Monday, June 27, 2011

End of Year Party

Today the high school students had a party at school. I got a text this morning to see if I was coming. I was under the impression this party was going to start around 10 or 11, but I think it started at 8 am. There was a time of worship, a talent show of sorts, and the principals gave speeches. There was a lot of hanging out in the school yard, and the kids had just started a movie in the clinic waiting room when I left. The cafeteria ladies were making a special meal for them, and they had cases of pop brought in. I think the day was supposed to end with the distribution of report cards.

This kid is constantly dressed funny. He loves the attention. I know those overalls are Tommy Hilfiger, but they still make me think of a farmer.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another View

When Haiti is talked about on the news or in other media sources, it's almost exclusively portrayed as an earthquake ravaged nation. It's true. There was an earthquake. Many people died, and many buildings were destroyed. There is still rubble in the streets, and buildings that sit condemned. It's sad, but it's the truth.

BUT, Haiti has more to offer than broken buildings and rubble. Beautiful, strong, creative, affectionate  people make up this nation. The news likes to show pictures of the destruction, but I see so much more than that. I see older kids lovingly caring for their younger siblings. I see mother's fighting to give their kids the best that they can. I see Christians loving their neighbors as themselves. I see young people choosing to follow Christ instead of the world. It's a beautiful thing, and I wish more people could see it.

Recently Donna Karen (of DKNY) was in Haiti. Someone put together this video of her time here. I love it. It's so different than what you see in the media. Please take the time to watch it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rough Week

I expected this week to be emotionally difficult. There was the last day of school, saying goodbye to my students, packing up my apartment, and inevitably counting down the days until I leave. However, none of those things were on my mind this week.

Instead of being emotionally distraught, I found myself sicker than I've been in a very, very long time. Monday after school I felt achy and my throat hurt. I thought I was probably getting sick. I'll spare you all the details, but here's the gist of it. I had a fever. I started having diarrhea. I laid in bed all day and didn't eat because I didn't want more diarrhea. I scared Willem, Johane, and Arold because I was weak and sick. They made me move to Johane's extra bedroom so someone could watch me all night. They forced me to eat. I went to the doctor the next day. I had to take a stool sample to the lab and also get a blood test and a urine test. Now, I'm taking my meds and starting to feel better.

It appears that I have two different issues... some type of gastrointestinal parasite and an infection of some sort (hence the red, sore throat). I'm taking an antibiotic for the throat/infection thing, and I have this drug called Tinidral that I love. It made my stomach stop churning. I would like to carry some in my pocket for a good long time "just in case." The all Spanish packaging says it treats things like (don't click these links if you have a weak stomach; you won't get the disease, but you'll probably want to puke) trichinosis, giardiaintestinal amoebiasis, vaginitis, colon infections, and general gynecological infections. So any problem I may have below the waist should be taken care of.

It was a really rough week, but God blessed me with just the right support system. Arold came to visit every day, taking such good care of me. I wasn't very thankful while he was forcing me to eat crackers, but I'm so grateful he wasn't phased by my avoidance tactics. Johane allowed me to stay in her extra bedroom, contaminating her house with my at that point unidentified germs. She drove me to the doctor, and the next day she took me into the city for my lab tests. Willem was thinking ahead and had an "evacuate Britney" plan ready to go if I needed to get back to the States. He also went and scoured the clinic for the medicines I needed.

Even though it's been a rough week, I'm really thankful. I can't tell you how devoted and sweet Arold was with me this week. That man surpasses all my hopes for a husband. He is a true gift from God. Johane and Willem checked on me often and coordinated my trips to the doctor and lab. They continue to check in with me, even though I'm not so sick anymore. My church family was praying for me, and several of them sent encouraging words to me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday morning thoughts

Yesterday I read a really good article about the orphan epidemic and the appropriate Christian response.  I agree 100% with the author. His main point was that Christians should stop talking so much and put actions to their words. If you're interested in reading the entire article, you can find it here.

One line in particular has stuck with me. I've been thinking about it all morning. 

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter responded yes, Jesus didn’t tell him to picket the wolves. He told Peter to feed and tend his sheep.
Personally, I find it's easier to picket the wolves, to stand on the edge and tell other people what they should be doing. Tending and feeding sheep is much messier. Sheep can be smelly. Some have special needs, and others will bite if you get too close. Still, Jesus said if loved him we would feed his sheep.

Are you feeding Jesus' sheep or picketing the wolves?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Golden Nuggets VIII: Shopping Differences

Living in a foreign country requires learning new customs and adjusting to a new normal. All those interesting tidbits I learn as I live in Haiti are Golden Nuggets. And what kind of person would I be if I didn't share those Golden Nuggets with others?

Shopping in Haiti is both really similar to and very different from shopping in the States. Today I want to explain some of the differences. I already outlined some of the similarities a few posts back. Okay, maybe I should have called that post Shopping Differences That Are Really Not That Strange because mostly I explained some differences that are only slight. Today I'll share with you ways to shop in Haiti that are unfathomable for most Americans.

  • The local marchè, or farmer's markets if you prefer English, is very popular. They sell anything from rice and beans to spices to freshly butchered meat to fruits and vegetables. They also normally have at least one booth dedicated to freshly fried patès (the Haitian version of Hot Pockets). There is a marchè just around the corner from my house, but I've never shopped there for three reasons. 1) I don't like situations where I don't know what to expect and could make a fool of myself. 2) I'm white and would be charged at least double what dark Haitians are charged. Lighter skinned Haitians are typically charged more too, but not as much as white foreigners. 3) Beth takes me to the grocery store, so I haven't been forced to go to the marchè. 
  •  If you are looking for clothes or shoes, there are a lot of options for you. You could go to a clothing store in the city, but you might have to pay $90 for a men's dress shirt. If that's not in your budget, another option is a pay-pay on the street. These are little booths set up along the sidewalk or street that sell clothing, shoes, books, anything really. 

  • Each vendor specializes in something. For instance, one shoe vendor has black shoes. Another has tennis shoes, while another has sandals. These vendors might line up next to one another on the street, or not. You just walk around until you find what you're looking for. Clothing works the same way. One vendor has dresses, another has men's t-shirts, but someone else has men's dress shirts, and so on. Again, I have not been brave enough (or in need of new clothes) to shop at a pay-pay. I hear the prices are pretty good though. One girl I know got her prom dress for $8 Haitian dollars... about $1 US. 

This is actually right at the end of my street. I could buy a shirt or a bedspread. I've been checking out the bedspreads as I walk by. They're certainly used, but in nice condition.

  •  My favorite vendors are the ones with medicines. They make these cone towers out of the pill packets and put the boxes in the middle. It's pretty awesome. Beth says they advertise which symptoms they have meds for by yelling out the symptoms. Headache. Heartburn. Stomach ache. Allergies. You get the picture.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I am a teacher, not a nurse

Here are some of my job responsibilities:

  • teaching English in grades 7-12
  • after school computer class
  • after school Laboule English class
  • taking pictures
  • helping in the clinic
  • refilling prescriptions when the clinic is not open (mostly tums, tylenol, and high blood pressure meds)
  • helping Johane with administrative projects
My title is "English teacher". That's pretty self-explanatory. I'm a team player, so I don't mind helping people with their responsibilities. I even enjoy it most of the time. (The jobs I don't like require filing the dossiers back into their respective boxes. I generally put them in numerical order and hand them off to Nalouse.) However, there are these jobs that are occasionally thrust upon me that I just can't handle.

Need an example? Good. I've got two from this week. First, one of our neighbor kids had a prescription for Amoxicillian and ibuprofen. Johane asked me to get the meds from the clinic on Monday when I went to school. Not a problem. I'm a team player, remember? I like to help. So, I go to the clinic. Before I even step foot in the pharmacy (which is seriously one step from the door to the outside), an elementary kid is there saying, "Britney, mwen malad." This kid is notorious for attention seeking behavior, so I didn't believe that he was sick. However, before I could shoo him away, he took off his shoe and then his sock. Just my luck the kid has a nasty big toe injury that I can't ignore. Gross.

Anytime one of the high school students gets hurt, they send someone to find me. It doesn't matter where I am, they expect me to have supplies and the willingness to bandage them up. I think the fact that I'm white makes these kids think I am medically trained. I understand that 90% of the white people they meet are working in the clinic, but I am not medically trained! AND I DON'T LIKE NASTY WOUNDS THAT ARE LEAKING BODY FLUIDS. Don't they know the principal's office has a first aid kit?

The second example doesn't involve any body fluids. Thankfully! After I cleaned and bandaged the nasty toe, I started looking for the two medications I needed in the pharmacy. While I was there three students and the librarian came to ask me for medicine. Three of them were very easy: tums and/or tylenol. The fourth boy, Wilson, was extremely ill. He had a fever and was shaking so much I was afraid he was going to fall over. I immediately made him sit down and I gave him some ibuprofen to help with the fever. It wasn't clear whether he was vomiting or had diarrhea, and I couldn't think of anything else to do for him. I told him to drink a lot of water and that he should go home and sleep. I also told him he could take more pills in 4 hours.

Later I realized that we had some rehydration packets in the pharmacy, so I sent some home with one of his friends who promised to deliver them. I was really worried about Wilson. He was clearly very sick, and I don't think his family would be able to take him to the hospital/doctor if he got worse. This morning, Arold texted me as soon as he got to school to say that Wilson was there and completely fine. Thank you Jesus!

The moral of this blog post is you should really ask more questions about your job responsibilities. And when I say "ask more questions" I mean you should probably ask, "Will I be responsible for cleaning and treating open wounds?"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hot Sauce & Cholera

Arold arrived at his technical school today and found some other students sitting in the lounge eating. He noticed they were putting a lot of hot sauce on their food. It's really hot in the city today (95*) and he told me he couldn't imagine eating hot sauce on such a hot day. He apparently mentioned it to the guys too because they told him the hot sauce was to kill cholera.

Oh my word! Hot sauce as a preventative against cholera. That's hilarious! You can't make this kind of stuff up.

As funny as the idea of hot sauce killing cholera may be, this incident illuminates one of the issues I've been wrestling with lately. Most of my students (and many adults that I know) don't have a basic understanding of the human body or healthy living. What I consider "common sense" in the realm of human health and well being, is clearly not common sense. Obviously things like "keep open wounds clean" and "don't put bleach in your mouth" are not intuitively understood truths. They are lessons that must be taught.

The simple solution is to start teaching people about health. But where do we start? Do we create our own curriculum or find one that works elsewhere? What's the best way to get information to the people? How much information can they handle at one time? Is this something that can be implemented in our MTM schools? If so, will the teachers need to be trained? How much training do they need?

If only hot sauce killed cholera, then I wouldn't lay awake at night wondering how to educate high school graduates about germs and how to prevent sicknesses.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pendulum-like Emotions

Today I received some disheartening news in an e-mail about some problems with my house in Mishawaka. I don't know that "disheartening" is a strong enough word, though. I'm really, really frustrated. There's very little that I can do from Haiti, and the problems seeming to be growing exponentially rather than decreasing. I wanted to throw something I was so mad. And then I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. Because if there is one thing I don't want to do, it's use wedding money for house repairs.

In my frustration and despair, I wrote a quick e-mail to some friends at church. I asked them to pray for this situation because I totally need a new attitude and my house needs to be fixed.  I also asked them if they knew of anyone in the congregation who might be willing to help.

One of the ladies has already responded to my plea for help. She started with, "First of all....I'm hugging you tight even tho you can't feel it.  :-)" She always knows how to make me feel loved. I can't wait to see her again and get a real hug! She mentioned some possible leads for people who may be able to help at my house, and then she had this to say:

Finally, take a deep not allow satan to discourage you and pull your focus from what the Lord has called you to do.  In times like this I have found it helpful to speak (aloud) truth to myself... reciting scripture, recalling God's faithfulness in past experiences (my own and others), sing songs of praise.  All these things help me to shift my focus from my problem to God and His power over all.  It can be a real battle but these things help me.    
And with those words my heart is feeling much better. Hopeful in fact.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me friends who know and trust you. For people who remind me that YOU are in control and that I can put my trust in you. Thank you for this opportunity to watch you do what you do best: solve life's problems in ways that only you can do. I know that whatever happens, it won't be because of anything I can do or orchestrate. You are the one who's in control and you will have all the glory. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Big Stuff UPDATE

On Monday night there were some pretty heavy rains in Port au Prince. Massive flooding. Mudslides. Deaths. It was a horrible night. And last night there was more rain, compounding the problems.

Our shindig with the President that was slated for today has been postponed. He's busy picking up the pieces of the storm. While we're disappointed we won't be able to meet him today, we're happy to have a president who is already active in the communities he serves.

And we're also thankful we have homes, not tents, to sleep in.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Big Stuff

In church on Sunday, Willem announced that the school was chosen to plant some trees--with President Martelly! Martelly wants to provide free education to all of Haiti's youth by the end of his first term, and he's impressed with what MTM is doing in Gramothe.

On Wednesday 300 of our students will travel a short distance to a hillside near Boutillier (also known as Look Out Point for those of you who have been here). They'll plant some trees, eat lunch with the president, and probably have a chance to mingle with the press. I haven't been given all the details, but I can tell you that the kids are ecstatic!!! And the adults are just as pumped. I have been deemed the official MTM photographer for the event. I was even given permission to be an obnoxious-in-your-face photographer for the day, which is good because I want to try to get a picture of every single student we take.

Can you imagine being so poor that your family lives in a one room shack, sleeps on the dirt floor, and often doesn't have enough money for food BUT you have been chosen to meet the president of your country? I am so, so excited for these kids. What a blessing for them to be given this honor!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Golden Nuggets VII: Shopping Similarities

Living in a foreign country requires learning new customs and adjusting to a new normal. All those interesting tidbits I learn as I live in Haiti are Golden Nuggets. And what kind of person would I be if I didn't share those Golden Nuggets with others?

Shopping in Haiti is both really similar to and very different from shopping in the States. Today I want to focus on the similarities. The places where I shop are very much to what I'm used to in the States. I buy my food at the grocery store, I purchase presents at gift shops, and I get household things at a place called Handal--which is the Haitian Wal-mart. Even though I don't typically buy anything, I've also been with other people to optical shops (eye glasses), jewelry stores, clothing stores, hardware type shops, and book stores.

Even though shopping in Haiti can be very similar to shopping in the States, there are some differences.

  • First, there are armed guards at almost every establishment--especially banks and grocery stores. They have very official looking uniforms and carry giant guns. Often shotguns or something equally large but scary looking. I have never heard of a business being robbed, so accredit this to the armed guards.

  • Sometimes I like to think of Haiti as a 1950s America. Women wear skirts and stay home with their kids, gas stations have attendants to pump your gas, and bag boys always carry your groceries to the car. I absolutely love shopping at Giant Supermarket because it's new and shiny and makes me feel like I'm shopping at Meijer. Best of all, the bag boys (which are really grown men) bag all my groceries and then carry them to the car for me no matter how many I have. At the grocery store much closer to my house, the bag boys (again all grown men) will even unload my cart onto the conveyor belt for me! It's awesome customer service.

  • Every single store in Haiti has a complimentary gift wrap station. Anything you purchase as a gift can be gift wrapped in the paper of your choosing (normally there are at least 2 options) and will have a nice pretty bow. A friend of mine recently told me about her self-serve gift wrapping fiasco at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It made me chuckle when I told her all stores in Haiti have someone who is dedicated to gift wrapping.