I didn' t mean for the long journey to crowd out the good you are doing - it was just my thoughts of how dedicated you folks are to the children and the cause of Messef to continue (much better persons than I ) and since Jackie had touched on the children a bit alread I thought I would write more latter. But there is no doubt that the look in their beautiful eyes when you arrive seem to make it all worth while. Susan

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