Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Haitian Kreyol Made (REALLY) Easy

Kreyol cracks me up sometimes.

Nick used to tell people that if you're trying to learn Kreyol and you don't know a certain word, just say it in English with a Haitian accent and you might be close enough that you'd be understood.

It's totally true.

I have been re-reading my Kreyol textbook from language school (and incidentally, I would do MUCH better in language school these days than three years ago) and I thought I'd repost some of my favorite "Kreyol" words from a list of vocab in the book:

Babay!- Bye-bye!
Biznis- Business
Blackawout- Blackout (one of my very favorites)
Bouldozè- Bulldozer
Djob- job
Èkondisyone- Air conditioning
Entènèt- Internet
Faks- Fax
Faktori- Factory
Gazolin- Gasoline
Gòlkipè- Goalkeeper
Mòflè- Muffler
Otdòg- Hotdog
Pikòp- Pickup truck
Rilaks- Relax
Sidi- CD
Wikenn- Weekend
Yès- Yes

So-- all you people who are wanting to learn Kreyol but can't find a language teacher in the states, I would suggest you take Nick's advice... it might just work.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eating Out.

When it comes to eating out in Jacmel (and surrounding areas) there are a lot of choices, but they pretty much all serve the same thing.

There are usually only 2-3 things to choose from any one day and it could be any of the following:

Fish (with head attached)
Pork (cut into pieces and fried)
Goat (cut into pieces and fried)
Beef (also cut into pieces and fried or, at some nicer places, as a steak)
Chicken (fried-- but not like you and I are used to fried chicken)
Conch (generally grilled)
And *possibly* shrimp/lobster some places

Now, often you will get a 2-3 page menu that boasts of all sorts of exotic things like cheeseburgers, pasta, or ice cream. But most often, the best way to go is to not look at the menu and ask, "What do you have tonight?"

Last night was a perfect example. Nick and I (deciding to stray from our usual Friday night Cyvadier Plage date-- which, incidentally, is the exception to the rest of this post in that they generally have everything on the menu and it's all generally good.)

We picked a place right on the main street in a super-old historic building (read: ambiance) and we'd had good food and service there before.

We arrived at about 6:30PM.

We sat down and about 10 minutes later a menu was brought to us to peruse.

I asked the obligatory question, "What do you have tonight?"

Our server said, "Everything on the menu."

And I said, "Everything?"

And she said, "Well, we don't have shrimp. Everything other than shrimp."

Sounded good to me. I don't even like shrimp anyway. I looked through the menu (2 pages) and said, "Do you have cheeseburgers?"

"Yes," she said.

"Okay. I will have a cheeseburger," I said.

Nick said, "Do you have BBQ chicken?"

She said they did and he ordered that. Our drinks were delivered quickly WITH REAL glass glassware AND ice. Nick and I were feeling pretty victorious. That a restaurant would have what we want almost never happens.

Nick and I had brought some cards and played a few hands. About 25 minutes or so into the wait (which we always plan on being at least an hour), I said, "Hmm. I would really like some lime for my water." (I gave up Prestige for lent.)

So Nick says, "I will go get you some." Now, lime is one thing that almost EVERYWHERE has. They grow all over the place here and are available year round.

Nick walks away and comes back about 3 minutes later with no lime but a menu in his hand. (Mind you... this is at least 25 minutes after we'd ordered.) He dropped the menu down on the table and said, "Try again."

"You're kidding?" I said hopefully...

"No. In fact, we BOTH need to try again."

So, there we were... about 45 minutes into our date back to square one.

This time I ordered the steak and he ordered the fried chicken-- because they had fried chicken but not BBQ chicken??? But he had to go back up to find the waitress to tell her what we wanted. And then he made her go check. And then he verified they had propane to cook the food. (You laugh, but that has happened to us and last night even there was some dispute over whether or not there would be enough, but they assured us there would be plenty-- thankfully there was.)

And then, over an hour later-- Ta Da! We had dinner. My steak was good for the first few bites but then started tasting a bit off but I kept eating it because I figured if it was going to make me sick, I was already going to get sick, might as well get my money's worth. Nick's chicken was dry and had a jerky-like quality to it.

Nick and I were both in relatively good moods last night so we took it all in stride, at the same time coming up with all our plans about what we'd do differently if WE owned the place. (Since we obviously know it all.)

The moral of the story is that if you want to go out to eat in Jacmel, don't go out too hungry or too attached to any idea of what you think you'd might like to eat. Because it probably won't be there. Or, if it is, it might be entirely different than the last time.

Or just stick with Cyvadier Plage. The lambi thai is off the chain.

Friday, February 24, 2012

One for one?

Okay. So I will be the first to admit I am not sure exactly how I feel about what I am about to write. I have lots of mixed feelings.

It all started last week when I was at the Pazapa Karnaval. Well, actually, let me back up. It REALLY all started almost two years ago I was at a conference and I heard Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes speaking. He was talking about the "one for one" movement where whenever someone buys a new pair of TOMS, the company will donate a brand new pair of shoes to a child in need.

Sounds like a great idea, right? How could it not be? The rich partnering with the poor; what an easy way to make a difference!

And dude, a lot of people thought it was a great idea. So much so that they were willing to shell out $50 for a pair (er, two pair) of canvas shoes. (Incidentally, not too dissimilar to the kind I used to buy for $2 at Jamesway when I was a preteen.)

TOMS caught on and became this really vibey thing. When I was back in the states a few months ago I *almost* shelled out the bucks in order to brand the TOMS logo on the back of my heels-- because I wanted everyone to know that I supported companies that helped poor kids... kwim? But I got mixed reviews from my friends-- while some said that they were not very supportive, others said they were the most comfortable thing they've ever worn... In the end, yeah, I figured that if I was going to pay $50 for a pair (er, two pair) of shoes, it would be buying a pair of Keens or Chacos on clearance. I like a supportive pair of shoes, and the terrain here sort of dictates it. (That might sound like I am getting old-- but hey, in just over a month I will be 35 years old, which is CLOSER to 40 than 30. But I digress.)

In short, I passed on the TOMS.

Fast forward to last week. I was at Jerry's school Karnaval and I saw one of Jerry's classmates sporting a pair of TOMS. I thought, "Wow, this is the first time I've ever seen a "child in need" wearing a pair of TOMS."
And then the next day I saw Dada (the little girl that lives with Sarah) wearing a pair. And I said to Sarah,"Wow, Dada's pretty trendy. Look at her sporting the TOMS."

And Sarah was like, "Yeah, someone must have just given a huge shipment of them in Jacmel because they are all over the market for 50 gourdes ($1.25 US)."

And today when I was in the market, I saw first hand she was right.

I bought a pair for 4 of my kids, figuring it was the same price as the cheap flip flops they wear out in a week or two... And probably better for playing soccer.

And then I got to thinking about how it was probably illegal or at least somewhat unethical that they were being resold after being donated. Sure enough this was printed inside.

But then I got to thinking some more.

Haiti doesn't really have a shortage of shoes. There are PILES AND PILES AND PILES for sale (new and used) on practically every street and side street around here. I mean, sure, there's a lot of poor people here. A lot of people run around barefoot. (Like me, for example, I am barefoot as I write this, as are 10 of my 12 children... but it's not for lack of shoes.) And true, wearing shoes will help prevent some diseases and keep kids healthier. So, offering them for free... SEEMS like a good idea-- like it couldn't hurt and could only help. But then again-- try googling "Miami rice." Sometimes it's more complex than that.

So then I wondered about the ethical responsibility of the person receiving the donated goods. I don't have ANY idea what kind of arrangement is made between TOMS and the person receiving the shoes. There may be specific guidelines about the distribution of the shoes. In fact, I am sure there must be or it wouldn't be printed that they weren't for re-sale. But SHOULD there be limitations on how the shoes are used?

For example, what if a Haitian family here had 6 kids and so, therefore, received 6 pairs of shoes but all their kids already had shoes and one of them needed medication. Would it be unethical for them to sell the shoes to buy medicine? So then my mind thinks, but yeah, that wasn't the INTENT of the gift. The gift was to provide FREE SHOES. But if free shoes isn't what's needed and the "free shoes" can be turned into medication, or food or what is really needed... isn't that good?

There are times that our depot (storage shed) is busting at the seams with donated goods, more than we could ever possibly use. (Trust me, it's a full depot is a side effect of being a missionary.) There have been times when I've distributed those items to people to use, but in other cases, I've given them to people to sell. If I have the goods that are just going to rot in a depot, wouldn't it make more sense to give it to someone so that they can try to use it to support themselves?

There are probably going to be a few cases where donated shoes are going to be best used as a part of a school uniform that allows kids (who lack only shoes) to be able to get an education. But not many. And there are probably times where donated shoes would be better sold to purchase what is needed for a particular individual or family. But MOST of the cases will fall somewhere in between those two.

And so there's not a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all answer. A lot of it comes down to case-by-case judgement calls. Which is why I am a big believer in channeling funds to trusted partners in specific communities who are in touch with the needs of the community.

So, while I don't have any particular wisdom to wrap up this post, I will let you know this... Four Mangine kids are sporting new TOMS. I will let you know how they hold up in a third-world environment. ;)

And PS-- no, I won't buy any for you at the market. Not even if you're my family. I have to draw the line somewhere... Go here if you want to buy some.

How hot is it in Haiti?

Dude, it's only February. JUST saying.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Oleson visits!

About two years ago, a sweet grandmother brought her grandson to us because she needed help. The baby's name was Oleson and he was a teeny tiny infant and his mother had died.

For about the next year we provided Oleson's grandmother (weekly) with formula, baby food, and eventually, regular food. After a while, she stopped coming to visit and that was that. I hadn't seen Oleson in over a year.

And then this morning there was a knock on our gate. It was Oleson and his grandmother!

They came just for a visit. He's 2 years old now. He's a happy, healthy, SMART baby! He's walking and talking and dancing and playing... He pretends to read books, knows his vowels (YES, at TWO YEARS OLD!) and pretends to talk on the phone. His long, braided hair is black and healthy (not orange at all) meaning, he's not showing ANY signs of being malnourished.

We had a great visit. My kids ESPECIALLY loved seeing him.

It's amazing how a loving family and good nutrition early in life can help families stay together, even after the tragedy of losing a mother.

Here's a couple of pics from today:

And here are some links to posts from when Oleson used to visit us.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The R word.

So there's this big thing about not calling Haitians resilient. It's kind of a joke amongst people who live here or work here because that's always the word people use to describe Haiti. I didn't see Oprah's show about Haiti this past week, but she apparently used the "R word" too.

But I gotta say, as cliche as it is, resilient is pretty much the word that comes to mind often. Let me give you an example.

I posted something (I think back in December) about our landlord getting shot during an attempted robbery at his home in Jacmel. This was the last of the unfortunate string of robberies/shootings that seemed to terrorize our (normally) peaceful little city for a few months.

Shortly after we were robbed, I remember David coming over to check on us. (This was well before he was robbed-- like maybe a month before.) He came over and the dude was ALL talk. He told us all of the reasons why we were victimized and everything we'd done wrong (like our dog wasn't angry enough, we shouldn't have been so passive, and we were stupid not to have armed guards... which, btw, we now do.) He was also sure to mention that (despite obvious security short-comings in the house) this was NOT the fault of the house. ;) He closed the conversation by saying (quite confidently-- perhaps even cockily), "And yeah, if those guys want to come to my house, I will welcome them. I will welcome them with a douz (a 12 gauge shotgun) and a 9mm. They can come to my house. I will shoot them."

David is not a timid man. In addition to being a landlord, he's a money changer. He is kind of rough around the edges, usually at least a little intoxicated, known for carrying large sums of money on him, and usually armed. But he's always been super nice to Nick and I, and (at least in our dealings) fair. I like him.

So when I heard that he'd been a victim of (most likely) the same gang and that he'd been shot 3 times, my mind immediately went back to his "armchair quarterback" diatribe about all the things we'd done wrong when we were robbed.

But, gotta say, dude was true to his word. He DID indeed shoot them. The way I've heard it told (and that is a BIG GIANT DISCLAIMER that this is Haiti and this is JUST the story I've been told-- but now it's been corroborated by David too, so...) is that there was a heck of a lot of gunfire exchanged. He (David) allegedly shot one of them and (this is a minor (at least) miracle) the police were nearby, heard the rukus, and got there quickly. Three of the robbers were captured. It was a gang from Port Au Prince. Their car was found. They found lots of money and drugs and guns (and crowbars-- something in common for all the other robberies) in the car. David said that his kid was there when it happened and (unfortunately) was tied up by the robbers, but was definitively able to identify the perpetrators at the prison. They remain in custody. (Probably for a LONG, LONG time.) There's a lot of evidence to suggest these were the guys (or at least the gang) behind all of these invasions in Jacmel and, as I mentioned, it's been quiet here since David was shot.

David had surgery in Port Au Prince. He was shot in the forearm and (twice, I think) in the stomach/chest. It seemed touch and go for a while. I seriously have no idea how this dude is still alive. But after a while, we'd heard he was back to work and around town. Nick had been trying to call him over and over to no avail. So-- today, it's February 1 and rent is due for the upcoming year (in Haiti you have to pay rent for the whole year in advance) and who shows up at our door? Yep. David.

Dude looks GREAT. I greeted him and said, "Hey, I heard you've been through a rough time." He pulls up his shirt and has a big nasty Frankenstein-style scar running from about his navel to mid chest. (I'll say it again-- not sure how this dude is alive.) Other than noticably worse handwriting (as he was shot in his writing arm), and, well, the giant Frankenstein scar, he seems to be back to his normal self. Unreal.

So back to the beginning of this post-- resiliency... I can think of no other word to describe the spirit I see in David. I see it in SO many people around here. But since it's so un-PC around here to use that word--

In my experience, I see Haitians as elastic, expansive, hardy, irrepressible, pliable, quick to recover, rebounding, rolling with the punches, rubbery, snapping back, springy, stretch, strong, supple, tough, take-a-lickin'-and-keep-on-tickin' kind of people.

I hope some of it starts to rub off on me soon.

Pranking the kids. And Hugues.