Saturday, October 27, 2007

Communique x 2

I finally was able to get through to the kids on Thursday afternoon. I called the boys' coach, Manno Magloire, who conveniently happened to be at the orphanage when I called (he is always supposed to be there in the afternoon, but he is frequently late), and he let the boys talk to me on his phone. We lost service three times, which was very frustrating and kept our conversation short, but at least I know that everyone is OK. The kids finished their exams on Friday, both at Marion G. Austin school and at College Maranatha (the school Alex, Argentine, Kattia, Stephanie, and Evens Auguste attend). The older boys with whom I talked said that the exams were going fine so far. They will have their results by the end of next week. They also told me that they have been playing soccer at a new stadium, one that I do not know, and they promised to take me there when I come in December. I asked them to please yell to the girls and find out if their phone is indeed broken, but they said they couldn't because they were in a meeting with Daniel. The Daniel they were referring to is not the boy, but a Haitian man and close friend of Dr. Bernard's who I met in May. He is married to Sharon, a member of the HFC board, and is visiting the orphanage for a month. The boys said that he is very nice and they are really enjoying having him there.

The boys told me on Thursday that the internet was not working, but today, I received an email from Stephanie Quoichil. It was very brief, but proof that the girls are doing fine and that either the internet was functional all along or that Dr Bernard was able to get repairmen to the orphanage. A few other people also received emails today from the older girls. To those of you hoping to hear from a child, I apologize again for the limited amount of computer time that they are getting. I promise you that the children have not forgotten you and that they would be writing if they had the opportunity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Safely home

Remember the toddler with the adorable bottom from a few posts ago? Well, here he is, happily settled in at home in France, pictured above with his mother and with his godfather. And as you can see, his tummy is still really big :)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bumps and bruises - excerpts from my journal

"March 23, 2007 - Job showed up at my door today at 10am. He had gotten hit in the face while playing soccer. His lip and his tongue were cut open and he was bawling. After I shut the other kids out, I pressed gauze on the lip until it stopped bleeding and I hugged Job while he slowly stopped crying. He still looked really miserable, so I went for phase 2 of the treatment: Mac and Cheese. It was a miracle cure; the boy's spirits improved dramatically and I was able to send him back to class smiling."

"April 4, 2007 - Jessica appeared at 9:30pm when I was already in bed. She needed pain meds for her period cramps. I popped out the ibuprofen and gave her a glass of water to take it with. I have had a suspicion that the kids only ask me for pain meds because they are thirsty and they know I will give them water. In fact, it seems like Jessica is in here more frequently than once a month, asking for meds for her period. Maybe I should start recording it... So I asked her. 'No! It's just that the nannies don't give us anything for our period and you do.' Fair enough."

"May 7, 2007 - Richecarde hurt his foot playing soccer and he's been complaining about it for a few days. There is nothing visibly wrong with it, no swelling, redness, warmth or anything. He is walking fine and I've caught him running around too. I think he just wants an excuse to come to my room. So when he came today, I told him I'd give him some of my magic pain pills. I opened the gigantic bag of Jolly Ranchers and started pulling them out. 'OK, you take the blue one if it hurts a little bit, the green one if it hurts moderately, the purple one if it really hurts, and you take the red one if the pain is unbearable.' For a minute he just looks at me, then he gets this big smile on his face and runs back downstairs."

"May 10, 2007 - I held English class with just the older girls today. Stephanie told me she has found a little lump in her breast. It just appeared recently and she has a doctor's appointment next week so they can check it out. She was, of course, a little concerned, and asked me what I thought. I palpated it, found it tiny, in the proximal part of the breast and mobile - all good signs. I reassured her that the chances of it being malignant are pretty small, and that even if it is, the fact that she found it so quickly means that it will have had little time to spread. Then Kattia suggested that we pray for Stephanie's breasts, and for our own, for that matter. She instructed us to all place our hands on our own 'tetes' and ordered me to pray. I did, but it was really hard keeping a straight face."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why does he always look confused?

Maybe it's because he just fell out of his chair and onto his rear end?

Maybe the roof is caving in on him?

Maybe he forgot what you're supposed to do with a mango?

Oh, now he gets it and now he's not confused anymore. All you're supposed to do is smile at the camera :)

Happy Birthday, Duckhein!

I could tell a million stories about Duck, like how he would hide in the back of the classroom during English class because he thought I wouldn't call on him, or how he got all confused when I made a reference to the waterfowl in the room and all the other kids laughed like crazy at his puzzled expression. How about playing soccer with him, having him insist that I take the penalty shot that would tie the game, ignoring my protests about how bad I am, and then congratulating me wildly when I actually scored? Or the time he ate 3 entire plates of rice and beans at one sitting? And I can't forget the hours we spent together on my computer, looking for videos of Luca Toni and the Italian national team. A very fond memory is when I used to joke with Duck that some days he liked me and other days he hated me. After a week or two of the running joke, he gave me a letter that read, "Keziah, please do not say that I hate you anymore. I don't hate you, you know that. I love you and you are like a dear friend and a good big sister to me. I could never hate you." What a cool kid.

I love my dad!

My family of 6 has a family cell phone plan which I love because my parents pay for it. It's one of their ways of making sure that we have no excuse to not call them frequently. However, our plan does not include international calls, so the only time my parents and I talked on the phone during my time in Haiti was when I took a 3 day trip to Florida to cut my stay into two 90 day chunks, so I could legally be a tourist. And now that I am back in Boston, the only way I can call Haiti is by international calling card which costs an arm and a leg.

Well, my dad just emailed me to tell me that he has signed us up for a program that will allow cheap calls to foreign countries! For me, it's a two-fold blessing: I won't have to pay 30 dollars to talk to my kids anymore, and even more importantly, it's a sign that my parents are accepting the fact that Haiti is not just a passing fad for me. Having their support is monumental and if I hadn't been sitting in a university computer lab, I would have started crying when I received his message. I love my daddy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Confessions of an A+ student

I am good student. Honestly. I am a good student - I go to class, I study, I do my research, I score well on tests, I answer questions in class, and overall, I enjoy being a student. Until recently. In the last few weeks, I have been struck by a horrible disease known as senioritis. For those of you who have not heard of it, this condition tends to hit young people in their last year of high school or college; the symptoms include an inability to concentrate, frequent complaints of boredom, and inexplicable urges to burn stacks of flash cards. Some patients attempt to treat senioritis with high doses of chocolate and distraction therapies such as furniture rearranging, while others simply accept their fate with C's and long naps. The illness is incurable.

As an example, I mentioned in a recent post that I was studying for a midterm and a quiz. It was mid-afternoon the day before and I really did not feel adequately prepared despite several hours of review. I cracked. I just couldn't sit on that cold leather couch and read another page of the Tenets of Community Health Nursing. It felt like a rather severe senioritis flare, the kind that makes me clean the bathroom or refold my laundry just to avoid my notes. That was when my professor's pretty pink handouts caught my eye. I had been wanting to make a poster collage with some of the letters and pictures that the HFC kids had given me, but the only poster paper I had was an ugly brown. But now, I had the solution right in front of me! I grabbed my folder of artwork and the crazy glue. Within an hour, I had a new masterpiece to hang above my bed and make me think about how badly I want to be 8 hours south of here. Needless to say, my study session was permanently terminated.

Here is a photo of my poster thanks to Vulnerable Populations NURU600, featuring artwork byArgentine, Mikerlange, Jessica, Jeanine, Carmelle, Beana, Lovely, Kerline, Martine, Job, Camille, Richecarde, Renick, and Emmanuel :P.S. I got a 99 on that midterm.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another 49 minutes of bliss

I called the boys this evening and talked (or rather listened) for a whopping 49 minutes. I never have a clue how much time has gone by until I hear that nasty automated woman saying, "You have two minutes left," and then I have to scramble to get out the last messages and I love you's before I hear the nasty automated man saying, "Thank you for using Sprint." I hate both of them.

Emmanuel had the phone first and, in typical Emmanuel style, told me that he was sad but refused to tell me why. "It'll make you sad too, Kez, so I don't want to tell you." Well then you shouldn't have mentioned it at all, genius! Of course, I have to hear it now that you've told me. How else can I know how to help you, how to pray for you? I love you, remember, and it's OK for me to sad about something that makes you sad. That's what love is about. He finally spilled the beans: he got in trouble this week because he talked back to soccer coach Manno Magloire up at the field. Dr Bernard was angry with him and he is being punished by not being allowed to play sports for 2 months. Emmanuel says that Miscardet was teasing him, so he was upset and wasn't playing well when Manno started talking to him. He has apologized to the coach and the good-natured man is going to see if he can reduce to punishment to a few weeks instead of 2 months. Yes, I was sad, mainly because Emmanuel knows better than to mouth off to a grown-up, and he knows that as one of the oldest kids, he has to be on his best behavior all the time. I reminded him that I am not there to defend him as I was before; last year, I was able to be an intermediary between the boys and Dr Bernard if their punishment was too harsh or if a behavior of theirs was misinterpreted by a nanny. Those nannies do a marvelous job considering there are only 6 of them for 60 kids, but they just don't have the time to get to know the kids as intimately as I did, so they do not always realize when behaviors are triggered by sadness or loneliness instead of a bad attitude. They really do love the kids but sometimes another opinion is helpful. In this case, Emmanuel misbehaved and I wouldn't get involved even if I was there, but hopefully it did him good to tell someone and to reminded that I expect the best from him because I know how good he can be.

Emmanuel said that he has still been writing down his thoughts in the notebook that I gave him in May - I used to find him sitting by himself on the stairs or on his bed, just staring off into nowhere and I finally asked him what he was doing. "Just thinking, imagining," he said. A few days later, I gave him the notebook and told him that sometimes it helps to write those thoughts and those imaginings down. It was one of the those days when he did not respond to anything I said; he took the notebook without a word and I walked away thinking that the idea was a complete flop. That afternoon, though, I passed by his room and there was the notebook, the first page covered with his unique handwriting. A success after all.

Acheley said that he didn't go to the soccer field today because his leg hurts, so he is trying to take it easy. Renick said "Hi", Janel, the janitor, also said "Hi", and Miscardet made sure that the boys told me that his cleats are torn. Fortunately, several of my December Haiti team members have soccer-playing little brothers, so we should be able to replace his cleats. Bernadin and Emmanuel both said that they will do fine on the exams that start on Oct. 22nd. Bernadin confessed that he struggles with chemistry and math, but that he is working at it. He has been asking Jacques, Jefthe and Mathurin for help when he doesn't understand something.

Duck took the phone next - I love talking to him on the phone because I can hear him smiling as he's talking to me. I told him so, which may him burst out laughing. He said, "I'm always smiling, Keziah, except when I'm thinking sometimes. You know that." I do, but I still get a kick out of the fact that I can tell exactly what his facial expression would be just from the way his voice sounds. We went through a whole drama of figuring out his shoe size that involved me threatening Bernadin that I would never talk to him again if he didn't help us. Then of course I felt bad and got him on the phone to tell him that I would never really do that. He said, "I know."

Vandomme was the last one I talked to before my time ran out. I had a hard time understanding him because he was mumbling, but he seemed to be telling me that he was having some problems. When I asked what, he started on a monologue of which I only understood part, but the basic gist was that he feels like the girls are getting more attention than the boys right now. I wish I had been able to understand more or talk to him longer, because there have probably been only 1 or 2 situations to make him feel that way and I bet with a little bit of explaining and encouraging, he could be made to understand why they occurred. He is an young man who is very grounded in reality and very concerned with justice. Frustrating though it may be to not know exactly what is happening and to not be able to assist him, all I can do is hand it over to God and ask Him to help Junior be patient until things get worked out.

I told them that Bryn is coming to live at the orphanage. They didn't react at all. But that is how they are; they don't react to any news initially, good or bad. It takes them a little while to process it and then they go crazy, either with excitement or sorrow. I can guarantee that all they will be talking about tonight is Bryn becoming their new teacher, friend, and sister. It's going to be one of those nights when the lights go out at 10 but the conversation doesn't stop until midnight.

Rain, rain, go away

It's raining in Boston. A miserable day, cold and wet and raw. And I am studying for a midterm and a quiz that I have to take tomorrow. If only I was in Haiti, where rain is a reason to celebrate, where people dance in the street when they see the clouds gathering, where you can run and dive into the foot deep water that accumulates on the boys' roof.

Stev and Peterson playing "motor boat" with the skateboard on the boys' roof during the hurricane in August.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The cutest derriere in Haiti

This is Fedlens.Fedlens is one of the cutest little guys in New Life Link.

And he has a HUGE belly.

On this particular day, Jessica was playing with him and pulled his pants up to cover his huge belly.
He didn't really like the new style, so he took charge.
He really took charge.
And was so pleased by all the laughter and cheers that he got from the 30 teenage girls that were watching, he decided to show off those little cheeks a bit more.
Such a precious memory of a precious boy and the cutest buttocks in Haiti.
Fedlens went home to France this fall to live with his lovely mother, Valerie. He was my baby, my tiBlan, the whole time that I stayed at the orphanage. We spent a lot of time together when the older kids were in school, looking out the window at people in the street, eating Rika cookies, drawing scribbly pictures, and playing catch with my volleyball. He was the only toddler who would come to my room of his own accord, even though he knew that the nannies didn't allow it. It didn't matter - he was such a little flirt that the girls were always bringing him upstairs and playing with him. They dressed him up in my sunglasses and bandana, they danced with him, and once, Merline Jean taught him to say "I love you" in English. But my favorite memory of Fedlens will always be the day of the derriere.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The majority of our kids will be having their first exams of the year later this month. (Stephanie, Argentine, Kattia, Alex and Evens Auguste will have theirs at College Maranatha on Oct 22nd-26th). At Marion G. Austin, the school that is run by HFC, exams are held 4 times a year and they are essentially the only determinants of a child's grades. All the material that has been covered in each class over the past quarter will be on the exams, and in typical European style schooling, a lot of memorization is required, especially for the younger children. Last year, our kids did reasonably well on the October exams, and then horribly on the December and February exams. In February, only 9 boys passed their exams! For the younger ones, this was bad, but for the older kids, it was catastrophic. A few boys were "put on probation" - told that if they could not pass in school, they would be kicked out of the orphanage. Emmanuel was one of those boys, and Dr Bernard charged me with the project of helping him succeed. I started tutoring him every day after school, although he honestly didn't need tutoring as much as he needed someone to push him and motivate him to try.

The week of April exams was one of the craziest weeks of my life. I would study with the girls in the early afternoon and then cross over to the boys' house to study with Emmanuel and the other 9th grade boys. They had so much material to learn and Emmanuel was so poorly prepared that I ended up spending the night with them all week so that we could study right until 10pm and then start again at 5am when we woke up. It was exhausting, but in the end, absolutely worth it: Emmanuel not only passed, he got a 7.51 average and was 6th in his class of 18 students. At my going-away party in May, he thanked me and promised that he would succeed all year and for the rest of his life. He did quite well on the official exams in June, so now we see whether he can continue fulfilling that promise. In addition to helping Emmanuel, the tutoring and that one week of intensive study really solidified my relationships with the older boys. It was miraculous to be able to spend that much time with them without the girls getting jealous and to get to know their personalities a little better. I have so many mental snapshots of that week: Mathurin, so incredibly smart, writing math problems on the board for the others to solve; Jacques, also ridiculously smart, sneaking looks at his notes while I was quizzing them; Argusto, reciting 4 pages of biology notes word for word; Jefthe, laughing hopelessly at my illustration of how a mushroom and algue make a lichen; Drisk, complaining that I wasn't giving him enough attention when he already knew his material inside out; Bernadin, running downstairs to get me a drink when I started getting hoarse from talking too much; Peterson and Renick getting my futon ready for me to sleep on; Richecarde and Stev running by to whack me on the head and yell "Zoklo!"; all of the boys crowding on my bed for a study break when the lights went out...Priceless.

Emmanuel is not the only one who has trouble with examinations. Job, Richecarde, Stev, Reginald, and Camille always struggle. For the girls, Nadia, Merline Jean, Carmelle, and Wislandy have had difficulties. Often it is simply a matter of too much memorization and not enough hands-on practice or comprehension. Sometimes, it's a lack of motivation or structure during study times. Chrystel, for example, was the only girl in her class who failed her exams in December so she put her foot down and ended up 2nd in her class for the next quarter. But then she lost her push and failed the exams in April. Others, such as Jessica and Jefthe, who are very smart kids, failed one set of exams last year because they did poorly on just one subject. Please pray that our kids will be able to help one another prepare, that they will understand why school is so important and that they will find motivation to persevere. Pray for patience for the nannies who have to listen to hours of recitation, and pray for fair grading.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Up and running

My friends, I am pleased to announce that the internet is once again up and running at HFC! Several people received emails yesterday and I hope that this means we will finally be onto the Saturday emailing schedule. I'm so sorry that it took this long and so sorry that many of you did not receive anything yesterday. Keep praying for their typing skills to improve exponentially!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Happy Birthday, Edline!

One of the sweetest girls ever - I still can't believe that she is only 14! She could easily be 16 or 17 from the way she acts with me and with her siblings. Edline is one of the "keepers of the phone", so I get to talk with her nearly every time I call the girls and she is always so cheerful and polite. One of the greatest things about Edline is the way she cares for her friends. Myriam is one of her best friends, and when Myriam was ill and upset, Edline would be right beside her, helping to keep her calm and cheering her up. Every night, the girls would line up to kiss me good night. I created a one kiss only rule because otherwise, the ritual could last an hour. Sometimes, things got wild with girls fighting each other for a place in the kissing line, or grabbing me from behind. Edline, however, always waited very calmly till the others were done. Then she would take my hands and lead me to my room. She would open the door for me and then quietly accept her good night kiss. It was one of my favorite moments of each day.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I didn't forget you, Stephanie!

Happy Birthday, you little princess!

She was the first girl to latch onto me when I arrived in January. I had already been good friends with Jessica and Merline Jean, but because they were in school longer each day, it was Stephanie who had first dibs on me. She would appear in my room at all hours of the day (I'm still not sure if she was skipping class!) and just sit on my bed with me. We couldn't really talk because her French isn't very good and my Creole wasn't good either, so we laughed a lot. I remember specifically taking turns drawing pictures and then grading each other's drawings. She would give me a 10/10, so then I would go higher and give her a 25/25, so she had to go higher and give me a 100/100, and so on. Of course, neither of us is really any good at drawing so it was probably a good thing when we moved on to playing cards and teaching me Creole. She was the first person who told me that you have to throw a "nan", "la", or "an" after each noun or possesive pronoun. I still haven't totally mastered that skill.

Time went on and I got to know Steph better. She stopped being "cute" and became one single word: "BLAZE!" She is one of the silliest little girls ever, and she absolutely loves it when grown ups like me and her adoptive mom are blaze too. She is a mischief-maker, very happy to hide in the hallway with a baggie of water in her hand so that she can squirt me when I walk by, or to lie on the floor behind my bed so that after I finally get everyone out of my room at night, she is still there. I always caught her, but she usually got an extra kiss and a good thump on the butt out of it. Dancing and singing are passions of Stephanie's - she will sing High School Musical songs at the top of her lungs; never mind the fact that she doesn't know any of the words. She is very close with her family: her 3 biological siblings with whom she fights but is very protective, and her biological mom who comes to visit regularly.