Monday, January 31, 2011

Goat Trail

Do you remember the first time I took the goat trail shortcut? I do. I honestly thought I was going to pass out and the kids were going to have to find a way to carry me back to Willem's. At several points during that accent, I wondered what I had done to Arold that he would suggest I take the shortcut. Surely he was trying to kill me! After that day I vowed that I would not try the shortcut again until December.

I am proud to report that I have been faithfully taking the shortcut home everyday since around Thanksgiving. It really is shorter, and I find that I prefer it to the longer, more unstable route they call the road. There are a lot of loose rocks in the road, and the goat trail is solid. It's also less time in the hot sun, which makes a difference.

Here's a picture of some of the boys on the goat trail.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Funeral Procession

This month has been a difficult one for Gramothe. There have been at least 3 deaths, if not four. (I’m still a little certain if the uncle Micka told me about is the husband of the woman I was talking to later.) All of the people who have passed away were older and had health complications that come from old age. (None of them had cholera, just for the record. We haven’t had any cases of cholera in Gramothe.) The most recent funeral was on Tuesday, and I happened to be going to class when the funeral procession passed by the high school on their way to the cemetery.

This is the Gramothe cemetery.
I know this isn’t going to sound right, but it was really neat to experience the funeral procession. Before I could even see the procession, I could hear them singing a song. It was very loud and caught my attention. I saw some boys carrying the wreaths and flowers down from the village, so I stepped off to the side where some of my high school students were sitting. As the procession got closer I could see that some men were carrying the casket with the family and friends following behind. The song they were singing was very beautiful; I wish I knew it. As the procession got closer, I realized they were going to walk right past where I was standing. I felt bad that there were so many students gawking as the mourners made their way to the cemetery, but the students were very respectful. As bad as it sounds, it was an incredible experience to stand in the midst of the people as they sang their mourning song. There weren’t more than 35 or 40 people, but their voices were so loud and beautiful. I was a little mesmerized by the whole thing.

After the procession passed by, I slowly made my way to my classroom where I could see the people walking single file down the trail to the cemetery. They were still singing. I’m not certain what they did when they got there, other than put the casket in the tomb. They were not there very long. I had to prepare for my class, though, so I did not get to watch what happened.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Wesley and Alain, the two boys who rushed to help me when I fell.

Willem supervising some of the men as they build the foundational walls for the hospital.

Beth and Robenson after church.

Johanna and me after church. Isn't she beautiful?

Part of my fan club.

Eric taught David how to use his big camera while he was here. David has an artistic eye.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Haiti Q & A: How are you paid for teaching in Haiti? Part 2

Q. How are you paid for teaching in Haiti? or How do you get money?
A. I am a true missionary this year, meaning I am financially supported solely by the generosity of other people. I explained the support raising process previously, so you should read that post if you haven't already. Once someone decides to partner with me as a financial supporter, they send their monetary gift to the Mountain Top Ministries office. When the ladies in the office receive a donation that is designated for my ministry, they put it into my fund. (When they receive gifts for other projects they put those donations into other funds. Deb, who handles all the money, does a fantastic job keeping track of where all the donations are going.) Because the money that is being donated goes to a 501(3) non-profit organization instead of directly into my hands, it is all tax-deductible.

In September I started receiving monthly paychecks from Mountain Top Ministries. The money in the paycheck comes from my fund at MTM, which is the money that my supporters have given. On the first of each month, a direct-deposit paycheck is made to my account. I am able to use my debit card at many stores, and I get cash by writing a check at the local grocery store. For the US expenses that I have, I am able to use my bank's online banking feature. It works out really well.

Any other questions about this topic, let me know. I'll be happy to try to explain it better.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Daily Oral Language

My classes have been going very well since school resumed after Christmas vacation. I have really enjoyed my students, and I am happy with the way the students have responded to the curriculum changes I made. One change I made was to the beginning of each class. I decided to implement "Daily Oral Language" at the beginning of each period. For those of you who are not familiar with D.O.L., it's a method of teaching grammar. Basically I write a couple of incorrect sentences on the chalkboard, and then we discuss as a class how to make them "good English." To introduce this activity last week I used the following very simple sentences. See if you can correct them.

  1. My name are Miss Smith.
  2. The boy have a dog.
  3. The boy has a dog small.
  4. Mother my is sleeping.
So far, I'm quite pleased with how well this activity has been working. It's a great way to start discussion in class, and it's easy to modify for different grade levels. I think my only problem is going to be creating new and different sentences each week that will also be meaningful to the lesson for the day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011: The Year of (Learning) Patience

Patience defined by

  • the quality of bearing provocation, annoyance, hardship, misfortune or pain without complaint, loss of temper, irritation or the like

  • an ability to suppress restlessness and annoyance when confronted with delay
  • quietly and steadily persevering

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Haiti Q & A: How are you paid for teaching in Haiti? Part 1

Q. How are you paid for teaching in Haiti? or Does Mountain Top Ministries pay you for teaching in Gramothe?
A. I am a true missionary this year, meaning I am financially supported solely by the generosity of other people. I took a leave of absence from my job teaching reading in Indiana. While not officially unemployed this year, my paychecks stopped in the middle of August. I am volunteering my time to Mountain Top Ministries, but in order to live in Haiti (or anywhere) there are expenses that must be covered. Without an income, there's no way that I can pay for food, housing, or other expenses that come up. In order to have money for these expenses, I needed to raise support.

It can be difficult to wrap your brain around the concept of "raising support." Basically what I did was write a letter that A) explained why I decided to leave my job in Mishawaka to teach in Haiti and B) invited people to partner with me in several different ways. I asked people to pray for me regularly, financially support me, and/or send packages of school supplies if I needed them. I sent this letter to pretty much everyone I know, and then I waited for their responses. In addition to sending letters, I also contacted several churches and groups to see if they would be interested in supporting me. I was able to share with several congregations and small groups about my hope to live and teach in Haiti. I also created a prayer card, which is kind of like an over-sized business card, with information about how to financially support me on the back.

 Sometimes it can take missionaries years to raise the support they need to leave the United States. Thankfully I had many positive responses in a very short period of time. By the end of August I had enough support to leave for Haiti. When I arrived in Haiti during the first part of September, I had nearly 80% of the financial support I needed to live in Haiti for the entire school year. God has been faithful to provide for all my needs since I arrived in Haiti, and I'm happy to report that as of today my financial support is at 88%. I only need about $3,000 to complete my support.

If you are interested in supporting me as I teach and touch lives in Haiti, you can give tax deductible financial gifts to Mountain Top Ministries, a registered non-profit. Just send a check to Mountain Top Ministries at P.O. Box 7053, Terre Haute, IN 47802. Write the number "0500" in the memo line and the office staff will be sure to put the money in my account.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What a week!

The past week has been a bit of a whirlwind. I arrived in Haiti late on January 5th. I attended a funeral the following morning, and then got to know the team a little bit that afternoon. January 7th and 8th I helped at the clinic. I spent those two days working in the dossier room with Arold and Nalouse, who pull or create the paperwork for all the patients who come to the clinic. Sunday I went to church (an amazing choir from another came to visit) and then went on a tour of Gramothe with the medical team.

Then on Monday school started again. I was so excited to see my students! However, before class I was the "translator" for the fluoride treatments being given to all the students. I went to each classroom, briefly explained what was going to happen, and then helped the team members who were applying the fluoride treatments. I was REALLY nervous about being the translator, but I was able to write something out ahead of time and have it checked by my Creole tutor. He made me read it to him a couple of times before I went to the classrooms, but then I was on my own. I think the students were impressed with my Creole. Two teachers told me I did a good job, and I thought the 7th grade class was going to clap for me!

My classes this week went really well. I had forgotten how little English the 8th grade students know. That had the potential to be a rough class, but they did a great job. I think it also helped that most of my classes were significantly smaller than normal.

Wednesday was a day of mourning for Haiti. Schools and businesses were closed. There were very few people on the streets in my neighborhood. However, most churches had special services to commemorate the one year anniversary of the earthquake. I was disappointed to find very few articles online about Haiti and the anniversary of the earthquake. What I did find didn't really say much. It's frustrating to talk about reconstruction and rebuilding of lives. On one hand there are still piles and piles of rubble that haven't been touched. There are thousands of people still living in tents. But there are also stories of hope and redemption to be heard. There are people who are changing lives and sharing the love of Jesus with others, but their stories are rarely told. Instead the media focuses on the rubble, the tents, cholera, and the election riots.

I spent most of Wednesday hanging out with Arold. In the evening I went to the guest house to spend time with the medical team. They had their debriefing meeting, and they let me sit in on it. I enjoyed hearing what they had to say about the week they spent in the clinic. About 10 of them were here last year during the earthquake, so it was interesting to hear what they had to say about being here a year later.

Thursday was my first "normal" day in Haiti since I've been back. I said goodbye to the team in the morning, and then walked up the mountain to school. It felt so good (and a little like torture) to walk up the mountain again. It had been at least three weeks since I'd made the walk up. I taught my high school class, and then canceled my after school class with the kids from Laboule because my head was pounding. Instead I walked home with them and then spent the evening relaxing.

Today I spent the whole day at the guest house. First I worked on lesson plans for my classes for the next couple of weeks. Then I created a Word document for something Willem wants to do. I also attempted to hook up a new printer, but I failed at that task. We didn't have all the cables we needed, so I couldn't get it to work.

It's been good to be back in Haiti. I really enjoyed being in the States with my family and friends over the holidays, but I'm thankful I'm in Haiti again. I feel like I was made for this specific job. I don't know how my skills and talents could be used any better than they right now. This is where I belong.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Safe Arrival

I arrived safely in Haiti yesterday afternoon. I hooked up with the Little by Little medical team at the airport, so I had some companions while I was traveling. We arrived in Port au Prince around 4:45 and we were loaded and on our way up the mountain by 5:30. Traveling to and from the airport is always interesting to me because it's the only time I really see Port au Prince. There was some traffic as we made our way through the city, and it took about an hour and half to get to the guest house. I ate with the team and then Willem took me home around 8. I was mostly unpacked and in bed by 9:30. It was a long day of travel after not much sleep at my brother's apartment, but it was good to be back in Haiti.

I was expecting to be at the clinic today, but clinic won't start until tomorrow. Willem's mother passed away suddenly on Monday, so the funeral was this morning. I was very sad to hear of her passing, and I hope that you will join me in praying for her family, most of whom are my neighbors. I'm glad I was able to be here for the funeral.

After the funeral I went back to my apartment and worked on unpacking some more from my suitcase. This afternoon, I helped Beth at 36. I liked being to talk to her about my time at home and what's been going on here (elections, cholera, Aquid's passing) without the team around. Tonight I'll rest and prepare to be busy in the clinic for the next week. :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What I will NOT miss about Indiana

  1. cold weather
  2. chapped lips
  3. dry skin
  4. my winter coat
  5. snow

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Alphabet Soup

Here's an alphabetical look at 2010.

A is for Arold, the man who captured my heart this fall. (And that's all I'm going to say about that online.)

B is for the significant budget cuts to education funding in Indiana. Budget cuts that made it possible for me to take a year off and go to Haiti.

C is for Creole, the language I'm learning in Haiti.

D is for Dax, my English Setter who thinks he's a lap dog.

E is for the encouragement of my small group to follow God even if it meant moving away from them.

F is for fabulous friends who find ways to stay connected even though we live in different countries. (Can you say Facebook?)

G is for Gramothe, the village where I teach English.

H is for hiking up the mountain road and even the super steep short cut.

I is for the incredible legacy my grandfather left with us when he passed away in March.

J is for a job I love. I enjoyed my job as a public school teacher in Indiana, but I love teaching in Haiti.

K is for all the kids I've loved this year. First there were my 8th grade students at John Young and the teens at church. It was hard to let them go, but now there are my students in Gramothe and the children from Laboule Children's Home.
lam veritab

L is for lam veritab, my new favorite vegetable.

M is for Mountain Top Ministries, the organization I've been working with since September.

N is for the new normal: bucket baths, inconsistent electricity, a corrupt government, hurricanes, and a cholera outbreak.

 O is for the overflowing goodness in my life during 2010.

P is for God's provision for all my needs. He never fails to provide what I need when I need it.

Q is for all the questions I ask. I ask a lot of questions. Maybe later this month I'll make a post with a list of all the questions I ask in a single day.

R is for reading really good books. The Hunger Games series, Code Talker, The Wing and the Wall, The Sea of Trolls, and some others I can't remember the titles of right now.

S is for St. Mark Missionary Church, who have blessed me beyond my wild imagination this year.

T is for the various teams that volunteer with Mountain Top Ministries throughout the year. They are primarily medical and construction teams, but we get people with a wide variety of skills who do anything from install new gates to bake cookies for the kids.

ugly chicken with super long legs
U is for ugly chickens that live at my house. 

V is for the vital role of my ministry partners. Their prayers, financial donations, words of encouragement, and care packages are changing lives in Haiti.

W is for the human trafficking workshop I attended at OSU in January. Such an eye opening day.

X is for the extraordinary experiences that have unfolded in my life this year. God plans for me was infinitely better than anything I had planned for 2010.

Y is for the yearbook, a crazy project I spent many hours completing at the beginning of the year.

Z is for zero regrets about 2010.

I am excited about 2011 and the adventures that it holds! 
Happy New Year!