Monday, May 31, 2010

Questions

All of our bags are packed. All of our furniture is moved. It is raining, the internet is out. The power is out. TIH

There is nothing left to do but shower when the power comes back. Sleep. Then climb on the plane taking us to the States.

I wonder what in the hell all of this means.

I have been in Haiti for 5 months and 4 days. I think I know less now than when I came.

I thought I would see the world and develop ideas about how missions should be done. I thought I would see poverty and develop ideas about how aid should be done.

In hindsight, those were unbelievably arrogant thoughts. To think that I could spend 5 months of my 26 years here and “figure it out”! If I had spoken those thoughts to anyone here when I showed up, they would have laughed in my face. And rightly so.

I have built a great friendship with a long term missionary here, John. He has lived in Haiti almost as long as I have been alive. He says the longer he is here, the less he understands. On the eve of my first furlough, I certainly believe it.

This is all a very winding way to say that I am going home with more questions than answers.
How do you provide aid without destroying the local economy? What does Haiti need? What is the best way for the American church to do missions? Where is God in disasters? And what is the right answer when people ask, “did God cause this earthquake?” How do I go home and live in Dallas after living in Haiti? How different am I? How different are my friends? Can I hide in my in-laws' guestroom for 8 weeks? In short, how do I make sense of all of this?

I feel similar to the way I felt when I first watched Memento or Basic.

I want to rewind to the confusing parts and watch it again to get the answers. Or I want to turn to the person who watched it with me and ask, “huh?” and have them explain it (where is Jeff Gillum when you need him!).

I know it is not going to work that way. I am only going to sort this out by spending a great deal of time asking the Holy Spirit to explain it to me. Even then, I realize that some of the answers might elude me in this life.

There is no neat way to wrap up these thoughts because there is no clean summary for heavy questions like these. They will be wrestled with, unpacked, and banged at with a sledge hammer. Some will crumble. Some will chip. And some will dent the hammer.

Last Day of School

Wednesday was our last day of the spring semester. Quisqueya held a closing ceremony including Kindergarten graduation, 6th grade step-up, and 8th grade promotion.
Last day for Mr. Day. His family, after having been in Haiti since the 1950's, is moving back to the States. The kids really love him.
6th and 8th graders preparing to march in to their promotion ceremony.
Watch out 1st grade, here we come.
Diplomas for the Kindergartners.
Proud (and wiggly) grads:)
Oooooo the fruit of the Spirit's not a .... like, a kiwi. My college degree at work.
Melodie classes things up a bit.
Ebony was elected by her class to give the 8th grade speech.
Steve promotes the 8th graders.
The sweet Bleshes with their littlest, Bethaina. I love this fam.
I had a final photo on this blog, but I deleted it because I wanted to share the story, anonymously of course. One of our students was in tears after the ceremony. Her parents said they would show up, but did not. She pulled out a report card of high grades and glowing teacher comments and said, "I guess even this won't make them proud." About five teachers took a turn, one at a time, sitting beside her on the picnic table and comforting her while she cried and cried. Our hearts broke for her. Watching every other kid take group photos with their families, diplomas front and center, I feel like the Holy Spirit nudged me to say that she needed one, too. Ben, Denny, Bearded Tony and I- her four teachers- gathered her up and took a group pic. Denny made her laugh. It's a really meaningful photo to me, and a hopeful model of what all teachers can be- a stand-in family of people who gather you up and love you.

Katie

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

To preface this post by my handsome husband, here are the events of the day before yesterday:

1. Our school nurse informed me that the puzzling dry skin all over my face was, in fact, about 10 - 15 different patches of ringworm.

There is just a special kind of offense when something happens to a woman's face.

2. Someone stole $100 out of Ben's wallet, and his iPod, off of the desk in our bedroom.

3. We found a dead bedbug in our bed.

Remember our charming bedbug-infested chair? Remember the hundreds of bites? We never saw another one outside the dining room, so we held our breath and prayed they would never find their way to a bed.... too much to hope, it seems.

Sometimes you have a day so discouraging, you just need to call mom. Which I did, at $1.99 a minute, for a few precious minutes. And she reminded me:

"Sometimes there are just days like that.
Even
in
Australia."

Katie

Now to Ben:

I grew up believing comparisons were bad. They build in us jealousy and envy.

Comparisons are hurtful to our souls when you are looking up the socioeconomic ladder. But what about when you look down the ladder?

The reason this is on my mind is because yesterday someone stole around $100 US and my iPod out of our room, off my desk and my dresser. We were dejected for a long while. The feeling of violation was strong. Someone I trust and have given access to my life has betrayed that.

But then I looked down the ladder. I thought about how much $100 is to me and how much $100 is to the average Haitian. Most people here never see that much money at one time. The average annual income is $1,300 per capita. For me not losing $100 is a pain, but I am not destitute.

These thoughts were sobering. When I went to bed, I forgot about how upset I was and prayed a prayer of thanks to God that I have so much. The thought that I have less than most people could build up resentment or bitterness in my heart. Or, I could focus on the thought that, even as a missionary living on support, I am in a higher income bracket than most people on earth. That led me to thankfulness. It just depends on which way I look on the ladder.

Ben

Friday, May 28, 2010

Field Day = Joy, Part 2

Quisqueya Field Day continued with a little blindfolded obstacle course.
I loved how sweet this 8th grader was leading his little pre-K partner through the 3-legged obstacle course.
A 10th grader helping his Kindergarten pal shoot a basket.
We only had two 11th grader this semester, and the two that remained were such incredible leaders and students. It really was a joy getting to know them. Bianca ran around with her clipboard like a boss.
This 10th grade/ pre-K pair was so adorable trying to roll/carry their basketballs through the obstacle course.
This is how 2nd grade girls shoot baskets. Note the form. 90% ballet, 10% bball. I love it.
Flag tag finals. It got fierce.
I love these faces. Flag tag betrayal.
I love this look of sheer delight on Bethaina's face.
Piggyback races
Speaking of faces of sheer glee. Piggyback races galore.
Tony and Ben, math and history departments, respectively, supervising.
Are they cute or what.
What a fun Field Day.

Next up: pics of our Kindergarten graduation, 6th grade step up, and 8th grade promotion. Also, about our Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that snuck up yesterday.

Today it's pouring monsoon-style. We're moving furniture, shlepping boxes, and trying to get the school back in order for a full house next August. In the rain. Tomorrow's graduation.

Love,
Katie

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Field Day = Joy

It's Field Day at Quisqueya! What a delightful tradition. The kids were sorted into 6 teams with mixed grade levels to compete in fun games. Field Day in Haiti has one difference from wacky, youth-group-style games I've played many times before- it is completely off-limits to play games that waste food or water. I think I like that idea.
Bearded Tony, Math Department extraordinaire, helps the kids line up in their teams. Student Council planned the events and led them.
Amy showing off her hard-won flag
Flag Tag pals
Big ones helping little ones was one of my favorite parts of Field Day. Vienna helps Victoria tie her flags on.
Friends
Gotcha
I asked this team to give me their fiercest, most ferocious faces.
One-legged races
So cute. There are two sets of siblings in this pic. Can you pick them out?

Haha, this is a trick question because one of the sibling sets includes an interracial adoption, but I bet you can pick out the matching adorable grins of two of these Flag Tag champions :)
Ggrrrrr. Fierce competitors.

More tomorrow :)

Six days til Texas.

Katie

Firsts and Lasts

Monday night I went to Chez Wou for the first time- a Chinese restaurant in Petionville. Chinese food in Haiti! It was tasty. The contrasts were clear from the outside- the restaurant is across the street from the Place Boyer tent city, and the only other car in the Chez Wou parking lot had "UN" painted loud and proud across every surface. Is it Christlike to eat at a restaurant across the street from a slum? Would it be any more Christlike to eat at that restaurant somewhere else, when my faith teaches that everyone is my neighbor, regardless of proximity? I don't know. Still wrestling on a thousand questions. I wear them like a weight all the time here, because you cannot hide in Haiti from the biggest questions, like a parka you put on every morning when you get out of bed and wear around all day.

Today is the last day of school. For our closing ceremony, I dug out my heels. I haven't worn anything but two pairs of flip flops and one pair of sneakers since January 12. I've been awkward, like a little girl, tripping in mom's heels. I used to literally RUN in this exact pair of heels, down escalators and across platforms, sprinting toward a whistling DART train on my commute to downtown Dallas.

I'm about to confess a kind-of-dirty secret. Another "first". Ben and I are preparing to move out of our apartment on campus and into another school-owned apartment across the street, so we're going through all the suitcases again. I found my hairbrush about a week ago. I brushed my hair, for the first time since December 28, last week.

Today is the ending ceremony of this semester. Kindergarten graduation, 6th grade step-up, 8th grade promotion. In yet another shining example of how going to camp prepared me for my adult life (I have this theory that summer camp and Pi Phi, two notoriously discounted activities, trained me for success more than anything), I will be closing the semester with a rousing rendition of that timeless hymn "The Fruit of the Spirit's not a Cherry".

After the ceremony, we have several days of work, work, work on the school. The many-thousand volume library is being moved to another building. The library shelves have been serving as a pharmacy, but now all the meds have been distributed to local hospitals. The computer lap is in boxes. The elementary classrooms need to be completely put back together, having been hurriedly emptied to make room for the 1,700 doctors who slept underneath word walls and glittery snowflake cut-outs between January 13 and last Wednesday.

We're feeling apprehensive about our summer furlough in Dallas. In the mornings I just beg God- make it the summer you want. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Just make it a summer that glorifies you.

But I won't pretend I'm not already having Texas food fantasies. Spicy chicken, please. And may the salsa flow like water.

Katie

Monday, May 24, 2010

Paint Party, Part 2

At lunchtime on Paint Party day last week, we walked back up to the orphanage also run by Christian Service International. This was a great orphanage- the kind that makes you proud. I first knew I loved this place when I walked in a bedroom and saw this- a little girl, reading to her (brown) Barbie.
Five girls in each room, each one with a sparkly painted letter on the door.
Bright and cheerful
What a wonderful place.
Loved this tapestry on the wall.
Lunchtime
After visiting the orphanage, I gathered up the kiddos and went back down the road to paint. A couple sweaty hours later, we had three painted houses! I love the sherbert color myself.
Mr. Heath from CSI went and got some of the family members who will be living in the houses. It was very neat for the kids to see exactly who their work will benefit.
 These are the children of one family who already moved in to the house we painted orange.
The whole Quisqueya team.

Katie

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Finals written, given, and graded. Final grades calculated. We're preparing for the end-of-school ceremony on Wednesday. The elementary ones will say their "life passages", a certain Scripture picked out for each grade level to memorize. I think I just found a new Life Passage for myself.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

- Zechariah 7:9-10

If this verse alone was my to-do list, it'd keep me busy for the next 75 tears.

We're about to listen to a talk called "The Gospel for those Broken by the Church". Intrigued.

10 days until our summer visit to Dallas. Starting to think about packing. How does one even begin to process the last 5 months in Haiti?

K

Friday, May 21, 2010

Paint Party, Part 1

Tuesday was an incredible day. It was Haitian Flag Day, so schools and businesses were closed. We planned a service project where our kids (pre K to 12th were invited) would drive to Croix-de-Bouquets, about 45 minutes north of our school, to paint recently built homes for families who made homeless by the quake.
B unloading supplies
One of the houses, pre-paint. This is one of the pre-fabricated houses being offered through Foundation Maxima, which is owned by a "bissionary" (business missionary) and friend of ours, Mr. Vervloet. They employ several hundred Haitians at their warehouse, and the houses are inexpensive and go up very quickly. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton even visited Maxima on one of their tours! Shortly after the earthquake we wrote a letter to a group of WMU ladies, and won a little grant to build one of these. That house will go to one of our Quisqueya employees' families.
Tim giving instructions
Team Blue House
It was hysterical to see tiny Gabriel in the adult gloves.
 Little ones painting.
These two little girls belong to the family who will live in one of the houses we painted. I love that no matter where you go in the world, every little girl speaks Disney Princess.
The day was very interesting in terms of students' behavior. I saw some traits I recognized from the classroom become amplified in the "field trip" environment. A few students who struggle a bit academically, however, really shined as they demonstrated leadership in hard work, not complaining, and coaching the younger kids.
Marlee was a real leader on the pink house.

I'll share more pics and Part 2 tomorrow, including photos of the AMAZING orphanage on the same property, all run by Christian Service International.

Katie

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