Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Week That Was

So I just read my daily global intelligence email from Medex, and the report from last night indicated "widespread demonstrations" scheduled for today to protest fuel prices. News to me! It is 5:30 and I didn't see a thing unusual today.

Actually, that's not entirely true, because the first thing I heard this morning upon waking was helicopter blades whooshing not far above our house. My first words to Ben were: check your Twitter. Ben follows several English-speaking reporters who are in Haiti, including a freelancer for AOL, an AP reporter or two, and the correspondent for the Miami Herald. Nothing on the Twitter feed, so we went about our day as usual.

The final round of runoff presidential elections having taken place a few weeks ago, we had read in the news that the results would be announced Thursday, March 31. Then today Ben read that announcement will be pushed back a week, to Monday, April 4. Good grief. These elections initially happened the week of Thanksgiving.

There are discussions of manifestations possible due to gas prices, which have gone up over $1 US per gallon. In one sense, we follow these things closely. In another sense, we've learned to have a kind of casual "eh" attitude about reports of problems, because we've gotten a bit of "freak out fatigue" this year preparing for hurricanes, manifestations, and ex-dictators-reappearing chaos that did not bring down the sky as predicted.

You also can't spend you life freaking out, but you do need to be prepared. In homage to my second favorite American novel Alas Babylon, I have nicknamed our "emergency food" cabinet (yes, it is isolated from the other groceries to avoid tempting us) the Iron Rations.

In other news this week..... life goes on. Prepping lessons, grading tests. Sometimes one of us will have an existential identity crisis while grading tests, occasionally shouting out loud, "I told them this!" or "this was straight off the review guide!" Perhaps this is a rookie-teacher mistake and all you vets are smiling knowingly to yourselves, but we often are thrown into spirals of self-doubt when kids fail our assignments. What portion of responsibility for an F on a test is mine? The parent's? The student's?

I am teaching about the Middle East right now in World Cultures class, and it's been a very touchy topic as Quisqueya (and Haiti) has, interestingly, a large Syrian and Lebanese population. There are four boys in my class whose grandparents currently live in Syria, resulting in very close ties. They have all visited there, many for long summer stays. There are many questions in class beginning with "my dad says......." It makes me nervous! Discussing Islam, Muslim governments, Israel, fundamentalism, issues related to women and the press..... it's quite a loaded conversation. Not to mention today's lesson focused largely on Iraq and Afghanistan, and much of the class conversation centered around the current wars there.

Which reminds me... have I mentioned on this blog that my little brother deployed? I have asked for prayer requests in every setting, every staff meeting, and every class I teach, but I'm not sure I've said it here. My little brother (who towers a foot taller than me) deployed with the Marines to Afghanistan last week. It will be a difficult season for him, his love Kelsey, and my mother in particular, as he stays there the better part of this year.

So all this to say, it's a tough week to be introducing vocab terms like WMD's, IED's, and the Taliban.

Ben is working on scheduling service projects for National Honor Society, which he recently re-started at Quisqueya, and I'm working with the newly-founded Drama Club on their first skit, to be performed in chapel next week. On and on we go!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Map Quest

As a history nerd, I love maps. I love to see the change in national boundaries or how our understanding of surveying and cartography has improved. So imagine my disappointment when the pull-down maps in my classroom broke last spring. I was even more disappointed when I saw how expensive a new set of maps would be.

A very exciting thing happened when I got back from Christmas. Two sets of maps had been donated to QCS from some very kind person in the States. After a long delay for hardware and labor, they were finally hung last week. I. was. giddy. MAPS!

I am teaching my Comparative Government class about Modern China, so I pulled down the map of Asia and we looked a the country, talked about our favorite Chinese food dishes and why Yao Ming was a certifiable NBA bust. I was putting the map up and suddenly I froze in Post-Cold War horror. In the space north of China where I saw it: the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics!? How could this be?

I quickly pulled down the map for Europe. Next to the USSR was Czechoslovakia, further south was Yugoslavia. I checked Africa- Zaire was prominently displayed. These "new" maps that had been "donated" were over 20 years old.

I talked to my director and told him. He looked dog-faced. He had no idea.

These were not so much "donated" to us as "thrown away" to us, and the thrower got to feel good about their "help". What an absolute pile of manure. Do you remember why God favored Abel's sacrifice over Cain's? Because it was the fat portion, the choicest cut of meat. Not the outdated-not-good-enough-for-my-kids-but-good-enough-for-those-Haitians-they-will-take-anything portion.

This is one of those things missionaries learn deal with. My principal's grandparents, who were missionaries to Asia, were often mailed used tea bags. Recently my school received 2 boxes of men's size 12 football cleats and XS bike shorts. How many 9-year-olds in Haiti have ginormous feet and are playing nose tackle? My friend Sean told me that his first year here someone shipped him a box of used undergarments. I read after the Asian tsunami a few years back, I heard of a donation of Santa costumes. After the earthquake last year, the relief camp here at Quisqueya received at least one large shipment of frostbite treatment kids and tents without poles.

Some people think beggars cannot be choosers. If you are less fortunate you should graciously accept anything given to you, and it is being ungrateful to question gifts. However, I would charge that this is a defense mechanism to keep the speaker from confronting the fact that they are not living up to a Christlike example of charity. Christ encourages us to give so graciously we would offer the very shirt off our backs and to go the extra mile, not to spend at little as possible or to give trash. The Good Samaritan surely is the most famous Biblical example of helping a stranger, and he surely spent a good amount of silver tenderly caring for the mugging victim he encountered- no secondhand toss-offs there.

Wouldn't it be great if the American church started giving out of its fat portion (and it does have a lot of fat to give from)? Giving new and needed items and never stained, expired, dated, useless material?


Monday, March 21, 2011

Missing Out

My good friend Sarah has this term FOMO, or "fear of missing out". We both get strong cases of FOMO, which caused us basically to never sleep in college. This is a lifelong problem for me- my mother tells the story that when I was an infant, she had to feed me in a dark, silent room, because I would not eat unless there was nothing else going on to be looking at. Baby FOMO.

Well, it's not a "fear" of missing out now that we live in Haiti. It's the real thing. I am missing out, and I'm really feeling it this weekend.

Let me tell you what happened within the last 48 hours:
-my matron of honor had her baby
-one of my college roommates got engaged
-my oldest guy friend got married
-one of my bridesmaids got engaged

Annie and Jeffrey's wedding was a few weeks ago, Danielle and Pat get married the weekend before we come home for summer. Savannah and Heather and Elle and Sarah and Whit and Anne and Katie and so many other friends who live outside of Dallas occasionally swing through.... I miss it. I haven't heard some of their voices since last summer.

I didn't meet my dear friend's Laura's future husband until the week after they got engaged. I haven't met Ikeesha and Jeremy's baby, born last fall. I haven't seen some of my best friends' apartments, or even new houses. I've never been to their workplaces to meet for lunch. I don't even know two or three of the couples in our small group now. My twin cousins graduate from college in May, along with my soon-to-be sister-in-law Kelsey.... all missed. My grandmother is selling her house and moving into an apartment... can't say goodbye to the house, can't help her move, can't visit, can't even see it.

My Marine brother deploys to Afghanistan in two days. Can't visit him in California before he goes.

It's the big and the little things. I log onto Facebook, and see the pics from a birthday dinner. A girls' night. I'm not in them. I didn't even know. Nobody's trying to leave me out, but I live in a foreign country! My good friend Anne, who has lived overseas with YWAM for years, told me over Christmas that that is the true cost- the missing out. More than the lack of familiar food, familiar neighborhoods, favorite stores and places and comforts, it's the missing out that hurts.

I'll be fine. Lord knows I have so many things to be grateful for, I should hardly whine.

But this part's no fun.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Final Election

Today is the runoff election for Haiti's president. The final two contestants are Mirlande Manigat, a law professor and former first lady, against Michel Martelly, a former Haitian rapper.

This has been a long process. The first round of voting happened around Thanksgiving. There was an announcement of the top two, a recount, a report by the Organization of American States disputing the ranking of the top 3 candidates, then a switch between #2 and #3. Now, we'll see the final results.

We've been receiving lots of robocalls from Martelly. His pink signs are ubiquitous. We have straight-up begged our students for campaign swag (possibly also employing our power to award extra credit points) and have thereby acquired tshirts celebrating Martelly- of course, in bright "Tet Kale" pink.

We woke up this morning to the sounds of helicopters- media? UN? We're watching Twitter for updates other places in the city. Early this morning we read that Wyclef Jean, who held a "concert for change" in support of Martelly earlier this week, was shot in the hand around 11 pm last night. I'd really love to know more details on that. We've read there is very low voter turnout. As far as our street is concerned, things are very quiet and very still. Not much traffic on the road as we went to church, and all the marchan street sellers are gone for the day already.

We can't figure out exactly when the results will be announced- we've heard March 31 and I read April 16.

Stay posted.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Come Teach at Quisqueya!

Dear Haiti-loving blog community,

We need your help! People always ask what they can do to help the youth of Haiti we work with, and here is a ripe ol' offer. We need to find quite a few excellent teachers to join us on the staff of Quisqueya. Did I mention we have signed on for next year? Come teach with us!

Quisqueya is currently seeking:
Middle School Bible Teacher
Middle School Math Teacher
Middle School Science Teacher
Middle School Social Studies Teacher
High School Bible Teacher
High School Math Teacher
High School Science Teacher
All school Art Teacher
All School Music Teacher
Computer Teacher

I know, it's quite a list. We really need your help to spread the word.

Some basics:

Many (but not all) teachers live on campus, especially ones who are new to Haiti. We LOVE living on campus. We love our friends here, the dinners, the worship, the pickup basketball games, the movie nights...

Teachers are paid a monthly stipend. Most single teachers at Quisqueya live on their stipend without additional fundraising. Ben and I fundraise, mostly through Paypal, but the stipend is more than half our budget.

I feel safe living here. I avoid shows of wealth, stay in the safer areas, and don't do much at night.

On the weekends many people go to the beach, watch movies together, have friends over for dinner, or occasionally go out to eat (my favorites are the Thai or Chinese places). There is a nice hotel nearby that you can buy a day pass to their pool, and chill with the ever-changing cadre of French photographers and CNN journalists stalking Aristide, Duvalier, or whatever formerly exiled dictator is currently holding court.

It's important to realize that teaching at Quisqueya is a full-time job. You are able to visit orphanages or feeding programs, but teachers here should make the students their primary ministry. Between volunteering for extracurriculars, teaching classes, discipleship groups, and grading/planning, you'll be fully occupied if you give it your best.

And here's the best part: You can impact the future of Haiti. There are basically only two English-speaking options. All of our kids go to college. Many of our students' families own businesses, run vital missionary programs, or are well-connected leaders of Haiti. Many missionary kids go on to be missionaries themselves-  like our director and his wife- so it is exciting to think that we are training many who will go on to serve in all corners of the world. In a country where 1% of the people own 50% of the wealth, many of the elite families' kids are in my classroom. Their future is the future of Haiti. You and I will never be president of Haiti- but one of Quisqueya's students may be. They are learning to love God, love their fellow Haitians, and conduct their lives with integrity and compassion. One day they will run the government, the media, the hospitals, the missions, the grocery stores, the orphanages. Our former Bible teacher Mr. Day, who grew up in Haiti as a missionary kid and then was a favorite teacher at Quisqueya, told us that the wealthy are the most unreached people in Haiti. Well, here are their children, their heirs.

Please, pass the word. If you are interested, visit Quisqueya's website, download an application, and email it to bkilpatrick@quisqueya.org.


Monday, March 14, 2011

I think I have done this before

Katie and I took 17 students to a foreign country for 7 nights and 8 days by ourselves. Just let that statement sink into your brain. I do not think any public school in the States would allow that kind of ratio.

We very carefully selected the students that would go with us. We only wanted to take the most trustworthy, mature, and responsible students, but personalities can be different outside of the school walls. If they seem emotional or moody at school, they will be more emotional and more moody when you have walked miles in the rain and cold to see a dead man's house.

I leaned this week that as academically gifted as many of our students are, street smarts are a different skill set. Their lives in Haiti are so sheltered, so many things are done for them, that traveling like we did where you are expected to do so much for yourself was probably a good learning moment for them. But it was a very unexpected and sometimes, to be honest, resented teaching moment for me. I did not expect to have to give step-by-step instructions for taking the subway. Step 1 - Get your fare card out. 2 - Put it in the machine. 3 - Take it out of the machine so the turnstile will open. 4 - (And this is very important) walk through the turnstile before in closes again... because if not you have to repeat steps 2 and 3. Why are we having to talk about the steps? We have been doing this for 5 days! Pavlov's theories state you should have been conditioned by now, right?!

I do not mean to whine so much. I had an amazing time and I would do this again next year. The kids were awesome compared to some of the groups of American students I observed when we were out. But I was very surprised at how detailed the instructions needed to be and how closely monitored the students needed to be. The whole time we were gone I kept thinking- I have done this before.

Katie and I have made a small career out of volunteering at a children's camp. The camp played a huge roll in us starting to date again. At a camp with 5th graders, you have to constantly explain in detail everything. You explain multiple times, because inevitably someone is not listening. The questions are often endless and repetitive. And then there is the walking.

At camp, much like in DC, you walk everywhere. The DC students, like our camp 5th graders, have not yet learned to walk as one group to a location. People walk at different paces, but in DC (like at camp) there were always the same 5 kids at the back of the herd. No matter how often you tell them to hurry or how you try to bribe them... the same 5 at the back of the pack. I told one student that if we were all zebras, they would definitely be the first to be attacked by lions, because they were consistently away from the herd and isolated. Lion food.

Katie and I had all the skills to do DC because we have done this camp too many times to count. Katie planned everything so well because she has helped plan camp so many times. I was good at walking behind, making sure no one got lost, because I have spent a decade of Texas summers doing the same thing.

Kate and I  have one person to think for all of this preparation and planning: Sweet Hopkins. (Center, below)
Sweet was the children's minister at church when we first started volunteering. To write a full explanation for how Godly, awesome, and impactful this very tiny blond woman from Alabama was to me, let alone both of us, would be nearly a book in and of itself. But she was a GIANT in our lives. She lost her battle with cancer and went to be with Jesus the month Katie and I were married. But the crazy thing is that I still find myself drawing from lessons she taught me. She still looms large in the way we approach ministry.

For example... about Katie... she had a binder of everything we were doing this week: Google maps of restaurants, confirmations, subway maps, medical release forms, contact information, bus schedules, receipts, invoices, and nuclear launch codes. Every summer Sweet had a similar binder for camp and she distilled that into a smaller binder that each counselor carried with them at all times. Further, Katie and I figured we could take 17 kids to DC because it was only one child over the 8:1 child-sponsor ratio that Sweet preferred for camp. Sweet was an organizational, ministry-running machine and the freaking awesome part is that she has turned out little disciples that apparently are spreading her approach. And this doesn't even begin to describe the remarkable daughters she raised.

My only regret is that Sweet and I never talked about how you counsel kids who have suffered through severe trauma. Three of the kids who came to DC with us lost a parent in the earthquake. Many more lost relatives or friends. Half left Haiti after the earthquake and lived with relatives or friends who are part of the Haitian diaspora. I had hoped to spend time with them just talking about life, encouraging them, and sharing more about Jesus. That really didn't happen like I had hoped it would.

I tried not to be too discouraged about it. I did get to discuss which Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix albums I thought two students should by. I was very pleased when they settled on Physical Graffiti and Are You Experienced.

DC was great. Not in some of the ways I expected, but, as you learn in military history, "no plan survives first contact with the enemy". It was great because the students built relationships with each other and hopefully learned something about history and government. It was great because K and I planned the heck out of that trip and used our super-sweet-ninja-sponsor skills to make sure we actually got back with as many students as we left with, which I think is a big feat. So did my school director- he emailed me that it would be "understandable" if we accidentally left a student in DC.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Katie = Wonderwoman of blogging?

Allow me declare that my wife is blog-superhuman. While we were in DC, after a full day of herding teenagers on and off of Metro trains, guiding them into great halls of knowledge, making sure no one was lost, she found time to blog. I found time to sleep.
When we would arrive back in our hotels after a long day of walking and herding-often times in the rain- I would collapse on the bed, feet dangling off the mattress, fleece sometimes smelling like a wet dog. I would moan about how my feet or my shins hurt, I would express my disbelief at such-and-such-a-student's inability to stay with the group, arrive on time or some other typical teenage act that I, for the moment, found such a deep character flaw I considered urging our director to remove them from school. I would then fall asleep.

Katie would nod and "mmmuuuhhhmmm" in agreement with me as she powered up out lap-top. Then once I was asleep she would up-load pictures, email parents and blog. All the while I was fast and hard asleep.

I would wake up, splash water on my face and then lead the students out to dinner.

This is probably a grossly uneven distribution of labor, but Katie never complained.

I will have my thoughts about the DC trip later, but this is a shout out to someone who does wonderful work!

DC Last Day

Because I am certifiable insane and possibly possessed of a Napoleonic overconfidence, I decided to do three Smithsonian museums in the last day of our trip.

I'll let the images do the talking on this one.
Smithsonian Museum of American History
Very fitting that we ran into the "Hendrick Hudson" boat just as we were all in prayer for our tiniest Hendrick friend who was very, very sick with a high fever on this day. Thank God he is better.
First Lady exhibit rocked
Nancy Reagan = hot
Michelle Obama's inaugural gown. What a class act.
United States at war exhibit
The first telegraph sent about Pearl Harbor.
Julia Child's kitchen
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Below, the Hall of Mammals- my favorite.
Geology exhibit
Now moving to the Smithsonian Gallery of American Art, which is the same building as the National Portrait Gallery... and once again, some pretty sweet CHAPERONE BADGES
I thought this was a fascinating painting... I'm not sure what the message is.
This portrait of George Washington Carver is so tender.
This is the fine art version of the ubiquitous Obama campaign poster. In this version, the entire collage is made up of newspaper clippings relating to civil rights.
Ben and I are floating through the museum, in rapturous awe at the majesty of historical portraiture, geeking out to the max, and then we walk into the atrium and find.... our students asleep.

And now we're home. 17 Haitian teenagers, delivered home to expectant mommies and daddies.

Laundry, planning, unpacking, cleaning. Must write test on Russia and Africa, must read 10 chapters of Great Expectations. (Chose instead to post photos!)

I am very proud of this trip, which we entirely conceived, planned, and executed all on our own. More than our ability to fling teenagers onto the Metro or throw them through Smithsonians, however, I am proud of the way B and I worked together. We co-managed. We co-parented.We can do projects! We can even maybe perhaps (whisper) parent one day! It felt good.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

DC Days Five and Six

Yesterday we started out at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. I took most of the kids straight to a live show at the Einstein Planetarium called "The Stars Tonight" that teaches about constellations and planets visible in today's sky. The Air and Space museum has unmanned aircraft (first time seeing the much-discussed Predator drones used on the Af-Pak border), the Wright Brothers' original plane, and even an Apollo spacecraft you can walk inside. Many students' favorite was the flight simulators. There was a beautiful photography exhibit with images from the Hubble- exquisitely beautiful, awe-inspiring pictures of the sun, faraway galaxies, and even just the details of our moon. They have a huge gift shop, and I bought a book about parallel universes from the guy who wrote An Elegant Universe. I was particularly moved by an exhibit on aviation in the Pacific during World War II, since my grandfather was there as forward air control. To think of what he went through on those island campaigns, and to be in the mindset of those men as they believed they were about to invade mainland Japan... I certainly learned a lot and have more compassion for the experience and sacrifice of those men.

Next we headed to the National Archives. The building was practically empty. It took less than 30 minutes to enter, go through security, and see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. There isn't much education regarding the documents (no tour or anything, you just walk by), so that was a little disappointing. Because we finished so far ahead of schedule, a couple of students got to see a movie. They had been asking often, and we kept saying it wouldn't fit in the schedule, but it did work out at last and they were thrilled. Last night one of our girls led a lovely devotion, talking about how she learned through the post-earthquake semester that God is never surprised by our reactions or thoughts. We got a noise complaint two nights ago from singing during our nightly team meetings, so last night we just listened to a song and has private prayer time.

This morning was freezing, and we headed off to Arlington National Cemetery. We attended the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was very moving. While walking to see the ceremony, you pass fields of white marble graves in perfect lines, name after name after name. You see the wives and children on the back of the stones, sometimes just called "infant" with only one date- one day of life.  I spoke to my little brother last night (the Marine), and he said he now knows 21 people buried at Arlington. There were two funerals taking place while we were on the grounds, and we jumped at both 21-gun salutes. One was so close that we could hear the trumpet- we stopped walking for a moment to stand and listen to Taps.

This afternoon was spent at Mount Vernon. It takes over an hour to get there, with several Metro train changes and buses involved. It was worth it. The mansion is in pristine historical condition, the tour guides are the best educators we've seen yet, and the museum on the grounds is my favorite so far. One thing I noticed- Mount Vernon takes no pains to hide the intensive amount of slave labor used to run the estate and grounds. They also don't hide the conditions the slaves worked in- for instance, how the laundry women carried dozens of buckets per load, plunging their hands in boiling water and hand-scrubbing with chemicals all day. George Washington, Martha, and 25 members of their family are buried in an elaborate vault, celebrated with large stones and memorials. Next to the vault is the slave burial site, a field of an unknown number of unmarked graves to which one monument was added over 100 years later. What do my students think about that? Many are black, but do they identify in any way with African slavery in America? 

Ben and I laughed the whole time about the neon yellow badges we were instructed to wear by the staff identifying us as CHAPERONES. The kids were in a great mood, even in the freezing cold, and the day ended well.


Monday, March 7, 2011

DC Day Three and Four

Another whirlwind!

Yesterday we started our day at Holy Eucharist at the National Cathedral. It was a cold, rainy day. The cathedral is gorgeous- Gothic architecture with incredible stained-glass that is painted over. Look at the image above- don't the faces look like something out of Beauty and the Beast? I was speaking with a staff member, and when I mentioned we were from Haiti, she asked if six of our kids would like to participate in the Episcopal service! The six nearest kids (some were in the gift shop or taking photos) were invited to carry elements such as wine, bread, and a basket of food up to the front table halfway through. In the photo you can see two of our kids carrying the basket! What an honor. The same staff lady told the Dean, and he gave us a welcome shout-out in the service.

After the service we took a tour of the stained glass, and we were interested to learn that one of the stained glass windows celebrating God creating the planets actually contains a piece of moon rock. We also saw the altar, ornate pulpit featuring carvings of the signing of the Magna Carta, and the rose windows. The photo of the stained glass faces is from a panel showing God loving and reconciling all races of mankind.

After church we were supposed to spend some time shopping in the Georgetown district. It was raining very hard- sheets of freezing water soaking our shoes. So Ben and I punted the Georgetown idea and just let the kids shop around our Metro station and hotel. There were many stores, but it's a pricy area, so it was disappointing that there wasn't much in the students' price range.

Today was a busy day! We started at Union Station, then the office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and then a tour of the US Capitol. The Rotunda is amazing- I love the 360 degree painting of US history and the giant historical paintings. Many kids said the highlight was the statues- two from each state. Ben took pictures by Ronald Reagan and Sam Houston :) Next we walked by the Supreme Court on our way to lunch at a Tex-Mex place - hallelujah! I fear I led the young ones astray by committing the sin of gluttony... oh the jalapenos...

After lunch we toured the Library of Congress. It is hands down the most beautiful building I have ever been inside. We saw the main reading room (National Treasure anyone?), the gorgeous frescoes celebrating art, science, and literature, and the Gutenberg Bible- one of only three perfect copies in existence (the photo shows the kids looking in a case that pumps in special gases to preserve the pages).

Lastly we visited the Folger Shakespeare Library. We saw their replica of an Elizabethan theater, the reading room where scholars research early manuscripts, and a lovely stained glass window with Shakespearean characters (the one on the far left is Ophelia).

The kids are doing well. I am very impressed with their attitudes. Rookie mistake on my part- I planned too much for today. We were really dragging by the end, but not one student whined. I am loving the conversations that come up as you eat lunch, walk to the Metro, or wander at the back of a tour: why churches have different rules about who takes communion, whether or not rebuilding Haiti's National Palace should be a first priority financially, and explaining the concept of lobbying, to name a few.

Our evening meeting/worship time/devotional is going well, too. Last night a student shared about listening to your parents, and shared a really heartbreaking story of a time he almost didn't. Worship times aren't quite like I imagined- a bit more silly- but it is sweet to hear students requesting their favorite songs that they have loved learning in chapel this year.

Praise God- another good day!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

DC Day One and Two

 WOW! A whirlwind.

Yesterday morning 17 Quisqueya high schoolers plus Ben and I flew from Port-au-Prince to Miami, then Miami to Washington Reagan airport. I smelled the Subway in the Miami airport at least 100 yards away. It was heavenly. My mother, blessing of all blessings, was able to meet us in Washington just for the first two days of the trip, and I have been so encouraged to have her here. All 20 of us, suitcases rolling like a buzzing horde over metal grates and cobblestones, made it through customs, baggage claim, the Metro, and all the way to our hotel. Phew. I stood in the "non US citizen" line in customs for the first time with our Haitian citizen students, and saw the video they show about America while you wait- lots of gorgeous scenery and images of our racial, ethnic, and regional diversity.

This morning we woke up early and headed to the White House! Unexpected: major delays on the Metro red line. We literally sprinted the last few blocks. The White House was magnificent. We strolled through the East Wing, saw the China Room, and marveled at the Green, Blue, and Red Rooms. The cop in the State Dining Room talked about how they all get to eat the leftovers when the dignitaries leave. The buildings in that area- the Hotel Washington, Department of the Treasury, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Commerce, to name a few- are just exquisite temples of classical architecture. Perhaps the highest concentration of doric fluted columns in the universe. Thank you, Dr. Smith, for making me memorize all those architecture terms at Baylor!

Next we made our way to the National Mall. We walked by the Washington Monument, the giant pointed obelisk in the middle, and spent awhile in the World War II memorial. It is a giant circular space with a huge fountain in the middle, and on one end there is a heartbreaking display: over 4,000 gold stars affixed to the wall over a reflecting pool. Each one represents one hundred fallen soldiers. Below, the words: Here we mark the price of freedom.

At the Vietnam Memorial, the most moving part was an impromptu lecture by a National Park Ranger who spoke about the thousands of items they find left at the base of the black reflective granite "scar" in the landscape. He described finding footballs, 6-packs of beer, a Harley Davidson, a wedding dress, and a cigar box full of love letters left on the 40th anniversary of a soldier's death. I lost it, as did many of the kids.

At the Lincoln Memorial, things were rushed and crowded. Kids got hungry and had to go to the bathroom. As most of our students are black, I was hoping for some kind of emotional moment, a "wow factor", but it kind of got lost. I wondered about whether our Haitian students really identify with Martin Luther King's movement for black equality, since they are so young, not American residents, and probably experience extremely little oppression in their lives (relative to 50s/60s blacks in the South).

Next we walked to the Holocaust Museum. We ate in the cafe inside the museum. Is it weird to anybody else that there's a cafe at the Holocaust Museum? It felt slightly indecent. In addition to the ubiquitous caesar salads and wraps, the cafe served kosher fare, matzo ball soup, and knishes.

Inside, there are three areas of the museum: the permanent exhibition (the largest part, covering 3 floors), "Daniel's Story" (the children's part), and a special exhibit on Nazi propaganda. This was my second time through as an adult, and I was most moved by three parts. First, an audio recording of an interview with a concentration camp survivor testifying to the memory of having her head shaved by the Nazis upon her entrance to the camp. Second, the video in the Auschwitz section depicting the medical experiments on prisoners, including children. Third, the videos that Soviet, British, and American troops shot as they arrived to liberate the camps. They are horrifying. Unconscionable. Because of the disease risk, the liberating armies' first task was the bury or burn the tens of thousands of dead bodies they found, so the process had to be very quick, which led to a lot of footage of soldiers hastily dragging, or even bulldozing, the dead. Many tears.

Tonight several students mentioned that the most moving part was at the end. There is a room where you walk between two large glass compartments filled entirely with shoes. Shoes of concentration camp victims, taken from them as they were sent to the gas chambers. The room smells loudly of leather. Almost all are black, a few white, one pair bright lipstick red. A pair of baby shoes.

Between the Holocaust Museum and the war memorials, there were many somber moments. I'm excited to hear what was going on in their minds as the week goes on.

We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant, held our nightly team meeting/devotional, and are headed to bed. Just a few brief snafus- a temporarily lost wallet, a lost Metro card, and a couple times where someone wandered off for a few minutes. All ok in the end.

Things I learned: 15 - 18-year-olds are just that, even when they are generally great kids. Patience is the most important form of love I can offer right now. Also, a teenager being well-traveled is not the same as having traveled alone. A person who has traveled alone or led a trip knows how to reads airport monitors, subway maps, and train schedules with ease. They never stand on the left side of an escalator, and they know to walk all the way to the center of a subway car when you enter. I repeated a few phrases about 100 times today: "keep your voice down", "stop here so we can count", and "does everybody have your Metro card/money/passport?" But even as I say this, I must be so proud of them- no complaining, no whining, no fighting, no bad attitudes. Even one with a sore knee and one with a cold walked all over DC without a fuss. So proud.

Tomorrow, a little time to sleep in!


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