Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Interesting concept, didn't LOVE it but had some interesting thoughts...
Really liked this quote, "Jesus knew that many of his listeners believed the old wineskin (or way of doing things) was good enough. They were comfortable with their beliefs and practices, but Jesus hadn't come to patch up old religious traditions. He was offering a new garment, a new wineskin, a way of life that didn't abolish the old ways, but fulfilled them.
The teaching illuminated my own need to remain pliable before God. I realize that I must have a softer housing for my growing faith, one that can flex and change as God is at work inside of me. All too often I find myself clinging to that which is comfortable and familiar, rather than embracing the challenges that emerge with change and growth. Sometimes I shy away from people who have strong views that differ from mine, even though sharing a great conversation... could temper both our viewpoints and deepen our relationship. Why do I run away from strong opinions and potential conflict? Am I too comfortable and unwilling to change? Such a realization highlights the need for the Spirit in my life not just to discern and distinguish, but also to illuminate and invite me to move forward into the fullness of life with him."
I wrote chapter 1 a few days ago. You can read it here-- Chapter 1: This is hell.
Here's the next part. (I am not trying to keep you in suspense. It's just a long story and I can't process it all at once.)
Chapter 2: The Morgue
We started out on the short trip to St. Michel, the local public hospital. Ironically, (and you'll see what I mean in a second,) the hospital is nicknamed by locals, "the morgue" because of the horrific conditions. On the way I called Nick to tell him what had happened. We was in the US for a Board Meeting and we'd had a big fight a few minutes earlier. Suddenly our "problems" didn't seem so big.
I started off the conversation by apologizing and then, sobbing saying, "Anyway, it doesn't matter because I am driving Patricia's dead body to the morgue." Yeah, not so tactful, I know, but I wasn't really in a good state of mind. And besides, Nick is one of those people who I can really cut to the chase with. I can just be me. That was a very good thing for me at this point. He knew how much Patricia meant to me. I remember trying to talk to him on the phone, cry, shift the car, clear the fog from the windshield, and wipe my glasses dry. I had nothing dry to dry them on--so they just stayed all steamy and streaky. (Of all the days I didn't wear contacts.)
We arrived at St. Michel and the whole group of us paraded in shoeless and walked around trying to find someone to talk to. Hugues was still carrying Patricia. Lots of patients were there but we didn't see any doctors or administrators. This hospital had been taken over by Doctors Without Borders last month. I was so pissed off when I couldn't find anyone to talk to. I muttered out loud again. This time I said, "Doctors Without Borders my ASS!" (Sorry for the swear word, that's actually what I said.) I was here with Patricia just a few weeks earlier and all I could think about was how they didn't care for Patricia when she was brought there alive, why would I expect more in her death? We finally headed over to the pharmacy to try to get more information. They looked at us as if we were crazy when we walked in there with a dead baby. They said it had nothing to do with them and that we’d need to talk to the hospital administration. So we headed over there.
Hugues passed Patricia off to a family member and went in to talk to them. I followed. Hugues told me to wait outside but I didn't listen to him. I knew that we had a better chance of being listened to if a white person came in. It sounds ridiculous to say that, but it's true. It's VERY true. But it turned out that it didn’t matter because they didn’t have any place to put her. We were told that ever since the earthquake the morgue there was not operational, so bodies were the responsibility of the family. (Remember, this is the only PUBLIC free hospital in Jacmel. LOTS of bodies since the quake. The UN estimates 3,000 or so.)
I couldn’t send Patricia back to the mud hell of Pinchinat so I asked Hugues if she could tell me which private morgue he thought we should use. I told him I would take care of paying for it, but I wasn’t sending her back to Pinchinat no matter what. The family heard about what we were talking about and jumped in. They insisted that she should not be brought to the morgue. She was too little of a baby for that kind of cost. Instead they asked if I would help pay for the coffin, which they had already commissioned and then we would just get her buried. Of course I said yes. We piled back in the truck and were off to check on the progress of the coffin.
Thanks SO much for your prayers. I heard that Gretchen should be coming home TODAY! (That was quick!) It's been a long 9 days in the ICU with some very scarey moments and hours. She still needs rest, but from what I understand is out of the woods. I am still not clear on if they know WHY this happened. But I guess that part doesn't REALLY matter...
THANK YOU for your prayers. Keep praying for her recovery and her transition back to living with her family.
Can't wait to see some pics of the homecoming...
Love is always,
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I've gotten a couple of questions over and over since I've been in the states and wanted to "publicly" answer them. I figure if a couple of you are asking, several of you might be wondering but NOT asking.
FAQ #1- I thought your furlough was scheduled for mid-April... why are you back in the states now?
- We were originally scheduled for a furlough starting on April 16th. However, as we were walking through life in a disaster zone, we realized for our mental health (especially mine) we needed to move it up. Because our Board of Directors is a fantastic group of people who love us dearly, they also changed it from a "furlough" to a "sabbatical."
FAQ#2- What's the difference between a furlough and a sabbatical?
- This one is easy... on a furlough you need to visit supporters and churches in an effort to drum up/retain financial support. On a sabbatical, you rest and eat and don't have to raise money. Sweet, huh? We need to rest and try to work through some of the things we've seen and experienced.
FAQ #3-- How long are you in the States?
- We are here in America until April 12th. On the 12th we will return home to Haiti.
FAQ #4-- Where will you be during your sabbatical?
- Great question. We don't know. We know we will be in Cary for Easter. Other than that-- everything is up in the air. We'll likely spend time between the Raleigh area and the Outer Banks with our families. We aren't making too many plans and are just going to be staying wherever we can get the most rest. That's the point.
FAQ #5-- With all that has happened in Haiti, are you still sure you want to live in Haiti?
- Yes. Absolutely. We are looking forward to the time we have in the US to get the rest we need. We know it will be difficult or impossible to get that rest in Haiti right now. But we are not just resigned to the fact we live in Haiti, we LOVE living in Haiti. We already miss our children very much and are looking forward to getting home to them...
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Two quick stories from today--
We decided to do a little bit of grocery shopping today. (Well, actually we PLANNED to do a little bit of grocery shopping, but then we took a family nap and it accidentally lasted over 8 hours... so it's in the plans for tomorrow.) We were planning out the foods we wanted to prepare this week and I asked the kids what their favorite American foods were that they wanetd me to buy-- I told them they could have ANYTHING they wanted.
- Nia said, "Shake and Bake" (actually she said, "that stuff you shake on chicken to make chicken nuggets.")
- Nico said, "cereal."
- Josiah said, "spaghetti with hotdogs" (most definitely NOT an American food, but rather a common Haitian dish we have several times a week... see here for the recipe.) I asked him to try again because spaghetti with hotdogs wasn't an American food and he said, "ok, hotdogs with spaghetti." So what the heck, we'll make it.
***********I was getting ready to bathe the kids. (In an ACTUAL bathtub with WARM water-- heaven.) The kids were all taking turns going potty. Nia yells in, "Mom, there's no toulet paper in here!" I come in the bathroom and she's searching all over the back of the toilet.
I say, "Nia, it's right there, attached to the wall."
She looks all around and then finally notices the toilet paper holder mounted on the wall. She looks all surprised and then exasperated. And then says, "Wow. I am not used to this."
Other random things:
- Hoping to have some writing time tomorrow-- am almost finished with chapter 2 of the Patricia story. I miss that baby. A lot.
- The US is COLD. Like FREEZING cold. Wow. Really cold.
- We literally DID take an 8.5 hour nap today. We went to nap at 11AM. Didn't wake up until 7:30PM. Think the family was a little tired? After sleeping through lunch and dinner we were hungry. By 8:30PM we were pulling into Torerro's for some delicious Mexican food. By 10 PM we were home and ready to start watching a movie as a family-- "Where the Wild Things Are." We're going to try to get back on a realistic time schedule tomorrow.
- Gretchen is doing very well. Still has a lot of recovering to do, but is on the mend! She's on some sort of new breathing maching (non-invasive.) She actually talked to her kids on the phone today. They ALL needed that.
- I miss Haiti, but it's very relaxing to be in America where I can take hot baths, eat familiar foods and not have to see broken buildings and refugee camps everytime I decide to leave the house. But I still miss Haiti.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Gretchen is doing fair. She came off the vent this morning and they woke her up. She's very disoriented and agitated and struggling to breathe. I heard word that they think one of lungs is partially collapsed. Jon is very, very tired. The kids miss their momma. They've been separated from her for a week now. Please pray for them.
My Nick Mangine and kiddos are currently en route to the good ole US of A. They've had some bumps in the road in Puerto Rico... am hoping they will be able to arrive tomorrow morning as planned. Should find out more in a few hours.
I haven't had time to write. Been very, very busy being an auntie to Gretchen's kids-- trying to give them special love and attention while we all of is (my parents, me and my other sister, Melody) take trips up to the hospital to spend time with Gretchen and Jon. The hospital is 2.5 hours away, so it's not exactly a hop/skip/jump...
Got tons of stories swirling around in my brain. Can't wait to have the time to write them all down...
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
It's a pretty long story as it was a long day. So I am going to share it in chapters.
Chapter 1: This is Hell
Yesterday it was raining. It had actually been raining on an off for two days. Our trash pile was starting to fester and so I asked Hugues to pack it up so we could go to dump it. He did so and we left for the dump, which is incidentally right next to Pinchinat (the big refugee camp in Jacmel.)
I happened to have some diapers in my backpack and looked down into Pinchinat, which was a mud hole and thought, “With all this rain and mud, I should make sure Babette has diapers for Patricia.” It started raining harder and I almost reconsidered. The mud was thick but I reasoned I would just go and drop some diapers off with just her and then head out quickly. I told Hugues he could wait in the car if he wanted, but he said he’d like to come because he hadn’t seen Patricia in a while.
We walked through the mud and it was so thick it was the kind that swallowed your shoes and pulled them off your feet. We marched onward and headed down the row to Babette’s tent. Weaving our way through ropes and tent stakes we heard a horrific wailing. Someone was screaming. Loudly. As we approached, I realized it was Babette. She was sitting on a cot outside of her tent in the pouring rain. She was wearing no shoes and was covered in mud up to her ankles. Her eyes were so puffy from crying that they were almost swollen shut. Her wailing was loud and intense. And I knew right away that something terrible had happened.
“Babette!” I asked. “Sa ou genyen?” (What’s wrong?) She didn’t answer me but kept crying, almost in a trance. I had to kind of shake her to wake her from her wailing. “Babette, si vou ple, di mwen sa ou genyen?” (Babette, please tell me what’s wrong.) Her eyes focused on me as if she’d just seen me. Between sobs she gasped, “Li mouri, li mouri, li mouri!” (She’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead!)
Already knowing the answer I asked, “Kimoun mouri?” (Who is dead?)
“Pitit mwen. Patricia mouri.” (My child. Patricia is dead.)
Tears sprung to my eyes and I just held her. It was pouring rain all around us and I just held her and she cried and I cried. Someone ushered us into a tent. We sat on a cot and I held her for a while as she wailed. And then, as if a switch was flipped in my mind, my brain started processing all of the next steps. I have this tendency to do that. To just explode with emotion during trying times and then, unable to cry anymore I switch into “action mode.”
“Babette,” I asked her, “Kibo Patricia konye a?” (Where is Patricia right now?)
“Li andann tant mwen.” (She’s in my tent.)
“A kile li te mouri?” (What time did she die?)
“Twa ze de maten.” (3AM.)
I looked at my phone. It was about 10:30AM. Seven and half hours. Patricia had been lying there in the tent dead for seven and a half hours. With the rain and mud and all of children and babies running around, I knew she couldn’t stay there. I wasn't sure what to do. But I knew she couldn't stay there.
I asked her if I could take the baby to the morgue while we figure out what to do next. She seemed hesitant at first as she’d already called a bos to start making a coffin, but she had no idea when it would be done or how she would pay for it. I asked her to please let me find a place outside of Pinchinat to keep Patricia until she could be buried. She agreed that was best. I asked her if she wanted to come with me and everyone around me started screaming, “No! No! No! Li pa kapab ale avek you. Sa pa responsib li!” (No, she can’t go with you. That’s not her responsibility.) This was the first of MANY cultural things I didn’t understand that were about to happen. Babette’s sister, her brother, her neighbor in the camp and Patricia’s godmother also came along.
“I am in hell. This is hell. I am in hell.”
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
She is still in the ICU. Not improving. In fact, as I type this she is being put to sleep and intubated. They expect to have to keep her unconscious for a few days.
I cannot believe this is happening. Well, actually, with all I've seen in the past 2 and a half months, maybe I can believe this is happening.
I am currently halfway through a journey to be with my family in the states. I haven't cried in a few days. Not since the news that Gretchen was being taken to the hospital initially. Since then, I have been overwhelmed with sadness a few times but I have been all out of tears. However, sitting here (freezing cold) in the airport in Miami waiting for my next flight, and it seems like the dame is about to burst and I am going to make up for lost time.
Please pray for Gretchen. Please. Pray.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
So as I have mentioned, I am the proud aunt of a new baby girl, Johanna. Johanna is doing great. I can't wait to meet her.
My sister Gretchen, however, is not doing well. She was rushed to the hospital yesterday after collapsing when she walked outside. Initial tests done at their local hospital indicated that her blood oxygen was low and they believed she had postnatal cardiomyopathy. Gretchen was airlifted to Norfolk. There they determined the problem was not with her heart, but rather in her lungs. They've eliminated some things, but are not sure what the problem is. It's not cardiomyopathy, it's not a blood clot. She has "junk" in her lungs, so they believe to be an atypical pneumonia.
She was admitted to the ICU yesterday and is still there. Because they are not certain of what the illness is, she's not permitted to see the baby and anyone who comes in must be masked and gowned. She's on oxygen and when they remove it, her 02 goes down to the 80% range.
I don't know more details right now. I hate, hate, hate being here when she's going through this there. My mom, Jon (Gretchen's husband), and Johanna are up in Norfolk currently. Jon spent the night in the hospital while my mom tended to Johanna. Jon is extremely tired and hoping to get some rest today.
Please pray for Gretchen to heal. For Jon to have rest. For Gretchen's 3 other kids (Katie, Micah and Abbie) who are at home and haven't been clued in to the seriousness of the event. For my mom and dad as they attempts to stand in the gap as parents for the four kids. And for peace for the hearts of all people involved.
Friday, March 19, 2010
My mom had some great words about her on her blog.
Check them out here:
Patricia, the main baby I visit at Pinchinat (the refugee camp) died at about 3AM this morning.
(I've written about Patricia many times. See here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here... And other times too. I just don't have it in me to find all the posts.)
Please pray for her mom, Babette, as she processes all of this.
I don't have any words.
Actually, that's not true. I have a lot of words. I am just trying to figure out which ones are useful right now...
Thursday, March 18, 2010
- Been quite a day. Started out pretty well with a trip to the beach with the American kiddos while the Haitian kiddos were at school. Not fair I know, but hey, that's one of the perks of homeschooling. Here is a snap of each of the kids from the beach today...
- After the beach and showers I took the kids out to buy some "sa pi bon" which are like Haitian pop ice. There's rumors that they don't use clean water in making them, so I didn't have one personally. Just fed them to my kids. Hey, I figure if they are going to get sick, I might as well not be sick too.
- Hugues made some more shelves for our house today. Jean Louis helped him when he got home from school. For a 12 year old, Jean Louis is an incredibly hard worker and works well with his hands. This time it was bookshelves. I am now excited that tomorrow I will be able to unpack the THREE totes of books I packed up 11 months ago before moving here.
- As the boys were finishing up with the shelves, I started to have kidney pain again. (I passed a kidney stone about a week ago. First time. No fun.) I had some pain yesterday too and it went away pretty quick but today it was persistent and getting worse. After a few hours I caved and took some hydrocodone. That helped. And it also afforded the children several hours of television watching. Which they loved. Sarah (my midwife friend) came over and tested my pee... was a little blood in it... Another kidney stone? Only time will tell.
- Skyped with my mom for over an hour today. Was good to catch up. I would like to personally thank Mr. or Mrs. Skype or whoever came up with this free invention. It makes the life of a missionary so much easier.
- Had a rough day of parenting with Jerry. Kid knows how to throw a tantrum. Hats off (once again) to all you single parents out there. I. do. not. know. how. you. do. it!
- I hate it when I hear my words coming out of my kids mouths. Today I asked Nia to call Nico for lunch. She looks over the balcony, sees him doing something he shouldn't be doing and yells, "Nico, 2 things. First- stop doing that. Second- come up here for lunch." Could have been me. Exactly what I would have said and how I would have said it.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Today is the second day in a row that I instituted a mandatory nap time for my three American kiddos. Nine kids in the house seems to be the tipping number in terms of chaos and I just decided a couple of hours of locked-door quiet seemed to be healthy for everyone... me especially. Yesterday was a brilliant success. I slept for an hour, the kids slept for nearly three-- three kids napping for three hours-- a TRIPLE trifecta.
Nick left Haiti this morning for a Board (bored) meeting in the states and will be gone 5 days. Today seemed like the perfect day to recreate yesterday's nap utopia.
It all started out well.
I put the kids down. They quickly became quiet and I started dozing off myself in bed with freshly-changed sheets. (There is nothing I love more than clean sheets and a well-made bed.)
It was heavenly. As I was drifting off, the thought actually crossed my mind that I am finally starting to get this parenting thing down...
Before I go on, let me back up a little and acquaint you with my son Josiah. Josiah is two-years-old and he is the CLASSIC two-year-old boy. Josiah doesn't do anything without being noticed. He was born two weeks late at 9lbs, 7 oz with a fatal heart defect and a fighting spirit. I remember looking at him in the PICU at Duke while he was awaiting his heart surgery. He was in there with all these teeny, tiny preemies and then there's him. This huge Shrek-like creature pulling all his tubes out and practically popping out of the incubator.
Haitians like to say Josiah has a lot of "lespri" spirit. What they mean is that he's INCREDIBLY naughty, but so dang adorable that you just have to laugh at him rather than get mad. I realize this is a quality that will only get him so far in life. It's kind of cute for a two-year-old to be so strong-willed, it's not so cute for a 11-year-old or a 32-year-old. We realize the work we have cut out for us.
Fast forward back to this afternoon and my perfect nap with my prideful dreamy musings... It was ended prematurely by Josiah's blood-curdling screams. It was the kind of scream that means, "I'm hurt." I bolted out of my room and ran into his room. Josiah wasn't in there, but Nico was laying there in the top bunk with a sly little smirk. This meant one of two things-- either HE had hurt Josiah or (more likely) he'd talked Josiah into something naughty. (That happens a lot.) A bit dazed, I searched the room because I still heard Josiah screaming but didn't see him. It took a moment to register that he was in the attached bathroom. I entered the bathroom and saw Josiah standing fully-clothed in the shower rubbing and clawing at his eyes.
Upon closer inspection, I saw that he had dumped a full bottle of shampoo on his head and it was pouring down his face and into his eyes. The sink was running and there was his little shower bucket overflowing with water so I could tell this was a fairly-well planned out little shampoo treatment. A tiny portion of me felt a tiny tinge of pride that he'd had the foresight to plan ahead for rinse water. Two-year-olds don't usually have that kind of cause and effect thinking. A noble effort indeed.
After being convicted of my pride (for the second time in this story) I immediately grabbed the full bucket of rinse water and began rinsing. I turned the shower on and at the same time used the sink to quickly refill the bucket to work on de-soaping more quickly. (And no, before all you perfect moms ask, it was not "tear free" kids shampoo... I live in a post-earthquake HAITI for pete's sake... we don't have tear-free shampoo here right now. ) Josiah's was miserable and his screeching reached an impressive decibel level I didn't know he had in him. A few minutes later he was soaked from head to toe, still fully-clothed but the soap was out of his eyes. They still were very red and were obviously burning him, but he was all rinsed off.
I stripped him of his his wet clothes, dried him off, put on a new diaper and carried him out of my room as I snapped at Nico to "wipe that smile off his face and go to sleep." (Not only does Nico like to encourage Josiah to do naughty things, he REALLY loves it when Josiah gets hurt or in trouble as a result of said naughty thing. We're aware of the work we have cut out for ourselves in "shaping" him to0...)
Josiah laid in my arms on my clean fresh sheets and just whimpered a bit until he fell asleep. All of that trouble-making tends to make one drowsy. And as I laid beside him looking at his red, blotchy, sleeping face, I couldn't help but see how incredibly often I am Josiah.
I really am a trouble-maker deep down in my heart. I have quite the history of half-baked schemes. Things that seemed like such a good idea at the time. And because I think I am smarter than I really am, I *might* even have some foresight to plan what I imagine are the second and third steps. But generally, I just get myself (and sometimes others) into some painful mess and then just end up standing there, fully-clothed, drenched from head to toe, blinded by the consequences of my sin with nothing left to do but scream for help.
I've been there a lot lately. In the midst of an incredibly traumatic time in my life I am afraid I've surrendered all too often to the whispers and promptings of false solutions and half-baked schemes. Things that seemed like fun at the time (and maybe still seem like fun even though I've already gotten burned.) My hope is that I will somehow be given the foresight to see beyond the second or third step and (to borrow a phrase from Jonathan Bow) "play the scene out" a little further.
The good news is that I see a lot of potential in Josiah. I always have. But like I said, we have our work cut out for us. How much more do I have my work cut out for me? It's kind of humbling to be 32-years-old and really identify with the naughty schemes of a child caught miserably in the middle of the terrible twos.
"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" --Romans 7:24-25a
Josiah sleeping on my fresh clean sheets just a moment ago--yes the sheets are flannel... Notice how the sun shows his fresh clean highlights...
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
And so I asked Hugues, "You know those shelves you helped Andrew make for our depot? Can you make some for our bedroom?" He said sure. I am gonna be honest, I wasn't sure what we were going to end up with as I was pretty sure this was his first project of this sort.
Well, lots of sweat and determination later--
Gotta say, I was VERY hesitant to have a male staff member (a manny, if you will) but dang, so far so good! (Plus, if I put the boys on the top shelf, they can't get down on their own, so... double bonus.)
A few things about Yves (pronounced 'Eve') you might find interesting...
He's a handsome little kid. And I mean all three of those descriptors-- handsome (come on, just check out that smile!), little (he's not super small for his age, but acts young), kid (very much a kid still at this point, doesn't seem to be interested in growing up anytime soon.) It's been interesting to see who he has gravitated to to play with-- his first choice would be Nia. Definitely Nia. He walks around saying to hear when there's anyone nearby to overhear, "Ou se sè mwen." ("You're my sister.")
Nia LOVES Yves. He's a determined swim coach for her and yesterday she when I asked her how things were going with her with Yves being a part of the family she said, "I love Yves so much. And do you want to know why? Because he respects me. And now, because he respects me, the other kids in the house are starting to respect me more too. Before he came, only Fritzie respected me, but now he's made all the other kids start respecting me. Well, all the other kids except Jean Louis." When I asked her to give me an example of how she was being shown this "respect" from Yves, she said that on movie night he fought all the other kids for the delayed start of the film because Nia was still showering. And won. Good on him.
Yves also likes to hang out with Jerry who is 8-years-old, so that surprised me. I thought that he would gravitate towards our older kids-- Fritzie, who is 15, and Jean Louis, who is 12. But that just didn't happen. He hangs with the little kids-- playing and dancing and screeching with them. (Our house is never quiet.) It's cute.
Now, it's not always sunshine and lollipops. Yves has the beggar mentality prevalent here in this country. Upon getting more of his story from Pitit Goave, it's understandable. He has basically been on his own for the past 3 years even before the quake when his biological parents died. He was taken in my another family. (Who was killed in the quake) Unicef, who asked us to care for him after investigating his case calls them his "adoptive family." Understanding the way things work in Haiti and the history he had at that house, I wouldn't choose the same term-- I'd use something closer to restavec. Yves begs for everything, no matter the worth of the thing he's begging for. He just asks and asks and asks and asks. He has to be told no several times before he quits, and in that case, it would seem that we've finally communicated "maybe" and so he tables the discussion for later when he asks again. Can I be honest and say that part is tiring?
He's also VERY, VERY, VERY much in need of attention and physical touch from Nick and I. He always wants to be holding our hand. Or hugging us. Usually hugging us. With LONG hugs. It's likely that he's not been in a situation where he's been able to do this for a long time, and so I EXPECT (and hope and PRAY) that the constant need to touch me/Nick will soon lessen. Can I be honest again and say that part is tiring too? Physical touch is not my strong suit. That being said, we are trying our best to offer him individual attention and the physical contact he so badly craves.
Yves has very much taken to being a part of the family. He likes to say outloud that I am his mom and that Nick is his dad. He greets each kid in the mornings and after school by calling each of them, "Sè mwen" (my sister) or "Frè mwen" (my brother.) And while that's pretty sweet, I also suspect he doesn't all the names down yet.
Okay, I gotta run. I got a needy 2-year-old demanding my full time and attention...
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I am going to try to explain it the best I can...
I remember when I got really sick here in Haiti at the two month mark. Every food repulsed me. Except chicken soup. In the US. Don't get me wrong, before the quake I really did grow to like a lot of Haitian food (cow head soup excluded.) But when I was sick, I wanted chicken soup. Comfort food.
I am afraid the same thing happened but on a much larger scale with the quake. Before the quake, I had a few friendships I was developing with Haitian people. My Kreyol was improving. I could speak/understand pretty well, without having to think TOO much and would often stay up late, hours into the night just shooting the breeze with my staff. Not because I had to, but because I wanted too-- and so did they.
And then the quake happened and in came a large influx of white, English-speaking people. And it became so easier to communicate with them. And I could share more of my heart than my second-grade Kreyol would let me. And besides, a bunch of them (white people) lived with me for some time. It just happened so naturally. We became friends and then, before you knew it, even after they moved out, I pretty much always hung out with them.
I'll bet you can see where this is going.
As it happens in disaster zones, the white people are gone. And I am kind of lonely. And I don't really have natural friendships here left. I mean, how could I? I spent the past two months pretty much ignoring my Haitian friends. I saw it happening and reasoned in my head that it was kind of like comfort food when you're sick. In the midst of a terribly difficult time, I just wanted the comfort of speaking English and didn't really forecast it out.
And so now, here I sit-- 2 months later, my Kreyol sucks-- and yeah, I am just kind of a jerk. A lonely jerk.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Meet my new niece--
Thursday, March 11, 2010
It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor or
black or white or right or left or young or old--
if you have the same disease as someone else
or if you both have a daughter with an eating disorder
or have a brother in jail or had a spouse die
or recently were fired
you have a bond that transcends
whatever the differences you have.
That's what suffering does.
--Rob Bell, Drops Like Stars, pg 65
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
And the other day it hit me… There is so much about what is happening now in Haiti that cries out for redemption. And my soul began to stir with hope because I remembered that we moved to Haiti with the hope—no, the expectation—of seeing God’s redemption. We knew we would, because we already had. We had seen children in Haiti—former orphans and slaves—take their places as cherished members of a family. Redemption. But we also saw a community of people in our own city (Cary, NC) transforming as they saw this redemption. And then we moved here. And we saw it (redemption) more. More here, more there. It wasn’t as easy as we imagined it would be. But it was great. And we felt like we were living the life God had planned and ordained.
And then I think I got tricked into believing that the stakes had changed. That maybe I had gotten taken for a ride. Did God really just pull the ole bait and switch? The need, which seemed unending pre-quake, increased exponentially on January 12. And since then it’s just been one seemingly hopeless situation after another. Just when you think you’ve seen the worst you’re going to see—BAM, you see something else. Something worse. And you just don’t see HOW redemption could possibly happen.
I was fooled into hopelessness because I forgot that our redemption has already been sent.
I don’t understand why this happened. I don’t understand why this happened in Haiti. I can’t see any good that’s come of it. I don’t know if I ever will, BUT THIS IS KNOW—our redemption has already been sent.
This suffering is not news to God. He knows the names of the people in each tent and under each tarp. He knows the names of all the people still buried in the rubble or in mass graves. He knows the names of all the women and children being raped in refugee camps. He knows. And not only does he know he understands their suffering. I truly believe that. And though it seems impossible, he’s felt it to a greater extent.
This is the God who CREATED Haiti and the rest of the world out of nothing. This is the God who spoke light into existence. The God who sent his own perfect son to be the redemption we needed for a world broken by our own sin. I don’t believe that he lacks the resources, the strength, or the will to RE-create Haiti.
Haiti’s president, Rene Preval said this, “We will not try to reconstruct but rather to refound the country.” I get his intent. I actually really like the attitude behind it from a political standpoint. But both options miss the mark if you ask me. Haiti doesn’t need reconstruction or refounding. It needs re-creation. It needs redemption.
So in a way, I’ve come full circle. I still don’t know where everyone is going to go when a hurricane comes. I still see the outlook as mind-bogglingly grim. But at the same time I know what God has done in the past and I know (as the people in my church love to sing over and over and over,) “Bondye kapab fè l anko.” God can do it again.
I said we moved to Haiti with the expectation of seeing God’s redemption. Will I ever cease to be surprised when God meets and exceeds my expectations?
Monday, March 8, 2010
This is really long. I totally get it if you don't want to read on...
Breastfeeding in Haiti is a complex social issue. Now, let me start off by saying that I don’t feel like I have a ton of credibility to speak on this issue. I am not an expert on anything lactation-related. This is just based on what I’ve read and observed as I’ve lived and worked in Haiti. I have a pretty typical “American” view of breastfeeding. I totally think breastmilk is best, but I don’t think formula is poison. I wasn’t an extended nurser of my children. I weaned Nia at 9 months because I was offered a free trip with Nick to Disney World. Was ready to do so anyhow and seemed like (and still seems like) the right choice. Josiah (with his heart surgery + feeding tube scenario) was a different story. Long story short. I pumped round the clock (every three hours) with him for 3 months. I did give Nico (the son we adopted) some breastmilk a few times when he first came home (since I had it for Josiah anyway) and even offered to let him nurse once when he asked to. But he didn’t get it. And it felt kind of weird. So I didn’t continue. I come from a family of extended breastfeeders. My sisters both nursed their babies past the age of 2—totally doesn’t weird me out and I see the health benefits. You simply can’t argue with them. Different strokes. So that’s my view on American breastfeeding. I really don’t have a whole lot of passion that’s wrapped up in discussing it.
Breastfeeding in Haiti is a totally different thing. I am sort of a lactivist here in Haiti. I’ve talked to a lot of Haitian mamas, a bunch of Haitian healthcare workers and read a lot about breastfeeding in Haiti, because I think it’s one of the biggest social issues we face here. There are a lot of social pressures and superstitions that prevent babies being nursed. Here’s a few very common “folk beliefs” about breastfeeding in Haiti that are widespread and culturally accepted as true. (All the quotes below are taken from “Third-World Folk Beliefs and Practices: Haitian Medical Anthropology” put out by the Institute of Haitian Studies, University of Kansas.)
Superstition #1—Colostrum is poisonous
“Colostum (lèt jòn) is regarded with great suspicion; to be expressed and disposed of.” (pg 103) In its place, “a strong purgative (lòk—composed of ingredients such as crude castor oil, pork fat, nutmeg, garlic, cinnamon, and various leaf brews) is given the neonate very soon after birth to expel the meconium. Some observers believe the lòk so harmful that is a disguised elimination of weaker children. This is often followed by labouyi lanmidon (literally: starch porridge), made with laundry starch, sugar and cinnamon, mixed in water—believed to be a further purgative as well as nutritious.” (pg 94).
So MANY, MANY babies in Haiti miss the nutrient-rich, antibody filled, immunity-providing colostrum. I have heard of this first-hand in Haiti, and also read about this phenomenon in a book put out by Jeanne DeTellis (“A Stubborn Hope”) who lived in Haiti for many years.
Okay, so if that were the only problem, and women were still willing to nurse after their milk was fully in, it wouldn’t be the ideal, but it would still be fine. (Probably.)
But there are a lot of other folk beliefs that make breastfeeding seem like a bad option. Again from the book I mentioned earlier:
Superstition #2—The spoiling of mother’s milk
“Lèt gate or move lèt (spoiled mothers milk) can be caused by an emotional trauma, or even by just one violent argument. The milk then becomes a poisonous substance, and the baby must be weaned immediately… Also can be caused by an interruption of 24 hours or more of breastfeeding.” ( pg 25) It is also believed that this condition can also be caused by sexual intercourse during nursing, “Sexual intercourse should not take place during the nursing period, because sperm poisons the mother’s milk, and thus the baby.” (pg 104) (The author then goes on to say that though this is believed, is rarely honored.)
Superstition #3- Breastfeeding can cause mental illness
“During pregnancy, mother’s milk builds up, distributed throughout the entire body, in the same way as her blood. The nipples later serve as focalizing conduits. Care must be taken to prevent the milk from mixing with any move san (bad blood) which would be harmful to the child, or from making its way up into the woman’s head, which could cause permanent mental illness.” (pg 24) (Side note: I personally know a woman who is mentally ill here in Jacmel that people claim happened in this way.)
Superstition #4- Worms
“Mother’s milk can cause worms in a child. When breastfeeding ends, the worms go away.” (pg 25)
Superstition #5- You can't nurse while pregnant
“If a mother becomes pregnant again while still nursing, her milk from then on must be reserved for the fetus. Should the child which was being nursed then try to “steal” any of her milk, this child will become sick.” (pg 103)
Okay, now onto a whole OTHER side of the issue—the “free” factor. Generally in Haiti (and I don’t have a quote to back this up, but I do have TONS of anecdotal evidence) when you give something away people will generally want it, but there’s a perception that something free is insuperior to something you have to pay for. This is why many clinics (even for the very poor) will charge a very nominal fee for medical care. For some reason, it seems that Haitians feel that something they pay for is worth more. Therefore, it is reasoned by many that if you have to PAY for formula, it MUST be better than breastmilk, which is free. And so therefore, it also becomes very much a social status thing. People who can afford formula usually will give this to their babies rather than breastfeeding them.
This presents TONS of problems. Especially in a country like Haiti (or really any developing country) where people see starving children and want to “help.” Therefore, (get ready for a big generalization) white people come in with their week-long “white people clinics” (as a fellow ex-pat here calls them) and give out free formula to babies who are malnourished.
In my opinion, this is the ABSOLUTE WORST THING you can do. ABSOLUTE worst. Why you ask? Thanks for asking. Let me tell you.
Purchasing formula is NOT a sustainable for Haitian families. (Unless we’re talking about the really, really wealthy ones, and then we’re not really talking about the same issues, because they would relate more to the “American” breastfeeding norms.) Formula is MORE expensive here in Haiti than in the states. And I am not speaking comparatively. It’s LITERALLY more expensive. The same amount of formula purchased in Haiti would be nearly double the cost that you’d pay in the US. (Because remember, it all has to be imported.) But Haiti is not the US. The US is the richest country in the Western hemisphere. Haiti is the poorest—80% of people live under the poverty line, and 54% live in abject poverty (CIA World Factbook). Even in the US, formula is cost-prohibitive for many. It’s not even worth mentioning on the same scale… Essentially NO one here can afford formula.
So, let’s make the direct correlation between the efforts made by well-meaning individuals who are trying to “heal” malnutrition. They give the mom a week or two supply of formula. It’s a “prescription” of sorts—give the baby some extra calories so she can get well. The problem is that the mom starts giving the baby the formula. (And we’ve already established that this mom now thinks that the formula is a superior option.) So she mixes up the formula and starts feeding the baby bottles of it. And she stops nursing. And then her milk starts to dry up. Or, worse she starts believing the following…
Superstition #6—The "Milk Sack" disappears
“It is believed that there is a sack or pocket in babies which received the mother’s milk. When the child is weaned, this sack is supposed to disappear and not take milk again. If the child becomes ill after weaning (as is frequently the case), naturally there is much speculation concerning the milk sack. Sometimes it is thought necessary to give a purgative so that the child will expel the milk sack; the stools are then carefully watched for its presence. If, for example, during the night a child should return to the breast after having been weaned, it is considered disastrous, since (s)he will no longer have a “milk sack” to receive it.” (pg 104)
Now, let’s also remember that in her mind too, it may be very likely that a 24 hour interruption of breastfeeding might cause her to believe that her “milk has spoiled.”
Is the picture coming into focus for you? Providing free formula to ANY mother who CAN breastfeed in Haiti is not okay with me. (Now, yes, there are always exceptions—there are always people who CANNOT breastfeed due to severe malnutrition, AIDS, etc. I am not talking about them.) I feel it starts a vicious process that leads to babies not only NOT being nursed, but also starving to death as there is not a sustainable way to provide them with a breastmilk alternative (ie formula) in the long-term. So instead, moms will begin feeding their very little babies table food (like meat, rice, milk, etc.) all ground up and made into “baby food.” (And in all reality, most Haitian moms will feed their kids this kind of table food very, very early regardless of whether they nurse or not. (As in when they are merely DAYS old—again can give you lots, and lots, and lots of anecdotal evidence that I’ve personally witnessed to this end.)
So it seems obvious—teach exclusive breastfeeding. BUT, believe it or not (sarcasm alert) it’s not just a matter of walking around with megaphones telling people “breast is best.” I mean, come on, the facts are there. Should be SO obvious. (And not for nothing, but exclusive breastfeeding decreases the likelihood repeated close pregnancies, decreasing both mother and infant mortality.) It just makes SO much sense to me. BUT... these are DEEPLY held cultural traditions. Not something you can just come in and change just like that. I am pretty outspoken about it. (Imagine that, Gwenn Mangine, outspoken? I know, right?) Whenever I am handing out diapers in the refugee camp, I pretty much ask every mom if she’s breastfeeding exclusively. I explain the benefits. I explain the risks of not doing it. And most times I just get a glazed look and head nods that tell me they are really not listening and just want me to give them free diapers.
For a while I couldn’t explain to people WHY this is so hard to explain to Haitian people. But then Nick helped me think of a perfect analogy. Americans are fat. (And yes, I include myself in that group.) We eat a lot of McDonalds. And Wendy’s. And Burger King. And Hardees. (MMmmmmm…. Thick burgers… you have no idea what I would do for one of those things right now…) It’s really bad for us. We know that. And YET, we continue to get fatter. Doesn’t matter how many documentaries are made, doesn’t matter how many studies are released. We somehow believe that eating greasy trans-fat filled food is a good option for us. We must believe that. Because we eat it. And we get fatter. And we make our kids fat. By doing this aren’t we hurting our kids? We wonder why we can’t convince Haitians that we have the best medical advice. But I guess my question would be something closer to this—why can’t we convince Americans (who ARE educated AND know the facts) that we too are killing our kids? We might not be killing them as quickly, but we are killing them with diabetes and heart disease... How is this any different?
So yes, breast is best. I would even go as far to say that in Haiti, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is not an issue of best vs. fine. (Which, I would say, in the States, that’s what we’re dealing with.) Here I believe it’s an issue of life and death. But so are a lot of things here. And a lot of things everywhere.
And there’s no easy answer.
Ok—done with my thoughts on this. My brain is tired. But there are three disclaimers I need to make…
#1—I don’t think week-long white people clinics are bad. They do a lot of good work. They save lives. They are necessary.
#2—There are a lot of good programs in Haiti that aren’t leaving moms stranded and forced to starve their children. Don’t mean to insinuate that there aren’t groups trying to address this. There are two really great women's programs I am aware of that focus on prenatal, birth support and follow-up care. Check them out here: http://www.olivetreeprojects.com/ and here: http://heartlineministries.org/womensprogram.aspx
#3— You might be wondering why I am collecting formula right now if I am so dogmatic about this breast-feeding thing. The formula that I am collecting right now is going to babies who are orphaned (at least by their mother) or to babies with mothers who LEGITIMATELY cannot breastfeed. This is the ONLY option and so being a sustainable supply for orphaned babies to get them through their first year seems like a good plan. Especially in light of the number of newly orphaned babies...
Saturday, March 6, 2010
-4:00AM Awake with a racing heart because of a nightmare about being in a plane crash with all 8 kids. (CHECK)
--5:00AM Awake with a racing heart, jumping out of bed because it's really windy and kind of sounded like an earthquake. (It wasn't, it was just windy.) Get up get out of bed. (CHECK)
- Morning (before kids wake up)-- computer time, answer emails, etc. (CHECK... Nia just got up. SORRY if I didn't get to your email.)
- After kids wake up, make coffee and a concerted effort to connect with them before leaving. (CHECK)
- 8:45 leave for team housing with 4 empty backpacks and Nick and Hugues in tow.(CHECK)
- Arrive at team housing. Fill the 4 backpacks with diapers for distribution in Pinchinat. (CHECK)
- Nick stays at team housing to work on his message (he's the pastor again tomorrow) (CHECK)
- I take a husband/wife team out to Pinchinat with Hugues. I will take one of them and Hugues will take the other. ANY kind of distribution at Pinchinat as to be done on the down low... Three white people walking around together attract the masses. If we can split up our white people, then we can not make such a scene. We will still make SMALLER scenes, but some people will be drawn to one scene and others drawn to another, thus breaking up the drama. The key is to TRY to get distribution done INSIDE individual tents. If you cannot, well, you're out of luck. It's hysteria. From what I understand, this brought in 450 diapers-- so that's 45 packets of ten (already separated). I estimate it will take us less than 15 minutes to distribute these. Tops. (I might time it, just for fun.) (CHECK) And yes, caused a riot.
-After we're done at Pinchinat, Nick will be taking them on a walking tour of Jacmel while I stay back at team housing trying to get meds left over from the medical team, loaded up and brought to the medical depot since our KIDS START SCHOOL IN THAT ROOM ON MONDAY! (Can I get a woot woot?!) (CHECK) (And that was a HUGE check because it was a way bigger job than I thought it was.)
-Bring borrowed bunk beds back to our house. (Team housing used them before we could get new beds made for the downstairs room.) This will take probably 3 or 4 trips back/forth. (1/2 CHECK... brought back 2 of the 4.)
- Nick stays at Rue Petion working on the message until he's done. (STILL THERE...)
- I come back here to the house and hang with the kids in the afternoon playing a game I like to call, "Working together to make cleaning up fun." I am desperately fighting against the clutter momentum that has taken over our home since the quake. Tackling piles and bins of RANDOM JUNK is no fun. But necessary. (NOT CHECKED OFF because I ended up adding several items to my list before returning. Made two trips to the depot for medical stuff. Had to buy fixodent for a nanny (more difficult than anticipated.) Needed to buy another nanny sandals. (Again, not a walk in the park.) Went to the hardware store for nails and actually a walk BY the park to see the playablility for my kids. No go btw... Made a trip to the depot, the Pye's and the airport which ended in tears--mine. I don't have a problem with authority. I have a problem with the airport authority.)
- If all that goes well, I MIGHT do something fun with them. My current plan is to see if I can borrow the 4 wheeler and take the kids for rides on the motocross track next door. I am like the cool mom when I do that. If not, it will be something boring, like a walk. I was thinking of bringing them to the playground, but the playground is basically a small refugee camp now, and I don't know how well I can keep my eyes on 8 kids (two of them being white) in the midst of a refugee camp. Hmmmm.... decisions, decisions. (CHECKish. They are watching a movie. Yes, I am THAT mom.)
-Plans for tonight? Well, that will depend on how early Nick gets done with his message. Well, not really. We don't ever do anything good in the evenings because we're all so dang tired. We will go to bed early (by 8ish). And start the morning early again (awakened by another nightmare no doubt) raring to go.
Friday, March 5, 2010
And while I usually don't consider many true and important life lessons to come from Scrubs (with the possibly exception of the guy love song... because, come on, how could you NOT find important life lessons there...)
Anyway, while watching this episode, JD says this thing that makes me make Nick stop the video and rewind it so I can write it down...
Here it is:
"I realize that a little confidence is a good thing. But it occurred to me that too much can get you into trouble, because if you go around plugging leaks all day you're bound to miss one and before you know it, the flood gates open. And something big falls through the cracks."
That is my life right now. I am a crack-plugger. (It's about as appealing as it sounds.) That's really been bumming me out.
And yesterday I decided that I am starting on the track to keep the main thing the main thing. Because here's what CANNOT fall through the cracks--
Monday, March 1, 2010
Keep praying for Patricia. She's covered in scabies and has some sort of fungal infection behind her right ear. I am going to try to bring her some meds tomorrow...
Here's a short video from today:
Rick Smith (our US director) and his wife Lisa are here with a small team. We're holding babies tomorrow and then doing water system distribution up in Citè. Can't wait.