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.



  1. May the New Year find you both drawn more firmly into His wondrous embrace. May His angels continue to camp round about you. May God continue to bless you and your work in Haiti.

  2. Hey no fair, you stole the Dickens lines I was planning to use!

  3. Awesome post, Katie. It was so good to see you and Ben in Richardson. Take care!

  4. You guys "done good" for a crazy first year in Haiti! We're so happy you're here!

  5. I don't even remember what friend from OSU it was who posted your link on Facebook, pleading for us all to read 11 months ago. I have followed and prayed for you ever since. God Bless!



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