Thursday, July 24, 2008

internet mostly out

Hey, all--
Just trying to let you know that the internet is barely working here right now. Something to do with the provider switching from one satelite to a different one and the new one doesn't reach Haiti as well. The problem isn't likely to be fixed before I leave on Saturday, so I probably won't get to add any new entries until I get back. You'll just have to check back next week for more photos and updates. Also, my email communication is very limited and hit or miss right now too. My flight leaves Haiti around 9:30 am on Saturday. I'm currently scheduled to get back to Nashville around 10:45 Saturday night, but I'm going to try to hop an earlier flight so I can make it to the wedding of some friends that evening.


Some highlights you can look forward to when I can ever post again...market day last Saturday; going Haitian and having my hair braided (very painful!!), which I may or may keep for a few days after my return to Nashville; and tomorrow I'm supposed to go with Michael and Karen's Haitian-American friend Jack on a tap-tap (the public transportation here) and see some of the sites of Port-au-Prince (national palace, cathedral, some museums, etc.). Tonight I'll share a few thoughts with the MAF team during their staff meeting and meet with the son of one of the missionaries. The son is a recently graduated aspiring film guy. We'll talk creative shop.

This week I've mostly been writing, writing, writing. All total I've got at least 10 assignments to do from my time here, plus a couple other less formal things to write up for Karen and Michael. I've finished 6 of the 10 assignments and am hoping to get at least 2 more finished before I leave.

--Kami

Thursday, July 17, 2008

some of haiti's faces

Today I'm heading by car to a place in northwestern Haiti called Anse Rouge to meet up with folks with Lemuel Ministries. I'll just be there overnight and am scheduled to return to Port-au-Prince by MAF plane on Friday. In the meantime, here are some photos of people I met on Monday and Tuesday in Maissade while conducting interviews for Save the Children stories.

Gary Cemelia, 10, with the soccer ball he and friends were playing with when we arrived.
Miclise Charles, 11, outside her house.

Miclise's mother, one of her brothers and one of her sisters. I really liked her pleasant, smiley mom and would have loved to chat with her more.

Julianna Albert with her orphaned niece Gina Antie-flore Michaelle Thebeau, 22 days old. Gina is a very beautiful baby. Her mom died from AIDS complications, as I understand it, but so far Gina is doing well. I also really liked Julianna and would have been glad to spend more time with her. When I asked to take her picture, she agreed but first wanted to change from her tank top into a nicer shirt. She also didn't like the way her hair looked, so she added the hat. She's much prettier than this photo does her justice for.

Leveillege Beauge and one of her five sons in the doorway to their home.

Odlin Fanord, 17, is living with his aunt, uncle and cousins since his father died in 2000. His mother died sometime when he was young. It's a cultural norm here for families to take in nieces and nephews when they are orphaned.

Odlin with his uncle and some of his cousins near the garden part of their home plot.

Elsa Michel, 4, and her doting father Charles outside one of Save the Children's rural health centers.

Hubert Louis, the Cazec (elected leader), for a community called Cinquieme. He spoke of how hard things are for their community, and he's been working to find a development organization who will help the community find a potable water supply. Currently residents must walk a long distance to a river for water, and it's water isn't clean, he explained. He's also searching for funding to help more of the community's children be able to go to school. He seemed to really be concerned about the community's needs and to be actively working to improve things.

Evelina (sp?) is the daughter of Izania, the cook/housekeeper of the Save the Children guest house. Evelina found me in the dining room of the director's house where I was plugged into the internet router. She saw my camera and wanted me to take her picture. Then she took one of me.

pray for rain

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This afternoon, after visiting a rural community leader who also works as a farmer, I was thinking that I really should ask all of you to join in praying that God’ll bring rain here. The central plateau here—or at least the Pignon area and the Hinche/Maissade area—have not had enough rain this year, and I think that’s actually true for much of Haiti. The corn crop and others are nearly past the point of no return, but from what I hear it might be salvageable if enough rain comes really soon. Or at the very least farmers need enough rain to sustain the next growing season. With the difficult economic times here and crazy high food prices, it’s just another really unneeded challenge when the food people are trying to grow isn’t harvestable.

Well, in very cool fashion, before I had a chance to ask you to pray or even to fully form a prayer myself, a soaking thunderstorm has descended upon us this afternoon (which means the satellite internet service has been blocked out by clouds). I think it’s good rain, though I’m no expert on such things. It seems to be a soaking rain that isn’t a total downpour, though it sounds like a monsoon because it’s being amplified on metal roofs around and over me.

So please do pray that God’ll provide the rain these farmers need and that they’ll still be able to harvest food this year. It seems that a majority of people here plant at least corn and other crops around their homes, even if they’re not planting large fields of crops. So people try to provide for themselves. When you pray, you can thank God for today’s rain too. :-)

Later on Tuesday…

This evening I spent some time talking with Joseph, the Save the Children director here. I learned some interesting things. For one thing, he noted that there’s not a lot of aid money available for agricultural projects right now, for projects like training people in better farming methods, providing better farm equipment and seed, etc. There’s money for health care and education projects but not for agriculture. There’s a lot I don’t know about how things work, but it sure seems that supporting people’s efforts to feed themselves would sure be a smart way to address the world food crisis.

I also learned that there used to be farmers in Haiti, in the Artibonite River valley, growing rice. However, Haiti began importing rice grown in other countries by farmers receiving various economic aids and farmers working with technology that produces more rice at lower cost. The farmers in Haiti had to sell their rice for a higher price than the cost of the rice that was imported, so they were basically driven out of business. How crazy is that? Imported rice is cheaper than local rice? Something seems amiss in all that. (This is exactly the kind of thing author/farmer/poet/advocate-for-local-economy Wendell Berry talks about.) And now that the cost of outside rice has risen there’s no longer enough rice being produced in Haiti to provide an alternative.

There was more to the very interesting conversation, but those are a couple of the highlights that have been added to the files in my head.

Patrick, my Save the Children guide (2nd from left); Kevens, one of the Save the Children drivers/mechanic (orange shirt); Hubert, the community leader for Cinquieme/farmer (2nd from right)

The tree we chatted under on Hubert's farmland, and some of the women and children who gathered to watch as we talked.

Lots of people around Maissade use horses and donkeys for transportation and for hauling things. Many of them have these woven baskets straddling the horse/donkey, and many of the saddles are made out of banana or palm leaves or something like that.

The twilight view of the mountains, from near my guest room door at the Save the Children compound.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

maissade

Monday night, July 14

When I had supper at about 4 pm, I thought it seemed a little early, but I’m a guest so I accept what’s offered. I didn’t expect another meal tonight. Then at about 8:30 a guy knocked on my door and told me in English that they were waiting on me to eat. Oh, there’s another meal? (I’d been taking a little nap to make up for the short night of sleep last night, before jumping into some work.) I don’t know what meal times are normal here, but supper #2 was appropriately light for a later meal: some sort of delicious soup of who knows what color (it was too dim by the one energy efficient light bulb to tell) and some tasty flat bread. I waited until after the meal was over (in case it was somehow impolite to ask during the meal) to ask what the soup was. I asked the guy I’m claiming as a friend because he seems to be the only one here tonight that I can mostly have a full conversation with. He asked Izania (spelling made up by me, but it’s a cool name that I’m remembering because it sounds like lasagna without the “L”) who said that what to me tasted slightly like lightly flavored cinnamon oatmeal with the consistency of thick soup was actually made out of beans and plantains. I sure didn’t taste the beans. Anyway, it was a tasty mystery, and it was fun to try to guess what it was. My lunch and supper #1 were tasty too.

Today has been go with the flow day, and that might even be an understatement. The day’s been more reminiscent of some of my Africa travels in that regard. It has particularly reminded me of Layton’s (the British photographer I worked with in Uganda) and my travels to Kalongo and Patongo. We were dropped off by a MAF plane and knew very little about how things were supposed to proceed from that point. Someone from Kalongo Hospital was there to pick us up, and from there we felt our way around and managed to get our job done, making up a plan as we went. While in Kalongo and Patongo we spent time with GOAL and Medair, both relief and development organizations.

Similarly, today I was dropped off in Hinche with little confirmation of who would be meeting me there and who was expecting me on the other end. Two Save the Children employees were in the plane with me, returning from spending the weekend back home in Port-au-Prince. So the driver, Sylvester, picked the three of us up and drove us the hour or so to Maissade (pronounced something like mah-ee-sahd) where Save the Children’s offices are. The road, by the way, took us through rivers at least three times and through some spots that were muddy even though it hasn’t rained a ton. It seems like it wouldn’t take much rain to make that road pretty nearly impassable, even for a driver with skills like Sylvester’s.

When my work for Save the Children was being coordinated, no one ever asked whether I speak Creole or even French. And Patrick, my guide for the day, has only moderate English. So he was appropriately nervous when he found out I can’t conduct interviews without some serious assistance. But we decided we’d do our best, and off we went to visit a summer camp program that helps prepare kids who will start first grade in the fall and to meet some of the children in Save the Children’s sponsorship program. Between my fledgling French, Patrick’s probably better-than-he-thinks English, and one consultation of the French-English dictionary (the word cabinetmaker had us stumped; I didn’t know that French word, and Patrick didn’t know it in English), I think we managed to get what I needed for those assignments. It was one thing to do interviews through translators last year, but it’s quite another to do them with only half a translator.

Since I’ll never be Haitian (isn’t that a news bulletin?!) and I don’t know enough Creole to have an in-depth conversation with someone who is, this adventure is about the closest I can get to tasting Haitian life right now. And I love it (the getting to taste part). Though it’s also very hard not knowing what to expect and just deciding to be okay with anything and there are moments of overwhelmedness at being thrust into a day like today, I also feel like I’m really experiencing Haiti today. There’s no buffer of other Americans to lean on. And I actually enjoy the challenge of trying to communicate when there’s not a full vocabulary of shared language to use. Because then anything you do communicate is rewarding. And it also helps me learn a few more words. My new friend gave me a little Creole lesson after the second supper (as opposed to the Last Supper), so that in the morning (“de meme matin,” however that’s spelled in Creole) I can nicely ask for some water (“mwen vle dlo”) and check to see if people slept well (“ou bien dormir?”…the Creole may not have the “r” on the end).

I have to say, though, that I’m very glad to be having this adventure in a country whose language is related to the only one I’ve ever formally studied. At least I know what most of the signs say and can figure out every tenth word of the conversations I try to understand. Put me in Russia or Saudi Arabia or China, and I wouldn’t have so much to work with.

And I’m trying to figure out how to articulate what I feel tonight and how it relates to what God’s calling me to. But I don’t think I can sort it out all the way yet. Basically, life is different here, it’s true. I’m staying in a room at the Save the Children guest house/compound. I’m happy to have electricity, a fan, a little desk/table, a surprisingly nice bathroom in a structure that looked like it would be an outhouse, wireless internet, and lizards everywhere that are hopefully eating the mosquitoes I’ve seen flying around. But the water isn’t working in the nice bathroom tonight, I haven’t been able to view a web page through the wireless connection yet, I couldn’t talk much with people over supper, and folks here just walk from their room to the outhouse bathroom wrapped in a towel (I’m thinking I’ll keep some clothes on for my bathroom trek). The roads are bad, food is tasty mysteries, and I’m just trusting that they know how to make clean drinking water if they’re an organization that teaches people about good hygiene and such. But somehow all the things that are different from home don’t seem strange or like a big deal. They are how life is here. And part of me fits that. That part of me doesn’t feel like I’m supposed to stay here long term, but it’s strange how, after this past year, this life almost feels normal now too.

I guess maybe the strange thing I can’t quite sort out yet is that Nashville life feels fully normal when I’m there, yet now this life feels normal too, even though I don’t know completely yet how this developing country life works. And it seems like it shouldn’t be possible to feel so reasonably comfortable in places, in lives, that are so different from each other. The comfort level is such that they don’t actually feel that different after all, even though cognitively I know they are, at least in external accoutrements. And maybe that’s the thing I can’t figure out, the thing that doesn’t make sense: that it doesn’t feel that hard to flit between worlds.

I’m thankful that, during my months in Nashville between returning in March and leaving for Haiti, I feel like I was really able to be fully present in and fully committed to the people and place of Nashville. And now here in Haiti, I feel like I’ve been able to do that too. And I’m thankful for God’s gift of that. I think only coming to Haiti for a month is helpful in that it’s long enough to really taste the place but short enough not to be overwhelmingly long and short enough not to need to pay bills or have someone pick up my mail while I’m gone. And somehow enjoying and being fully present in the normal life of Nashville doesn’t keep me from wanting to come to places like Haiti, while enjoying and being fully present in the new normal-feeling life of places like Haiti doesn’t keep me from wanting to return to Nashville.

So, anyway, those are some semblance of thoughts-in-progress. I should probably wrap up for the night since I’ve committed to playing basketball at 6 am in the morning with the new friend. He does physical education programming for the schools and kids connected to Save the Children. I think that’s why he was asking at supper, the second one, what exercises people liked to do in the morning. According to him, other sports that are popular here are soccer, of course, badminton, and ping pong. No baseball here, that’s for Dominican half of the island and for neighboring Cuba.

If you want to pray for Mr. New Friend, you can. I discovered in our conversation tonight that he’s still deciding what religion to choose. I don’t really get the sense that he’s on the verge of making a decision or is ripe for the harvest, so to speak, but it’d still be cool if God chose to plant some seeds through our interaction until I leave on Wednesday. He knows I’m a Christian, but we haven’t had any theological discussion of what that means or anything yet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

12,000 words worth of pictures

This is a mostly-all-photos post because I don't have time to write any of the things I want to write tonight. And you probably don't have time to read them anyway. So it's really better for all of us for me to stick with pictures. :-)

I'm headed off to Hinche tomorrow. Back to Haiti's central plateau. I'll be meeting up with Save the Children there. Back to Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. We're working on finalizing the rest of my schedule from there. Happy photo viewing!

Some ladies at church last Sunday in Bohoc. Between my fledgling French, their Creole and a bit of Yverta's help in English, I finally understood they wanted me to take their picture. They're standing in front of a mural painted by the California team we overlapped with.


Back at JeanJean and Krissy's after church: Yverta, Michael, Kaydence, Natalie, Jacob, Karen, me.

Making fresh passion fruit juice after church with some of the California folks. It was a lot of work, but the pay off was worth it.

The come-as-you-are-service that meets at JeanJean and Krissy's place on Sunday afternoons. This is for folks who don't feel comfortable coming to or can't get to the Sunday morning service that's further away. It's also for people who can't afford to dress up the way people typically dress up for church in Haiti. Krissy was very excited to see so many people at the service last Sunday. It's been growing steadily but this was record attendance!

The sign for the Pignon airstrip. The Rotary Club of Pignon helped build the strip. I noticed Rotary Club signs all over Africa during my travels, too. They seem to be busy beavers with chapters all over the world doing humanitarian work. Cool.

Loading up to leave Pignon last Sunday.

The view as we climbed out of Pignon.

Flying over some of Haiti's mountains.

A glimpse of the Haiti's very serious deforestation problem, which has caused a severe erosion problem.

The coastline near Port-au-Prince.

Back on the ground in Port-au-Prince!

Outside the MAF hangar.

Friday, July 11, 2008

being a girl

Sometimes I don’t like being a girl.

There, I’ve said it. But before you start worrying that I’m planning a sex change so I can one day hit the headlines as the second “man” to give birth (did you see the news that the pregnant “man” had his baby?), you should know that my dislike of girlness is really only true when I’m traveling and when I need to go to the bathroom where no toilet is available. Otherwise, I’m quite satisfied with it. Well, except maybe when I can’t get a jar of something to open. Any other time, though, it’s a good way to be.

I suppose the bathroom part is pretty obvious. Guys just lucked out on God’s design on that one. And the jar part probably is too. So let’s just jump into the travel part. I’ve traveled quite a lot over the years, though mostly domestically until this past year. I’ve also lived in cities, well, mostly just DC, I guess. But, still, two years of living in a place with one of the higher murder rates in the country teaches you things about being savvy as a single girl who can’t always get home before dark. My mom used to be quite concerned if she found out I was going to the grocery store by myself at night. I tried to help her understand that it’s not possible to avoid going places by yourself when you live in the city. And besides, as much as I love people I also need my alone time. Perhaps it was living in DC where I first really learned how much I like walking along streets and taking in a place, being alone but not really alone, free to talk with strangers or just to ponder observations.

Most of my traveling has been by myself, the part from my home to the home of the person I’m on my way to visit. That’s just how life’s worked out. As I’ve grown into a savvier traveler, solo travel hasn’t held too much cause for nervousness, and sometimes I welcome it for that same walking-along-streets opportunity to be alone but not alone, to interact or instead to just observe and ponder.

At the end of my DC life, I had occasion to travel to Illinois for a friend’s wedding. My first stop was Chicago where I was catching up with some other friends. From the airport I had to catch a train into the city where I think I had to catch a cab the rest of the way to my friend’s office. And on that train ride, I had my first, and so far only, real experience with the reality of the vulnerability I have because I’m a girl.

The shortish version of the story is that the man who sat down beside me, a me who was loaded down with luggage and couldn’t move away quickly or easily, was surreptitiously touching the side of my body. And he continued to do it even after I twice looked him straight in the face and asked him to stop. I even tried to be respectful and give him an out, telling him that I didn’t know if he was doing it on purpose but his hand was touching my body and it was making me uncomfortable. And with his violation of me, minor though it was, he took away some of my naivety. He taught me that it’s not always true that if you’re respectful toward a person, they’ll be respectful back. He taught me that people will do things to women that they won’t do to men. But I also saw God take good care of me and allow a big lesson to come at a comparatively very small cost. As I sat there praying about what to do, the husband of a couple who’d also gotten on the train at the airport stood up and asked if I’d like to trade seats. His wife told me she’d seen what was going on and had told her husband to do something. And fortunately the bad man got off the train before any of us, so there was no danger of his following me.

And so from all of that I’ve learned that wisdom requires acknowledging that women are more vulnerable than men, as physical danger goes. It’s not a truth I like, but not liking it doesn’t change it. And, so, here in Port-au-Prince/Petionville I find myself chaffing at that truth.

Michael and Karen, my hosts here, aren’t super-paranoid types, so I feel like I’ve got to respect their judgment about what’s okay and what’s not. But I really hate it that I can’t go explore Petionville and head off to jaunt around downtown Port-au-Prince, walking along streets and absorbing sights, sounds, and observations. The fact that I can’t speak more than about five words in Creole and can remember only a small bit of French vocabulary would, admittedly, make the talking with strangers part of walking city streets difficult.

But, all of this is why I don’t like being a girl when I’m traveling.

Added to all of these things is my own journey with fear. In recent years God has done very good work in releasing me from a pretty hearty battle with various versions of fear. And there is great, great freedom in that release. And so, by God’s generosity, in all of these travels of the past year, I haven’t felt afraid. And, honestly, I don’t actually feel afraid of venturing outside the walls of the seminary campus the Broyles live on. While I’m not a throw-your-cares-to-the-wind daredevil type who thinks nothing bad will ever happen, I find it a bit challenging in such situations as my current one to weigh other people’s unnecessary fears against their real wisdom and against that reality that I’m vulnerable as a female out wandering unknown streets.

Yet, also added in is the reality that God sometimes calls us to do things that aren’t safe, that are risky and that fly in the face of wisdom. On the flip side, it’s no good to play with risk unnecessarily, just for the rush. God doesn’t promise us safety, but He also has the power to fully protect us in dangerous situations.

After saying all of these things, you should know that I’m not planning to disregard Karen and Michael’s admonitions, but I’m obeying quite grudgingly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

summing up my last night in bohoc

Sometimes fewer words convey more than many words.

Midnight in Haiti

The last one up,
Left alone with a sky full of stars
I can’t see from home,
I came into the darkness
To catch a new view.
On my back, looking up
The sounds are similar—
Dogs barking, bugs singing, leaves whispering—
But the lights are different—
More bright, more multiplied, more beautiful.

The former witch doctor told us,
“Night is when I worked—
Before.”
He’s only 32, like me,
But that’s enough time to find the truth.
Now he sleeps at night
With his family
With all those beautiful stars over them,
New lights smiling through the
Darkness.

The last one up,
I came into the darkness
For cool air and quiet.
I found them both and was refreshed
In the darkness,
A darkness made friendly
By lights freckling a night sky,
Even though this same darkness
In this same place
Is when unfriendly work is done.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

bohoc/pignon

I’m sitting outside on the front porch/veranda steps of JeanJean and Kristie Mompremier’s home in Bohoc, outside Pignon. The night time air is cool enough and there’s a breeze often enough that, for my easily cold self, the temp is reasonably pleasant. And would be even better if I didn’t have a hot computer on my lap. Lights here are minimal which means the bugs may soon flock to my computer screen and force me inside. We’ll see how long my evening reverie lasts. But also because the lights are minimal, the night sky here is surely full of more stars than the night sky at home. Unfortunately, I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like tipping my head upward, partly because that’s hard to do when you’re brushing your teeth. (That’s when I first noticed the stars. The first night I brushed my teeth outside here. There’s no sink, so you brush and spit outside with a cup of water to rinse.) Perhaps tonight, though, I’ll remember to look up after I spit down.

JeanJean and Kristie are good friends of Karen and Michael’s. They were the Broyles’ first hosts here. Michael and Karen lived in Bohoc at the Mompremiers’ home for their first six weeks in Haiti, their first six weeks of language learning. This is why coming to Pignon and Bohoc is always a bit of a homecoming for them. They have many friends to catch up with here.

Semi-ironically, the Mompremiers are also hosting a twenty or so person mission team from California this weekend. This is ironic because my travels this past year have partly intentionally (and partly because of opportunity) not been with mission teams, intentionally because I don’t like the insulatedness that comes with team travel. If I’m going to be outside America, I want to be outside America and spend time with non-Americans. That’s harder to do when you’ve got relationships to build within your mission team. So it’s been a little frustrating and a little humorous to be surrounded by 20 other Americans in spite of my solo travel plans.

But God works in the midst of these things too. The team has been very kind and welcoming, which has been great. I just wasn’t anticipating spending relational energy on other Americans, besides the ones I came to visit and support. That’s unavoidable, though, when you’re sharing bunk beds with them. Though my schedule has been different from theirs, our meals have been together, and I’ve had a late night conversation or two.

It’s been good to be confronted by my pride even as I feel my frustration with “typical” approaches to missions, with the clich├ęs that tend to emerge as people describe their first experiences outside the US. The “these people must be so poor because their houses are smaller than ours” comments are frustrating to me. See my
devozine blog for more on this frustration with how we define poverty. I’m also frustrated with the “oh, they’re so cute” tourist mentality toward those poor people we petted during our trip to Haiti. Instead of an approach that truly sees people here as equals. It’s a subtle difference of attitude, one of entitlement rather than humility, that is very hard to shake, even by the most supposedly enlightened among us (um, yeah, finger pointing at myself, sardonicly).

Mostly, I just feel like there’s something off in how much of the West thinks of people not from the West, from the places we call “developing.” But I don’t know yet fully how to call it for what it is or what to call for instead or quite how to articulate it all. But something is wrong that needs to be fixed, something is wrong in an injustice type of way.

In the vein of these things, among the cool things of the last few days is that, in addition to slowly getting over the hump of being ready to absorb a new culture, I’ve begun my interviews, which has gotten me outside that group of 20 other Americans. This has been nice. Two of the folks I’ve talked with have been Haitian men who break those stereotypes that all-too-often exist when Westerners think of people in places like Haiti, places the news always reports as being in turmoil. Both men are from Pignon, left to get training and then returned to invest in significant ways in their community. And they’ve done and are doing these things for God’s glory. And they are contributing to change in their community. These are good stories to tell, so I’m excited to write them up, though they’ll be cursory versions of the stories because my time with them was so limited.

Also today I spent time with a missionary couple who first arrived in Haiti with an organization but have stayed on here more recently as independent missionaries because they couldn't find a missions organization that would let them invest in the ways they felt God calling them to care for people. They are doing cool work of training and empowering folks in business, without offering hand-outs. One of the things that stood out to me when I spoke with some of the businessmen is that almost all of them mentioned being excited to and looking for opportunities to pass on the business lessons they were learning to other people in their community. This is how community change happens.

Tomorrow afternoon we will fly back to Port-au-Prince/Petionville. This coming week is likely to be my lightest week travel-wise, which will allow time to write up this weekend’s stories. We’re also planning a beach trip day sometime during the week.

Guess I should wrap up before some mosquito bequeaths a less-than-fun disease my way. :-) (I’m testing out how much natural repellent my skin contains.)


Kaydence cheesing for the camera while we weighed in for our flight to Pignon.

me, Yverta, Kaydence, Natalie, Jacob waiting for our Pignon flight. The luggage to the right was not ours. We only got about 100 lbs of luggage between us.

Thursday evening on a prayer walk with the missions team, distributing rice and beans and praying with people. JeanJean is in the yellow shirt. The man in the white-ish shirt was a former witch doctor who became a Christian while Michael and Karen lived in Bohoc.

Michael and Karen catching up with JeanJean's mother, Madame Tobisco.

Kaydence, the center of attention with the kids at Madame Tobisco's house.

Barb bringing me back to JeanJean and Kristie's on her four-wheeler.

Barb's transportation.

On the road, sitting behind Barb on the four wheeler. This was the good part of the road, where I could afford to let go with one hand long enough to take a picture.

Some of the new people I've met in the past couple days: Caleb Lucien, Jim Howard (Barb's husband), JeanJean and Kristie Mompremier, Lydia and Debbie Lucien.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

beginning

The beginning is always the hardest, it seems. The beginning of anything: figuring out where to start a story you’re writing, beginning a new relationship, learning something new, entering a new culture. And so it is here. The beginning is hard. Where do you start? What do you take in? How do things work here? What is okay?

Haiti, and Port-au-Prince specifically, isn’t the safest place in the world, so there are some things I’d like to do that I probably won’t get to do, like walk down a street by myself and chat with people. I’m getting the impression I won’t be doing a lot of that. Oh well. You learn so much about a place by walking on its streets and learning its personality. Driving on streets is never quite as effective. I’ll probably have a little more freedom in the villages, though, which will be nice.

That said, though, first impressions are not so scary as one might expect from the things we hear on the news. The woman, Abigail, sitting next to me on the plane with her eight-year-old son said that the news only shows the bad parts of Haiti, but that there’s much more to Haiti than that. That jives with my Africa experience too. Abigail now lives in Florida and is an American citizen. She’s working to get her husband through immigration’s hoops, but right now he and other parts of her family are still in Haiti, so she comes back to visit them every year.

My friends Karen and Michael live in a house on the campus of a Nazarene seminary that is actually in a city called Petionville which is a little southeast of Port-au-Prince. I think they live on the nouth side of Petionville, the Port-au-Prince side.

Last night we went out to eat at a very nice Chinese restaurant in Petionville. The drive through the streets reminded me most of Cape Coast, Ghana, with a European edge to coastal, Caribbean architecture. It’s interesting how we always search through the files of other things we’ve known to help us understand the new things we encounter. So now I compare everything here to what I experienced in Africa in order to help me understand and describe it.

Today we’ll be heading to Pignon (pronounced something like Pee-OWN), north of here on Haiti’s central plateau. Someone asked me if there are mountains in Haiti, and I wasn’t sure, though I had read something about a central plateau. Well, in case that person’s reading, I have a better answer now. There are two mountain ranges, one on the south edge of the central plateau and one running somewhat horizontally, as I understand it, along the southern part of Haiti. (see the Haiti map I posted a few posts ago to help with the geography, or look up a better one)

We’ll stay in Pignon until Sunday. I think this will be my busiest stop in terms of the number of different organizations I’ll be in contact with. Michael and Karen and their daughter Kaydence are going, as well as Jake and Natalie, 16-year-old twins visiting Michael and Karen. Jake and Natalie were youth in the Broyles’s church in Tennessee. Their family now lives in China, which is part of the reason we went to a Chinese restaurant last night. Also going with us is Yverta, Michael and Karen’s house helper. So it’ll be a full plane.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to use a little French here and pick up a little Creole. In Africa I was around so many languages for such short amounts of time that it was pointless to try to learn much. But I’ll have over three weeks around the same two languages here, so that makes it worth trying to learn and remember things. Bits of high school and college French are still trapped in my brain, which gives me a starting point. I can usually get the jist of written French, but I never had nearly as much practice understanding spoken French. By the way, I’ve learned that Haitian Creole and the Creole in Louisiana are two different languages. Both have some relation to French, but the two languages developed separately, so they’re not really the same language.

Also, by the way, I’m currently on the same time as central time in the U.S. I think Haiti is actually in the eastern time zone, but it doesn’t participate in daylight savings time, so we’re the same as central time right now.


Jake, Natalie, Karen, Kaydence, Kami at Chez Wou


Kaydence and Kami, self-portrait

Karen and Kaydence

Chez Wou's cool ceiling

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

in transit

I finally know I'm really headed to Haiti. I didn't expect to discover it this way. I mean, it wasn't really when I left Nashville that I knew I was headed to Haiti. It wasn't when I arrived in Fort Lauderdale. It wasn't after I spent the night in the airport catching up on email. It wasn't while I stood in the check-in line with people who had dark hair and may or may not speak English fluently. It wasn't even when I ordered a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast.

Instead, it was most unexpected. All I was doing was cleaning breakfast-feeding hands that hadn't been cleaned in a while. I pulled out the Germ-X and suddenly, surprisingly, tears nearly formed as its distinctive scent washed Africa over me. And that's when I knew I'm really going to Haiti: when I smelled Africa.

During my Wal-Mart run earlier today, well I mean yesterday which is still today since there was no sleep to mark the changing of the calendar block from one day to the next, my list included hand sanitizer. The 2.5 oz Germ-X bottles were $0.88. The 10 oz bottles, which came with 20% more for free!, were $1.95. I really didn't need 10 or 12 oz because, as I noted to myself, I don't really use Germ-X when I'm in the States. I usually get to wash my hands often enough. In the end, I had to buy the larger bottle. I mean, seriously, that much more sanitizing power for the price of 5 oz? It's a no-brainer. But I think that's also why I smelled Africa which told me I'm heading to Haiti in a couple hours. Because I don't use Germ-X at home. Though I didn't know its scent was making such a potentially sappy mark on me, it and I did spend a good bit of time together during the latter quarter of 2007.

And now we'll be hanging out some more.

And speaking of hanging out (not really, but it does sound like a good segue doesn't it?), below is a photo to hold you over until I have Haiti pics for you. This picture is oh-so-originally titled "End of an Era." Can you guess what era it's the end of?


If you guessed "the era of gas under $4 per gallon," you're right!! Woohoo! Name your prize and it's yours! It seems highly unlikely--as in, in the realm of miracle-requiring--that gas will still be findable under $4 three and a half weeks from now when I return. Therefore, I decided that as a good historian I should take a photo of my last under-$4 fill up. So there you have it. We'll see if I still feel sorry for us and our heftier gas prices after I use enough Germ-X that it makes me think of Haiti instead of Africa.

Smelling Africa and knowing I'm going to Haiti has aroused another emotion in me: the one I felt upon arriving in Ghana. As we rode in the dark from the airport to our hotel a day later than we were supposed to, exhausted me looked out the window and, in spite of my international cultures loving ways, struggled to muster up the energy to want to absorb this new culture. I wanted to want to, but I felt overwhelmed at the thought of four months of having to. And I was surprised. And disappointed. But there was no turning back at that point. And I felt that feeling again this morning when I realized I'm really going to Haiti. I want to go there. But I'm feeling overwhelmed at arriving into it. That will pass. But it's real for now.

p.s. Just so you know: I can pretty much barely keep my eyes open right now. I really want a bed bad.

Acknowledgements: This lovely post has been brought to you by the kind people who decided the Fort Lauderdale airport should provide free wireless internet access in its terminals. Thank you, you kind people.