Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fantasy Photos

One of the greatest things to do for fun in Haiti is go to a photo studio and get "fantasy photos" taken. It costs 50 gourdes ($1.25)/pose. And they have some RAD backgrounds and props. Nick was under the mistaken impression that he and Sarah needed fantasy photos for their gun permit. (They actually needed ID photos and profile photos.) I won't bore you with all of his fantasy photos, but just for fun, Nick and Sarah made a "Charlie's Angels" fantasy photo in an orchard. Don't be fooled! It's not actually an orchard, it's just a backdrop in the photo studio. (Although I could understand the confusion.)

The amount that I love fantasy photos has made me make it a new requirement for anyone coming down to visit the Mangine family. Fantasy photos are a mandatory part of your trip. We're going to start a wall of fantasy photos in our home... so... yeah, budget $1.25 into your team fees... cause we're doing it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On a Moto- Episode 11: The beer holder

I think this after-market feature is pretty practical for a place like Haiti, because yeah, while bobbing and weaving through traffic jams, it's important to have a tight hold on your alcoholic beverage.

Which got me to thinking. I know a lot of people who are in to creating new businesses/industries for Haiti. I see where some serious money could be made.

Besides, with room for two cans/bottles, you can offer that as an add-on to your taxi ride.

Dude-- just throwing the idea out there for the taking...

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Men anpil chay pa lou. - Haitian Proverb

(Many hands make the load lighter.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Teach your self a new culture in 100 easy lessons.

I love the book, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons." It's a fantastic book. It's how Nia learned to read. It's how my sister's kids learned to read. Josiah and Nico are doing great with learning to read from it. Highly recommend it.

So for the past couple of years I've been working with individual people here in Haiti (mostly they've been on my staff) with teaching English. Hugues understands a lot of English and really can speak quite a bit of English, but his grammar and pronunciation needed work. So I got the great idea that maybe instead of us working on vocabulary, ESL-type lessons, that we could work on pronunciation. And so I thought of this book because it mostly just teaches kids how to pronounce certain sounds.

So Hugues and I started a few weeks ago. Once you get a dozen or so lessons in, there's a short (sometimes very short) "story" to read that has a corresponding illustration. Before you show the child the illustration, you help him/her read the story and ask a few questions based on the words. You show the illustration. And then you ask some follow-up questions.

For example--

LESSON 18. The "story" says, "That rat is sad."

So the kid reads that and then you say to the kid, "You just read that rat is sad." What will the picture show? (The kid is supposed to answer that there will be a sad rat.)

And so then you show the picture and ask why the rat is sad. The general idea is that the rat is wet and cold. In fact, all three of my reading-age kids (Nia, Nico and Jos) answered exactly that way. They were convinced the rat was sad because he was cold and wet. But not Hugues. He answered that the rat was sad because he was standing next to a frog. Ahh, yes! Makes perfect sense if you know Haitian people-- most all that I've ever met are afraid of frogs.

Onto another story.

LESSON 24: "This is a rock. Sam is next to the rock."

After the kid reads the story you ask questions like, "What is the little boy's name?" and "What do you think Sam wants to do with that rock?"

All three of my kids answered that they wanted to push the rock down the hill.

And then the book says to answer after the kid answers you, "Yes, he looks like he wants to push it down the hill."

But not Hugues. Hugues said that it looked like Sam was clearing a field to plant crops and he had a big rock in his field and the rock was keeping him from the opportunity to grow food and so he wanted to move the rock.

And so I said, "What would you do if you were Sam?" (All of my kids said, "If I were Sam, I'd push the rock down the hill.")

Hugues said, "If I were Sam I would ask my friends to come help me move this big rock because this rock is too big for me to move by myself. And then my friends would come help me and you can see in the picture that the land is good for growing things, so we would make a nice garden." (It actually seems a bit steep to me, but whatever.)

Let me share one more story.

LESSON 26: "The sock is near a man. A cat is in that sock."

Remember the kid reads the story before they look at the picture. So we read the "story." Hugues looks at the picture and can't figure out why there's a sock on a Christmas tree. So I explain the concept of Christmas stockings and how sometimes people give people presents in their Christmas stockings. (He's actually seen stockings before, just never on a tree... which, come to think of it, I haven't either.)

So the questions.

I ask, "What kind of present is in the sock?" All three of my kids said, "A cat."

Not Hugues. Hugues said, "A bad present."

The next question to read is, "Does the man look happy with that present?" My kids all said yes. But Hugues said, "No he is not happy. He is not happy because someone joke him and give him a cat for a present."

And so I read the final question to him which was, "What would you do if you got a cat as a Christmas present?" My kids all said some variation of the fact that they'd be happy because they love cats, but that we can't have one because Nick is allergic.

Hugues said, "It's not a good present, but I would say "thank you God" because we have lots of rats in our house." ;) (I gotta side with him on that one.)

These seem like really silly examples of cultural differences, but the thing that is interesting to me is that it's not like I sat down ready to teach American cultural values. I was just trying to teach pronunciation. But it showed me that even though something might be BASIC and OBVIOUS to me, doesn't mean that is how everyone sees the world. And it reminds me that if we don't even approach the things that I think are basic and obvious from the same view, how could we possibly approach the more complex, important, and LESS OBVIOUS things the same way?

No freaking wonder why I get so frustrated. ;)

Today, in spite of the many challenges we're facing, I am glad that I am a part of this community. I am glad that I am learning new things. And I am glad that I have a long road ahead of me here in Haiti to learn some new basic and obvious realities about life.

"Whiten and Renew Skin"

144 bars of this soap were donated this week.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

the road and the reality of what's on it

I looked out the window as we were driving down a side road earlier today and realized that we were driving over someone's home. Or maybe a business they own, their kid's school, or their barber shop-- it was something.

Sometimes when they are filling in potholes in roads these days they use the "ranble" (rubble) from the quake. I wonder who that person is that owned this building. I wonder where they are now. Have they rebuilt? Are they even alive?

Earlier this week there was a 4.6 tremor felt throughout southern Haiti. It caused much panic in sections of the country. But even more traumatic are the figurative aftershocks that haven't even come close to ending...

Like when I visited a family in Pinchinat this week. Hadn't been there in a while for a lot of reasons.

I had heard a lot of families have been moving out. I cried as I realized there was still a soccer field FULL of tents. TWO YEARS LATER. Still in tents.

Tomorrow (well, later on today I suppose since it's after midnight) Nick and I will go help bury a 7 year old child we knew from Pinchinat who died from long term illness complicated (no doubt) by malnutrition/lack of sanitation. The father of this child died in the earthquake and the mom has been trying to make it on her own since. Now she's very sick as well. Her community-- her community of people who live in an IDP camp in tents-- are rallying around her to try to support her in this time. They are getting services and items donated so that her son can be buried with dignity. Our truck will (again) become a hearse tomorrow as we cross the river to bury another child from Pinchinat. Just one in millions of situations that continue to shake Haiti, figuratively, in spite of the ground being relatively still.

It's true that time helps heals wounds... but sometimes seeing the scar and remembering the wound can be a whole different level of grief.

Friday, March 9, 2012

our little lap dog.

We have the best dog ever. Seriously. Her name is Piman. She's a mastiff, so she's huge. This is her as a puppy--

But now she's about 10 months old and if I had to guess, I'd say 100 lbs.

In spite of her size, she's super, super gentle. (I know that everyone with a big dog says that, but in our case it is true.) Here's her a few months ago giving Schneider a ride--

Piman loves people (especially kids) and, other than her large appearance, she sucks at being a guard dog (unless you count slobbering on people as a defense strategy.) She is the slobberiest dog in the history of the world. And it's not just enemies-- she is an equal-opportunity slobberer.

Piman has always grown up around lots of people, so she's really quite a sociable dog. Her main problem is that she doesn't know she's not a lap dog. It might be our fault. In spite of the fact that Piman is an outside dog, we tend to treat her like a lap dog at times in that we like to bring her with us when we go places.

Her favorite place is the land where she runs free and pretends she's the boss, but I've been known to bring her to the beach to swim or over to a friend's house with me.

This week we brought her to the bay with us to go find sea glass.

Normally she just rides in the back of the golden tap-tap with the kiddos--

But sometimes (like a couple of weeks ago when we were transporting items in addition to our kids) it gets too crowded in the truck so we have to transport her in the moto... As if us bringing our gigantic horse-dog out in public doesn't make us weird enough.

Hey, we may be weirdos, but now at least when people are pointing and taking pictures of our family out in public it's not (only) because of the little white kids that speak Kreyol. ;)