Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Before and After

So.  We had a surprise hurricane this week.  It actually passed Haiti as a Tropical Storm which was more of a rain event.  Or, I should say it is currently passing Haiti as a rain event.  (It's not over yet.)  We got the east side of the storm which packed inches upon inches of rain.

Now, that can be a problem anywhere, but in a country that is 75% deforested, flash flooding and landslides present unique challenges.

How unique?

Here is the river on Wednesday at about 11:00am.

Here it is (same place) a day later.  (About 1:30 pm on Thursday.)

Also worth mentioning-- there has been a constant problem with the river banks eroding whenever it floods (read: rains) in Jacmel.  To help fix that, someone (the government?) has been doing a bunch of work making a wall to reinforce the river bank.  A bit of a bandaid on a bullet wound, eh?  (In their defense, the wall was not yet finished, but yeah, didn't hold the water back so well...)

To quote Steve Concepcion (with Praxis Haiti) on this issue, "This is why attention to the environment matters."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Fun School" welcomes Nana!

My mom is currently winding her way through the mountains on her way here to see us.  We're looking forward to the visit.

Tuesdays are usually my day off, meaning Nick teaches the American kids school that day since I have Bible study in the mornings.  Today he was in Port to pick up my mom so my kids had a bit of a break followed by what I like to call "fun school."  That's where we only do fun projects and I don't worry about what I have written in the lesson plans.  We do things like melting crayons on rocks and painting seashells. (Basically, fun school is just arts and crafts that I want to try.)  But I digress.

Anyhow, one of our "fun school" projects today was decorating the chalkboard to welcome Nana.

Each of the kids got a section of the board to write Nana a welcome note.  I love what each of them wrote-- SO reflective of their personalities.

Nia wrote (in cursive, of course), "Dear Nana, Welcome!  I love you. Love, Nia."

Nico wrote, "October 2012, 23.  I love you Nana.  I baptized.  Happy birthday."

Josiah wrote, "Welcome Nana!  I love you.  Josiah.  Merry Christmas.  Happy Birthday.  Good night Nana! 10/23/2012).

"Fun school" is way more fun than regular school.  Just saying.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thoughts on trying to ride two horses.

After going to bed at a decent hour (9pm), I woke up about an hour ago (11pm) and I am pretty sure that's all the sleep I am getting for the rest of the night.  Insomnia is my nemesis.  Or maybe heat.  It's either heat or insomnia. Or staph.  But I digress.

So, I was on facebook, which, if you have insomnia is a great time suck to make the hours tick by.  Or even if you don't have insomnia.  It's a time suck either way.

So I was on facebook and I saw this really, really pretty picture of some of my NC friends together.  They were laughing and it was just a picture filled with love.  You know those kinds of pictures-- where a moment is captured... amid genuine, belly laughs and where you can just see the love.  Really beautiful.  And tears sprung to my eyes because I wasn't in the picture.  Now, even if I lived back in NC and had never moved here, I might not have been in that specific picture.  But it was the thought of that kind of picture that stung my heart.

Every day and week and month and year that we live here in Haiti is a day that we didn't pass "back home" with the things and people we knew and so deeply love.  Our home church was the place where Nick and I both transitioned from Christians to followers of Christ.  It was there (at Crosspointe) that this seed about Haiti was planted in my heart.  It was there under the loving care of the pastors and elders and staff and friends that this part of us grew and we were able to leave and go into this new place, well-equipped to make this transition.  They cheered us on then and they cheer us on now.  That hasn't changed.

And we still visit.  And we are cared for.  And our dearest friends are still members of that community.  But their lives have gone on in the last 3.5 years just like ours have.  We are developing community here and they are developing community there.  That is great and that is beautiful.  But if I am going to be flat out honest--

I miss belonging in the way that I did back then.

I miss the things that God was doing through the church that I got to be a part of.  I miss it.  And just tonight I realized that I can't have both.  I can't live here and live there at the same time.  I can't be Prisca's mom, and Jerry's mom, and Yves mom, and Wildarne's mom, and Fritzie's mom, (etc.) and still be in the middle of the pictures of the girlfriends in NC embracing. I don't get to go to the weddings and the funerals, to the baby showers and the girls nights out.  I am not on the inside of the jokes anymore.  Which totally makes sense.  Of course I'm not.  I am here, I am not there.  We have our own inside jokes here, too.

But, for some reason, tonight I am grieving that because my heart wants both.  And I see the writing on the wall-- I get how this will end up.  I can't have both.

In missionary training they try to tell you that this will happen.  But yeah, there is no way to prepare yourself for it.

Nick's all time favorite movie quote is from the movie Sweet Home Alabama.  A father is talking to her daughter who is torn between two different potential grooms and he says, "You can't ride two horses with one ass."

Ain't it the truth?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Community and orphan care

There are SO many debatable topics related to orphan care. I thought about listing some of these debatable topics, but we all know what they are, and besides, that's not what I want to talk about.  We all have our own ideas about "the right way" to care for orphans.  So to me, all that matters is that it is a spiritual directive.  Probably every Christian who is involved in orphan care has quoted this verse from James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

There IS a need for orphan care.  It's going to always be a need because we live in a broken world where death is a reality.  So while I know that we'd all like to be more proactive in preventing children being orphaned and abandoned, perfection in that endeavor will never happen this side of heaven.

So, with that being our reality, I appreciate the people in my immediate community who are my peers and colleagues in the pursuit of providing homes to orphaned and abandoned children.  I mean, I REALLY appreciate them.  We are friends with several orphanage directors here in Jacmel who are giving their lives to serve "the least of these."  Now, that phrase "the least of these" tends to take criticism, as if somehow it's an insult.  I will just say this.  I grew up in a country that is the richest in the world.  But I currently live in the country rated the poorest in the world.  These two countries are separated by a mere 600 miles.  But man, that's an important 600 miles.  In those 600 miles you lose 17-25 years of life expectancy.  The poverty line goes from about 12% of people living below $23,000/year to about 78% of people living under $700 per year. (And 54% under $365.)  We're talking about somehow going from 11 maternal deaths per 100,000 in childbirth to 670 maternal deaths per 100,00 in childbirth.  It might be only 600 miles, but it's WORLD's apart.  You are not going to convince me that Haitians are not considered by the world to be the least of these, from a material wealth/opportunity standpoint.  End of story.  (Wow.  Don't know what got into me, sorry...  End of rant.)  

The most important and hardest won lesson that I have learned by living in Haiti (so far) is that we are created to live in community.  We are not created to live alone.  And that has been a big challenge not just for us at times, but also for our children. All of our children.  It's hard for our American kids because, well, there are not a lot of people similar to them here, but it's also hard on our Haitian kids because they are in their second (at least) home and that brings with it attachment challenges.  But recently I am seeing these growing glimpses of hope that are reminding me of the kind of redemptive God we serve.

Lately as we have been blessed with community through our local church here, our kids are entering into community as well.   Last week we had a field day out at our land.  The people from Children's Hope suggested it.  There were four local orphanages represented and we just had a blast together.  And every kid there could relate to one another in some way.  Then there was Karaoke at H&F with a bunch of their kids and a bunch of the church kids.  Earlier this week, my friend Carrie texted me to see if my kids wanted to play soccer today since the kids are out of school. She asked because her kids asked if our kids could play.  I talked to my kids and they asked if Sarah's kids could come too.  So from there we talked to Sarah to get some of her kids out there, and Ginny to get some of her kids out there.  Friendships are forming between these kids as God is unifying relationships between missionaries and ex-pats here.

In our little church community, nearly everyone is a member of some kind of non-traditional family.  (Or at least non-traditional for the states.)  We have Haitian friends.  We have American & Canadian friends.  There are other American kids here that our kids can play with.  There are other adopted children that our kids can play with.  There are other foster kids.  There are multiple girls who have been raped and multiple teen moms.  Multiple kids who've lost parents.  Multiple kids who have been abused.  Multiple kids with HIV.  Multiple kids who experienced the earthquake.  Multiple kids who experienced the robberies.  Multiple kids who were restaveks... I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. And the craziest thing is that alone, these challenging sets of life circumstances all bring with them a huge chance for alienation and loneliness in these kids.  But when these life circumstances have been experienced by peers and friends, they are somehow unifying.  They bring with them the chance for connecting on deep levels and allowing healing/acceptance to take place.

Honestly, there are still times that I get overwhelmed with life here.  Often.  If I could go back in time 5 years ago and talk to myself, I might have done some things differently when first moving to Haiti.  (At the very least I would have listened and observed more and better counted the cost.) 

But, in spite of some of my mistakes, God has been faithful.  Things are what they are.  My kids are who they are.  And having this family that I have, I can't imagine a better place to raise them.  Occasionally I will daydream about just legally adopting all the kids in our home (instead of having guardianship, like we do) and just whisking them away to the states where things aren't so hard.  But those daydreams are short-lived because at the core of me, I know that is not even close to the best thing for my family.  And because it's not the best thing for my family, it's not the best thing for me.

In addition to our kids all playing and sharing life together being good for them, it's good for me, too.  Spending time together in community with our children is helping me get to know their hearts better.  It's showing me how they give and receive love.  It's showing me where they feel insecure.  It's showing me their strengths and weaknesses.  And it's helping with our attachment.  Just today I realized that for so long I've been measuring our kids' attachment by how well they are attaching to us.  It hit me today that I haven't really considered much my attachment to them as a factor in that equation.  When I looked back at it with this new focus, I realized I've grown tremendously in my attachment to them.  Especially in the last 6 months.  I love these kids more and more everyday.  

So thanks to the families in our church who so beautifully LIVE LOVE by welcoming in children in crisis.  Thank you for loving us.  Thanks for loving our kids.  Thanks for walking through our junk with them and thanks for including us in your walking through your junk with them.

 Mostly, thanks for modeling how to point our family towards Jesus, the only true solution for making broken things whole.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Living with Amelia Bedelia

Living with a TCK (third culture kid) sometimes feels like living with Amelia Bedelia.  

Case in point...  Today I was lying on my bed writing for a bit and Josiah came up to me with some flowers he had picked.  His grubby little hand thrust them under my nose for a whiff.  I ooooo'd and ahhhhhhh'd appropriately and then asked him if he'd please put them in a glass of water so that they wouldn't dry out.

He came back, placed this on my nightstand, and was out the door to play again.

Amelia Bedelia, I tell you.

Blan tax.

I spent all last night (my anniversary) at the Cayes Jacmel police station arguing fault about a moto accident that was NOT my fault.

Went back this morning and argued for another half an hour before agreeing that while I wasn't admitting fault, we'd pay 600 gourdes ($15.00US) to the driver for him to replace his rear-view mirror and buy Tylonel and bandaids for his scrapes.  Just to be neighborly.  (And to avoid having to go to court, where we'd both lose out.) We both signed off that this "settlement" legally closes the accident report.

Overall I kept my cool.

In the end, everyone walked away irritated but mostly appeased.

I am still frustrated we paid at all considering our car wasn't even involved in the accident (the guy ran off the road), he was speeding, he didn't have his lights on at night, AND he didn't have a driver's license.  Still,  I was secretly delighted that one of the police officers mistook me for Haitian.  That was almost worth $15.00.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Favorite things- Episode two

Wrote a few weeks ago about one of my favorite things.

I am feeling compelled to write about another.  I think it's a good discipline for me to appreciate the good things I do have because I have a really ugly, greedy flesh that likes to obsess about the things I want, but do not have.  It's weird but I have a stronger pull to consumerism as I get older.  Anyone else notice that?  I feel like the opposite has happened in a lot of people I know.  Guess I am just backwards.  BUT, I digress...

So, without further ado--

Favorite thing #2:
This igloo insulated mini tote.

Sure, it's a cooler, but I have honestly started using it as a purse.  It's cute, and it's sturdy.  (Like me-- cute and sturdy.)  It also can be easily washed and it keeps your phone or other electronics (ipod, kindle, etc) cool, even on a hot day (of which I experience a lot.)  Perfect for beach or pool.  Great for those nighttime hayrides if it's not hot.  It would probably keep your electronics warm in cold weather... I mean insulation can work either way.  I just love the idea of using something so practical and easy to wash.

There are two downsides I see to it being used as a purse. First, only one pocket.  No side pocket so things sort of get all mixed up in there.  But it's not that big, so using it with a wallet would be necessary.  The other thing I don't like is that it has an igloo logo on one side of it, making it obvious it is a cooler. It appears to just be stitched on, but I am nervous to try to take if off in case it's faded underneath.  I think I will live with the logo.

I haven't seen this actual print on the igloo site.  I bought it early this year at like Walmart or something for less than $10.  But I do see the same kind of bag with other patterns here.

If I was Oprah, I'd now be all like, "Everyone is getting them for free!  Mini totes for everyone!"

But I am not Oprah.

So, instead of a free mini tote, you will have to settle for a smiley wink. ;)

Night y'all...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wanna barf? (Subtitle: I have seen it all.)

Nick and I often talk in vague terms about Haiti having a lot of folk lore, home remedies, and old wives' tales.  But sometimes it's hard to think of specific examples.  And often times I think that books like "Where There is No Doctor" seem to over-exaggerate the prevalence and extremeness of home remedies present in the third world.

Precautions like, "To cure a sunken soft spot on the head of a child do not shake the baby upside down" and "Don't tie a crab, pass the hand of a dead child, or smear brains of a vulture (or human feces) to cure a goiter" seem unnecessary to me.  It also seems unnecessary to mention that you should NOT drink a tea made from a dog's tail to cure a dog bite, or that you can't really cure deafness by putting a powder made from rattlesnake's rattle in the ears.

I remember this post I wrote about a year and a half ago about how it was recommended that you drink pee to see if it's sweet to see if someone is diabetic.  I said it before and I'll say it again-- NO FREAKIN' WAY.

However, today all of these precautions seemed perfectly reasonable when the following conversation transpired as Yves limped up to me with a a rag tied around his foot.

Me:  "What happened to your foot?"

Yves:  "Don't you remember that I told you I stepped on a nail yesterday?"

Me:  "You just told me you poked your foot. I thought you'd just stepped on some prickers. I didn't know you stepped on a nail.  Did you wash it with soap and water like I told you to?"

Yves:  "Yes, I washed it.  And then I put some dead cockroaches on it and tied it up in a rag."

Me: (thinking I had misunderstood his Creole)  "Ha ha ha.  What did you put on it?  I thought you said you put dead cockroaches on it."

Yves:  "Yes, cockroaches."


Yves: "Frankie (one of our staff members) told me to do it.  He said it would make it not get infected."

Me: ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?


Needless to say, Yves is currently soaking his foot clean hot water. I am going to SMEAR him up with Neosporin and wrap him in sterile gauze.  I am starting him on antibiotics and he's getting a tetanus shot on Monday.

Also, I am feeling it necessary to gift copies of "Kote Ki Pa Gen Dokte" ("Where There is No Doctor" in Haitian Creole) to ALL my staff.

It's official.

I have seen it all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

3 things I learned today

Today I learned at least three things.

Thing #1-  We need to sweep our bedroom more often.

Thing #2- Perhaps the reason our kids' clothes get worn out so fast is because my staff HANGS THEM OUT TO DRY ON OUR RAZOR WIRE!!! What the heck???

Thing #3-  Nia clearly does not live in Jacmel, Haiti with the rest of us.