Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Food Network Nahomi Style-- Kreyol Chicken and Rice w/Limas

Nahomi made some yummy food tonight.
Lots 'o ingredients... things like:

rice
lima beans
garlic
onions
tomato paste
Maggi (a Haitian seasoning)
Sazon (a Goya seasoning)
green peppers
hot peppers
coconut and coconut milk
carrots
green beans
cloves

Here's some pics.



And yes, it was as good as it looks.

You can take the boy out of Haiti... episode 244

but you can't take Haiti out of the boy. (Well, especially if you bring him back to Haiti.)

Another inherently "Haitian" thing Nico does is REALLY gnaw on meat bones. I remember shortly after we brought Nico home we went up to NY for Scott and Stephanie's wedding. At the rehearsal dinner they had some amazing chicken wings. It was funny because Nico didn't want any chicken wings, he just wanted to chew on the bones after we were done.




Maniac


So, here's some photo proof that my son Josiah is a MANIAC.
Wow, does this disturb anyone else?

Carnival in Jacmel

Probably the thing Jacmel is MOST famous for is Carnival. Sometimes spelled Carnaval, this is a big celebration each year right before lent, similar to Mardi Gras. A big component of Carnival is paper mache. Masks of all sorts are made by artists her in Jacmel and are paraded through the streets.

It's cool living in Jamel, because there's art all around. Painters, metal artists, sculpters... it's NEAT. Here's one of Nia's pics from today on our walk... an artist's studio with some of his paper mache for sale.


If you're interested in Carnival in Jacmel, I would HIGHLY suggest the book, "After the Dance: a walk through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti." It is written my Edwidge Danticat, a very prominent Haitian author (I love her). Two ENTHUSIASTIC thumbs up.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mèt Gwenn

So, just so you all know, I am now a professor. :) You may call me Mèt Gwenn.

I don't know exactly how it happened. Well, I kind of do. Last week Nahomi went to her school and they told her that they didn't have room for her this semester. I helped her study for her last exam and wasn't too impressed with what she's been "learning" (ie. paying FAR too much money for.) I felt pretty confident that I could teach her at least as well. So I told her I would teach her. We'd have classes twice weekly.

I talked to Mikey and he had TONS of ESL curriculum and we were scheduled to start tonight right after dinner. Right before dinner, Esther (the lady who washes our laundry twice a week) joined us for dinner, and Nahomi said Esther had something to tell us. Immediately in my mind, I jumped to the conclusion that she was discontent with the work situation. (Because who WOULDN'T BE when they spend 9 hours a day twice a week handwashing my family's laundry...) But that wasn't it. Nahomi had told her about the "English classes" I was going to teach, and she too wanted to be a student.

So now I have two students. Which actually worked really well tonight. I don't think I am open for more enrollment at the present time, but word kind of travels fast round these parts, so I wouldn't be surprised to have more "inquiries."

We had a really fun class tonight and I think it's going to help me with my Kreyol. Nahomi is used to "my version" of Kreyol, but Esther is not. And she doesn't have a problem laughing out loud as I try to pronounce things I cannot, which is a very Haitian thing. Yes, I know that's a stereotype, but one of the TRUE ones... MANY Haitians LOVE to laugh at anyone who makes a mistake. Which is kind of awesome if you think about it, cause really, aren't we all laughing inside at others who make mistakes? Ah, I love Haiti.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My really dirty house.

Friday I left Jacmel at 5AM to go to Port Au Prince for the day with Leann to do our monthly grocery shopping, the Pye's monthly grocery shopping, grocery shopping for a team we have coming in and some shopping for the Altidor family. Additionally, we brought Woody to a follow-up appointment to have his leg checked out. (Which, for those of you who are interested, all is well with him. He has NO cast and is walking with only one crutch.)

It was a long day. We pulled back into Jacmel twelve hours later, at 5PM with a truck FULL (and I cannot even begin to express how earnestly I mean FULL) of food and supplies. Then we headed over to the Pyes to do the "sort." That took about an hour and I rolled into my house a little after 6PM loaded down with the Mangine food.

I had taken Nahomi with me because I had to be doing a lot of the driving around Port solo, and I still need help finding my way around. So Nick was here ALL day by himself. Needless to say, the house was in less than stellar shape when I returned. Which I am NOT complaining about. It was TOTALLY okay with me. Poor Nick had all three kids, plus our laundry lady here, plus the street kids we hire to clean the compound... he had a busy day.

We only had time to put away the cold stuff because Nick was preaching at English church at 7. So we did that really quick and flew out the door to church. By the time we got back (8:30ish), we were SO wiped. I was tired-er than I can remember being in a long time. ("Haiti tired" as Nick would call it.) Because of the great potential for bugs here (being that our kitchen is basically outside) I NEVER leave dishes in the sink overnight. However, I broke my rule and went to sleep with dirty dishes in the sink, on the counters, on the table, etc. It was a mess.

I got up yesterday morning ready to hit the day. I began to tackle the dishes but then had to stop in the middle of them because we had an appointment to go look at a potential house. (For the orphanage once we start taking kids in December.) So we got the kids ready, and when I came back, Nahomi had finished the dishes and was sweeping the floor.

Saturday is Nahomi's day off. So I really try not to ask her to do work on Saturdays and want her to feel like she can take a break. So I said to her, "Nahomi, poukisa ou lavi kizin mwen? Ou pa travay jodi a." ("Nahomi, why did you clean my kitchen? You don't work today.")

She looked at me, and then looked around the kitchen kind of incredulously and said, "Wi, m konnen, memn kay ou sal! Anpil!" ("Yes, I know, but your house is REALLY dirty!") (Really Nahomi, tell us how you really feel.)

Nick and I looked at each other and just laughed. Nick said, "Ou gen rezon." ("You win.")

What campout looks like these days.

Last night was campout. For those of you who are new to the ole blog, THIS is my original post on our family campouts (really camp-INs). It used to be this quiet, structured, rule-filled time as a family.

Now, I have two boys. So... not so much.

But it's still a quiet time for me. I just make sure I take some Ambien halfway through the movie and then Nick is the one in charge of making sure the kids pee and brush their teeth before going to sleep. Although this morning I woke to Nia saying, "Mom we have to brush our teeth as soon as we get up because Daddy said we could skip it last night and do it in the morning." :)

As I have mentioned in the past, Haiti is not exactly cool these days. Everyone requires a fan for sleep. Power is more important to us at night than during the day because we cannot (CANNOT) sleep without fans. Last night was no exception, so this is what campout looks like these days...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Haitian Court TV

We live next door to the Jacmel courthouse. And APPARENTLY people are allowed to sit and watch the cases. And APPARENTLY many people do. And APPARENTLY the spectators often weigh in vocally to voice their approval or disapproval of the situation. It can pretty, err... "spirited" over there. Nahomi's favorite pass-time during the afternoons (when she has some time off) is watching the cases. She calls it "fè jounalis" (being a journalist.)

And believe me. She ALWAYS has the story. Chak jou. (Every day.)

Lots o' domestic violence in Jacmel. Today there were trials of three different men accused of killing their wives.

The liveliest crowds so far have been a group of Haitian femenists picketing with pink signs, and the time a senator's brother was being held for election fraud.

So what do I mean by lively crowds? Well, it just means we keep our compound gate locked pretty much at all times and we've decided to look into getting our family a large dog. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Missionary chic

Yesterday Nia was complaining that her booty was showing when she wore of her bathing suits. This is a compound problem-- to begin with, the bathing suit was a little too big, but then also, hand-washing (or probably more accurately lineDRYING) doesn't give the elastic the heat to "snap back" meaning all clothing kind of grows...

So-- being the industrious Proverbs 31 woman I am, I grabbed three cable ties, and the suit now fits perfectly-- with a few cute puffs. Or as Nia put it, "it looks like me butt has ears."

Although it's frustrating at times, it's also really fun to learn how to "make it work" here in Haiti.
(And by the way, I would just like to point out that I purchased this swimsuit at the end of last summer at Walmart for $1. Yes folks, $1.)



Monday, July 20, 2009

Mid July HCH Mangine update

Dear Friends and Family,

Too much time has lapsed since our last update, and I am sorry. I have a new resolve to get my updates out on the 1st and 15th! Hold me to it.

One important housekeeping update!
You may have noticed our family website (www.haitianchildrenshome.org/mangine) has changed, and most of our content is gone. This past month the Haitian Children’s website has been redone, as we’ve recognized that HCH is doing so much more than the children’s homes we have! Therefore, we’re in the process of “rebranding” the larger organization as “Joy in Hope,” with Haitian Children’s Home being one of the ministries part of it. Check it out at www.haitianchildrenshome.org.. And also www.joyinhope.org. One of the things we’ve run into with this migration is that right now there is not currently a way to sign up to be on our support team. So, until we can get the rest of the content migrated, please feel free to email us at nick@haitianchildrenshome.org. We can email you all the info you need. We are still looking for people to commit to pray for us and support us financially. Thanks for being patient with us as we work to make this information better and more accessible to you.

This past month has been full of many ups and downs! One of this biggest struggles we faced this past month was that I got very sick at the end of June. I had some labwork done here in Haiti and was told I had malaria and a stomach infection. Even after treating for both, I remained sick. When two weeks of being sick had passed with little improvement, Nick and I made the choice for me to return to the US for a week to get some medical care and rest. It was a nice relaxing time. I am all better and SO HAPPY to be back in Haiti with my family. Many thanks to Nick’s family who took such great care of me, Darla Gallentine, who saw to my medical care, Kris Stoner, who met me in Miami, and Crosspointe, who helped us afford the trip!

We are starting to get into a groove here in Haiti—learning how to do things without calling the Pyes or the Altidors every five minutes. ☺ We’ve hired a woman named Esther who comes twice a week to do laundry. And we’ve also “hired” a coupe local teenage boys., Stanly and Yoslen, to come in and clean up our compound area (under direct supervision, of course.) With so many trees, there’s always a ton of leaves to be swept. They do other odd jobs too—like wash the car, and “fix” the kid’s bikes, clean the drains, and pick cherries, keneps and mangoes. I put the word “hire” in quotes, because we pay them about $1.25 each once a week for a day of work. And it helps keep things tidy around here.

Today is a special day in our family, as we celebrate having Nico in our family for TWO YEARS! Last week we took a trip to his former orphanage to visit his teacher and some of his old friends. We really do think that Nico remembered things a little bit. It was really fun.

As the days and weeks and months pass (we’re currently a week shy of being here three months,) we look forward to December when we hope to be in a place to accept children into our home. The depth of need here is overwhelming at times. We’ve already said, “no” to 11 children.. Everyday we have several people ask us for food or money. Young and old alike. Life is heavy here some days. But it is also very rewarding.

We ask that you’d keep our transition in your prayers. We’re still trying to come to a place where Haiti truly feels like our home. It is feeling that way more each day.. One of the hardest parts of the transition is that our children have been needing a lot of extra attention. At times we struggle to be gracious with this. Please pray we can love them and support them in all the ways they need to be loved and supported while retaining our sanity.! ☺

We love you and are every-thankful for you—

With grateful hearts,

The Mangine 5—Nick, Gwenn, Nia, Nico and Josiah


The new sign on painted on our front gate-- thanks to Jennifer, Carrie and Patrick for their careful attention to detail!

Yoslen, 13, a neighbor boy, helping to "fix" Nico's bike

Stanly, 14, another neighbor boy, with his big supply of kenep

Nico visiting his former orphanage. Pictured here with his old teacher, Jean.

Esther, our new employee who works really hard on our washing!

Gotcha Day-- TWO YEARS!

These next few pics are THE DAY Nico came home-- July 20, 2007! He's so itty...



This was the first week he was home...


This was his GOTCHA day last year-- showing off his new drum (his first gotcha day present.)

And here's my little man today-- we got him a harmonica.

Grandma and Grandpa sent some stickers and a new pair of shoes too... Nico's a happy little chappy.

Nick and I were thinking back over the last two years with Nico in our lives. It certainly all hasn't gone how we had imagined it would go-- in a lot of different ways. But this boy-- this precious life-- has been an amazing gift to us. God has used Nico to teach us so much-- about love and acceptance, and what FAMILY means-- in ways our biological kids simply could not have taught us.

Happy Gotcha Day Nico! There is NOTHING you could ever do to make us love you less...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The rain, heat rash and Gold Bond addiction.

It's RAINING here. For the first time since I've been back in Haiti I think. And the rain seems to have brought with it a cool(er) breeze. Mesi Jezi!

It's been RIDICULOUSLY hot here this past week. Even Haitian people are saying so... it's not just us gwo blan. (Fat white people.) You know it has to be bad when even our HAITIAN son is busting out with heat rash all over him. We expect it from Nia and Jos, but when Nico starts getting heat rash you know it's bad. I am PROUD to say that I am the only Mangine here in Haiti WITHOUT heat rash. People make fun of me for touting Gold Bond so highly, but the proof is in the puddin'. And by puddin', I mean the sticky paste that the Gold Bond powder makes when it mixes with my sweat. (Sorry, I know you didn't need that visual.)

I am experiencing a problem with the Gold Bond though. I am afraid I am becoming a bit of an addict. As in, it's taking more and more to produce the same cooling effect. I worry I am building tolerance to it. I am going to work on weaning... tomorrow. Or maybe this winter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

True (gross) story.

WEAK STOMACH WARNING! If you have a weak stomach, don't read any further... this is a gross story.

The whole family took a walk to the park today. On our way to the park, we saw a goat tied up along the side of the stairs up to the market. Our kids stopped and said hi. Nia instructed her brothers not to pet the goat since he was not our goat (not that we have one) and "we didn't know where it's been." (I love it when I hear my words coming out of her mouth... well, I like it SOMETIMES. But I digress...)

So here's a pic of my kids and the goat.

A close up of the goat, just cause I thought he was a cutie. I loved the white heart in the fur on his head.


We played at the park for about an hour and a half and then returned home. When we got to the same place, the goat was no longer there. Well, upon further inspection, he actually WAS there... just not in the same state.


And this man was boiling his head. Yes, I checked for the white heart in the fur-- it was HIS head...

I have been feeling bad because I have been procrasting buying homeschool curriculum for the next school year. Today I realized that living in Haiti is providing a better education for our kids than any curriculum we could ever buy. :)

PS-- We had a talk with the kids after the fact to make sure our kids weren't too traumatized, and I asked Nia what she thought. She said (and I quote) "it was sad they killed the goat when he probably didn't want to be killed but I still like to eat goats."

*sigh* I cannot wait.

It is estimated that one in every three children in Haiti are malnourished.

One of the very visible signs of malnutrition you see in many many kids around here is the brittle orange hair that is associated with malnutrition.

Today I met this little girl at the park today. She said she thought she was nine but she didn't know for sure.

Another sign of malnutrition is severely stunted growth.

We also met this little girl. Her name is Dada and she is eight. Here she is standing next to Nia, who just turned six. At first I thought there was no way she could be eight, but then I realized she had all her permanent teeth in, and so it seemed likely.

It's hard to live here sometimes because the depth of need is SO great. Our family has already been "offered" 11 children.

Eleven.

ELEVEN CHILDREN.

Today probably AT LEAST a dozen people begged me for food or money. At least. It's hard to know what to do. You feel like a jerk if you ignore them, but it takes so much time to engage each one. And the longer you engage them the more you give them hope that you're actually going to give them something. When you cannot give to everyone. You just CANNOT.

*sigh*

Sometimes I have more questions than I do answers, but I am SO THANKFUL that I get to live in this place. I love living here where I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. And while we've already had to say no to 11 kids-- my heart rallies at the thought of the 20 kids to whom we will be able to say yes in just a few short months. And their little lives will radically change.

I cannot wait to say yes to someone.

I cannot wait.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I have achieved all I have ever wanted to accomplish as a parent.

My children (well, at least two of them) have now been watching Dora the Explorer for the past hour. As in JOSIAH (yes, my SON Josiah), has been sitting still ENGAGED with television.

All I have ever wanted in life was to get my kids addicted to television so I could not let them watch it and bust it out whenever I really needed to get something done. Up until this point, Nia was the only one for whom I accomplished my objective. She is like in TV coma when she's watching. The boys-- not so much. Until tonight. Nico is generally bouncing off the walls, and Josiah goes along with him for the ride.

But tonight Nico is not here. He went to church with his dad. He loves Jesus more than the other kids. They are kind of heathens. Well, Josiah is a heathen. His sister has a whole bunch of mouth herpes that are making her cry and all grumpy, so I told her she could stay home and watch tv until her eyes got red and puss-filled. I was planning on just putting Josiah down to bed, but he got so engaged in the television that I could bring myself to tear him away. Plus theoretically, it means he will sleep later in the morning. Theoretically.

Tomorrow is our sabbath... we NEED it. We're chillin' all stinkin' day long. I went out to get water and diesel. Our truck is headed to Port tomorrow (without us) so we will be stuck in the house ALL DAY LONG! Woo Hoo!

Alright homeboys, outie. I have some great pics to post-- possibly tomorrow...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Visiting the crèche




Yesterday our family (including Naomi) made the trip to visit Nico's crèche. We got to see a few of the kids he lived with, as well as his teacher and a few of the staff members we knew "back then." And then, of course, my favorite thing about visiting was meeting "THE" Vivian. Vivian has been my friend for nearly 4 years. She was also our social worker who helped bring Nico home. As she was visiting the crèche, it was the perfect time for us to return. It was great.

The only hiccup was that the staff wouldn't actually let us ENTER the orphanage. Seriously. They made us sit the whole time out on the steps. I don't know if they were afraid we would steal some kids or something? They let Nico in, but only not with us. It was kind of weird. I am not sure what the reasoning behind the whole thing was-- but whatever, we had fun getting some sun sitting out on the front steps. :) And the kids we met (through the door) were absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS!

I am so glad we went. Nico was a bit hesitant at first, but he warmed up after a few hours. We returned today to kidnap Vivian and bring her out to Croix des Bouquet for a little shopping, and Nico was super happy to be there-- and yelled out the window to greet his ex-teacher, Jean.

All in all it was a great trip. Very worth our drive. (About 4 hours.)

Also stayed at a great "up and coming place." I hope to let you know more about it soon...

The sunrise on our ride through the mountains yesterday.

Nico (Josuè) and "Teacher Jean." At one point Nico and Jean were talking and Nico said to Jean, "Yeah, my name is Josuè." (Which is Nico's Haitian name... I was like, "what the heck?" but I also smiled inside.)

Nico "sitting" all Haitian-like. Haitian kids don't sit Indian style... ehm, sorry, "Criss Cross Applesauce" instead they crouch like this (for like hours at a time...) it's just something inherently "Haitian" about Nico that I have always lovesd. (My other kids are starting to do it too... )

Me and "V" (or "Viv" as Nick and I call her, but only behind her back because she doesn't like to be called that.)

Vivian, one little kid (I AM SO SORRY I CAN'T REMEMBER HIS NAME-- maybe Kenderson?), and sweet Nia. (breaking the rules and actually sleeping on the cool tile floor right in the entryway out of the sun. She's suck a rebel.)

Love this pic...

Nico and his old pal, Witchy (aka JR)

One of the artisans we saw working in Croix de Bouquet on our field trip.
Another one...

A good time was had by all, and when it came to haggling over prices, we were EXTRA GLAD we we had Nahomi with us to "advocate" for our side of the negotiation. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Li la. (It's here.)

I read this article today in the Taiwan News (like you do), that there has been the first diagnosed case of swine flu, err... sorry, H1N1, in Haiti.

I have a theory-- MAYBE I had the swine flu??? Diagnostics here in Haiti aren't really on par with what many of us are used to, so really, there's no way of knowing. I got this before that dude, so MAYBE I could try to fight for a diagnosis and be "that missionary" who brought swine flu to Haiti.

That's it. I have made up my mind, if the results from the dengue test are negative, I am totally starting a rumor that I introduced swine flu to Haiti. I'll say it happened like this:

***************
Gwenn: H1N1, meet my friend, Haiti. Haiti, meet H1N1.

Haiti: Hello H1N1.

Swine flu: Please, please don't be so formal-- call me swine flu... I insist!

Haiti: How nice of you Swine Flu. Great to meet you. I have heard a lot about some of your work just over the border in the Dominican Republic. I look forward to working together with you in the very near future.

Swine flu: It's an honor Haiti. My brain overflows with all sorts of ideas and I visit with you, so I am going to cut right to the chase... Your subpar sanitation facilities could offer our kind substantial opportunities for advancement. I don't want to count my chickens before they are hatched, BUT... if we play this one right, it's possible we won't just have an epidemic on our hands, it's possible we could aspire to a higher echelon of disease-- PANDEMIC!

Haiti: Really? A Pandemic? You think we could really have a pandemic on our hands? Well, sounds good to me... I will have my people in touch with your people and we'll see what we can work out. And oh, Gwenn Mangine, thank you for the introduction. This could really end up being something-- don't worry, we won't forget to give you the credit.

Curtain closes
**************

The end.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nahomi's new curtains

Thanks to my mother-in-law and her friend, Lisa, Nahomi has new curtains for her ti kay (little house.) She is TICKLED to death to have these curtains. And her friend (and fellow HCH employee) Anit, came over today to help hang the curtains and she said that now Nahomi's house looks better than mine. :) That tickled ME.

Here's a few pics-- I LOVE that the curtains match her little shutters-- as if it was planned that way!




Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wardrobe malfunction

I had a wardrobe malfunction today. Not as in Janet Jackson's famous incident (which, don't google if you're not familiar with the story... this is a family blog people) but equally mortifying.

People here get dressed up for church. As I was getting ready for church this morning I realized I don't really have many dresses. I have lots of skirts and lots of t-shirts that I wear with them, but not a whole lot of dressy, "church" clothes.

So this morning, I got dressed (of course I had Nahomi iron all our outfits. She SWEARS she loves to iron, so hey, no sweat, know what I mean? The lady likes to iron-- pa gen pwoblem as far as I am concerned.) So I dressed in a dress shirt with a CUTE pair of capri's underneath. They were denim, but a bit fancyish, and around these parts, jeans can be REALLY dressy.

What I failed to realize is that NO women, I mean NO women (as in not one single one) wear pants or shorts to church. (or capris) I hadn't really thought about it too much because when we lived in Port au Prince, lots of women wore pants/capris, whatever to church. Yeah, not here. Not at all. Like zero. So I arrive at church all dolled up (I had even plucked my eyebrows AND applied mascara today-- so you know, ALL dolled up. ) I'm looking all cute. I get into church and start singing (well, lipsynching, cause I don't really know the songs.) And I start looking around and I realize EVERY SINGLE WOMAN in the room is wearing a dress or skirt. Little kids, big kids, teenagers, adults, babies, old ladies. Every one of them. Except, well, me.

It felt very uncomfortable. So I did what any self-confident woman in this situation would do... I slinked out the back and spent the rest of the morning upstairs in the children's church area where I could at least spread my rebellious dressing message to a younger, more "moldable" (ie; brainwashable) generation.

They don't call it the "peak of good living" for nothin'--

Today I read that my former home, Apex, NC, was just ranked by Forbes as the 3rd best place in the US to move...

I am proud of you Apex! And hey, you beat out CARY, coming in at #8. Not too shabby.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

a few pics...

My HAITIAN boys..... chowing down on the mangoes. (Which, incidentally, are from the trees in OUR YARD.)

Nia's cake do-over since Mommy was sick on her actual birthday we sort of had a cake fail.

We had the whole HCH team over, sang Hapy birthday and all that jazz... she loved it.

Then we had a "tracing party" where we got the Joy in Hope and the Haitian Children's Home logos drawn up on our gate to be painted. You should have seen the setup-- we had a portable inverter going from the Mazda battery to the projector and computer. The 4 wheeler was the projector stand. To move the logo to the right or left, you had to take the 4 wheeler out of gear and push it whatever direction you wanted. It was quite the party-- the whole HCH team just sat around watching Carrie do all the work.

Nia and Nick watched from perched high above on the roof of the Jimmy...

Night driving.

We went to Friday night church last night. It's in English, which is nice.

But I know I am getting old because I HATE driving home afterward. My night vision is CRAP these days. But in my defense-- Haiti has a lot to do with it, for a number of reasons, which I will now list for your reading pleasure.

Why driving in Haiti at night is bad:
  • It's dark. Which, you know, is bad everywhere at night, but I had to start somewhere. And honestly, it IS darker here, because no one has electricity. So there really isn't any light pollution helping to light the way.
  • People in Haiti are outside a lot, and they too are dark. The combination of the dark night and the dark people makes it really tricky to see them.
  • Lack of streetlights. (Combined with the previous two-- you get it.)
  • Dust. The roads here are pretty bad, and very dusty. So there's a lot of dust kicked up in the process of driving. Headlights reflect off said dust.
  • While, I am on the topic of headlights... Headlights. Some people don't have functioning headlights. So sometimes, people drive with their blinker on instead of their headlights. Not because they are turning, but because every few seconds, it will light their way. Some people have REALLY wack, out-of-alignment headlights, some people only have one headlight leaving you not sure if it's a car or moto approaching. Most people who DO have headlights think they can see better by constantly utilizing the "brights" setting. Which makes it a joy to drive with others around.
  • Motos. Motos are everywhere in Jacmel. They weave in an out of traffic menacing others and causing wrecks.
  • The "roads." I think the fact that I put the word "roads" in quotation marks should say enough. But since I like to over-communicate, here's three descriptors-- potholes, lack of lines, potholes. (Oh, and a fourth would be-- potholes.)
  • Raras. It is not currently rara season now, but you still never know when you're gonna run into one. A cross between a "parade" and a "demonstration," these bad boys usually occur at night and make driving through them a bear. Plus there's the creepiness factor of them. Which is hard to put a finger on. But they are just kind of creepy.
  • Police checkpoints. Now, let me say this-- the US has police checkpoints too. And they are not a bad thing. Just the police checking to make sure everything is on the up and up, your papers are good, etc. But it's kind of unnerving because the police around here carry shotguns. Which, in reality, probably aren't anyworse than like the glocks or whatever that the US police carry. But they are bigger, which makes them look creepier. There are way more of them in Port Au Prince than in Jacmel, and for some reason, in Jacmel they don't unnerve me like they do in Port. (Funny side story-- one time in Jacmel I was behind three UN trucks and then all of the soldiers came rushing out and pointing their guns and hollaring and whatnot. I was freaked out abut then I realized they were just doing some training exercise.)
  • Okay, that's it for now. Can't think of anything else to say... I am sure I will think of more later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

It would not be an exaggeration

to tell you that Nico has probably told me that he missed me 3 dozen times in the 22 hours that I have been home.

It would also not be an exaggeration to tell you that even so, I missed him way more than he missed me.

Being "the mom" has these moments of special grace where you just love your kids to pieces and can't get enough of them-- I am so thankful to be in one of those moments right now.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

an update

Hey y’all.

Many of you have been sending me messages asking me how I am feeling. We’ve kind of been dancing around the topic but we thought it was time to level with all of you. I am actually much better now, but I did return to the US for the last week to get some tests done, rest and try to recover a bit. It had been two weeks of being sick with no relief, and we felt like it was time to return to make sure there wasn’t something serious we were missing. (There wasn’t.) I started really feeling better Sunday afternoon, and have just been “normal old Gwenn” ever since. We’re thankful to live close enough to the US that it is relatively easy to be able to return if necessary. And we’re EXTRA thankful to Darla Gallentine, who took very good care of me.

So why all the secrecy? We weren’t trying to be secretive, as much as we were just trying to create some space for me to be able to rest and get well. Additionally, since it wasn’t time for one of our furloughs (we’ve only been in Haiti for TWO MONTHS, for Pete sake!), I thought it was important to try to avoid engaging with American culture too much. Our family is desperately trying to connect with our new home culture in Haiti, and I was leery about how too much connecting with things here in the US might impact my being able to re-connect in Haiti upon returning. (But don’t worry—I WAS able to see NON-stop coverage of the Michael Jackson drama.) And I did engage in culture enough to purchase some steak to freeze to bring back for fajita night this weekend. Haitian beef just tastes… weird. Kind of like a cow who eats trash all day long. I wonder why that is?

So—as I write this I am sitting in the Miami airport waiting to return home to Haiti. I am SO glad to be going back. I miss my family so much, and was surprised to realize, I missed Haiti too. I am looking forward to being home. I am well-rested and excited to FINALLY unpack my house! (I’ve been sick ever since we moved back to Jacmel so my house is still full of boxes, and just a general mess.)

(Anpil) kudos to my true love, Nick Mangine, who kept all the plates spinning in my absence. My GOODNESS I love that man! Just in case any of you were wondering, he’s BRILLIANT. He was meant to live in Haiti—and I just CANNOT imagine going on this adventure with anyone else.

I have missed him and my kids terribly. Terribly. Especially Nico. He’s been having some adjustment issues with me being gone, and I just can’t wait to squeeze him to pieces when I get home.

Thanks for your prayers. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wow, really?

The past few days I have been reading (again) one of my favorite books of all time, "Mountains Beyond Mountains," which chronicles the life of Dr. Paul Farmer who has accomplished many things on behalf of the "least of these." As a Harvard Medical Doctor, he gave all he had and persuaded to others to do so as well, all with the thought that quality medical care should be a basic human right, regardless of social standing. He's lived and breathed that mantra for the past few decades-- inspiring. READ THE BOOK.

That was just all the backstory-- here's the real story. After reading the book, I was reminded about a time last year when Farmer was on 60 minutes talking about what his organization (Partners in Health) has done and accomplished. And I remembered it to be a really moving piece. So I googled it at found it right away. I couldn't get the video to run since it was from over a year ago, but I re-read the story and yeah, got chills. This is a truly amazing man.

So time goes by and I start reading some of the comments at the bottom of the story. And a lot of them were really great, and a lot of them were getting a bit snarky. Like IGNORANT snarky. Let me offer you the direct quote on this one--
*****
Posted by: The Rock107 May 4, 2008 11:03 PM PDT

Dr. Farmer''s work is a ray of sunshine in a pretty bleak world.

Call me cold hearted but I think his program should include a sterilization program. The 45 year old woman with eleven kids with complications during her delivery infuriated me. No reason on God''s green earth for anyone much less an impoverished person to have that many children.
*****

My own commentary here-- hmmmm, yeah. Interesting thoughts. So provocative. SO IGNORANT. First of all the declaration that "no reason on God's green earth for anyone MUCH LESS AN IMPOVERISHED PERSON to have that many children." Wow. Really, The Rock 107, don't hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

I'd like to offer a meek suggestion-- that it is none of my dang business how many babies anyone does or doesn't have. None. Maybe there is at least ONE reason on "God's green earth" to have 11 babies... I don't know. I'm fixin' to have about 23 before this is all said and done. Just seems really idiotic to me to throw out a blanket statement right at the get go.

Next, I'd like to offer the suggestion, it's just a suggestion, that PERHAPS forcing people into sterilizing themselves in a country who takes GREAT pride in their children and their ability to bear these children would be a tad, well, like a violation of their human rights. This is also a country where 10% of children will die before the age of 4... Parents depend on their children when they are older to care for them. Start limiting that now and what happens to the social structure later?

And not for nothing, but this is a MALE dominated culture. People ask this about Haiti all the time, "a woman knows how a baby happens, why doen't she just stop having babies?" Listen up here people-- this is another culture. There is no "No Means No" campaign teaching boys how to listen to girl's limits. It's extremely male driven, where children are highly aware of sexual things at early ages because of the way women are treated. A married Haitian woman has no say over anykind of intimate relations. They are all decided by the husband. And she has no right to turn her husband down. It's just the way it is. Now, the North American inside of us starts to stand up and say, "Well, that's just wrong. Equal rights for women! No means No! Someone needs to stand up to this!" But that's just the thing-- THIS IS THEIR CULTURE. This is NOT our culture.

So for so many people to make comment after comment about how "gee, Paul Farmer really would have hit the nail on the head with this one if he only forced birth control on people..." it torques me. This is a man who traveled first as an anthropologist to Haiti to learn and know the culture. This is a brilliant mind who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard Medical School and who runs a $50million/year non-profit, while living the majority of his time in Haiti... I am pretty sure that a "forced sterilization program" isn't high on his list of priorities.

It is my (albeit, uneducated) opinion that IF a sterilization program was to EVER be put in place in Haiti-- it needs to come from WITHIN, NOT from the outside in. Because we have a term for things like forced sterilization on a group of (usually poor) people. We call it ethnic cleansing. And it's kind of a no no.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nothing says, "Happy Birthday America!" quite like--

-- this.

What an interesting, interesting world we live in.

Please don't take this at ALL to mean I am not proud to be American. I love America.

Heck, I love Nathan's hotdogs.

I am just trying to picture looking back on this culture (and others as well) as an anthropologist many years from now. And I am laughing to think of what they'd likely say.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Six years ago today--

this dad was born...

THEN:


NOW:

Happy Birthday Nia. And Nick, congratulations on a job well done.