Saturday, December 11, 2010

Permis de Séjour- Phase 1

Nick and I have been working on obtaining our Permis de Sejour, or our permanent residence card for Haiti.  Having this will allow us to open a bank account, register a vehicle in our names, and among other things, stay in the country for more than 3 months at a time (even though this law isn't heavily enforced and we would probably never have any issues with it.  This way though we don't have to buy return tickets each time we come into the country and then cancel them after we get through immigration.)  It will also benefit us when it comes to paying US taxes, but we aren't really sure how!
This is one of those things that could take us a few days, or a few years to obtain.  For instance, for the past two weeks we have been trying to complete one requirement of this, which is a medical certificate.  Basically, we just have to have a doctor write us a letter telling us we are healthy.  We thought about forging it or having a one of our friends who is a fellow missionary and pediatrician write it, but decided we weren't young enough to consider ourselves children!
It shouldn't take long to get a physical right?  Just a quick visit to the doctors?
WRONG!  This is Haiti(TIH).  
Last week one of our adoption workers told us at 1:38 that we had an appointment for our physical at 2 that day.  It takes about 40 minuets to get down town, plus we had to finish the project that we were working on.  He told us it would be ok if we were half an hour late and that the doctor would still see us.  We quickly talked Milouse, who cleans the volunteer house, into staying a few hours extra to watch our kids.  We hopped on our Moto at 1:50 to begin our journey.  (There was horrible rush hour in town, so I was very glad we were on a moto and could go around it all, on the sidewalks, opposite side of the road, swerving in between cars, etc).  
When we arrived at the doctors office 20 minutes late, not only was he not there, but they had no idea that we were coming.  So much for an appointment huh!!  TIH!
Later we found out that we could go to Milot, the local hospital and get it done there.  So, Tuesday we spent 3 hours there.  Think we finished it?  Of course not.  
Milot has an interesting set up.  First, you go into one of the tents and talk to someone about what you want to have done and they write you up a slip for it.  As we were explaining to her what we needed, she asked if I had eaten anything yet.  I told her I had and she laughed.  Of course this was all in Creole, so I thought maybe I misunderstood her.  She then asked Nick the same thing and he said he had.  Turns out we have to get blood work done, and for one of the tests you can't eat prior.  Whoops.  We were told we could do part of the test that day but would have to return in a few days to do the other part, and NO eating prior!!  She also wrote us up a sheet to be tested for HIV, which some how mysteriously disappeared during our next step, but that's another part of the story.
If it's your first time going to Milot, which it was for both of us, you have to go to the Archive Office, which is on the other side of the street to get your Dossier.  Each time you come to the hospital you have to bring your little Dossier card or you have to repay for it ($1.50 US).  Paying for and getting this card took us approximately 30 mins, standing in a tiny little room.  It wouldn't have taken quite so long, except I realized about half way through that Nick said his name was Nick, but for the medical certificate we needed it to say Nicholas.  This threw them way off (which I'm not sure why because Haitian always have multiple names).  They probably asked me ten times if my name was in fact Nikki or if it was also something else.
After this phase, you have to take the original slip that the lady wrote for you in the tent to the cashier to pay for what you need.  Unfortunately there was a really long line (and Haitians have no personal space so the people around you are constantly touching you) that took me another 30 minutes.  I paid the $6 US for them to write our medical certificate and then headed over to the lab to get our blood work done.  When we got in the lab, we found out that we had only paid for one of the two things we needed to.  Back to the cashier and another 30 mins in line.  
Finally, we went to the lab and were handed two cups for a urine sample.  Nicks was what I would consider a normal cup for this type of thing, mine was a used gerber fruit jar and had a babies face on it!  TIH.  When you're done filling your cup (or Jar) you put it on a table that has a sign that says "Mete pipi a la," put pee here.  The sign is hand written on a piece of cardboard in bubble letters and looks really fancy!  There is also a table for people to put poop samples, but luckily thats not what we were there for.  (I have seen moms sitting in the court yard holding their children with these jars underneath their bare bottoms waiting for them to get filled!  When ever I see this, I'm glad that it's not me holding the jar! TIH).  
Last step of the day, getting our blood drawn, which took about 2 minutes.  After 3 hours at the hospital, we only spent less than 10 mins actually doing medical stuff.
We returned to the hospital Thursday morning, with out eating breakfast, to get our last blood test done.  However, with all the protests, when we went to bed the night before we decided that we would not be going.  Much to my surprise, Nick woke me up at 6 telling me to get ready because we were going to the hospital again.  
ME: Is it safe?  Who is going to watch the kids?
NICK: I called Rikerns who called a friend who said it's safe.  He can watch the kids!
So Rikerns came over and watched Shrek with the kids and we once again hopped on our moto and headed towards the hospital.  We were told repetitively to get there at 7 to avoid getting stuck in long lines.  Rony, our adoption worker told Nick, "Don't forget to go to the hospital, it's very important.  Oh and don't forget to check and see if it is safe first!"  Great advice!!
The only signs of protest we saw was a black spot on the road where a tire had burned the day before and a slight smell of burnt rubber.
We got to the hospital at 6:45, because Nick has to be early for everything.  We sat there until 7:30 when we finally talked to a guy who told us that the tap taps (main form of transportation here) weren't running because there were still riots downtown Cap and that he had no idea if any of the lab workers would be coming to work today.
We had to get back by 8 for depot, and I had to relive Rikerns of the children, so we decided to leave instead of waiting any longer.  
Friday morning, Nick once again woke me up early to inform me that he was going to the Hospital.  His plan was to go and get the blood work done, come back by 7:30, and I would go in with Rikerns.
At 7:48, I get a call from Nick saying that the lab people still haven’t shown up and that he won’t be back to do depot.  Great, I have to finish feeding both the kids and get them dressed in 12 mins, not to mention make them both sit through depot.  
He also reminded me that I couldn’t eat any breakfast.  I had just made myself two nice pieces of toast with extra peanut butter, had a yogart and a juice out, and now I was told I couldn’t eat it.  AND I had to watch our kids eat, go downstairs and watch the baby house kids eat, smell Maude’s French toast that she was making for the volunteers, and smell and watch the nannies eat their breakfast.  If you know me at all, you know I’m not a fan of skipping meals.  I like to eat!
Nick got back about 9:45 and took over watching the kids so that I could go in with Rony.  On the way there, he double checked to make sure I hadn’t eaten breakfast.  NO.  Did you drink water? Yes (It was after 10, of course I’ve had a little bit of water).  You can’t drink any water either.   I assured him it would be fine, but as we walked into the lab he told me to tell them it was just a little bit of water.  They never even asked. We walked right in and were seen instantly.  As soon as my blood was in their vile, I pulled snacks out of my pocket and put them right in my mouth.  Rony laughed and asked if I was hungry.  Of course I was hungry, it was almost 11 and I hadn’t eaten yet.
Rony said that our test results would be done at 1, and we decided not to wait around.  On the way back to COTP, the tire on our Moto was low, so we had to stop on the side of the street and have some guy fill it up with a hand pump!  I didn’t have any small bills, but promised the guy we would pay him when we came back, which turns out we once again needed air so we would’ve had to stop anyways.
Nick went back in at 1, thinking he would just have to pick up our papers and we would be finished, but don’t forget, TIH.
He found out that we still needed to do our HIV tests.  I knew loosing that paper during the dossier process was going to cause trouble.  Nick calls me and tells me I need to find someone to watch the kids and come in again.  Rikerns and I jump in the truck as it is now raining and all the motos are gone.  On our way we see a guy driving his moto holding a giant purple umbrella!!
During this time, Nick had his HIV test done.  The lady doing it was so hard to understand, and she had her radio blasting in her tiny office, so Nick had to have a translator come help him because she spoke no English.  Nick was my translator because I also couldn’t understand ANYTHING she said.  The plan was for me to quickly give my blood and leave with Rikerns so that I could get back with the kids.  After I got my test results back from this, which was negative for both of us, I jumped in the truck and thought I was heading back to COTP.
After we were about 100 yards down the road, Nick calls and says I need to come back to the hospital and met him in tent 1 so that the doctor can look at me.  The doctor listens to both of us breath, says we are fine and fills out our medical certificate!  Finally we are done.  Just kidding, he takes them back from us and remembers the director of the hospital has to sign it, more waiting.  
He did finally get them to us though and we were able to finish it, which is great cause Pauline, another adoption worker is going to Port au Prince this morning and will be taking them down there for us.  Finished just in time.  She was going to leave yesterday, but thanks to the rioting closing down both airports, she was delayed a day.  We are glad that we got it done and didn’t have to forge it!!
Anyways, you see why I say this could take us any where from a few days to a few years to get!  Supposedly we are going to have to go to Port to finalize all of this.  We were originally scheduled to go last Monday, but since it's now Saturday we obviously did not go!  Nick thinks we'll go next week, I think he's overly optimistic and has not yet learned that THIS IS HAITI!!!
I’m sure that there will be more interesting stories related to us getting this document, so stay tuned for the next phases!!
It took us a total of 8 trips to the hospital to get this finished.  Yes it was annoying for us and kind of a pain to get it done, but we have access to our own motos and a truck.  We have multiple people who can watch our kids so that we don’t have to take them with us.  We would never think about walking for hours to get to the local hospital.  We have money to pay for gas and to pay for our hospital visit.
This experience made me realize how fortunate we are and how difficult obtaining  medical care can be for many Haitians.  If most Haitians were asked to come back a second day to get a different test done, they probably couldn’t afford to.  It’s not uncommon for people to spend everything they have to get there.
For the first several months we were here, the hospital was seeing and treating everyone 5 and under for free.  The peds ward was always overflowing and we often had difficulty getting our kids admitted.  They recently went back to charging for this, and now the room is almost empty.  I have been there several times recently (obviously) and am amazed that there is no one there.
Health care just isn’t available, and even when it’s around, it’s only for the few who can afford it.  Makes me realize how fortunate we are.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    Brent and Windie here...TIH is sooooo unreal! Yet, it's real.

    We are adopting Odelande and were wondering if there is anyway we can order photos from the shutterfly site? You are welcome to email us or contact us through Robin.

    We praise the Lord for you and Nick! Thank you for choosing to do all you do...each and every day.