Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grace in the Classroom, Boobs, and Bethaina Goes Home

So here's the latest:

Two major praises this week. First, as the senior class sponsor, I have been rejoicing and mourning with seniors as they make future plans. Much will depend on financial aid. You have to understand the financial situation here: many students' parents are entrepreneurs who own a grocery store, a gas station, a rice wholesale warehouse, or something similar. When the earthquake hit, many of these businesses collapsed, and some were looted. Only a very few people had insurance on their home or business. So if you owned a collapsed store, you have to repair it out of your own pocket, in cash, all the while not earning any income for the year or so while it is rebuilt. Several students have spoken to me about the stress on their families and their parents' marriages due to the financial loss this year. It's for this reason that we were ecstatic this week to hear that one of our seniors, Carl, received a FULL RIDE to Penn State! The scholarship is valued at over $200,000. This is an unbelievable blessing to his family, and a win for the future of Haiti.

A second blessing. Last spring we got to know and love a family teaching with us at Quisqueya that was adopting a first-grader, Bethaina. The day after the earthquake Ben and the father, Sean, went all over the city looking for meds for Queency for his broken femur, jaw, head injuries, and more (to look back at Queency's story, click on his name in the column at right). They eventually evacuated with most other families with children. Long story short, Bethaina was living with them in Haiti but was unable to leave Haiti with them due to adoption paperwork. As all of you who have witnessed or experienced adoptions know, it often takes much longer than you hoped, producing an excruciating wait. Finally, we all celebrated yesterday as her paperwork was completed and her father flew into Haiti to bring her home. Praise God, she is home.

School update: I continue to love the conversations that occur with students. Have you ever spent large quantities of time with 9th grade boys? If so, this little episode will not surprise you. In the middle of a lecture about Great Expectations, a student raised his hand and asked, in total sincerity and seriousness, "how do the boobs know when to make the milk?"

I tried, with my limited knowledge of the subject, to answer equally seriously and scientifically. This inspired a classmate: "Once my mom's friend had her boob cut off, what is that about?" So we talked about mastectomies and cancer... I mean, you just literally have no idea where the discussion is going when you spend an hour a day with nine 14-year-old boys. Literally none.

I'm also reading a book called Teaching Redemptively. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far the basic idea is that as Christians, we teach of a grace-based faith, where instead of earning God's favor and love (or rewards in heaven) like other religions, we have been given a free, undeserved gift of grace as Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. Grace is the key word. However, in Christian schools, we practice "the law", a tit-for-tat, get-what-you-deserve system that defies our spoken beliefs. Spell the words right, get an A. Misbehave, get kicked out. I'm convicted, because I want to not only talk the talk about grace, but also walk the walk. However, how exactly does a "grace school" operate? What about accountability, natural consequences, responsibility? I'm really exploring this idea as I run my classes and make the dozens of get-tough-or-go-lenient decisions in a day. I'm excited to learn more.

Around our house, it was a water-focused week. Water is very complicated here. Drinking water is pretty easy- throw a Culligan jar up on the kitchen counter with a handheld pump for drinking water, boiling pasta, etc. But the water for the shower, faucet, and toilet comes from an outdoor cistern, which is pumped up to a "chateau d'eau" (water house) on our roof, which then comes down a gravity-fed system into our house. The water gets into the cistern through giant delivery trucks. If the cistern gets empty, you have no water until out school secretaries can call and order another truck. We always seem to run out on Friday evenings after the school office is closed. Sigh. It's usually not more than one, two, or at most three days.

A major project I'm working on this week is the senior class trip. Planning this is a bit of last-minute addition to my plate. This year the trip has two parts. First we will spend a weekend on La Gonave, a very poor and rural island off the coast of Haiti that is closest to our school. One of our seniors' parents live there, and we will be working with their mission's hospital and orphanage. Though most of our seniors have lived their whole lives in Haiti, none but Brooke has ever been to La Gonave. She says it's another world away from Port-au-Prince- for instance, the young ladies on our trip will need to wear long skirts. About half of our seniors currently express a desire to go into a medical/science career (hmm..wait til freshman chemistry, they'll all be political science majors by Thanksgiving). I'm excited for them to gain experience in a hospital. Furthermore, this is a great opportunity to love on the orphanage kids, because even though they do receive visits and attention from American short-terms fairly regularly, this will be a group of young, energetic, nurturers who can speak in their language. That's big. 

Lastly, it's getting toward the rainy season again. The tent city population in this city is no longer 1.2 million souls as it was a year ago, but is only down to 600,000. Six hundred thousand human beings. Tarps and mud. Many are tapping into local power lines to electrify ever-more-permanent tent camps. This is dangerous, as our friend Brittany (who is seven months pregnant, mind you) recently discovered when she tried to roll back her metal gate one morning and discovered the tent city dwellers next door were conducting electricity from her power line pole, through her front gate, and into their maze of tarps. She got quite a shock. Fragile and makeshift power, sanitation, and healthcare situations in tents will be at even more risk as the nightly deluges start in the coming weeks. It's already poured three times this week. Every time we approach a potentially hazardous event- an election, a hurricane- I am reminded yet again: I have resources. I have a warm (oh so warm), dry home. I have my iron rations cabinet full of soup. Hundreds of thousands simply do not.

Always more to do. This is Haiti.


PS Still looking for excellent teachers to join us at Quisqueya next year. Check out our openings. Tell a friend.


  1. Friday I had to have a plumber out to fix the water pipe to the back yard hose bib. Now my plants can get water I can actually drink without treatment. I'm humbled as I read your story. Stay safe.

  2. Bill and I went to see Paul Farmer speak tonight at Claremont McKenna regarding Partners in Health and the difficulties with aid - specifically "the aid machinery is broken, but we can fix it"...I was immediately reminded of the posts you made last year about the blockers/inefficiencies you saw with aid. Just wanted to let you know that you are on par with a Harvard doctor :) and that people haven't stopped the discussion here. You guys are brave and you inspire your community from a distance - been wanting to tell you that :)



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