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.



  1. What a journey, Katie! What an inspirational, world-changing, heart-warming, nearly overwhelming but ultimately faith-giving journey. You guys are incredible. I'm praying for God's richest blessings for you both as the next page turns and for all of these magnificent kids, that the seeds you planted, the blessings you shared, the love and life investment that you made will yield supernatural dividends beyond our wildest dreams. Safe travel, peaceful rest and again, many, many blessings to you.

  2. Rick, I appreciate this more than you can know!



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