Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Dirty Details

I move home from Haiti in six days.

Things I Will Not Miss

1. Mosquitoes
Electric racket of vengeance

2. Stank-nasty bathroom

3. Newborn-sized refrigerator (featuring broken-off freezer door)

4. Sweating

5. Dividing by 40
 40 gourdes to 1 dollar.

6. Riding in the cage truck

7. Actually, while we're at it, every other car, too. 

8. Everything else that's broken and/or nasty

9. Being the only one in the room who doesn't speak French

10. Being ugly
I'm ready to have my America hair back.

11. Anti-sexy

Things I Will Miss

1. Pikliz
Carrots, cabbage, scotch bonnet peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar

2. Having an armed guard
Johnson, mwen bon gadyen

3. Bougainvillea vines

4. Cerise juice
The Haitians say "cerise", like "cherries", but someone told me they're actually Chinese dwarf apples.

5. Living with five men
Real security is five men within yelling distance.

6. A 30-second commute
The view from my house to my work.

7. Kreyol
I can read that!

8. The inability to hide from reality
I met her eighteen months ago in a gross, understaffed orphanage. She's probably still there. She's probably walking around with that same look in her eyes. Can't hide here.

9. Haitian parents

Farewell gifts

Haitian parents are serious about their kids' education. In 3.5 years of parent conferences, I have never once had a parent argue with me about their children's weaknesses. 

10. Hummingbirds

So there you have it. The dirty details. The very good, very bad, and very ugly.

Six more days.


Dear person who will object and say that I am a) whining, and b) forgetting that 95% of Haitians have it worse than I do, I just have one thing to say to you: you're right. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home with the Armadillos

Katie observed that we have 7 days left in Haiti. She asked me how I felt about that at dinner. I stared at her face blankly. I felt…

How do I feel?

I feel like I am in a glass cage of emotion. Haiti is a place of juxtaposition; my feelings are a juxtaposition too. I feel dozens of identifiable feelings, plus some that I cannot name. Those feelings contradict and reinforce each other.

I cannot wait to leave. It is May, which means it is the sweaty season. It was too hot to hug Katie last night. I won’t miss that. The States is air-conditioned. I mean the whole of America- it’s like a giant dome of climate control sits atop the country.

I went to lunch yesterday and our car was hit nearly 3 times by tap-taps and water trucks simply coming into our lane. Traffic in America is a sweet tranquil blessing compared to Port-au-Prince traffic. Everything is just easier in the States. I would like to upgrade to easy.

I would like to get water from my tap that won’t caused my insides to wretch from bacteria and amoeba hell. Friendships in American have naturally deteriorated in the time I have been gone, and I hope they can be restored. I have an amazing community of people who care about me and I want to spend time with them.

I do not want to leave Haiti. This place has become my normal. I am uncomfortably comfortable in this place. When I go back to America, I feel out of place. I hate large crowds; I don’t like being out at Targets, Wal-Marts, malls, or other large gatherings. It gives me anxiety. I feel at ease walking on the streets of Port-au-Prince. I know what to do here. Finally after all of this time I know where to go to get what, who to see about what problem. I know which restaurant is worth the $40 US it will cost us to eat.  I dearly love and care about my students and want to invest more time in them. I want to see them develop as post players, point guards, writers, historians, and people. I have an amazing community of people who care about me here and value the work that I do and I want to spend time with them.


There is something oddly safe and comfortable about life here. I have been doing it so long. I never stayed in one place for long before Haiti. The 3 years in this apartment is the longest I have lived in one place in the last 11 years. Working at QCS has been my longest term of employment. I get how to do to life here. I forget about how to do life in the States.  I fear that I am close to being institutionalized. In The Shawshank Redemption one of the older prisoners, Brooks, cannot stand life as a free man and kills himself. I do not think I am going to go all Hemingway, but I do wonder if I can be “normal”.

And then part of me does not want to. I have grown and learned so much from my time here. The benefits to my faith have been remarkable. I want to leave Haiti changed. Marked. Different.

On top of all of that is the deep dark unknown of what they hell lies before us? Will I find a job for this school year? Will I be waiting tables in October? Will we be forced to eat our young to survive like the Irish during the potato famine?

None of this makes a lot of sense, like I said. Juxtaposition.

How do I feel? Aren’t you sorry you asked?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Coop

Our seniors are flying the coop.

My World Cultures class

Here's where they're going and their anticipated majors.

Palm Beach State College, environmental science
La Salle (Montreal), restaurant management
Saint Leo's (Florida), business
Barry University (Miami), business
Pace University (New York City), international business
Philadelphia University, industrial engineering
Duke University, business
Florida International University, biology
Manhattan College, pre-med
Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (Dominican Republic)
Santa Barbara City College (CA), international economics
University of Hartford (CT), architecture
Marymount University (Virginia), pre-med
American University (Washington, DC), film and media 
University of Colorado at Boulder, business
Texas Tech, petroleum engineering
Hofstra University (NY), biology
Florida Atlantic University, business
Hofstra University, pre-law

... and five more, too.

And speaking of seniors... the rising senior class.

American Lit.
11th grade retreat


Class of 2014!

I will miss them so much.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baller, Shot Caller

It's basketball playoff time around here.

Last week, our boys were psyched and ready for a tough game. It was Saturday, so many players' parents were able to attend the game who had never come before. One boy's missionary parents had brought their entire family and staff down the mountain to cheer him on.

Then the league director dropped the news. After being extremely late to turn in the paperwork certifying his players' ages, the coach of Quisqueya's rival team had doctored the documents. That coach intended to hide the fact that all season he had been playing kids over the age limit. An embarrassingly bad cut-and-paste job (the third world version of Photoshopping?) led him to be discovered easily. The league director disqualified that team from the playoffs. Nobody was coming to play Quisqueya.

All dressed up, no one to ball with.

What's a team to do?

Well- suit up the fans, of course!
 Our coach, Art, decided to throw together a ragtag team to play against the high school boys. He suited up all three Quisqueya coaches, plus a few alumni and assorted family members.

Ben made his high school sports debut approximately 10 years after graduating. I think he secretly loved it.
 Two of the blans above actually attended Quisqueya and were ballers back in their high school days. They were a little too excited to put on their old jerseys again, especially when they could locate their old numbers.....

 Our coach (Art, in black) played against our star player (Josue, in white). It was quite amusing.

 Please note the presence of both a Baby Boomer dad and a blue-mohawked 12-year-old on the adults' team. Both held their own quite nicely.
A fun day!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Teaching Secret

Want to know my teacher secret for engaged, happy, attentive kids?

I remembered it again last Saturday.

The 11th grade class was having their college planning retreat. It was a hot morning, and the kids had slept in tents the night before. At least five had not slept a wink. We tried to hold an outdoor educational session, fighting valiantly all the while against heat, mosquitos, noise, and sleep deprivation while discussing FAFSA and TOEFL and...... ok, I get why they were bored.

Bored, and getting an attitude. 

Then, all of a sudden, five minutes later, this was happening.
Look at these faces.
Can you guess what magical ingredient was sprinkled in to produce such sweet joy?

It wasn't a Powerpoint, a pep talk, a group discussion, or anything of that ilk.

It was love.

Love! Affection. Affirmation. Silly, sweet, kind.

I told the kids to open their bags of "love notes" from their classmates. I had assigned each student to write a note to every other junior. You can't know this, but some of the pairs beaming at each other above have relationships that might be best described as "semi-hostile toleration". But love notes... love notes do something special.

In my elementary and teenage years, I went to summer sleep-away church camps led by two people who knew the power of what we called "affirmation cards". We spent hours at camp writing hundreds of aff cards to our friends. In fact, I have every one I ever received. Including one swoon-inducing note from a very cute 9th grader named Ben Kilpatrick.

Love makes bored kids bloom. Love makes everybody bloom.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Retreat, and Being Institutionalized

This weekend five fellow teachers and I took 19 11th graders to the beach for a class retreat centered on the topic of college planning.

We are very lucky that one of the 11th graders' families owns a beach house and invited us out. Last year we went to Ranch le Montcel, which, strangely, has become the most-read post on this blog ever. Not sure how that happened.

The adults slept in the house, while the kids slept in tents on the beach.

Robbie was in charge of games, Irene and I split the college sessions, Ben did the devotions, and Tara and Jim soaked it all in as they will be the main college advisers next year since I am moving and Irene will be home with a wee baby.

Does NOT look like the college planning sessions I attended in my high school cafeteria!
A heated moment during a class game.
These two besties are in my discipleship group. I rode in the car with them to the beach, and they were really sweet to me when we had to stop by the side of the road... for me to spend some alone time puking in the weeds.

When I got back in the car they said, "Miss, are you pregnant?!" and "Miss, we found you a cough drop. It's a little minty- want it?"

Ben made a new best friend in the host family's five-year-old daughter Bella.
Beautiful Virgloty!

One game involved rushing to give someone a high five. The boys took this quite seriously.

Beautiful Bella. She's like some sort of cross between a mermaid, angel, and wood nymph.
Free time card game. There are two popular games in Haiti: Prezidan and Cazino.
Freshly-hacked coconut milk.
The father of the house put in an order for several lobster at 1 pm. The fishermen went in a little wooden boat, right off the dock of the family's house. When they returned, the fishermen cooked them right on the beach in front of us, and they were on the dinner table by 7.
Friends. The diversity of Quisqueya families is one of my favorite things, and by diversity I mean the myriad ethnicities and professions that mix together in our study body. In this class we have a missionary kid with a Dutch reformed background, the daughter of the Minister of Agriculture, a Nigerian boy adopted by German missionaries, the son of an elite Haitian table tennis player, and about everything else in between.
Me, Irene, and Tara.

Irene leaves on Wednesday. She's headed home to Virginia to prepare for the birth of their daughter in late June. I am resisting that goodbye with my whole heart! I refuse! I'm hiding her passport!
Another of my discipleship chicks with little Bella.
The Pruitts enjoying a truly incredible dinner. This host family could not have been more hospitable and gracious. It was such a treat for me to eat things that should be simple, but that I avoid preparing on a regular basis due to how labor-intensive they can be in Haiti: fresh-squeezed local juice, salad, banan peze (fried, squashed plantain chips).
 Ben revels in taste bud nirvana.
 Late night hanging out before Ben's devotion.

We had spent time studying personality inventories like the Holland career code and the Myers-Briggs. The point was to help the kids see their unique and special traits, and begin to explore how those might fit into certain careers or majors. There were many sweet "a-ha!" moments, such as when one introverted boy received "computer programmer" on both of his assessments; he had never considered that path but was now very excited about it.

Ben's devotion shared about how those unique traits are God-given and meant for us to use not only for our own enrichment, pleasure, and provision, but also to bless others.
 Saturday breakfast. Haitian mangoes are in a class of their own, and the bananas were chopped right off the trees above us.
Ben's second devotion, this time on servant leadership. He said he had seen many senior classes adopt an entitled, "it's all about me now" attitude. He challenged them to look to give back and be servant leaders in their 12th grade year.

As you can see, every single one of them is attentive and energized. The one in the black shirt even appears to have been moved to tears, or perhaps repentant prayer!

(at least five kids bragged that they did not sleep a wink Friday night)
 Irene leads the final college session.

We taught about types of financial aid, FAFSA, how to find scholarships, early decision, early action, the TOEFL, and more.

I gave the kids a script to fill out that would lead them in having a preliminary college conversation with their parents.

Our kids have so many more options and challenges than the average Texas senior, because they are often deciding between not just the local state schools but also a bevy of options in Canada, France, Britain, or the Dominican. They often have a confusing mix of citizenship(s), residency(ies), and Florida pre-paid tuition issues.

It was a huge treat. This is NOT what my average day looks like in Haiti, but these are the faces that fill my average days.

This is the class I've invested in the most. I've been their only English teacher for 3.5 years. Seven of my eight discipleship girls are juniors. It will be very painful to leave them in particular.

This was my last time at the Haitian beach. My last time to drive the two hours from our apartment to the coast, lurching forward in the traffic and bouncing with the potholes.

On that drive you see a fairly accurate snapshot of Haiti: bone-skinny donkeys roped to scrub-brush, hand-painted signs for tiny scratch-out-a-living stores, and huge white scars in the hills where sand is being mined to make concrete. If cotton is "the fabric of our lives" in America, the Haitian equivalent is concrete. The beach road is freshly paved, an enormous improvement, and you zip quickly by the Canaan fields where thousands of families were relocated from tent cities and promised a factory would soon be opened, only to find this was false and they were stuck living in homemade blue tarp-tents in a giant empty field miles north of employment opportunities.

You skirt the Cite Soleil waterfront slum, once called the world's most dangerous. You inch along the nation's largest thoroughfares near downtown, passing the largest French Catholic boys' school and the largest car dealership. Everywhere, people, vendors, piles of vegetables on the sort-of-sidewalks and the ubiquitous pre-teen boys wiping windshields with dirty rags in hope (or demand) of a coin.

All of it is normal to me now. Ben says we've become institutionalized.

It's all deep in my heart, and back home nobody will ever understand except Ben.

But deeper still in my heart are these kids, and I was very happy to have one last weekend chock-full of minutes with these 11th graders.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...