Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bruised Bananas Don’t Kill You (and other small discoveries)

I’m learning a thing or two here. Mainly that I have some “princess-like” tendencies, especially when it comes to food. If you ask my parents they might admit that I had more than a few oddities as a child. After spending hours at the creek, running around barefoot with my “pet ducks” (no, seriously, I had pet ducks and huge bangs-shout out to KT), I would sit at our dinner table and discard the part of the French fry that my hands touched…germs.

Well, in Haiti I have adopted the 20 second rule…with the Mississippi. I’ve had kids “share” their food with me by stuffing it in my mouth before I knew what I was chewing. I have cleaned up “messes” (imagination please). I’d like to think that my immune system is being strengthened by the minute but realize it is grace that has helped me stay healthy so far.
With no Trader Joe’s around the corner, I’ve tried to focus on what epicurean assets we DO have here in Haiti. Dozens of different varieties of bananas, okra, eggplant, coconut and carrots are all available. As night falls, the power goes out and “free time” is plentiful, I turn to the internet. Thank God (literally) for google and pinterest. Throughout the day I will get distracted by little questions or discoveries and make a mental note, “I’ll have to google that.” And pinterest, o boy pinterest, “I ‘pin’, God laughs. Aside from having my dream home and other future life events pinned on some secret board, I find amazing tips, tricks and ideas. Pinterest is my social media match made in cyberspace heaven. So, here are some small discoveries.

Bruised Bananas Don’t Kill You

With the heat here, bruised bananas are a sure bet. I have a banana almost everyday for breakfast and, for awhile, I use to painstakingly eat around the bruised or brown part. That is unless the whole banana was browned and bruised. With my Trader Joe’s banana standards I would cringe at the thought of eating one, until I did. Sure the sweetness takes some getting used to but they aren’t all that bad. In fact, research shows that as the chlorophyll breaks down, browning the banana, powerful beneficial antioxidants called NCC’s are released. So don’t discard those brown bananas. Make some banana bread or freeze for a smoothie!

But Moldy Bread Might
It has happened more than once. The power isn’t on and I sleepily prepare my morning meal in my dark room. Bread, peanut butter and a banana. I’m eating and chewing, and something isn’t quite right. After further investigation I see the remaining crust is greenish blue. A bread bruise. Mold. With the humidity and lack of consistent refrigeration, it happens. Turns out, in some cases, depending on what type of mold it is, you could indeed get poisoned. Steer clear of moldy bread and feed it to the birds instead.

Mighty Moringa
L.A. friends and health food nuts, I may have something here. The Moringa Tree. GC attended a conference where he learned more about this useful, drought resistant tree. Known as the Benzolive in Haiti, Moringa Trees are quite common and have incredible health benefits.  The leaves contain over 45 antioxidants, 90 nutrients and essential amino acids. The kids and I recently planted a few here on campus and are excited to see how we can incorporate them into our daily diets. We have also started drying the leaves to be made into a powder for rice!

Crazy for Coconuts
There’s something about a coconut that just make me feel like I’m on vacation. Luckily they are everywhere here. And, with a quick pinterest search, I found all the great things I could do with them. We attempted our first batch of coconut oil…FAIL. We tried again, little progress. Third times the charm. First we hand grate the coconut meat then strain out the milk. The grated meat can be used in other recipes, the water is delicious and hydrating and the milk can be used to make pudding or coconut oil. We will see what happens.  I love the taste of both the coconut and the water.  Did you know that coconuts (in moderation) are also beneficial for a number or aliments? In my quick search of coconut claims I found that across the board, it is agreed that coconuts pack a punch.

According to Livestrong, “Coconut and coconut oil contain lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is a monoglyceride that has antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal properties.”
So basically, coconuts just might counteract all the “20 seconds rules”, the blind “sharing” , moldy bread mishaps and walking barefoot. Time will tell.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sick Season

I wake up too late because I went to bed too late. It’s Wednesday. The past week has been “sick week”.  I feel like I’ve been through a drive-thru; 2 flus, 1 cold, 2 fevers and malaria coming right up. I walk by the boy’s room on my way to make hot water. LK is there, crunched over a top bunk, one hand holding his head, the other his stomach. I look at his face and sense tears he won’t let fall. I head back to my room to grab my thermometer.  As I open the door I hear gagging, coughing, someone getting sick, behind my back window. I grab some pepto forgetting the thermometer. I wind around to the back window and find KB getting sick. Her stomach is unforgivingly denying all prior efforts of eating.  Pepto is pointless. I have her drink some water and then head back to my room to grab the thermometer…again.  I’m stopped in the process by two community members who would like refills on their HCTZ meds. Problem is they saw a doctor last week and he gave them a 3 month supply with instructions not to refill prior. So often I am the “no-mam” here and it’s no fun.  I arrive in my room but can’t remember what I needed. The thermometer, right.  I grab it and go back to LK. As I feel his warm forehead I know I am just waiting on the frantic beeps from the thermometer that a 99.5+ read gives. Beep,beep,beep,beep,beep! No pauses in between. He has a fever. The bell rings for the kids to go to recess and I watch as he cringers at each octave of shrill laughter. I let him relax in my dark, quieter room as I do some work.  JN comes home early from school. Her face registers no emotion. She looks miserable. I head upstairs to take her temperature. The frantic beeps again. A very high fever. No way. Ibprofuen and water, STAT. She sleeps.

 I realize I’m late for teaching English and head to the school.  I finish teaching and realize I’m late for visiting hours. I hurriedly head to the hospital to see little NN who has malaria. With a short conversation and long eye-roll from the guard, I’m let in. I walk past the skin and bones of a man likely dying from AIDS. I enter the pediatric room. Two tiny babies coo, a little boy screams and a mother cries over the blank stare body of her little boy. NN sits up and a little smile slips through. I insist we walk outside. I lie and say she needs fresh air, truth is, I do.  I give an awful manicure with unsteady hands as the guard walks over. I’ve overstayed my welcome and he tells me so. I quickly finish painting the last of her tiny fingernails and then leave.

As we head back I know there is one more stop I need to make. I get back to my room and grab some gloves and ointment. CT, an older man that helps out around the campus, is not “well”. The children tell me in hushed vague whispers that there is something wrong with him and he’s “crazy”.  He lives just across the street. I knock on the large steel gate. His wife comes and lets me in. He’s doing well today. Beyond my confusion there is compassion as he shows me deep, self-inflicted gashes on his wrists that must exposure only the tip of deep wounds that lie within. We chat briefly as I apply ointment. He thanks me and I leave.

I eat my dinner with a heavy, hoping but happy heart, thankful that I was useful today. Hoping that I was useful today. I head back to my room, exhausted. I hop on my computer which luckily has some battery left amid a powerless night. But my day is not done. G, a man who lives here for months at a time building houses in impossible heat without complaint, has been bitten by a dog. He needs a rabies shot. “Where do you get a rabies shot in Haiti?” I think aloud and then go to my mo. Google. The US Embassy website has a list of hospitals and doctors. I call three. No answer. I email 5 with 4 return to sender responses. Awesome. He leaves to try some of the hospitals. Little one enters my room crying. The ants are at it again. They’ve infested her bed and she can’t sleep.  She lays on my floor. After she’s asleep for awhile, with a clean sheet, I carry her up to her room. G returns without success.

I go to bed too late and I wake up too late.

G is making arrangements to fly to Miami for a rabies vaccine. I lookup flight times. I call the Embassy. They offer no options aside from the list from the night before.  I rack my brain for ideas. I remember that an extremely helpful, hardworking doctor in NY had given me the name and email of a health care provider here.  I search my emails and scroll down in a chain. Yes, a phone number. I skype quickly. She suggests trying Medishare, gives directions and wishes me luck! G packs his bags, we hop in the truck and talk about arrangements while he’s gone. I tell him about our one last option. We are on the way to the airport. Our turn to the “terminal” is coming up. He asks if we should keep going and try Medishare. I pray. He keeps going. We arrive outside medishare and I watch G enter the gate. After a short time I see smiles and laughter. Success! They have it! After he receives a painful poke we’re on our way back to the campus. The gates open to amused faces confused why G didn’t leave. I eat dinner. Enjoy the windy night and sleep like a baby thankful that our God is the God who provides.

(Some of you might be asking why I use abbreviations. When the kids are older, they will have a life and likely a facebook account of their own. I like to offer them privacy and anonymity whenever possible!)