Monday, December 27, 2010


I love being here in Indiana. I am enjoying the time with my family, the snuggle time with Dax the dog, and the yummy food. I forgot how much I liked American food! More than that, I've felt overwhelmingly blessed by my church family. They welcomed me so warmly with hugs and hellos; it was like I had never left. They even have gifts for me to take back to my students in Haiti. And I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with so many friends over the next week.

But even with all these sweet blessings, I miss Haiti. My little friend Rosias was baptized yesterday after church, and I'm really bummed that I wasn't there for it. Later this week is January 1st. It's one of the most celebrated holidays in Haiti--it's both New Year's Day and their independence day. I'm sad I'll miss that celebration too. I miss the kids from Laboule and my computer class. Even though I haven't mentioned it to the internet world before, I've met someone special in Haiti. I miss him. A lot.

I'm having a hard time reconciling these conflicting emotions. I want to be able to enjoy my parents and friends without feeling like I'm missing out on what's going on in Haiti. And I want to be able to connect with my Haitian friends and students without the guilt of feeling like I abandoned my loved ones in Indiana.

What I really want is to be able to call both places home, and enjoy the time I have in each place, without feeling guilty.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Through New Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about these people since I arrived on U.S. soil.

My after school computer class.

I wonder what they would think of the snow, the Christmas decorations, the constant electricity, church services at St. Mark, the smooth roads, the food. Life in the States is vastly different than the life my students live in Haiti, and I wonder what they would think if they could be here.

This Christmas I'm enjoying the gift of new eyes, of seeing life from a different perspective.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Golden Nuggets V

Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 
  • Apparently passing police cars is just fine and dandy in Haiti, even if they have their lights on. I witnessed a motocycle passing a police car on Sunday evening. The police had their colored lights going, but Johane thought that was just because it was so dark. She said as long as the police car didn't appear to be chasing someone down it's okay to pass them. Can you imagine passing a police car in the States???

  • Sinks in Haiti don't have hot water. I was reminded of this when I returned to the States and was confused when the water coming out of the sink wasn't cold. I actually had to adjust the faucet to get cold water I wanted to come out. 

  • In Haiti you aren't supposed to flush toilet paper. You put it in the trash next to the toilet. At the Miami airport I was thinking, "Wow. That's a little trash can. If they put a bigger trash can in here, they wouldn't have to empty it every 20 minutes." Then I realized I was in the U.S. and the toilet paper didn't need to go in the trash can, but that was after I had already put it in the trash.

Travel Day, 2nd Half

My flight out of Miami was scheduled to leave at 7:20 pm. Around the time we should have started boarding the plane, someone came on the intercom to explain that we were in "decision time" and they would let us know when a decision had been made. Twenty minutes later we were told our flight was delayed for an hour.

Around 8pm we boarded the plane. As soon as everyone was settled, the pilot announced that we were still not cleared to fly into Chicago. He was optimistic, though, and wanted us in our seats ready to go so we could take off as soon as Chicago gave us the all clear signal. I had woken up at 5am and didn't have anyone sitting next to me on the plane. I decided a nap was in order. At 9pm I was startled awake by the pilot's second announcement: Our flight had officially been delayed another 55 minutes due to nasty weather in Chicago. I borrowed a cell phone to call my mom (who was already at Portage) to say I was still in Miami. She went to my brother's apartment to hang out for a little while, and I went back to sleep.

Finally a few minutes before 10pm, our plane started taxing down the runway. I was back to sleep before we reached our maximum cruising altitude. However, my nap didn't last long. About 20 minutes in the air, I heard what sounded like a child's scream. I was groggy and assumed someone's child was being unruly. However, the second time I heard the scream it was followed by a mother's call for help. Her teenage daughter was having a seizure. Two medical professionals jumped out of their seats and came to the girl's aid. The entire plan was silent and watching. After the seizure ended and the girl became coherent again, it was clear she was going to be okay. I was afraid they would turn the plane around and go back to Miami, but we kept on toward Chicago. Eventually sleep overcame me and I was able to sleep almost the entire way to Chicago. 

When we reached Chicago a few minutes past 1am, we had to wait a few minutes on the tarmac. First we waited for the tunnel to be connected to the plane. Then the girl who had the seizure had to get off the plane with the paramedics, but they let her walk herself off. I saw her later at the baggage area and she looked perfectly fine. I'm fairly certain her sister said she'd had seizures before, so I don't think it was new experience for their family. I still felt bad for them though.

Eventually I found my bag, and just as I was getting ready to ask a stranger to use a cellphone I spotted my mom. We loaded up the car and headed for Indiana. After a slight detour to get me something to eat and a missed exit for the Skyway, we arrived safely in Middlebury just before 5am on Tuesday morning. It was a very long day of travel, but I made it safely and that's what is important.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Travel Day

I wrote this during my layover in Miami. The last leg of my travel day stretched out longer than I anticipated, but I'll have to share that story after I get some sleep!
Today has been… odd. I woke up before my alarm went off with a stomach ache. Waking up before the alarm rings really isn’t that unusual for me, but the stomach ache part was new. After my brain started functioning I realized today was the day I was leaving Haiti to spend the holidays with my family. Then the stomach ache made sense.

I haven’t mentioned it to very many people, but I’m pretty nervous about going home for Christmas. I’ve only been out of the US for three and half months. In the grand scheme of things, that really isn’t that long. Yet, I feel like much of my life has changed in those months. I’ve been anxious about how those changes will affect my relationships with my loved ones. First there’s the fear that I won’t be able to find the words to explain what’s happened in my life and heart. But mostly I guess I’m nervous that the people who know me the best suddenly won’t understand me anymore. And I don’t know how I’ll cope if that happens.

Possibly the strangest, and most significant, sighting of the day was on the way to the airport. Beth drove me to the airport this morning, and we traveled roads we take every time we go to Petionville or Delma. There’s a park near the police station that has been a tent city for the past 11 months, and I always gawk as we drive past. Today, however, there were sections where the tents, the people, everything was missing. Entire sections of the tent city have disappeared. We had a moment of celebration in the car. The absence of even some of the tents is a triumph for the nation of Haiti. I’m excited to see how many more tents are gone when I return in 2.5 weeks.

Beyond my stomach ache this morning and the missing tents in Petionville, there have been several other interesting incidents. First, I ate a hamburger for breakfast. It makes me chuckle even now because I’m sure the lady who served me thought I was crazy. But the airport shop in Port au Prince was crazy busy and I didn’t feel like struggling through the language issues to order something more breakfast appropriate. Also at the P.a.P. airport were the funny little conversations I had with the airport workers. Being able to speak a few words of Creole makes for some funny exchanges. One security guy waved me through the metal detector. I had left my passport holder on around my neck because I knew I could get away with not taking it off. He pointed at it and said, “Passport?” So I showed him the inside. Then he asked me in French if I spoke French. I said, “No.” But then he asked me a question not in English. I told him in Creole that he talks too fast, so he asked me my name in Creole. I answered him, and he told me to have a good day. I thought it was pretty entertaining.

In Miami I had a scheduled 7 hour layover, and I came to a strange realization: It’s really obnoxious to comprehend all the words being spoken around me. I’ve come to enjoy being oblivious to what others are saying, and I find it annoying to be subject to everyone else’s thoughts. For instance, I didn’t really need to know about all the different religious organizations working in Madagascar or the horse farm in Waco, Texas. I especially didn’t want to overhear the argument between mother and daughter about traveling to Europe. But there were some good parts to my layover. At one point a man behind me started speaking Creole on his phone. It was sweet music to my ears! I didn’t understand everything he said, but it was nice to hear some familiar sounds. Then there was the man who exited the bathroom with a good 3 feet of toilet paper hanging off his shoe. How does that even happen? If I see t.p. on the floor, I avoid stepping on it. And then there are the babies. I love babies. The Miami airport has been full of babies today. I wish I could pick them up and cuddle them, but I think going to jail for attempted kidnapping would put a damper on Christmas. So I just smiled and waved.

I’m hoping that the oddness ends there. I don’t really want to experience more weirdness on my final flight or the drive home from O’Hare. But I suppose weird is a better theme for the day than frustration or patience or even boring.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Recently I found the blog of a family that moved to Haiti about a month before I did. The husband and wife are both excellent writers, and I find that they often say what I wish I had words to express. Recently the wife posted these thoughts about Christmas gifts. Her words echo in my heart and I have struggled with the same thoughts about Christmas lists and the invisible gifts I have taken for granted.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Wishlist UPDATE

Previously I posted the following Christmas Wishlist. I would really like to bring all donations to Haiti in my luggage after Christmas. If you would like to donate something from the list (or a gift card or money to be used to purchase the items), you can give donations to me personally or mail them to my parents' house:

Britney Smith
1l6 Krider Dr
Middlebury, IN 4654O

The items crossed out have already been donated.

After School Computer Class

  1. Larousse French English Dictionaries  (20) feel free to purchase as many or as few as you are able to
  2. multiple copies (7 would be nice, 4 will work) of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess
  3. other English picture books
  4. purses and/or bracelets for the 8 girls
  5. wallets and/or watches for the 12 guys
  6. American candy
  7. gum
  8. white out, Haitian students will not turn in a paper with a mistake on it. I am forever fighting them about wasting paper!
  9. a gift card to Meijer, Walgreens, or some other photo printing place so I can print some pictures for them to have
Britney's Personal List
  • cook and serve chocolate pudding
  • Crystal Light Peach or Mango Peach Iced Tea
  • Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
  • chocolate chips
  • Wrinkle Releaser spray
  • stain remover spray for laundry

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Reasons... pray for Haiti be thankful you live in the good ole U.S. of A. count your blessings

  1. Coming down the mountain after church we passed 6 men carrying a cane wrapped couch with a very sick man lying on it. After inquiring about their journey, we learned the man had been sick for 3 days and is from the neighboring village of Grenier. We emptied the truck bed of its passengers and gave them a ride to the nearest cholera treatement center. The men told us there were three other people in Grenier who are sick. For those of you who have been here, Grenier is the village to the right of Gramothe when you are looking at the mountain from the guest house. Because of the proximity, we have quite a few students in the Gramothe school from Grenier.
  2. Also, the riots have been calmer the past couple of days, but the streets are sure to heat up again tomorrow if the government doesn't give the people what they want (basically fair [meaning different] election results or Sweet Mickey to be in the run-off election in Jan.). School  hasn't been canceled for tomorrow, but the students were told at church today to stay home if there's trouble. The trouble is far from over, and there's no way to predict what will happen.
Please keep praying for Haiti.

And please know that I am not in danger here. I am not fearful for my safety or my health. God has given me peace and a burden for the people of Haiti. I want more than anything to see Haitians turn to the only One who can true and lasting peace. I ask that you join me in praying that during this difficult time more Haitians will come to know the Lord as the great Healer--of bodies, hearts, and nations.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yum, Yum, Yum

I love Haitian food. I also love that Myra (the cook at the guest house) enjoys feeding me so much. She is a fantastic cook. Yesterday she made several of my favorite foods, and I was able to take some before and after pictures.

 This is lam veri tab, known in English as bread fruit. It's starchy like a potato, and you can eat it in about as many ways as you eat potatoes.

This is the marinade (before mixing) that Myra used on the turkey, which was delicious. I think there is chopped green pepper, onion, some other green things, ground cloves, and maybe something other things.

This is acra, I think. I know it becomes acra, but I'm not sure if acra is the vegetable or the finished product. Anyway, it's the root of a plant known as elephant ear. To make acra, you grate it, mix it with spices and then deep fry it. That little green thing is a pima, or pepper.

Here is the blurry, but finished product. This is halfway through eating. I was so excited about yummy foods I forgot to take a picture at the beginning! The chicken nugget looking things are acra--one of my favorite foods here! The bright yellow flat french fries are fried lam veri tab. There's rice, and the orange mashed potato looking stuff is actually militon, which is squash. It's mashed and cooked with a little tomato paste--another of my favorite foods here. The meat was boiled in the marinade and then fried. If I remember correctly it was turkey. And the fried things at 12 o'clock are sweet potato fries. Such a delicious dinner!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Three Months Today

I've been thinking for several hours about what to write for this post to commemorate my first three months in Haiti. There's so much I'd like to say, but I can't figure out where to start. Even when I think about different categories of information I want to share, I have a hard time getting the right words to line up and make sentences. The ideas and pictures in my head seem so difficult to articulate today.

I'd like to tell you about all the different ways God has been teaching me to trust him with my entire life. The scary ATV rides in the rain. The moments of panic before stepping in front of 55 seventh grade students who don't speak English. The riots and general unrest due to the elections. The hurricane that grazed Haiti.

I also want to tell you about how my spending habits have changed since I left the Land of Plenty. How I have learned to depend on God to provide for my financial needs in a way I never could have while I was gainfully employed. How I've been blessed beyond measure by the generosity of my family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. How I still sometimes struggle to trust that God is going to take care of everything.

My heart aches to explain the unnameable emotions that surface when someone shares their story about surviving the earthquake and what life was like in its aftermath.

I wish I could give words to the scenes I see on the streets of Petionville, where thousands are still living in tents. That I could somehow explain the guilt I feel as I drive past tent after tent--both because I do nothing to help those people and also because I cynically wonder how many of them moved to the tent cities because they knew they would get free aid.

And there are the children. The unconditional love from little brown boys and girls who don't speak your language is something you can only experience for yourself. I can tell you about the gifts they give me and their shy smiles and the way they fight to hold my hand, but those glimpses would never be enough to give you the whole picture.

There are my students who exemplify the persistence and tenacity I've found to be such an intrinsic element of Haitian culture. First there’s the fact that they walk up that steep mountain road every. single. day. I wish I could do justice in telling you of the determination of 24 year-old men who want to finish high school. Or that I could adequately explain the fortitude of children who get themselves to school on time each day, wash their own clothes, cook their own meals, and do all the household chores because their parents who work as domestic helpers are only home one day a week.

Or, maybe, I should spend some time talking about the life changing work done in the clinic. About the antibiotics given to fight infection. Or the nastiest burns I've ever seen that are cleaned and bandaged. Or surgical procedures that correct painful and disfiguring problems. Or something as simple as immunizations given to the children.

There is so much in my heart that I wish I could share with you, and the past three months have changed me. My view of the world has been enlarged. My compassion for the poor has grown. My tolerance for commercialism and selfishness has shrunk. My love for the people of Haiti has increased beyond measure. And my desire to return to living in the States... well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Things are Heating Up

The Haitian Presidential election results were announced last night around 9pm. A friend texted me with the results from the radio. No one had more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off vote January 16th. The top two candidates were Mirlande Manigat with 31% of the votes and Jude Celestin with 22%. Sweet Micky, a popular singer, had 21% of the votes.

The people are FURIOUS that Jude Celestin is in the run-off election and Sweet Micky is out. There's been a lot of dezòd in Haiti. Protesters set Jude Celestin's political headquarters on fire, and manifestations (similar to riots) have popped up all over the country. There was even a big group of people that marched to Preval's house to let him know they don't like what's going on. Preval is the current president, and it just so happens that the candidate who is engaged to his daughter is in the run-off when it's hard to find anyone who actually voted for the man. Tires have been burning all day. Trees have been cut down and placed in the street. And even here in my neighborhood there's been some ruckus.

When there are manifestations in Port au Prince and it's not exactly safe to go there, people say the city is hot. A text I received this morning said school was canceled because the city was HOT, HOT, HOT. The teachers and principal who live there wouldn't be able to leave their homes, so school was out of the question.

Pray for the people of Haiti, that they will find constructive ways to express their frustration with the corruption of their government and that they will seek change through nonviolent means.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Psalm 56:1--Britney's Version

Today I was reminded of the first verse in Psalm 56.  

"Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me...". 

Back in September when I first arrived in Haiti, Willem gave me a speech about Haitian men. He said I might have been okay in the States--meaning maybe some guys liked me, but here in Haiti there would be men lining up to get the opportunity to love me. He went on and on about Haitian men and how they would really, truly love me. He said he didn't care how much I loved a man, he would have to step in if he felt the guy was using me to get a connection to the States. He made it very clear he would only bless a relationship if he knew the guy really loved me. I just chuckled to myself, thanked him for looking out for me, and hoped he would stop lecturing me soon.

However, this week I've realized there is something about this white skin that drives Haitian men crazy. This week has been Exhibit A in men throwing themselves at me.
  • First, one of my 8th grade students, age 18, asked me if I was married. I told him I was not, and I asked if he was married. He replied that no he isn't married, but he's ready to get married. I asked him who he was going to marry, pointing at some of the girls standing near by. He paused for a little bit and then said he wanted to marry me. Oh, how the other students had a good time with this piece of information! 

  • Then there are the random greetings I've heard lately. It's customary to say "Bonjour" to almost everyone you see on the street. I've received the following greetings lately: 
Bonjour bee-u-ti-ful!
Hello sexy.
I love you. I still love you.
  • Last night I sat and talked with some of the neighbors. There's a man here visiting his mother. He's Haitian, but he lives in the States most of the year. I had met him before, but wasn't overly impressed. He is close to my father's age and was a little too quick to kiss me on the cheek. Last night he asked me how old I was, inquired about how I liked living in Haiti, wondered aloud if I would be interested in staying more than a year, and then proceeded to tell me that if I did decide to stay I should let him know--with that "you know what I mean?" attitude that says he's not just being hospitable. Tonight during our English "class" that was really just the three of us talking, Taina quizzed me on having a boyfriend. Then she said that her cousin told her he liked me and asked her to do all the work for him! YUCK!! I think I might have to talk to Willem about this guy.

  • There is also the ongoing saga of the 19 year old student who admitted that he likes me. He is part of the group that walks with me after school each day. I don't think I would mind walking with him so much if he didn't always "conveniently" end up walking right next to me. (I'd like to remind you that Haitians don't understand the concept of personal space.) If I slow down and try to put some space between us, he slows down too. If I trade someone places in our line of people, he shifts over too. I've gotten to the point where I just tell him where to walk, or I make sure one of the little kids is holding my hand on the side closest to him. All of that is bad enough, but today it got worse. I didn't stop at the guest house before going home. I decided to go straight up to the top of 48 and on to my house. He decided that he would take the long way home so he could walk me even more than he already had! Add to that the fact that he is constantly saying, "Be careful!" and "Watch out!" and it's enough to make me lose it.
I suppose the moral of the story is this: If you need a self-esteem boost, move to Haiti where all the men love you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Awesome Clinic Video

Have you ever wondered what it's like inside the Mountain Top Ministries clinic? Here's an awesome video Chuck made on his iPhone this week. I hadn't heard this song before, but I think it's perfect.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Perfect Job

This week there is a medical team here from Oregon and Washington. They seem to be the perfect sized team. There are only 12 adults,  but today they saw 201 patients at the clinic!! They definitely know how the meaning of team work.

The leader of the trip brought her 10 year old and her youngest daughter. I like both the girls, but my favorite is Naomi. She's all of 7.5 months old, and about the cutest thing I've seen. She is a very happy baby, loves to cuddle, and is my new best friend. In order to keep all the team members focused on the job they came to do, I have taken it upon myself to be Naomi's keeper whenever I'm not in class.

My new job description: teach English to high school students, hold Naomi as much as possible, help in the clinic when my new BFF is sleeping

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Wishlist

You know, Christmas is just around the corner. I have this sneaking suspicion that some of you are very distraught over the fact that you just don't know what to get me for Christmas. With so few shopping days left before the big day, I thought I'd save you some time and just give you a list. Isn't it nice of me to help you out? Anyway, here are some ideas of how YOU can bless some of my students and me this holiday season!

After School Computer Class

  1. Larousse French English Dictionaries  (20)
  2. multiple copies (7 would be nice, 4 will work) of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess
  3. other English picture books
  4. purses and/or bracelets for the 8 girls
  5. wallets and/or watches for the 12 guys
  6. American candy
  7. gum
  8. white out, Haitian students will not turn in a paper with a mistake on it. I am forever fighting them about wasting paper!
  9. a gift card to Meijer, Walgreens, or some other photo printing place so I can print some pictures for them to have
Britney's Personal List
  • cook and serve chocolate pudding
  • Crystal Light Peach or Mango Peach Iced Tea
  • Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
  • chocolate chips
  • Wrinkle Releaser spray
  • stain remover spray for laundry

Monday, November 29, 2010

Elections in Haiti

In case you haven't heard, Haiti held elections yesterday. The people here want change. They wanted their votes to matter, and the people who planned to vote seemed excited to elect someone into office who will lead their country through the rebuilding process, create jobs, and find a solution to the displaced persons camps. Unfortunately, it seems that the election was not as "fair and transparent" as the Provisional Electoral Council claims it was.

I found a video online that highlights some of the problems at the polling stations. The people were upset about these problems, and rightly so. The majority of the presidential candidates called for the election to be canceled and postponed until it could be completed without fraud. The candidates asked the citizens of Haiti to peacefully protest the election. So, the people did just that. Many people took to the streets in Port au Prince calling for Preval (current president) to be arrested. From what I've read online, the protesting was peaceful and there wasn't any violence. Thank you, Jesus! It seems that the streets in the capital are calm this morning, and I'm praying it stays that way.

One thing is certain: Haiti needs a government that is not corrupt. How it's citizens go about obtaining that, I have no idea.

PS. I am safe on the mountain. The protests are far away from me, and my neighborhood was quiet all day yesterday. My neighbors had a little cookout and some compas music, but other than that there is nothing happening even remotely close to us.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Serious Stuff

Elections take place tomorrow, Sunday Nov. 28th, and tensions are running high. In the States we get up a little earlier than normal, stop at the polling station on our way to work, cast our vote, and then watch the results on TV that night. Elections here are a little different. First there are the manifestations to avoid, if you can. Then there's the widespread belief that it doesn't matter who you vote for because the system is so corrupt that whoever has the most money and/or connections will win. And there seems to be some fear of what will happen after the results are announced.

What they call manifestations here are basically disturbances that tend to turn into riots, and they are escalating in Port au Prince. Things are definitely heating up in the city. Enough that school was canceled Friday so the kids wouldn't be out on the streets. There's even talk that it could be canceled on Monday too if the manifestations don't calm down.

Please pray that the elections will go smoothly--without the violence and corruption that seems to plague Haitian politics. Pray also that people will not be afraid to go out and vote, that the person elected as president will lead the people well.

***Just a special note that there are no manifestations happening in my neighborhood. I am safe here on the mountain. The crazy stuff is happening in downtown PaP.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

QCS Discipleship Group

Willem and Beth Charles (founders and directors of MTM) have two boys who attend a school in Delmas (between Port au Prince and Petionville) called Quisqueya Christian School. The American style Christian school wants to implement a more structured discipleship program with the middle and high school students, so they are piloting a structure for discipleship between now and the end of the semester. In order to keep the groups small they asked for parents and other volunteers (in addition to the teachers) to lead small discipleship groups on Friday mornings.

Since I don't have any classes in Gramothe on Fridays, I gladly volunteered to lead a group. While this ministry opportunity isn't through MTM, I'm pretty excited about investing in the lives of some middle school girls--especially since they all speak English fluently. I have three 7th grade students and three 8th graders. They are a fantastic group of girls! I wish I could spend more time with them outside of our discipleship time. They decided they wanted to study the book of Revelation, so we are tackling the end times and all the questions that come with it, together.

An added bonus to leading one of the discipleship groups is that Beth and I get to spend Friday mornings together. We've made it a tradition to stop for coffee and a pastry after we leave the school. It's a nice time for us to get away from daily life and just chat. I really value that time with her because in many ways she my unofficial mentor. Friday mornings gives me a time to ask questions about MTM, Haitian culture, and life in general. It's almost like my own personal discipleship class.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This Just In

Four cases of cholera have been reported in the village of Bonga. MTM has ministry friends who minister in that area that will be distributing a simple bucket-water filter system there on Monday to 50 families. Our concern: Bonga is geographically close to the Gramothe/Thomassin areas & MTM has students from Bonga. 

Please, please, please pray with us for this situation as we continue to monitor it closely.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Your Local Rock Star

There are advantages and disadvantages to being one of very, very few white people that live in the neighborhood. The distinct disadvantage is that I have a hard time blending in when I am trying to avoid certain people, like a particular student who has a crush on his English teacher. Another disadvantage to being white is that small children who aren't used to seeing white skin sometimes cry when I look at them. Not exactly a self-esteem booster.

But being the optimist that I am, I've found some pretty sweet perks to having white skin and living in Haiti. First, I love the fact that the preschool children find so much joy simply in saying good morning to me. My heart overflows with happiness every time they yell, "Blan" and then smile their cute little smiles at me. They also unabashedly race to touch my arms and hands before their teachers tell themt to get back in line.

But the little tykes aren't the only ones enamored with me. I also have some high school kids who are a lot like paparazzi. Today after my 9th grade class, I had to hide my face with a piece of paper because someone was trying to take a picture of me with a cell phone!

But school is not the only place I have rock start status. Often when I'm walking to school in the mornings there are little kids that will follow me or walk next to me for at least part of the way. They are content to smile at me shyly and say goodbye when they part with me. This morning, however, there were some elementary school girls, who I have never seen before (they attend another school), who were bold enough to squeeze my hand as they "accidentally" bumped into me. They just giggled when I grabbed their hands and squeezed them right back. I was sorry I couldn't walk with them for longer. I would have liked to ask them their names.

Anyway, I think I'll start practicing my signature tonight. That way I'll be ready for my fans when they gain enough courage to ask me for my autograph.

Prayer for the new year

I was flipping through my journal this morning, and I came across the very first entry for 2010. I thought I would share it with you. Remember, at that point I had no idea that I was going to Haiti for spring break, let alone a whole year!

Friday January 1st, 2010
Lord Jesus, I pray that this year would be one of falling more in love with you and of sharing the good news with many. I pray that you would clearly show me where you want me and that you would give me the strength to follow you there. May you be glorified in everything I do and say this year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Golden Nuggets IV

Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 

  • While every plot of land in the U.S. has a designated address, specific addresses don't really exist in Haiti. For example there is a main road leaving Petionville (kind of a wealthy suburb of Port au Prince) that goes up the mountain to another town called Kenscoff. That main road is called Rue de Kenscoff. It's a very winding road with turns every few hundred feet. In fact it feels like it's just a big series of S turns. Along Rue de Kenscoff there are areas, or neighborhoods you could say. The first area is called Pelerin. Every street off Rue de Kenscoff in this area is called Pelerin followed by a number. Evens are on one side and odds are on the other. The Pelerin roads start at 1 and go up to 9 I think. After Pelerin comes Laboule. The numbers in Laboule appear to begin at 9 and go all the way to 25. After Laboule comes Thomassin, where I live. However, Thomassin is a big area. It goes all the way from 25 to 60. But the thing is, the roads are not even spaced. Just whenever there is another road leading off Rue de Kenscoff it has the next number. Anyway, every plot of land has the address of their street name and number. So my address is Thomassin 40, but the other 8-10 houses on our very short street also have that address. Willem and Beth live at Thomassin 48, which encompasses a very big area. There are numerous streets leading off of Thomassin 48 and there must be 50+ houses/businesses with the address of Thomassin 48! Occasionally the people living on a street will employ the use of gate numbers, but I don't see that very often. 
  • In addition to not having street addresses there is no postal system. Bank statements, utility bills, and the like are delivered by couriers hired by the businesses. Beth told me that if a courier doesn't know exactly where you live (you know, because the address is so specific), they just ask people on the street until they find your house.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Golden Nuggets III

Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 

  • November 18th is a national holiday, I think it's like the Haitian version of Veteran's Day. Anyway, there is no school on Thursday. I am hoping to go to Laboule with Beth and work on some minor home repairs and of course English.

  • Creole is a very non-specific language. The word for "here" is the same word for "there." And many, many words have more than one meaning. For example the word "koud" means elbow and to sew. "Men" is hand or but depending on the conversation. It can be frustrating because sometimes I hear a word that I know, but it doesn't make sense in the conversation. Then I find out it means something else entirely!

  • Haitians do not know the concept of personal space. At church on Sunday they have no qualms about packing as many people in a row as possible. In taptaps (public transportation) they sit nearly on top of each other and it doesn't appear to be awkward. At school I often see students holding hands or with interlocked arms as they are walking. When they sit, they often drape arms over each other. I find it very endearing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Update on the Creole

When I arrived in Haiti a little over two months ago, I knew approximately 10 words in Creole. Basically, I could greet people. After that I would just stand and stare at them.

Now, only two months later, I can have basic conversations with people and they understand me! Today I read Green Eggs and Ham, in English, to the Laboule kids after school. I was able to translate most of it into Creole for them, and what I didn't know in Creole we could generally see in the pictures. They were really excited about hearing an English book.

During our class Micka, my friend who leads worship at church, came in and asked me to investigate the location of a ball. Apparently at some point yesterday Dayley had a ball that belongs to someone else. The someone else went to Micka for help. She in turn went to Dayley to find out what happened to the ball. However, he won't tell her where it is. Since she's certain he knows where it is and he just won't tell her, she asked me to see if I could get him to tell me where the ball is. She has a lot of faith in my Creole skills! Under her orders, I had the following conversation with Dayley, my little boyfriend, on our way home from school.

Me: Micka monde ou, "eske ou konnen kote bol la?" Micka asks you, "do you know where is the ball?"
Dayley: Wi. Yes.
Me: Ou konnen ki kote bol? You know where is the ball?
Dayley doesn't answer.
Me: Dayley, ou gen bol? Dayley you have ball?
Dayley: Non! Mwen pa gen blah blah blah. No! I don't have blah blah blah in Creole.
Me: Ki kote bol la? Where is the ball?
Dayley doesn't answer.
Me: Bol a kay ou? Ball at your house?
Dayley: Non! No!
Me: Ki kote bol la? Where is the ball?
Dayley: Nan Gramothe. In Gramothe.
Me: Ki kote nan Gramothe? Where in Gramothe?
Dayley: He gave me the location, but I don't remember what he said.
Me: Ou pral bay bol la a Micka demen? You will give Micka the ball tomorrow?
Dayley: mumble, mumble, mumble. 

While it wasn't exactly a profound conversation, it's definitely an accomplishment for me. I am thankful that I am beginning to understand people when they speak in Creole and that they understand me. The Laboule kids seem to be the best at speaking slowly for me... well, most of the time. Sometimes they get excited and just prattle on, but Hyphania and Nerlande are both good about telling me one word at a time so I can understand.

Now if I can get the house helpers at Johane's and Willem and Beth's to speak slowly when they want to tell me something, I will have it made!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hard Part

I really enjoy being here in Haiti. The missionaries I am working with are fantastic, and I love my students. I am looking forward to skipping winter weather, and it's awfully nice to have so many people falling over themselves just say hello to me. It makes me feel a little like a rock star.

As much as I love being here, though, there are aspects of the culture that are difficult to deal with. This morning I was a bit overwhelmed by some of them. Awhile ago I began reading a book called Restavec by Jean Robert Cadet. It's a memoir written by a man who was a part of Haiti's socially accepted child slavery. While I haven't seen any evidence of child slavery in the two months I've lived here, last night I was talking to some friends about it. They told me stories about families in mountain villages who send their children to live with relatives or someone they (kind of) know in the city. The family is often told the child will receive an education, be well fed, and be generally taken care of. However when the families go to visit their children or to pick them up, they learn that the child has been forced into slavery. Sometimes the child has been sold or given to someone else and the parents can't find them. It's really very sad because it's a socially accepted part of the culture (at least for the wealthy who are using the kids as slaves).

My friends also explained to me that if a woman has a child from a previous relationship and marries another man, the child is treated as a slave to the rest of the family. For example, there's a woman in Gramothe who had a daughter. Her husband died, and she wanted to become involved with another man. She knew that her daughter would be treated like a slave to the man and any kids she had with him, so she made the tough choice to give her daughter up for adoption. My heart broke for her and the daughter she doesn't have to hold any more.

And then there's the whole corporal punishment issue. Corporal punishment is definitely alive and well in Haiti. Teachers have switches or belts they carry around with them. The principal frequently has a switch in his hand. Sometimes the students are made to kneel on the cement for periods of time as a punishment. I don't think anyone in Haiti has ever heard of positive reinforcement! It's no wonder my students are constantly telling me they like the way I teach. I don't use any of the classroom management techniques they are accustomed to!

I don't share this information with you to make you think poorly of Haitians or their culture. Not every Haitian approves of child slavery, just as not every American condones drug use. The Haitian culture is not bad or wrong. It just has issues like every other culture in the world. I share this information simply to give you a glimpse into what's on my heart. I also don't want to give the rose tinted view of life here. While I like being here, there are parts that are difficult.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Give Your Best

Recently a friend of Mountain Top Ministries published a book about the founder and life changing ministry of MTM. The author, Andy DeWitt, expertly weaves facts and tidbits of history into vignettes of Willem Charles's life and ministry, making the book a very easy read. You won't want to put it down!

If you're interested in learning more about the village where I'm teaching or the organization I'm working with this year, you need to get yourself a copy of the book Give Your Best. Plus, all the proceeds from the book are going to support Mountain Top Ministries.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What a great day!

Today was an all around great day. There wasn't anything that made today oustandingly fantastic, but all the little pieces of goodness add up to one satisfying day! First, I ate breakfast with my new Canadian friends. The guys have really made me feel like a part of their team. I really appreciate how they've included me and loved me this week. After breakfast, they took me up the mountain to school. I was able to witness the meeting of sponsors and their sponsored children. A couple of the Canadians sponsor some preschool children, so the kids were pulled out of class and given some gifts. The first two kids did a great job. They were a little curious about the tall white guy who was talking to them in a foreign language, but they let us take some pictures of them on Helmut's lap. However, Frank ended up traumatizing his kids. The first girl was close to tears as she sat on his lap and the other girl started crying before she even got near him. She wanted nothing to do with the goofy white guy!

After the traumatizing of preschool children was over, I went to 7th grade to watch the Haitian English teacher. He was reviewing mass nouns and counted nouns. It was very, very boring, but it helped me know what to practice with the kids during my hour with them later in the day. I was planning to follow Mr. Gary to 12th grade to see what he would teach the older kids, but I needed a break. Instead of going to 12th grade, I headed up to my computer room to get organized and maybe do some cleaning. My Creole tutor came shortly after I arrived. I taught him to play Jenga because he heard that the kids liked it. I really wanted to win Jenga because it's an American game and I was the one teaching someone else, but the weirdest thing happened! We took out every possible Jenga piece, but the tower was still standing. That has never happened to me before. It was so strange I took a picture of the tower at the end of the game.

After the Jenga game I decided I should probably go watch the end of Mr. Gary's 12th grade class. I am sooooooo glad I didn't sit in on the entire hour. He was teaching them that the third person singular (he, she, it) version of verbs ending in o, sh, ss, x, and ch need an "es" instead of just an "s." I was there for only 15 minutes and I wanted to go to sleep! And the students didn't seem to be learning anything new. Some of them even stopped the lesson to ask me about goosebumps. It was really funny trying to figure out what "chicken flesh" was (that's the literal translation of what they say in Creole).

Oh, this is becoming a long post. I suppose if it's too long, you'll just stop reading. Anyway, last week my grade 7 class was horrible. They talked while I was talking, they wouldn't listen, and they didn't even try to understand me. Today some of the girls were kind of snotty at the beginning, but they shaped up eventually. I had an activity where they were able to get out of their seats and they seemed to enjoy it.

After I finished teaching, I had a Creole lesson. I learned some words for family relationships, and then Arold taught me some songs. I really like learning the songs we sing in church. I'm getting pretty good at the chorus to "I Surrender All" in French, and I hope to add some others to my repertoire soon. Today I was introduced to "Nothing But the Blood" in Creole, but I left my paper at school. I won't be able to practice until tomorrow.

After school was out, I had my computer class. I really enjoy this group of students, probably because it's 15 of the best English speakers in the school. The kids are smart, and they really try hard to understand me. More of them have also been walking with me after class, which I like because it gives me an opportunity to get to know them. The girls typically take off right after class is over and walk so fast I can't keep up. Today, however, I walked with them instead of the boys. Actually, it was kind of nice to walk with them because they are a lot quieter than the boys. The girls aren't as comfortable with English, but they tried to talk to me a little.

Plus, the walk from school to the guest house took me exactly 30 minutes, which is a personal best. I am pretty proud of myself!

After school, Willem harassed me about all the boys asking for my phone number. A couple of my students have asked me for number recently, and one even admitted to some other kids (that came and told me) that he has a crush on me. Isn't that fantastic? (I hope you caught the sarcasm in that!!) To finish out the night I ate a final meal with my Canadian friends and then said goodbye. They all gave me hugs and wished me well. :) Now, I have some time to clean my little apartment and maybe study some Creole before I head off to bed.

It really has been a wonderful day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Boyfriend

I've known for a while that this particular guy really likes me.

He finds ways to be near me--it's quite endearing! He's very helpful and frequently volunteers to carry things for me. He sings songs to me, and holds my hand whenever I will let him.

Today he made it pretty clear that he wants me all to himself: he told one of my students, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to talk to me anymore. Homeboy is jealous!

Isn't he cute?

Just for the record, this little guy is NOT my boyfriend. He just wishes he was. He's one of the little guys at Laboule Children's Home, and for whatever reason he has latched on to me. He's also the one who sang at church a couple weeks ago. You can even watch the video.

After School Class

I have a computer class after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. It is my favorite class to teach because it is small and the students all speak enough English that I can communicate with them. It doesn't hurt that it's a more laid back atmosphere and we joke around quite often. The boys are talkative and always have questions. The girls are still a bit shy, but they are attempting to speak with me more and more. There are only 7 working computers right now, so the students work on the computers in pairs. Today I split them into two groups, so they could work independently on the computer. While one group worked on the computer, I taught the other group how to play Jenga. They loved it! You can view pictures on my Facebook album.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Senior Citizens

In the past two months I’ve been surprised by how many older people have come on the various teams. And by older, I mean over 60 years old. Both the medical teams that have come have included 2 or 3 seniors. I am impressed by their courage to leave the comforts of home for the rough terrain of Haiti!

Currently, there’s a four man construction team here from Canada this week. Three of the guys, all over 60, have been here numerous times. The other guy is in his 40’s, and is a race car driver. I’m still trying to figure out how he got connected with these other guys. Anyway, they are a really fun group of guys, and they’ve included me in their joking around. They even babied me yesterday when I wasn’t feeling so well (just a sore throat).

In addition to the construction team, we also have an older couple (both are right around 70 years old) from Northeastern Indiana here. They were supposed to arrive on Wednesday, but due to some passport issues and the hurricane they were delayed. They finally arrived on Saturday morning. I met them this summer at the MTM banquet, so it was nice to see some familiar faces. Plus, John is baking 36 loaves of zucchini bread and 55 dozen cookies while he’s here. He’s definitely in the running to become my new BFF!!

Being in Haiti has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of different people, and the senior citizens (I say that lovingly) have been some of the most inspiring new friends I’ve made.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Only God Knows

Every team that comes in is curious about my role here at MTM. They want to know what I do and where I live. When they find out I’m teaching English, they want to know how I get to school each morning (I walk or catch a ride with the teams that are here), if I’m learning Creole (I have a really good tutor and many others willing to help me practice), and how teaching here is different than teaching in the States (that’s a whole other blog post!). Inevitably, they also ask me how long I’m staying in Haiti. If Willem is around he tells them I am going to marry a Haitian man and stay for the rest of my life! I just laugh and tell him that I’d like to meet the guy. My standard answer is that I have committed to being here until July, and only God knows what will happen after that.

But this question of how long I will stay weighs heavy on my mind. I love working with the kids from Laboule. I hate to think about what it will be like to say goodbye to them. I also really like my high school students. The boys that are my escort home from school have become some of my favorite people here. They asked me last week why I didn’t want to be their teacher again next year. It hurt my heart to hear their question and I wanted to promise that I would be here again next year!

But I can’t make my students any promises because my heart also hurts when I think about my family, friends, home church, and dog in the United States. I miss them! Facebook and Skype have provided avenues to connect, but they’re not the same as being there. I can’t make library runs with Jen or attend impromptu game nights at the Shipes’ apartment. I can’t go shopping with my mom or call my dad to fix something at my house.

I guess what it boils down to is this: Only God knows what the future holds. So instead of being distracted by questions of where I’ll be a year from now, I am choosing to rest in the knowledge that God will let me in on the plan when I need to know. Until then, I need to spend my energy on the here and now—loving and investing in the people God has put in my life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More funny school conversations

Remember the student who wants my phone number so he can listen to me talk? Well, last week he was preparing to sing a song in church. He wanted to sing part of it in English, so he asked me for help on the words to the song "He Touched Me." I think it was originally sung by Elvis, but I don't really know the song. I had to look it up online. Anyway, he sang the song at the close of service on Sunday and it was fantastic.

Wednesday was the first day back to school after our November 1-2 holiday. As we were walking home after our computer class, the boys were talking about the song Wesley sang during church. They were congratulating him on singing so well, and also teasing him a little about the way he was standing during the song. I wasn’t involved in the beginning of the conversation because someone had asked me a different question. The first thing I heard one of them say about the topic was, “He touched me.” But it was implied that Wesley touched the speaker. Now, I know they were talking about the song, but I couldn’t just let them say that without telling them what Americans would understand that to mean!

I explained that when they are in church and they say, “He touched me,” most people will understand that you are talking about God. But when you are on the street and you say, “He touched me,” people will think you are talking about a person touching you… in a bad place. So don’t say, “Wesley touched me” if you mean his song made your heart happy because people will think Wesley is touching you in bad places. My explanation was followed by an uproar of laughter and many shouts of “Yes. Yes, I understand!” They thought it was so funny that they continued to talk about Wesley “touching” them. They wanted to nickname him “Mr. Touch Me,” but I finally convinced them that was not a good idea.

Later on in our walk, one of the boys called Shnider a girl. Everyone thought this was hilarious as well. Basically his response was “okay whatever,” so A. said something really fast in Creole. Then they really started laughing.  Rosias shouted, “Say that in English!!” I was nervous about what I was going to hear, but basically what A. said was that Shnider should deny being a girl and prove his manhood by showing everyone his… Well, I'm sure you can figure it out.

I suppose it doesn’t matter what language they speak, boys will always be boys!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


For your enjoyment, here's an actual converstation that took place today on the school yard.

Student (21 years old, in the highest grade): Miss, do you have a ph...?

Me: Do I have a what?
Student, acting shy: Do you have a phone?
Me: Yes. Why?
Student: You give me please your number.
Me: I don't know my phone number.
Student: I don't understand.
Me: I can't give it to you. I don't know my phone number.
Student--now he's so shy he asks his friend to come and translate for him. 
2nd student, 23 years old in the highest grade: He wants your phone number.
Me: I know, but I don't know it.
2nd Student: You don't know your phone number?
Me: Nope. 
2nd Student with a shocked look: Oh.
The two boys talk for a minute in Creole.
2nd Student: He wants for you to call him.
Me: I know. He gave me his phone number on Sunday. 
2nd Student: But you not call him.
Me: I know. It's not gonna happen. Why does he want me to call him?
2nd Student: We like the way you pronounce words. We want to sit in our house and listen to you talk. Why can't we have your phone number?
Me (laughing): Do you have other teachers' phone numbers?
2nd Student sheepishly laughing now: No!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adult English Classes

My job here is to teach English, but I never imagined I would be teaching so many classes! I have six regular high school classes, one special high school class that meets after school, and a class with the kids from Laboule.

A few weeks ago Johane asked me if I would be interested in practicing English with a couple ladies from our neighborhood. I met them and since they speak better English than most of my students, I agreed to work with them three times a week. I really wanted to have class just once a week, but I don’t have anything else to do so how could I say no?

The first class was quite intimidating. When I arrived home from school there were double the amount of people sitting under the tree than there are normally. I was nervous I they were all coming to my class, but it turned out most of the guys stayed outside. However, there were still 7 or 8 people who trickled into my apartment to learn English! Fairly quickly we learned that about half of them need a beginner’s course in English, so I said I would teach a class for them on Mondays. Since that was one of the days I was going to teach the more advanced class, my initial students made me promise to practice with them another night.

I was really nervous about the initial beginner’s class, but it turns out only Windy and Taina are serious about learning English. Thankfully, I’m back to having just one neighborhood class! Our class was canceled for most of last week because of the team being here and my unpredictable return from the guest house each night. Then yesterday I looked for them a couple of times around our designated meeting time, but they weren’t out by the tree. That was fine with me because I really needed a nap after my Creole lesson, but I wondered if they still wanted to have class.

Tonight, however, Windy and Erika came to class. Taina’s husband is here visiting from the United States, so she came a little later. She ended up bringing her husband, and it was nice to meet him. I’m still curious as to why he lives and works in the States and she lives here, but I didn’t really feel like tonight was an appropriate time to ask.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Break

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity! Last Monday a team of 23 people arrived. They hosted a very successful medical clinic on Tuesday through Friday, but they wore me out! Some nights I didn't get home until 6 or even 7 o'clock, so I didn't have much time to wind down before I went to sleep. I traveled with the team to and from Gramothe, so I spent more time at school than I normally do. I was able to help in the clinic some, but mostly I tried to stay out of the way. They were an awesome group of individuals with some incredible skills, so they didn't really need my help. In the afternoons I was able to sit with my friends Arold and Nalouse while we waited to go down the mountain in the truck. It was really nice to get to know them a little better.

Two downsides to having the team here were that I missed my Creole lesson on Wednesday and I didn't get to spend much time with the boys who normally walk me home. The kids came and found me during their breaks, and we still had our after school class. Yet, I missed the conversations we have walking home from school. (And don't tell anyone I said this, but I think I missed the exercise too.)

November 1st and 2nd are national holidays in Haiti, so there is no school today or tomorrow. (Can anybody say Fall Break?) One day is All Saints Day and the other is the Day of the Dead. I'm told Christians do not celebrate these holidays, but that's about all I know. About two weeks ago some people in Gramothe (not anyone who goes to church) pulled all the grass out of the cemetery and did some general cleaning in preparation for the holiday. Tomorrow when I go to the guest house I'll be able see if they are doing anything over there.

My Creole tutor offered to have a lesson with me today since there's no school and neither of us had anything to do. He give me a lot of words I had been wondering about, and then he gave me the French and Creole words to songs we sing in church. I am very, very excited about being able to sing along in with the rest of the congregation. However, he made me sing the songs after he had given me the words, and now he's convinced more than ever that I need to sing a special song for church!

Tonight I'm supposed to have an English class with some ladies from the neighborhood. I really enjoy talking with them. They speak pretty good English already, they just want someone to practice with.


I've shared about my early to bed, early to rise sleeping pattern before. This week though, my body has decided 4:30am is the appropriate time to wake up. It doesn't matter that I stay up until 10pm or that it is still pitch dark or even that the roosters are fairly quiet at 4am. My body just wakes up and refuses to go back to sleep. After tossing and turning for 45 minutes this morning, I finally decided to just get up at 5:15am on a Saturday morning. Now that's what I call ridiculous.

UPDATE: Today and tomorrow are holidays in Haiti, so there is no school. Although I went to bed before 8:30 last night, I'm very happy to report that I did not wake up this morning until after 6am!

Friday, October 29, 2010

My new BFF

Now that school has been in session for a full month, the kids are getting used to seeing me around campus. However, the kids can be put into two categories based on their reaction to seeing me. First there is the "Novelty" group. They love talking to and touching me. The older kids in this category seek me out to practice speaking English, while the littlest kids go out of their way to touch my white skin.  The older elementary students just find a way to make eye contact and then say, "Good morning, teacher."

Then there is the other group. I call them the "Avoiders." They avoid me at all costs. While most of the high school students are happy to see me, there are still some who keep their distance. They see me coming and hurry to their classrooms. The preschool children in this category look the other direction when I smile at them. Some of them have even cried when I got too close for comfort!

Darline, a preschool student, is definitely in the "Novelty" group. She waves at my every time she sees me, and she often comes running over to hold my hand. She is so sweet! She talks to me as if I can understand her, and she does everything in her power to be close to me. She leans on me while we're standing, and she often rubs my arm while talking to me. Today she even kissed me when she thought I wasn't paying attention. She is definitely my new BFF.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christmas in October

My tub from the trailer and some of my things from home. So very exciting!!!

Heaven Help Me!

Some of my older students want me to speak Creole with them. They claim they want me to be "strong in Creole" before I leave the country, and they said I must practice with them. Then, my Creole tutor informed me this afternoon that I'm no longer allowed to speak to him in English. I have to speak Creole only.

I think it's a conspiracy against me.

Speaking of conspiracies, my students, and my Creole tutor especially, have gotten this strange idea in their heads that I need to sing a special song in church. I have NO IDEA where they got this ridiculous idea because I certainly didn't give it to them! I like to sing and can blend in with a large group, but I am not about to sing in front of a group of people. Crazy kids!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thoughts on Today

  • It's weird to have a medical team here and not be working with them. I still have my normal teaching load, so I can't have a job in the clinic. I pop in and help where I'm needed, but mostly I have been trying to stay out of their way.
  • This afternoon, I sat with my friends Arold and Nalouse outside the clinic and listened to worship music on my laptop. There something amazing about looking out over the mountains and singing praises to God with friends who are singing the same song in a different language. 
  • Teaching English to 40 plus 7th grade students who don't speak your language necessitates the use of a variety of classroom management techniques. Facial expressions must be at a maximum. Throwing in Creole phrases helps their comprehension. Threatening to get the principal will buy me 10 minutes of their attention. And calling random students to the front of the class to speak English is an effective tool for assessment and punishment for those who don't listen.
  • I've learned I'm too self-conscious to practice Creole with people who speak Creole and English. Some of my students want me to speak in Creole with them, but I can't make myself do it. For now I'm happy muddling through with the little kids and the adults who don't speak English.
  • Tonight my heart breaks for my friend Amy. I've known her since she was in 6th grade, and I love the girl more than I can say. It was hard to say goodbye to her in September because it's her senior year of high school and I've been with her since she started youth group. Amy's mom has had fragile health for a couple of years, but this fall she has had a rough time. She went to the hospital earlier this week and today she went to be with the Lord. My heart hurts for Amy. I want to be able to hug her and hold her and cry with her.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't Freak Out

Yes, there has been a cholera outbreak in Haiti.

No, there haven't been any cases in our area. For now the sickness seems to be contained to north of Port au Prince, and we are southeast of the city. We are, however, preparing in case it does head this way. The clinic is stocked with antibiotics. We even have enough that we can share with other clinics and pharmacies if we need to. In church on Sunday Willem reminded everyone of the importance of washing their hands after using the bathroom and before eating. I will be making signs in Creole for the school and clinic about washing their hands.

Also, there is a 23 person medical team arriving today for a clinic that was scheduled months ago. While we are praying that cholera does not get this far, they have reviewed procedures for dealing with cholera and are prepared to treat patients should they arrive.

Please pray that the outbreak does not spread any further and that those who are currently sick would have access to medical treatment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Golden Nuggets II

Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 
  •  Elections take place on Nov. 28th. There are about 60 people running for president. Okay, there aren't that many, but it seems like it. There are posters and banners EVERYWHERE promoting candidates. When I arrived there were primarily two candidates plastered everywhere. Now that we are getting closer to the elections, there are more candidates' faces seen on posters and banners. It's a very different advertising system than we use in the States. I'll try to get some pictures this week.

  • I think all schools in Haiti require the students to wear a uniform. Uniforms here generally consist of a solid colored bottom (pants/shorts for boys, skirts/jumper for girls), and a button down shirt. The shirts are either a solid color that is a different color from the bottoms or a checkered pattern that is white and the same color as the bottoms. Gramothe's elementary uses turquoise as it's color. The high school uniform has dark green bottoms and a white top that has very light stripes. The ugliest uniforms I've seen have been canary yellow shirts with tan jumpers. Some poor high school girls had to wear them... everyday of their high school career most likely. I think the cutest uniforms are any uniform a preschool child is wearing. They are so stinking cute!

    My preschool friend, Darline. 

  • Everywhere I go I am called blanc. It means white in French/Creole. I don't know if I should be offended or not, but it does get old after a while. Sometimes when I'm walking there are little kids that will walk with me for a while. Often they work up the courage to quickly touch my white skin when they think I'm not looking. Sometimes the preschool kids at school will walk up and just grab my hand or arm. They are fascinated by my white skin.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Here's another picture of the shortcut Arold told me to take the first time I walked home from school. If you missed my account of the ordeal, you can read it here.  Incidentally, he asked me the other day why I haven't taken the shortcut since the first day. What a punk!

I think I took this picture from the place where you leave the Gramothe road to get to the riverbed. If not there, then one curve higher than the start to the shortcut.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Courtesy of Google Earth

This is my world from above. Gramothe is on the left and my house is on the right. I think North is actually right. At any rate, you can see where I spend the majority of my time, and the routes I take to get there.

Here's the walk from my house to the guest house. The elevation is showing from the guest house (left) to my house (right).

This is the route from the guesthouse to the school. Red is the road and yellow is the shortcut.

Close up of the short cut. The elevation is shown in pink.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

an all around great day

  • I officially learned to drive the four wheeler today. It was easier than I thought, and I think Willem is only suffering from mild whiplash. I drove from the riverbed up to Gramothe.
  • The neighbors always hang out under a tree just outside my gate. Today I went outside and talked with them for a couple of hours. They were intimidating at first, but now that I've met them I will be visiting more often. 
  • In fact two of the ladies want to practice English 3 times a week. Actually I think they would like to practice everyday, but I need some down time. I only committed to three days a week. But I need to start thinking of words to teach them. They are already very good at speaking English.
  • I taught three classes at Gramothe High School today. I was mostly pleased with how they went. It's still hard for me to know exactly what to teach each class, but I think I actually taught something new today!
  • I had a great English lesson with the Laboule kids after school today. It was raining when we started, but it had stopped when we were ready to walk home. The kids stayed with me the whole time instead of ditching me at the short cut, and I was able to practice Creole with them. 
  • I have internet at home tonight!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010


These are the kids that walk with me after school. They talk a mile a minute, all at one time. It can be very overwhelming because every third word is "Bwiney" and I have no idea what they are telling me!

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

For my entire life I’ve lived by the philosophy that the early worm gets eaten by the bird, so why get up early? I love sleep, and I especially love sleeping in. In the past I’ve struggled to wake up with enough time to get ready for school. At the beginning of the school year, I would wake up between 6 and 6:15, but at Thanksgiving I was regularly getting out of bed around 6:30. By February I was lucky if I made it out of bed by 7!

Since arriving in Haiti, my body has set itself to a different schedule. The sun comes up around 5:30am, and it’s completely light by 6am. Add to that the fact that I still haven’t gotten my curtains up, and it makes it really difficult to sleep past 6am. Since I wake up by 6am at the latest, my body is ready to sleep around 9pm. Sometimes I even go to bed before 9, which really isn’t good. On Saturday I fell asleep by 8:30pm and then woke up a little after 4am. Unfortunately I was up for the day!

I’m still not exactly happy to be awake in the mornings, but it is nice to be able to accomplish something before I leave the house. I’m often able to wash the dishes and do other cleaning around the house before I begin my work day. It doesn’t hurt that I routinely get 8+ hours of sleep each night.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


If there's a quality of God's character that I like most, it's probably the fact that he's unchanging. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. In my world that's ever changing, I cling to the One who remains constant. But my second favorite aspect of the Lord and his relationship with us is the concept of redemption.

Being in Haiti these past few weeks has given me a fresh look at redemptive work of Jesus. I've heard about former voodoo priests who are now following Christ. I've witnessed the redemption of a marriage. And I've been blessed to see how God is now redeeming a family unit some 19 years after a whole lot of ugly messed things up. Seeing God redeem the lives of those around me reminds me of my own redemption story.

When I surrendered my life to Jesus, he could have taken the parts of my life that were noxious and thrown them away. Instead he did something much more meaningful. Jesus took the darkness and all that was ugly, and he redeemed every part of me. He took that ugliness and made it something beautiful and good. Something that blesses others and points them to the great Redeemer.

Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!
from the song Jesus Paid It All

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Schedule

Here's my working schedule for anyone who is interested. I still need to add in times to work with the 8 or 9 elementary classes. I'm going to attempt to get to every class for a half hour each week.

12:00-?         Creole lesson with Arold
1-1:50           Grade 11 English
2-3                Special Computer class

11:20-12:10  Grade 12 English
12:10-1         Grade 8 English
1-1:50           Grade 9 English
2-3                English with Laboule kids

11:20-12:10  Grade 7 English
12:30-?         Creole lesson with Arold
 2-3                Special Computer class

12:10-1         Grade 10 English
2-3                English with Laboule kids

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Haiti Q & A: How much English do your students know?

Q. How much English do your students speak?
A. Honestly, it varies. I have some students in 7th grade, which is the first grade to study English, who speak pretty good English.On the flip side I have students in the 11th and 12th grades who barely understand me. For the most part the students in grades 7, 8, and 9 don't speak a lot of English. They know some basics (except 7th grade), but having a conversation with them is...difficult at best. The students in grades 10, 11, and 12 know more English, but some of them do not do so well at conversing.

It's sometimes frustrating to know what to do with the higher grades because the students are at such different levels. (Oh, and there are no books right now. The publisher isn't finished with them yet. That also complicates planning.) The lower grades on the other hand have been much easier to plan for. Since they know next to nothing, we covered basic colors and numbers in grades 7 and 8 on the first day. Next week we'll review those and move on to objects in the classroom.

Top 10 Reasons I Can't Wait Until the Trailer Arrives

10. old school printer paper I sent can be used to make posters and banners

 9. I will be able to snack on Jello of all flavors for several months
 8. Markers of all sizes will be mine, mine, mine!
 7. Beth will have an airsoft gun to shoot rats with
 6. The electric drum set for the church will be here
 5. My $8 toaster oven from Goodwill will be used at least 3 times a week
 4. The kids from Laboule will finally have their English books
 3. All my “special” writing utensils and office supplies will be available to me
 2. The four wheelers will all have new tires (right now there are several without tread)
 1. I’ll finally have two whole boxes of Puffs Ultra tissues, all the Kotex feminine products I need, and my dearly missed pillow!

The trailer is supposed to be boarding a boat that is leaving for Haiti on October 15th. Please join me in praying that the trailer makes it on that boat. All joking aside, there are vital supplies for the ministry here inside that trailer. It makes our ministry easier and its impact further reaching if we have those supplies.­­

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

School Update

I met my 12th grade and 8th grade classes yesterday. The 12th grade students were better at English than the 11th grade students, though there are still a few who had a hard time understanding me. The oldest student in this class is 24, but there were several others who were in their early twenties.

Having high school students in their twenties may sound crazy to citizens of the US, but the students are not grouped by age here. They are placed in the class that fits their academic level. If a student starts school at 10 years old, he or she is put into first grade even though the other students are younger. Really I think it is a good system. Students are not passed on to the next grade if they don’t know the material. In fact there is a national test the students must take at the end of grades 6, 9, 12, and 13. If the students do not pass the test, they do not go to the next grade until they have passed the test. So far I have not observed any issues with the multi-age classes.

The 8th grade students were exactly what you would expect. Well, they were exactly what I expected. They were enthusiastic, quick to please me (for the most part), and loud. (Are you surprised? I wasn't.) They learned quickly, but they also spent a good deal of time giggling. They even tried to trick me at one point. Okay, not the whole class, just one girl. Ten of the students are 13 and 14 years old, and the others are mostly 15 and 16 with one boy who is 18. He seems to be the class clown.

I think we’ll all get along just fine.

Feeling like a competant adult

For me, life here is very different than it was in the United States. I was a very independent person in the US. I could do anything I set my mind to, and for the most part I did.

For the first 5 weeks I was here I had a hard time feeling like a competent adult when I had to rely on others for so much. Spending time in prayer about it has helped. But there are two other things that really helped me get out of my funk of feeling sorry for myself. First, Johane asked me to help create a document on the computer. It was basically data entry, but it felt great to be needed. The other event was my return to the classroom. Even though the subject has changed, I am doing something I love. And although I’m not a perfect teacher, I’m certain I can teach English proficiently enough to help my students.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know how to do when I arrived, but I think most of the reason I felt so incompetent was due to the language barrier. Once I was told how to do something, for example buying water or getting more minutes for my phone, I still had to communicate with someone to make it happen. Until very recently I didn’t have enough vocabulary to say anything other than, “Good morning. How are you?” Now that I’m able to communicate very basically with people I feel more competent. It definitely gives me a new perspective on people in the United States who are in the midst of learning English. It is not easy to move to a different country when you don’t know the language!