From the Rooftop

October 17, 2011

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Written by Katie Boyts, a member of the medical team working in Haiti.

5:48 a.m. and I am sitting on the rooftop of the clinic in Terre Blanche, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. Listening to the chatter of patients waiting to be seen. It occurs to me this early morning that I quite definitively cannot sit on my roof at home. In comparison, in three different countries I have visited, a rooftop has quite neatly settled in my memory of the places as a thing doing much more than weatherproofing a life…

In Guatemala City – the roof of the school I attended briefly there, acting as my café for my coffee and pastry every morning to recover from the frenetic commute of the morning. Most vividly I see a billboard of bright fruit to my right, and the neighboring school’s enthusiastic onlooker students.

In Cambodia – there was my friend’s apartment. The view captured a movie-like quality of a Phnom Pehn spastic street life. A scooter’s trajectory. The smell of fish, bread, the nearby canal, and smog from said scooters.

And here in Terre Blanche – the clinic’s roof and its view provide a peak through a keyhole of the work to be done today. (To see the work’s depth takes a more entrenched approach. I suspect.) But this peak provides a view of the macrocosm of the individual faces of Haitians. Only from above do you get a sense of how the impending puzzle of a clinic day will fit together. The mountains play the backdrop – one does not need a quake to know the earth plays its part. The ebbing and flowing sound waves – goats, donkeys, dogs, children, the pounding of millet, more goats. But most impressive in its profundity is that line. Patient after patient after patient. In the heat, on concrete benches, with fevers, colds, pain, and every other malady one can imagine. For hours they wait, a singing hope within the circle carries a melody whose lyrics say that some form of respite and remedy lay inside. It reminds the onlooker of the need, the patience of a people, my own hope that we can answer with a chorus of help, and the gratitude I have for a rooftop.

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