Wednesday, January 30, 2008


These photos are from my first trip to Haiti, which was in May 2006. I wasn't digital at the time, so the quality is not great and my haircut is pretty atrocious, but if you look beyond those factors, they're pretty cool pix.

On that first trip, I was visiting the orphanage to see if I liked it enough to want to return for a 5 month internship. I went with a team of 17 people, some of whom were adopting from New Life Link, and others who were also visiting HFC. I was confident about playing with toddlers, but nervous about connecting with the older children. To my surprise, I ended up bonding with them very deeply because of my ability to speak French. I remember chatting with Merline Jean on my first day and one of the ladies on my team asking me how long I had spoken Creole. Creole? I don't speak a word of Creole, in fact, before getting on the airplane to come here, I had probably spent a total of 20 minutes thinking about Haiti.

So much for not thinking about Haiti very often. By the time my stay had ended, I was crazy about the HFC kids, and I honestly felt like I had found a country and a people with whom I would love working. I thought about Haiti frequently all summer until my next trip back in August, when I finalized details for my internship. And of course, once I moved into the orphanage in January of 2007, it was all over. Haiti is permanently imprinted on my mind and I don't think anything short of a lobotomy will get it out.

The funny thing about that trip in May 2006 was that I left thinking that there were only a few "big" kids and the rest were this adorable little things. I clearly remember Evens, Dorval, and Vandomme as being the only big kids so I was shocked when I returned 8 months later and found that actually, 10 of the kids were taller than me, and another 10 were the same height. What happened? For a while, I thought it my just my skewed first impressions, but looking back at photos from my trip, all I can say is that those kids hit a growth spurt. Somehow, between May of 2006 and January of 2007, they grew up fast!

Me with Dorval and Evens (Ephesien in the background)

Me and Vandomme (Bernadin in the background)

Drisk, Mikenlove and Fabiola. Mikenlove looks about the same, but Drisk has gotten taller and filled out some, and Fabiola looks like a woman now instead of a teenager.

Dorval, Bernadin, Evens, and Jefthe braid my short hair.
Look at Jefthe! Isn't he tiny?

At the beach, Carmelle, Guerdine, Fabiola PC, Dorval, and Nadia. They've all grown, but especially Guerdine and Carmelle.

Mikerlange, also a lot more filled out and taller now.

Natacha and Childa with Josh (Bernadin in the background). I believe Childa is almost as tall as Josh now.

Look at that little kid on the far left. Do you know who that minature person is? It's Emmanuel! Man, did he grow a lot in those 8 months!

This might be the best one because you can compare their heights to me, since I haven't grown at all ;). In the back, Argusto, Jacques, and Mathurin are all shorter than me - not so anymore, Jacques is the same height, but Argusto and Mathurin are several inches taller. And look at Alex on my right! He's itty bitty and now, he's as tall as I am!
Why do kids have to grow? I tell them every time I leave that they are not allowed to grow anymore, and they just keep on doing it. But I really would like to know who was throwing the fertilizer in their porridge between May and January.

Bryn's blog

Bryn, the current intern at HFC, has just added a new album of photos of the kids. You can check it out and read stories from the pension at:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My NU eleven

This week, I met my team for our first Haiti dinner. Emily and Amy couldn't make it, but the rest of us spent a pleasant evening reminiscing about the trip. I was friends with most of these girls before December, but now, we have a very special bond. So special, in fact, that we can all be embarassed together when our professor starts raving about our team in front of the entire nursing class, half of which do not know anything about us or the trip. Luckily, she is our favorite professor, so we don't really mind.

On Friday morning, we gave a presentation about the trip to a class of graduate nursing students. They took notes on what we were saying! That would be the difference between undergrads and grads. My team keeps praising the kids and the staff at the clinic. They all say that Haiti has changed them, expanded their view of the world and that everyone should take a similar adventure. Better yet, my friends Ellie and Elsa talked again about how amazing it was that the kids believe so strongly in God and how Christmas is all about Jesus for them.

One of the nursing grads has asked me to help her take a team to Haiti. When I mentioned that to my team, one of them shook a finger at me: "You are not allowed to take anyone else to Haiti. We're your Haiti team!" They can't get Haiti out of their heads; they ask me about the kids all the time and tell me how much they miss being there. It's kind of nice to know that I'm not the only one sitting through a boring lecture and thinking about little Haitian orphans. That Haiti bug is just so marvelously contagious!


Drisk hurt his toe playing soccer barefoot...fortunately, peanut butter and jelly solves every problem.

To the beach

The kids are going to the beach on Saturday! The team from Andover Free Christian church that is currently visiting the orphanage has raised the money to send them all to the beach, the first trip of 2008. Originally, they were going to go on Sunday but Claudette didn't think the kids should miss church. Of course, Dr. Bernard doesn't want them to miss school, so they are going on Saturday. The Andover team leaves on Thursday so they won't be able to go with the kids, which is sad for both Americans and kids; regardless, the kids are super excited. I'll have the whole story for you next week.

Daniel's birthday was January 20th, Emmanuel's was January 25th, and Stev's was January 26th. They were special birthdays for all of them. Bill Henson, a member of the board and friend of HFC, visited the orphanage last weekend to spend time with the kids, especially the birthdays boys. It was a special treat for them. I talked with Emmanuel on the evening of his birthday. He said it might have been his best birthday ever. His birth mom who lives near the orphanage and makes her living doing odd jobs there (like washing my laundry) gave him a bottle of cremas, a Haitian drink made with coconut. In the evening, Bryn showed the kids a movie and gave them candy. I like to think that my call in the evening added to his enjoyment of the birthday, but he said something about the evening being good at the beginning and bad at the end. He also told me that I said something to make him mad in my last phone call, but he wouldn't tell me what. Oh, boy. If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it's when those kids tell me I've made them mad but won't tell me why. All I could get out of him was that it's something that he both appreciates and does not appreciate. What exactly does that mean? Of course, knowing Emmanuel, the whole thing could have just been an act to make me say "I love you" a few extra times. I'll talk to him in a day or two and see if I can drag anything other bits of truth out of him.

Speaking of Emmanuel, he has asked me to take him to Cap Haitien because that is where he was born. He has told me several times that he thinks Haiti is not beautiful, but he agrees with me that what he really means is that Port-au-Prince is not beautiful. If he could only see more of Haiti's countryside, I think he would be amazed by the beauty of Haiti. I told him that I would try to take him there someday. Maybe that's why he is mad at me. He hates it when I don't give him straight "Yes" or "No" answers, but I am just not going to promise to take the boy on a trip across the country.

Drisk's team won 2 games of soccer on Wednesday and he scored. I joked that I'm a way better soccer player than him and he laughed like crazy. C'mon, I scored twice in my 5 months in Haiti. That clearly makes me better than him! Richecarde somehow got hit in the eyes with a shoe that was thrown in the dark by Bernadin (the way these kids amuse themselves, I mean honestly!), and Wilson told me that sometimes he steals Jacques' towel when he's showering so the boy has to run up to his room in the nude or stay in the shower and plead for mercy. Kattia actually spoke English when Nikki's mom called to talk with her, and Stephanie has been showing everyone the photo I sent her of me, her and our little baby Stanley. The girls were really excited because Kerline called from Spain to talk with them. According to Martine, her voice has gotten prettier, she is more interesting and she still speaks Creole just fine. They asked her to demonstrate some Spanish for them and all she said was "Hola" which made them all giggle. They giggle a lot.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Miscardet told me that he is not going to play soccer or basketball anymore this year. Why? He has to take the national exams for 9th grade this June and he doesn't want to hurt his writing hand. Seriously. Are the other 9th grade boys (John Peter, Drisk, Argusto) doing the same thing? Nope, just Miscardet. So every afternoon and every weekend when the other boys go up to the seminary to play, Miscardet stays at the house and studies. WOW!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The heart of an orphan

My favorite Bible verse is Hebrews 13:5 where God says, "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you." I particularly like the French version which says, "I will never abandon you." When I was living in Haiti, that verse took on a whole new meaning as I became close with 60 orphans who have been abandoned by almost everyone they know. My biggest goal became helping those kids really understand that although their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents might have abandoned them, God will never do that. When I left Haiti, I gave each child a good-bye letter in which I told them that although I had to leave, God did not and therefore, more than I wanted them to remember me and maintain a relationship with me, I wanted them to do so with God.

I grew up with a wonderful mom and dad who have been there for me (emotionally and spiritually if not always physically) every year of my life for 22 years. I cannot fathom the distrust, the fear, and the uncertainty that the HFC children must feel when they start developing a relationship with someone. The hurt and the constant question, "When is this person going to walk away from me?" must be so haunting. I know that they feel this way because they challenged me with it every day that I was living with them and every time I have come back to visit.

The girls had numerous ways to test my love for them. The most common was simply holding back; instead of approaching me to say "good morning" or to sit with me, they would wait and see if I would approach them. At first, I thought those girls didn't want to be my friends, but I slowly understood. Even girls who had initially been extremely open and friendly, such as Jessica, Nounoun, and Stephanie Q, played that game, as if they were willing to be friends up to a certain point, but they needed to know that I was serious before they let me in any deeper. Many of them stopped holding back during my 5 month stay, but started again when I left and make me work for it every time I come back to the orphanage. I can understand that; I left them, and even though I maintain a relationship with them by email and telephone, the fact remains that I left them, just like everyone else.

There were other ways too. Some girls would get mad at me for no reason just to see how far they could push me, at what point I would decide I didn't love them anymore. A few of them would write me letters and whether or not I responded to them indicated how serious I was about loving them. The best technique, though, was pitting the interns against each other. Ever since Kim worked at HFC, the girls have compared us interns to one another relentlessly. They will talk about the past intern as if she was the most amazing thing since sliced bread because they want to see if you will love them anyways. They will make you feel as though you'll never be as loved, but what they're really saying is, "It hurts that she left and we need you to fill her shoes."

The boys were never as subtle about their testing of our love. Their main concern was getting me mad; they are, to this day, worried that if they make me really mad, I won't love them any more. Drisk is always asking me if I'm mad and then telling me that I am, which has the obnoxious tendancy to actually make me mad when I wasn't to begin with. Emmanuel, of course, is another whole can of worms; I won't even try to explain how he goes about making sure that I really love him. Duck and Peterson will ask me straight out, "Keziah, what would you do if you had to leave Haiti tomorrow? What would you do if Dr Bernard didn't want you to come visit anymore?" They know what I'm going to say, but they need to hear it one more time.

For a while, I thought that it was only the kids who were sensitive, shy, and insecure who needed that reassurance, but it has become blatantly clear that every single one of them needs it. I was sitting on the roof after a night with the boys and Bernadin started to take off the "K" necklace that I always wear. The necklace was given to me by a very special little boy that I coached in Belgium several years ago and I would be heartbroken if the necklace were lost. So I told him not to touch it, but he said he'd be really careful and hold it so the "K" would not fall off. I trust him so I let him. A moment later, he looked at me, absolutely stricken with guilt and fear. "Bernadin, what did you do?" He didn't say anything, just held up the chain and no "K". I got up slowly and started sifting through the sheets around us, shaking out my clothes, lifting the mattresses. Then Bernadin said my name. I looked up and he was holding the "K". "What? Did you do that on purpose?" He ducked his head, "Yes, I wanted to see if you would get angry." I couldn't believe it. Of all the kids, Bernadin is the last that I would have pinned to pull a "Do you really love me" move on me, but he had just done it.

Stephanie Q, probably my best friend among the girls and someone who has incredible maturity and leadership, also shocked me by pulling the "Do you really love me" card. I had been calling the girls regularly after I left Haiti in September, but I had not talked to her. She goes to a different school so sometimes she isn't available when I call, and I assumed that she wasn't asking to talk with me because she either wasn't there or she was too busy with homework. Several weeks later, the girls were trying to tell me something and I just couldn't understand, so I asked if Stephanie was there to explain it. She took the phone and the first thing she said to me was, "I thought you'd forgotten about me." I wasn't asking for her, so instead of asking for me, she started to think that I didn't care anymore. Oh, the heart of an orphan! To so easily be bruised, so easily be convinved that love isn't real. I am not someone who says "I love you" very easily, but I say "Mwen renmen ou" at the end of every single phone conversation with the kids. Whatever hope and self-confidence and healing that can come from believing that one person really does love them, I want them to have. And then maybe they'll take me more seriously when I remind them that God will never leave them or forsake them.

Bits of news

I haven't posted any news from the orphanage in a while. Here's the little bit that I've gleaned from my phone calls.

Nikki left Haiti on Saturday, January 5th. I know the kids were very sad to see her go. Saturday was also Jude Tilus' birthday; that darling little boy turned 12. The kids went back to school on Monday, the 7th. They were supposed to start on Thursday the 3rd, but practically no teachers showed up on the 3rd, so they postponed until Monday. The kids will be in school until Mardi Gras, February 5th. Haiti celebrates Mardi Gras (Kanaval) with big parades, music, parties and lots of drinking. Schools and businesses are closed that Monday and Tuesday. Last year, Dr Bernard brought all the children to his house in Thomasin for Mardi Gras; we had a blast. A week or two later, the kids will have exams again. Our kids did great on the December exams - only 2 boys and 2 girls failed - hopefully, they'll do just as well in February.

Things have been quiet at the orphanage. Bryn has started English classes in the afternoons. The older kids (group 1 and 2, I believe) have been teaching her Creole for now which benefits both Bryn and the kid-teachers. The younger groups have started right into English. I know that Bryn had all her teaching plans in her email which she has not been able to access due to the lack of internet at the orphanage, so pray that she'll keep being resourceful until she can use her curiculum. The girls are back to their usual boredom - if you ask them, they would tell you that all they do is walk up and down the stairs. That's not actually true. They play with the babies, they listen to music, they watch a movie on Friday nights with Bryn, they help out in the kitchen, they do chores in their rooms and the bathroom on the weekends, and they go to church and prayer on Sundays. The boys are being punished for overusing the playstation by not being allowed to use it for a month, but they are playing soccer and basketball whenever Coach Manno will take them.

Yesterday, was Carmelle's birthday. She turned 13. It's about time too! She has been taller than me since August 2006. I talked to the boys and the girls on the phone yesterday. The girls wanted to know about what I was doing and they asked about my classmates who had visited. They told me that Tatie Guirlaine has left Haiti and gone back to Canada to work. They miss her too. Peterson also told me there is a fat rat living in his room and that Dorval was trying to catch it. I could hear them yelling, "Gwo rat!" in the background and at first, I thought they were yelling at me. You see, they nicknamed Kim "Ti Sourit" (Little Mouse) and me "Gwo Rat" (Fat Rat) while we were living there. But no, Peterson assured me, there really is a gwo rat running around his room. The boys tell me that the men who gave us trouble on the soccer field have not come back since I left (Thank God!) and they are absolutely horrified at the thought of me living in 6 inches of snow. "Why don't you just come back to Haiti?" they ask, as if it's a simple matter of me choosing. Both boys and girls are desperate to know when my next visit will be. They ask every time I call them and every time, I have to tell them that I don't know, but I will tell them as soon as I have a ticket.

Currently the internet is still not working because the price of modems has mysteriously doubled in the past week. Logically, Dr Bernard refuses to buy one for twice the normal price. So we wait. And that's about it for news from Haiti.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sweet sixteen

Argusto Joseph will turn 16 on March 13th. He is what I like to call "steady", not upset easily, genial and good-natured, steadfastly loyal to everyone who befriends him, and very logical in a grounded sort of way. He does well in school, although he does like to pretend that he doesn't know as much English vocabulary as he actually does. Basketball is his favorite pasttime and he is one of the few boys who has defined musculature in his arms. This makes him a favorite of mine when I need manual labor done, but Argusto never complains if I take advantage of his strength. He gets teased about his large head, but he just laughs it off and goes about his business.
Alexandra Revolcy will be 16 on April 8th. She is painfully shy; I don't think I've ever had a conversation that lasted more than 2 minutes with her, but she is affectionate and caring, especially with the younger children. She becomes friends with the New Life Link kids and is often sitting with them, just holding them, sometimes helping them with their homework or with a letter to a family member. When exams roll around, Alexandra studies harder than anyone else and she pushes herself to get top grades in everything, even math which she has confessed to me she hates passionately. But when I think of Alexandra, the first thing that comes to mind is letters. Alexandra writes letters to everyone, perhaps to make up for her shyness about talking. She kept me busy every day sending letters to people she has only met once or twice that she has claimed as her friends and that she remains fiercely loyal to.

Miscardet Junior takes time to win over, but once you have won his affection, he is a darling little boy. I used to hug him hello and he would just stand there; now, he hugs me back. And where I used to watch him and he would blush and run away, now I catch him watching me, waiting to see if I'm going to come talk to him. He likes to tease, coming up behind me and giving my knee a little kick so I stumble forward, and he likes to come up with silly nicknames for the other kids like Angelo for Jacques and Bernado for Bernadin. He's always the first one up in the morning and the most enthusiatic about going to play soccer, even when no one else is interested. I remember when Miscardet once asked me, "Keziah, why do you look at me like that?" and I told him, "It's because I love you, Miscardet." He just stared at me, as if he couldn't fathom the possibility that anyone would love him. He's a great kid and his birthday is June 18th.

Lovely Previlus (on the right) will be 16 on Aug. 2nd. She is a performer, a dancer, a singer, a story-teller, always looking for the spotlight. I generally find her in the middle of a throng of giggling girls or racing about the halls, chasing down one of the younger ones. She has made me extremely proud by her stubborn decision to write all her letters in English - she will sit down with a dictionary and write long letters to me, Nikki, Bryn, and her friends in the States. They're not perfect, but I love the fact that she tries so hard. Lovely is also a peace-keeper who helped me immensely when one of the other girls got mad at me and refused to reconcile. Unfortunately, Lovely also likes to tease and to talk very sarcastically, and although she does not mean it to insult, that's how it comes across and she can be a difficult one to handle sometimes. But when she realizes that she has pushed you too far and you really are hurt, she apologizes profusely and sincerely, and does change her behavior, at least for a while. (For more on Lovely, see my post on Tuesday Oct.16 entitled "Sad news").

Acheley Lorisma is one of the quietest boys at HFC, and I was surprised when I sat down with my calender and saw that his birthday is fast approaching on Aug. 11th. Acheley gets along with everybody, and when I say that, I mean that I can find him playing with anyone from the youngest of the boys to the oldest, from the most rowdy of the girls to the sweetest. He is willing to step out of his shell and do things that the other boys would never do in a million years, for instance when the girls and I put together a play with the story of Queen Esther, Acheley volunteered to play the King. He hits a nice balance between doing quiet indoor activities such as beadwork (and he gives away every single item he makes) and playing soccer with the other boys. He tends to put others before himself whenever I'm handing out gifts or talking on the phone, but he also isn't afraid to advocate for himself when he needs something.
Debbie Dorval, turning 16 on Sept. 8th, is an absolute sweetheart. She has this radiant presence that comes from her beautiful smile and from her gentle nature. Debbie is kind to everyone, takes care of the little kids, helps her peers with projects and hairbraiding, shares everything she owns, loves to cuddle with the New Life Link babies, and sews whenever she gets the chance. She is quiet, content to sit back and watch the other girls create drama, but she also enjoys getting up on stage during their talent shows and modelling competitions. Debbie is one of the girls who I hope will be able to work with me in a medical clinic. I can't think of anyone I would rather have holding my hand if I were sick and in pain. (For more on Debbie, see my post from Oct. 16th, entitled "Sad news").

The last birthday, on Oct. 18th, belongs to Chrystel Jean. Chrystel is a tough person for me to write about because she acts very differently with me than she does with most other people. Chrystel is bitingly sarcastic, a trait that she uses to cover the fact that she is afraid that the white visitors of the pension will look down on her because she is Haitian. But since she is so stand-offish and rude at times, most people never understand her and never get to know the fun-loving Chrystel underneath. It took me a few months to win Chrystel over, but she finally must have decided that I really loved her and I wasn't about to look down on her because of her nationality. Now, she is openly affectionate with me and I have grown to love spending time with her because she tells the most hilarious stories. And she has gotten better about her fear of white people - when my friend, Maggie came to visit for 3 weeks, Chrystel became her friend within days, and when I left in May, I told Chrystel that I expected her to show other Americans the same person that she had revealed to me and to Maggie. It wasn't a miracle change, but Chrystel was more gentle and less rude to Nikki and to Bryn than she had been to Kim or to me at the beginning of my stay. I know that it's hard for her to be so vulnerable; she would rather be difficult to protect herself from the pain of loving people who are only there short-term. Such is the life of an orphan and although I would like to say that I would not act the way she does, if I had suffered the abandonment and lack of love that she has, I would probably do the same thing.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


My hair has created some special memories during my time in Haiti. First of all, when I arrived this December, Jacques was thrilled to see that I have gotten it cut shorter. I don't really know where this fascination with my hair came from, but he has been after me to cut it for months. If I showed up in Haiti with a buzz cut, I think Jacques would literally dance for joy.

My second hair memory was an on-going one with Bernadin. He has this new habit of pulling hairs out of my head any time that we are just sitting around. He doesn't just pull them out; no, he pulls them out and puts them on his own head. Weird.
My third hair memory is also an on-going one but with all the girls. Basically, they can't keep their hands out of my hair, whether it's brushing it for me (actually, Duck brushed my hair on this trip too. That was strange, but very nice of him.), taking it out of the ponytail and then disappearing with the elastic, braiding it so tightly that it hurts, and asking me if I would switch hair with them. Jeanine is the queen of hairdressing at HFC. Look at this photo of the hairdo she gave me on my birthday.
The last one is my favorite. I was sitting on the bench at the boys' house when Drisk suddenly gasped, "Keziah! You have gray hairs!" Peterson, Bernadin, Monsanto, and TiJude all gathered around and started pulling the gray hairs out of my head. "Do you know when I first found those gray hairs, boys?" I asked them. "I found them after my stay in Haiti. You guys stressed me so much that I turned gray before my time!" I joked. (It's actually true, though. I did see them for the first time in September just after leaving Haiti.) I made the boys give me some of the hairs as they pulled them out and I glued them in my journal. I can't say I'm really upset about it. I mean, doesn't the Bible say, "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31)

Soccer posters

I worked at a summer camp this year called Chop Point that accepts campers from all over the States and from Europe. There were over a dozen teenagers from France and since I was the only staff member who spoke French fluently, I became very close with them. They were very interested in my Haitian kids and asked several times how they could help. So when I was planning my Christmas trip, I emailed them and asked if they had any soccer posters that they could send me for the boys. Just days before my flight, I received two packages with enough soccer posters for each boy to have 2 or 3. If you think I was excited when the packages arrived, you should have seen the boys' faces when I pulled them out on my last night.


The boys were ready to go to church around 8:30. Peterson came running to get me so I could say good-bye to all of them before they had to go. I don't remember much, but I remember telling Camille I was sorry I hadn't played with him more, I remember telling Stev and Daniel that I would say hi to their parents for them, I remember telling Reginald he was not allowed to grow another inch, I remember how handsome Miscardet looked in his new blue button down shirt and how he really hugged me back, I remember Jacques acting cool like he didn't care but seeing that something in his eyes that means "I'm going to miss you", and I remember crying when I hugged Drisk. He was the first one to make me cry when I left in September too. I don't know why; maybe it's because he was the first HFC boy that I ever fell in love with or maybe it's because he is just so darn lovable and wonderful all the time. Richecarde closed the gate for me as I walked out and I started crying again, thinking how much I am going to miss seeing that gate open to reveal 30 smiling faces.

I said good-bye to the girls as they lined up to go to church. I cried as I hugged Guerdine good-bye; I wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked, but I couldn't get the words out. I cried over Kattia because I had so little time with her this trip and because I didn't get to hear her sing once. I asked Edline to take care of Nikki and I told all of them to love Bryn. I cried over each of the Boston girls as I hugged them, kissed them and begged them to please come home soon.

Jessica, Stephanie, Nehemie, Beana, Merline Guillaume, Emmanuel, Hermilus, Bernadin, Peterson, and Stev accompanied me to the airport. I held them and fought back the tears the whole way. When we got to the rotary just outside the airport, I prayed silently, "God, let us just drive around this rotary again and again so I don't have to leave." But just like last time, God said, "No, Keziah. Not yet." The taptap pulled into the parking lot and none of us moved. We all just sat, staring at each other, frozen in our seats. Finally, I got up and they followed me down. I hugged each one good-bye and cried over each one. Bernadin and Peterson carried my suitcases across the street for me and I hugged my last good-byes. By now, I was really bawling, and as I advanced slowly in the line, I kept looking back to where Bernadin and Peterson were standing so lonely on the sidewalk, and I would cry even harder. Eventually, they started back across the street, Bernadin walking really slowly like he does when he's very upset. Peterson rejoined the others at the taptap, but Bernadin stood by himself under a tree and I could see that he was crying. I wanted so badly to drop my bags, leap the fence and run over to him, but I knew that it would only prolong the painful good-bye. I got one last glimpse outside before I was prodded into the airport and I saw the taptap driving away. And just like every other time that I have left Haiti, I knew that I was leaving a piece of my heart behind.

Last night

Nikki and I went to the boys' house to spend my last night on the roof with them. When we got over there, Nikki was not feeling well, so she crashed on Alex's bed for a little while. Next time I saw her, she was sitting on the steps inside the house, looking forlorn. A minute later, Drisk was yelling at me, "Open the bathroom, Keziah! Nikki is going to throw up!" I couldn't get the key in the lock fast enough and although she tried to hold back, there was nothing to be done. She spewed vomit all over the floor, herself and my feet. I rubbed her back as she continued to heave. "Does that stop her from throwing up?" one of the boys asked, curiously. I laughed out loud, "No, it just lets her know she's not alone in her misery." "If I was puking, what would you do?" "The same thing."

Just as she finished and we began to discuss how to clean up, the electricity blew! So there we were, in the dark, with a pile of vomit and a whole lot of nasty clothes. We cleaned up by flashlight with Bernadin and Daniel's help, washed up in the downstairs courtyard, and went up on the roof with a bucket, just in case.
I slept between Bernadin and Emmanuel. Usually, we talk a lot before falling asleep, but this time, we were all so exhausted from a long week that we fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up twice during the night because Emmanuel had reached across and was playing with my ear lobe. I know that sounds really strange, but back in April, Emmanuel discovered that Americans have softer ear lobes than Haitians. Ever since then, that has been his trademark sign of affection. So there in the middle of the night, although he must have been half asleep, Emmanuel wanted me to know that he loves me.
In the morning, we slowly woke up. Usually our early mornings on the roof are wild, but not this time. Most of the boys had to go downstairs to get ready for church and the few who were accompanying me to the airport were not in the mood to be wild. It was sunny, beautiful blue skies, but still relatively cool. I remember cuddling up with Bernadin on his mattress and thinking, "Maybe if we just stay here and don't move, I won't have to leave."
Wishful thinking. Luckner, one of the janitors, came up with a belt and playfully swatted the boys until they were all up and about. I stalled until 7:20 and then forced myself to go across the street and start packing. I hate last days!

Sat., Dec. 29th - Realizing that it's my last day

Sometime during the mid-afternoon, Bryn let it slip that it was her birthday. I grabbed Stephanie, Chrystel and Edline (the older girls were finally back from Thomasin, conveniently about 8 hours before my departure) and we arranged with our next door neighborhood for a bunch of pate (fried food) for a party that evening. Stephanie set up the speakers and the sound system while Nikki made a giant card for Bryn that all the kids signed. Many of the girls also made individual cards and gave them to her over the course of the day.

In the early evening, we still had no pate, so I gathered my "army" of Stephanie, Kattia, Chrystel, and Edline, and we headed out to conquer a pate stand. OK, we really just haggled with the lady and ran back to our house to get giant pots to carry it all, haggled some more, did math to prove to the lady that the amount I was giving her in American dollars was more than enough, and then carried our plunder back inside. The older girls really took charge, running the whole party because I was off having emotional moments with certain kids. I love those girls and I really hope that the ones who are not able to leave Haiti through adoption will come work with me when I go back to Haiti long term.

Peterson was the first person who got me crying about leaving. I forget why it came up, but Peterson began to list all the reasons why he was going to be sad when I left. We were sitting in the boys' house on the bench in the courtyard with a dozen boys playing around us, but I got all choked up and had to ask him to stop. It was too early in the day to cry.

Jessica had been loving and sweet to me ever since she decided to be my friend again on Thursday, so I was very disappointed to see her sitting all by herself and moping during Bryn's party. I hugged her and asked if she didn't feel well, or if she was tired but she just shook her head and wouldn't look me in the eye. I was afraid that somehow I had hurt her feelings again, but later in the evening, one of the younger girls brought me a note from Jessica. It said "I am going to miss you so much." I snuck into her room where she was lying on her bed looking miserable. I kissed her on the cheek and whispered, "I'm going to miss you too, but don't be sad now. I'm still here and I want you to come to the airport with me tomorrow. Will you come?" She nodded yes, and then went right back to looking miserable.

Merline Guillaume was another one who fell apart during the party. She had been sitting against the wall, not participating at all, just watching the other girls and looking very lonely. Merline is one of the girls who teased me a lot on my very first stay at the orphanage, and she never makes friends with the Americans, even Nikki and Kim. She was civil and polite to them, but never close. Somehow, I was able to win her trust and her affection. I will never forget the day that I received a note from her saying how much she appreciated me and how she loved the way I am with the kids and that she wanted to be my friend. And when I left in May, she gave me several letters that were heartbreakingly sweet about how I was the only American she had ever loved and she couldn't bear to have me leave. On this trip, she was the only child to give me a Christmas card. So when I had to go upstairs at one point during the party and she followed me at a distance, I stopped to let her catch up. I had bought a little chain with a heart on it to give her as a Christmas gift but I had not yet had a quiet moment to give it to her. Right there on the stairs, I put it around her neck and then hugged her for a long time as she cried.

Every other time I've had to leave Haiti, Bernadin has been strangely quiet on my last day. But this time, he was not. He was being exceptionally goofy and rowdy, biting me, talking really loudly, saying things to me without looking me in the eyes, running on and off the soccer field, taking candy without asking, climbing a tree and then almost falling out of it and breaking his neck...just being weird. I finally asked him, "Bernadin, what is going on? You are being so strange! Is it because the Americans are here or because it's your aunt's birthday?" "Nope." Nikki gave me a funny look, "Is it because Keziah's leaving?" And as he danced around the old tree on the soccer field, he admitted, "Uh-huh. I decided I don't want to be sad today, so I'm being weird."

And then there was Emmanuel. We had experienced a few good moments that made me remember why it was that I love this boy so much and have claimed his as my unofficial son, but he had also ticked me off several times by just being difficult, asking me for things that he knows I won't give him, complaining about the things that I have given him, and frequently ignoring me when I come to talk to him by pretending to be asleep or having a headache. We sat down together in my room during the party and I asked him to please tell me, honestly, how he was doing. And finally, for the first time since I left in May, Emmanuel let me past the wall of cool-ness that he shows everyone else and into the secret heart of the hurting little boy that I call my son: "I'm not doing well, Keziah." We talked for over an hour and it basically came down to this. Emmanuel purposely acts rebellious and disobedient as a way to find people who will really love him for who he is. I was shocked when he first said it but as I thought more, I realized how perfectly it had worked on me. I did grow to love him because he was a challenge and I loved him despite how obnoxious he can be. "So Emmanuel, all those times that you act difficult, or you seem to not care that I just walked into the room - you did that on purpose?" "Yes." "Oh Emmanuel, no wonder you feel like the staff here doesn't love you. Because I never realized you were doing that on purpose. I thought that you really felt that way and it hurt my feelings. It hurt a lot. I kept loving you though, because you're my Emmanuel, even though it hurt, even though it was hard to love you. But if you do that to everyone, people are not going to love you. If even I, who love you so much, didn't understand why you were being difficult, how do you expect anyone else to figure it out?" I tried to convince him to act differently, because that's what is going to make him feel more at home at HFC and because that's how God wants us to live. He has to start being compliant and obedient or it is going to develop to a point where he is not going to be allowed to stay in the pension.

"Emmanuel, do you understand why I'm asking you to change?" "Yes, I do, but I've tried and it's too hard. Besides, it's worked in the past. It worked with Evelyn, a former nanny, and with Tati Guirlaine, and with you." "But Emmanuel, Evelyn is not here anymore, neither am I, and Tati is leaving soon. What will you do if you never find another person who understands you and loves you?" I wanted him to say that he would start to behave, to do as people asked, but instead he whispered, "I'll just go wherever you are."

I argued with him more and persuaded him to give it a month-long trial, to try doing what people want him to do, what will make other people happy, for one month and to see how it goes. After that, what else could I say? I held him and he rested his head on my shoulder and whispered just as he had before my departure in May, "Why do the only people who really understand me always leave?" I wanted to cry. And more than that, I wanted to rip my plane ticket in two and stay right there with him. It was like someone had just handed me a dictionary and I suddenly understood everything. His attitude, his aloofness, it was all an act to make me love him more. And I had missed it completely. Back in August and September when I left thinking that Emmanuel didn't want me to love him anymore, I was so wrong. He had actually been saying over and over again, "Keziah, do you really love me?"

Now, as we sat on my bed, I shared with Emmanuel dreams that I have for his future, dreams of him becoming an artist and making a living from his own hands, dreams of him having a family and teaching his children to play basketball, dreams of him being happy without restraint. I also told him my nightmare for him, that he will get kicked out of the pension for being rebellious and disobedient, that he will not go back to school, get depressed and spend his days lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, feeling hungry and unloved. And most of all, that I will never be able to see him again. That is my nightmare for Emmanuel. I told him, "Emmanuel, I'm asking you to behave and to live up to Dr Bernard's expectations, and so far you've done it because you love me. But what if one day, you don't love me anymore and -" I didn't get any further because Emmanuel had jerked back and was looking at me with disbelief in his eyes. "Do you really think that I'll ever stop loving you, Keziah?!" What do you say to that? "No, Emmanuel, I know you'll always love me and I hope you know that I will always love you."

I honestly do not know if I made any headway in that conversation; I don't know if Emmanuel grasped any of my arguments for why he should start acting better. I don't know if I will always be able to see through his facade and find the little boy underneath. I don't know if he will stay motivated to pass in school without any assistance as he did this December or whether he will find help in Bryn or in someone else. I don't know what the future holds for him. What I do know is that Emmanuel loves me just as much as he did last spring because when I hugged him after our talk, he clung to me just as long and just as hard as he did the day before I left in May. Oh, my child, my dear dear child.

Saturday, Dec. 29th

I woke up at 6am and went to get the boys for their usual Saturday morning soccer game. We got to the field only to find that two teams of men from behind the wall (not the same ones as yesterday) were already playing a game. We waited patiently and when the game was over, we sent our best players out to take on the winners. Once again, the men were much bigger and stronger than our boys - they made Duck like a an eight year old and Degraff look like a five year old. But our boys play so well together. They looked like a well-oiled machine, giving pass after pass, dribbling past the defenders, intercepting the opposing teams' passes and overall, dominating the entire game. We won, 3-0 on a shot by Duck assisted by Dorval, a line drive drilled down the middle of the field by Bernadin and just tipped in perfectly by Degraff's toe, and a pass by the opposing goalie that Jacques stole and kicked straight into the goal. The other team of men then took the field. They were better, a whole lot better, and we still beat them 3-0. These men were very gracious about our victories, laughing about letting themselves get crushed by a bunch of kids. We were walking on air as we left the field that morning!

Back at the house, I joined Bryn, Nikki, and the girls on the roof doing laundry. I still cannot do laundry to their satisfaction - something about the way I rub the clothes against each other isn't up to par. In fact, the only way that I can make the little squirting noise that every Haitian makes when washing clothes is by doing it with my mouth. I dunk a t-shirt in the soapy water and then start rubbing in against my knuckles while making a wet squirting sound with my mouth. The girls just about die laughing every time I do it.

By this point, I was really getting frustrated by the fact that the older girls were still up at Thomasin. I love the younger girls like crazy, but it was more with the older girls that I formed deep and meaningful relationships. I had been looking forward to spending quality time with them for months, and now that I was finally in Fort Mercredi, they were not. I had a few serious talks with the younger girls about adoptions that had fallen through and the fact that it is not at all because of them that they did not work out. On the roof this Saturday morning, they were asking me all about bodily functions such as passing gas and throwing up - how do they happen, why do they happen, do they happen to everyone? I hope at least a few of them go into medicine because they are intrigued by all things physiological.


Bryn and co

Fabiola and Guerdine
My laundering got cut short by the arrival of a team of 15 Americans from Chelmsford, Mass. I met them downstairs and spent the next few hours helping them get settled. The kids and the team unpacked their 30 suitcases of clothes, peanut butter, tuna fish and toiletries. You know, sometimes the kids drive me crazy because they will not help me out, but other times, they are as willing and cheerful little workers as I've ever seen. Saturday was one of those days, and they worked tirelessly, putting items on shelves and running deliveries to the library and to my room. When the team went off to visit the babies, the boys and younger girls helped me carry tables and chairs into the depot so that the Americans could have a comfortable spot to leave their belongings, eat lunch, and catch their breath.

In the afternoon, Nikki and I took the boys back up to the soccer field for another game. Honestly, they shouldn't call us interns, they should call us soccer moms. We were playing when the men who had caused the skirmish with Bernadin and Miscardet came strutting onto the field. I immediately cleared our boys off the field. But our ball had gone over the wall into the neighborhood, so I told Nikki to take the boys to the house while I waited with Duck and Daniel for the ball to be retrieved by our friend Oudy. Bernadin was standing with us and I didn't want him to stay since he had been involved in the original tiff, so I sent him with Nikki. He walked to her, said something in her ear, and then came right back to me. Disobedient, darling little boy. Oudy couldn't find the ball, so I took the boys and we left the field. As we were walking past the men, the culprit from Friday called out in Creole, "You've got a nice body, white girl." I turned around and gave him the dirtiest look I could muster. "Don't talk to me and don't ever bother my little brothers again, you freak." "What? All I'm saying it that you have a nice body," he kept it up. I wanted so badly to walk right up to him and punch him in the face, to prove to him that he couldn't roll all over my boys. I wanted to deal with it right then and there so that after I left, my boys would be safe and undisturbed. But there were seven of them and 1 of me, so I walked away. Duck and Bernadin were as tense as I've ever seen them and we didn't talk the whole way back to the orphanage.

We walked in the gate and I said under my breath, "Nice body! I would've killed you, freak." I started to walk away when Bernadin asked, "Keziah, what would you have done if he had touched you?" I didn't say anything, just looked at him for a minute and then punched the air. My bodyguard shook his head, pointed to himself, and punched the air too. "You can't just tell me to leave like that, Keziah. I won't walk away and leave you." "I know, Bernadin, but I know that you'd fight for me and I don't want you to get hurt." "Yes, well I don't want you to get hurt!" he answered earnestly. What do you say to that? There's nothing to say, so I hugged him.