Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Amazing Handheld Bug Zapper

Last night we went over to the Livesay's house for an evening of laughter, judgment of others, and just general sarcasm. It was totally my kind of fun. :)

My favorite part of the evening (other than their daughter's confusion about a placenta tree-- a story for another day), was when Troy brought out these bad boys. The Amazing Handheld Bug Zapper (as seen on TV) is NOT a scam. We saw it with our own eyes and cannot wait to acquire some for ourselves. It's like a tennis racket but it's actually a bug zapper. So you can shoo bugs away from you and it kills them instantly with a pop and a sizzle. (And supposedly a slight aroma... I didn't smell it, but apparently it is noticable to some.)

Now. I know some of you out there are concerned about "animal cruelty." Is this really a humane way to deal with mosquitoes? The answer is yes. It is. They are horrific little creatures OUT TO VIOLATE YOU AND SUCK YOUR BLOOD WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT. And give you the gift of malaria. One could say that it might be more humane to simply repel them. Yeah, great idea! Why don't we repel them over to our neighbor's house who lives on one dollar a day and can't afford medical care and will die of malaria? Great idea! That's probably what Jesus would do... (Sarcasm alert.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

one month in

We've now lived in Haiti one month. Weird. Here are a few observations you might be interested in at the one month mark:
  • Haiti is hot, but you quickly get used to it. In fact, when I went in Epidor (a nearby restaurant and bread store) the other day, I was freezing cold in the AC. Which doesn't mean I don't get hot anymore. But it's really like the cliche-- it's not the heat, it's the humidity.
  • Mosquitoes seem to love to bite ankles and feet. It's maddening. And I have a bad habit of scratching them with my feet-- I hope that makes sense. It nearly always makes the bites huge and inflamed and scab-ridden... it's absolutely disgusting.
  • The rain has a distinct smell here. But it's different than the distinct smell it has in the US. I like it better here I think. Also, the rain seems to have one way to fall here-- HARD. The rain here doesn't mess around. There's no sprinkling it seems-- it's ON or OFF.
  • Not knowing when you're going to have power can be inconvenient, but it's not TOO terrible. We're thankful to not have had to deal with more than a few hours at a time without a supply of power. More inconvenience is not having consistent internet. It's irritating to spend time writing a long email only to not be able to send it. Dude, for all you green people out there-- you really want to be green? Move to Haiti. You really have little other choice.
  • Driving in Port Au Prince is not actually too bad. So far I haven't had any accidents. I don't know if Nick has or not because he usually doesn't tell me those things. If you ask me (not that you did, but it is MY blog and you're reading it, so you kind of did) you just need to stay alert and go with the flow. Driving the 50-some blocks back and forth to the hospital countless times over the past few weeks has made me a lot more confident.
  • Figuring out Port Au Prince is not REALLY that confusing because there are only like 3 major roads. So sooner or later, you can find your way back to one of them, and then you know where to go.
  • I still hand-wash my underpants everyday. Naomi said that's a very Haitian thing to do. So apparently I am Haitian.
  • Speaking of washing-- it's not nearly as much fun to wash laundry by hand the second and third time, etc. laundry needs to be done. It's fun once. And then you learn to become really good "friends" with the people downstairs who have a washing machine. :) Even line-drying is not really that fun. It makes all of your clothes stand up by themselves after they are dry. (Plus, there's the rain scenario I mentioned previously... which does interfere.) Hand-washing/line drying makes you really wear your clothes strategically. And come up with a system for when to wear dirty clothing. For example, we're heading over to visit some friends tonight. So I am wearing a "first line" outfit. (Clean, never been worn.) Tomorrow I will probably wear the same outfit (except, of course) for clean underpants. And probably some modification of it the next day (so as to not appear as if I am wearing the same clothes everyday.) I will try to wear each outfit at least 4 times before washing. Sometimes I cannot get QUITE that much out of each shirt, but a pair of pants/a skirt are good for at least that. The kid's clothing is a whole other issue. They get really dirty. Now, the exception is the clothing I wear to the hospital. If I have had a full day there with Woody, I really feel like I need clean clothing before hanging with my kids-- even though the place is (relatively) clean, I am afraid of the germs.
  • I still am not entirely sure how to process the whole "Haitian hospital" experience I've been having. I have been journaling some thoughts-- expect something profound sooner or later.
  • A few people have asked me if I have been feeling scared. The truth is that I really have not felt real scared here. How do I say this? I am definitely more AWARE here than I am in the US, but I feel like a lot of that is normal for living in: 1) a city, 2) a new country. And if I ever feel a little frightened, it's more of what COULD happen than anything that HAS happened.
  • We're SUPPOSED to have occupancy (with electricity/water, razorwire, etc) of our Jacmel house TOMORROW! Please say a little prayer that the landlord is true to his word...
  • Naomi is teaching me to cook Haitian food, and I am teaching her how to make American food. (I mean "from scratch" American food-- not like Kraft dinner...) So far I like her spaghetti and chicken the best, and she likes my salad dressing and french toast the best.
I have more thoughts and a bunch of photos-- but never seem to enough bandwidth at the necessary time to upload them...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


If you ever really feel like getting pissed off about injustice in the world, just head over to a Haitian hospital. More later when I can find something productive to say about the way I am feeling right now... it would just be a lot of cuss words if I tried to do it right now.

But for now, just know this-- this way we do things in the world-- "the have's" and the "have not's" -- It's NOT okay.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Let me JUST say...

that I think one of the reasons God gave me Josiah because he knows I have a tendency towards laziness. Holy smokes. This kid is ALWAYS moving. And disobeying. And writing on things he ought not to... like my computer, my Bible, and my SHEETS.

There is no laziness when Josiah is around. I hope as this + Haiti= me getting thinner.

Speaking of getting thin/not getting thin... our next-door neighbors here are missionaries and they have a team in. The team is obviously currently making bacon. It smells so good I feel like dropping in for a "social call." You know, cause missionaries are friendly like that.

And our OTHER neighbors have a washing machine. And they are letting us use it. Which works for me. Tonight I did two loads in their washer. I am so grateful I might buy them a carton of that $10 ice cream. (Again it comes back to food.)

the latest gossip

Nothing interesting happening really, but here's the NONinteresting stuff.

I got carsick driving around some of the bad roads here in Port today. Some of the "roads" are THAT bad. But I've had a touch of Haitian Happiness these past few days, so I haven't been feeling 100% to start... (If you don't know what Haitian Happiness is, well... consider yourself lucky.)

We're getting a couch/2 chairs/coffee table tomorrow. We went to the blanc furniture store and it was basically Walmart-type quality for a bajillion dollars. So we went to the Haitian store across the street. Still not cheap. But not too bad. And we will have something to sit on in the living room. Well, something other than the floor. That's what we have been sitting on. I will post pics tomorrow after we pick it up.

Speaking of a bajillion dollars... that's what everything here costs. Yesterday we bought ONE lightbulb for our dim house. It cost $5 US. FIVE DOLLARS.
Josiah's ears are on the mend. Had him rechecked yesterday and they said the infection was almost all the way cleared, but there was still fluid, so we'll see what happens. He's still on the amoxicillian so it's basically a race.

Language school. I honestly have no confidence in my ability to pass the test on Monday. (Lendi, that is, for all of you Creole speakers.) I don't even know what most of these grammar things mean in English-- who the heck remembers all that stuff from middle school??? It's killing me. I seriously (literally) feel like I am going to cry about half the time I am in class because I don't get what's happening. That being said, our Creole is improving. A lot. At least I think it is. I think I am much more understandable. Apparently not other people. We successfully did NOT negotiate the price of our couch down. Not even a couple of gourdes. Rodney, our teacher, said we should be able to negotiate down once we speak more Creole. Nick, the geek, bought a "flashcards" application for the ole' Ipod touch. He loves it. And I have to say, it is pretty helpful. Maybe if we work on it real hard tonight we can get the price down a bit tomorrow... I will keep you posted.

Here is Nick, working on Creole and ignoring his screaming son. (As am I while I take the pic.)
I heart bednets. Have you picked that up yet? Here are my adorable children asleep(ish) under their nets.

Josiah showing off his bloody stump of a head... it's actually much better now.

Ta ta for now. Baby has started crying. Must stop ignoring him...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nothing too interesting to say.

So, forgive the plainness of this post... my brain is tired. Here's what's happening.
  • Language school. Oh. My. Gosh. It's really intensive. When he said it would be "intensive" what he meant was INTENSIVE! We're starting with the structure of the Creole language. Which is not too complex, unless of course, you're trying to learn it. Our teacher is very good. He literally wrote the Creole grammar textbook we're using. But it's intensive. (Have I mentioned it's intensive?) We have homework and tests and everything. He told us we'd need a 65% to pass the tests. I asked him today what happened if we did NOT get at least a 65%. He just shook his head and tsk-ed me. I don't think he gets my jokes.
  • Josiah's ears. I *think* they are okay. I don't really know. I am going to try to get him into see a doctor again this week to make sure the infection has cleared up. I am trying to be hopeful... Because Josiah has had tubes in the past and has usually had to have multiple medications to clear up ear infections, I am feeling a tad nervous. He's been pretty crabby, but that's pretty much his personality lately. (Maybe because he has a festering infection in his inner ear?) The other day when he had a high fever all he wanted to do was lie on the cool tile floor. I don't blame him. I do it all the time. Oh yeah, that's because we don't have any furniture.
  • Josiah's bloody stump of a face. Josiah took a tumble. On his face. Nick keeps calling him, "Bloody stump of a face." It's really bad. He's a mess.
  • The second watermelon (though expensive) was far better than the first. FAR better. Hmmm.... we might have a contest going on.
  • Mosquito nets are pretty much the best invention ever. Enough said.
  • Pray for Woody. He *MIGHT* be finally having his surgery tomorrow.
  • Our generator in Port Au Prince is unrepairable. :( We had our mechanic come out from Jacmel and he said it would be at least $1000 US to fix it. That's a no-go for us since we're only living here 6 weeks. The good news is that we've had pretty reliable city power for good portions of the day and our inverter/batteries have lasted us through when we don't have city power. And the other good news is that we have a BRAND NEW generator waiting for us when (if) we get into our house in Jacmel. Please keep praying that happens. Soon. As of now it's looking like the last Friday in May. Don't get me going.
  • Had a quick date with Nick tonight. We went out for ice cream at Epi Dor. (My new favorite place.) Okay, this was a weird thing-- it was air conditioned in there and I was actually TOO COLD. Like I was uncomfortable with the temperature. Weird.
  • Last night we had a house full of people. 11 to be exact. We're actually doing a lot of "entertaining." Which is weird in a house with no furtniture
  • Still don't mind cold showers. Actually kind of digging on them. Do kind of miss baths. That was sort of how I would unwind at the end of a day. Not sure what to replace that with yet.
Here are some pics. Don't know why there are so many of Josiah. He was just what was on my camera this time...

The day of the bloody stump of a face injury. (Plus covered in Naomi's spaghetti...mmmmm) I will post another pic soon of his scabs. Gross little kid, that Josiah.

Nia. Crashed on the mostly deflated airbed.

Josiah. Sick.

Nick and Josiah protected from the blood-sucking mosquitos by our beloved bed net.

Speaking of mosquitos... I gotta go. I am getting TORE UP!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Need met.

Hey, I just wanted to let everyone know that there is a friend of ours whose mom is a doctor who has an extra otoscope she's sending us!

Thanks Patricia!

God is faithful.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


During our training at MTI we learned about this continuum that occurs during missionary transitions.
On one side you're settled.
Then you start to become unsettled.
Then you're in chaos.
Then you start to become REsettled.
And then you're settled again.

I don't know where we are on that continuum, but we're DEFINITELY not feeling settled these days. Everything feels unsettled. And it's like our regular ole' kiddos have turned into monsters. I mean don't get me wrong-- they are fine. I totally GET what's happening, because I feel like turning into a monster most days too. But at the same time, part of me wishes I could just press "fast forward" over this crazy time just long enough to feel a little settled. (And then I remember that Adam Sandler movie "Click" and I know I REALLY don't want to do that... but I still feel like that sometimes.)

I am going to work this week on establishing better routines this week. Stricter bedtimes, naptimes, mealtimes, etc. And while I can HONESTLY tell you that I have not ONCE missed television for myself--I am finding myself wishing Noggin or PBS was a part of our lives again.

I am also missing Kidspointe/WOW for my kiddos. I had to leave church with Josiah today because he was so wiggly and crazy. And in my heart, I actually felt myself feeling angry with him for being 2. Dang, I could hardly sit still for the 1.5 hours he made it through and I am 32.

SO here are a few fun and interesting facts about our life here in Haiti, specifically Port Au Prince:
1) There is this one tap tap around here that constantly plays the theme song from Titanic. But it's not actually the actual song, just like a one-note-at-a-time synthesized version. I am going to have to find a way to record it for you. Because you won't fully believe how objectionable it is unless you hear it yourselves.

2) Watermelon in Haiti is good, but it is no NC watermelon. I have yet to find a seedless variety here, which definitely tips the scales to NC. And the other main problem is that I like watermelon cold and our fridge is like a college dorm sized fridge, so I can only fit about 1 cup of sliced watermelon in it at a time. So it sits out on the counter (in saran wrap) until there's room for a bit of it in the fridge. That might be affecting the flavor.

3) Haitian peanut butter is SPICY! When I say SPICY, I mean SPICY! I bought the Haitian version of PB (mamba) at the store the other day since it was cheaper, but soon discovered that even though it claims to be PURE Mamba (peanut butter), they are lying. There is like cayanne pepper or something similiar in it.

4) Food here is EXPENSIVE. I splurged on a cartoon of Blue Bunny ice cream two days ago and it was about $8US. I loved every bite of it, but it felt very cold. Like TOO cold.

Okay, I have to go put the kids for a nap.

Gotta go-

Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 16, 2009 Update

Dear friends,

This morning as I was reading in Psalm 43, I read this, “Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, so I can find my way to the sacred mountain, to the place of your presence…” And those words became my prayer. The past two weeks have been filled with highs and lows as we have made numerous (too numerous to count) changes in our lives. Nick and I have made sure all the batteries in our flashlights and lanterns are good, since the electricity not always a sure thing. We've checked the map dozens of times to try to figure out how to get places... Everything is just so... well, foreign. Even though we’ve visited Haiti several times, the eyes with which we look at things are so different knowing this is a long-term home. Today I prayed that even as I put a lot of energy in to learn how to live in a totally different place, I would spend an equal or greater amount of energy trying to learn how to walk with and love my God. It’s not easy when the distractions are so many—and I am learning that I will have to fight for it if it’s going to happen.

These past two weeks have been filled with many events—
-We watched the HCH house for nearly a week while Danny and Leann took some time for much-needed refreshment together on a vacation. We love their family and was glad to be able to serve in this way. Being substitute “parents” to 20+ kids was constantly busy and it seemed there was always some sort of figurative “fire to put out.” Good training!

-We helped welcome a team from our home church, Crosspointe, shortly after Danny and Leann came home. THEY WERE SO MUCH FUN. I honestly do not know if I have EVER laughed as hard as I did during their time here. They were a very flexible group of people—taking on a whole new project after we determined we’d NOT be able to completely occupy our Jacmel house due to landlord struggles. (More on that below.) But even with a last-minute change of projects, this team came in and loved and served and showed us Jesus in very real ways. THANK YOU! Please pray for this team as they readjust back to life in the US. Pray that God would use this experience to spur them on to love and know God better.

- One of the reasons that it was SO good that this team was so flexible is because on their second day here (last Saturday), one of the Pye’s sons, Woody, was in a bad motorcycle accident and badly broke his leg. The closest hospital able to deal with this kind of injury is 3 hours away in Port Au Prince. So that night Nick and Danny drove Woody into a Doctors Without Borders hospital. He has since had one of two surgeries necessary to correct the damage. He has had a few complications since the first surgery and is in a lot of pain. We hope his next surgery will be early next week. Danny has been in Port with Woody since the accident and he is ready to be back with his family in Jacmel. Please pray for Woody. Please pray for his complete healing. Please pray for Danny as he’s had to be away from his family for such a long stretch of time. Please pray for Leann, as she’s had to run the home (of 23 kids) without Danny’s physical presence. Please pray for provision to cover this unexpected and costly event. The Pye’s anticipate that the surgery and all related costs will be over $2000. If you’d like to make a special gift to help with this need, please donate online, or via mail at: Haitian Children’s Home, PO Box 968, Ellenton, FL 34222. (Be sure to write “Woody’s surgery” in the memo so the funds are correctly designated.)

- We STILL do not have full occupancy of the home we’ve rented in Jacmel as there is a tenant downstairs who has over-stayed his lease and doesn’t seem too motivated to move out. It’s incredibly frustrating. I am thankful to the Pye’s for letting us crash with them while we wait on this. We’re hoping for some movement this weekend. Please pray that the downstairs tenant would vacate the house and that we could be given full occupancy of our house this weekend. Please also pray that the landlord will quickly honor her end of the agreement and complete projects she has agreed to complete before we can move in. (Putting up razor-wire and getting electricity hooked up.)

-Yesterday we moved into our home in Port Au Prince where we will live for the next six weeks (during the week—weekends we will return to Jacmel.) Here we will be attending classes for 3.5 hours a day to learn Creole. We start Monday. We’re excited and nervous at the same time… (which pretty much describes all of our experiences in this country so far.) Please pray that we’d come to understand how to do life here in Port Au Prince. Pray that we’d continue to connect well with Naomi (the woman we have hired to help our family with our children and home while we are in school). Pray that God would knit her into our family beautifully. Please pray that our generator here in Port Au Prince could be repaired so that we can have reliable 24-hour a day electricity.

-Today we had our family’s first “medical need” since coming to Haiti. Josiah woke up with a 104.6F temperature this AM. Because of where we now live, our first thought was malaria and so we made arrangements to see a team of US doctors that had just arrived at CSI in Port Au Prince. They were amazing and the care was quick and efficient. It turned out it was NOT malaria, just a bad ear infection. He was prescribed antibiotics and started them today. This does not OVER-concern us, but it does concern us since Josiah has had to have ear tubes in the past because of recurring ear infections. He recently lost the tube in that ear, (which is to be expected over time.) We’d like to try to obtain a quality otoscope to monitor this in the future. (Plus, it would be great in a house full of 23 kids to have one!) Please let us know if you’d be able to help meet this need. Please pray that Josiah would quickly and completely heal from this infection without need for further medical intervention.

Thank you for your prayers and support. We are ALWAYS mindful that we are here because of your faithfulness to us.

With very grateful hearts,

Gwenn, Nick, Nia, Nico + Josiah (and Naomi!)

Our family eating a meal on our porch in our Port Au Prince house... (Sorry Nick's on the phone... that's pretty much the drill these days.)

Nick and I's bedroom.

The kid's room (those colorful things are their mosquito bed nets)

Josiah-- please pray for his healing.

The most excellent Crosspointe team!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bullet point update

Lots to say-- not so much time to say it---

  • Leann is going to Port Au Prince this morning to visit Woody in the hospital. He's still waiting on one more surgery. Perhaps on Saturday or Monday? He's had some complications since the initial surgery, but from what I understand, he is stable.
  • This accident is going to end up with a price tag of at least $2000 US. If anyone is interested/able to help cover some of this immediate need, please visit this page of the Haitian Children's Home website to give online towards this need (denote "Woody's surgery" in the memo). Or you can send a check to Haitian Children's Home, PO Box 968, Ellenton, FL 34222-- again denote "Woody's surgery" in the memo.
  • I love this team that's here right now. I am LAUGHING my head off at pretty much every moment I am with them. I know they only have two and a half more days here, and I am starting to feel a little sad about that. I will definitely miss them.
  • Nick and Nixon have a meeting with the landlord about our NOT YET OCCUPIED house in Jacmel. PLEASE pray that they can work things out. I have been trying to be patient and grace-giving, but I am starting to get a bit bummed about this.
  • We had a meeting with Naomi (the lady we're hiring to help our family... she'll eventually be our head nanny once we start taking kids in December.) I am so excited about her comong with us to Port--- she's got some spunk. I LOVE that about her.
  • More soon...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Breaking my relative silence.

I am sitting back in the guest room of the Pye's house enjoying a short time of relative silence with my boys. I say relative, because it's never really quiet here in Haiti. Right now I am listening to the whirring of fans (thank you God), Josiah gently snoring, someone washing/sorting silverware in the kitchen, and the occasional creak of the bed that Nico's laying on with me as he tosses and turns. He's been absolutely wordless for about an hour and a half now-- not sleeping, but not complaining. I think we have all been due for some "lock ourselves away" time.

We've now lived in Haiti for two weeks. But we're still staying at the Pye's. They've been gracious hosts. We've always seen them to be open to having people stay in their home for stretches of time. That's a very good quality-- not everyone is so hospitable. We're still trying to figure out landlord issues for our Jacmel house. We've been promised full occupancy early this week... but while I am praying and hoping, and keeping my fingers crossed, (and not walking under ladders, and any other superstitious things I can think of to increase my chances of this actually happening), I am understanding that (as Tara Livesay would say) TIH... THIS IS HAITI. So who knows? Once we have full occupancy, the landlord still needs to install the promised razor wire, power lines, etc. So, we're assuming that we won't be "moved in" before we move to Port Au Prince this weekend to start language training on Monday. (Which is a whole OTHER TIH scenario as we were supposed to start TODAY here in Jacmel.)

There's currently a team in from our fantastic home church, Crosspointe. It's been SO FUN having them here. I am LAUGHING AND LAUGHING AND LAUGHING. Which feels good. With Danny in Port with Woody (one of his kids who has a bad broken leg and needs surgery) and us not having occupancy of our home in Jacmel (which they were scheduled to be working on) we've been all just trying to do our best to figure out how to help run a team. They've been so gracious with us and loved us all so very well. It's been really good for my kids to be around (and loved on by) some of our American friends. And it makes Nia feel really proud to show "her friends" around Haiti. Good times. Plus they brought me A LOT of chocolate. A LOT. That WORKS for me. You can follow their team blog HERE!

One of the questions we've been getting a lot is-- How are you guys doing? REALLY doing?
The truth is that we are doing well. We love being in Haiti. I can't explain it, but it's a good fit for us. Don't get me wrong, we've had our "moments" and I know there will be many more to come. But it's incredibly fun and exciting to learn a new culture. Yes, I end up feeling like an idiot and a lazy American more than I'd normally care to. But I am good with that. So far anyway. And as a side note- I love sleeping under a mosquito net. That might sound silly, but I LOVE it. I have not done it on any previous trips except my last one. AND I LOVE IT. I LOVE sleeping and knowing the bugs are not chewing on my flesh, sucking out my blood, and injecting me with their poisonous itchy venom.

I think the hardest part so far has just been the experience of "jumping in with both feet." In many ways I think that's been good for us. We're learning many new things quickly. But the downside is that we sometimes feel like we don't have the space to process all that is happening. We haven't had much (any?) "alone" time together as a family. Nick and I haven't had hardly ANY alone time to just decompress. The days start early for everyone-- 5ish? (4 for Nick, cause he's always been a weirdo like that.) I am looking forward to our time in Port Au Prince for language training, away from so many familiar things, and getting into a better rhythm. I understand that our lives will always have a much faster pace than when we lived in the US. That's cool with me. I think I am just trying to figure out how to make necessary boundaries so that I am keeping the most important things (my relationship with God, my marriage, and of course, our children) the highest priority. "What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" Matthew 16:26 (The Message)

Our kids are FANTASTIC. We have really great kiddos. We do. Sorry, that's probably prideful, but I AM proud of them. I LOVE THOSE LITTLE GUYS. They are really rolling with the punches. They are warming up to their new country and becoming more comfortable here every single day. God has been SO gracious to us on this issue.

Thank you for your prayers. Please keep them coming.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Woody, one of the HCH boys, was in an accident yesterday.

Danny and Nick drove him into Port Au Prince last night to a Doctors Without Borders hospital where he today had his first of two surgeries on a badly broken leg.  Nick returned to Jacmel this morning, Danny stayed in Port with Woody.  The doctors are saying he'll need to be in the hospital for up to 10 days-- which presents a few difficulties when you live 3 hours from the hospital.  

Please pray for the HCH family as they deal with this.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stupid American

Today I proved (once again) myself to be a stupid American.

They have these little limes here. And I really like this limeade (sitwon) they make. Since we have a whole mess of them (the little limes), I decided to make some (the limeade). But have I mentioned, the limes are REALLY small? Like quarter-sized in diameter. Maybe they are keylimes? I don't know. Either way-- I knew back at MY house (in Jacmel) I had a citrus reamer. But I didn't have a vehicle. I didn't bother asking if they had a reamer HERE because I have watched Mdm Emiline fix food and juice-- she squeezed a whole mess of oranges and passion fruits by hand. And I didn't want to ask just to be sure because I didn't want to look like THAT American-- you know-- the blanc that has a nifty gadget to do every little thing. (Cause I look like that enough-- what with my fancy phone and Nick's Ipod touch-- Nixon is relentless with talking about how blanc we are...) So I started to squeeze them by hand. And let me tell you what-- it was ridiculous. I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. I got like 3 drops of juice out of each one. And after a while, I felt like quitting. But I didn't want to be THAT American either. Besides, by this point, I had already made simple syrup and was probably like 30 or so limes in. My hands were aching and siezing up. And finally I decided it was good enough.

I was stirring it and adding more ice and Elinda comes in and looks at what I'm doing (let me pause here to mention SEVERAL kids had since come and gone during the past 30 or so minutes of me squeezing these limes and just stared at me.) And Elinda looks and says, "Oh! Are you done?" (in Creole). And I say, "Almost." (in English.) And then she says, "Wait a minute." (in English) and I say, "Okay."

She leaves for a second and returns a moment later with this--
Oh look! They have a device specifically for squeezing these little limes. Of course they do. How stupid of me. So I squeezed a few extra in there for good measure. And got like a HALF A CUP of juice per lime... (Well, that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration...)

So-- everyone better ENJOY my juice tonight at dinner. It took an hour to make.

underpants, la bouyi and chewing cane

So just wanted to submit some photo evidence that I actually DO occasionally do some washing... Okay, this might be TMI, but I still feel really weird about the ladies hand washing our underpants. Would that be weird for anyone else? Here, though, I am scrubbing mud off of our shoes-- which, honestly, is futile. It's been so muddy I might as well not.

Here's Josiah sucking down his second bowl of la bouyi-- a milk-based porridge they eat here a lot. I don't like it. It has anise in it, so it tastes kind of like licorice. Josiah on the other hand LOVES it.

Reason #237 You can take the boy out of Haiti... It's really fun to see Nico be Haitian. Today Naomi gave him and Josiah each a little piece of raw sugar cane. Josiah didn't really know what to do he kind of licked it and sucked on it for a while. Nico, on the other hand, chomped right into it as if he's always been doing it. Awesome.

And yes, about 1.4 nanoseconds after they finish, I WILL be brushing their teeth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bon Fete Jabez.

If he were still living, Jabez would be 4 today.

I didn't know if the kids would remember it was his birthday or not, and I was sort of on the fence as to whether I should bring it up-- I bought some cake mix today just in case... And then this afternoon after school Elinda came up to me and told me that today was Jabez' birthday and that she missed him. I told her I missed him too. I do. JB was truly the inspiration behind our adoption, and our subsequent move to Haiti. So I made a cake and we prayed for Danny and Leann as today they are away grieving the loss of their son on this day... Please pray for them tonight and continue to pray for them as we come upon the anniversary of his death next month...

Much love,
Mama Gwenn
Some links from Leann's blog last June:

having "ladies"

When we were just getting started with support raising, one of the jokes I made about Haiti was that I was going to love having "ladies" to help with cleaning, cooking, etc. We were advised not to say that in the presentation because supporters probably wouldn't want to hear about my desire to not have to clean my own house. So we cut the joke. But I was still looking forward to having "ladies."

So now that I am here and reaping the benefit of Danny and Leann's "ladies," I've got to say-- I have mixed thoughts. I mean, don't get me wrong-- I REALLY appreciate not having to do it all. But wow, there is a GUILT in me that I just can't shake. They don't make me feel guilty, but I still do. Like this morning. I was taking a morning rest because I spent half the night up with Nico and his night terrors. I was exhausted. And so after the kids went to school, I was just closing my eyes for a few moments when in comes Mdm Claude to grab the laundry to bring outside to hand wash. While I was napping. AND she apologized for disturbing me. Ug. There went the nap. I layed there and thought about how VERY MUCH I didn't want to be laying there sleeping while she was cleaning the house. And I couldn't rest. So I got up. I don't remember exactly what I did-- probably check my facebook or something. Which is a whole OTHER guilt factor.

I know this is extremely culturally appropriate. But wow, it's hard. Like yesterday, I was pouring some water into my son's cup and I spilled some on the floor, so I went and got the mop to clean it up. One of the "ladies" snatched it out of my hand and told me not to do it-- that was what SHE was there for.

I feel guilty if I leave dishes for them to do, but I feel guilty if I do the dishes, because I don't want to make them feel like I don't think they do a good job. Know what I mean?

It's just this cultural baggage I have to shake. Because really, having "ladies" is a good thing...

Monday, May 4, 2009

The unexplainable

So far, living here has been really good, but totally unexplainable. It's so weird because the pace here is so much slower, but there's ALWAYS some sort of drama, so, as a missionary, life goes at a much faster pace. I am SO sorry I am so behind on email, etc... There's always some sort of drama.

So this morning my kids were starting to melt down after a 4 day weekend with most of the other kids (I say 3-4 because SOME of the kids had school last Thursday and some did not.) I had "office hours" scheduled (which I still DO intend to get to) but realized we just needed to take a step back as a family (plus Riann, of course!) and just ENJOY where we live. (Thanks to MTI for teaching us that!) So we hit the beach. It was a great morning. The beach is one of those paradoxes that SO define Haiti-- beauty as far as the eye can see... and garbage too. It was a big weekend in Jacmel, so the beach was PARTICULARLY trashed-- lots of rum and beer bottles. And also the evidence of some well-enjoyed meals... lobster carcasses, fishbones... you name it. If we looked a little harder, I am sure we could have found evidence of other sorts of recreation. Blech. Fortunately, I was raised in NJ so I am used to filthy beaches strewn with medical waste and the like.

The kids had a great time. They made some friends quickly of course. One boy (in my head I named him "Random Naked Kid" RNK for short...) was trying to teach my kids how to do cartwheels and backflips walking on his hands. This place is a trip.

Nia finds a "treasure"

Nico's treasure

Nick practices his long jump over Nico and Nia... (RNK looks on...)

Back off ladies... he's ALL mine.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Got a spray tan today...

Well, the Haitian version... dirt.

I actually went to the motocross tournament with 6 of the kids. It was so dusty I came I was checking myself out in the mirror and thinking-- "Wow, I am getting pretty brownish..." And then I went to wipe my face and my "tan" came off. Oh well.

It was fun.

And definitely a cultural experience.

Just as a side note-- the guy who won the 4-wheeler portion of the event was actually a Chinese guy. Who would have thunk it? Here's some pics...

A few of the neighbors...


Shirley and Micheline


Shirley and Micheline

Farfar (the neighbor kids call him "krapo" which is Creole for frog because they think he looks like a bullfrog with his big eyes and belly...)

Widlet and Micheline

Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1, 2009 update

May 1, 2009

Hello Friends.

Well, thanks be to God—we made it. After an excellent send-off by our family and friends on Sunday. On Monday, we left the house at 3:30AM, and rolled into Jacmel about 15 hours later. As you can imagine, traveling for that many hours with three rascally kids was a bit of a challenge at times, but we were truly given God’s peace and presence, even amidst our frustrations. The trip was smooth—no delays with the flights (unheard of lately!), all our baggage arrived and made it through customs in tact, and even our drive from Port Au Prince was fairly simple, with little complication.

Right now we’re staying at the home of Danny and Leann Pye (houseparents of the Haitian Children’s Home) while we get the final details hammered out with our lease and some last minute drama with our new home. We’re hoping things get ironed out all the way by Monday, so we can move in, in earnest, next Friday. Between now and then we will remain here at the Pye’s home while they leave Haiti on a short vacation. We’ll be acting as relief house parents for their 23 kids in their absence. The past few days have been relaxing and busy at the same time. Nick has been out and about quite a bit—traveling overnight to Port Au Prince again on Wednesday and Thursday with Danny to get some things set up for our family as we will be moving to Port Au Prince in about two weeks for a month and a half of language training. I have been mostly staying home with the kids and helping them with their adjustment to their new country.

While I have been a stay-at-home mom for nearly 6 years, this is a new learning curve for me. Being extremely extroverted, I am not used to the “at home” part of stay at home parenting. This is a much simpler culture. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love, but it is forcing me to engage my creativity a lot more… there are none of our “regular” hangouts—the park, museums, playdates, etc. to pass the time. And even if there were places we could go, we share a vehicle, so transportation would be an issue. I hope it doesn’t seem like I am complaining… I am really not. It’s just a part of the adjustment that stretches me a bit. I think learning more about our city and learning the language will be good for me, and help me discover ways to connect with others. In the mean time, I have picked up my guitar to entertain myself and the kids, which I haven’t played “for real” in probably 8-9 years. There is a LITTLE bit of it that’s coming back quickly, but I am finding I am having to re-learn a lot of it… and my fingertips are very sore!

Our kids are doing great for the most part. Their transition has been interesting to observe. Nia, who is almost 6, has been a trooper. She’s trying very hard to participate in the culture and seems the perfect age for this kind of transition. She’s eagerly embracing “Haitian” things—like cold baths, trying to use the language whenever she can, etc. She’s been writing in her feelings down in her diary the past few days and the words that come up most often are “happy,” “excited,” “a little sad,” and “tired.” She’s loving being around all the kids, but being a mostly introverted child, I know she will do well to be in our permanent house here, where she can get some quiet time away from all the noise every now and then. One other newsworthy thing to note with Nia is that she’s really had something “click” in her head and is reading all the time. I came outside today after putting the boys down for a nap and she was reading “The Giving Tree” to Nerry (one of the HCH boys) and Nadedge (one of the nannies.) It was cute and they stayed there patiently during the whole book.

Nico is really thriving. I am loving watching his reaction to Haiti and Haitian culture. It’s more pronounced than on either of our two previous visits here with him prior to the move. (Just to bring everyone up to speed who may not be aware—Nico is our 4.5 year old son who we adopted from Haiti nearly 2 years ago.) It’s very obvious being here that Nico is proud to be Haitian, which makes us very happy. Having heard some horror stories from various people, we weren’t expecting this transition to go as smoothly for him as it is going. Thank you for your prayers for him. I truly believe he knows at the core of him that we are mom and dad—something I don’t know if he knew just a month or two ago.

Josiah is… well, Josiah. He’s as rough and tumble here in Haiti as he is in the US, but he’s met his match a bit in Riann (the Pye’s daughter.) Like Josiah, Riann is outgoing and strong-willed, and the two of them together are a HOOT. (Or else they are driving me and Leann crazy breaking up fights!) Our biggest struggle with Josiah’s transition is that the mosquitoes seem to LOVE him. He’s getting dozens and dozens of bites despite the fact we’re using applying insect repellant in ridiculous quantities. He’s adjusting well- but I have to admit, he makes me tired.

Nick seems to be thriving here—lots of new experiences for him! The first day was a bit rough—within an hour’s time he drown his phone in the ocean and forgot to put on sunscreen, leaving him quite red and uncomfortable for the past few days. He’s jumped in to driving, which, in Haiti is a WHOLE different thing than in the US. It’s a stressful thing, and I think he’s doing a great job!

Thank you for your prayers and support. They are SO appreciated. We’d ask for your continued prayers for our family during this transition.

We have a long list of needs this time, so thanks for bearing with us:
- For hearts willing to be molded and stretched by God here in our new home.
- For a spirit of unity between Nick and I. The transition is straining our patience with one another at times.
- For our children to experience peace during this time of many, many changes.
- For the details of our lease on our Jacmel house to work out over the weekend so we’re able to move in by the end of next week.
- For us to quickly learn the language and understand the culture.
- For our transition to Port Au Prince, and that all of the details there can be worked out (namely, a currently non-operational generator!)
- That we’d be and feel safe in our new country.
- For Danny and Leann to have a GREAT vacation together, and that we’d manage the house and children well in their absence.

During these past couple of weeks, I’ve been daily focusing on two passages of scripture, and I thought I would include them. I hope in some way, God will encourage you with them, as he has with me.

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 127
1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to [a] those he loves.

3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

With an ever-grateful heart,
Gwenn + Nick
(and the three kiddos!)

Nia reading.

Josiah, Nico and Riann play in their "baby pool" to keep cool!
Josiah shows off his new bike-- thanks Nana!

Nia's diary page-- her feelings.Nico gobbling down a mango!