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Monday, December 27, 2010

Conflicted

I love being here in Indiana. I am enjoying the time with my family, the snuggle time with Dax the dog, and the yummy food. I forgot how much I liked American food! More than that, I've felt overwhelmingly blessed by my church family. They welcomed me so warmly with hugs and hellos; it was like I had never left. They even have gifts for me to take back to my students in Haiti. And I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with so many friends over the next week.

But even with all these sweet blessings, I miss Haiti. My little friend Rosias was baptized yesterday after church, and I'm really bummed that I wasn't there for it. Later this week is January 1st. It's one of the most celebrated holidays in Haiti--it's both New Year's Day and their independence day. I'm sad I'll miss that celebration too. I miss the kids from Laboule and my computer class. Even though I haven't mentioned it to the internet world before, I've met someone special in Haiti. I miss him. A lot.

I'm having a hard time reconciling these conflicting emotions. I want to be able to enjoy my parents and friends without feeling like I'm missing out on what's going on in Haiti. And I want to be able to connect with my Haitian friends and students without the guilt of feeling like I abandoned my loved ones in Indiana.

What I really want is to be able to call both places home, and enjoy the time I have in each place, without feeling guilty.

Conflicted

I love being here in Indiana. I am enjoying the time with my family, the snuggle time with Dax the dog, and the yummy food. I forgot how much I liked American food! More than that, I've felt overwhelmingly blessed by my church family. They welcomed me so warmly with hugs and hellos; it was like I had never left. They even have gifts for me to take back to my students in Haiti. And I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with so many friends over the next week.

But even with all these sweet blessings, I miss Haiti. My little friend Rosias was baptized yesterday after church, and I'm really bummed that I wasn't there for it. Later this week is January 1st. It's one of the most celebrated holidays in Haiti--it's both New Year's Day and their independence day. I'm sad I'll miss that celebration too. I miss the kids from Laboule and my computer class. Even though I haven't mentioned it to the internet world before, I've met someone special in Haiti. I miss him. A lot.

I'm having a hard time reconciling these conflicting emotions. I want to be able to enjoy my parents and friends without feeling like I'm missing out on what's going on in Haiti. And I want to be able to connect with my Haitian friends and students without the guilt of feeling like I abandoned my loved ones in Indiana.

What I really want is to be able to call both places home, and enjoy the time I have in each place, without feeling guilty.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Through New Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about these people since I arrived on U.S. soil.

My after school computer class.

I wonder what they would think of the snow, the Christmas decorations, the constant electricity, church services at St. Mark, the smooth roads, the food. Life in the States is vastly different than the life my students live in Haiti, and I wonder what they would think if they could be here.

This Christmas I'm enjoying the gift of new eyes, of seeing life from a different perspective.

Through New Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about these people since I arrived on U.S. soil.

My after school computer class.

I wonder what they would think of the snow, the Christmas decorations, the constant electricity, church services at St. Mark, the smooth roads, the food. Life in the States is vastly different than the life my students live in Haiti, and I wonder what they would think if they could be here.

This Christmas I'm enjoying the gift of new eyes, of seeing life from a different perspective.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Golden Nuggets V

    Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 
    • Apparently passing police cars is just fine and dandy in Haiti, even if they have their lights on. I witnessed a motocycle passing a police car on Sunday evening. The police had their colored lights going, but Johane thought that was just because it was so dark. She said as long as the police car didn't appear to be chasing someone down it's okay to pass them. Can you imagine passing a police car in the States???

    • Sinks in Haiti don't have hot water. I was reminded of this when I returned to the States and was confused when the water coming out of the sink wasn't cold. I actually had to adjust the faucet to get cold water I wanted to come out. 

    • In Haiti you aren't supposed to flush toilet paper. You put it in the trash next to the toilet. At the Miami airport I was thinking, "Wow. That's a little trash can. If they put a bigger trash can in here, they wouldn't have to empty it every 20 minutes." Then I realized I was in the U.S. and the toilet paper didn't need to go in the trash can, but that was after I had already put it in the trash.

    Golden Nuggets V

      Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 
      • Apparently passing police cars is just fine and dandy in Haiti, even if they have their lights on. I witnessed a motocycle passing a police car on Sunday evening. The police had their colored lights going, but Johane thought that was just because it was so dark. She said as long as the police car didn't appear to be chasing someone down it's okay to pass them. Can you imagine passing a police car in the States???

      • Sinks in Haiti don't have hot water. I was reminded of this when I returned to the States and was confused when the water coming out of the sink wasn't cold. I actually had to adjust the faucet to get cold water I wanted to come out. 

      • In Haiti you aren't supposed to flush toilet paper. You put it in the trash next to the toilet. At the Miami airport I was thinking, "Wow. That's a little trash can. If they put a bigger trash can in here, they wouldn't have to empty it every 20 minutes." Then I realized I was in the U.S. and the toilet paper didn't need to go in the trash can, but that was after I had already put it in the trash.

      Travel Day, 2nd Half

      My flight out of Miami was scheduled to leave at 7:20 pm. Around the time we should have started boarding the plane, someone came on the intercom to explain that we were in "decision time" and they would let us know when a decision had been made. Twenty minutes later we were told our flight was delayed for an hour.

      Around 8pm we boarded the plane. As soon as everyone was settled, the pilot announced that we were still not cleared to fly into Chicago. He was optimistic, though, and wanted us in our seats ready to go so we could take off as soon as Chicago gave us the all clear signal. I had woken up at 5am and didn't have anyone sitting next to me on the plane. I decided a nap was in order. At 9pm I was startled awake by the pilot's second announcement: Our flight had officially been delayed another 55 minutes due to nasty weather in Chicago. I borrowed a cell phone to call my mom (who was already at Portage) to say I was still in Miami. She went to my brother's apartment to hang out for a little while, and I went back to sleep.

      Finally a few minutes before 10pm, our plane started taxing down the runway. I was back to sleep before we reached our maximum cruising altitude. However, my nap didn't last long. About 20 minutes in the air, I heard what sounded like a child's scream. I was groggy and assumed someone's child was being unruly. However, the second time I heard the scream it was followed by a mother's call for help. Her teenage daughter was having a seizure. Two medical professionals jumped out of their seats and came to the girl's aid. The entire plan was silent and watching. After the seizure ended and the girl became coherent again, it was clear she was going to be okay. I was afraid they would turn the plane around and go back to Miami, but we kept on toward Chicago. Eventually sleep overcame me and I was able to sleep almost the entire way to Chicago. 

      When we reached Chicago a few minutes past 1am, we had to wait a few minutes on the tarmac. First we waited for the tunnel to be connected to the plane. Then the girl who had the seizure had to get off the plane with the paramedics, but they let her walk herself off. I saw her later at the baggage area and she looked perfectly fine. I'm fairly certain her sister said she'd had seizures before, so I don't think it was new experience for their family. I still felt bad for them though.

      Eventually I found my bag, and just as I was getting ready to ask a stranger to use a cellphone I spotted my mom. We loaded up the car and headed for Indiana. After a slight detour to get me something to eat and a missed exit for the Skyway, we arrived safely in Middlebury just before 5am on Tuesday morning. It was a very long day of travel, but I made it safely and that's what is important.

      Travel Day, 2nd Half

      My flight out of Miami was scheduled to leave at 7:20 pm. Around the time we should have started boarding the plane, someone came on the intercom to explain that we were in "decision time" and they would let us know when a decision had been made. Twenty minutes later we were told our flight was delayed for an hour.

      Around 8pm we boarded the plane. As soon as everyone was settled, the pilot announced that we were still not cleared to fly into Chicago. He was optimistic, though, and wanted us in our seats ready to go so we could take off as soon as Chicago gave us the all clear signal. I had woken up at 5am and didn't have anyone sitting next to me on the plane. I decided a nap was in order. At 9pm I was startled awake by the pilot's second announcement: Our flight had officially been delayed another 55 minutes due to nasty weather in Chicago. I borrowed a cell phone to call my mom (who was already at Portage) to say I was still in Miami. She went to my brother's apartment to hang out for a little while, and I went back to sleep.

      Finally a few minutes before 10pm, our plane started taxing down the runway. I was back to sleep before we reached our maximum cruising altitude. However, my nap didn't last long. About 20 minutes in the air, I heard what sounded like a child's scream. I was groggy and assumed someone's child was being unruly. However, the second time I heard the scream it was followed by a mother's call for help. Her teenage daughter was having a seizure. Two medical professionals jumped out of their seats and came to the girl's aid. The entire plan was silent and watching. After the seizure ended and the girl became coherent again, it was clear she was going to be okay. I was afraid they would turn the plane around and go back to Miami, but we kept on toward Chicago. Eventually sleep overcame me and I was able to sleep almost the entire way to Chicago. 

      When we reached Chicago a few minutes past 1am, we had to wait a few minutes on the tarmac. First we waited for the tunnel to be connected to the plane. Then the girl who had the seizure had to get off the plane with the paramedics, but they let her walk herself off. I saw her later at the baggage area and she looked perfectly fine. I'm fairly certain her sister said she'd had seizures before, so I don't think it was new experience for their family. I still felt bad for them though.

      Eventually I found my bag, and just as I was getting ready to ask a stranger to use a cellphone I spotted my mom. We loaded up the car and headed for Indiana. After a slight detour to get me something to eat and a missed exit for the Skyway, we arrived safely in Middlebury just before 5am on Tuesday morning. It was a very long day of travel, but I made it safely and that's what is important.

      Tuesday, December 21, 2010

      Travel Day

      I wrote this during my layover in Miami. The last leg of my travel day stretched out longer than I anticipated, but I'll have to share that story after I get some sleep!
       
      Today has been… odd. I woke up before my alarm went off with a stomach ache. Waking up before the alarm rings really isn’t that unusual for me, but the stomach ache part was new. After my brain started functioning I realized today was the day I was leaving Haiti to spend the holidays with my family. Then the stomach ache made sense.

      I haven’t mentioned it to very many people, but I’m pretty nervous about going home for Christmas. I’ve only been out of the US for three and half months. In the grand scheme of things, that really isn’t that long. Yet, I feel like much of my life has changed in those months. I’ve been anxious about how those changes will affect my relationships with my loved ones. First there’s the fear that I won’t be able to find the words to explain what’s happened in my life and heart. But mostly I guess I’m nervous that the people who know me the best suddenly won’t understand me anymore. And I don’t know how I’ll cope if that happens.

      Possibly the strangest, and most significant, sighting of the day was on the way to the airport. Beth drove me to the airport this morning, and we traveled roads we take every time we go to Petionville or Delma. There’s a park near the police station that has been a tent city for the past 11 months, and I always gawk as we drive past. Today, however, there were sections where the tents, the people, everything was missing. Entire sections of the tent city have disappeared. We had a moment of celebration in the car. The absence of even some of the tents is a triumph for the nation of Haiti. I’m excited to see how many more tents are gone when I return in 2.5 weeks.

      Beyond my stomach ache this morning and the missing tents in Petionville, there have been several other interesting incidents. First, I ate a hamburger for breakfast. It makes me chuckle even now because I’m sure the lady who served me thought I was crazy. But the airport shop in Port au Prince was crazy busy and I didn’t feel like struggling through the language issues to order something more breakfast appropriate. Also at the P.a.P. airport were the funny little conversations I had with the airport workers. Being able to speak a few words of Creole makes for some funny exchanges. One security guy waved me through the metal detector. I had left my passport holder on around my neck because I knew I could get away with not taking it off. He pointed at it and said, “Passport?” So I showed him the inside. Then he asked me in French if I spoke French. I said, “No.” But then he asked me a question not in English. I told him in Creole that he talks too fast, so he asked me my name in Creole. I answered him, and he told me to have a good day. I thought it was pretty entertaining.

      In Miami I had a scheduled 7 hour layover, and I came to a strange realization: It’s really obnoxious to comprehend all the words being spoken around me. I’ve come to enjoy being oblivious to what others are saying, and I find it annoying to be subject to everyone else’s thoughts. For instance, I didn’t really need to know about all the different religious organizations working in Madagascar or the horse farm in Waco, Texas. I especially didn’t want to overhear the argument between mother and daughter about traveling to Europe. But there were some good parts to my layover. At one point a man behind me started speaking Creole on his phone. It was sweet music to my ears! I didn’t understand everything he said, but it was nice to hear some familiar sounds. Then there was the man who exited the bathroom with a good 3 feet of toilet paper hanging off his shoe. How does that even happen? If I see t.p. on the floor, I avoid stepping on it. And then there are the babies. I love babies. The Miami airport has been full of babies today. I wish I could pick them up and cuddle them, but I think going to jail for attempted kidnapping would put a damper on Christmas. So I just smiled and waved.

      I’m hoping that the oddness ends there. I don’t really want to experience more weirdness on my final flight or the drive home from O’Hare. But I suppose weird is a better theme for the day than frustration or patience or even boring.

      Travel Day

      I wrote this during my layover in Miami. The last leg of my travel day stretched out longer than I anticipated, but I'll have to share that story after I get some sleep!
       
      Today has been… odd. I woke up before my alarm went off witha stomach ache. Waking up before the alarm rings really isn’t that unusual forme, but the stomach ache part was new. After my brain started functioning Irealized today was the day I was leaving Haiti to spend the holidays with myfamily. Then the stomach ache made sense.

      I haven’t mentioned it to very many people, but I’m prettynervous about going home for Christmas. I’ve only been out of the US for threeand half months. In the grand scheme of things, that really isn’t that long.Yet, I feel like much of my life has changed in those months. I’ve been anxiousabout how those changes will affect my relationships with my loved ones. Firstthere’s the fear that I won’t be able to find the words to explain what’shappened in my life and heart. But mostly I guess I’m nervous that the peoplewho know me the best suddenly won’t understand me anymore. And I don’t know howI’ll cope if that happens.

      Possibly the strangest, and most significant, sighting ofthe day was on the way to the airport. Beth drove me to the airport thismorning, and we traveled roads we take every time we go to Petionville orDelma. There’s a park near the police station that has been a tent city forthe past 11 months, and I always gawk as we drive past. Today, however, therewere sections where the tents, the people, everything was missing. Entiresections of the tent city have disappeared. We had a moment of celebration inthe car. The absence of even some of the tents is a triumph for the nation ofHaiti. I’m excited to see how many more tents are gone when I return in 2.5weeks.

      Beyond my stomach ache this morning and the missing tents inPetionville, there have been several other interesting incidents. First, I atea hamburger for breakfast. It makes me chuckle even now because I’m sure thelady who served me thought I was crazy. But the airport shop in Port au Princewas crazy busy and I didn’t feel like struggling through the language issues toorder something more breakfast appropriate. Also at the P.a.P. airport were thefunny little conversations I had with the airport workers. Being able to speaka few words of Creole makes for some funny exchanges. One security guy waved methrough the metal detector. I had left my passport holder on around my neckbecause I knew I could get away with not taking it off. He pointed at it andsaid, “Passport?” So I showed him the inside. Then he asked me in French if Ispoke French. I said, “No.” But then he asked me a question not in English. I told him in Creolethat he talks too fast, so he asked me my name in Creole. I answered him, andhe told me to have a good day. I thought it was pretty entertaining.

      In Miami I had a scheduled 7 hour layover, and I came to astrange realization: It’s really obnoxious to comprehend all the words beingspoken around me. I’ve come to enjoy being oblivious to what others are saying,and I find it annoying to be subject to everyone else’s thoughts. For instance,I didn’t really need to know about all the different religious organizationsworking in Madagascar or the horse farm in Waco, Texas. I especially didn’t wantto overhear the argument between mother and daughter about traveling to Europe.But there were some good parts to my layover. At one point a man behind mestarted speaking Creole on his phone. It was sweet music to my ears! I didn’tunderstand everything he said, but it was nice to hear some familiar sounds.Then there was the man who exited the bathroom with a good 3 feet of toiletpaper hanging off his shoe. How does that even happen? If I see t.p. on thefloor, I avoid stepping on it. And then there are the babies. I love babies.The Miami airport has been full of babies today. I wish I could pick them upand cuddle them, but I think going to jail for attempted kidnapping would put adamper on Christmas. So I just smiled and waved.

      I’m hoping that the oddness ends there. I don’t really wantto experience more weirdness on my final flight or the drive home from O’Hare.But I suppose weird is a better themefor the day than frustration or patience or even boring.

      Sunday, December 19, 2010

      Echoes

      Recently I found the blog of a family that moved to Haiti about a month before I did. The husband and wife are both excellent writers, and I find that they often say what I wish I had words to express. Recently the wife posted these thoughts about Christmas gifts. Her words echo in my heart and I have struggled with the same thoughts about Christmas lists and the invisible gifts I have taken for granted.

      Echoes

      Recently I found the blog of a family that moved to Haiti about a month before I did. The husband and wife are both excellent writers, and I find that they often say what I wish I had words to express. Recently the wife posted these thoughts about Christmas gifts. Her words echo in my heart and I have struggled with the same thoughts about Christmas lists and the invisible gifts I have taken for granted.

      Friday, December 17, 2010

      Christmas Wishlist UPDATE

      Previously I posted the following Christmas Wishlist. I would really like to bring all donations to Haiti in my luggage after Christmas. If you would like to donate something from the list (or a gift card or money to be used to purchase the items), you can give donations to me personally or mail them to my parents' house:

      Britney Smith
      1l6 Krider Dr
      Middlebury, IN 4654O

      The items crossed out have already been donated.

      After School Computer Class

      1. Larousse French English Dictionaries  (20) feel free to purchase as many or as few as you are able to
      2. multiple copies (7 would be nice, 4 will work) of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess
      3. other English picture books
      4. purses and/or bracelets for the 8 girls
      5. wallets and/or watches for the 12 guys
      6. American candy
      7. gum
      8. white out, Haitian students will not turn in a paper with a mistake on it. I am forever fighting them about wasting paper!
      9. a gift card to Meijer, Walgreens, or some other photo printing place so I can print some pictures for them to have
      Britney's Personal List
      • cook and serve chocolate pudding
      • Crystal Light Peach or Mango Peach Iced Tea
      • Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
      • chocolate chips
      • Wrinkle Releaser spray
      • stain remover spray for laundry

      Christmas Wishlist UPDATE

      Previously I posted the following Christmas Wishlist. I would really like to bring all donations to Haiti in my luggage after Christmas. If you would like to donate something from the list (or a gift card or money to be used to purchase the items), you can give donations to me personally or mail them to my parents' house:

      Britney Smith
      1l6 Krider Dr
      Middlebury, IN 4654O

      The items crossed out have already been donated.

      After School Computer Class

      1. Larousse French English Dictionaries  (20) feel free to purchase as many or as few as you are able to
      2. multiple copies (7 would be nice, 4 will work) of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess
      3. other English picture books
      4. purses and/or bracelets for the 8 girls
      5. wallets and/or watches for the 12 guys
      6. American candy
      7. gum
      8. white out, Haitian students will not turn in a paper with a mistake on it. I am forever fighting them about wasting paper!
      9. a gift card to Meijer, Walgreens, or some other photo printing place so I can print some pictures for them to have
      Britney's Personal List
      • cook and serve chocolate pudding
      • Crystal Light Peach or Mango Peach Iced Tea
      • Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
      • chocolate chips
      • Wrinkle Releaser spray
      • stain remover spray for laundry

      Sunday, December 12, 2010

      Two Reasons...

      ...to pray for Haiti
      ...to be thankful you live in the good ole U.S. of A.
      ...to count your blessings

      1. Coming down the mountain after church we passed 6 men carrying a cane wrapped couch with a very sick man lying on it. After inquiring about their journey, we learned the man had been sick for 3 days and is from the neighboring village of Grenier. We emptied the truck bed of its passengers and gave them a ride to the nearest cholera treatement center. The men told us there were three other people in Grenier who are sick. For those of you who have been here, Grenier is the village to the right of Gramothe when you are looking at the mountain from the guest house. Because of the proximity, we have quite a few students in the Gramothe school from Grenier.
      2. Also, the riots have been calmer the past couple of days, but the streets are sure to heat up again tomorrow if the government doesn't give the people what they want (basically fair [meaning different] election results or Sweet Mickey to be in the run-off election in Jan.). School  hasn't been canceled for tomorrow, but the students were told at church today to stay home if there's trouble. The trouble is far from over, and there's no way to predict what will happen.
      Please keep praying for Haiti.

      And please know that I am not in danger here. I am not fearful for my safety or my health. God has given me peace and a burden for the people of Haiti. I want more than anything to see Haitians turn to the only One who can true and lasting peace. I ask that you join me in praying that during this difficult time more Haitians will come to know the Lord as the great Healer--of bodies, hearts, and nations.

      Two Reasons...

      ...to pray for Haiti
      ...to be thankful you live in the good ole U.S. of A.
      ...to count your blessings

      1. Coming down the mountain after church we passed 6 men carrying a cane wrapped couch with a very sick man lying on it. After inquiring about their journey, we learned the man had been sick for 3 days and is from the neighboring village of Grenier. We emptied the truck bed of its passengers and gave them a ride to the nearest cholera treatement center. The men told us there were three other people in Grenier who are sick. For those of you who have been here, Grenier is the village to the right of Gramothe when you are looking at the mountain from the guest house. Because of the proximity, we have quite a few students in the Gramothe school from Grenier.
      2. Also, the riots have been calmer the past couple of days, but the streets are sure to heat up again tomorrow if the government doesn't give the people what they want (basically fair [meaning different] election results or Sweet Mickey to be in the run-off election in Jan.). School  hasn't been canceled for tomorrow, but the students were told at church today to stay home if there's trouble. The trouble is far from over, and there's no way to predict what will happen.
      Please keep praying for Haiti.

      And please know that I am not in danger here. I am not fearful for my safety or my health. God has given me peace and a burden for the people of Haiti. I want more than anything to see Haitians turn to the only One who can true and lasting peace. I ask that you join me in praying that during this difficult time more Haitians will come to know the Lord as the great Healer--of bodies, hearts, and nations.

      Saturday, December 11, 2010

      Yum, Yum, Yum

      I love Haitian food. I also love that Myra (the cook at the guest house) enjoys feeding me so much. She is a fantastic cook. Yesterday she made several of my favorite foods, and I was able to take some before and after pictures.

       This is lam veri tab, known in English as bread fruit. It's starchy like a potato, and you can eat it in about as many ways as you eat potatoes.

      This is the marinade (before mixing) that Myra used on the turkey, which was delicious. I think there is chopped green pepper, onion, some other green things, ground cloves, and maybe something other things.

      This is acra, I think. I know it becomes acra, but I'm not sure if acra is the vegetable or the finished product. Anyway, it's the root of a plant known as elephant ear. To make acra, you grate it, mix it with spices and then deep fry it. That little green thing is a pima, or pepper.

      Here is the blurry, but finished product. This is halfway through eating. I was so excited about yummy foods I forgot to take a picture at the beginning! The chicken nugget looking things are acra--one of my favorite foods here! The bright yellow flat french fries are fried lam veri tab. There's rice, and the orange mashed potato looking stuff is actually militon, which is squash. It's mashed and cooked with a little tomato paste--another of my favorite foods here. The meat was boiled in the marinade and then fried. If I remember correctly it was turkey. And the fried things at 12 o'clock are sweet potato fries. Such a delicious dinner!

      Yum, Yum, Yum

      I love Haitian food. I also love that Myra (the cook at the guest house) enjoys feeding me so much. She is a fantastic cook. Yesterday she made several of my favorite foods, and I was able to take some before and after pictures.

       This is lam veri tab, known in English as bread fruit. It's starchy like a potato, and you can eat it in about as many ways as you eat potatoes.

      This is the marinade (before mixing) that Myra used on the turkey, which was delicious. I think there is chopped green pepper, onion, some other green things, ground cloves, and maybe something other things.

      This is acra, I think. I know it becomes acra, but I'm not sure if acra is the vegetable or the finished product. Anyway, it's the root of a plant known as elephant ear. To make acra, you grate it, mix it with spices and then deep fry it. That little green thing is a pima, or pepper.

      Here is the blurry, but finished product. This is halfway through eating. I was so excited about yummy foods I forgot to take a picture at the beginning! The chicken nugget looking things are acra--one of my favorite foods here! The bright yellow flat french fries are fried lam veri tab. There's rice, and the orange mashed potato looking stuff is actually militon, which is squash. It's mashed and cooked with a little tomato paste--another of my favorite foods here. The meat was boiled in the marinade and then fried. If I remember correctly it was turkey. And the fried things at 12 o'clock are sweet potato fries. Such a delicious dinner!

      Thursday, December 9, 2010

      Three Months Today

      I've been thinking for several hours about what to write for this post to commemorate my first three months in Haiti. There's so much I'd like to say, but I can't figure out where to start. Even when I think about different categories of information I want to share, I have a hard time getting the right words to line up and make sentences. The ideas and pictures in my head seem so difficult to articulate today.

      I'd like to tell you about all the different ways God has been teaching me to trust him with my entire life. The scary ATV rides in the rain. The moments of panic before stepping in front of 55 seventh grade students who don't speak English. The riots and general unrest due to the elections. The hurricane that grazed Haiti.

      I also want to tell you about how my spending habits have changed since I left the Land of Plenty. How I have learned to depend on God to provide for my financial needs in a way I never could have while I was gainfully employed. How I've been blessed beyond measure by the generosity of my family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. How I still sometimes struggle to trust that God is going to take care of everything.

      My heart aches to explain the unnameable emotions that surface when someone shares their story about surviving the earthquake and what life was like in its aftermath.

      I wish I could give words to the scenes I see on the streets of Petionville, where thousands are still living in tents. That I could somehow explain the guilt I feel as I drive past tent after tent--both because I do nothing to help those people and also because I cynically wonder how many of them moved to the tent cities because they knew they would get free aid.

      And there are the children. The unconditional love from little brown boys and girls who don't speak your language is something you can only experience for yourself. I can tell you about the gifts they give me and their shy smiles and the way they fight to hold my hand, but those glimpses would never be enough to give you the whole picture.

      There are my students who exemplify the persistence and tenacity I've found to be such an intrinsic element of Haitian culture. First there’s the fact that they walk up that steep mountain road every. single. day. I wish I could do justice in telling you of the determination of 24 year-old men who want to finish high school. Or that I could adequately explain the fortitude of children who get themselves to school on time each day, wash their own clothes, cook their own meals, and do all the household chores because their parents who work as domestic helpers are only home one day a week.

      Or, maybe, I should spend some time talking about the life changing work done in the clinic. About the antibiotics given to fight infection. Or the nastiest burns I've ever seen that are cleaned and bandaged. Or surgical procedures that correct painful and disfiguring problems. Or something as simple as immunizations given to the children.

      There is so much in my heart that I wish I could share with you, and the past three months have changed me. My view of the world has been enlarged. My compassion for the poor has grown. My tolerance for commercialism and selfishness has shrunk. My love for the people of Haiti has increased beyond measure. And my desire to return to living in the States... well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

      Three Months Today

      I've been thinking for several hours about what to write for this post tocommemorate my first three months in Haiti. There's so much I'd like to say,but I can't figure out where to start. Even when I think about differentcategories of information I want to share, I have a hard time getting the rightwords to line up and make sentences. The ideas and pictures in my head seem sodifficult to articulate today.

      I'd like to tell you about all the different ways God has been teaching meto trust him with my entire life. The scary ATV rides in the rain. The momentsof panic before stepping in front of 55 seventh grade students who don't speakEnglish. The riots and general unrest due to the elections. The hurricane thatgrazed Haiti.

      I also want to tell you about how my spending habits have changed since I leftthe Land of Plenty. How I have learned to depend on God to provide for myfinancial needs in a way I never could have while I was gainfully employed. HowI've been blessed beyond measure by the generosity of my family, friends,neighbors, and even strangers. How I still sometimes struggle to trust that God is going to take care of everything.

      My heart aches to explain the unnameable emotions that surface when someoneshares their story about surviving the earthquake and what life was like in itsaftermath.

      I wish I could give words to the scenes I see on the streets of Petionville,where thousands are still living in tents. That I could somehow explain theguilt I feel as I drive past tent after tent--both because I do nothing to helpthose people and also because I cynically wonder how many of them moved to thetent cities because they knew they would get free aid.

      And there are the children. The unconditional love from little brown boysand girls who don't speak your language is something you can only experiencefor yourself. I can tell you about the gifts they give me and their shy smilesand the way they fight to hold my hand, but those glimpses would never beenough to give you the whole picture.

      There are my students who exemplify the persistence and tenacity I've foundto be such an intrinsic element of Haitian culture. First there’s the fact thatthey walk up that steep mountain road every. single. day.I wish I could do justice in telling you of the determination of 24 year-oldmen who want to finish high school. Or that I could adequately explain thefortitude of children who get themselves to school on time each day, wash theirown clothes, cook their own meals, and do all the household chores becausetheir parents who work as domestic helpers are only home one day a week.

      Or, maybe, I should spend some time talking about the life changing work done in the clinic. About the antibiotics given to fight infection. Or the nastiest burns I've ever seen that are cleaned and bandaged. Or surgical procedures that correct painful and disfiguring problems. Or something as simple as immunizations given to the children.

      There is so much in my heart that I wish I could share with you, and the past three months have changed me. My view of the world has been enlarged. My compassion for the poor has grown. My tolerance for commercialism and selfishness has shrunk. My love for the people of Haiti has increased beyond measure. And my desire to return to living in the States... well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

      Wednesday, December 8, 2010

      Things are Heating Up

      The Haitian Presidential election results were announced last night around 9pm. A friend texted me with the results from the radio. No one had more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off vote January 16th. The top two candidates were Mirlande Manigat with 31% of the votes and Jude Celestin with 22%. Sweet Micky, a popular singer, had 21% of the votes.

      The people are FURIOUS that Jude Celestin is in the run-off election and Sweet Micky is out. There's been a lot of dezòd in Haiti. Protesters set Jude Celestin's political headquarters on fire, and manifestations (similar to riots) have popped up all over the country. There was even a big group of people that marched to Preval's house to let him know they don't like what's going on. Preval is the current president, and it just so happens that the candidate who is engaged to his daughter is in the run-off when it's hard to find anyone who actually voted for the man. Tires have been burning all day. Trees have been cut down and placed in the street. And even here in my neighborhood there's been some ruckus.

      When there are manifestations in Port au Prince and it's not exactly safe to go there, people say the city is hot. A text I received this morning said school was canceled because the city was HOT, HOT, HOT. The teachers and principal who live there wouldn't be able to leave their homes, so school was out of the question.

      Pray for the people of Haiti, that they will find constructive ways to express their frustration with the corruption of their government and that they will seek change through nonviolent means.

      Things are Heating Up

      The Haitian Presidential election results were announced last night around 9pm. A friend texted me with the results from the radio. No one had more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off vote January 16th. The top two candidates were Mirlande Manigat with 31% of the votes and Jude Celestin with 22%. Sweet Micky, a popular singer, had 21% of the votes.

      The people are FURIOUS that Jude Celestin is in the run-off election and Sweet Micky is out. There's been a lot of dezòd in Haiti. Protesters set Jude Celestin's political headquarters on fire, and manifestations (similar to riots) have popped up all over the country. There was even a big group of people that marched to Preval's house to let him know they don't like what's going on. Preval is the current president, and it just so happens that the candidate who is engaged to his daughter is in the run-off when it's hard to find anyone who actually voted for the man. Tires have been burning all day. Trees have been cut down and placed in the street. And even here in my neighborhood there's been some ruckus.

      When there are manifestations in Port au Prince and it's not exactly safe to go there, people say the city is hot. A text I received this morning said school was canceled because the city was HOT, HOT, HOT. The teachers and principal who live there wouldn't be able to leave their homes, so school was out of the question.

      Pray for the people of Haiti, that they will find constructive ways to express their frustration with the corruption of their government and that they will seek change through nonviolent means.

      Tuesday, December 7, 2010

      Psalm 56:1--Britney's Version

      Today I was reminded of the first verse in Psalm 56.  

      "Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me...". 

      Back in September when I first arrived in Haiti, Willem gave me a speech about Haitian men. He said I might have been okay in the States--meaning maybe some guys liked me, but here in Haiti there would be men lining up to get the opportunity to love me. He went on and on about Haitian men and how they would really, truly love me. He said he didn't care how much I loved a man, he would have to step in if he felt the guy was using me to get a connection to the States. He made it very clear he would only bless a relationship if he knew the guy really loved me. I just chuckled to myself, thanked him for looking out for me, and hoped he would stop lecturing me soon.

      However, this week I've realized there is something about this white skin that drives Haitian men crazy. This week has been Exhibit A in men throwing themselves at me.
      • First, one of my 8th grade students, age 18, asked me if I was married. I told him I was not, and I asked if he was married. He replied that no he isn't married, but he's ready to get married. I asked him who he was going to marry, pointing at some of the girls standing near by. He paused for a little bit and then said he wanted to marry me. Oh, how the other students had a good time with this piece of information! 

      • Then there are the random greetings I've heard lately. It's customary to say "Bonjour" to almost everyone you see on the street. I've received the following greetings lately: 
      Bonjour bee-u-ti-ful!
      Hello sexy.
      I love you. I still love you.
      • Last night I sat and talked with some of the neighbors. There's a man here visiting his mother. He's Haitian, but he lives in the States most of the year. I had met him before, but wasn't overly impressed. He is close to my father's age and was a little too quick to kiss me on the cheek. Last night he asked me how old I was, inquired about how I liked living in Haiti, wondered aloud if I would be interested in staying more than a year, and then proceeded to tell me that if I did decide to stay I should let him know--with that "you know what I mean?" attitude that says he's not just being hospitable. Tonight during our English "class" that was really just the three of us talking, Taina quizzed me on having a boyfriend. Then she said that her cousin told her he liked me and asked her to do all the work for him! YUCK!! I think I might have to talk to Willem about this guy.

      • There is also the ongoing saga of the 19 year old student who admitted that he likes me. He is part of the group that walks with me after school each day. I don't think I would mind walking with him so much if he didn't always "conveniently" end up walking right next to me. (I'd like to remind you that Haitians don't understand the concept of personal space.) If I slow down and try to put some space between us, he slows down too. If I trade someone places in our line of people, he shifts over too. I've gotten to the point where I just tell him where to walk, or I make sure one of the little kids is holding my hand on the side closest to him. All of that is bad enough, but today it got worse. I didn't stop at the guest house before going home. I decided to go straight up to the top of 48 and on to my house. He decided that he would take the long way home so he could walk me even more than he already had! Add to that the fact that he is constantly saying, "Be careful!" and "Watch out!" and it's enough to make me lose it.
      I suppose the moral of the story is this: If you need a self-esteem boost, move to Haiti where all the men love you.

      Psalm 56:1--Britney's Version

      Today I was reminded of the first verse in Psalm 56.  

      "Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me...". 

      Back in September when I first arrived in Haiti, Willem gave me a speech about Haitian men. He said I might have been okay in the States--meaning maybe some guys liked me, but here in Haiti there would be men lining up to get the opportunity to love me. He went on and on about Haitian men and how they would really, truly love me. He said he didn't care how much I loved a man, he would have to step in if he felt the guy was using me to get a connection to the States. He made it very clear he would only bless a relationship if he knew the guy really loved me. I just chuckled to myself, thanked him for looking out for me, and hoped he would stop lecturing me soon.

      However, this week I've realized there is something about this white skin that drives Haitian men crazy. This week has been Exhibit A in men throwing themselves at me.
      • First, one of my 8th grade students, age 18, asked me if I was married. I told him I was not, and I asked if he was married. He replied that no he isn't married, but he's ready to get married. I asked him who he was going to marry, pointing at some of the girls standing near by. He paused for a little bit and then said he wanted to marry me. Oh, how the other students had a good time with this piece of information! 

      • Then there are the random greetings I've heard lately. It's customary to say "Bonjour" to almost everyone you see on the street. I've received the following greetings lately: 
      Bonjour bee-u-ti-ful!
      Hello sexy.
      I love you. I still love you.
      • Last night I sat and talked with some of the neighbors. There's a man here visiting his mother. He's Haitian, but he lives in the States most of the year. I had met him before, but wasn't overly impressed. He is close to my father's age and was a little too quick to kiss me on the cheek. Last night he asked me how old I was, inquired about how I liked living in Haiti, wondered aloud if I would be interested in staying more than a year, and then proceeded to tell me that if I did decide to stay I should let him know--with that "you know what I mean?" attitude that says he's not just being hospitable. Tonight during our English "class" that was really just the three of us talking, Taina quizzed me on having a boyfriend. Then she said that her cousin told her he liked me and asked her to do all the work for him! YUCK!! I think I might have to talk to Willem about this guy.

      • There is also the ongoing saga of the 19 year old student who admitted that he likes me. He is part of the group that walks with me after school each day. I don't think I would mind walking with him so much if he didn't always "conveniently" end up walking right next to me. (I'd like to remind you that Haitians don't understand the concept of personal space.) If I slow down and try to put some space between us, he slows down too. If I trade someone places in our line of people, he shifts over too. I've gotten to the point where I just tell him where to walk, or I make sure one of the little kids is holding my hand on the side closest to him. All of that is bad enough, but today it got worse. I didn't stop at the guest house before going home. I decided to go straight up to the top of 48 and on to my house. He decided that he would take the long way home so he could walk me even more than he already had! Add to that the fact that he is constantly saying, "Be careful!" and "Watch out!" and it's enough to make me lose it.
      I suppose the moral of the story is this: If you need a self-esteem boost, move to Haiti where all the men love you.

      Monday, December 6, 2010

      Awesome Clinic Video

      Have you ever wondered what it's like inside the Mountain Top Ministries clinic? Here's an awesome video Chuck made on his iPhone this week. I hadn't heard this song before, but I think it's perfect.

      Awesome Clinic Video

      Have you ever wondered what it's like inside the Mountain Top Ministries clinic? Here's an awesome video Chuck made on his iPhone this week. I hadn't heard this song before, but I think it's perfect.

      Friday, December 3, 2010

      The Perfect Job

      This week there is a medical team here from Oregon and Washington. They seem to be the perfect sized team. There are only 12 adults,  but today they saw 201 patients at the clinic!! They definitely know how the meaning of team work.

      The leader of the trip brought her 10 year old and her youngest daughter. I like both the girls, but my favorite is Naomi. She's all of 7.5 months old, and about the cutest thing I've seen. She is a very happy baby, loves to cuddle, and is my new best friend. In order to keep all the team members focused on the job they came to do, I have taken it upon myself to be Naomi's keeper whenever I'm not in class.



      My new job description: teach English to high school students, hold Naomi as much as possible, help in the clinic when my new BFF is sleeping

      The Perfect Job

      This week there is a medical team here from Oregon and Washington. They seem to be the perfect sized team. There are only 12 adults,  but today they saw 201 patients at the clinic!! They definitely know how the meaning of team work.

      The leader of the trip brought her 10 year old and her youngest daughter. I like both the girls, but my favorite is Naomi. She's all of 7.5 months old, and about the cutest thing I've seen. She is a very happy baby, loves to cuddle, and is my new best friend. In order to keep all the team members focused on the job they came to do, I have taken it upon myself to be Naomi's keeper whenever I'm not in class.



      My new job description: teach English to high school students, hold Naomi as much as possible, help in the clinic when my new BFF is sleeping

      Wednesday, December 1, 2010

      Christmas Wishlist

      You know, Christmas is just around the corner. I have this sneaking suspicion that some of you are very distraught over the fact that you just don't know what to get me for Christmas. With so few shopping days left before the big day, I thought I'd save you some time and just give you a list. Isn't it nice of me to help you out? Anyway, here are some ideas of how YOU can bless some of my students and me this holiday season!

      After School Computer Class

      1. Larousse French English Dictionaries  (20)
      2. multiple copies (7 would be nice, 4 will work) of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess
      3. other English picture books
      4. purses and/or bracelets for the 8 girls
      5. wallets and/or watches for the 12 guys
      6. American candy
      7. gum
      8. white out, Haitian students will not turn in a paper with a mistake on it. I am forever fighting them about wasting paper!
      9. a gift card to Meijer, Walgreens, or some other photo printing place so I can print some pictures for them to have
      Britney's Personal List
      • cook and serve chocolate pudding
      • Crystal Light Peach or Mango Peach Iced Tea
      • Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
      • chocolate chips
      • Wrinkle Releaser spray
      • stain remover spray for laundry

      Christmas Wishlist

      You know, Christmas is just around the corner. I have this sneaking suspicion that some of you are very distraught over the fact that you just don't know what to get me for Christmas. With so few shopping days left before the big day, I thought I'd save you some time and just give you a list. Isn't it nice of me to help you out? Anyway, here are some ideas of how YOU can bless some of my students and me this holiday season!

      After School Computer Class

      1. Larousse French English Dictionaries  (20)
      2. multiple copies (7 would be nice, 4 will work) of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess
      3. other English picture books
      4. purses and/or bracelets for the 8 girls
      5. wallets and/or watches for the 12 guys
      6. American candy
      7. gum
      8. white out, Haitian students will not turn in a paper with a mistake on it. I am forever fighting them about wasting paper!
      9. a gift card to Meijer, Walgreens, or some other photo printing place so I can print some pictures for them to have
      Britney's Personal List
      • cook and serve chocolate pudding
      • Crystal Light Peach or Mango Peach Iced Tea
      • Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
      • chocolate chips
      • Wrinkle Releaser spray
      • stain remover spray for laundry

      Monday, November 29, 2010

      Elections in Haiti

      In case you haven't heard, Haiti held elections yesterday. The people here want change. They wanted their votes to matter, and the people who planned to vote seemed excited to elect someone into office who will lead their country through the rebuilding process, create jobs, and find a solution to the displaced persons camps. Unfortunately, it seems that the election was not as "fair and transparent" as the Provisional Electoral Council claims it was.

      I found a video online that highlights some of the problems at the polling stations. The people were upset about these problems, and rightly so. The majority of the presidential candidates called for the election to be canceled and postponed until it could be completed without fraud. The candidates asked the citizens of Haiti to peacefully protest the election. So, the people did just that. Many people took to the streets in Port au Prince calling for Preval (current president) to be arrested. From what I've read online, the protesting was peaceful and there wasn't any violence. Thank you, Jesus! It seems that the streets in the capital are calm this morning, and I'm praying it stays that way.

      One thing is certain: Haiti needs a government that is not corrupt. How it's citizens go about obtaining that, I have no idea.

      PS. I am safe on the mountain. The protests are far away from me, and my neighborhood was quiet all day yesterday. My neighbors had a little cookout and some compas music, but other than that there is nothing happening even remotely close to us.

      Elections in Haiti

      In case you haven't heard, Haiti held elections yesterday. The people here want change. They wanted their votes to matter, and the people who planned to vote seemed excited to elect someone into office who will lead their country through the rebuilding process, create jobs, and find a solution to the displaced persons camps. Unfortunately, it seems that the election was not as "fair and transparent" as the Provisional Electoral Council claims it was.

      I found a video online that highlights some of the problems at the polling stations. The people were upset about these problems, and rightly so. The majority of the presidential candidates called for the election to be canceled and postponed until it could be completed without fraud. The candidates asked the citizens of Haiti to peacefully protest the election. So, the people did just that. Many people took to the streets in Port au Prince calling for Preval (current president) to be arrested. From what I've read online, the protesting was peaceful and there wasn't any violence. Thank you, Jesus! It seems that the streets in the capital are calm this morning, and I'm praying it stays that way.

      One thing is certain: Haiti needs a government that is not corrupt. How it's citizens go about obtaining that, I have no idea.

      PS. I am safe on the mountain. The protests are far away from me, and my neighborhood was quiet all day yesterday. My neighbors had a little cookout and some compas music, but other than that there is nothing happening even remotely close to us.

      Saturday, November 27, 2010

      Serious Stuff

      Elections take place tomorrow, Sunday Nov. 28th, and tensions are running high. In the States we get up a little earlier than normal, stop at the polling station on our way to work, cast our vote, and then watch the results on TV that night. Elections here are a little different. First there are the manifestations to avoid, if you can. Then there's the widespread belief that it doesn't matter who you vote for because the system is so corrupt that whoever has the most money and/or connections will win. And there seems to be some fear of what will happen after the results are announced.

      What they call manifestations here are basically disturbances that tend to turn into riots, and they are escalating in Port au Prince. Things are definitely heating up in the city. Enough that school was canceled Friday so the kids wouldn't be out on the streets. There's even talk that it could be canceled on Monday too if the manifestations don't calm down.

      Please pray that the elections will go smoothly--without the violence and corruption that seems to plague Haitian politics. Pray also that people will not be afraid to go out and vote, that the person elected as president will lead the people well.

      ***Just a special note that there are no manifestations happening in my neighborhood. I am safe here on the mountain. The crazy stuff is happening in downtown PaP.

      Serious Stuff

      Elections take place tomorrow, Sunday Nov. 28th, and tensions are running high. In the States we get up a little earlier than normal, stop at the polling station on our way to work, cast our vote, and then watch the results on TV that night. Elections here are a little different. First there are the manifestations to avoid, if you can. Then there's the widespread belief that it doesn't matter who you vote for because the system is so corrupt that whoever has the most money and/or connections will win. And there seems to be some fear of what will happen after the results are announced.

      What they call manifestations here are basically disturbances that tend to turn into riots, and they are escalating in Port au Prince. Things are definitely heating up in the city. Enough that school was canceled Friday so the kids wouldn't be out on the streets. There's even talk that it could be canceled on Monday too if the manifestations don't calm down.

      Please pray that the elections will go smoothly--without the violence and corruption that seems to plague Haitian politics. Pray also that people will not be afraid to go out and vote, that the person elected as president will lead the people well.

      ***Just a special note that there are no manifestations happening in my neighborhood. I am safe here on the mountain. The crazy stuff is happening in downtown PaP.

      Thursday, November 25, 2010

      QCS Discipleship Group

      Willem and Beth Charles (founders and directors of MTM) have two boys who attend a school in Delmas (between Port au Prince and Petionville) called Quisqueya Christian School. The American style Christian school wants to implement a more structured discipleship program with the middle and high school students, so they are piloting a structure for discipleship between now and the end of the semester. In order to keep the groups small they asked for parents and other volunteers (in addition to the teachers) to lead small discipleship groups on Friday mornings.

      Since I don't have any classes in Gramothe on Fridays, I gladly volunteered to lead a group. While this ministry opportunity isn't through MTM, I'm pretty excited about investing in the lives of some middle school girls--especially since they all speak English fluently. I have three 7th grade students and three 8th graders. They are a fantastic group of girls! I wish I could spend more time with them outside of our discipleship time. They decided they wanted to study the book of Revelation, so we are tackling the end times and all the questions that come with it, together.

      An added bonus to leading one of the discipleship groups is that Beth and I get to spend Friday mornings together. We've made it a tradition to stop for coffee and a pastry after we leave the school. It's a nice time for us to get away from daily life and just chat. I really value that time with her because in many ways she my unofficial mentor. Friday mornings gives me a time to ask questions about MTM, Haitian culture, and life in general. It's almost like my own personal discipleship class.

      QCS Discipleship Group

      Willem and Beth Charles (founders and directors of MTM) have two boys who attend a school in Delmas (between Port au Prince and Petionville) called Quisqueya Christian School. The American style Christian school wants to implement a more structured discipleship program with the middle and high school students, so they are piloting a structure for discipleship between now and the end of the semester. In order to keep the groups small they asked for parents and other volunteers (in addition to the teachers) to lead small discipleship groups on Friday mornings.

      Since I don't have any classes in Gramothe on Fridays, I gladly volunteered to lead a group. While this ministry opportunity isn't through MTM, I'm pretty excited about investing in the lives of some middle school girls--especially since they all speak English fluently. I have three 7th grade students and three 8th graders. They are a fantastic group of girls! I wish I could spend more time with them outside of our discipleship time. They decided they wanted to study the book of Revelation, so we are tackling the end times and all the questions that come with it, together.

      An added bonus to leading one of the discipleship groups is that Beth and I get to spend Friday mornings together. We've made it a tradition to stop for coffee and a pastry after we leave the school. It's a nice time for us to get away from daily life and just chat. I really value that time with her because in many ways she my unofficial mentor. Friday mornings gives me a time to ask questions about MTM, Haitian culture, and life in general. It's almost like my own personal discipleship class.

      Wednesday, November 24, 2010

      This Just In

      Four cases of cholera have been reported in the village of Bonga. MTM has ministry friends who minister in that area that will be distributing a simple bucket-water filter system there on Monday to 50 families. Our concern: Bonga is geographically close to the Gramothe/Thomassin areas & MTM has students from Bonga. 

      Please, please, please pray with us for this situation as we continue to monitor it closely.

      This Just In

      Four cases of cholera have been reported in the village of Bonga. MTM has ministry friends who minister in that area that will be distributing a simple bucket-water filter system there on Monday to 50 families. Our concern: Bonga is geographically close to the Gramothe/Thomassin areas & MTM has students from Bonga. 

      Please, please, please pray with us for this situation as we continue to monitor it closely.

      Tuesday, November 23, 2010

      Just Your Local Rock Star

      There are advantages and disadvantages to being one of very, very few white people that live in the neighborhood. The distinct disadvantage is that I have a hard time blending in when I am trying to avoid certain people, like a particular student who has a crush on his English teacher. Another disadvantage to being white is that small children who aren't used to seeing white skin sometimes cry when I look at them. Not exactly a self-esteem booster.

      But being the optimist that I am, I've found some pretty sweet perks to having white skin and living in Haiti. First, I love the fact that the preschool children find so much joy simply in saying good morning to me. My heart overflows with happiness every time they yell, "Blan" and then smile their cute little smiles at me. They also unabashedly race to touch my arms and hands before their teachers tell themt to get back in line.

      But the little tykes aren't the only ones enamored with me. I also have some high school kids who are a lot like paparazzi. Today after my 9th grade class, I had to hide my face with a piece of paper because someone was trying to take a picture of me with a cell phone!

      But school is not the only place I have rock start status. Often when I'm walking to school in the mornings there are little kids that will follow me or walk next to me for at least part of the way. They are content to smile at me shyly and say goodbye when they part with me. This morning, however, there were some elementary school girls, who I have never seen before (they attend another school), who were bold enough to squeeze my hand as they "accidentally" bumped into me. They just giggled when I grabbed their hands and squeezed them right back. I was sorry I couldn't walk with them for longer. I would have liked to ask them their names.

      Anyway, I think I'll start practicing my signature tonight. That way I'll be ready for my fans when they gain enough courage to ask me for my autograph.

      Just Your Local Rock Star

      There are advantages and disadvantages to being one of very, very few white people that live in the neighborhood. The distinct disadvantage is that I have a hard time blending in when I am trying to avoid certain people, like a particular student who has a crush on his English teacher. Another disadvantage to being white is that small children who aren't used to seeing white skin sometimes cry when I look at them. Not exactly a self-esteem booster.

      But being the optimist that I am, I've found some pretty sweet perks to having white skin and living in Haiti. First, I love the fact that the preschool children find so much joy simply in saying good morning to me. My heart overflows with happiness every time they yell, "Blan" and then smile their cute little smiles at me. They also unabashedly race to touch my arms and hands before their teachers tell themt to get back in line.

      But the little tykes aren't the only ones enamored with me. I also have some high school kids who are a lot like paparazzi. Today after my 9th grade class, I had to hide my face with a piece of paper because someone was trying to take a picture of me with a cell phone!

      But school is not the only place I have rock start status. Often when I'm walking to school in the mornings there are little kids that will follow me or walk next to me for at least part of the way. They are content to smile at me shyly and say goodbye when they part with me. This morning, however, there were some elementary school girls, who I have never seen before (they attend another school), who were bold enough to squeeze my hand as they "accidentally" bumped into me. They just giggled when I grabbed their hands and squeezed them right back. I was sorry I couldn't walk with them for longer. I would have liked to ask them their names.

      Anyway, I think I'll start practicing my signature tonight. That way I'll be ready for my fans when they gain enough courage to ask me for my autograph.

      Prayer for the new year

      I was flipping through my journal this morning, and I came across the very first entry for 2010. I thought I would share it with you. Remember, at that point I had no idea that I was going to Haiti for spring break, let alone a whole year!

      Friday January 1st, 2010
      Lord Jesus, I pray that this year would be one of falling more in love with you and of sharing the good news with many. I pray that you would clearly show me where you want me and that you would give me the strength to follow you there. May you be glorified in everything I do and say this year.

      Prayer for the new year

      I was flipping through my journal this morning, and I came across the very first entry for 2010. I thought I would share it with you. Remember, at that point I had no idea that I was going to Haiti for spring break, let alone a whole year!

      Friday January 1st, 2010
      Lord Jesus, I pray that this year would be one of falling more in love with you and of sharing the good news with many. I pray that you would clearly show me where you want me and that you would give me the strength to follow you there. May you be glorified in everything I do and say this year.

      Sunday, November 21, 2010

      Golden Nuggets IV

      Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 

      • While every plot of land in the U.S. has a designated address, specific addresses don't really exist in Haiti. For example there is a main road leaving Petionville (kind of a wealthy suburb of Port au Prince) that goes up the mountain to another town called Kenscoff. That main road is called Rue de Kenscoff. It's a very winding road with turns every few hundred feet. In fact it feels like it's just a big series of S turns. Along Rue de Kenscoff there are areas, or neighborhoods you could say. The first area is called Pelerin. Every street off Rue de Kenscoff in this area is called Pelerin followed by a number. Evens are on one side and odds are on the other. The Pelerin roads start at 1 and go up to 9 I think. After Pelerin comes Laboule. The numbers in Laboule appear to begin at 9 and go all the way to 25. After Laboule comes Thomassin, where I live. However, Thomassin is a big area. It goes all the way from 25 to 60. But the thing is, the roads are not even spaced. Just whenever there is another road leading off Rue de Kenscoff it has the next number. Anyway, every plot of land has the address of their street name and number. So my address is Thomassin 40, but the other 8-10 houses on our very short street also have that address. Willem and Beth live at Thomassin 48, which encompasses a very big area. There are numerous streets leading off of Thomassin 48 and there must be 50+ houses/businesses with the address of Thomassin 48! Occasionally the people living on a street will employ the use of gate numbers, but I don't see that very often. 
      • In addition to not having street addresses there is no postal system. Bank statements, utility bills, and the like are delivered by couriers hired by the businesses. Beth told me that if a courier doesn't know exactly where you live (you know, because the address is so specific), they just ask people on the street until they find your house.

      Golden Nuggets IV

      Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 

      • While every plot of land in the U.S. has a designated address, specific addresses don't really exist in Haiti. For example there is a main road leaving Petionville (kind of a wealthy suburb of Port au Prince) that goes up the mountain to another town called Kenscoff. That main road is called Rue de Kenscoff. It's a very winding road with turns every few hundred feet. In fact it feels like it's just a big series of S turns. Along Rue de Kenscoff there are areas, or neighborhoods you could say. The first area is called Pelerin. Every street off Rue de Kenscoff in this area is called Pelerin followed by a number. Evens are on one side and odds are on the other. The Pelerin roads start at 1 and go up to 9 I think. After Pelerin comes Laboule. The numbers in Laboule appear to begin at 9 and go all the way to 25. After Laboule comes Thomassin, where I live. However, Thomassin is a big area. It goes all the way from 25 to 60. But the thing is, the roads are not even spaced. Just whenever there is another road leading off Rue de Kenscoff it has the next number. Anyway, every plot of land has the address of their street name and number. So my address is Thomassin 40, but the other 8-10 houses on our very short street also have that address. Willem and Beth live at Thomassin 48, which encompasses a very big area. There are numerous streets leading off of Thomassin 48 and there must be 50+ houses/businesses with the address of Thomassin 48! Occasionally the people living on a street will employ the use of gate numbers, but I don't see that very often. 
      • In addition to not having street addresses there is no postal system. Bank statements, utility bills, and the like are delivered by couriers hired by the businesses. Beth told me that if a courier doesn't know exactly where you live (you know, because the address is so specific), they just ask people on the street until they find your house.

      Wednesday, November 17, 2010

      Golden Nuggets III

      Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 


      • November 18th is a national holiday, I think it's like the Haitian version of Veteran's Day. Anyway, there is no school on Thursday. I am hoping to go to Laboule with Beth and work on some minor home repairs and of course English.

      • Creole is a very non-specific language. The word for "here" is the same word for "there." And many, many words have more than one meaning. For example the word "koud" means elbow and to sew. "Men" is hand or but depending on the conversation. It can be frustrating because sometimes I hear a word that I know, but it doesn't make sense in the conversation. Then I find out it means something else entirely!

      • Haitians do not know the concept of personal space. At church on Sunday they have no qualms about packing as many people in a row as possible. In taptaps (public transportation) they sit nearly on top of each other and it doesn't appear to be awkward. At school I often see students holding hands or with interlocked arms as they are walking. When they sit, they often drape arms over each other. I find it very endearing.

      Golden Nuggets III

      Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 


      • November 18th is a national holiday, I think it's like the Haitian version of Veteran's Day. Anyway, there is no school on Thursday. I am hoping to go to Laboule with Beth and work on some minor home repairs and of course English.

      • Creole is a very non-specific language. The word for "here" is the same word for "there." And many, many words have more than one meaning. For example the word "koud" means elbow and to sew. "Men" is hand or but depending on the conversation. It can be frustrating because sometimes I hear a word that I know, but it doesn't make sense in the conversation. Then I find out it means something else entirely!

      • Haitians do not know the concept of personal space. At church on Sunday they have no qualms about packing as many people in a row as possible. In taptaps (public transportation) they sit nearly on top of each other and it doesn't appear to be awkward. At school I often see students holding hands or with interlocked arms as they are walking. When they sit, they often drape arms over each other. I find it very endearing.

      Tuesday, November 16, 2010

      Update on the Creole

      When I arrived in Haiti a little over two months ago, I knew approximately 10 words in Creole. Basically, I could greet people. After that I would just stand and stare at them.

      Now, only two months later, I can have basic conversations with people and they understand me! Today I read Green Eggs and Ham, in English, to the Laboule kids after school. I was able to translate most of it into Creole for them, and what I didn't know in Creole we could generally see in the pictures. They were really excited about hearing an English book.

      During our class Micka, my friend who leads worship at church, came in and asked me to investigate the location of a ball. Apparently at some point yesterday Dayley had a ball that belongs to someone else. The someone else went to Micka for help. She in turn went to Dayley to find out what happened to the ball. However, he won't tell her where it is. Since she's certain he knows where it is and he just won't tell her, she asked me to see if I could get him to tell me where the ball is. She has a lot of faith in my Creole skills! Under her orders, I had the following conversation with Dayley, my little boyfriend, on our way home from school.

      Me: Micka monde ou, "eske ou konnen kote bol la?" Micka asks you, "do you know where is the ball?"
      Dayley: Wi. Yes.
      Me: Ou konnen ki kote bol? You know where is the ball?
      Dayley doesn't answer.
      Me: Dayley, ou gen bol? Dayley you have ball?
      Dayley: Non! Mwen pa gen blah blah blah. No! I don't have blah blah blah in Creole.
      Me: Ki kote bol la? Where is the ball?
      Dayley doesn't answer.
      Me: Bol a kay ou? Ball at your house?
      Dayley: Non! No!
      Me: Ki kote bol la? Where is the ball?
      Dayley: Nan Gramothe. In Gramothe.
      Me: Ki kote nan Gramothe? Where in Gramothe?
      Dayley: He gave me the location, but I don't remember what he said.
      Me: Ou pral bay bol la a Micka demen? You will give Micka the ball tomorrow?
      Dayley: mumble, mumble, mumble. 

      While it wasn't exactly a profound conversation, it's definitely an accomplishment for me. I am thankful that I am beginning to understand people when they speak in Creole and that they understand me. The Laboule kids seem to be the best at speaking slowly for me... well, most of the time. Sometimes they get excited and just prattle on, but Hyphania and Nerlande are both good about telling me one word at a time so I can understand.

      Now if I can get the house helpers at Johane's and Willem and Beth's to speak slowly when they want to tell me something, I will have it made!

      Update on the Creole

      When I arrived in Haiti a little over two months ago, I knew approximately 10 words in Creole. Basically, I could greet people. After that I would just stand and stare at them.

      Now, only two months later, I can have basic conversations with people and they understand me! Today I read Green Eggs and Ham, in English, to the Laboule kids after school. I was able to translate most of it into Creole for them, and what I didn't know in Creole we could generally see in the pictures. They were really excited about hearing an English book.

      During our class Micka, my friend who leads worship at church, came in and asked me to investigate the location of a ball. Apparently at some point yesterday Dayley had a ball that belongs to someone else. The someone else went to Micka for help. She in turn went to Dayley to find out what happened to the ball. However, he won't tell her where it is. Since she's certain he knows where it is and he just won't tell her, she asked me to see if I could get him to tell me where the ball is. She has a lot of faith in my Creole skills! Under her orders, I had the following conversation with Dayley, my little boyfriend, on our way home from school.

      Me: Micka monde ou, "eske ou konnen kote bol la?" Micka asks you, "do you know where is the ball?"
      Dayley: Wi. Yes.
      Me: Ou konnen ki kote bol? You know where is the ball?
      Dayley doesn't answer.
      Me: Dayley, ou gen bol? Dayley you have ball?
      Dayley: Non! Mwen pa gen blah blah blah. No! I don't have blah blah blah in Creole.
      Me: Ki kote bol la? Where is the ball?
      Dayley doesn't answer.
      Me: Bol a kay ou? Ball at your house?
      Dayley: Non! No!
      Me: Ki kote bol la? Where is the ball?
      Dayley: Nan Gramothe. In Gramothe.
      Me: Ki kote nan Gramothe? Where in Gramothe?
      Dayley: He gave me the location, but I don't remember what he said.
      Me: Ou pral bay bol la a Micka demen? You will give Micka the ball tomorrow?
      Dayley: mumble, mumble, mumble. 

      While it wasn't exactly a profound conversation, it's definitely an accomplishment for me. I am thankful that I am beginning to understand people when they speak in Creole and that they understand me. The Laboule kids seem to be the best at speaking slowly for me... well, most of the time. Sometimes they get excited and just prattle on, but Hyphania and Nerlande are both good about telling me one word at a time so I can understand.

      Now if I can get the house helpers at Johane's and Willem and Beth's to speak slowly when they want to tell me something, I will have it made!

      Monday, November 15, 2010

      The Hard Part

      I really enjoy being here in Haiti. The missionaries I am working with are fantastic, and I love my students. I am looking forward to skipping winter weather, and it's awfully nice to have so many people falling over themselves just say hello to me. It makes me feel a little like a rock star.

      As much as I love being here, though, there are aspects of the culture that are difficult to deal with. This morning I was a bit overwhelmed by some of them. Awhile ago I began reading a book called Restavec by Jean Robert Cadet. It's a memoir written by a man who was a part of Haiti's socially accepted child slavery. While I haven't seen any evidence of child slavery in the two months I've lived here, last night I was talking to some friends about it. They told me stories about families in mountain villages who send their children to live with relatives or someone they (kind of) know in the city. The family is often told the child will receive an education, be well fed, and be generally taken care of. However when the families go to visit their children or to pick them up, they learn that the child has been forced into slavery. Sometimes the child has been sold or given to someone else and the parents can't find them. It's really very sad because it's a socially accepted part of the culture (at least for the wealthy who are using the kids as slaves).

      My friends also explained to me that if a woman has a child from a previous relationship and marries another man, the child is treated as a slave to the rest of the family. For example, there's a woman in Gramothe who had a daughter. Her husband died, and she wanted to become involved with another man. She knew that her daughter would be treated like a slave to the man and any kids she had with him, so she made the tough choice to give her daughter up for adoption. My heart broke for her and the daughter she doesn't have to hold any more.

      And then there's the whole corporal punishment issue. Corporal punishment is definitely alive and well in Haiti. Teachers have switches or belts they carry around with them. The principal frequently has a switch in his hand. Sometimes the students are made to kneel on the cement for periods of time as a punishment. I don't think anyone in Haiti has ever heard of positive reinforcement! It's no wonder my students are constantly telling me they like the way I teach. I don't use any of the classroom management techniques they are accustomed to!

      I don't share this information with you to make you think poorly of Haitians or their culture. Not every Haitian approves of child slavery, just as not every American condones drug use. The Haitian culture is not bad or wrong. It just has issues like every other culture in the world. I share this information simply to give you a glimpse into what's on my heart. I also don't want to give the rose tinted view of life here. While I like being here, there are parts that are difficult.

      The Hard Part

      I really enjoy being here in Haiti. The missionaries I am working with are fantastic, and I love my students. I am looking forward to skipping winter weather, and it's awfully nice to have so many people falling over themselves just say hello to me. It makes me feel a little like a rock star.

      As much as I love being here, though, there are aspects of the culture that are difficult to deal with. This morning I was a bit overwhelmed by some of them. Awhile ago I began reading a book called Restavec by Jean Robert Cadet. It's a memoir written by a man who was a part of Haiti's socially accepted child slavery. While I haven't seen any evidence of child slavery in the two months I've lived here, last night I was talking to some friends about it. They told me stories about families in mountain villages who send their children to live with relatives or someone they (kind of) know in the city. The family is often told the child will receive an education, be well fed, and be generally taken care of. However when the families go to visit their children or to pick them up, they learn that the child has been forced into slavery. Sometimes the child has been sold or given to someone else and the parents can't find them. It's really very sad because it's a socially accepted part of the culture (at least for the wealthy who are using the kids as slaves).

      My friends also explained to me that if a woman has a child from a previous relationship and marries another man, the child is treated as a slave to the rest of the family. For example, there's a woman in Gramothe who had a daughter. Her husband died, and she wanted to become involved with another man. She knew that her daughter would be treated like a slave to the man and any kids she had with him, so she made the tough choice to give her daughter up for adoption. My heart broke for her and the daughter she doesn't have to hold any more.

      And then there's the whole corporal punishment issue. Corporal punishment is definitely alive and well in Haiti. Teachers have switches or belts they carry around with them. The principal frequently has a switch in his hand. Sometimes the students are made to kneel on the cement for periods of time as a punishment. I don't think anyone in Haiti has ever heard of positive reinforcement! It's no wonder my students are constantly telling me they like the way I teach. I don't use any of the classroom management techniques they are accustomed to!

      I don't share this information with you to make you think poorly of Haitians or their culture. Not every Haitian approves of child slavery, just as not every American condones drug use. The Haitian culture is not bad or wrong. It just has issues like every other culture in the world. I share this information simply to give you a glimpse into what's on my heart. I also don't want to give the rose tinted view of life here. While I like being here, there are parts that are difficult.

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      Give Your Best

      Recently a friend of Mountain Top Ministries published a book about the founder and life changing ministry of MTM. The author, Andy DeWitt, expertly weaves facts and tidbits of history into vignettes of Willem Charles's life and ministry, making the book a very easy read. You won't want to put it down!

      If you're interested in learning more about the village where I'm teaching or the organization I'm working with this year, you need to get yourself a copy of the book Give Your Best. Plus, all the proceeds from the book are going to support Mountain Top Ministries.