Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embrace the Heat

First, some business.  Good news.  I am still alive.  I can see how not sending out an update in over a month might have some wondering.  We are one month into a three month furlough to the States.  It's been quite a bounce this time for me in terms of transition because we sort of over-booked ourselves (as we often do).  From a work perspective I have accomplished approximately zero useful things during this time so far, but I think we're finally into a groove now where we can (and want to!) move forward. Sorry to all the people awaiting email responses!  With that off my chest...

One thing our family has really looked forward to on this furlough is attending a Haitian church plant in Cary in addition to attending our home church, Crosspointe.  The Haitian church, (which is what we call it since I don't think it has an official name yet), meets at the Crosspointe office and it's a total mind blow for Nick and me because it's totally an authentic Haitian church. The same songs are sung with the same Chans Dèspèrans hymnals.  (We had heard this was the case and brought our own, which is the way it works in Haitian churches.)  The same loud voices sing these songs with a sound system hooked up for each week, even though there are only about 5-13 people that attend on a weekly basis.  (And remember, our family makes up 5 of those!) The same proclamations ring out through the service... Beni swa l'eternel! Jezi pi gran!  Bondye beni'w (to which everyone responds "amen.")  The preaching is spirited and lively and the pastor is not afraid to call out sin.  Sometimes the forward-ness of this kind of preaching makes me inwardly cringe, being so afraid of someone walk away offended.  Sometimes I find the boldness refreshing. (Well, what I understand of it.  The truth is that my comprehension of Kreyol, while conversationally fluent in Haiti, lacks at times.  Fast talking or yelling (especially when distorted by a very loud sound system) sometimes goes over my head.  So, I maybe understand 65% of what's being said.  I can follow the drift, but not all the nuance.  But, as usual, I am digressing.)

Today I had a revelation during Haitian church.  Sister Denise was up front leading worship today since Paulette (the lady that usually leads the hymns) was out of town.  She said something like this-- "The air outside is starting to feel cool.   Everyone is starting to be cold.  And we want to run from that, but with Jesus inside of us, we can feel warm.  He can make us feel the heat again.  He can be our heat." Spoken like a true Haitian.  In my experience, Haitians hate to be cold.  When the temperature dips to a "chilly" 82F, 90% of people will be wearing long sleeves and possibly a woolen or fleece hat.

I couldn't be farther from Haitian in this respect.  The truth is, I hate the heat.  I despise it.  And y'all, Haiti is hella hot.  My friend Gayly, a Haitian national, always gets so irritated about how much I complain about the heat.  To which I always retort, "I wouldn't complain about the heat around here if the country wasn't so freaking hot!" You guys.  I don't do well with the heat.  So when Denise was talking about the coldness being a bad thing, I almost had to pipe up and say something.  This cooler weather is perfectly delightful to Mama Gwenn.

And in that moment, I saw this reality--  Haitian people like the heat.  And Americans, well, not so much.  We all live in houses with air conditioning.  We drive cars that are air conditioned.  And the businesses we frequent are air conditioned.  I can live in Haiti for the rest of my life, and probably, my preference will always be cooler weather.  Just like for many of the Haitian people at church have lived in the States for some time now, their preference is hot weather.  It's just one of those inherent differences.  And it's this tension I feel as I live between two cultures.  But in that moment, I felt this feeling that told me this, "Gwenn, you need to embrace the heat."

Each year, starting in about April, I start praying, "God, please help me get through this summer's heat."  I even brought it up as a prayer request at church this past year.  I sort of view it as something to get through.  Something from which I am always seeking relief.  But how would my life be different if I could start embracing the heat?  What would it look like if I started praying in April, "God, help me to embrace the heat this year."?  What would it look like if, instead of being frustrated and constantly trying to find ways to get out of the heat, I decided to live life in the heat?  Not in spite of it, but in it.  What if my quest for comfort is derailing the work that God wants to do in me?

So what is it for you?  What's your nemesis in the way that heat is mine?  Could it be that God does not want to deliver you from it, but in it?   I guess my point is this.  I think we Christians are too caught up in our own comfort.  We want to be spared the discomfort of life.  But life is inherently uncomfortable.  And so often I see that I use my resources, my connections, my talents, my time, and my energy trying to find relief from my discomfort.  I think we all do. But maybe the time is coming where God has a more beautiful plan to deliver us in the heat, not from it*.

*But if you still want to pray that it's not that hot in Haiti this summer, that's okay for me too. ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Too funny to not double share.

Our family has been working on shooting a music video for fun.  Yesterday we were down at Lakou Nouyok and I was letting the boys freestyle a bit.  While the actual video I shot is much longer, I shortened it down to 14 seconds so as to not waste your time.  (Sorry for the double post for all the facebookers.)

You're welcome.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The colorful shoes and the anxiety of parenting a TCK.

TCK stands for third culture kid. It refers to (according to this Wikipedia page):
"children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.The definition is not constrained to describing only children, but can also be used to describe adults who have had this experience of being a TCK. The experience of being a TCK is unique in that these individuals are moving between cultures before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal and cultural identity. The first culture of children refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. The third culture is further reinforced with the interaction of the third culture individual with the expatriate community that currently resides in the host country."

You guys.  TCKs can be so amazing.  There are so many things they do well.  And there are so many really, really admirable traits that they develop by sheer virtue of the fact that they are a part of this third culture.  

But oh man, TCKs can be weirdos.  

Seriously.  TCKs can totally struggle with where to fit in.  Because they don't entirely fit into their host culture.  And they don't entirely fit into their parents home culture.  They become this weird mix of the two, so much so that it's a third culture entirely.  And here's what's interesting about it, TCKs find a feeling of belonging amongst other TCKs.  And I am not just talking about TCKs from the same birth culture that go to the same host culture.  No, studies have been done that show that TCKs from any culture will gravitate towards TCKs or any other culture.  It doesn't matter if they grew up in Haiti, in Japan, in Africa, Belize...  TCKs understand other TCKs.  In fact, grown TCKs are likely to marry other grown TCKs.

Have I said TCKs enough for you yet?  Because I feel like I have.

Anywho... that's just a little background on who my (American) children are.  And it helps explain some of the tensions we struggle through in raising our kids in a culture outside of the one we're most familiar with.  These tensions really bubble to the surface during times of transition-- like when we're heading back to America for a furlough, or to Haiti after furlough.  Stress levels rise in all of us as we prepare for the pendulum swing.  Seriously guys, the difference between the two cultures we call home are dizzying.  It's hard for Nick and I by ourselves, but walking our children through it can be really, really challenging.

When the kids were younger, it was easier.  They were just little kids when we moved here.  Nia was 6, Nico was 4, and Josiah was 1.  (We found those to be excellent ages to transition kids, by the way.)  But they were just little kids who had very little opinion about where they lived, what they ate or wore.  It was pretty easy.  But now they are getting older.  And so sometimes things like how you dress, or how you talk, or what kind of music you know... that stuff matters more.  And I am SO anxious about the thought of my kids being teased because they are different.  It's probably in the top ten worries of every missionary parent.

So then the other day something occurred that I want to share.  Here goes--

Without a doubt, Nico is the most hip of the three American kids.  He's one of the coolest and most kind-spirited kids I've ever met.  And, at 9, he's starting to get into style.  He wants to learn how to beatbox and rap and he wants cool shoes.  Hightops to be precise.  So the other day I was in the market and in the used clothing section of the market, I saw these shoes.

From the moment I saw them, I knew Nico would love them.  I walked over to check them out.  They were his size.  And all his favorite colors.  They looked brand new.  And I knew I would buy them for him.  So, I did.  And then Nick and I are talking in the car on the way home and I mention that they are mostly pink and purple, and I wondered out loud if they looked too girly.  Nick said no, that they were totally something Nico would love.  Well then, upon further inspection, I noticed the tag said, "Size 3, Girls."  I pointed it out to Nick and he said, "Well, that probably won't matter to Nico.  If he likes them, that's good enough."  And I said, "Yeah, but what if kids tease him and say that he's wearing girls shoes?"  Nick told me that I should just leave it up to Nico.

Well, when I walked through the door with these colorful bad boys in my hands and told Nico they were for him, you would have thought the kid won the lottery.  To say he loved them is the understatement of the year.  The other kids hooted and hollered over how amazing they are, and Nico was feeling pretty good when he slid his feet right into them-- they fit perfectly.  Then Nick told Nico, "Just so you know, they are technically girls shoes, and if you don't want to keep them, we can pass them along to someone else."

Nico said, "No way! I LOOOOOVE them.  Anyway, I don't think they are girls shoes.  They look like boys shoes to me."  All the kids agreed that they aren't girl shoes.  (Even though they really are.)

And, just wanting to cover my bases, I said, "If you wear them in the States and someone says they look girly, how will that make you feel?"  

And without missing a beat Nico said, "I will tell them that I am Haitian, and that I live in Haiti.  And in Haiti we don't have boys colors and girls colors.  We just wear what we like."

Fair enough.  You can't argue his logic.  I love the confidence of that kid.  (And FYI, my friend Sarah would be so proud of him.)

So we're headed to the States with the colorful shoes in tow.

And if you tease him I will cut you.  With a machete.

PS- And don't get me started on Nia's jazz shirt and Josiah's orphan shorts...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another then and now post.

Yesterday I went to visit the camp where I used to work.  It's turned into a little town now, and the tents with foundations that once were have been transformed into real houses.  I suppose they are still technically semi-permanent houses, but then again a lot of houses around here are. :)

Anywho.  I got a chance to see some of the kiddos that I used to visit regularly for a year or two when I was doing the moms/babies program in the camps after the earthquake called Pwoje Konekte*.  

I dug through some old pics to show you the kids then and now, because who doesn't love a then and now picture post?  I know I do!  Here's then and nows for 4 kiddos.  I am sure I will be back sometime soon and can share more.

Dafkaline then and now.

Edwinson then and now.

Estel then and now.

 Jennifer then and now.

I was talking to my mom about visiting the camp and she asked if the kids recognized me.  Um. Yes.  In fact, when I went to leave, this is what happened. ;)

The year or two after the earthquake was such a hard time.  But it's good to look back and see that even the babies born in the worst of times are alive and thriving.  God is faithful.

*Pwoje konekte was a program we had after the EQ to try to get people in camps connected with services offering aid. It lasted for almost 2 years.

Read more about it in a few old blog posts I dug up:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On a Moto: Episode 23, Backwards Man

A friend of mine sent me this picture earlier tonight.  It took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on here.  Just to help you out, this is not a conjoined twin scenario or a quadruple-legged man.  

Thanks Charles.


To see the whole series at once, click HERE.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Recipe: Avocado Season Guacamole

It is currently the most wonderful time of the year here in Haiti if you love avocados.*  The season is in full swing and avocados are for sale on every street corner.  And they are cheap!  If you're white, you can get them for about 10-15gourds each ($0.22- 0.33 US).  If you're Haitian, you can probably get them for 5-10 gourds a piece ($0.11- 0.22US).

So I thought I'd share my favorite guacamole recipe-- something that is a great, mostly healthy snack or meal.


  • 3 large ripe (but not over-ripe) avocados (For reference, most of the avocados we get here are softball sized or larger, so if you're using smaller avocados, adjust accordingly.)
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 key limes (Probably won't be able to find them in most places in the States.  So, use 1/4 to 1/2 of a small regular lime.)
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic (or more if you like things very garlicky)
  • 2 shallots (or 1/4 of a small normal onion)
  • 2 Scotch Bonnet peppers (These are the best hot peppers around.  Unfortunately they are not available in the States, so you can substitute habenero, but just know it won't be as awesome.  In addition to being spicy, the Scotch Bonnet adds a great flavor.)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Squeeze the juice out of your limes and set aside for just a minute.  Cube up your avocados and throw the lime juice over them, tossing them quickly to prevent browning.  Using the small grater on a cheese grater (you know, like the one you'd use to grate parmesan cheese), grate your shallots, garlic cloves, and Scotch Bonnet peppers.  It will kind of look like a soupy dollop of snot.  Don't worry, it's supposed to look like that!  Add this into the avocado mixture and mix well, using a fork to break up most of the avocado lumps, but not all of them.  It's better with some lumps in there.  Dice your tomatoes and fold them in at the end.  Salt and pepper if you wish.

Vwala! (Yes, that's how we spell it in Haiti.)  You will love this flavorful (but not too spicy) guacamole.  We think it's served best with papitas (fried plantain chips, which I think Trader Joe's has), but you could just do tortilla chips if you wanted.  

It's a really simple recipe and probably nearly the same as every other guac recipe you've tried, but let me tell you what-- when the avocados are ripe off the tree and you have just a tiny bit of a kick from the Scotch Bonnets.  Man, it is slap your Manman good.  (Although I do not recommend you do this.  Especially if you have a Haitian Manman.  Because she will right that wrong with a switch.)

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Here's a couple of other recipes made with local foods we love and have taken the time to get just right:

Fritzie's Pikliz

Classic Macaroni Salad

Cabbage and Roasted Beet Salad

Salad Dressing (Sos Manman Nick)

Haitian Spaghetti (NOTE, this was a recipe we started using a long time ago and is an Americanized version.)

We (and by we I mean Nick) has other great recipes that he's been adapting for local foods and will share them as he perfects them.

# # # #

*Note:  Avocado season is the only redeeming factor of Haiti in August. It is so incredibly hot in Haiti that I LITERALLY have sweat dripping off of me right now as I sit here with a cold glass of water.  And it doesn't matter at what time of day you read this, I will still be sweating if it's still August and I am still in Haiti.  It's so hot we have hot water-- scalding to be precise, because it sits up in a tank on our roof getting ready to scar the poor unsuspecting sweat-er who gets in the shower to cool of from said sweating.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


A few months ago, in an effort to try to connect with one another, Nick and I started taking these morning walks.  Y'all, our house is Crazy Town.  That's not a complaint, really.  (Okay maybe it is.)  It's a blessing to have so many great kids in our family.  But it is never quiet.  There's no place to go that's really away from it all, and the interruptions are constant.  But we found out that if we could get up while the kids were still sleeping and slip out the door before someone needed something, we'd have this great space to walk and talk.  Plus, I was tired of being so out of shape and figured walking couldn't hurt.

And so the first few weeks, it was just that.  A time to be out with Nick, sans little people.  We talked.  Sometimes about work stuff, most times not.  And we just started to remember how great it is to be married to one another.  I snapped pics along the way on my iPhone that were a way to look back later into the great beauty and mystery of this amazing island.

Sometimes we walked out of town...

Sometimes we walked in town...

Sometimes we'd take in beautiful sights...

Sometimes we'd take in some crazy realities...

And we were cruising along with life.

Well, were until Chikungunya hit us.


That was a two month-long adventure hell for our family (that still continues with arthritic joint pain.)  We walked few zero times during that little jaunt because our feet would not allow us to.  And then slowly we started getting back into it.  But around that time, Nick started running.  He's signed up to run a marathon here in Jacmel in January, and realized that if he didn't start running, he probably wouldn't be able to do it.  (Especially post ChikV).

So that lead me to walks by myself.  Which, to be honest, when you're a white girl of my size in Haiti, can be brutal.  "Gade yon gwo blan ap fè sport!"  (Look at the big white girl exercising.)  "Gwo blan, w'ap fè sport?" (Hey big foreigner, are you exercising?)  "Mezami! Gad gwo blan." (Wow! Look at the big white girl.)  Seriously.


Now, this isn't (necessarily) meant as insults, but come on.  Hearing how remarkable it is that me, the big white girl, is exercising, was almost enough to make me quit.  But then I learned a secret weapon, recommended by my friend, Kyle, who happens to be a masochist endurance athlete.

What is this secret weapon, you ask?

Audio books.

You guys.  Want a break from reality and something to motivate you to keep you going?  Download an audio book for when you exercise (and ONLY when you exercise.)  Get a story that really interests you and go. (And don't feel bad about not finishing it if it doesn't, because most audio books are 12+ hours long... that's a lot of walks to see a lousy book through.)

And so now you can see me out there almost every morning, getting my walk on.  I still smile and say "Bou jou!" to the dozens (hundreds?) of people I pass each morning on my hour-long saunter down the very busy roads and paths, but I can't hear their responses now.  Could be a "Bon jou!" right back at me, or a "Ale tounen lakay'w blan!"  (Go back home, foreigner.)  Either way, I can't hear and can just believe the best in people.  And so, with my mind occupied and my feet moving, I am free to see and experience all sorts of scenes.

Things like puppies, farmer, and flowers...

 Beautiful children hanging out like these guys...

And playing like these guys...

 This lady working hard for her living...

Social messages (Let's always keep Jacmel clean), beautiful structures, tropical wildflowers, and skinned knees...

Occasional vodou offerings in the median...

Fathers walking with their sons, tiny steps and winding paths, earthquake remains of buildings and peristyles, turquoise waters, and tropical pastures...

Each day is a new challenge to find the beauty amid the chaos as I walk the mostly-familiar (although sometimes unfamiliar) roads, trails, and footpaths of this tropical paradise reality that I now call my home.