Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jefe Goes to the Beach

We took Jefe to the beach!
Is it possible to be any cuter? No.
Contemplative puppy.
Working with dad after long day at the beach.
Ben is silly.
I mean, I just love that dog.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Visiting Heartline

This week Haiti is celebrating Karnaval, so we have a week off school. On Tuesday I went with my good pal John Ackerman to visit Heartline, an awesome ministry to moms and babies.

Heartline had about fifty Haitian women in their prenatal program. They come every Thursday for a checkup, a protein-intensive meal, and an educational lesson. There are another several dozen women in the post-natal program. Until their babies are six months old, they come every Tuesday for a similar program of a special protein meal and education. The babies are weighed, mothers' blood pressure is checked, and they all have a chance to see Dokte John if they feel their baby is ill.
Tuesday's group lesson started with a breastfeeding pep talk from Beth. The major lesson Heartline preaches, over and over again, can be boiled down to two words:

Tete selma! (Only breast!)

There are a lot of cultural beliefs here that discourage exclusive breastfeeding. Many women believe that healthy babies need breastmilk plus juice, that breastfeeding attracts snakes, or that if your baby gets sick while breastfeeding then you must have bad breastmilk.
Fat, happy breastfed babies :)
The topic of Tuesday's talk was domestic violence, anger, and stress.
After the talk I sat in with John as he saw babies. He let me listen to the stethoscope to hear what pneumonia sounds like.
Some babies were sick. Some babies were not sick. One mother complained of her baby crying, but it turned out to be just normal gas. One mother complained of her baby having a fever, but it turned out the baby was probably just too hot and needed less clothes.
There was one really serious situation that I'd like your prayer for. A teenager mother in the program had her baby following a rape. Now the baby has hydrocephalus and his head is visible swollen with water. He may need a surgery to put in a shunt. But how to accomplish that, in this already-complicated situation? So many obstacles. Heartline deals with that sort of difficult situation all the time.
Giant, bear-like mastiffs roam the halls. They belong to the leader of the program. Let's get real.... they make me nervous. Remember how my puppy weighs 1.4 pounds? This bull weighs over 150 lbs.
I got to snuggle a baby while the mother was being treated for mastitis, which is an infection you can get in your breast while breastfeeding. I'm sitting on the bed in the birthing room. All the ladies who go through the prenatal program get to deliver with trained midwives (and sometimes nurse midwives or doctors when they are in town) in this room. It's a far cry better than wherever they might otherwise be delivering. There are neat items to help in delivery- a birthing stool, a swing that supports the upper body, a big exercise ball. In addition, they can give oxygen, weigh the baby, track fetal heart rate, and more.

It was an awesome day. I love learning about women's health. I love this program, and how lovingly and practically it meets a dire need for maternal health in a country where, in some areas, infant mortality is 50%. I love watching John and Tara and Melissa and Beth love on these ladies.

I wish every Haitian baby got to be a Heartline baby.


P.S. Want to learn more about Heartline? Go here.
Want to buy a purse that support this ministry? Go here.

P.S.S. I recently knew someone who had a baby shower and asked for donations to Heartline. Such a beautiful idea- blessing other babies while you prepare for your own. Want to donate? Go here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

H to the Izzo

Someone killed Grover. There is no other explanation for it. Someone killed the Sesame Street character Grover. And skinned him. His hide was used to cover the seats of my car. Don't believe me? I have the pictures to prove it.
I love my car here. Rust bucket? Yes. Clunker? You bet. Precariously close to being good for parts? Maybe. A source of marital conflict due to it's regular need for maintenance? Absolutely.

Our Isuzu Trooper is nothing but a banged and dented character on 4 wheels. She needed a name that reflected this character. Katie, though her small Southern stature might not reflect it, really likes flashy hip-hop. So going straight to Jay-Z, she chose the name Izzo.
Our blog only really gives credit to the Izzo for her less than miraculous maiden voyage. A trip I won't recount but you can read about again here. I will say this for my faded blue chariot: it deserves better than that.

I will admit; she is not much to look at. Yes, the front bumper is at an angle from the previously mentioned first trip. Yes, it has more dents and rust than most cars in the junkyards of the USA, but this is Ayiti Cheri! There are many worse-looking cars on the road. Yes, her interior looks like a Muppet was massacred, but looks are deceiving. Right? Didn't Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon teach us that it's what's on the inside that counts? That might not have gone so well when the Empire was striking back, but in the end it all worked out.
The Izzo has a strange habit of getting to a destination, but taking her time starting once we have done our business there and are ready to leave. Once, I had a car full of friends and groceries and had to sit in the lower bowels of the Giant parking garage because the Izzo wouldn't restart. I think I have pegged the problem: a faulty battery cable. But you know what I said to all my friends?  "Get your own car and then you can criticize."

The en vogue thing to drive here depends on who you are. There seems to be some unwritten rule that says your skin should match your car color. If you are a blan, a new white truck lets the whole country know you are "here to fix things". It also says, "I have money! Stop me for a bribe or a robbery." Most of the well-to-do Haitian families have SUVs with darked out windows. Those dark and shiny cars say much the same thing.

But there is an advantage to a car that is so old it could be a senior in college or drink legally (if this country had drinking laws). I rarely get hassled in my car. The Izzo is no looker; in fact she is so hideous I joked to my students that street kids do not ask for me money in traffic, but instead give ME one dollar. The Izzo is all about function over form, and while I can find comfort in her homely form, I know she functions... most of the time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Karnaval Break and Oprah Visits

It's Karnaval! Like many other Catholic/Caribbean locales, Haiti is in party mode this week as Lent approaches.
"Ra-ra" bands travel through the streets
The parades and crowds are wild, massive, and dancing. There is a whole lot of drinking, sweating, and Haitian Kompa music. The US embassy sent a special email to tell us blan (paleface foreigners) to avoid the crowds- pickpocketing, drunkenness, fights, etc.

But my students are going. Lots of them. Nervous about it.

Will you pray for Haiti this week? For safety for my students at Karnaval events?

This is the BIG song right now in Haiti:

The artist, JPerry, went to our school. The title, "Dekole", means "take off", like "rise up". I do not understand all the lyrics, but it seems to basically be about Haiti rising up to progress and a beautiful future, along with celebrating the beauty of the island. One line says "Peyi sa twò rich pou-l pòv", which means "This country is too rich to be poor". I'm happy for our kids to have a song to jam to that is home-grown and celebrates the strengths and beauties that once earned Haiti the title "Pearl of the Antilles".

The video, however, is HIGHLY idealized: gingerbread architecture, idyllic rainforest-y waterfalls, rustic fishermen dancing joyfully in their wooden boats, clean streets, light-skinned women (including Miss Haiti) in couture walking carefree in the streets. No tent cities or street kids to be found. I wish that were the whole story.

In other news: Oprah made a visit to Haiti in December to film for her new OWN network. One of the largest segments in the two-hour show was on the Manasseros, who are one of our Quiqueya families. Ben and I teach the 11th grade daughter, and the father is on our school board.
The show aired January 30th, and we got to watch it last night. It highlights their ministry, Child Hope. They told post-earthquake stories of amputations on their kitchen table.

(Side note: my friend and fellow teacher Amber has a mother whose love language is care packages, as evidenced by the fact that she Tivos movies and anything on TV relating to Haiti, then sends them on DVD to Amber... after which they trickle throughout the staff. Thanks, Mrs. Amber's Mom!)

So our fellow teachers on campus gathered around to see Oprah in our neck of the woods. Here's the link to some of the show footage. We kind of giggled at the way she said "bonjou", and I related to the way she was shocked by the neat, pristine hairdos of Haitian little girls in dire poverty.

Oprah also interviewed a Haitian woman who is exporting crafts, art, and home decor items all over the world. Her artisans' products have been sold at Anthropologie and West Elm. The website where you can buy these items is here. Oprah also interviewed Donna Karan on her work in encouraging the export and sale of Haitian crafts. Her Urban Zen foundation is working to connect Haitian art to US markets, including retail stores in LA, New York, and Sag Harbor. Check it out here. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's in Haiti

A little tour of the room in which I spent most of my day:
My desk. When students complain, they get to stand and read the "don't make excuses, make improvements" poster. And yes, that's a panoramic of Baylor.

Little high school library is growing. Organized by color, natch.
Insert joke about me and TIME magazine here.
 On the left are the assignments for my four classes: world cultures, advanced literature, sophomore English, and American literature. On the right are the SAT words of the week. This week's words: circumspect, abstract, defunct, and succinct. On the floor are outside reading books that have been turned in in the past two weeks.
This side table is home to SAT prep books, Surrealist art, and photos of last semester.
Valentine's Day at Quisqueya was fun. The Student Council decorated the hallways. The senior class sold roses and serenades as well as "non uniform" passes to dress in red or pink.
The ladies' room. On the right is my classroom.
These four pictures capture the entire high school!

Five classrooms.

Around 90 lockers.

My whole Haiti world.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jefe Comes Home!

Jefe has arrived! Yesterday at the end of school he came to live with us for good. His first day was rough- didn't eat or drink anything, plus cried for a good two hours last night. However, day was much better. He played, ate, and went to the bathroom outside once. We'll consider that a victory.
Napping with dad
Loves his puppy bed
 We are going to try a different approach tonight and put his bed on a chair, so he's right up close to our bed, instead of the kennel on the floor. We'll see if that leads to less howling.

We feel like this is a big step in our marriage! Our first dog. Our goal for last night was, no matter how irritated we got, to not snap at each other. I struggled: at one point (round about 1 a.m.) the dog had quieted down, only to start wailing again when Ben rolled over and made noise. I wanted to huff. But patience! Patience. Trying.

We took him to a Valentine's get-together tonight. He watched some on-campus teacher friends eat cookies and play Uno (French rules Uno... confusing). He got snuggled by everybody.

Mwen renmen ti chien mwen :) I love my little dog!

Please, please, go the H to sleep tonight. 


Monday, February 6, 2012

Real Hope for Haiti

There is a ministry a bit outside of Port-au-Prince called Real Hope for Haiti. Part of their work involved taking in extremely malnourished kids. Often the kids are put on a regimen of eating Medika Mamba, which is a medicinal peanut butter meant to quickly nourish and "fatten up" those who are on the verge of death.

I read their blog often. This past week they posted another round of photos, showing another round of babies about to die: a six-year-old weighing 30 pounds. A four-year-old weighing 21 pounds. Such advanced cases of kwashiorkor that the children's feet are splitting open.

It's unbelievable.

If you're brave enough, read about the children they are treating this week here.

Real Hope for Haiti also has a Rescue Center which cares for up to 100 children each day who live there. It employs 42 Haitian ladies.

They also had three babies left outside their gate in 2011. Left.

I don't know anybody who works there. I've never visited.
But man.
Read this blog. These kinds of ministries... I thank God from the bottom of my heart that this exists.

There's a place for every kind of work in the body of Christ. Some people get to do the long grind of discipleship. Some people raise the money. Some people plan the details.

And some people hold the starving babies, and spoon in one mouthful of life at a time, and occasionally order the coffins.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Meeting Jefe, and This Week in Teaching

This past week we got to meet our new puppy Jefe! He is still too little to come home with us, but he is joining us next weekend! We are completely thrilled.

Yesterday we journeyed up to Petionville to try to find a pet store we'd heard about. We got a kennel and a teeny collar, along with the smallest rope toy in the store. We are ready.
Us meeting Jefe

Blissing out
First father-son moment
 We'll post more next week when he's home:)

This week in teaching news....

On Thursday I only had one student show up for discipleship group. I was so bummed, because I had a big activity planned. Then I just spent the hour talking with her, all about her life. It ended up being really special. Maybe that was exactly how that hour was meant to go.

My sophomore students are really connecting with Elie Wiesel's holocaust memoir Night. Some small victories:

1. A student who failed last semester loved the book so much they wrote the Night paper three days before the due date, and had me help edit drafts. This is a major step!

2.  A student told me this was the first book she had ever finished for English class.
(Considering that I've taught this student for two years..... ok, let's focus on the good)

3. About half the class decided to continue reading Wiesel's other books Dawn and Day for outside reading.

4. At least 80% can correctly spell both "Elie Wiesel" and "Auschwitz". I'll consider that a win.

Other stuff I'm reading:

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete, which my boss Steve gave me. A monastery in New York supports itself exclusively through dog breeding and training.

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. I'm trying to expand my repertoire in American literature. This is a book of short stories set in the Deep South in the 50's and 60's. Man, these stories are violent.

 The Reason for God by Tim Keller. Recommended by my two friends Caleb and Robbie. Tim Keller pastors a church in New York City, and each Sunday after sermons he holds a Q&A. This book details the seven main objections he frequently hears to belief in Christ, and his response to each. The second half is his seven main evidences for following Jesus.

1776 by David McCullough. I got into McCullough after watching the HBO miniseries John Adams, which was based on his book of the same name. This is a companion book about the Revolutionary War.

We're at t minus 7 days to Jefe arrival....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Big Decision

"What drove your decision?"

My friend John asked me a fairly mundane question when I told him about a major decision Kate and I made recently. I stared at the Gchat (greatest communication tool since text messaging) and was totally unsure of how to best answer what should have been such an easy question.
Being in Haiti leads to experiential learning- moments that cannot be easily communicated to someone who wasn't there. Two such experiences explain my recent big decision.
First: Months ago I went to a soccer match at another prep school in Haiti. Their campus is great, in a very treed neighborhood in the shadow of a mountain. It is laid out perfectly- I often envy how centralized things are at their school. In this picturesque campus the students are grotesque little trolls. Horrible, spoiled brats that who act like the world exists to serve them and only them. Children and teenagers who seem to have never been told "no" and act with the dignity and grace of English football hooligans. Their team beat us. It was not even close. Their fans treated every goal like it was the winning goal of the World Cup. Their fans did back flips and ran circles on the field. Their teachers and coach watched ambivalently. After one score, when the game was well out of hand, a fan actually walked onto the field to trash-talk our goalie. My student shrugged it off much better than I would have. As I sat on the bleachers I realized that these mongrels are my students' friends, the same people they see on the weekends at parties and restaurants. These are the peers who influence them, who model what is right and wrong. What rotten models. This is the other American school. If you don't come to QCS, this is what you can get- entitled students and enabling teachers.

Second: There is a really popular book that encourages people to teach "like their hair is on fire". I take that a different direction. I teach like my pants are on fire. I embrace my ADD and run around the classroom in a near-chaotic fashion that is hopefully more energetic than it is manic. Because I teach this way, I am literally all over the classroom, always roaming and keeping students on their toes. A down-side is that my back is briefly turned to parts of the class. In early December I was marching around, raving and lecturing, and it took a student multiple tries to get my attention. One of the classmates had begun seizing in the middle of class. Quickly, but in a very cool, nonchalant manner, I moved everyone else into the hall and sent one student for the nurse. A few of the student's friends were looking through the glass in my window and were upset by seeing her seize. I shoo-ed them out of the high school building entirely. My dear, sick student had a very bad day. She seized off and on for over an hour. I walked outside to get her mother who was close by and a group of the girl's classmates were sitting on the stone pavement, holding hands, heads bowed praying.

My students are not perfect. They lie to me. They whine. But they are respectful, principled and caring. They may not always display it in class, but they can act with self-restraint. In the throws of teaching I might miss it, but the urging about character and faith are getting through. The prayers and the conversations and the work is not in vain.

Those were two moments that encapsulated why I made my decision.

What decision,  you ask?

Katie and I
are staying
at Quisqueya Christian School
another school year.

2012-2013 here we come.



News flash, people.

Pinterest has come to Haiti.

Krystelle, a member of my discipleship group, had a birthday today. Valerie, another member of our group, wanted to make her a cake. What did she do for inspiration?

Search around on Pinterest, where she found THIS.
Do you see this?! Funfetti cake, wrapped in Kit Kats, covered in M&Ms.

 Happy birthday, my dear one!



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