Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marine Matt Comes Home

I've mentioned that my only sibling Matt has been serving with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan since last spring. I know what you're thinking- one child in Haiti and one child in Afghanistan? My poor mother. You're right. We've been praying and praying and praying for Matt all this time. His unit lost almost two dozen men, with over a hundred wounded.

This past Tuesday my parents and Matt's fiance Kelsey flew to California to welcome him at his home base, Camp Pendleton, in San Clemente. They flew from Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan, and there were all these delays- reroute to Ireland? to Ontario? to Anchorage, Alaska? My parents were worried he would be delayed so long they would miss his return.

On Thursday they went to the Parade Deck at Camp Pendleton at about 5 am, and waited. And waited. And waited. About 11 am they finally heard the men arriving.......


Patriot Guard drives into the Parade Deck just ahead of the Marines
 The Patriot Guard Riders is a motorcycle club that attends funerals of military, police, and firemen. They also accompany returning servicemembers to their homecoming ceremonies, and they escort bodies of war dead from their entry in the US to their funerals, no matter where in the country.
1/5 Weapons Company marches on the Parade Deck. Screaming families await!
The moment we've all prayed for! Kelsey and Matt.
Matt hugs our mama.
Doesn't matter if you are 5 or 25, boys still make this same face when getting kisses from your mama.
Blissing face, silly face
Basking in the glow of having him back!
I am so happy for Kelsey, and for my parents, and mostly for Matt, that this season of war is over. Last night I had a dream that Matt & Kelsey and Ben & I bought a house together. It was a total piece of trash, but we renovated it together. Also there was a part about the former owner of the home refusing to move out and being there during the renovation... and all the ceilings being upholstered in lace. Oh, silly subconscious....

Welcome home, Marine Matt. I am so proud of you.

Katie

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SWEDOW

There's an interesting situation going on in the international development world.

Have you heard of SWEDOW?

Stands for "stuff we don't want". As in, "please don't send that stuff over here to our country, cause we don't want it".

This whole thing picked up steam with several recent high-profile donations of items that, while seeming to help, actually hurt poor nations. For instance, the NFL printed 100,000 tshirts declaring each Super Bowl contestant the winner, and then after the big game donated the 100,000 incorrect shirts to World Vision to be sent to the Third World. This actually drives down local clothing markets' demand and thus prices, hurting local shopkeepers.

If you search "SWEDOW" on Twitter, you see thousands of mentions, some links to articles with titles such as "Haiti Doesn't Need Your Yoga Mat" and headlines like "Used US hospital sheets sent to Brazil still have bloodstains". Ick.

Somebody created a handy dandy flow chart to decide if you should actually send the items:
Click here to see the chart larger, or download it.

This catches my eye because:

1) I live in Haiti, land of the donated tshirt (you will frequently see something like an elderly man wearing a "Chi Omega Formal" shirt).

2) Ben recently posted about the total mistake of a US church that sent thousands of jars of peanut butter to Haiti, when Haiti has an actual peanut butter manufacturing industry.

3) I have begun reading When Helping Hurts. I know, I am officially the last Christian on the planet to read this book. But sweet Kellyanne got it for me on my birthday, and it's made it to the top of the bedside stack. The subtitle is "alleviating poverty without hurting the poor, or yourself". I'm eager to learn.

Side note: pretty much everything you need can be purchased in Haiti. For instance, my friend and fellow QCS teacher Amber attended a church in Dallas called Watermark. Watermark is sending a team down to Haiti next week. Instead of filling their suitcases with Poptarts and Kashi granola bars, they sent a shopping list to Amber, and she bought all their food for their team ahead of time locally.

I hope I don't ruffle feathers unnecessarily when I say this, but there really is no reason to be shipping most humanitarian aid items to Haiti. You can buy toothpaste, soap, blankets, clothes, shoes, bandaids, food, deodorant, water bottles, soccer balls, toys, etc. right here in Haiti. In fact, almost all of those items could be purchased within 100 yards of my front gate from a marchan! Sure, some things are hard to find, or marked up (brand name imports), but when you factor in airline baggage fees, shipping costs, customs fees, and the unholy nightmare that is getting a container through the Haitian port, it's worth your while to buy locally.

I'm speaking to myself here as well- really the only three things I cannot get here that I use regularly are medicines, organic toiletries, and makeup for paleface girls (Giant market does carry one bottle of Revlon base.... but I am not, nor could ever hope to be, "mocha").

All this to say. I am delighted by the fact that many in the wealthy world, and the American Christian communities, have a fire in their hearts to help the poor. And I'm further delighted that we're all trying to figure out the best, most effective, efficient, respectful, empowering ways to do it. I hope we honor God with our efforts, using both our compassion and our wisdom.

Katie

Monday, October 17, 2011

Art and Miquette's Wedding!

We have been waiting for this day for almost two years- the big wedding day of our dear friends, Art and Miquette. It was a tender, joyful event.
The Palm is an apartment building in Petionville.
Beautiful cake
Unity candle
Praying together
The kiss!
Man and wife
I love the tradition of the bride and groom coming back after the ceremony to dismiss the guests row by row. Is that a common Haitian tradition? It meant lots of kisses for the bride and groom. Here, Miquette hugs Art's mama.
The bridesmaids were Cherline and Farah, Miquette's sisters, and Daniele, a close friend who also works at Quisqueya.
Girls from the Banks' orphanage
Ben with Miquette's brother Dan
Us with the McMahons!
Did I mention Ben was the MC for the evening? We might have gotten a little silly with the mic.
What a delightful evening. We are so happy, so very happy, for Art and Miquette. Did I mention they are our next door neighbors now?! Lucky us.

Father God, I ask you to bless this brand new marriage. These two people love you so very much and are an example for many of the Way- a life following you. I pray that you would lead them on a wild adventure of life fully abandoned to you. And also, lots of beautiful babies :)

Katie

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TeacHaiti Bracelets for Sale!

Update Oct. 13 11 am: the deal is almost sold out and will be closed soon! Amazing success. The BitsyBug peeps say they may get more bracelets and run the deal again in the future. Hooray!

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Very exciting news. Many of you may know my dear friend and Quisqueya Christian School fellow teacher, Miquette, who also founded the amazing ministry TeacHaiti that we rave about so often. She's getting married this weekend to our other dear friend and next door neighbor, Art. This is big time.

All you Southerners might immediately be thinking, "Oh gosh! I haven't thought to send a gift! There's no time to have anything monogrammed!"

Well, never fear.

In light of my hero Miquette's impending nuptials, why not honor her by buying a bracelet to support TeacHaiti! Limited time offer....

A website called BitsyBug is like the Groupon of kid/mom stuff. Today's daily deal is benefiting our very own beloved TeacHaiti!

Maybe you feel you can't afford the $350 to sponsor a child to attend their school for a year.

But just $10 can buy a bracelet, and all proceeds go toward TeacHaiti!

As a reminder, TeacHaiti is an educational sponsorship program where $350 will sponsor a child for a whole year to receive: private school tuition, uniforms, hot daily lunch, school supplies, immunizations, and more (such as occasional doctor visits to the school).

The teenagers at TeacHaiti make jewelry as part of an art program held on Saturdays (which was dreamed up to provide them with marketable skills, and, let's be honest, as a way to get them to the school on Saturdays in order to feed them).

Cute bracelet. Support education for Haiti's poorest of the poor. Win win, people.

You can buy the bracelet and check out all of BitsyBug's cool daily deals for moms and kids at
http://bit.ly/qB6eZC.

Katie

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Days We Forgot the Camera 1

I loaded photos from my ipod onto my computer for the first time in six months, and found a treasure trove of forgotten Haiti memories- the kind that happened at some event thought too unlikely to warrant a Kodak moment to bring the camera.
When you hang out with the Kindergarten teacher, you rediscover your childhood faves.
Sunset from the Ackermans' house on the Montagne Noir.
All our friends are pregnant.
Just another day in sophomore English class.
Sometimes homes in Haiti have the bathroom right out there in the middle of the bedroom.
Staff get-together at Ibo Lele.
The Izzo, our love/hate Haiti car. She's only five years younger than me.
The inverter battery system lacks humility.
Why it's hard for me to get out of bed. Haiti morning light is enchanting.
My favorite painting in our Haiti house.
Tiffany trying to break into our house after we locked ourselves out.
Worship at house church.
The beach in Jacmel.
My Senior Transitions class learns to remove stains.
Seniors showing off their shirts in my classroom- all stains gone!
The on-campus staff rolls in style everywhere we go, via the Jin Bei van.
Life in Haiti. Sigh.

Katie

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TeacHaiti First Day of School

This week is back-to-school time in Haiti. Haitian schools started Monday, October 3, and we are seeing little kids in matching school uniforms making their way down the street each morning.

My favorite part is the little girls' hair; in Haiti hair is a big deal. You would never send a child to school with hair unkempt; in fact, the school would not allow you in. Some schools don't allow you in unless your little plastic ponytail holders (of which a black child with many braids or pigtail must have many) match your uniform.

The TeacHaiti School of Hope, where all the sponsored kids from Texas attend along with other kids, opened Monday as well.
This could be your sponsored child!
Ready to jump in.


To see the whole post, with about ten pics of the first day, check out Miquette's TeacHaiti blog.

Photos taken by Elisabeth Ream, a new on-campus friend and wife of our middle school Bible teacher.

Katie

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sarah & Seniors

Today was a great day for two reasons.

#1 I got to spend the last hour of the day, as I do almost every day, with these fine young people. The three of them make up half of my Advanced Literature class. It's a teacher's dream- read excellent literature, write papers, discuss current event nonfiction articles. There are six of them, they are all very skilled students and responsible, and we get to cut past the classroom management junk and go straight to the heart of ideas and deep questions of life- the point of school, right?

They're playing with my Popsicle sticks. I have one for each student, color coded by class, for those moments when I want everyone to be on alert that I'm going to draw a name... so have an answer prepared. They found their own names and posed. I love them.

#2 I had a SARAH SIGHTING today! If you're new around, please go to the labels on the right column and read about Sarah... our beloved little one. Sarah is Ben's and my sponsored child through TeacHaiti. Very conveniently, she attends the big blue preschool right next door to our house. This week was the first for Haitian schools this year. I walk out my gate this morning, and I see a tiny little girl in a bright yellow polo, with hair freshly done up in decorated pigtails.

It's Sarah.

As always, I'm so happy to see her I immediately forget all my Kreyol. She was sheepish, but she remembered me. I stumbled my way into "are you going to school today?" and "I am so happy to see you!" A kiss on the cheek and off I go to school, and off she goes. Miquette has prepped me with some other questions to memorize for the next unexpected Sarah Sighting, such as "what do you like in school? Math? Coloring?" Working on it.

Katie

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Your Books are Changing Them

You can't even know what you've done- the impact you've had.

Several of you responded with just a little thing, but that seed is shooting up, strong and leafy:

My students have required outside reading, and many choose books from my classroom library. My library was largely created through donations of books from my friends and family in the Dallas area. Before I asked for donations, the library was small, and I desperately needed a wide variety of interesting and edifying reads to ensnare reluctant and voracious readers alike.

Well, you provided. I got hundreds of books. I've taken several suitcases full to Haiti.

On Friday their reading reports were due. Here's some of what I read:

"I've seen a part of life that I never thought I could have. I've seen happiness and hope...I needed this book in a way... For a while now, I've been going to God. Talking to him like he was sitting by my bed asking me what's wrong. I feel like he is there with me, I feel like weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

"It incites me to have a closer relationship with God...I am really happy to know that God who is the creator of the universe and who is perfect cares about me, who is not perfect, a sinner."

"I learned how our hearts are idol-making machines. I did not really understand it back then but now I believe I have a better idea... I noticed that we can find God lavishing grace anywhere even the places most unexpected."

"Because now that I've read it, I am a different person. I see God in a different way, I do not see everyone around me as enemies anymore, but friends...I can relate to every single chapter and every single page in this book. I have never in my life, related to a book like I did to this one."

"I felt God speaking to me directly...From the time when I started reading this book, I felt a massive change in my life.

"Reading this book I have realized and felt a way that I've never felt before...Now I view God with love and not anger."

The books these six students were reviewing above were Crazy Love, The Shack, Speechless, Run Baby Run, Visions Beyond the Veil, and a book I was given five copies of: Same Kind of Different as Me. Many more are gobbling up the John Grisham, Tom Sawyer, and Kite Runner-type books you donated as well. 

You guys gave me these books. I gave them to my students. God spoke through them.

Thank you.

And thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus, for speaking into their hearts.

Katie

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jacmel 2

Photos from Jacmel, taken two weeks ago when we visited the beautiful little coastal town, far from the hustle and bustle of Port-au-Prince.
The steps to the beach at Cyvadier.
 Is this joumou? Big fruits/veggies growing on a tree.
I heart solar flare.
 There and back again.

Katie

Saturday, October 1, 2011

26

I turned 26 last week. I don't know how to feel about it.
I do know how to feel about this, though- the best part of the birthday was notes from students. One tenth grade girl created this precious note above, and the letter that went with it will be in my nightstand for a long time. I love teaching.

Friday was my birthday, and all my students turned in a little essay on what they want their life to look like at 26, and how they're going to get there. Reading those was fascinating and surprising- I love how so many say by 26 they will have: a spouse and kids, their own business, a master's degree, and a house. Haha. I have exactly one of those things. Best of luck, timoun yo. But their dreams, while occasionally having slightly unrealistic timelines, are really beautiful and inspiring. I was in tears by the end of the seniors' essays. Because of their age and the fact that we've spent a month working on their college plans in Senior Transitions class, the seniors really have a more concrete and definite plan. Several mentioned wanting to serve Haiti in their futures, whether from the island itself or by raising money stateside. Funny enough, it was the young men who voiced the strongest desire to be fathers soon- many said their highest priority is to be a good dad. Mostly all desired to not only finish college, but seek graduate degrees. Use your strengths and dreams to fight for the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven, students. Pick a battle and start fighting.

For dinner Ben and I went out with Art and Miquette for dinner at my favorite restaurant here- the Thai place in Petionville, Look Nun. On Saturday, randomly a bunch of people decided to go to the beach, so we jumped on that train, too. Sunday we went to church, went to lunch with the Ackermans, then had the campus teachers over for snacks and banana bread baked by my friend and colleague, the amazing Tiffany Nash. I felt so loved and celebrated.

26. By this age my mother had a master's, two babies, and a house in Plano. I'm wearing a trail between PAP, MIA, and DFW that leaves me with a firm knowledge of the terminal and gate location of the Chili's in Miami and the best way to handle the pushy red-hat porters outside of Haitian baggage claim. I settled down, then un-settled and packed away my life in ten Rubbermaid tubs in my parents' garage.

Predictions for 26:
- we celebrate three years of marriage in November
- I get FOMO for fall as I watch hundreds of Facebook statuses referencing pumpkin spice lattes, leaves changing color, cold snaps, boots, peacoats, football, cider, and Thanksgiving
- Christmas this year will be irreplaceable as we all celebrate my brother's return from Afghanistan
- Ben and I make a major decision about our future
- aforementioned brother Matt and Kelsey get married (they're engaged)
- about half a dozen of my besties give birth (next spring is already a full calendar of due dates!)
- we continue working on Kreyol, get pretty funcitonal
- I actually finish my one-year Bible reading plan, after having started it about eight times

But of course we all know it's the unexpected moments that change life the most. What could they be for B and I in the next year? Natural disaster? Surprise pregnancy? Family emergency? Student breakthrough, mass revival?

In other news, I am currently blogging to stall because I have made a bad decision that will result in me slaving for the rest of the day. I made the rookie teacher mistake of having a paper due, in all classes, yesterday. I have 2 pages x 50 English students (outside reading for September), plus 3-4 pages x 22 sophomores (Julius Caesar paper). Egads. But last night was very fun- there was a pickup volleyball game on campus and there were enough people for two games going. Ben and I lost every game. But I did love playing. I don't get active enough, though I love it every time I do. Yesterday was also a panel discussion in Senior Transitions class on sex and relationships. Six teachers came in and fielded questions bravely from a room full of 12th graders. It was great- honest questions, sincere answers. Loved it.

Other October news:
Today is my future sister-in-law Kelsey's birthday. I love you!

Ben got some exciting news this week. He's going to be joining our director Steve and our principal Rod for a Paideia teaching conference in Chicago in late October. 

Miquette and Art's wedding is in two short weeks! We are all dying for the day to arrive. Best of all, now they get to be my next door neighbors.

My amazing Marine brother Matt comes home from Afghanistan soon. Ben and I won't be able to be there for the homecoming, but my parents and Kelsey are just bursting with excitement for that moment. He has a little bit longer of foot patrols, though- please pray.

Love you guys,

Katie 

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