Sunday, November 28, 2010

Election Day Rally

 Quite a party on our street!

Just before sundown we heard the yelling. We had heard a few helicopters buzzing overhead, reminding us of last January- that was the soundtrack of the early days after the quake. Ben went on the roof, then called me to grab the camera and head across the street. Our gate guard, Stanley, made sure we weren't planning to join the crowd:) We jumped up on the balcony of the teacher house and took this video.

Miquette is saying in the background that they are cheering for presidential candidate Michel Martelly, otherwise known as "Sweet Micky", a rapper who sometimes goes on stage in a diaper. He's a leading candidate, one of the majority of the candidates who issued a joint statement alleging major fraud and asking for an annulment to today's elections.

About :35 a band joins the fun. They're waving pink Martelly signs (see previous post), laughing, singing... 

Miquette then translates the crowd saying "Preval, you can go now", referring to current president Rene Preval.

School is canceled tomorrow as a precaution. Keep praying!

Katie

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting Stuck in a Haitian Election Rally

Driving home from church. A commonplace occurrence. What a great time to participate in Haitian democracy!
So here we were, on Delmas, the main thoroughfare through the city of Port-au-Prince, running all the way from the downtown area to the suburb of Petionville at the foot of the mountain. Traffic stops, and we hear cheering. It's about a hundred or so people, piled onto motorcycles and cars, mostly on foot, cheering for Jude Celestin, candidate for "Prezidan". Mr. Celestin's yellow and green signs are pasted on every light pole, security wall, or other flat surface anywhere you look. He has the endorsement of the current president, as they are related by marriage. The Celestin campaign certainly is most visible and has the most resources for marketing.
The supporters marched uphill through the stopped cars, weaving all around our van. It made me nervous when they ran to one car and I saw a bunch of people pushing their hands in the windows, but then it turned out that that car was with the campaign and was giving out free hats and tshirts (the men in the photo above are holding them). I personally would like a campaign shirt as a memento. I'll work on that.
The most popular campaign advertising technique is definitely posters, which literally plaster every inch of space in Port-au-Prince right now. In the photo of the men in yellow shirts holding white tshirts they had just received, you can see a black banner stretched across the street in the top left corner. That's another common advertising technique, especially in our area because we live directly off Delmas, the main drag. That banner is for Mirlande Manigat, the only female top candidate. She and Mr. Celestin are, according to polls (and how, exactly are there accurate polls in Haiti right now?), at the top of the heap, along with this guy:
This is Sweet Micky, the self-declared "President of Kompa" music, a rapper whose music is apparently so profane my closest Haitian friend won't play it. He's among the top candidates, too. His slogan is "bald head", which I thought was just a joke until a student explained that it's also a reference to transparency, an anti-corruption stance. Style points for having a friendly smile, hot pink, and a sweet cow on your posters.
The election is tomorrow. I have no idea what it's going to be like here. How do you do voter registration when nobody had an address, much less an ID card? Polling stations in the tent cities? I think of the purple thumbs from Iraqi elections.

We hear there is a curfew and a no-cars-allowed policy on major roads. We're told the school cars aren't to leave campus. We'll be sticking close to home, writing final exams and semester review sheets.

As always, let's lift Haiti up today.

Katie

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Futbol v. Union

Soccer. It's a big deal here, like most everywhere outside the US. This week the Quisqueya Lady Eagles took on their crosstown rivals, and other large English-speaking school, Union.
Silly seniors and me posing after Senior Transitions class.
Bake sale. Seniors trying to raise money for their spring trip.
Go team.
Go Eagles go!
A last-minute goal in overtime brought defeat. A hard-fought game. Our coach vows a rematch.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all! We spent the morning at the TeacHaiti School. It was my first time to be there on a school day. So amazing. Now we're heading up the mountain for dinner with our house church.

Thank you Jesus for bringing me to Haiti.

Katie

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Horcruxes, Me, and Discipleship Group

I've got Harry Potter on the brain. Yes, HP7 comes out this week, and I'm truly asking the Lord to remove bitterness from my heart that I cannot see it for another month until I'm home for Christmas (no movie theater here). But that's not the main reason.

Like Lord Voldemort, my heart has been split in 7 pieces. I know, it's really unfortunate.

Why is my heart split 7 ways? Not Horcruxes, but...
High schoolers.

This is my discipleship group. We meet every Friday morning for almost an hour. It's the best hour of the week.

Bianca, Aisha, Deborah, Krystelle, Axel, Virg-loty, Valerie. They have a dozen different stories, a dozen different needs. They are in different grades, come from different kinds of families, are at different places in their spiritual journeys. I am just crazy about them. Like every group of teenage girls, there are deep wounds and serious questions, in addition to the everyday stresses of managing extracurriculars, boys, 8 classes at a time, family, complex friendship issues, bodies, etc.

Each week we begin with two worship songs, lights off, just time to be quiet with God. Partially this is because in addition to teaching and fellowship, every one of our hearts just needs time of refreshing and God's presence. Secondly, I realize that my entire adolescent journey with God was soaked in worship music that I found engaging and helpful in expressing myself to the Lord. They don't have an iTunes full of songs like that. I hope to burn them all worship CD's over Christmas.

Next we tackle a "tough question" that they've chosen every week. Of course, the first one was sex :) Haha. Next up is salvation, then the Bible.

I can't express how much I care about them. I pray for them by name every single day. Is teaching always like this? I never expected to love my students so much.

Bianca, Axel, Valerie, Virg-loty, Krystelle, Deborah, Aisha. All day long, 7 names, over and over, lifting their brave and beautiful little hearts to God. My little flock of 7.

Will you help me shower these girls in prayer, too?

Katie

Visiting Heartline

After almost a year of hoping to go, I finally got to visit Heartline! Heartline is a fantastic ministry serving Haitian women through a birthing clinic (staffed with top-notch midwives), prenatal classes and meals, new baby classes and meals, a sewing program where ladies create and sell purses to support their families, and, soon, a teen mom home for young mothers and their babies.

I visited about two weeks ago on a Tuesday when we did not have school due to a Haitian holiday. Tuesdays are the day of the new mom class. To begin, each new baby is weighed and mom's blood pressure is checked. Mom gets a big bowl of nutrient-fortified rice along with fish. There is a nutrient-rich milk drink, which might be for mom, but I saw some moms feeding it to baby also. After the meal, they all attend class together. When I came, the class was taught by an American midwife and translated into Kreyol. The subject was HIV/AIDS and how to prevent its transmission.

Kreyol words learned at heartline:
mete/itilize kapot = wear/use a condom
tete = breast
piki planning = birth control shot
Ha! What a vocabulary!

This is a poster on the wall of one of the exam rooms, helping to educate ladies on the different positions of a baby in the womb before delivery. 

After the class, prizes were awarded to all the moms who had perfect attendance the month before. Then the ladies could see either a nurse or a breastfeeding specialist if they were having issues. The nurse was none other than our dear buddy John Ackerman! He runs a clinic about an hour from Port-au-Prince, but comes to Heartline on Tuesdsays. I sat in the room with him while he visited with several moms. One had a baby with a "water eye", which turned out to be allergies. One was treated for malaria.

The breastfeeding specialist was my friend Heather, who volunteers regularly at Heartline (this is the family from Texas who just moved to Quisqueya/Haiti in August with their 4 little boys. Hubby Aaron is our Bible teacher). The most hilarious part is that they call her "Madam Tete", or "Mrs. Boob". John says that the two main causes of infant death in Haiti are tetanus (from cutting the cord with a dirty instrument) and diseases related to lack of breastfeeding. It's just not commonly done here. Heather words hard to help the ladies figure out how to breastfeed. On the day I visited, one young mom was discovered to have a lump/cyst in her breast- a sad and serious situation in a population where medical care is largely unavailable.

On the day I visited, another tragedy: A tiny newborn was barely breathing. The mom had not known how serious it was, but as soon as the baby arrived at Heartline the leaders knew the baby was potentially near death. Heather and Beth McHoul jumped in their truck and drove to a nearby hospital. I don't entirely understand this, but they had to let the lady out a few blocks from the entrance, because she would not have been seen by the hospital if they knew she came with white people. The baby stopped breathing several times in the truck on the way there. You can read Heather's account of this here.  I have not heard whether the baby lived.

You can visit Heartline's website here. And just in time for Christmas, you can even buy a Heartline purse, supporting a Haitian mom. They're cute- my on-campus girlfriends got me one for my birthday and I love it.This month Heartline is also celebrating the end of a fundraising drive- $50,000 was raised to build a hospital to further serve the people in their community. A great day of visiting, and a great ministry.

Katie

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cholera and the UN

Friends,
You have all no doubt heard about the cholera outbreak, which is continuing to spread in Haiti. You may have heard reports that people were blaming the United Nations soldiers (a Nepalese unit) for starting the outbreak by having a toilet that was leaking sewage into the Artibonite River, which is where the disease broke out. Then, scientists confirmed that the cholera strain in Haiti, very strangely, matched a strain previously only known in South Asia.

I get an email every day called Medex Hotspots, a global intelligence and security report. Here's their latest brief (and remember we visited Cap Haitien last April with the seniors on their class trip):

AMERICAS
Haiti (Country threat level - 4): On 15 November 2010 residents in the cities of Cap-Haitien and Hinche in northern and central Haiti held protests over the government’s failure to control an ongoing cholera outbreak. In Cap-Haitien, approximately 1,000 people gathered near the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission base and threatened to set fire to the facility. The unrest broke out at 0600 local time and lasted throughout the day, as participants threw rocks at soldiers and blocked roads. The rioting shut down roads throughout the city and also forced Cap-Haitien International Airport (MTCH/CAP) to close; the status of the airport on 16 November is unknown. Protesters also reportedly looted a World Food Program warehouse. U.N. soldiers and Haitian police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, and at least one person was killed during an exchange of gunfire in Cap-Haitien’s Quartier Morin neighborhood; 12 others were injured. Meanwhile, approximately 400 people rioted in Hinche, injuring at least seven U.N. peacekeepers.

More than 900 people have died from cholera and 14,600 others have been infected since the outbreak began in late October 2010. The protesters blame Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers for importing the water-borne disease, which had never before been documented in Haiti. The suspicions stem from reports that the cholera strain currently affecting Haiti matches a strain that is specific to South Asia. Health officials have appealed to residents for calm, stating that they have not yet confirmed the source of the outbreak. Cases have been confirmed in all of Haiti’s 10 provinces, including in Port-au-Prince, where 27 deaths have been recorded. The outbreak began in Artibonite province. Health officials believe that the disease will affect as many as 270,000 people by the time the outbreak reaches its peak.


Katie

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baylor Homecoming

 Hurricane Tomas has passed, school has resumed, and things are back to "normal". We are racing toward Thanksgiving (is it possible it's only two weeks away?) and I'm remembering our fantastic, surreal 4 days home in Texas a few weeks ago. To recap, my beloved alma mater Baylor flew Ben and I in for Homecoming weekend to receive an alumni award... sheepish, strange, amazing, blessing.

Let's please reflect for a moment how strange it was to be in Haiti, and then 24 hours later to be attending this banquet, which might have been nicer than a wedding:
 There were medals involved, and a video montage, and a swanky printed program, of which my proud Papa Bear promptly gathered up about 72. See that grin and the stack under his arm? He's not even apologetic :)
I was delighted to get to spend the dinner with some amazing friends and true Baylor Bears, Mark and Steph.
I also got to spend time with great buddies Suzanne and Amanda. Though I may groan about my lack of salsa in this county, there's nothing I covet more while in Texas than time with my nearests and dearests.
I got to stop by my favorite Waco Mexican joint, Ninfa's, and get some brief sweet time with other college best gals like Katie and Laura.
On Saturday morning there was a parade, and a carriage. Can we please laugh at how all the other honorees are very distinguished, mature, successful businesspeople, who have mostly donated buildings to Baylor? I felt like a kid at the grown-up table at Thanksgiving :) But it sure was fun to throw that candy.
 Ben and I were so happy to see our small group great friends, Peyton and Chrissy!
After the parade there was an alumni reception for Pi Phi. More great friends, more reunions, and copious usage of what Amanda and Laura call "the mouse voice". You know what I'm talking about- the vocal pitch adopted by young ladies who are reunited after an extended absence..... now get 150 or 200 of those conversations in one room.
We got to sit in the president's box at the game. Here's my mom's silly face regarding the amazing food and general swankness.
My father, blissing out. What a sweet, surreal, little weekend. We drove straight from the game to DFW airport.

And finally....
 That, my friends, is Wyclef Jean getting ready to board our flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince. We went up and introduced ourselves. Ben made small talk about Wyclef's school in Croix-des-Bouquets, and at one point asked if there would ever be a Fugees reunion. Wyclef's response? "Friend, you better pray on that."

Katie

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Live as Jesus did, and the world will listen."
Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ouch

This is what last January and February were like. Press play. Try not to cry. Can you even count the quakes?


Katie

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hasta La Vista Tomas

The NHC says Tomas will be moving through the Windward Passage in a few hours meaning, as a far as I can tell, that this is over. In our neighborhood in Port-au-Prince all we experienced is a little rain, no wind, no lightning.

This morning Delmas 75 was nearly deserted, very little traffic. Only one machann was out. Normally this street is packed with vendors and people going about their day. But it was so empty.

Many people have told us you can tell whether or not it is safe to be out based on the machann's. So when I ran an early morning errand I took note. I kept expecting something to happen; for the rain to become torrential, for the wind to blow with furry. Despite the ominous skies and the disaster predicted by so many nothing happened.

It is now 2:30 and our biggest problem is that the schools generator is out of diesel and we are trying to conserve power. When all is considered that is a good problem to have.

For me there are big take-aways from Tomas. First, the situation in Haiti was and is extremely precarious. It is that way because aid organizations and the international community have responded poorly to the needs of the most affected here. More temporary homes (wooden that can last 3-5 years) need to be built. More skilled-aid workers are needed to implement public health plans. Haitian bureaucrats need training to one day be able to do these things themselves. More coordination is needed by groups trying to do meet needs. More! More! More!

It is not another remarkable disaster that is going to further harm this country but a poor effort by us at meeting its needs now. Illnesses happen, but the do not become epidemics if you have good sanitation and an effective public health system. Hurricanes are going to affect this country but they won't be as catastrophic if people are not living underneath layers of tarps, tents and bed sheets.

Secondly, based on this experience I once again am affirmed of the power of prayer. I will explore this more in a later post, but I am convinced that the intercession by so many believers around the world had an impact. However, to tie it to the previous point; I wish that the same effort that believers put in praying against disaster would be put in praying for restoration and reconciliation of the world now! For the restoration of Haiti physically, spiritually, politically, economically and socially. 

-Ben

Tomas?

This storm is confusing me. On Wednesday night our phones and email inboxes blew up, receiving calls and emails from many parents inquiring whether school would be canceled after the Haitian Minister of Education closed all Haitian schools. Quisqueya stayed open yesterday, but is closed today. Yesterday about 20 or 30% of our kids were either kept home by nervous families or pulled out of school early as the sky darkened ominously. The rain began right as school adjourned, 3 pm.

I jumped in the Jin Bei van with 5 other teachers and made a last-minute "iron rations" run to the "nice" grocery store. It was a madhouse- the tiny parking lot was one-in-one-out. Everybody inside had money. As I bagged my Raisin Bran and powdered milk, I thought of those in tents. No pantries there.

It rained more heavily as the sun set, and continued to do so as we attended our weekly Thursday-night dinner-and-worship time with the other families on campus.

I guiltily enjoyed my pasta bake and hot tea, and then I guiltily ate the pint of ice cream we were afraid we'd lose when we turned off the fridge (in extreme power conservation mode, the only thing that stays on is the internet router), and then I guiltily settled into my warm, dry bed. 12 hours later.... it's not even raining?!

There is currently no wind and no rainfall at our home. The eye is still 100 or more miles away, moving this way at about 10 mph. My daily global intelligence email digest (MEDEX reports, check it) says 1 death is already attributed to the storm... but where is it? Is it not here yet? I read that Tomas has strengthened to a Category 1 and will continue to strengthen for the next 24 hours, with current sustained winds over 80 and gusts over 100 miles per hour. Is this the proverbial "calm before the storm"? How trite.

I've been told the northeast side of a hurricane is the "dirty side", and that's exactly where we are.... where are you, Tomas? Are you coming still? I had a conversation with a 10th grade boy yesterday about whether hurricanes or earthquakes are worse in the sense of having advance warning- would you rather be prepared, or does the waiting for disaster make you nervous and crazy?

I got a text this morning from Digicel, the Haitian cell phone company, saying: Ayiti anba menas siklon Toma. Si ou rete bo lanme, bo ravin oubyen bo rivye ale ak fanmi w yon kote ki an sekirite.

It means "Haiti is under threat (menace) of hurricane Tomas. If you life near the sea, a ravine, or a river, go with your family where it is safe."

Ben's gone to deliver a little grocery item to our friend who requested it from my grocery run yesterday. He's walking to her house. He took a camera, and a knife. We are waiting, and not sure what's going on, or what's coming next.

Katie

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Tomas Chronicles

This is what the rest of our day looks like. Our plan is to hunker down and post as often as we have internet.

ipod play list will include Jimmy Buffet, REO Speedwagon's Riding the Storm Out and Stevie Ray Vaughn's The Sky is Crying. We will not be playing Rock me Like a Hurricane.

-Ben

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day of the Dead

We have Monday and Tuesday off school this week because of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These holidays are associated with the Day of the Dead, but it is different here than any other I've encountered before- so different from regular American trick-or-treat world as well as the Latin American "Dia de los Muertos" celebrations and observances you get to know a bit living in Texas.
A site called wehaitians.com shows an incredibly fascinating photo gallery of images from the Day of the Dead in 2003. It's shocking to me, and confusing. It reports that to celebrate the Day of the Dead, people create homemade alcohol with peppers mixed in, and then they pour it on their genitals. There's a photo of this in the gallery. Today at Heartline (where I have wanted to visit for nearly a year, and finally got to due to the day off school), someone asked a Haitian staff member about this practice, and she said it is true, that people pour pepper sauce (she got out Tobasco from the fridge to make her point) on their genitals and in their eyes. When asked why, she said "because of the devil." She was asked, "to keep the devil away?". She replied, "no, because they want him."

With our 1-year anniversary in Haiti fast approaching, all my ideas of what Voodoo is are second-hand and disconnected snippets. Two weeks ago on the retreat to Seguin I met a man who was all about Voodoo, and who had hung Voodoo art throughout the house. Even after looking at the sequined, patterned hangings and paintings of a black goddess in a cornfield, I don't understand any more clearly. What exactly are the beliefs?

I have a friend here who originally came to Haiti to work as a house parent in an orphanage, and the boys he raised there had come from all over Haiti. The boys tell stories of seeing a child eat his own hand after being cursed for stealing crops from a field. The same friend knew of a Voodoo priest who threw his implements in a fire after coming to know Jesus after the earthquake. Many people were present, and they say they heard the last item screaming as it burned.

This article, from ehow.com of all places, talks about how the best celebrations of the Haitian Day of the Dead take place in Port-au-Prince, in the large cemetery in Petionville (a "suburb" about 10 minutes uphill from us that contains fancier restaurants and shops, plus the good grocery stores). Well, that cemetery is entirely gone now, cleared by the government after the earthquake. One day it was there, row after row of crumbly-looking above-ground crypts, then it was gone. Rumors say the land will be used for a tap-tap station. No one knows. How can you destroy a cemetery? Maybe it's related to the Haitian practice of only renting graves, not buying the burial plots?

So even as we don't understand these holidays, we are home for them. No school. A four-day weekend. We had a cook-out at our house church on Sunday. We attended a costume party on Sunday night, a no-scary-costume, redeem-the-day time of community and tasty food that ended in monsoon rains, us all huddled under an awning, watching the little kids splash in puddles.

But, even as we begin to look forward to Thanksgiving, the winding-down semester, and (dare I say it?) the upcoming Christmas holidays in Texas, we are nervously looking ahead to two major events: a hurricane and an election. Tomas is bearing down on us in the Caribbean, having smacked Barbados hard already. It is expected to make landfall as a hurricane on Friday or Saturday. The major questions are how strong the winds will be, and how much water will be dumped on this city. We went to the grocery store yesterday and stocked up on extra liters of water, candles, canned foods, and a full tank of gasoline.

The Haitian presidential election is coming the Monday after Thanksgiving. We see tons of posters everywhere, not to mention Haiti's unofficial election marketing: graffiti. The top names are Manigat (a woman), Celestin (the current president's choice of successor), and Baker (rumored to be the US' favorite). Who knows. Pray for peace, no violence, no crime, no corruption, and His kingdom to come, here on earth, just like in heaven.

Katie

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