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