Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Haitian Child Abuse Prevention, and Other Tidbits

Friends and fellow Haiti-lovers,

Lots going on.

Today I took a (really long) walk up Delmas to a really exciting meeting with my friend Irene, who is Quisqueya's guidance counselor. We met with staff members from Beyond Borders, a nonprofit working to end child abuse in Haiti. They have a numbers of programs to address child slavery in Haiti (did you know there are currently 300,000 child slaves in Haiti called "restaveks"?) as well as child abuse.
"The Importance of talks between adults and children"
 The Beyond Borders folks interviewed hundreds of Haitians before creating these books that help communities start a dialogue about child protection. The books cover topics like sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, communication between parents and kids, and positive parenting. They use illustrations to tell stories that are common in Haitian culture (as reported in the hundreds of interviews). For example, one story features two neighbors who observe a mother disciplining her child using humiliation and beating. A facilitator can then lead a group in a discussion of the actions in the story. What should the neighbors do? If they decide to confront the mother, who should be present at the conversation? What should be said? Role-playing can lead to having the confidence to actually act out these scenarios in real life.

Irene and I were there to think about how Quisqueya can further protect children from abuse. There is a crisis component, in which there are specific cases of abuse/neglect going on within our school community. Then there is the larger issue of empowering our school community (parents, staff, and even students) to be more aware of what counts as child abuse, and what they could do if they suspected it. At the end of our meeting with their staff, we brainstormed ways that we might adapt some of Beyond Border's ideas and methods to our own unique school situation.

I'll get real with you here. There are times when a student writes something in a book report that sucks your breath away. There are times when a student hangs back after class and tells you how they've been hurt. In the States, we know just what to do: abuse = call CPS. But in Haiti, there is no CPS. There is no 911. I have no idea how to call the police, or if they would even care. I can love a student, listen, offer comfort... but I have no personal power to make it stop, or remove you from the situation. The desire to attend this meeting today came out of that place.

Other things going on:

Tonight we went to a goodbye party for a girl whose NGO had to cancel her contract early due to lack of funds. We currently have four friends who have been put on notice that they may suffer the same fate. Many nonprofits who were flush with cash following the earthquake are now running out, causing them to downsize.

Ben's birthday is coming up in two weeks. He'll actually be gone, chaperoning a senior class hike up to the mountains of Seguin. I did that hike last year - remember when I sought shelter from a rainstorm in a random Haitian farmer's shack? Remember when the drunk grandpa so kindly assisted me in brushing the dirt off my butt?

My discipleship group is having a sleepover in March at one of the girls' houses.

Our dear little puppy Jefe comes to live with us right after Valentine's Day.

We will have a week off of school for Haitian Karnival in late February.

In two months we take 13 of our students to Washington, DC!

And we're teaching. Ben starts All Quiet on the Western Front with the 9th grade soon, and I'm in the middle of Night and Great Gatsby with 10th and 11th grades, respectively. I had a junior take the SAT last Saturday, and she said there were five words on the test that she learned from my vocabulary list last semester. Six of our 24 seniors have now gotten a "yes" from a college. For the first time in my two years of teaching, every single student turned in their outside reading assignment for January.

Small victories, people, small victories.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meet Jefe!

I'm pleased to introduce you to our new addition :)
This is Jefe! He is a chihuahua, and is coming home to live with us just after Valentine's Day. He was born on New Year's Eve. His mom and dad belong to a colleague of ours at Quiqueya, Miguel. Miguel's family is Dominican, so we chose a Spanish name as a nod to that.

"El Jefe" (pronounced with an "h" sound like "HEH-fay" means "the boss" or "the chief" in Spanish. We think it's hilarious. His full name is Jefferson, after our third president.
Jefe with his three sisters.
We can't wait to bring him home!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our Family is Growing...

Ben and I are pretty ecstatic to announce that a new addition will be joining our twosome....

and he is furry, brown, and weighs one pound.

We are getting a puppy! Our friend and colleague at Quisqueya is Miguel, who teaches Spanish and is from the Dominican Republic. Miguel's chihuahua had four healthy puppies on December 31st, and we are going to be welcoming home the only little boy. He will come home around Valentine's Day. Miguel told us just yesterday that our puppy is the mother's favorite- he's always allowed to eat first. Hm.

So I've been researching how to get a puppy on an American Airlines plane and through Customs & Border Patrol from Haiti. We've found a collar and leash here, but we're ordering things like a harness (this puppy will be too tiny to be pulled just by a collar), Nutrical (apparently small puppies require this supplement?!), heartworm meds, and an ID tag. Try explaining to an online retailer that the phone number you want engraved on the ID tag is NOT an error- it really does have 8 digits (as all Haitian numbers do). Or imagine this conversation: I ask a friend which vets are nearby, and she responds, "Well, Dr. ____ is great. But I think he may only do goats."

Miguel has taken some pictures, and I'll post one as soon as we get a copy. We are so excited. A step toward parenthood?


Friday, January 13, 2012

My Earthquake Story, Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's post "My Earthquake Story, for the First Time."

After the quake, I felt compelled to write everything down, on random scraps of paper, when I got the time. I rediscovered the scraps lately, and will post them here just as they are written, with the exception of a few notes I added in brackets to make it easier for you to understand.
Queency gets his broken femur wrapped. Ben went with Sean all over the city to get him amoxicillin.
Hung out with Mrs. Blesh, Bethaina, and Reagan on the soccer field. Met Flower, their little dog, talked about their Boise, Idaho family. Sat for a minute, went inside to girls' apartment, charging camera and US cell phone. Texted mom back & forth- US marines on ground, 1Fast2 is coming from Spain, UN is evacuating nonemerg personnel. Mom called state dept- only 200 of 45,000 Americans have registered alive. Ben went with Sean Blesh to get amoxicillin for the little boy with the serious head wound & broken femur- boy covered in tiny dot scars. Gone a long time, went to Manaserros & Clays' houses- both many injured there. Word came that CRI  & Convoys of Hope & John Ackerman surgical guys coming here. Dozens of choppers. Had french fries from snack shop- Lynette & Mrs. Etienne cooked. Saved plate for Ben. He returned w/Sean- got sacks of flour, antiinflammatory shot, amoxicillin. Boy laying on a door, covered in sheets, does not look good. Nicole said a 6th grade girl died w/her parents. Heard from all teachers- Tariq came, Mrs. Cange, Mirna ok. Meeting in bleachers- Ted came, chat w/ Tony & Steve, told us closed for awhile, groups coming here, can go or stay, may be cuts in teachers if budget cuts due to students leaving. Union [another American school] is down, Lysee Francais down, General Hospital too. Some went to Manasseros, Williams' house (had internet). Orphans cried all day. Haitians sat on picnic benches all day, some under awning. Boys played soccer. Ackermans came, Els & Stefan, Randall & Anita all came to campus. Ackermans left, said looting beginning up mountain. Got our bulletin board, made it command center. Put up elementary letters- in/out list. Lots of texting. Mom v. concerned. 1Fast2 coming from Spain. Went down to high school grove to write, went in to get paper from my room, helped Cathy and Tony put up lockers, cleaned up books fallen out, Cathy's Shakespeare bust shattered. Came out, meeting formed at table- Els, Stefan, Ted, Sean, Pastor Etienne, B & I. Decided to say we'll be open again after Karnival Break (Feb 22). Decided will host the aid groups. Staff split into 2 groups- education & crisis. Educator team will figure out how the seniors can graduate, what to do in the remaining weeks, how to prepare packets/give books. Sat w/ Bleshes for awhile, talked about adoption- Bleshes left for supplies from house, will return. Meeting with young teachers- Jenni, Ben, Tony, Jaime, Katie, Steve, Tony. Some considering evacuation @ 6 am @ the embassy- show up & wait, bring your own food/water. Orphans didn't go to Mears'. Out of water @ Tony's. Dinner here @ Tony's. We'll stick for a day or two, re-evaluation. I'm worried. Art & Sean security chiefs for tonight. I'm so sticky. Still white shirt, jeans, sports bra, tennis shoes.
Three Angels orphanage evacuated to our school; kids lived on the porch
Friday the 15th 4 pm                  Degaje- make it work
Last night we sat out by the stars for awhile before bed. Passed the phone around to call home. Talked to my parents for 18 min. Dinner @ Tony Kulpa's- stew and potato. Tap water ran out while cooking. Slept, B & Art went for security duty. Bleshes returned in the night. Tremor around 5 am. Up @ 6. Got up, Bleshes getting meds for kid w/ broken femur, went home w/Ben to our house. $10k already in the [school's] paypal relief account. 9:30 pm Tony couldn't get his parents on the phone. Played w/ 3 Angels orphans in mid-day- wild orphanage kids. Tag, swings, steps. Went home, walked fast, bonjour to all. Internet worked! Blogged, even uploaded 9 pics. Posted a new FB status. Not really people in streets like I feared. Spit bath, new clothes- yucky bad socks, yucky Abercrombie jeans. B washed tshirts, socks, undies, my jeans in a bucket, hung to dry in bathroom. Washed front 1/3 of my hair in sink. Prepped house for looting- hid things. Brushed teeth- 1st time since quake. Put on mascara, purple AA tee. Got video camera and discs. Stocke dup. Brought pasta, left Bible. Got water. B lost charger for his phone. Talked to Dorothy thru window, DR family went back. Back to school- no change. Denise went for 3 BRESMA kids [large orphanage] staying w/ Haitian mom. All BRESMA kids getting out- plane coming, Bethaina, too. Bleshes cleaned elementary library-books on shelves, shelves to wall. Got 3 bites. Plane coming tom, seats, Ruth & kids going. Katie M & Jenni going, helped pack. Orphans here again. Germans came- Humedica, doctor, and a tv crew. Obnoxious photography of broken femur boy- Els & Jamie C mad. Going to Hope Hospital tomorrow, brought supplies, Miquette & 5 translators going. B having stomach problems. Talks to my parents, saw CNN/Fox coverage for the first time. Emails from friends at Lariat, Dallas Morning News, People. CRI arrived- Ted's son. Drove from DR. Not medical- do what then? Military coming in morning- Southern Command leader a QCS alum?! We'll go to Quisqueya Chapel at 9 am to help Convoy of Hope if we're not occupied. Ben on guard duty now. Talked adoption with Jenni, ate spoilable leftovers at Tony's. Strawberries, grapes, cool whip, and cinnamon rolls.

20 days old, severely dehydrated
Sat Jan 16
7 pm Learned:
Dehydrated preemie, 20 d old. Casting. "Radio 32" [a Haitian phrase meaning gossip from the mouth mouth- 32 teeth- are faster than radio]. Scabies. What gangrene looks/smells like. What it's like to have rats. Degaje. 1 meal/day. Infected wounds. Unset broken bones. Smell of urine, death. Raw sewage, no garbage. Creole: "como rele" [what's your name]. No teeth brushing, no flushing our toilet. Today: up at 6 again. To house- got router for school to try & use. B on roof w/ Sean. Ate granola bar, some dry cereal from Mrs. Etienne. Cut up name badges for Tony Dekoter. Headed to Quisqueya Chapel with Nicole, Cathy, Jaime, Ben, & Miriam. Long walk. Beforehand, said goodbye to Jenni, Katie M, Ruth & kids, 4 Mississippi ladies stuck here. They're in FL already. At Quisqueya Chapel, Convoys of Hope w/ Mission Hope w/ Northwest Haiti Mission doing medical clinic and feeding. "Manna rice" w/freeze-dried veggies, high protein. Many others. Did wound care on several- little babies, old bleached hair lady, young woman w/2 fingertips rotting- did saline w/ Brad & Melissa. Delighted to be busy, fetched supplies, loved. 20-d old tiny baby w/severe malnourish & dehydration. No inet xcept short this morning- emailed with Dallas Morning News, People, Lariat. Spoke to a CNN producer on Vonage. Invited back on Mon to the clinic. Ben carried bodies on stretchers. UN Pakistan arrived, checked things out.
Back to school around 5 ish. Germans back, doctors + film crew. School in DR dropped off mucho load food- quickly hidden away. Bleshes are still here- BRESMA evac waiting on last few signatures from judge (had to go find- was in hiding). Got head count, badges. Dominicans drs- attitude. CRI people had returned- never any military. Mrs. Manassero was at QCS, as was the Clays' friend (YL, Afghanistan). Tomorrow- who knows? To school early, hopefully some church. We heard French drs were at Manasseros today. Got rice & beans, water. Got sunburned today. Home before dark. Cold shower- water on 2 mins or less. Inet worked for a min- 12 min Skype w/ Wilhoits, Wayne & Taylor. Mom saw Hersey evac on FB, wondered if we were coming too. We lit candles and wrote. Salsa ruined, fridge stinks. Got to shave kind of. NASCAR guys donated plane? School tempers rising...on street- Epidor [local bakery] open, ladies selling, chicken men, lots of cars- good signs. Wore masks today.


That's it. After that I stopped writing every night. Well, that not wholly true- we had internet more often, so I was blogging. We slept on the couches of an on-campus apartment for a week or more, until all the apartment's occupants had evacuated, and then we moved into one of the bedrooms. We lived in a four-bedroom apt. with another married couple and two single girls. We held a parent meeting on January 28 and the parents of over 60 students showed up; we began classes one-room-schoolhouse-style the next week.

There are still two high school girls wearing their father's wedding bands on necklaces. Most of our kids lost someone- an aunt, a grandmother. We pray for them extra today.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love Endures Forever

There are countless ways to look at 12 January. Many news outlets are doing the whole "Haiti is still a mess" news story (everyone of those journos needs to choke on their pen). You could be more hopeful and talk about all the progress that has been made (yes, there is REAL progress here). Some will spend the day mourning, still grieving the loss of their loved ones; to those- my heart breaks for you.

I want to take this 12 January and the ones that follow and do three things:

First, I am so thankful that I am alive. Fate, chance, sound construction, soil conditions, timing, God's will- I have no idea why I am alive when so many others are not. I want to dwell on the simple, often-taken-for-granted-fact that I am alive and everything reminds me of it: my hunger, my thirst, my sweat, my joy, my sadness. I am alive. A wise woman once began a speech by asking: what will you do with your one wild and precious life? I want to make mine count. I am thankful that my best friend and partner-in-crime- Katie is alive with me. Many people lost their spouse and I do not think I could do much without her.

Second, I want to remember. Today many families are looking at the holes left by members who were violently snatched from them. I want to remember that lives were radically shifted, and the pain from that is not easily healed even now. I want to remember that I teach, and work with, people who never got to say goodbye to their fathers, family members, and friends.

Lastly, I want to hope. I hope that the best has yet to come for Haiti. I hope that despite the yearly crap reporting about how behind Haiti is, even now it is being restored to a glory that we cannot imagine. I hope that this work is not all in vain. I hope that lives, homes, governments, and businesses will be restored.

I do not want these to be just mental exercises and quiet prayers that I offer up to my God. Rather, I want to tell people how much I care about them, show compassion to those who need it and build Haiti's future.

That is what I am doing on 12 January.


My Earthquake Story, for the First Time

On January 12, 2010, my life changed forever when one out of every 11 people living in my city died in a massive earthquake. During the first few days, I felt compelled to write down everything on scraps of paper. I re-discovered the scraps recently and will share them now for the first time.

I'm copying exactly as I wrote it, with red pen on the back of an already-used piece of notebook paper, except for notes I added in brackets to make it clearer for you. I also changed the names of the three children, for privacy.

The Earthquake
Tues Jan 12, 5 pm
Day of: taught about earthquakes in last period geography, went to Eagle [grocery store] for laundry deterg, didn't get anything else really, home, pop a can of tom. juice, thinking toward dinner/homework. starts- like a truck Ben jumps up, to stairwell. sit top step, stare @ each other. grabs me, outside w/ a few things- no pport, no US phone. I'm afraid of streets. Go next door to Bill, a family from the DR just arrived. stand outside- yelling & running then- ravine people. dead kid, bloody kid, old lady B takes off. Dorothy crying, watching like idiots. B return. Go in our house, get US phone, water, flash, lantern, hand sani., paper towels, care for little boy, family member dead, he's alone, Found "brother's friend" & some lady, treating him, head bleeding- concerned about blood (HIV). Then notice hand- bad to fatty tissue. Steve starts knocking next door, came to check. Says headed back to school, we follow, run. Walls down, Jerusalem School ok. 50 kids @ school; teachers. Still light, kids joke- studied earthquakes in class today. Milling around, Sara upset. No cell coverage. Said her bookshelf was down, were @ house. comforted. moved into chapel, getting dark. sign-out sheet. soccer field. some getting cell cov- Digicel vs. Voila [Haitian cell companies]. Mom txting- said we're ok, she says tsunami, says we're like African Katie :) Phone dying, try to txt for others. Hearing who's ok, rumors- 7.0? tsunami? 10 m from PAP. Carribbean [a grocery store] down? Natl Palace down? Chapel- take account. Sing- R Chabot. sit w/ DR kids, Sara & Scott, Alli 6th grade no word on her parents. Lantern. Pray. Big tremor, back outside. Haitians on field- Miquette back. Pregnant PA named Rachel & physical ther James plus their kids. Miquette & Art treating. Lynette weeping. Boy w/ Bad head injuiry- 2 bad scrapes, deep cuts, 3 yrs, wet himself, bug eyes swollen leg. Miquette bag- I hold flashlight. 1 pic. Irrigate, wipe, neospor, gauze, bandage, tape. Art w/her. Ben lantern. sling, waking- pupils. 2nd girl- bloody braids. Several w/cuts- older boys. Nowhere to take boy. Sleeping on field- baby crying. Relatives of kitchen/gate staff "we're fine- our house is gone". Tremors. inside, couch, blankets. Tremor- leap up- pack bag for escape- tiny couches, safe. Night crawls by. Midnight big tremor, I'm wide awake. B writes. 1st min together, to process. Fitful sleep, heart racing. Felt 100 imaginary tremors. Under fan. Cars racing. Sirens, yelling, opening gate like attack. Miquette in & out. 3 am Alli's dad comes, doesn't take her. Til 5 am Jaime @ Caribbean- 30 peop alive, Tim @ Montana [a hotel that fell], got 5 out. Alarm 6, we wake, light. Pee- gross, swish w/ toothpaste.
Queency, the little boy with very severe injuries, on the night of the 12th.

2nd d- Wed Jan 13 More people on field- wailing. Miquette woken by Ruth- wailing, crawling, we watch. Lynette's niece is dead [on the school soccer field]. Ben grabs, takes us w/ Tony Dekoter to inspect- high school bldg- sound. Lockers over, library mess, bookshelves down, comp lab & copier ok. Our room- globe fallen (not tv cart). W/ Steve, Sara, Scott, Ben, Tony. went home- key ring broke, back gate. practically ran. people on streets- had slept there. house ok. put on tennis shoes, deod, both bucket flush. Thought of Exodus- a wail in the land. ate pb sandwich, pringles, unplug all, charge phone & cam. take passport. eggs don't work- stove wont heat. house fine.
Bill's: wife & pregnant Rachel w/ kids. Men @ Titayen- warehouse. Tiffany's ok. we work on internet, busted. Dekoter says some @ orphanage, want to go help bring kids here? Three Angels to orphanage in car w/ Francois- first view of Delmas [the central street through PAP]. Texaco flat on car. 6 story twisty staircase- construction fell. streets packed. Begin to see choppers. Through back roads, families on bricks in streets. Tony K, Katie, Jaime, Cathy, Mark & sister. Meet Abby [a 22-year-old who was running the entire orphanage by herself]. Boys remain, pray + sing. Load kids. More food. Mattresses, walk back long, scared, sunburn blood on streets- cut foot. pee + trash. Sit for awhile. Tony K makes rice- dead body still on soccer field. weeping. visiting. feed Haitians. orphans on pre-k playground. sat. Tim arrives- went to talk to Steve in his house- Ted worrying about cadavers. Drove, ravines a disaster. People in Steve's yard with dogs- Odonie's husband's family. 2 or 3 babies- Down's. He's sleeping- wakes. Had 2-3 hurs. Ruth, Ted, B, Steve & I living rm w/ Scott & Sara putting books- Jap tea set, plates. We go to Bill's. We pack for night, get laptop, chargers, toiletries. We prep our house for a break-in if looters come. We go with Ted, Steve to CSI guest house & Heaths' house. Park on Delmas- can't get near b/c dead are piling up on street. Dozens on street- ravine destroyed. Carol ok, house a mess. Guest house unstable, Kathy et. al. in back- INTERNET. We Fbook, email fam/small group. load meds into truck, terrified back to car, to campus, eat rice and half a pb sand. Feed people, love on Blesh kids, B journals, sleep on couch again.


My story from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday after the quake can be read here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Fear New Year

Silly sophomores having a bake sale.

In Haiti I read instead of watch tv.

In Haiti I eat no candy.

In Haiti I walk instead of drive.

We either cook at home or walk over to a friend's house most meals.

I probably make or receive less than 5 phone calls a week- with only one or two exceptions, I see all my friends every day at school.

My commute is approximately 35 steps long.

Haiti is always warm and sunny,
except when there is a lush tropical rainstorm for an hour or two.

In Haiti I drink tea every morning.

In Haiti I start my mornings with God, actually, really, finally
after checking the "I don't, but I want to" box after the question "Do you have a daily time with God?" on my Disciple Now forms every year for my whole life.

In Haiti my hair goes au naturale. I don't even own a blow dryer.

In Haiti I love my job.

And 100 crazywonderful teenagers that I teach every day.

In Haiti is the home where Ben and I have shared the majority of our marriage.
(Can you believe it?!)

We go back to Haiti early tomorrow morning.

The "leaving rituals" have begun: lunch at Chik-fil-A, Tex-Mex for dinner, tucking my engagement ring back into the safe, giving ourselves hernias while attempting to weigh our luggage on a bathroom scale. For the first time in two years, I would say we succeeded at having a restful break in Texas.

I'm antsy to fly to Haiti tomorrow.

There is a lot of crazy and wonderful there.

2012, here we go!



Monday, January 2, 2012

Vivan Los Novios!

A week ago we traveled to Madrid, Spain for the wedding of Sergio and Sarah!

If you're saying "What the heck? They went to Spain?!", then read here.
For the first post about our trip (all the photos except the wedding), read "Christmas in Espana" here.

Sarah is my dear friend from Baylor. We were sorority sisters and neighbors, and she was one of my bridesmaids three years ago. She moved to Spain after graduation and has lived there ever since. She met Sergio, who is Spanish, through mutual friends, and I got to meet him last summer when he visited her hometown of New Orleans for an engagement party. He is precious, sweet, funny, and loves Sarah dearly.

They were married at St. George's, and the ceremony was in English and Spanish. Sergio works with the Spanish National Police, hence the uniform.

After the noon ceremony, we were treated to not one, but two cocktail hours (one outside, one inside) and then a three-hour seated supper of at least five courses. There was caviar on the salad, champagne sorbet between courses, and a "second dinner" after several hours of dancing. To say that we were blown away would be an understatement. Un. real.

We walked into the ceremony at noon, and walked into our hotel room at midnight. Madrid, I like your style.
The groom anticipating the bride...
Sergio's mom. We were all jealous of her headpiece.
Dream veil.
Incredible reception venue. Every table was named for a city Sergio and Sarah have visited together- this one is Houston.
Toasts and laughs all around. There were people from 13 countries at the wedding!
Sic 'em, Bears! Dear Baylor friends.

Sarah and Sergio, I wish you not only every happiness, but a marriage grounded on our good God.

Vivan los novios!!


Christmas in Espana

Our trip to Spain was a dream come true!
(If you're saying to yourself, "What?! Spain?!", read here.)

These are all my favorite photos from the trip, minus two parts that just deserve their own mentions in a later post: Sarah and Sergio's wedding and our day trip to Toledo. 
So Euro
Christmas ornaments made from delicate eggs
The Royal Palace
The throne of the King of Spain
All the Baylor girls in the Plaza del Sol
Plaza Mayor at night
Ben loved the Picasso exhibit
Sunset outside the Prado museum
Gate to Retiro Park
Retiro Park at sunset
Aslan chillin' at Retiro Park
Gorgeous Christmas lights on the Gran Via
A dream come true.



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