Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dr. Ken, wisdom, heart disease and sin.

I have this friend in Jacmel named Dr. Ken. He's an ER doctor who has lived in Haiti for a couple of years now and recently started a really cool organization called "Surf Haiti." (Check them out here or on facebook.)

Here are a few of my favorite things about Ken--
  • He has a passion for creating community among Christians. He founded Church on the Beach in Cayes Jacmel which is a spot for English-speaking people to come together weekly and worship God in an English-speaking environment. It's a place where we carry each other's burders and share our joys. I love Ken (and his wife, Diane) for opening their home to us each week. It's life-giving. I guess he's sort of my pastor these days.
  • He was the ER doctor for pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton after her now infamous shark attack. (Seen the movie Soul Surfer? That is her.) And yes, I am totally bragging about being friends with a famous person. Ken that is. Not Bethany. I have never met her.
  • He did emergency surgery on my friend Tammi (on a tarp on his living room floor) after she was shot during their home invasion and fished a bullet out of her shoulder.
  • He's just a cool guy. He's generous, humble, gentle and fun to be around.
  • He's got a lot of wisdom. He wrote the book on wisdom. You might think I am exaggerating, but he actually did write a book on wisdom. It's called Wise @ Heart. (You can buy it here in paperback or here for kindle.)
So, here's the thing. Even though I've been friends with Ken and Diane for a while, I only started reading his book earlier this week. I am about halfway through it now and so much of it resonates with my life. About 1/3 of it is stories from his many years as an ER doctor, a third of it is practical application/teaching, and the final 1/3 is reference for how to study the subject (wisdom) more. It's a book that was written from his notes during his Bible studies for the past 20 years or so. He started compiling it so that he could pass what he's learned over the years down to his children.

So-- where am I going with all of this?

I feel like there are some basic concepts about faith and Christianity that he explains in this book using simple medical analogies that were sort of aha! moments for me. My favorite-- meaning most convicting-- chapter so far is called "Alternatives to Wisdom." But that's not what I am going to write about. (I just wanted to make sure you all pay special attention to that chapter.)

The thing that stuck out to me the most was this-- all of us are born with a physical heart and a spiritual heart. And just like when we neglect our physical health we get sick, when we neglect our spiritual heart, we get sin-sick. He uses the analogy of heart disease, talking about how it is the most common cause of non-accidental death in America. He calls sin, "spiritual heart disease."

He talks about the amazing way our physical hearts were created and that "Despite the efforts of the best minds in medicine, man has not been able to produce an artifical "heart" that can come anywhere close to the miracle of the human heart created by God."

When I read this, my mind flashed back to this picture.

In the 4.5 years since I've been blogging, I've probably shared this picture at least 2 other times. It's Josiah right after open-heart surgery when he was 3 days old. And I am not sharing it to be shocking or graphic. I share it because I think it's the perfect example of that quote from Ken's book that I just shared.

Guys-- THIS is what it looks like when we, as humans, try to keep someone alive. It's a MESS. It's bloody and it's ugly and it's graphic and it's shocking. And it's the BEST we can do. Josiah had his surgery by one of the best cardio-thoracic surgeons in the country at Duke... And this is the best he could do. (Which is not to say that he didn't do a good job or that I am not thankful.)

But my point is this-- God, on the other hand, BREATHES and life is created. He just BREATHES and life happens.

Dr. Pierce goes on to share that "Our spiritual heart, also created by God, is even more amazing. It never stops beating. It will live on in eternity lond after your physical heart has ceased to function."

Man. That struck me. I mean, sure, I believe this to be true and I have believed this for a long time. But I see people (me included) working SO HARD and striving for things that are SO temporal. Things that WILL die away. We do so much striving in the name of "beautifying" our physical bodies. (And by that I mean we work towards what society tells is us beautiful. Today. Tomorrow it might be totally different. And we will work for that too.) We put in hour after hour at work to make money to buy more things that will JUST BURN.

Dude. What the heck is wrong with us? Us trying to strive for things that will pass away is really, REALLY silly. It is not wise. We forget that we think we know what we want, and we think that we are creating a better life, but that God BREATHES and there's life. NOT just physical life-- spiritual life.

God has BEEN before there was time. God IS now. God WILL BE forever into eternity. Friends, let us breathe in HIS breath. Let us set our hearts on wisdom... on eternal, LIFE-giving things.

Man, I can't wait to finish this book so that I can re-read it and dig into the study part of it. (And I think you should probably buy it too.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nico love Jesus: Subtitle (When homeschooling doesn't suck)

Today in school we were talking about the sign that we've printed for our school room. I've mentioned this sign before, but to save you the work of looking back to see what it says, here's the text:

Every person is different, and we learn in different ways, at different speeds, and have different gifts. We do NOT brag about our gifts or tease siblings and friends who do not have the same abilities. We USE OUR GIFTS to lift up and encourage friends and family. We do not get angry at those who do work that we cannot do, because they are not doing anything wrong. Ask for help or find common ground.

We started school by reading this out loud (again) because we have one particular student in our class of three who likes to brag about how smart she is. (Don't you like how I didn't mention her name?) :)

Anyhow, after we did that, as a class we discussed what those words mean. I thought about the passage of scripture (1Corinthians 12:14-27) that talks about the body of Christ and how we are all created differently and have different purposes. We read that in the NIrV (which I absolutely LOVE for teaching children, btw.) This is what it says:

14 The body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts. 15 Suppose the foot says, "I am not a hand. So I don't belong to the body." It is still part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, "I am not an eye. So I don't belong to the body." It is still part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can't say to the hand, "I don't need you!" The head can't say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can't do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren't shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don't need special care.

But God has joined together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn't have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

And then as an assignment I had all the kids draw a picture (in their notebook) of something that they were good at doing. Nia made a picture of her doing math. Josiah made a picture of him writing his name. Both were true and both are good things.

Nico's picture was a bit different.

Don't you LOVE that kid!?!?!?

I have said it before that Nico is (by far) the most spiritually sensitive of all our children. His heart is so tender and he's quick to draw spiritual parallels. For example, when our tutor, Zachary's, almost 3 year old daughter died last week, Nico said, "Oh, I no like that. That not good. That make me sad. But I like that she in heaven with Jesus now."

(Yes, he really talks like that. We're working on his grammar... remember, everyone has different gifts. :)

Last week I made the observation that Nico is sometimes slow to pick up new concepts in school and has a hard time with a lot of his school work. But today, when he made that picture, I was reminded that we are all made with different gifts. How gracious God was to give Nico such an eternally valuable gift!

I am a richly blessed mama with richly blessed children!

Gotta go-- I am off to laminate that notebook sheet so that I can keep it forever...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Days off.

Nick and I are in a bit of a dilemma and I'd love feedback.

HOW in the WORLD do you get a day off (like a real day off) when you LIVE in an orphanage and your job is being a parent?

Like really. I want to know if you have thoughts. (Opening comments on the blog for this one... or participate via facebook or email me at gwenn@joyinhopedotorg.)

We're trying so hard to create healthy rhythms but for whatever reason, this part doesn't work out like we want it to. Ever. And it might be making us crazy at times. Nick and I were just talking today about how happy we are that our life isn't a reality show because we'd probably be a) fired or b)arrested. Like maybe not really, but if you edited it right (or wrong, I suppose) and our kids could hear the things we mutter under our breath after they leave the room-- yeah, we'd look awful. And people are constantly telling us how tired we look.

Any suggestions for getting downtime (like real, restful downtime) in the midst of a really, really busy household?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Picture barf

Don't worry, not pictures OF barf, but a barf of pictures from the day.

Our day today included many things-- below you will see some of them. I don't have the energy to figure out something to write, so here is 15ish pics of some of our day. They are wicked out of order... and the captions are kind of lame. (Bet that just makes you feel motivated to read on?)

Schneider is basically happy all the time. Here he's trying to ride Jean Louis' bike.

Nick and I make Sunday breakfast and lunch for the whole Mangine clan these days (25ish) on Sundays. This is us today opening our box of hundreds of frozen Dominican chicken drumsticks to get the meat separated out for meals.

Out at the new "transitional" house on the land, we were able to put some finishing touches on (like a new shower curtain!) and get Yves and his staff moved in for now. I am going to find time this week to sit down and write a bit about how he's doing and how our family is doing with him... but for now, he's in a brand new house on the JiH land. Pray that his first night would go well and that we could use this other location to work through some of the issues in a safe environment for all of the children.

Here's Yves putting away some of his stuff.

Jean Louis bought a goat with his own money. He wants to breed it to make money. He's a smart cookie (and extremely disciplined with money). That will likely happen.

Today when I turned a corner I just loved the beautiful image of these flowers creeping up the side of this old, historic building.

Here, the littles get in on cleaning off Yves front porch.

Today out in Cyvadier we ran into Manita's younger (biological) sister, Odessa. They look so much alike. Odessa is being adopted by some friends of ours... it's great that Manita is going to be able to keep that family connection.

We didn't have a normal Friday night date night, so we snuck away for a quick lunch date today. It was only after we got there that I realized how RIDICULOUS his shirt is. I told him that I was going to check my facebook on my phone on our date if he was going to wear that shirt. In my opinion, both romance killers.

In better news, the newly offered bruschetta at Cyvadier Plaj. Perfection.

Hugues turned 27 tonight. Here everyone is singing happy birthday to him at his party.

Played some Wii with the kids this afternoon. They LOVE the dancing games the best.

Leaving you with this TOO CUTE FOR WORDS pic of my main squeeze and my baby boy.

One more notable thing about today (on a more serious note)--
  • Nick, our staff, and a few of our kids went to the funeral for a small girl (almost 3 years old) who died yesterday, who was the daughter of our tutor, Zachary. Keep Zachary and his family in your prayers.
Bon nwit y'all.

Friday, January 27, 2012

pa za pa

Pa za pa means "step by step."

For the past several months I have been having really, REALLY strong nesting instincts. It's as if I never nested when Schneider came into our family (or the previous 11 kids for that matter) and it's all hitting me at once.

The challenge here is being able to actually find the things you want and then WAITING for them to be finished. And then also you need to be able to afford the things you want. (Although it's not always expensive in terms of dollars-- but pretty much always expensive in terms of frustration! Haiti teaches you patience whether you want it or not!)

Today marks a big step forward. Today is the day when ALL OUR KIDS have a bed to call their own. Not just a mattress on the floor, but an actual BED! (Or bunkbed or crib.)

We had a welder make these bed frames for Josiah and Nico and we picked them up today. The crazy thing is that it was only a TOTAL of $75US for the two beds (we already had the mattresses.)

As I posted on facebook (if you follow me there) we also got curtains for our ENTIRE upstairs now. (We are also looking for some volunteers to provide the fabric and sew some simple curtains for downstairs... email me at gwenn@joyinhope.org if you're interested.)

And tomorrow will be the FIRST DAY in about 6 months where Nia has been in her actual bedroom and out of ours. (More on that tomorrow.)

It hasn't happened quickly, but I feel like after almost three years here in Haiti we're finally making our house feel more like our home.

Pa za pa.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On a moto, episode 10, the mo-tow

This picture here looks like a couple of moto drivers playing footsies. Or maybe he guy in the black shirt is kicking the guy in the orange shirt. Neither are true.

This is a very common phenomenon in Haiti that Nick and I have named, "The Mo-tow." What you're really seeing in this picture is that orange shirt moto driver ran out of gas and so black shirt moto driver decided to give him a tow. (Or a toe, as the case may be.) The driver with gas outstretches a leg and puts it firmly on the peg of the moto without gas (who is driving in neutral) and that way the power of the pusher's bike-- in this case, 110cc-- is powering both bikes.

This maneuver takes skillful driving, especially in Haiti with many uneven roads, speed bumps, etc.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Spent the day in bed. Not sick. Just really bluesy.

Overwhelmed by life.

Hoping the proverbial sun comes out tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

rate of learning

As I sit here writing this, (like this very second,) THIS is my view--

I am at the beach getting in a little writing and supervising my children as they have "homeschool phys ed." This is definitely one of the perks of homeschooling. It also helps that I remembered to bring my camera and I can now tether my phone to my computer to have internet wherever I am. Moving up in the world.

I was very hesitant to latch onto the idea of homeschooling. I've done it before and it's a lot of work. But ever since the robbery, I've not been 100% comfortable with sending my (American) kids out to Haitian school again. I am not saying that I will never be comfortable with it again, but I am just not comfortable now. (The reasons are another conversation for another day.) So shortly after returning to the states in November, we started homeschooling.

When we started, I was surprised that while my kids are smart (don't think I am saying they are stupid), that there was VERY BASIC information about the English language they did not understand our grasp. I maybe sort of dropped the ball on the whole teaching them English thing. (Well not maybe, definitely.) So these past few months have been good for that. And really, we've started to get into a good groove.

And when we got back to Haiti, the groove just kind of stuck. It's not that I love schooling my kids every day... because yeah, I don't love it every day. But I love that they are learning new things and that I am the one who teaches them. It's (without a doubt) more exciting for me to see my boys starting to really pick up reading than it is for them.

An added bonus are days like today-- where we finished our scheduled "book work" pretty early and decided that heading out for a bit of exercise and fresh air would be a good idea. (Plus, Nick was starting go batty with all the kid noise in the house while he was trying to take some down time.) It's quite lovely out here. I ABSOLUTELY love Haiti in January.

In spite of all these positive things I have to say about homeschooling, there has been one distressing thing to me. (And that's actually what I sat down to write about when I opened the computer.)

The problem I am currently experiencing is that my kids are learning at different paces.

I know this is normal, but in some areas, Josiah is getting ready to pass Nico. And it's making me feel really uncomfortable.

I don't know why Nico doesn't seem to grasp new concepts as quickly as Josiah and I know that it's unfair to my kids to not teach them at the level where they are. But still, I do not like the idea of Josiah being "ahead" of Nico in school.

That probably sounds really dumb and like I am overreacting, but I am feeling insecure about this... like I've not done a good enough job with Nico to help him overcome some of his learning challenges. ("Mom guilt" is the pits, isn't it?)

My sister, Gretchen, has this sign posted in her (homeschool) classroom. I love the words. I am going to post it in our home (in English and Kreyol) and make our kids memorize it. And while they are at it, I probably should memorize it too...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Game Name

Newsflash: Nick and I are kind of big geeks. We love boardgames with an intensity that most people save for things like marriage or children.

This past week we invented a new game. It started the other night after playing Sleeping Queens which is a game invented several years ago by my cousin's daughter, Miranda, when she was 8 years old. (Or maybe 6... I can't remember.) Anyhow, Nia, who is 8 years old now, was there with us and I said, "Nia, I'll bet you could invent a game." She thought that was a great idea.

Later that night she came to us and told us she had a name and a premise for a game-- "Adventure Dolls." The premise was that there were paper doll characters that had to collect clothes and gear to go on an adventure. Initially Nick and I were working with her to help her develop her idea. Eventually, however, Nick and I got so distracted by developing routes and strategies that we sort of cut her out of the process (you know, like any good parent does.)

The next several days all we talked about was the game. Nick took his day off working out the math and the details. The basic premise is similar to what Nia had suggested, just a bit more complicated. You are assigned one of 6 adventures (arctic adventure, desert adventure, volcano adventure, ocean adventure, jungle adventure, or cave adventure) and then you have to collect the necessary equipment to complete your adventure. But everyone is also trying to collect their equipment. So you have to collect somewhat quickly so that your needed items are not stolen by other players. There's timing, luck, strategy, and risk involved.

Nick drew it up (by hand so far) and printed up the necessary cards. We tested it twice tonight with Travis and tweaked it a bit. I thought it was great fun for a first go of it.

Nick (who lost twice-- once to Travis and once to me) is re-drawing it again tonight because he's a tad obsessed.

I see us playing this game a lot of times over the next several days and weeks as we continue working out the kinks. It can take anywhere from 2-6 players and so we need lots of testers. If you're in the Jacmel area, let us know if you want to test it with us.

Also, we don't have a name yet. Nick want to name it "Adventuresome." I am not sold on the name. It definitely cannot be called "Adventure Dolls." (And incidentally-- we feel like big losers for not making "Adventure Dolls" so Nick has thought up a junior version of the game to appease our consciences.) But that doesn't solve our naming problem.

So-- here's where I need you guys. What should we name this game?

We are officially open for suggestions.

I have no prize for you. But when we're all rich and famous millionaires, we'll give you public credit for naming the game in the game rules. Deal?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Pancake Man

Nick is the Sunday morning pancake man. A few months ago he started making Sunday morning breakfasts-- either scratch-made french toast or pancakes. Like for everyone in our family. Which, not for nothing, is a lot of people. Usually around 20 on a Sunday morning.

He's got it down to a science.

Mix in small batches to keep them all fluffy.

6 at a time on the griddle.

Store the already cooked ones in a warm oven.

Plate them all to make sure there's enough.

While all this is happening, he uses sugar, water and maple extract to make syrup.

Have a few kids help get them all downstairs and on the table.

Then he needs to make an egg for Schneider's (because there is milk in them and he has a milk allergy) and cinnamon toast for Josiah because there is eggs in them and he has an egg allergy.

A great (cheap) meal-- made with love by dad. And (bonus!) our staff can have the morning off from cooking to get ready for church.

And we just started cooking the big meal on Sunday as well... but that's another story for another day.

I swear, this guy is Mr. Betty Crocker. Except better, because he makes it all from scratch and she uses a bunch of mixes.

Three cheers for Papi Nick and his mad pancake skills!

Hip hip-- HOORAY!
Hip hip-- HOORAY!
Hip hip-- HOORAY!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

brothers and sisters.

Today we were at the beach and I was officiating a seemingly endless number of races between my kids.

As I was watching different groups of kids run up and down the beach I thought about how with the sun low on the horizon, it was impossible to tell what color they were. They were just these silhouettes running and laughing.

And I thought back to earlier in the week when Nick and I took 16 minutes to listen to Dr. King's, "I have a dream" speech. I have listened to it numerous times and I still get chills every time I hear it. But back to today. Today I was thinking about the part of his dream where "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers."

Later I looking through the pictures and telling Nick about my thoughts today. He looked at the pictures and said, "I guess when you look at things in the light of the sun, you don't see black or white." And the first thing that came to mind when he said that was, "When you look at things in light of the Son, you don't see black or white." And the second thing that came to mind was, "Either way, amen."

Friday, January 20, 2012

a few moments of levity

First, let me admit that I am trying to squeak this blog post in before the Ambien kicks in. Blogging everyday has been difficult for me. Not because I don't like to write, because I do, but because I don't like to HAVE to write. Kind of like I felt about the 365 project last year. But now I am glad I finished it-- not that I can FREAKING GET IT UPLOADED... Grr.... (Haiti internet is a sore subject for me right now.) But back to the blog, I feel all this pressure and like nothing I think of to say is interesting anymore. So, even though it's not earth-shaking (bad choice of words for Haiti, I suppose), here's a story from today...

Tonight Nick and I were sitting down with some other missionaries in Jacmel who were robbed about 3 weeks after we were. We shared our stories and re-hashed the trauma. It sounds awful and somber doesn't it? Well, you'd THINK that would be the case, but honestly, the majority of the conversation was filled with outbursts of laughter. Don't get me wrong. We (of course) don't think that the situation is funny. This was (and continues to be) extremely traumatic, but sometimes when you are in a more stable frame of mind and you look back at specific things that happened during tense times... well, they are a bit on the lighter side.

Like how we (during the robbery) we had to ask Nia to translate a phrase the robber kept saying. Incidentally, she didn't know either, leaving the robbers, Nick, Nia and I sitting there as if in the middle of a comedic movie scene trying to act out/determine what they were getting at... "Is it bigger than a breadbox???" It was as if the soundtrack to our robbery screeched quiet while we figured it out and then went back to normal.

Or like this new friend who was telling me that the robbers weren't happy with what they'd stolen in cash and so she asked if she could write a check. That's funny.

Or like how other friends of ours were considering designing a "I got shot for Jesus" t-shirt complete with fake bullet holes and fake blood stains.

I know-- writing these things out makes us seem like lunatics. But I've quoted Emily Sailers saying this before, and I probably will again in the future,

"You have to laugh at yourselves, because you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't."

Thankful for some new friends and some moments of levity in the midst of a really hard reality.

PS- There have been rumors of several people being arrested recently in conjunction with these events. We *believe* that this crazy crime spree is over and that Jacmel is going to go back to its normal, poze (laid back/cool), beach town... (The Southern California of the Caribbean as Nick and I like to call it.) Here's to hoping, eh?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I have started listening to Wanito. Apparently he was in Jacmel on New Year's Eve and he's the next big thing around here.

I really, REALLY like his music. In most of his songs he has a nice mix of acoustic guitar and reggae with a little hip hop and konpa flair. I just like him. Plus I think he is cute as a button. And his lyrics are good too. While this song is not my favorite on the album musically, I love the words in this song... it is one of the best ways I've heard Haiti described-- in a "blockis" (or traffic jam.) Literally and figuratively, this is SO true.

Watch the video-- (the translated words are below.) And if you like it, check out Wanito HERE, on facebook, or buy his album on Itunes.

Blokis (Traffic Jam)

Everyone knows how it is in Haiti
Traffic can make you seriously
miss an appointment
You’re in a car, it’s like you’re walking
Your blood pressure is rising, you’re close to exploding
You try to squeeze through,
but there’s no space so you have to stop
If the sun is hot, I won’t lie to you,
your sweat will drip

You’re lying, saying you’re not too far away,
be a little patient
On the phone, people can’t find you
The line is moving, that’s when
you start to feel better
It stops again, you want to fight the driver
He turns the car off because the gas is burning
He doesn’t have wings in the car to make it fly

Oh my, oh my I’m stuck in traffic
Haiti is a little country of traffic
Oh my, oh my I’m stuck in traffic
Haiti is a little country of traffic
Traffic, I’m stuck in traffic
Traffic, look at how long this traffic is [repeat]

You ask the driver why he won’t take a short cut
This lady says it won’t be good, let’s go
One person arrives at his stop,
he says thanks, you feel annoyed

He takes a bunch of time paying hi fare
By the time he gets off,
the red light flashes again
It’s another involuntary pause, he has to stop
You think, this time I’m just going to walk
But it’s not easy, the route is long,
it’s a lot of walking

The driver who’s bringing you
also wants to get out of traffic
His work day is at risk of being wasted
At the wheel, hot sun, nothing getting done
Getting mad over rude passengers


Traffic- for a little election result
Traffic- each time we’re in line at the immigration office
Traffic- can’t even talk about at the bank
Traffic- each time the ‘Whites’ are giving out food
Traffic- in every government and private office
Traffic- they make you stop until you’re tired
Traffic- in shopping, bending over to find things
Traffic- even in front of the pastries seller …

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Saintcia's birthday

Saintcia is our nanny/housekeeper who helps clean upstairs and helps with our kids. I am going to be honest, Josiah is MEAN to her. I try to make him make it right after he totally is a jerk to her, but most days I am convinced that she is secretly writing a book called, "The Help" about us. Let's just say I won't be eating any chocolate pie she makes for us.

Her birthday was Monday. We didn't realize it was her birthday until that day. Nick quick whipped up a pound cake for her. I found an extra jewelry box that was left-over from the Christmas presents (we received two duplicates) and wrapped it up. We blew up balloons and our kids made cards and paper crowns and origami creations for her.

It was great.

My favorite part of the evening was when she opened her present and Jean Louis said, "Oh wow! Look, they got you a little mini coffin!"


I guess he figures she'll be cremated?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

sleeping with a wild man

Gut level honesty, last night sucked.

After two days of sleeping (relatively) normally, I got struck with fear, terror even, at the thought of trying to go to bed last night. So I didn't even try. I decided I would stay up until I felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. I watched a few episodes of television shows we have on DVD and I wasted time on the internet. Twice I woke Nick up to check on random noises outside that I'd heard. One turned out to be that someone tied up a cow outside our wall and it was just walking around trampling and chewing up brush. And the other time I heard a gunshot in the distance. It was far off in the distance, but I heard it. Our guards didn't hear it which was disturbing to me because I made me wonder if either I was crazy or they were sleeping... but I digress.

Finally, around 1AM I started to feel tired. But then, even though I was really tired, I couldn't make myself go to sleep. Because 2AM was coming. And that was the time "it" happened in October. So I wasn't going to sleep through that time.

I knew that my family would be getting up and going around 4am, so I figured that once they were up I could probably fall asleep. Around 3AM I threw it in the towel and was so tired I decided to go to bed. In the time between 3-4AM, I woke up two times with a racing heart. One time I heard a car go down our road. Our road is a really quiet road-- who is driving around at 3:30am anyway? (In retrospect, it was probably a police officer or UN patrol doing their rounds... but I digress.) The second time was right before 4AM when the city power turned off. There is a little lag between when the power shuts off and when the generator gets turned on. (Like not usually more than a minute.) But last night it seemed to take forever and I sat there just imagining the worst-- how would we defend ourselves if someone came in when it was all dark?

Now, I realize this is all irrational fear. I mean, it might be rooted in something rational deep, deep down, but what it grew into was not rational. I totally admit that. I mean, seriously. We have multiple night guards each night (not going to reveal the exact number) who carry guns. We added a ton of levels of security to our home-- from razor wire, to bars on the windows, new doors, etc.

Rationally, I can tell you with confidence that it is NOT going to go down again like it did before.

But in my heart... Well. I am still scared.

And last night, yeah, it just got the better of me.

So, the ever-gracious Nick, despite being woken up 4 times with me, (and also driving one of Sarah's laboring patients to her clinic at around 11:30), let me sleep until almost 10 this morning. Later in the day, once I was done with schooling the kids, we sat down to try to figure out what we could do differently so that last night didn't get repeated.

We had a bunch of ideas... not going to go into them all, but one of the things we did was rearrange our bedroom so that I am not lying in the exact same spot anymore. The layout of furniture is different-- quite different actually-- almost enough that it feels like a different room.

So after everything was moved around I laid down on the bed to with my computer and Nick came over and laughing said, "You sleeping with the wild man tonight?" I must have looked perplexed because Nick pointed to a statue of Neg Mawon that was laying next to me in the bed.

Here's a (VERY) brief lesson in Kreyol. "Neg" translates to "guy" or "man." "Mawon" has a few different meanings-- it could mean "brown." It also could translate to "in hiding" or "wild." Not wild like crazy, but wild like out in the wild. Like the wild ponies on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. Or in Ocracoke, NC where Nick and I honeymooned. Of course the "wild ponies" in Ocracoke are actually penned up and fed bales of hay... so... what the heck? HOW is THAT wild ponies? (I know, another digression.)

Neg mawon is the term used for a runaway slave. The little statue on the bed is a tiny replica of the famous, "Neg Mawon" statue in Port Au Prince.

Here's a small paragraph explaining the significance from THIS website.
It depicts a slave, blowing a conch shell, while holding a machete in his other hand with a broken chain and handcuff. This is a symbol of slavery and freedom, the conch was used to call escaped slaves to gather while in hiding; the machete was used to fight off the French, and was used to cut down sugar cane; and the broken chains symbolize slaves breaking from bondage and reclaiming their freedom.

So Neg Mawon was in bed with me. I think Nick thought this was part of my plan to stay safe tonight... like maybe I thought Neg Mawon would save me if we got into trouble. (Don't worry, I was irrational last night, but not THAT irrational.) The actual explanation is just that in the moving around of items in the bedroom, I inadvertently ended up with the wild man in my bed.

Not gonna let Neg Mawon stay... one wild man in bed is enough for me. :)

Here's to hoping (and praying!) for deep sleep and sweet dreams tonight... Thinking earplugs will be useful.

Monday, January 16, 2012

(Third Culture) Kids Say the Darndest Things : Episode 5,764 (?)

Let me set the scene.

Yesterday Nia, Sanndy, Prisca, Wildarne, and Manita were playing with dolls. It was very sweet. It's actually quite nice having so many girls right around the same age. They (usually) play together really well and even during the times when they get tired of each other, there's always someone else to play with.

I hopped in the shower and Schneider was toddling around my bedroom. I got out of the shower and Nia bursts in the room and says--

Nia-- Mom! I have a great idea! Can I borrow Schneider!?!?

Me-- Borrow Schneider? What do you mean?

Nia-- Well, me and the girls are playing orphanage. Right now we only have dolls to use, but it would be really fun if we could use a real orphan!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Haiti tired"

Another long but good day. I remember why I always go to bed early in Haiti. I don't know if it's the heat, the humidity, the drama, the children, or a combination of them all (which is most likely) but this place wears you out.

A few months after we moved to Haiti, Nick coined the term, "Haiti tired." He coined a corresponding term around. That term is what he likes to call "US tired."

Let me explain. Nick is (and always has been) an excellent sleeper. It makes me crazy at times but the dude can sleep anywhere. (And usually does... Like even occasionally when driving.) His ability to sleep anywhere and at any time is actually a real blessing as I cannot. So he's usually well-rested enough to let me sleep when I can knowing that he can always make up for it later. (In case you never got the memo-- I totally married up... But I digress...)

So back to "Haiti tired." It's actually easier to describe "Haiti tired" by contrasting it with "US tired" which is mostly a function of it being night time and knowing sleep is a necessary thing. You know that sleep is what needs to happen, so you go to bed.

Contrasting that, "Haiti tired" really isn't a choice. In Haiti, you go to sleep because there is no other option. Your body won't let you do anything else. The exhaustion of the day presses in until you just need to fall asleep.

Well, unless you're an insomniac. Then you're just extra grumpy the next day and it is helpful to be married to someone who is not an insomniac and super accommodating. Like Nick Mangine, for example. But sorry ladies (and gents, for that matter). He's taken.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Home sweet home.

Two months (to the day, I believe) after leaving because of security issues, our family is all back together again.

It was a sweet, sweet, SWEET homecoming.

I have so much I could say but I am BEYOND tired (because I’ve been up since 2AM and all) so I am just going to write one short little cute kid quip and leave the rest for another day.

So we were in the truck almost home. I look in the backseat and Nia is sitting there doing big breaths and shaking out her arms.

“Nia,” I said, “What are you doing?”

She said (perfectly seriously), “I am just warming up my arms for all the hugging I am about to do.”

I am sorry. I know I am her mom and all, but that’s really cute.

Side note: Literally fell asleep a few times trying to get this written out. Gotta go to bed…

Friday, January 13, 2012


So Nick and I have this friend who shall remain nameless. Well, actually, he shall not. It's Andrew Brown. :) Love the guy to PIECES. He is one of our very, very best friends.

He's the definition of an outdoor enthusiast. He goes hiking and backpacking and camping and snowshoeing all the time. But more so than most people who claim to be outdoorsy. He can tell you about all the fourteeners he's "bagged" and a quick look at his facebook will tell you that he's been a lot of different places pursuing this love of nature/God's creation/outdoor sports.

So, as one might imagine, he is very well acquainted with REI. He needs good gear for all these outdoor shenanigans and so he shops there often. Andrew is also from a big family. Nine children in his family. He and his brother are backpacking buddies. And it was his brother (I believe) who coined the term "pretender."

If I remember the story correctly, they were at an REI one day and were talking with each other about all of the "pretenders" in the store. You know, the people who shop at REI but really aren't OUTDOORSY kind of people at all. I am sure you know the type. I liken it to my propensity to laugh about the people who buy Land Rovers or Hummers to drive in places like Cary, NC. (Let's just face it... not much "off-roading" happening there.)

So I was there at REI last night and this super young, hip, crunchy girl ahead of me was checking out (she was buying some $50 climbing gloves) and she knew her REI membership number by heart. Not a pretender. I, on the other hand, was buying a $25 solar shower bag because they didn't stock the tankless propane hot water heater that I was looking for. To all who were around me (myself included) people PROBABLY thought I was a pretender. Because, let's just face it. I am not the hiking/backpacking kind of girl. I think that walking for fun is kind of silly when you can just drive. (Especially up the side of mountains.) So by their criteria, I am probably (no definitely) pretender.

However, upon further introspection--

I am a girl who's worn through 2 pairs of Keen sandals purchased at REI.
I have lived for almost 3 years with no hot water.

I have to filter the water I drink or cook with everyday because it's not safe to drink.

We buy good quality flashlights and lanterns because we don't have power available to us all the time.

We often have to put our truck in four wheel drive to get up our driveway and our brush guards have saved us from a major body repair on the truck at least a dozen times.

I lived in a tent for 3 months along with the rest of the country of Haiti (500,000 of whom are still living in tents-- but that's another post) while we all worked through emotions about going back inside after the earthquake.

I can tell you my top five favorite MRE menus, (and my bottom five too.)

I sleep under a mosquito net every night so I don't get malaria. Again.

My point is this-- I look like a pretender at a place like REI. But the products that I use there are not for some outdoor adventure trip. It's not so I can take my vacation time and "rough it." It's so I can live day to day. Which got me thinking. If I am using these things for day to day life, and other people are buying them for recreation-- who is really the pretender? Just a thought.