Sunday, April 28, 2013

Date Night

Projects in Haiti are a lesson in logistics. Any endeavor, whether short-term trip, class outing, errand to the grocery store, moving here, or setting up a long term mission, revolves around traffic, transportation, gas, and the finances to make it happen.

Katie and I have lived in Haiti for almost three and a half years. In that time we have gone on a date, by ourselves, outside of our apartment exactly..... twice. The reason? Logistics.
I realized this terrible shortcoming of our relationship in February. I sought to make good and fix it in our time left. One nice date a month, starting in March, until we left the first week of June.

March went well. Quartier Latin had only a few other patrons. We sat outisde near the Cuban jazz musican and had a great meal. We drove home. No drama.

This month we chose Papaye. Murphy and his law decided to tag along.

Katie wore a dress that kills me. It is simply a long cotton sundress, but she wears it well. I was in some rags that made me look respectable. Barely. We started up the mountain late, hoping to avoid traffic. Once we turned into Petionville, Murphy's law attacked the workings of our car.

It would not idle. If I was not pressing down on the accelerator, the car would stall and die. Even when I was pressing the accelerator to the floorboard, the RPMs rarely were enough to keep from stalling. This, combined with the fact that we were driving up a hill, meant our forward progress was laughable. Traffic piled up behind us. A man pushing a wheelbarrow full of goods passed us on the sidewalk. I swore. A lot.

I sweat when under pressure. I was under pressure to not block one (of the two) lanes of the city's major thoroughfare, pressure to not hit a pedestrian, and pressure to actually be a good husband to my wife. I was trying to take her and that sundress out someplace nice, for crying out loud! Finally, even at 7:30 is was hot in Haiti. I was sweating a lot.

I rolled into a well-lit area to park and made some calls. We sat in the car, waiting and sweating. A drunk, possibly crazy man approached our car with a stagger. Normally, I feel fine engaging those who beg in conversation. I believe it is humanizing. This was not a normal time. I shook my head and said "no" as soon as he waked up to the car. He mumbled and gestured. I couldn't hear him through the window, but "ban mwen" was his lead-off phrase: give me.

Me: More head shaking.
Him: Mumbles and wild gestures.
Me: A shrug. A head shake. An emphatic "no".
Him: A suggestion that I get my mother. (Kreyol speakers will understand that turn of phrase.)

He walked away, not in a straight line, taking the time to turn back, mumble, and gesture. I breathed a little easier.

We sweated. We scanned the sidewalk on all sides of the car. Sweated. Scanned. Dozens of Friday-evening groups walked by. A drizzle began. Sweated.   

Our help arrived about thirty minutes later in the form of Dan, our mechanic friend (and Miquette's brother). He swapped cars with us and we realized we could continue our date.

When we walked into Papaye, it was like another world. In a lush back yard with all-white decor, Katie and I sat down amongst bourgeoisie Haitians, diplomats in town for the ACS conference, and expat aid workers. We took a deep breath and laughed, the tension of the last 30 minutes gone.

We have made no plans for May's date...


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

DC 2013! Part Two

To continue from part one, we also visited the Library of Congress with a dozen Haitian ducklings in tow.
Ben adopted what he called the "sorority pose".

An iconic building, a freezing day.
I  waited sneakily by the entrance to the Rotunda to capture this next one. I've always loved the faces of my students as they first walk into this enormous room, eyes immediately skyward. I got LD just as the "wow" was forming.
After the government buildings we made out way to my favorite meal of the trip, where we introduce our kids to the best food ever made: Tex-Mex.

This year, an adventurous eater ordered seafood fajitas. Unbeknownst to her, this came with a least one teeny octopus! Mr. K disgusted everyone by popping it straight off her fork and into his mouth.
Next, the zoo.
John Ackerman, this photo is for you.
This is the closest I've ever seen the pandas!

Last but not least, part three coming tomorrow!


Monday, April 22, 2013

DC 2013! Part One

Another Easter, another trip to Washington, DC!

This was our third year to take students to DC, and luckily we both departed and returned with 11 kids from the 10th and 11th grades. This group included two younger siblings of former DC participants, three missionary kids, and one member of my discipleship group.
The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I love the line etched into the side of the large marble tomb: "unknown but to God".
There was a funeral taking place at Arlington Cemetery while we visited. This is the riderless horse, representing the one who was lost.
As always, we tramped around all over the city Metro lines. Transporting ourselves via Metro is significantly cheaper, and yet significantly harder, than renting a bus. Keeping the trip cost down was a top priority our first year, and then after that I'm convinced this is better, too. The kids have fun "surfing the subway" and people-watching. They also get experience as they read the maps and figure out how many stops are left. Many QCS kids go to college in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Canadian cities with subways, so I think it's a great life skill to gain.
It's also illuminating to see my students' "America fashion" since I basically only ever see them in school uniforms.
We visited a Haitian art exhibit at the Museum of the Americas. It was teeny, but very interesting to me. The kids were decidedly not impressed.
LD discovering the Vietnam Wall. There was a group of veterans being wheeled by in wheelchairs at the exact time we were viewing the memorial. It was moving to see those men, speaking with the guides about which planes and unit they had been with.
My 11th graders memorize and perform the "Gettysburg Address" in American Literature. It's always special to me to see them asking to take pictures in front of it, because my assignment made them focus on those words- and now the words are special to them as well.

I watched Lincoln with Ben last night, and as I heard the words of both this speech and his second inaugural, I understood and agreed again with their placement inside the Lincoln Monument. They are so special, so dear, so central to American values.
Steps of the Lincoln Monument
A little PicStitch of the silly hats we encountered at the trucks-turned-vendors along the Mall.
Best of all, my mom got to join us again! I love having her come to DC, not only because she can hang out with me but also so she can meet my kids and understand more of what I do.

If you've met my father (or viewed a far-right Facebook status of his), you understand why it was hilarious that Mom and I discussed purchasing this souvenir for him at a Smithsonian gift shop.
At the World War II Memorial, some of my ladies celebrated women's contributions to the war effort.
Stay tuned for part two!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ain't No Party Like a Port-au-Prince Party

Robbie, Irene, Tiff, Jarrett, Jill, Josiah, Nathaniel, Ben, and Amber
 A few weeks ago our 3rd grade teacher and Kellyanne had a birthday, and her husband Wilson planned a surprise party for her. It was an extremely rare opportunity to find our campus community dressed up, so natch I took some pictures.

As we are about six weeks from permanently moving away from Haiti, a deep nostalgia has settled on me. These faces (and a few more) are my family in Haiti.

 As we waited for the birthday girl to arrive, I snapped a few shots of the surrounding neighborhood. At sunset, from a fourth-story rooftop, I was reminded of the beautiful/ugly in Haiti. The concrete jungle, the rebar spiking out from unfinished everything, the lush bougainvillea blooms. The mountains are an excellent example: majestic profiles, and yet denuded of trees and covered in precariously-sloped slums. 

 Now let's take a break from nostalgia and waxing philosophic.

Humorous interlude. Comic relief. 

Ben and Jarrett.

 I wonder if I'll ever live in a place with so much natural beauty again? Dallas is my home, and nothing will replace that, but it unfortunately has much to be desired in the "breathtaking natural scenery" department.

I often forget, in the midst of the nasty city, that I live on a tropical Caribbean island.
 Finally our birthday girl arrived, and the DJ kept us singing along.

Six months pregnant and never more beautiful!
 At one point it was just the two of us on the dance floor, swirling and shouting the lyrics to "Hotel California", which, strangely, nobody else seemed to know.

I'm thinking of the the Eagles' lyrics in the climactic final verse describing the mythical hotel:

"Relax," said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you want, but
You can never leave."

Is that how it will be, moving away from Haiti?

We will leave Haiti,
but will Haiti leave us?
Can it?
Will we file it away as just a memory, albeit a special one,
something like our honeymoon- thought of fondly but only occasionally?



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