Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep in humility, thankfulness and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state that one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride. 

 — C.S. Lewis

Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing. 

— St. Therese of Lisieux




Monday, August 30, 2010

It Wars Against Us

Matt Chandler at The Village Church has a great series from 2007 called The Roles of Men (you should listen to if you have not already). In that series he often repeats a phrase: "it wars against us". The idea is that because of the fall, everything that man touches wars against us in a way, frustrating us and making Godliness a challenge. Our spouses. Our children. Our work. I think living in Haiti has made me appreciate that phrase more.

One thing I don't think anyone can comprehend unless they live here, is that getting items off your to-do list is often a Herculean task in Haiti. Are your inverter batteries dead? Need gas for your stove? Out of fuel for your car? Is your cistern out of water? You will need to drive around and hunt for these items. Wait in line at some store. Or sometimes just wait until the item arrives in-country because of shortages. In addition, when you don't own a car you find yourself always asking for rides, wishing you weren't inconveniencing people.

Because of these and a long list of other reasons, I wanted to buy a car this semester. And we recently did. The Izzo (its new nickname) is older than all of our students, blue in most places, dented in others. Very Haitian car.

But getting a car to make life easier in the long run has proved to be troublesome in the short term. Izzo needed some work and we waited two long weeks to get her fixed. On Monday we took her out for what was to be her maiden voyage.

So Bearded Tony, Katie and I jumped in the car after school on Monday for a much-needed trip to the grocery store. Normally we would walk, but we wanted to buy lots of things- our cupboards were bare.

The Izzo started fine. I backed her up, executed a solid 3-point turn in the parking lot, and began to drive toward the gate. Pierre, a school guard, was opening the gate for us when it happened.

The breaks stopped responding.

I pressed down and nothing happened. I pumped and we keep rolling. The distance to the gate closing, I stood on the breaks and shouted at my passengers, "The breaks aren't working!"

I think they all offered suggestions or asked questions- I don't really remember. Pierre sensed something was wrong and jumped out of the way of my 5 mile per hour battering ram. We rolled out onto Delmas 75. Blessedly there was no traffic to our left or we would have been sideswiped. The Izzo, with three of us panicking inside, rolled in between two cars stopped at the stop light (remember kids, always leave one car length space when stopped) up onto the curb and hit a cinder-block wall as I shifted the car into park.

Imagine this from the perspective of a Haitian on the street. A car full of blans has just rolled at 5 mph out of a school, across traffic, and hit a wall. These white people... they cannot do anything!

I felt this big.

The school mechanic was around (he did the original work on the car, including replacing the break fluid). He and I were/are bewildered at how the breaks could work, then stop working, then slightly work again. So, the master cylinder is now being removed and cleaned and then replaced. 

Luckily no property, other than The Izzo's front fender, was damaged. Thankfully no one was hurt, except my pride.

I have been the subject to some gentle ribbing from my missionary friends- and rightly so. It was a funny... in hindsight.

But it does underscore Matt Chandler's point. It wars against.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bearded Tony

The mission field is an interesting place. New cultures, new languages, new foods, new friends.

One of the things I have really enjoyed is becoming friends with people who might not have normally crossed my path in the states. Take, for example, the case of my good friend Tony.
 Tony is fiercely proud of his Russian heritage. Incredibly intelligent. Very missional. And his beard is...

Tony came to QCS a semester before Katie and I and loves to walk everywhere. This is an admirable trait once you realize that to go or come back from someplace you HAVE to walk uphill. And when I say hill I mean mountain.

Walking anywhere with Tony you immediately fade to the background. Why? Because Haitians love Tony's beard. Walk on the street with him and you hear many things.

OOO blan. Haha (while stroking chin)
Bob! Bob! (which means beard in Kreyol) while stroking chin.
Jezi! Hahaha Jezi! (Jesus)
Moises! or, my personal favorite: Osama!

Yep, that is right- Haitians think Tony looks like Jesus, Moses or, to the more well-read-on-current-events-Haitian-street-vendor, Osama Bin Laden.

They stare, they point, they laugh. I love it. Once someone was heckling him as we were walking to the store, calling him Jesus, and I politely told them, "Pa Jezi, li Moises!" He is not Jesus, He is Moses. The Haitian and I cracked up. Tony glared and thanked me for egging them on.

The point of all of this is that going anywhere with Tony is an adventure. Today we went to St. James Episcopal Church where Tony was delivering the homily. This involved a tap-tap ride at 7:30 in the morning. Then a half of a mile walk through a crowded marketplace uphill(mountian) at about a 30 degree incline. All the while, everyone shouting which religious figure they think he looks like.... except one guy.

One guy says (in creole) "Good Morning, handsome youth".

Tony, normally unfazed on the street, does a double-take, translates for me, and we start walking a bit faster.

That is why I like hanging out with Tony- his environment is completely unpredictable. That, and we both enjoy taking our "anti-malaria" medicine..


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Weekend Adventures, or Why My Student Humbles and Amazes Me

On Friday, we took a girls' trip to Handal, a home store in Petionville, just north of Quisqueya. I am really starting to know my way around- as in, I could drive up Delmas, then find Place Boyer (a former city park that is now a tent city surrounded by nice restaurants and upscale-for-Haiti home goods stores), then find Handal.

There are 21 of us living on campus right now, including 9 women and 5 children under 5th grade. It is so fun. 19 of those 21 people are twenty-and-thirty-somethings, and it is so very nice to spend time all together. I honestly like every single one of the on-campus dwellers. Most are new to Haiti, less than two years under our belts. So on Friday, Brittany, Jaime, Katie, Heidi, Tiffany, Heather, baby Asher and I crammed into a pickup and bumped along to Handal.

Each time I find a new "resource" here, I feel more confident, more "ok, I can do this". Handal has triple the amount of home goods that the little second floor of the Eagle grocery store has, and at way better prices. They have things like plastic trashcans, sheets, green cleaning products, school supplies, green/organic toiletries and... snacks. Tasty, name brand snacks. I had brought only $13 US, so I had to choose wisely. I left with 3 precious treats: Hot & Spicy Cheese-Its, pretzel Goldfish, and pizza Goldfish. I am not ashamed to admit I ate the Hot & Spicy Cheese-Its (whole box) in less than 48 hours.

Friday night we all went over to the Hendricks house (they have 4 boys, are from Texas, and live in the former art/music building) to play Chickenfoot and eat popcorn popped on the range in a pot.

Saturday I walked across the street to campus and worked in my classroom for about 3 hours. If I do that on Saturdays, it cuts down on several hours of after-school work during the week, so I don't mind doing it. I just can't work well in the afternoons after school- it is just too freaking hot to think.

Saturday afternoon Katie & Jaime (recent grads from Ohio/Indiana, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers, roommates next door to Ben and I) joined Ben and I going up the mountain to visit Jodie Ackerman. Jodie's daughters are now both in college and her husband is still in the states speaking, so she's been here by her lonesome and we wanted to keep her company. Let's not lie, there are some other reasons too: 1) Jodie is really fun, 2) she offered to take us to Delice, a hamburger joint, 3) her house has hot showers, and 4) it's way cooler and less mosquito-y up on the mountain. We played Apples to Apples and laughed so hard. For the first time since we've been back, it was cool enough while sleeping to snuggle with Ben- my usual mentality is more like "get away from me, you heat-producing oven".

Sunday morning was supposed to be pretty normal (going to church), but wound up being quite the adventure. Last spring we attended the Christian Service International house church right around the corner. CSI decided to move the church to the CSI compound in Croix-des-Bouquets (you may remember when we visited their awesome orphanage in May- truly the best one I've seen so far) where their clinic and orphanage already are located, so now church is an hour's drive away.

Art, our Ohioan PE/health teacher and other next door neighbor, was so kind as to volunteer to drive us all, so about ten of us piled in the school's Chinese 14-passenger Jin Bei van (I mean, how in the world did this car wind up at Quisqueya? Donated by one of the medical teams from the spring? It's a mystery). We attended church with about ten other people in one of the exam rooms at the CSI clinic.

When we walk in to church, I see one of my students Hannah, whose parents serve with CSI, and go over to say hello, but I literally stopped in my tracks.

Hannah's holding this toddler covered in the worst case of scabies I have ever seen. Scabies from her hairline to the tops of her feet. So bad she's covered in open wounds from the itching. Her little chin is actually split open from the staph infection under the skin from those wounds.

Oh, by the way, she's also got pneumonia.

Hannah sits in the back, holding Islane, soothing her, snuggling her (by the way, scabies is super contagious, and I ask Hannah about this, and she says "oh, it's ok, I'll just treat myself when we treat her". Then, at the end of the service, she stands up and says "oh". I say, "what's wrong?"

Hannah replies, "oh nothing, she peed on me."

So as we leave church and drive the hour back to Quisqueya (which actually took longer because we ran into 1) a rained-out road that the Jin Bei could not handle, and 2) a section of Delmas that was blocked off due to some kind of demonstration), I'm thinking about how this is what Hannah's life is like as a high school student.

Living in Haiti, an hour's drive from school, living literally inside an orphanage 24/7 with 20 girls under age 13, loving on toddlers with scabies and other yucky sicknesses. Contrast to my high school priorities: pep rallies, Homecoming dates, whether I had the right brand of jeans. I am so totally impressed and humbled.

So maybe I should give her a break the next time I give a pop quiz.


PS Then on Monday we had our first Kreyol lesson. I learned the vowel sounds, subject pronouns, and the word for teacher, professor, and intelligent.

Giving Birth in Haiti

by Beth McHoul

It's near to 11:00 PM and most people are home in bed. In my exaggerated thinking of the moment I feel like only scoundrels and midwives are out in Haiti this time of night. Here I am doing another transport after a 24 hour labor and delivery effort that ended in no delivery. When a c/section looms our choices are limited. The small hospital with no doctor or the huge hospital with few doctors and hundreds of women. I chose the latter.

Carline is 18, single, sweet and eager to please. Although exhausted she responded to our every suggestion and was totally cooperative for two full days. She sat defeated when we explained our findings but she understood only one thing - we meant transport. She cried. We cried.

In the rainy dark we loaded up my car. Two guards, one grandma, a nurse, a cousin, the mom-to-be and me. Off we went. The empty streets were full of puddles, trash and the occasional group of people brave enough to be out this late. I speed past Cite Soleil. I enjoy the speed, the lack of traffic jam, the empty streets. I hate the reason I am on them.

I've been to this hospital twice before, I am prepared. I've even made an acquaintance of one of the doctors shaking my head in understanding as he told me how overcrowded they are. I can see that.

If I thought last time was crowded tonight seemed doubled. Laboring women were everywhere. On benches, lying on the floor, on beds, walking about, yelling, crying, screaming and moaning. Every hallway had laboring women on the floor. Blood spots here and there. Trash all around. The new doctor I meet tells me yes, he agrees, our gal probably will need a c/section but she has to wait in line. There are several before her. I'm now moaning along with the laboring women.

I'm filled with disappointment, guilt and frustration as I leave this teenager here. Due to government legalities I am not allowed to stay and help. My heart is sick. The doctor doesn't want one more patient and I don't want to leave our patient here.

We drive home in silence. Once again I am defeated by the inability to provide a woman with a safe birth. A woman we have cared for for months. She knows us, she trusts us, she believed we would help her through this birth experience and now I find that we are not able to finish the job. We are a maternity center and not a hospital. We can only handle normal births. Explain this to a frightened 18 year old who is staring at the multitude of swollen bellies, sweat, urine, vomit, blood and amniotic fluid all around her.

We clean up our fluids quickly, we give Gatorade with a straw, we wipe foreheads with cool cloths, we hug, we check on baby and mom continuously. Not so in this hospital for the poor.

I'm not blaming the overworked staff. The residents are doing their jobs under terrible circumstances. Foreign groups are making huge efforts at the free hospitals to make a difference.

It is not enough. The conditions are like out of an old horror movie but it is all too real. Too real for Carline. Too real for all the women that have to go there because they don't have money to go anywhere else. Somehow they come out with a baby. Most of the time.

This is not acceptable for our transports. The women entrusted to our care should not end up in overcrowded hospitals with broken equipment and filthy conditions if they need more care than we can give.

Heartline is committed to building a 20 bed hospital. We need safe deliveries, safe surgeries and quality postpartum care. Every transport nightmare reinforces to me how important this is. Just ask Carline.

This post was written by Beth McHoul, a leader at Heartline.
Her husband, John, has volunteered to shave his head if the $50,000 is raised by November 12. You know you want to see video of that. C'mon people.

Ben and I will be making a gift shortly to build this 20-bed hopspital. Want to join us? Go here to donate or to see the current progress toward the goal.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

100 Things

Fascinating article in the NY Times about how downsizing your lifestyle, getting off the crazy-busy hamster wheel, even shedding possessions until you have only 100 items, can make you much happier.

B and I noticed one major "invisible" difference between our Haitilife and our Dallaslife this past summer. Even with gorgeous spa-like hot showers, non-bed-bug-infested furniture, and every delicious meal I could find space to stuff in my belly, I felt frantic and frazzled for most of this summer.

Why? I think the slow Haiti lifestyle has seeped into us, filled up the cracks, and made us love reading for 3 hours a night. Love going to bed at 9:30. Love having a quiet, electronic-stimulation-free (read: electricity not on haha) evening. Love having no commute, no driving except once or twice a week riding in someone else's car.

Even with every convenience, pleasure, or entertainment, we were excited to leave the frazzled and go back to the slow (sometimes painfully, frustratingly, pull-your-hair-out slow).


Beach II

First of all, can we please take a moment for collective laughter at Stuff Christians Like's blog called "How to Spot a Missionary"?

To continue the photo essay of Haitian street life, as captured through the car window on a drive to the beach...
Hanging wires
Croix-des-Bouquets Bridge
 This is the tent city where Ryan, Adam, Anna, Ben and I did our crazy food drop (part one and part two) back in the spring. It has grown to be very large now- when we were there it was just a few dozen half-made homes, still largely sticks and bedsheets. Now it has taken on the familiar blue color of other tent cities, blue like the tarps with some random aid agency's logo.
We were surprised to see the giant equipment moving earth. Not sure why- possibly widening a road? Unclear. Looks like some sort of progress, though?

Dozens of times a day I capture a moment in my brain and wish I had a camera there to record it.

Tap-tap with TEXAS painted on the window this morning- click.
Ben pushing our Jin Bei 14-passenger van out of a swamp on the way home from church- click.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Paranoia, Shame and Guns

I need to preface this blog post. One, I have been reading a lot of Kerouac, so if this is written in a more-erratic-that-usual style, let's blame him. Two, this is most assuredly darker than Katie's previous posts, but it is truthful. That counts for something, right? Three, if you are questioning after reading one and two then you can stop. It's cool with me.

Sunday there was school dinner for all of the faculty and staff. They fed us Domino's pizza. No small feat when you consider the bellies they had to fill and the near $20 cost for a pie. Man, that pizza tastes just like it does in the states. What a treat.

At the dinner, our friend Rich told me about his GSW this summer. During a robbery in a rough(er) part of town he took a round to his leg. It was not too serious, bullet went straight through, but he did lose a lot of blood. There are many amazing parts of his story. One, the guy who drove him to the hospital was a Christian too and knew of Rich's ministry. He just happened to be at the intersection were Rich got hit. Second, after some rehab in the States Rich is back here, ready to minister. Furthermore, the triage work was done with him awake. If I took a bullet and was getting triage, I would be politely begging to be completely anesthetized. I think I would be losing my mind. Rich says he stayed calm and awake the whole time, even initially bandaging the wound on his leg in the truck while he was being driven to the hospital.

I asked a group of young men if they thought they could do the same. Did they think they possessed the faith and the conviction in what they were doing to take a round and come back for more? Answers varied. My favorite reaction was from a guy who said, "It would depend on what my wife wanted to do." True that.

Being blunt, honest and vulnerable-I don't know if I could do it. I probably wouldn't. I don't know what Katie would want to do. I credit what Rich and his wife are doing to their faith. I don't think I have that kind of faith, and I feel very ashamed by that.

I got home Sunday and Rich's story seeped into my head like a prion. At 9:30 I had to check our first aid kits. The small travel sized one for cuts. The larger one for more serious wounds. I unpacked them, evaluated them. Shifted things around. Repacked them.

I realized that I am paranoid. Disaster paranoid. That might be one of the lasting effects of my earthquake experience.

To be clear, I am not paranoid of the disaster itself. Goodness, this is Haiti. There are going to be hurricanes, mudslides, election violence, quakes. TIH. It happens. Whatever. I am paranoid about not being prepared for it; a little OCD about being prepared for the next calamity.

The most shameful part is that I don't think anyone else in my circle of missionary friends would bat an eye about any of these things. The robberies, civil unrest, natural disasters- I don't think it phases them. The 3 missionaries I admire most are too steadfast and faithful to be as nutty as I am. Steve, Corrigan and John wouldn't consider leaving. They have not left even in the worst of times. I am racked with self-doubt about if I could do the same.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thai and Beach I

This past weekend Ben and I did something we've never done before in Haiti- 1) we ate Thai food, and 2) we went to the beach near Port-au-Prince. Many of our students go to the beach, which is about an hour away, frequently or even every weekend. There are a few hotels there with private beaches, and you can stay for the night or just buy a day pass to the beach. We did the latter on Sunday afternoon. On the drive to the beach I shot some photographs of everyday life on the street.

Friday night Thai food at Look Nun's. It was actually pretty great.

Ben says his pad thai was delish.
Buying, selling, chilling.
Marker in the circle intersection between Delmas 33 and the airport road. I'm really feeling more aware of the neighborhoods and major streets in Port now.
Lesly Centers are everywhere. They are little shops labeled "bank", and apparently they are storefronts for gambling. Why is it that gambling/lotto/payday loans/cash advance operations are always marketed to the poorest people?
Poisson is fish- they've illustrated the fish for sale.
Note the couple walking in their Sunday morning finest. It's such a contrast to see that often here- fancy and formal clothes, walking down unpaved, trashy streets.
All the preschool/daycare places have do-it-yourself murals of American cartoon characters. What an interesting cultural export.
Look very closely at the dark space in front of the building on the left. I missed it the first time I saw this image on my computer.

The rest of the photos from the ride to the beach coming soon, and photos from the first day of school (which was today!)


Two Universes and Paralympians

This was me one week ago.
Classical architecture, Virginia charm wedding. Sparklers. J Crew dresses. Cowboy boots. Salsa bar. 8-piece band.

This is me this morning.
Beans and rice and beans and rice. 100 million degrees. Wake up naturally at 6 due to early sunrise. First day of school. Where were you last spring? Miami. Boston. Montreal. Miami, Miami, Miami. White polos still unstained, markers still have tops. Learning names like Rackel, Cannelle, Anais, Loic, Axel, Nastassja. Boris asks to be called Bobo?! I am taking photos of the opening assembly for the school blog. Drivers arrive at 12 to pick up the students.

I exist in two universes. Will I become a Third Culture Kid/Adult?
Teachers at our last morning meeting during teacher training week. In the center there you can see everybody's favorite Australian on campus, our new high school principal Rod. Bearded Tony's in the background, telling a funny story.
The campus is beautiful in the early morning light.
My favorite part of campus is walking under this bouganvilla.
 New paint for the whole school.
The amputee soccer team was back on Saturday for more practice. Apparently they are preparing to attend the Paralympics in South America soon. So, so inspiring.
Can you imagine life after an amputation? I can't.
The players all have one leg, but the goalies have only one arm.
Such brave guys.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Soccer With 1 Leg

Things are really shaping up. Ben decorated his first bulletin board ever :)

I love my classroom and can't wait to have kids in it. Our high school classes are getting really full- over 25 kids in 3 out of 4 grades. I'm teaching 9th, 10th, 11th grade English and Senior Transitions, a life skills class all seniors must take. In Transitions we'll be learning about all manner of things, including cars, credit cards, laundry, cooking, financial aid, college apps, dancing, card games, fine arts, employment... such a fun class to teach.

Really amazing news- my MOM is coming to visit! She booked her ticket today for mid-September, and I am already planning her extended weekend here. She is a financial planner, so I am hoping to have her guest lecture with my seniors on finances.

Right now, with all the new teachers and new policies and new students and new housing, we all have a pretty big to-do list. Often we are frustrated that things aren't going fast enough- I need a key copied, I need the hot water heater fixed, my classroom ceiling is leaking, etc etc. Well, today I was stopped in my tracks and had my priorities set straight by a group of guests to our campus.

They are a soccer team of amputees. There were 20 or 30 of them, playing on the field. Every man out there had just one leg, and was playing soccer with braces (the kind of crutches you hold in your hands vs. under your arms). The goalies had both legs, but one goalie had one arm and the other had no arms.

They played for a long time, several hours, in the hot sun. There was a lot of joy on their faces.

I was so inspired. Learning to focus on gratitude...


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back in Action

We're baaack.

Flew in yesterday around lunch. All 4 bags arrived. The airport is in better shape than the last time I was there- more organized, more secure.

Driving through the streets, there were a few noticeable improvements. Some, just some. Some streets were clearer, tent cities still everywhere, but I think they looked less ragged and trash-filled. It is hot as all get out- the car said 120 (slightly suspect number, but it's hot as fire nonetheless).

Our apartment looked fine. We had removed all food, even canned veggies and salt, and then we packed the tiny space with no less than ten rat poison packets. We laughed about finding 5 dead rat skeletons on the floor when we returned, but no luck- just one giant dead spider next to our bed. There was a deep layer of dust on everything. It is much quieter at this apartment.

The apt is really coming together. To recap, we have had three apartments here in PAP- an original one we stayed in for a week in January (and where we were during the actual earthquake), one on campus after the quake which we shared with 6 people (and where we held class in our living room), and this new one, a 1 bedroom directly across the street from campus. It has three rooms: fire engine red kitchen, lemon yellow living room (really those two are one room), turquoise bedroom. Did I mention all three rooms have Skittle yellow tile?! Quite the color combinations. I've been hunting for packable, cheap, non-nail/screw-requiring (walls are cement blocks) decorating solutions this summer. Big winners so far- paper lanterns from Ikea for the bare bulbs and many yards of pretty fabric to hang on the walls, tapestry-style (all hung with Command hooks, just like in the dorm years).

The water was working, power was on. Now we just need gas for the stove, someone to re-key the front door lock, and to fix our little window unit air conditioner (it's shy, or broken, or something).

The school looks great, too, having received a fresh coat of paint. We met some new friends- Ben and Heidi, Aaron, Rod the new principal and wife Brittany who works at Lighthouse orphanage (with baby son Asher), Trisha (wife of Tariq, who was here last spring with us, mother of baby Lucas), Jean, Phaedra who teaches Pre-K, Joelle from Burundi... I am so excited for quality friendships with them all. Some of us on-campus teachers got together for a feast of MRE's last night.

We ate the ol' classic post-earthquake meal again for lunch today- beans, rice, broth, grisly chicken leg. Somehow there was a rosy glow around many things I whined about last spring. I think I was just so happy to be back on campus.

I get to keep my classroom from last semester. I brought packing tape and poster putty, hopefully I can get some posters to stick to the cement walls in this humidity with those. I fixed up one bulletin board today. We got a school year calendar today and the tentative class lists- 275 kids signed up so far! There are over 20 in each high school class, including 28 juniors- I'm nervous to have so many altogether after last spring where I felt taxed with 15. New teacher transition, I suppose.

Bearded Tony was already back. Jaime and Katie, who returned to the Midwest after the quake, are now back at Quisqueya again. Art and Miquette are back, and Principal Tony, and Jodie, and Ruth & Steve. Three families are not back- three decisions made over the summer to not return. I am so sad and will miss them. Each family that isn't returning had a big area of responsibility (plant/building management, all tech/computer/web stuff, and student activities), so please pray that our director Steve finds great, competent replacements for each, as well as a few other openings we still have in elementary, art, and music.

If you know anyone who might be interested in coming and teaching with us at Quisqueya, please direct them here.

Tomorrow through Monday will be extremely school-intensive as we prepare lesson plans and classrooms. The novels we have ordered in May have mostly not arrived or are stuck in customs, so it's back to the drawing board. One week til school starts!

Pray for all 275 kids preparing to enter these (wet paint) walls. For the teachers, new and old (you know, because six months feels like a lifetime of friendship when you went through an earthquake together).

For filling of open positions, for finishing all the construction of new teacher homes, for families flying in from all over the world to be at Quisqueya in the next week. For our marriage, for the million homeless Haitians in tents in the rain, for the Presidential elections coming in November, for the TeacHaiti school opening October 4. 


Sunday, August 8, 2010


We'll be in Port-au-Prince by noon tomorrow. I'm laying out my traveling-to-Haiti uniform. Jewelry off. Look plain. Gourdes within reach.

We left Dallas on Thursday. We flew to Virginia (via Atlanta). We attended the wedding of a dear college friend as a part of what we've fondly termed Wedding Camp- the entire wedding took place on this friend's old high school campus, including all of us Texas friends staying in the school dorm.

Then we flew to New York City (again via Atlanta). Did I mention we have practically our life's belongings with us in giant suitcases? Last time I flew to Haiti was the first time, and I was blissfully clueless. This time, I know what I'll be missing in a few days, and stocked up. 5 flights in 5 days. Somehow this crazy flight situation was the only way we could get from Lynchburg to Port-au-Prince...

In the JFK bag claim, there was some kind of celebrity getting mobbed by preteens... a Disney Channel star from some show called Sonny with a Chance?

Getting off the plane we overheard a family speaking a foreign language. A big smile spread across my face.

It was Kreyol :)

I'm ready.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Train Wreck

Can I tell you a secret about this summer? (Can I tell a secret on a blog? I guess if it's only read by 4 people, then yes.)

I am so disappointed in this summer. It has not been what I wanted it to be.

I might be reusing this metaphor, but I feel like this summer was a runaway freight train. It careened down-hill, out of control at a terrible pace, then jumped the track. It's force leveled everything it collided with and left only destruction in its wake.
Overdramatic? Maybe, probably. An accurate representation of how I feel? Yes.

If I had to grade this summer I would give it a D. It wasn't a total failure but it isn't the kind of work you would want anyone to know you did.

Katie and I are the ones who bear all the responsibility. We overcommitted ourselves in some areas and we didn't block off time for some of the most important things. Like old friends and family.

If this is too ambiguous let me give you a tangible example. Since June 1, we have been on 1 date. A lunch date. We have gone to parties together, celebrated friends' weddings, and ate dinners together. But wife and I by ourselves, nice clothes, wine and conversation? Yeah, we apparently didn't make time for that.

Another example of our lack of planning is time with our family. They are probably the group we have shafted the most this summer. They have supported us, cared for us and we have kindly repaid them with frantic visits, if we have seen them at all.
 I cannot deny that we have done some great things. I think we raised about 15 - 20 scholarships for TeacHaiti this summer, which totally blows my mind when you consider that last year they had roughly 180 sponsor kids total.

Why am I sharing all of this? What is the point? Because I want to confess my failure and apologize publicly. Katie and I have always said people need to be intentional in their actions. Intentional in the way they live. We strive for this in our own lives, and this summer... we.blew.it. We were not intentional in most ways and have felt the effects. I think we learned something from this summer, but I am not sure exactly how we will translate that into a different life next summer.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

3 days

3 days left in Texas. The summer has flown.

Find laptop lock and sneaky tiny safe: check.
Buy an extra set of every toiletry item we use: check.
Eat enough salsa to last me til Christmas: not possible.
Find non-DEET bug spray: check.
Rest and relaxation: haha who am I kidding.

I don't know how I feel. I love Haiti; I love home. There are many challenges in Haiti; there are many challenges at home.

I'm ready for the slow pace again. Not ready for the frustration of never being able to get anything done in the way you plan. Ready for the wonderful students. Nervous about being a good teacher. Ready to spend QT with some really incredible Haiti friends. Not ready to say goodbye to my hometown besties. Ready to start my garden, not ready to say goodbye to Granny Smiths, jalapenos, and cilantro.

I'll miss Mad Men and HGTV. But maybe not. I'll miss my shower. In Haiti I feel fear but also purpose. In Dallas I feel anxiety but also soaked in love.

Ben knows exactly how he feels. Not me. It is true that it's much easier going back when you know what you're returning to. Not nearly scary as that first jump. But still a big jump. Jesus, hold my hand.

Off the high dive into the deep end.


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