Mark Meyering, Goodwill Ambassador for 3M, is visiting the MH4H Campus to offer his expertise for our Hydroponics systems. A chemical and water expert, Mark is working together with LEVO International to troubleshoot potential problems with the installation of these systems. The following entries are his “Ambassador Log’s”.
Ambassador’s Log: Saturday, February 24, 2018.
Mt. Pignon, and Pignon City.
A 5:30 wake up call, for our trail and scramble-climb to the summit of Mt. Pignon. The on-campus staff (Tim, Craig, Regan, Clint, Micah, Denise) along with Nate and myself all turn out for the climb. Regan carries a battery powered amplifier plugged into her iPhone. She provides the soundtrack for the final push to the summit, which includes AC/DC “Back in Black”, and the theme to the 1st Rocky movie “Gonna Fly Now”… we leave early to limit our exposure to the sun. Clint flails away on his walking stick as an air guitar. I’m just puffing along.. breathing and focusing on my foothold, to make sure I don’t screw up my bad knee. At the top, I get some panoramic shots of the city as it sits on the high plains.
Coming down, we pass the garbage dump right at the trailhead of Mt Pignon. Near the dump, a woman is sitting on a pile of rock she has made, hammering on chunks of marble, breaking them into gravel which will be carried out and sold to builders for mixing concrete.
Heading up the mountain in the morning light.
A quiet moment of rest atop the mountain
After the climb, we go back to the campus in the 3-wheeler. A woman is carrying a huge bundle of cloth along the street, another is balancing the 5-gallon pail (about 4/5ths full of water) on her head… I follow her with my eyes for a few hundred feet while our open 3-wheeler is stopped at a storefront… not one drop sloshes out.
I am becoming aware of the women walking and carrying things. It took a while before I realized that there are fewer men involved with walking carry; the ratio is roughly 10 women to 1 man. The ratio flips the other way for a bicycle, scooter or donkey carry: guys prefer to ride, 10 to 1 (yeah…). There is incredible creativity with riding carry, I saw a guy with a load of 1”x6”x8’ planks balanced perpendicularly and strapped with hemp and bungees across the passenger seat of his 125cc motorcycle, effectively consuming the whole width of National Route 3 and sending everybody else scurrying.
An entire family rides along on the moto
Today is market day in Pignon, and from the more rural areas (including the neighborhood where MH4H is centered), many walkers, riders trucks, and pack donkeys are on the road heading into the center of town to buy or sell. There, hundreds of street vendors are setting up, loosely arranged into collectives. The central market is a hybrid open-air market; large spaces between buildings with low hanging tarps suspended by ropes that are about neck height. We are ducking and weaving between rows of vendors of grain, baked goods, dried fish, chicken meat, soaps and facial cream, machetes, sandals, thread, Coca-Cola, plantains, wicker chairs, tomatoes-pepper-onions-garlic, candy, salt, cellphone parts, etc etc.
As we walk through a crowded market pathway, one woman has spread her tomatoes for sale over a large cloth, inches from the foot traffic. Nathan accidentally steps on one tomato and crushes it.. he turns in horror to Craig and looks like he just killed a child… “I stepped on her tomato!” Craig, the seasoned veteran responds, “Yep, there’s a lot of tomatoes here”.. the vendor is mildly annoyed but has seen this before and makes no protest. An accidental misstep is a forgivable offense, here and everywhere. But I feel for Nate, whose sole purpose here in Haiti is to increase production of the very thing he stepped on. We will redouble our efforts for the success of the hydroponic gardens.
A bustling morning at the market
We return to campus and double down on the science… I have brought with me a new hand-held pH meter, and a conductivity / TDS meter. Both instruments were purchased on Amazon for $15… very affordable. Today we are running trials to explore the potential use of conductivity (expressed as Total Dissolved Solids or TDS) as an indicator and surrogate to specific ion measurement in the fertilizer; this to get a simple, low-cost reading on nutrient concentration in the barrels. Using kitchen tools and plastic drinking cups, we cobber together an analytical chemistry lab. We make up a concentration series of fertilizer to perform a calibration check and get a standard curve showing formulated fertilizer ion concentration vs. TDS reading.
The kitchen becomes a make shift lab
Ambassador’s Log: Sunday, February 25, 2018.
This will be short… not that Sunday was uneventful; it was amazing. I haven’t been able to put words around the experience. I’m gonna leave that to my buddy Cash Lane Slim, who snuck into Haiti on the same plane. Perhaps he’ll put it to music. What you need to know is that we went to church.
Even though everybody dresses up, the church is stripped of pretense. Church is not about the grandeur of the building or the denomination. Nor the language spoken, or the way the hymns are sung. Here is a living and vibrant faith. Here is rejoicing! Here are people with grace and gratitude for their blessings; blessings that are all but invisible to me as just another white guy. And yet, I was welcomed, I was embraced. Here, where mercy and brave hope are found, Church is a welcoming place. It is not about where you were born or your skin color. If it were, we would be in poverty, and Haiti would be the wealthiest nation on earth.
I am standing on holy ground.
Church in Haiti – Holy Ground
To read the Ambassador Log # 1 click here.