Friday, December 31, 2010

Yon Ane an Ayiti - One Year in Haiti

Today is our one-year anniversary in Haiti. 

I've been feeling apprehensive about this day for awhile now, and writing this blog. One year in Haiti. Let's have a brief re-cap, shall we?

Moved to Haiti on December 30, 2009. Stayed with the Herseys, our new boss. Drove the streets of Port-au-Prince for the first time. Met many new people, promptly forgot all names. Saw the campus for the first time. New Year's Eve, also Haitian Independence Day, brought fireworks and gunshots at night and delicious soup joumou in the morning. Attended church in a living room for the first time in my life.

Founded out what classes I'd be teaching, saw the textbooks, then 3 days later started teaching for the first time ever. Tried to learn a lot of names. Tried to remember how to get to my classroom. Tried to remember how to walk home to my house (the unpaved streets had no names). Taught for this long: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday. That was all. Then-

Earth quaking.

On an ordinary Tuesday, I sat at our kitchen table, thinking about grading geography worksheets. Ben was at the kitchen counter. I thought it was a big truck driving by. Ben grabbed my arm and I fell onto the top step of our stairwell, and we sat there for the longest one minute of my life. Things fell over, the light fixtures swung on their chains like lassos. Ben's eyes were glued to mine in a type of tunnel vision I can only recall experiencing one other time in my life - standing on the sanctuary steps during our wedding.

Scrambling for passports and cash, run-stumble-falling to get the hand sanitizer and paper towels, running to school. A night on the soccer field, 37 aftershocks that night, eating cereal out of the box with dozens of others in the dark. Watching Miquette treat crush wounds and head injuries with a set of supplies normally used to solve playground scrapes. Hearing the metal gate opening all night, feeling the jolt-surge of adrenaline every time another shock starts- do I run for the door this time, or just stay still? Getting the text message out to my mom, and to Ruth's mom, and to Katie Marusic's mom- thank God I had my US phone charged.

What now? Seeing the cracked-open city, seeing many, many gruesome wounds. Seeing my (new) friends evacuate. Should we go? Is it wise? What would we do at home? Well, what exactly will we do here? Days at the clinic, wound care, days evac'ing Three Angels Orphanage, days moving school books and computers from one room to another, just to find they needed to all go someplace else. When is the army coming? When is ANYBODY coming? What the hell is taking so long- how is it possible that Anderson Cooper is here but not any water bottles? Moved onto campus. Watching helicopters all day long- this one's painted "army", the last one said "UN".

Teaching again. Trying to get straight all the kids who lost dads. One room schoolhouse, then our living room. Outside class, no books, no copy machine or printer? Sure. Beans. and. rice. Stumbling through, getting sick. German medical teams, teams, and more teams from everyplace. A long march of scrubs and matching "HAITI RELIEF" tshirts. Trying to raise some money, trying to answer the thousands of emails, trying to explain why we were staying. Bedbugs. Rats. Ringworm. Sick last week, sick again this week, Immodium and Pepto are my best friends. Very special Sunday mornings at our house church.

We visited the Dominican for a short break in February, enduring a 12 hour bus ride through the countryside and enjoying the warm hospitality of a missionary couple in Santo Domingo who emailed out of nowhere and offered their love. We visited Cap Haitien and the historic Citadel in April as senior class trip sponsors. We got care packages through mission teams coming from Texas, and we even had a friend buy us Chik-fil-A in Florida and take it with him on the flight back to Haiti. Never has a nugget been so filled with love!

June and July in Texas. Vacation Bible School, children's camp, high school camp with our church. Explaining Haiti over and over again. Tons of money raised- dozens of new kids sponsored for TeacHaiti. Worn out, too busy, feeling frayed and frazzled. A beautiful lake weekend. My brother home from the Marines, sweet family time. Speaking to big churches, speaking to 3rd grade classes. Bursting into tears in Pottery Barn. Marveling at the beauty of my mother's backyard- oh the forsythia!

Lots of anxiety in August. A whirlwind wedding weekend in Virginia, then back to Haiti. New apartment- much more comfortable. Feeling 10x more confident in front of the classroom. Stronger, bolder, better. Loving the kids, meeting the new ones, rejoicing to see my spring teacher friends again and meet the new arrivals. Wonderful community on campus- friends who make it a joy to share one dryer among 25 people. Hiking in the mountains of Seguin with the senior class. Mom's visit! Turning 25. Baylor flew us in for Homecoming. Cholera outbreak. Hurricane Tomas. Presidential campaign flurry of activity leads to riots in December and school cancellations. Watching hour upon hour of Chuck, House, and Burn Notice on our computer. My brother's engaged! Home for Christmas. We suck at resting.

I mean, you tell me how to wrap that up in a few meaningful-yet-funny lines! Maybe I should borrow from my old buddy Dickens, and just say "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times"? The events of 2010 are beyond pat generalizations or cliche phrases. We are forever changed. I'm better, and sadder, and stronger, and weaker, but all for good. I know my need for God more, and I will permanently know it's not just a trite cliche that "you never know what tomorrow brings". I think I might have become a grown-up.

I just can't even believe what 2010 brought into my life. I can't believe what we've been through, what's happened, what we've lived through. Who can even guess what 2011 will bring. I won't even try.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

and in his Name all oppression shall cease

Most moving verse of the season award goes to the second verse of "O Holy Night"
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Tonight I'm fall-on-your-knees grateful.

Christmas in Dallas, with our family.

It's Disneyworld. It's a wedding feast, kill-the-fatted-cow-style. It's too much driving. My two favorite doggies. My best friends (most of them). Eating salsa like it's my job. It's not enough time to see everyone. Guilt.

We haven't cooked one meal for ourselves. Everybody we go out with lets us pick the restaurant.
I have given exactly zero thoughts over the past week to a) whether we have enough water in the cistern to shower, b) whether the internet is working, c) planning my day around when the power comes on or off.

I've instinctive said "mesi ampil" to exactly three waiters so far, and I cannot stop spitting in the shower (a precaution against accidental swallowing of the non-drinkable water).

Almost every morning, in that moment between waking and sleeping, I reach up to push off the mosquito net that isn't there.

Oh my Lord, thank you. Thank you, thank you. Thank you that we are safe. Thank you that we are healthy. Thank you for the water. Thank you for the vegetables, the vitamins, the lotion and Chapstick, the flannel sheets and that I'm only cold on the way to the car. Thank you for the family photos, for the tree in the living room, for the wedding ring I love to wear when I come home to America, for my mother and my father. Thank you for my car, for my clothes, for my warm shoes, for the full pantry.

I sometimes complain about my inbox- thank you for friends. I sometimes complain about my hectic Christmas Day schedule- thank you for family. I sometimes complain about my church - in Iraq the Christians had to stay home today. I sometimes complain about my husband - thank you for the most loving man I've ever met, my best friend and my partner in every minute. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you...

Thank you for your son, Emanu-el, God here hanging out with us.

Bon Noel!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pat-downs, Passports, Patties and Pain

We have made it to Dallas. There was concern that we would not be able to fly out on our scheduled flights due to the political unrest; I was working on contingency plans, including swimming from Cap Haitien to the Florida Keys.

The airport is my least favorite thing about Haiti. I actually hate it. But I think it's a good case study of Haiti's interaction with the rest of the world, particularly America. The begging and hustling at the airport is the same, if not worse, than the rest of the city and it's not just the man trying to sell you one last trinket before you leave. It's the guy whose job it is to direct the lines and put your bags on the conveyor belt- he asked me for money, and he asked my mother-in-law for $20 in September. Really? You have a job. You are working right now. American Airlines is paying you, probably better than most other companies. And I also didn't like how you called my wife sexy.

The airport is also chaotic in many other ways- the security is tight and annoyingly redundant. For all of America's complaints about pat-downs, back-scatter x-rays, and the concern over a lack of professionalism by the TSA, Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport has us beat. My bags were xrayed and searched twice- once before I even got to the ticket counter, and again after the ticket counter on my way to the waiting area. I passed through 2 metal detectors, had one pat-down, and then immediately after passing through one metal detector I was wanded with a hand held-metal detector. At the end I had my boarding pass checked 3 times in less than 50 yards: by a lady with a scanner, as I entered the skybridge, and then again at the end of the skybridge before I got on the plane.

I am all for security. I would rather be patted down and xrayed with the pictures going up on (I have lost weight and am really confident in myself image now). I don't care about those things, but I am irritated by needless redundancy.

Coming and going from Haiti is so strange to me. Each place has familiar dream-like qualities, but they're so different that when I'm in one place I often find myself wondering: was the other real? The poverty, crudeness and simple pleasures of Haiti contrast sharply with the extravagance and orderliness of the States. I wonder if the way I remember each and struggle with their differences are similar to the way the children in the Narnia books struggle with their two worlds.

One lesson I should have learned from being home this summer is to watch what I eat for the first week. I struggle with this because I am a glutton. I love good food. I like to cook it,  read about it, and of course eat it. It is the thing I think about most the day before I get back to the States. I am not exaggerating when I say that I make a list of the places I want to go eat and email them to friends.

The problem with this, besides revealing a level of depravity yet to be sanctified out of me, is that my stomach cannot take the richness of American food, and also that I have no self-control. In the four days I have been home, I have consumed Mexican food (x3), my favorite burger, Texas' finest beer, and Chick-Fil-A in above average quantities. Chronic stomachaches will be my companion for the early part of each visit home until I can learn some self-discipline. I would probably be better off with salad and yogurt, but where is the fun in that? I know the things I should do, but don't do them... Paul was right.

Maybe next time.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ho Ho Ho Hum

Things I'm thinking about today:

1) When will our cistern run out? We've been rationing water pretty heavily all week.

2) Everything smells. The water at the bottom of the cistern is muck- the debris of leaves, dead insects, and whatever else falls in the concrete cube where our (nonpotable, obviously) water collects. Therefore, the bathroom and kitchen smell, as do the towels.

3) There is a 2 feet by 1 foot hole high in our bedroom wall. An air conditioner used to go there, but some men took it for "cleaning" last Monday and it has not returned. Mosquitoes dance in and out at will.

4) The streets are covered in a black slick. It's the soot from burning tires, made wet by a drizzling rain, then stomped and smeared everywhere by everyone.

5) We hear Eagle grocery store may be open today. Epidor bakery opened up again last night, and we were so happy to get off the compound and walk up there. It's like a puzzle- which grocery stores are open, where are the longest lines, how long will they stay open, who still has bottled water for sale.... I have never in my life speculated on when a grocery store would be open- there are ten 24-hour stores within short distance of me, always, in the States.

6) I am worn down by what my friend Ruth calls "the constant diet of adrenaline". I just want to give my finals, grade my finals, and go home. I am really afraid of speculation that this is a "refueling lull" and that Martelly's people will re-take the streets on Monday because he doesn't want to be in the recount, he wants to win outright.



Friday, December 10, 2010

This City's Rhythm pt 2

One reason I wanted to go with my Kreyol teacher to see our neighborhood was to show that I am not afraid. I wrote previously about the culture of  fear here, and I wanted to counter that. I do not know if it makes any sense, but I felt like being out in the city, walking around, not being a reporter, would show that we are not afraid.

The streets were slick from the rain and everything was covered in a soot. Soot from burned tires and cars, mixed with a fine drizzle, created a fine sludge that stuck to your shoes, socks and ankles. It was everywhere, on every street, in every part of town that we walked in.

Very quickly I realized a few things. First, this protest is big. Starting from our school and working upwards, there was some form of roadblock ever 100 yards or so. Dumpsters, burning tires, burned shells of cars. The worst was at Delmas 75, and it seemed to really die down around Delmas 60, though all over the city there were smoldering piles of old fires. People kept getting tangled up in the wires that made up steel-belted radials.
In many places, groups of people were just hanging out on the street, waiting to see what would happen. It was quiet until we walked past them. Bearded Tony was with us, and he makes quiet an impression on Haitians. He does not go anywhere without drawing comments on his beard, which he has not cut for over 2 years. Countless times he is called  Jezi, Moise (Moses), Papa Noel, or Bin Ladin. It is crazy, and funny. I play a game where I say another of the characters he is called. So if they point and call him Jesus then I say, "No, he is Moses!" 80% of the time, this is met by riotous laughter.

The second thing I realized is that there is very little hostility directed at us. All of it is directed at the current government and the UN. Now, this might be because I also realized that our Haitian escort and his friend are heavily involved in the protest movement. He is not just out taking pictures. Every roadblock we come to, our friends know someone there. They would shake hands and point to us. We would shake hands. Everything would be cool. We could stand around, take pictures- we were in.

Actually, we never shook hands. Our guides were Rastas- Haitian Rastas. So it's a lot of fist bumps and Respekte, or "One Love!"
In Petionville, Tony's beard attracted the man in the picture above. Afterward there was debate about him. I think he was mounfou, crazy; others thought he was drunk. Both are a strong possibility.

Our guide wanted to take some pictures at the CEP headquarters. CEP is the central election committee responsible for running the election. They are extremely unpopular right now. Their office is in Place St. Pierre, and was heavily guarded when we arrived. There were few Haitians around and Aaron and our guide started to snap some pictures. Our new crazy/drunk friend decides now was a great time to start taunting the UN guards.

Most of them take it, realizing one loon was not a threat, but his act soon grew old with one solider. He was  a mean looking dude. His face was scarred and he looked like he wouldn't put up with much. His country's flag on his shoulder made me feel like he was not familiar with human rights. He broke rank with the other troops and started shoving the Haitian away. From a distance the mounfou continued to taunt him, so he took a tear gas round from his vest, loaded it into his launcher and pointed it at the guy.
Let me say this- in the whole 4 hours I was walking around the city, I never felt in any danger. The crowds were vocal but peaceful, calm-ish, and none of the Haitians had any weapons. Weapons make me nervous. They make me nervous because they make other people nervous. So when this solider leveled his weapon at the crazy guy who had been taunting him, I knew we were one trigger pull from having a situation, and I was worried there might be danger.

I quickly stepped towards the solider with my arms stretched to my side, hands open so he could see that I was not going to do anything, and I asked him if he spoke English. His eyes darted to me and to his target; his gun didn't go down. I told him that the man was crazy, he didn't know what he was saying. I asked him to lower his weapon, no one wanted trouble. His commanding officer walked up and we shook hands. The Wyatt Erpp wanna-be lowered his weapon, and we went on our merry way.
Walking away, Tony asked me if I thought it was a good idea to be seen shaking hands with the UN. I told him I thought it was better than letting them fire tear gas, get the crowd angrier, and someone possibly getting killed.

Walking home a Rah-Rah band was leading a march of protesters; drums and chants for Martelly and against Preval filled the streets and we stood on the sidewalk watching purple posters with Tet Kale printed on them jog past. Again, the city's rhythm changed while a few thousand people ran by.
By nightfall, the rhythm changed again. Silence. Total quiet. No one on our side street, even with the street lights on. Someone said that a bulldozer came though and cleared the big roadblock by our school. Drove right through it, pushing everything to the side. The CEP has agreed to a recount of the votes and there are reports of meetings between Preval, the US ambassador, and a conference call with the UN Secretary General. Even though the flights are still canceled till Monday, I am hopeful that Haiti's natural rhythm will resume soon.

I like the familiar sounds, the honking of horns, the chants of the marchans, the noise of a city full of life and people making ends meet.

Please keep praying for Haiti. Pray for the leaders and the decision makers.


P.S. All photo credits go to Aaron Hendrick who was brave (or crazy) enough to take his camera with him on our excursion today. He and his wife blog here.

This City's Rhythm pt 1

Wherever you live, you get used to the noise, the rhythm of your city. It either becomes something you like or something you hate. I have grown to love the rhythm of Port-au-Prince; it is frantic like free jazz. However, the last two days, the rhythm of this city has been so noticeably different. It has been inconsistent, like a kid with his first drum set. Fast, slow, stopping, staring all very sudden.

My street, off the major thoroughfare of Delmas, is usually very crowded. Motos, marchans and cars make crossing the street to get to school an adventure. But the last few days it looks like this.
Tuesday morning, I walked out and 6 young men were playing soccer. Two cinder blocks serving as the goals.

We have taken pictures, linked to friends' blogs and news stories about the unrest in the city, but have not written about it ourselves. Here are what the last two days have been like for us.

Though there is no traffic on the side streets, it felt tense. There were lots of groups standing around. The air was heavy with the smell of burning tires. It is a smell we were going to have to get very used to. At the corner where our side street intersects with Delmas, one of the major arteries of the city, there is a huge protest that lasted for days. Supports of Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly constructed what looks like a very formidable roadblock and congregated there.

The crowd seemed endless and ever-changing. Some people showed up, chanted, burned something, then left. Some seemed to always be around-  like "Chef", the obvious ringleader, organizing the barricade, when to add more tires to the fire. He was always on his cell phone. I am told he was most likely paid to orchestrate this chaos. This group is the perfect example of no rhythm. It is easily worked into a frenzy for a moments through out the day, but is never consistent.

The police and the UN seemed ambivalent. Several times National Police trucks drive by the barricade and turned down our side street. There was no show of force. The one exception to this was Thursday when two APC's coming up Delmas really gunned it to get through the burning barricade. The crowd scattered. The APCs cut through the barricade like a knife through butter, then was pelted with rocks.
In the crowd was a Haitian friend of mine who offered to show me and my friends around the city and keep us safe. I had been watching him from my perch for the last two days, and I know he is in good with the protesters. Four of us at QCS took up his offer. We spent 3 to 4 hours walking around Delmas and Petionville, much to the concern of our wives...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Demonstrations

We heard nothing last night, and woke up without any of the major sound indicators: sirens or helicopters. We walked across the street to campus, re-mounted our stacked picnic table perch, and saw this. Much smaller crowds, a drizzle of rain, but more fire and smoke that yesterday. Our friends who had been looking over to the wall throughout the morning said the crowd seemed angrier. There were no women in it today. There had been some angry responses to the cameras.
Well what do you know! It's our Kreyol teacher Jean, out in the crowd. Jean is photographing the scene with a camera given to him by his buddy Soledad O'Brien from CNN. She met him last spring while filming a documentary featuring the ministry, Child Hope, of our friends the Manasseros.

Jean really saved the day today. Some people yelled and tried to throw rocks at us for looking over the wall and having cameras. Jean went and told the Chef (not a misspelling- Kreyol for chief or boss) that "we were cool", so the Chef let everybody know to leave us alone.
It really struck me that in the midst of all this mess, a woman walked solemnly down the street, her head-basket overflowing with gorgeous bright oranges.
 Notice two things: 1) the man in the red shirt cheering triumphantly as he launched another pair of tires downhill toward the burning roadblock, and 2) the intense deer-blind of branches we've got set up to sneak peeks through.
 Peeking over the wall even closer to the corner. On the right, you can see a dumpster on its side. It is an extremely unnerving sound to hear rocks being thrown into an empty dumpster, or the sound of it dragging. I wince every time someone throws something at it or bangs on it- it sounds like a shot.
From the corner, I could see the police truck roll by. Didn't get involved. I don't blame them.
A friend who had been watching the street all morning said that the crowd had begun to stop cars and motos, asking for gasoline as a toll to pass. The protesters picked up two big sticks (you can see them stacked against the wall on the left, belonging to a business that sells them) and pointed them at a car. And why exactly was this car on the road, or attempting to pass this intersection?
 This is our little perch. Craftily engineered on the fly by two on-campus male teachers. Sweet little Hudson entertains me to no end. We all jumped back up at this point, hearing a lot of yelling all of a sudden. Men were running away from the roadblock, running uphill at top speed. What was going on? Oh, wait.....
 Yesterday UN tanks would roll up the street, only to U-turn at this intersection before the fire and roadblock. Today? Blasted right through it at high speed. It was pretty dramatic. The men all ran away from these two UN tanks, but returned awhile later.

We watched for much less time today than yesterday. The crowds grew smaller, especially when a drizzle turned into a steady rain after lunch.

Our guard Seab, usually on a three-man rotation of shifts, has now been at our gate for 3 days. The other two men can't get here since no tap-tap taxis are running. We're feeding him a steady diet of peanut butter "mamba" sandwiches, Doritos, and Rice Krispy Treats. I feel awful that he's been away from his family for 3 days, but also incredibly impressed with his loyalty, both to his job and us. He reads his Bible and prays out loud for many hours a day.

It's men like Seab who should be on the news, representing their nation to the world, not these rock-throwing teenagers.

Keep on praying for Haiti. Pray for peace. Pray for justice. Pray for the right man or woman to become president, and for Haitians to get a government that serves them efficiently and fairly. Selfishly, pray that the airport opens so we can all get home. Priye pou Ayiti!


TeacHaiti Kids Playing at Recess

On Thanksgiving at the TeacHaiti School of Hope, we played with the kids at recess. Here they are counting pushups in Kreyol and goofing around. A sweet memory.

PS We're still safe. Protesting got hot this morning, died down this afternoon. School is canceled for Thursday and Friday, including my English finals which were scheduled for Friday afternoon. Finals still planned for next Monday through Wednesday, and we'll try to fit in my final then. American Airlines canceled flights for today and tomorrow already, so we're hoping that things calm down for our flights out next week.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Videos of Election Protesters Down Delmas

Protesters rally down Delmas for Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly

My my my!
This is the second video we took today. Our school is now closed for the rest of the week due to the unrest. We will update any more images that we take throughout the week.


Demonstrations on Delmas

Today on the street along our school:
 UN armed personnel carriers showed up a few hours ago.
On the bottom right you can see a makeshift roadblock made from chunks of concrete and cinderblocks. Yet another reason to clear the earthquake rubble still piled on the sidewalks. Some are carrying sticks, most have some mark of their favorite candidate, Michel Martelly, and his bright pink posters.
This is a giant Martelly poster. As we all learned last night from the electoral council announcement, former first lady Manigat and the current president's choice Celestin have been put forward to a January runoff, but Martelly was announced to have been in 3rd place (by a measly few thousand votes), so he is out. Clearly, a few people are not happy about that.
Face mask made from a Martelly poster
Some of the demonstrators make me nervous, while others just make me laugh. Notice this "camera crew" above, with a camera made of a Pringles can. They were walking around "interviewing" the crowd.
Uh oh.... we've all watched enough CNN to know what's coming next when the tires roll by.

The protesters beefed up their roadblock by lighting tires on fire. An ambulance (from Spain?!) rolled up, and they scrambled to figure out a way to move the burning materials to let the ambulance pass.
Big fire.
The big crowd gets stopped by its own roadblock. Can't march over the fire.
A man wielding a giant Super Soaker water gun directing a car full of journalists.

We'll keep you posted...


Pictures from This Morning

Pictures from the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince. Haiti is very HOT right now. The run-off is scheduled for 16 Jan.
Road block and smoldering fires. Aaron says it has been going on since 10:30.
The are marching up and down Delmas. Can you guess who the crowds support?
Most of the anger is directed at the current ruling party, but today every other candidate faces wrath.
Needed to start a new fire. The others... there were just too campfire like.
There is a sincere happiness from protesting that these people have. It might be because their voice is rarely heard in this country.


Thanksgiving at TeacHaiti School - Lunch and Vitamins

After showing you time playing with kids and seeing their classrooms, I particularly want to show you the big, hot lunch.
Standing in a line to receive hand sanitizer before lunch may be unexceptional in your life, but think of what it means for a child in a nation where over 90,000 people have been diagnosed with cholera.
Miquette watching the first graders get settled in for lunch.
That is a big, heaping plate for so little a guy! This day's lunch was rice, beans, a chicken leg, beet salad (the pink item) and juice.
Do you see what I see? Not just the little girl and her lunch, but I spy two little familiar shapes on the table next to her.
Flintstones vitamins! My mom's friends and church buddies collected tons of children's vitamins before her visit in September. Well, here they are. We'll be collecting more.
Little Woogina is so lovely. She even prays gracefully :)
Rowdy little ones post-lunch, attempting focus on a math lesson.
Each kid you have seen is eating and learning because of a sponsor. For $350 a year, you can add one more kid. In fact, Miquette told me recently that she saves a few spots and doesn't fill them until this time of year, because she knows if your kid is not in school by December, it's clear that you truly cannot afford any means of getting them there.

Because of some generous donations, she's even able to serve breakfast now, which is beyond what the sponsorships were originally budgeted to provide. For $.75 a kid can eat a hearty breakfast. Those of you who feel like your limited ability to give is somehow embarrassing, think of that- $.75!

What a perfect Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Smorgasbord of Thoughts

I have not posted anything on the blog for a month. Maybe you didn't notice. Maybe you did notice and you were okay with that.

The truth is I have no idea how to write about my every day life. How do I write about the goings on of life here in Haiti in away that someone will read it and no immediately fall into a coma? And that is not in anyway a knock on what I am doing here. In fact as I am approaching the end of my 1st  year in Haiti I can honestly say the past 12 months have been some of the most rewarding of my life. But that does not mean anyone wants to read about it. There is so much minutia, it is no different from yours; mine just happens in a country that is very different.

We have been leading discipleship groups at QCS for the past week. Katie has had amazing success. She has really bonded with her girls. I have had different results. I love the guys I have, but I have been laboriously praying for one. This kid at every turn tests my patience. I mean this next statement with no exaggeration at all: I have no idea why he is still at this school. He has done something to offend, upset and break the trust of every single teacher at QCS except me. I think he is so close to having Jesus wreck shop on his life and I hope it happens soon. It seems like every week there is a new story about what a turd he is being to someone else. It is exasperating. It must be like what Ms. Stacy experienced with me when I was in high school. Except I must have been more charming. And less frustrating. Right?

Our friends here are amazing. Our weekends and Thanksgiving have been so fun because we get to spend so much of that time with people who are fun, laid back and generally just awesome to be around. Also, friendships are just a little bit sweeter when they have cool stuff and you get to benefit from it. For example the family that hosts our house church has a smoker. This backyard cooking device that is so common in the states is a rare luxury here, I don't know how he fuels it. There isn't a Bar-B-Q Galore that sells wood chips for thousands of miles. Despite this mystery they smoked a turkey for Thanksgiving. Smoked Turkey.... even typing about it now I have to pause and savor the memory. My sweet southern grandmother would have been proud of that bid, and she knows her way around a kitchen.

I continue to think that living in Haiti is the best weight loss plan ever. If I stay here many more years I will waste way to an emaciated skeleton. Since moving to Haiti I have lost 37 lbs. I swear one day I will write a best selling diet book called "The Earthquake Diet". It will be superficial, obnoxious and I will make a large, Scrooge McDuck-like pile of money. But for the time being I am also doing the dumbest thing I have ever done. The Insanity workout. Yeah, its a work out named after a mental illness, great marketing. If it's squeal is called Manic Depression I would like to think that I would object and not do it. However if the school slave driver, I mean sadomasochist, I mean work out consultant, Art buys the DVDs I know I am going to do it. If you are interested in watching a group of perfectly sculpted bodies working out on your TV while you struggle to keep up and possibly vomit from your own efforts then by all means fork over the cash for the DVDs.

School is canceled tomorrow.(err today) The 3rd or 4th day this quarter of canceled classes. Neat. The election results will be released tomorrow, and there is a concern that rioting or some sort of nonsense will occur. Can I be brutally honest and possibly controversial? I want something to happen. I do not want anyone to get hurt. I do not want anyone to die. I do not want to see this city burn or anarchy to break out but if I have to stay home one more uneventful day then I am going to go nutty. It is not that I do not want to be board. I have plenty to do. However, I think (as someone who is new to Haiti and possibly totally wrong) that there is an unhealthy culture of fear here. I think it is a learned behavior and wolf has been cried to many times in the last year.

We faced so much pressure to go home in January because well meaning missionaries painted a picture of lawless machete wielding hordes scaling the walls and raping and pillaging (I imagined zombies with knives or Haitian-Viking crossbreeds for some reason). No hordes came. People claimed Tomas would obliterate Port-au-Prince. There was no wind and just a few sprinkles. Now its election time and its doom and gloom again.

The media and missionaries can be the worst about this. Haiti is a beautiful country that has so much to offer, and needs so many things. It is not as terrible as it is made out to be. But disaster-porn increases ratings and donors eat up hearing about how you are continuing to do work in such an unstable place. I want something to happen because I fear becoming completely cynical to warnings, and if I spend all day tomorrow in my apartment typing exams and grading papers I may never trust the advice of my coworkers who have been here decades again.

Please hear me carefully. I do not want to be Pollyanna, but I also do not want to be a fear monger. I want to walk somewhere in between. I want to break what I see as the culture of fear amongst so many in this country. I want to be reasonable, not reckless. I want to be rational not reactionary.

So there we are, first post in nearly a month.  Over 8 healthy paragraphs about... nothing?


Election Announcement Updates

******Update 9:09 pm
The 6 pm press conference just ended. Mrs. Manigat, former first lady, is ahead with 32% of the vote, and Jude Celestin is in second with 22%. This should put those two in the runoff scheduled for January. It was Martelly, the 3rd place finisher with just 21% (one percent behind Celestin), who had supporters marching and cheering down Delmas last week, so it makes me nervous that his supporters will be very upset with this result. They are only having 2 people in the runoff, as the Constitution says, so Sweet Micky Martelly is out.


It's 5:00 pm. Here's the situation: The announcement of the preliminary results from last week's presidential election are schedule to be released today. They were scheduled to be announced at midnight. School was canceled late yesterday afternoon in anticipation of potential disruptions of some kind. The streets were completely normal, full of marchans, and stores were open all day.

In the last hour, we've heard that the announcement has been changed to 6 pm, one hour from now. The stores are hurriedly closing and the street is packed with people trying to get home.

With over 15 candidates running, it's unlikely that anyone will have won the 50% needed, so the likely announcement today will be which 2 candidates will go on to the runoff, tentatively scheduled for mid-January. 

From where we sit (which is decidedly outside the main flow of people and ideas), it seems that the popular support is behind the Martelly (the rapper "Sweet Micky) and Manigat (the former first lady), but that the clear hand-picked successor of the current president (and his relative) is Celestin.

The Constitution says only 2 candidates go to the runoff, so if a) all three are put in a runoff, or b) only two of the aforementioned people go to a runoff, there will be angry people who feel that "their guy (or gal)" is getting jipped. We'll see.

We'll keep you posted. The announcement comes in 53 minutes.


Thanksgiving at the TeacHaiti School

There is nowhere else in the world I'd rather be on Thanksgiving morning than at the TeacHaiti School of Hope. For the first time, I got to be there during a school day, since Haitian schools don't take off for American Thanksgiving.  I had already rejoiced over the progress of the building- including these wonderful chalkboards, lime green walls, and posters- but now that fantastic building was full of kids! You can see the third grade class above.
 I love their posters.
 We visited each classroom for just a minute, and then recess. The teachers in the blue played with us and all the kids. Here, they were lining up to take a picture.

Some are shy, some jump all over you, but all like to have their picture taken.
Queency! Can you believe it? This is the little boy we met on the night of the earthquake- eyes bleeding, open head wound, broken femur(s). We watched him, wrapped in Barney sheets on a picnic table, moaning in his sleep. We estimated his age at 3. Each morning, I would check to see if he was alive. Four days later he still had not had his femur set, but had received antibiotics shots and was alert enough to draw in a coloring book. Five days after the quake, he finally got treatment at Espoir and was put in a portable traction system, back on our picnic tables. It was discovered that BOTH his legs had been broken. By February 10 he was out of full-time traction and wearing a hard cast, eyes still black almost one month later. On March 10 we spotted him, hard cast off, limp-running around the playground. By the end of March he was well enough to fight another little boy for a Hot Wheels (remember our Epic Toy Distribution Fail?), so I think that indicates a near-full recovery.

Today? He's in 1st grade at the TeacHaiti School. And he's sponsored by FBC Richardson's Children's Ministry, all because of their change drive at Vacation Bible School last summer. What a full circle moment for me.
Their little hands
And the day was made complete by spending a little time with Woogina! She is my parents' sponsored child, and is a lovely and elegant little 3rd grade girl. I almost didn't recognize her with her new haircut, but it was a joy to watch her play, learn in class, and eat a big lunch.
Speaking of lunch, those pictures coming tomorrow!



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