Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Haiti: Street View

Last week we took little Jefe to the vet. He loves his little doggie carrier, but he does not love the vomit-inducing start-stop traffic.

As I ride through Port-au-Prince I frequently think that I wish I could capture what I'm seeing and show it to you guys. So today, I made a point to bring along my camera and show you the street life on an everyday Saturday.
No air, no radio, no power windows. Will the doors lock today? Who knows!
One of two stoplights on upper Delmas. Purely decorative, of course.
Saturday is a big market day for the marchan ladies. Notice the ever-flowing pile of nast-stank-water.
Rubble from a collapsed parking garage. Three years later, still there.
Local driving school and cyber cafe.
A major intersection connecting Delmas and Delmas 60.
The yellow shirts indicate a charitable program that puts people to work by hiring them for labor projects, typically cleaning the streets. The trash pile, the worn-out political flyers on the walls, and the moto taxi are all standard fare for Port-au-Prince streets.
I try my best to read graffiti, mostly to practice Kreyol but also to see what's going on with the pep la, the people. This is a pro-Martelly tag. Martelly is the current president.
Buy your mattress off the street!!
No plans this weekend? Head to CLUB SHINY.
A very major three-way intersection where Port-au-Prince blends into Petionville, the nicest suburb.
Booksellers at the major intersection.
Moto taxis wait for customers under a sign advertising the Irish Village, a new building with shops and a real Irish pub.
Market ladies selling produce. Please notice the bird on the top left... is that a turkey? The marchan ladies wear aprons to keep their cash.
Need a chicken for dinner?!
Finally, we arrive at the vet. Our vet is a Dominican young woman who speaks French, Kreyol, Spanish, and English. We love her.
The vet was not present, so we saw two other guys. Neither spoke English, so we had to try to get through the visit in Kreyol. Pantomime was a key skill, but we got through it ok. They checked out Jefe's ears and a back leg he was walking on weirdly.

Jefe, unhappy. They took him in a back room to cut his toenails with a machine, and we could hear him howling like he was in a Soviet gulag. He got special treatment for the rest of the day, including some chicken.

Just another day in the life in this beautiful, ugly city.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Brother's Wedding

 A week ago Ben and I flew to Dallas for a long-awaited joyful occasion, the wedding of my brother Matt to the amazing Kelsey.
 The wedding was a celebration of their marriage, of course, but was also in a very real way a cumulative exhale, a celebration of five years in the Marines over with, and Matt home safe.
 My mom, Kels, and I
Bride in the photobooth
 Event 1013 in Plano, Texas
A blast of an evening. Beautiful everything.

Matt and Kelsey-

May His face shine upon you
and give you peace.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

In the minutia

As we were closing another day in Haiti and getting ready to go to bed Katie said, "Feed me! Feed me, Seymour!" I was really worried. Either somebody named Seymour and I were going to need to talk, mano-e-mano. Or Katie has been watching Little Shop of Horrors again. She gets crazy when she does that. Just kidding.

What Katie actually said was, "We have let our blog die." I wanted to deny it, but she was right. So I just stammered and threw, more like gently tossed, our Chihuahua at her.

She is right. But there are some perfectly explainable reasons.
1. We are boring. We lead ordinary lives. Grinding out tests and lessons and last time I checked writing about how unintelligent some of your students are is best done anonymously, here.
2. Our best laid plans often go awry. We were going to spend Thanksgiving in the Pine Forest of Haiti. Bundled up for warmth at 5,000 feet, hiking and being in a place that is not a concrete labyrinth and a cacophony of horns and terrible kompa music. But it was not to be. The river we needed to cross was swollen and impassible. We had a nice 7 hour car ride to end up back at our homes, exhausted, smelling like diesel fuel and needing a nap.

We are just in the  minutia of life. It is not glamorous, or fun, or interesting. Trust me I am living it and while I do not want to do anything else, I certainly do not think you need to know about it.

We will try and do better. Starting tomorrow.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas at Quisqueya

Welcome back! It's been a month- the longest break ever on our blog.

It's Christmastime at Quisqueya! We emerged from chapel on Wednesday morning to find the hallways decorated with lights and garlands- such a treat from a handful of seniors.
 Yesterday was the last discipleship group meeting of the semester. Here are my little chickens. I love them. Five are the same from last year, with three new ones. They're all juniors except one senior. I could look at this picture all day.
 To celebrate the final discipleship, Valerie did what Valerie always does- she bakes! Those who are lucky enough to be Val's best friends and/or discipleship group members get to benefit from the bounty of her Pinterest habit.
 Christmas comes to Haiti! Since it's currently 78 degrees and balmy, we have to do our best.
Saying goodbye for the holidays. I had a big talk with the girls before they left. In Haiti there are huge parties every night during Christmas break. There is no drinking age. There are no speed limits. The last two years, we have woken up on New Year's Day to hear that one of our former students had been killed in alcohol-related car accidents.

It's weird, because in America you spend so much energy trying to help teens make the decision not to drink until age 21, but in Haiti I hear myself telling 14-year-old freshmen to please try to space water between their cocktails.

Let me tell you what we've been doing lately. Praying. There have been several family crises in my circle of students that I'm close to, including two life-and-death situations. Also, we're begging God for clear, explicit direction for our future. I have requested an itemized heavenly to-do list, but thus far it is not forthcoming.

Two weeks ago I stupidly assigned six class sets of papers to be due on one day. I dug myself out of that for about ten days.

Yesterday I taught the senior class to waltz, as our traditional last day of Senior Transitions class before the exam.

A few weeks ago we found out about a Haitian student within our circle of friends who needed a laptop to continue high school. This was a very poor family, not one of our QCS students. That very week somebody made an extra gift to us, so we got to buy the laptop. Now to set it up in French...

Our toilet broke. Then we got a brand new one, and it was the happiest day of my life.

Yesterday Madame Meristel told me that her "tet kay" was finished, which means the head of her house. Her ROOF! I hope to get a picture of that soon.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Jin Bei Gets Jacked

So here's a fun story for you.

Remember the dear old Jin Bei? Our beloved nasty Asian minivan?

Well, she got jacked.

Last week Irene and Robbie were driving her around in the "nice suburb" of Petionville, running some errands. They came out of a store, and the van was gone.

They called Ben. Ben did what Ben always does... jumps into Jack Bauer mode. He leaps off the couch, abandoning our baking dinner, and is out the door before you can say, "Dammit, Chloe, there's no time!" He barrels up toward Petionville in another car and then sits down in a local restaurant (Sean Penn's favorite chicken place, to be exact) to strategize.

They called our school director, who suggested that the car might have been towed. Apparently there are parking laws in Petionville (ha), and apparently they are enforced (if you are blan).

Ben, Robbie, and Irene talked through actual possible scenarios that could occur if they went to the local Haitian police station to report the theft and/or check if the car was towed:
  • What if they ask for a bribe?
  • What if they try to detain one of us?
  • What if something terrible happened, like the Jin Bei's brakes failed and it rolled down the mountain, crashing into a person or business?!?
This is not a joke- they literally discussed at what point they would turn tail and sprint away. They also left a person in a backup car outside, with a predetermined rendezvous point. 

This whole endeavor is hilarious and telling and yet absolutely normal here to me. Oh, Haiti.

In the end, Irene's Kreyol was good enough to discover that the car had, in fact, been towed, despite the fact that there were no posted parking law signs and that there were a dozen other cars parked in identical fashion on the same street. Also, despite the fact that the car had only been towed less than one hour before, the police refused to release it because the person who handles that had gone home for the day. C'est la vie.

Thankfully, Ben did not have to implement his plan of dashing down blacktop roads, swerving around marchan ladies, and making a flying leap into a moving getaway vehicle. Whew. Close one.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tent City Feeding Program with Olivia

Right now we have a fabulous house guest, Ben's cousin Olivia. She's a senior in high school and wants to be a teacher. This past summer she felt God calling her to look further into teaching internationally.

Last Wednesday we took her to the feeding program at Child Hope, which is run by our friends the Manasseros. Dozens and dozens of kids pour through the clanging metal gates from the tent city down the block.
Check out those dimps.
Liv jumped right in. We passed the metal bowls full of rice, beans, and one gummy-bear-style vitamin to each child, and then distributed cups of (clean) water.

Here are some additional faces in the crowd that day.

What words follow images like those?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

This one snuck up on us.

With Hurricane Isaac, we had days of warning. Everybody went to the store. Everybody warned the people in their sphere of responsibility. I had long conversations with Madame Meristel, plus the three guards Ceyab, Venice, and Johnson.

Not so with Sandy. I knew there was a storm in the neighborhood of Haiti, but the just-above-a-sprinkle and overcast skies were not fear-inducing Wednesday. I was genuinely surprised when school was canceled for Thursday.

Note on that. The Minister of Education sent out a communique canceling school on Thursday at 9:00 pm Wednesday night. Then our director forwarded it to the staff, and we had to try to get ahold of the kids. I mean, I guess snow days work like this in the States, but it just seems so arbitrary and disorganized.

Wednesday night through Saturday it just rained like it was going out of style. Hard, soaking rain, for three days straight.

This video got passed around Facebook by all our Haiti friends. It's from Le Nouvelliste, a French-language Haitian newspaper.

The Grise River, in a suburb of Port-au-Prince called Croix des Missions, was overtopping its banks, taking away pieces of houses and businesses along its shore. Many poor people build on land that is probably not legally theirs, just because it's free and available, and that often happens in ravines, flood plains, and along riverbanks. When the waters rise, your house goes away.

After the storm, all three guards said they had had "water in their house", but I was unable to determine the extent. I didn't know enough words to get specifics.

Madame Meristel says her concrete roof is "preske fini", or almost finished. She and her five kiddos will not be under a tarp roof much longer. Click here to read about their roof beginning construction.

Last week four of her five kids were at my house for some reason, outside talking to our guard. I was overjoyed to run into them. I had met the 5-year-old Kristel before, but never the three boys, who I would guess are between 10 and 15. They all shook my hand and said their names.

One of the best parts is that all four had on school uniforms. Madame Meristel and her husband are undeniably very poor, but their kids are in school, which puts them above 50% of the children in this country. They are both employed, and they have a house that is (almost) not a tent. I'm not saying I want to trade places with her, or that we're going to stop helping them, but there is hope.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thorns and Roses

I once heard that each evening at dinner the Obama family shares "Thorns and Roses", the high and low points of their days. I'll share mine with you and ask for prayer.

First, two praises. When Ben halfway cut off his finger, the ambulance company was out of our insurance network. We applied for a waiver based on our income, and today we heard that we were approved! So they are waiving our entire balance, which was $2,000. That's a huge relief and a big provision. Thank you, God.

Second praise. A 12th grade student I am very close to applied for a huge, very selective scholarship a month ago. It has the potential to pay for most of college, and this would be an incredible boon for her family, especially since losing her father in the earthquake almost three years ago. Today, she found out that she has won it!

Prayer request. Our neighbor and coworker Jean has been extremely sick the last few days. Today she went to the hospital, and blood work revealed that she has both typhoid and dengue fever. Dengue is like malaria, but with the added treat of terrible bone pain- it is sometimes called "the bone crushing disease". Poor, poor, Jean. She is here with her wonderful husband and will be well-tended, but both illnesses just have to run their course. Please pray for Jean.

Love yall.


Monday, October 15, 2012


This is how my day started:
I massive cockroach crawled out of the toilet paper roll and flew onto me while I was sleepily using the ladies' room.

This is how my work day went:
The classroom AC broke.
(High of 95, heat index near 110.)

This is how my day ended:
I got an email saying my dear friend has cancer.

I just want to shout a swear word.



Fair Trade Favorites 3

This week I've been celebrating fair trade shopping, which is a win-win as it provides you with cute and tasty treats while AT THE SAME TIME as providing fair wages for an artisan in a poor part of our global community.

Click here to view Fair Trade Favorites 1.
Click here to view Fair Trade Favorites 2.

And, at last, the final installment. Our first items come from http://www.serrv.org.
Peacock tablecloth from India, $45
Nautilus serving platter from Bali, $45
Set of three apothecary jars from India, $140
These look straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. 
Can also be bought separately.
Children of the World mobile from Sri Lanka, $22
Noah's Ark wall art from Haiti, $75
Made from recycled steel drums and signed by the artisan who created it.
Brass inlay box from India, $32
1 Inch Brass earrings from Bali, $19
Autumn tablecloth from India, $85
Natural clay cloud mobile from Peru, on sale for $19
Inspired by the sky above the Andes Mountains

And now, moving on to our second fair trade vendor, http://www.ethicalsuperstore.com
Indian rosemary chocolate wood watch, 89 Euros
Organic and fair trade cotton baby playsuit, 11 Euros

And now to close our our fair trade favorites, our final vendor is http://www.oxfamshop.org.au.
Wood and brass globe desk accessory, handmade in Moradabad, India, $27
Polished aluminum elephant ring holder from India, $11

I wish I could buy every single one. Let's purchase our gifts, home decor, jewelry, snacks, and linens from fair trade groups.



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