reflections from a month in haiti. 2011.

Published June 2011.

haiti day 1

My intent is to share a couple of pics and some random thoughts whenever I can access the internet...there are just too many thoughts to begin to process.  So let's just start a little project called "two a day"...I hope that I can actually post two photos and a little commentary on a regular basis.

We were unable to purchase the satellite modem prior to leaving the US...so that may be one of our first purchases for the orphanage.  The director lives there when he is in the country and would love the access.  We may hunt one down before we move into A New Arrival...but for tonight we are staying at LePlaza (with free wifi!)

We are overwhelmed at the views we saw today and the potential for what lies ahead.  The boys are adorable...Riky, Stanley and Eclesiaste...More news tomorrow...We are exhausted.

So here is a peek at our day...

haiti day 2

My idea on sharing 2 pics and thoughts per day is going out the window...since I actually snapped 134 today...

Again I am exhausted...both physically and emotionally drained...so bear with me as I share the images from today with minimal commentary.  (Besides...my girlie is writing in her journal and is anxious to hop on the computer!)  :)

The two themes of the day range from continued devastation in this land to the beauty and goodness of the people.

My sister is amazed at the progress in Haiti since the last time she was here, yet many tent cities remain, the destruction is still evident, and recent rainfall has caused further problems.

And yet the goodness and love of so many people shows such hope.  There is beauty in this place and the people we have met are kind and loving and determined.  We spent time at The Apparent Project today and felt the energy and joy of a house full of artisans.  We walked through their neighborhood and saw the homes that they have built.  We spent time with JP's birth mother, sister and his new baby brother Fritz.  Along the way, boys hopped in the back of our truck to give us directions...and Rock patiently drove us throughout the city.  What a blessing.

haiti day 2 part 2

It is 4:30 am...and I am feeling a bit more rested after a few hours of sleep!  :)

But as I try to doze off again, my mind is wandering as I ponder our next big adventure...Rock (the director of the orphanage) has asked us to teach an English class to the children that have been attending the school this year.  These kiddos will be coming to the orphanage on Wednesday to pick up their report cards, so we are anxious to meet them!

English classes?  What a gift!  We have been trusting that there would be a plan...that God would use us and use our gifts...so here we go!  I have been in the business of education for 20+ years...teaching is my love.  Now to create some lesson plans...for a group of students that speak no English... :)

Praying that great ideas will come my way.  Good night.

haiti day 3

Back to my quest of selecting just two pics tonight following another eventful day.  The images and sights we saw today took us on an extreme tour of Haiti, from the street vendors to delightful eclectic decor shops.

But today I will share my thoughts on food and our time with the boys...

FOOD:  Our food experience has been limited as we are currently at the hotel and eating from their menu, so I have had chicken wings, cheeseburger and fries, and room service pizza tonight.  They all tasted amazing after full days of experiencing the city.  In anticipation for the orphanage move, I asked Rock about their meals.  He indicated that breakfast is typically a porridge/oatmeal, lunch is the largest meal of the day consisting of rice and beans and possibly chicken, and they will have an evening snack or supper that may be fruit or a sandwich.  He stated that is why there are few fat Haitians, as they eat most of their food at breakfast and lunch, with a minimal evening meal. (I could learn a thing or two while I am here!  So long late night happy hour apps!)  :)  Today I bought bananas on the street from a sweet girl with a basket full of fruit...we also ate the melon that JP's birth mom gave to Rock...both were DELIGHTFUL!  I am anxious to convince Rock to let us stop and buy some of the food I see alongside the road as we travel...mangoes, bbq chicken, and grilled corn...

THE BOYS:  The highlight of the day was the time spent at the orphanage...Benny from across the road was over playing...and two other neighbor boys joined in....we worked on a puzzle, shared our fruit, played catch, kicked soccer balls around, and shot some baskets.  They were all smiles and full of energy.  Picture taking was a hit!  They wanted to take them...they wanted to be in them...and they wanted to see them.  Everyone was having a great time...we are looking forward to spending the day with them tomorrow.  It will be "report card day" for the school children!

haiti day 4

It was "report card day" at the orphanage today.  Wow. That is about all I can say about that. These kiddos were seriously so darn cute and polite and fun!  The communication gap did not even seem to be a barrier, as we played and attempted to learn names....it appears that all 40 may be returning on Monday for English classes!  Bree will be entering a 3 day "educator in training boot camp" beginning tomorrow (*note...I will be her teacher)...pray for both of us.  Thankfully I received email replies from 2 ELL teachers back home...shout out to Heidi and Marie!  Merci!

Today was also our last day with the Schlecht girlies!  My sis and her daughters return home tomorrow.  It has been such an incredible blessing to share this experience with them for the past 4 days...their gifts of compassion and love for the people of Haiti simply overflows in all that they do.  We experienced a trip of a lifetime, sharing this with them!  From the moment that Eli entered our family, we have been talking about a trip to Haiti...and we will be reminiscing about these moments for years to come.  We will truly miss our running dialogue throughout the day with them and our processing and sharing at night.  Hugs to all three of you!  xxxooo

haiti day 5, 6, 7

Ok...I am not gonna lie...day 6 STRETCHED us beyond words.  We said our goodbyes to family late the night of day 4 and left the hotel to move into the orphanage on day 5.  The kids were so excited to see us and asked about "Lody (Lori), Avi, and Faith."  The sweet staff made us dinner since they knew we "Americans" are accustomed to full meals in the evening...we were treated like royal guests!  (For any of you foodies out there, we had rice with sauteed fish and gravy, with a side of fresh julienned green beans and carrots.)

But sleeping was a bit of a challenge...heat like no other and no electricity (apparently in Haiti, even though you pay your electric bill each month, you just never know when they will choose to put it on)...plus 60 chickens and several roosters living outside our window who began cock-a-doodle-doing at 3:30 am.  Following my 1-2 hours of sleep I awoke with the stomach uglies....grrrr.  I sent Bree on errands with Rock, since she needed an outing and I took 2 tylenol pm's and laid on the floor in Rock's office for a nap.  The hours ticked by endlessly that day....

Thankfully Ms Naomi made us plantain porridge for an evening snack....the electric company decided to put the electricity on ALL night long...and my ear plugs worked like a charm!  I woke up this morning feeling like myself.  Praise the Lord!!!!!

So we began the process of painting!  The classroom is now a beautiful green!  (I will share a true color pic of Bree and Stanley to give you an idea.)  The day was full of blessings...

  • the internet guy came...and went...and came and went...and came again...and now we have internet!  Hallelujah!
  • the boys are charming!  I have begun to say "Hello Riky (or Stanley, or Ecclesiaste)" every time I see them...and now they reply "Hello Sara"  it is wonderful....they wait outside our bedroom door...and peek in our windows...and sit right with us EVERYWHERE we go...we had to kick them out a bit tonight for a little time with the computer:)
  • the food has been an interesting adventure...we had bananas with peppers, onions, and fried herring for b'fast this morn...the boys sit at the table beside us and eat quietly (and then we share our leftovers)
  • the generator kicked in just in time for an afternoon nap....I did a little dance and quickly crawled in bed with my kindle
  • we are masters of Uno...it is a PERFECT game with minimal communication necessary...everyone giggles when the "skip card" is played
  • "working out" with the boys was a blast...they were copying my every move! sweet lunges and step ups and running the stairs...
  • and time with my girlie is PRICELESS...we have had such amazing conversations...I am so grateful to be sharing this experience with her!

haiti day 9 (sorry no internet on day 8)

School started today…wow.  Hmm.  I have 20+ years of experience in education and I will have to say that today makes my job back home feel like a breeze! :) We had 27 students show up and not one speaks English.  Imagine 4 hours of keeping kiddos on task and learning and not being able to communicate…but we did it!  There was a lot of repetition, attempts at Creole (Bree often grabbed our dictionary to make a translation on the spot), hand motions and picture clues…we even found a couple of DVDs in the office to show on my lap top-one with the ABC song and another with addition and subtraction facts to music!  In an era when we as educators are given minimal opportunities for creativity and specific mandates to stick to the curriculum, Bree and I experienced a day filled with extreme attempts at creativity, with whatever materials we could scrounge up.  Our Creole is coming along at the same pace as the kids’ English (which is not saying too much at this point.)  They often talk to us with full conversations and we just smile and nod and answer them in English with our own made-up responses…. :)

On another high point today, we experienced laundry day in Haiti…again a bit more complicated than sorting and throwing in a machine.  We soaked,  scrubbed, rinsed and hung to dry.  The sweet ladies on staff giggled at our attempts and even got right down into our tub to demonstrate the correct approach.  It made me think of GG Agnes and her old bar of soap for laundry.  Miss Celien had much more suds in her bucket than we did with our bottle of Tide.

Time to prepare for class tomorrow…the boys are sitting with us now coloring…we begin and end our days with hugs and smiles!

haiti day 10

Just a quick one tonight...spent my computer time sending an email to my sweet boy back home!  :)

Someone asked about the 3 boys...and yes, it is true, there are just 3 boys living in the orphanage. Following the earthquake, most of the children were able to go to the families awaiting them...leaving just these 3 remaining.  Without adoptions occurring yet (hopefully they will begin soon under this new president) the orphanage is unable to fund the addition of any more children.  The focus has switched to the addition of the school and feeding program.  A website is in the works to assist in further financial support and we are hoping to connect with the developer of this website next week when he arrives in Haiti.

So we are building close ties with these sweet little dudes...as well as the many that come to class each day.

p.s.  On another fun note....Bob cut a bunch of jumpropes for us to take...who knew they could be sooo much fun!

haiti day 12

Here are a few highlights from the past two days… School continues to be an adventure…we seem to add a new student each day…apparently word must be out that the American girls are teaching English! :)  We taught them a rousing game of Duck, Duck, Goose today! You know, kids are kids wherever you may go…you have the ones that are focused and really willing to learn and are helpful and kind…and then you have the ones that are little stinkers and steal your supplies and break the play equipment. We have “lost” all of the soccer balls, busted both kickballs, taped the wiffle balls with duct tape, and we have seen the neighbors jumping rope.

Last night, we took a tour of the land that may potentially be the site of the new orphanage (children’s home.) There are dreams of a new orphanage, where children can live (not necessarily be placed for adoption,) a school, a medical clinic and a guesthouse. The land is beautiful…quiet and remote up a crazy mountain road. We saw many people along the road, walking to get water from the fresh spring…kinda wish I would have had my camera with…hope we can go back out there another day. So great to see the potential and to dream a bit…

But today, let me chat about the food again… Nadege and Sillienne let me experience a little Haitian cooking yesterday. I may try this recipe back home…minus the actual butchering of the chicken on the back patio!

Roasted Haitian Chicken

With a mortar/pestle, combine until in a paste:

  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ chopped green pepper
  • 1 small orange chili pepper
  • 1 cube chicken bouillian

Add:

  • juice of 3 sour oranges (should be available in a Caribbean market in the US)
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • pinch or two of salt
  • juice of a lemon.

Add a whole chicken, cut in pieces. Heat oil in a pan. Add chicken pieces, cover and sauté for approximately 10 minutes, or until browned. Lower the heat and simmer until roasted through.

Please note...this was not from a “recipe,” I just tried to take notes as we worked on this. :)

Bon Apetit!

haiti day 13

Just thought I would share a peek into our morning English class...

 

haiti day 15

Just thought I would share some of the random things that we see when we are out driving around:

  • a goat on a leash
  • a man kicking back in a wheelbarrow-just relaxing!
  • cars, trucks, motorcycles, tap-taps, UN vehicles
  • people EVERYWHERE
  • pharmaceuticals for sale, taped to a bucket
  • live chickens in a basket
  • mountain views
  • stocking caps in 90 degree weather
  • police officers and UN workers
  • laundry strung on a line...even panties
  • cornfields
  • barbed wire around the perimeter of homes
  • remains of political posters plastered all over
  • palm trees and flowering trees
  • girls in frilly dresses and men in suits/ties
  • shoeshiners along the dusty road
  • mangoes, onions, garlic, carrots, bread, sugarcane...and more
  • brightly colored buildings
  • digicel signs and men in digicel aprons selling cell minutes on street corners
  • cows, goats, donkeys, pigs, dogs wandering
  • baskets and buckets and huge bags of rice and beans on women's heads
  • kids in school uniforms
  • trash...in the streets, in full dumpsters, burning in the ditch
  • churches, shops and schools

There is "church" happening ALL the time...not too far from the orphanage...when we are in the classroom preparing for our school day, we hear singing and music...when we are on the computer in the evening, we hear the music.  God is good.  Such a gift to have the sounds of worship as a constant background.

haiti day 17

For several months prior to this trip to Haiti, I began following the Livesay Weblog.  They are a Minnesota family that lives in Port au Prince and works with Heartline Ministries.  Tara (and occasionally Troy) document their experiences and share a true picture of their life in this land.  They have biological children and adopted children and they tell the tales of their family life with honesty and inspiration.

Their blog was probably most influential in preparing us for our time here.  We had a glimpse of what to expect from their posts about the people and the poverty and the work of short term and long term missions.  We arrived knowing that we needed to come with open hearts and a willingness to learn and love.  We left our agendas at home and came to Haiti to become immersed in this life.

Today we actually had the opportunity to meet with Troy and tour the programs and facilities that make up Heartline Ministries.  What a blessing!  He showed us around with kindness and patience, giving explanations as we went.  Heartline’s intent is to provide education and empowerment to women, in order to help them raise their babies and become self-sufficient.  We met with Beth McHoul, one of the founders of this ministry (she has lived and worked in Haiti for 21 years!) and you could immediately feel her passion and joy for her work.  We saw mamas and their babes leaving their child-development class, seamstresses working on pillows, an artisan making beads for a necklace, a nurse giving a medical exam, babies sleeping in brightly colored-cozy bedrooms, young mothers nursing their little ones, a chicken coop/fish pond/rooftop garden and a “Haitian Creations” gift shop where Bree found a few treasures.

Our conversation on the way home centered around the needs of the people of Haiti and the lack of support from some of this country’s own.  It was bothering Rock that some of those with “means” in this place are not giving back to those in need.  He shared how those with little are often the most generous, sharing a meal or whatever a friend may need, yet many of the ones with much give so little back to help.  It makes me ponder what we as Christians are called to do… “to him whom much has been given, much is required.”  Am I giving enough?  How am I to respond to the needs that I may see in my own neighborhood or city or country?  It has opened my eyes to the needs here, but how do I take this home?  How will it make me live on a day-to-day basis?  I hope I do not forget.  I hope my heart will be open.

haiti day 20

Just a glimpse into a typical day for us...

5:30 am wake up to the sound of the roosters outside our window (they typically start around 3:30, but our earplugs keep the noise to a minimum) and bright morning sunshine

7:30 am breakfast (we have opted out of the daily breakfast and simply eat a slice of raisin bread with peanut butter)  Then we take our malaria prevention meds!  :)

8:00-11:00 Teach English class....play outside with the kids when our teaching is complete...basketball, jumprope...

11:30 Lunch (Rice and beans with some sort of sauce with either a small portion of beef or fish)

12-7 This part of the day varies between napping, reading, playing cards, word games on the Kindle, laundry, interactions with the staff (English/Creole lessons or cooking) activities with the boys,  and outings with Rock

7-8:30 Computer time shared between the two of us...evening meal of plantain porridge is typically served on a tray during this time by Miss Naomi or Nadege

8:30 Shower and bedtime (try to be asleep before the power (aka our fans) goes out at 10)

haiti day 21

Our adventure today took us to the beach!  I am not sure who was more excited...Bree and me or the three little dudes that have never been to a beach before!  In fact, it may have been over a year since they have even left the gates of the orphanage!  There was truly energy in the house this morning as they were dressing and packing their towels and change of clothes. On the drive there...one of the little dudes did not say a SINGLE word...I think he may have been a little overwhelmed...while his older brother could hardly stay seated, watching every thing passing by and giving "thumbs up" to people he saw along the way!

We ventured about an hour and a half to the coast and found this AMAZING resort calledWahoo Bay Beach Club.  For a fee of $15 per adult and $5 for kiddos, we were in...and the view was breathtaking!  Aquamarine waters...mountains...and a beautifully quiet beach.  The boys (as well as Rock's two nephews) began hesitantly splashing around in the water and by the time we were leaving, they were daring to come out to waist deep water with us. Favorite quote of the day...

  • Person at the beach:  Hi, what is your name?
  • Stanley: My name is Stanley.
  • Person at the beach:  How old are you?
  • Stanley:  I am good.

Looks like our English lessons have paid off a little bit...but I do believe we need to work on variations to How are you?  Maybe "How old are you" will be our lesson for Monday.  :)

The beach day was a blessing for all!  It truly felt like a little slice of heaven!  :)

And...for another little sweet moment in our day...we ordered cheeseburgers, french fries and coca colas on the beach!  Another first for the boys!

haiti day 24

We completed our English class today…we will truly miss these 30+ kiddos in our lives!  They reviewed all that they had learned...drew self-portraits…and played. Bree and I received kisses on our cheeks as they said "Mesi" and "Orevwa" on their way out....as tears came to our eyes.  We will always hold a special place in our hearts for Lasseur Ruth, Mirlange, Miay Love, Emerson, Jonathan Pierre, Fadia, John Fritz and many, many more!

I am certain that the lessons learned on this trip may not even be fully evident until I have returned home and begun processing all that was seen and experienced.  But as I begin wrapping up my time in Haiti, I am reminded of all the things that I am grateful for…

  1.  I am so happy to have lived in the “home” where Eli and JP both lived.  I have been given a glimpse into their early days and I am thrilled to know this part of their lives.
  2. I am inspired by the faith and patience of the Haitian people that I have met who continue to love God and worship, in the midst of such visible poverty and injustice.
  3. I am blessed by the love, affection and attempts to communicate in English of the little boys that we have lived with.  I will truly miss the “Good morning Sara!” greeting and hugs that I wake up to each day.  (Especially Stanley’s…he is an equal-opportunity hugger, making sure that Bree and I get the same amount of affection.)
  4. I have such a greater appreciation for the life that I have been blessed with and a reinforced desire to live each day with a true “attitude of gratitude” for all of the good things in my life.

 

haiti day 26

Things I do not want to forget…

I will slow down and savor each moment.  There is no need to multi-task and stress out.

I will keep my eyes open to the needs around me…whether in another part of the world or my next-door neighbor or a stranger that I encounter.

I will try to give when I can and be aware of how I choose to spend my money.  Did you know that when you buy a pair of Toms, a pair goes to a child in need?

I will show love.  Love is really ALL that matters.

Posted on June 11, 2017 and filed under Haiti Visit, Thoughts on the Journey.