Saturday, March 29, 2008

Alphabet soup

How to stay entertained at a party using only a box of alphabet cookies:

There's only one problem - your friends keep eating the letters and eventually, you can't make any more names. Boohoo!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Missing my kiddos

When I first came to Haiti, I was amused by all the people, young and old, who yelled, "Hey you!" at me when I walked down the street. After I'd been living there for a few months, many of them would yell at me by name, but there were always a few who stuck with the traditional "Hey you!" I have never figured out how they learned that phrase, but I sort of like it now. It used to annoy me to no end, but I think if they ever stopped, I would miss it terribly.

Yesterday, I was biking home to my apartment in Boston in the mid-afternoon. The local high school had just let out and there were dozens of students walking down the sidewalk to the subway stop. As I rode past a group of them, one yelled, "Hey you!" I was so surprised that I almost smashed into a parked car! Oh, I miss Haiti.
Easter is kite-flying time. Every boy under the age of 18...OK, under the age of 30...buys or makes a few kites and flies them all weekend. They tie razor blades into the tails of their kites and try to cut other people's kite strings. If you cut someone else's kite down, whoever retrieves it gets it. The skies are beautiful around Easter with all the kites posing against the blue blue sky. The boys' fingers are a little less beautiful - they inevitably get all sliced up from the razors.
Miscardet is our champion kite flyer. Last year, we had very little wind at Easter, but he managed to get his kite up and he sliced down our neighbor's kite. Of course, that didn't go too well for us because the neighbor and his buddies started hurling big rocks at us. We had to hide behind the walls of the roof to escape.

This year when I called the boys a week before Easter, they were adament that they were not going to fly kites this year. "We're not allowed on the girls' roof and that's where the good wind is, and plus, we are just too old, Keziah," they said, sounding very solemn. "Yeah, whatever. When Good Friday rolls around and you see all the other kids flying their kites, you are not going to be able to resist," I argued. "Just wait and see." Sure enough, when I called the day before Easter, the boys had been flying kites for 2 days straight. Who's your Daddy?
The girls wanted to know what I had eaten for the week of Easter. I didn't eat anything particularly special, but I knew that they had. So I turned the question back to them and they got all excited: "We had kasav (flat, hard bread) for breakfast, rice and beans with chicken and beet salad for lunch. We love Easter food!"

They also told me about going to church in Petionville with their youth group for Good Friday. They went to Bataillon on Saturday, church on Sunday morning, and the Easter concert on Sunday afternoon. They also watched the Passion of Christ on Friday evening and then "we had a long time of prayer to thank God for sending Jesus to die for us. Because if He hadn't done that, where would we be? We wouldn't have anything!"

My conversation ended with Daina taking the phone. "Kez, do you want me to sing for you?" "Umm, sure, Daina." I had to jerk the phone away from my ear because she burst into a full volume operatic version of the Hallelujah chorus!

"Did you hear that, Keziah?"
"Did I hear it?!!"
"Oh, OK, I'll do it again for you."

Another ear-splitting rendition of hallelujahs and then we got cut off. No offense, Daina, but I hope the angels sound a little better than you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Photo shoot

What happens when the younger boys realize there is a camera in the room:

Renick and Monsanto TiJude and me

Renick and me

Adler and me

Peterson and me

Monsanto and Peterson

Renick and Ernso

Renick and Ernso

Peterson and Jude

Peterson and Jude again - they are so cute!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sorry, Drisk

So you know how I call Drisk "My Goat"? Well, apparently, I may have taken that nickname a little too far...

Last night I dreamt that Drisk had been kidnapped by a goat farmer in the Back Bay (a ritzy neighborhood in Boston). One of the boys (was it Reginald?) and I planned an elaborate escape plan that involved stealing gasoline from antique cars and hiding in narrow brick alleyways. While the rest of our kids played in one of Haitian quarries where all the white stone for construction is extracted, Reginald (?) and I rescued Drisk from his fate. We hurried back to the other kids, who were now living in a building that looked remarkably like the gym in Arras, France where I lived for a year in high school. They were all very happy that we have saved Drisk from becoming dinner and we celebrated by eating oatmeal.

Sorry, Drisk.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Junk mail

A few days ago, I was emptying out the junk mail in my Yahoo! account and I found an email from Kattia. I emailed her back and apologized for the delay, explaining that for some reason, my email account interpreted her message as trash. Yesterday she wrote back to me:

"How are you Kez? I am fine by the grace of God.
Me neither, I don't know why the message would get sent to the trash. I know that a trash can only contains things that are unnecessary, things that have no value, or no importance. In fact, I would say that you belong in the same place as the message. Isn't that true? Yes, it's true.
So my dear mademoiselle, what do you think of that?
Yes, I am happy to be on vacation right now and I am sorry that you are still in school. So, I am saving my vacation and when you come to Haiti, I will share it with you.
Right now, there are lots of mangos in Haiti and very soon, I will be eating a mango. I can either send one to you by email or by telephone.
I love you and I miss you.
Have a nice day.
PS I imagine this message will go into the trash too, right?"

Man, she has got the most marvelous sassy streak! I love it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My bodyguard

It all started last year in March. I was walking up to the volleyball courts with the boys when the soccer coach, Manno, called me to come walk with him. I had been suspecting that Manno was getting a crush on me from the way that he kept trying to get an arm around me and from the way he would try to hold my hand on the way to and from the seminary. Generally, when a Haitian man shows even the slightest interest in me, I send him packing immediately, but if I sabotaged my friendship with Manno I wouldn't be able to get out of the orphanage every weekend for volleyball games. So I put up with it. I just limited my time with him and always kept a few of the kids with me whenever we were together. He didn't seem to be getting the message though. So on that March day when he called me, I moved grudgingly towards him, but a hand suddenly grabbed mine and held me back. I turned and there was Bernadin, looking very seriously at me. "He wants you all to himself, Keziah. I'll walk with you and protect you."

Ever since that day in March, Bernadin served as my loyal bodyguard in every situation. He walked with me anytime I left the orphanage, he came with me to buy bread or soda from the ladies in front of the pension, he escorted me across the street after dark, and he accompanied me on errands downtown. Some of the children teased him about it but he took his duty very seriously. He would even scold me for going out alone or for talking to people in the street. Whenever I took a group of the boys up to the seminary for soccer, they would all hurry up the hill, wanting to get there as fast as possible. And each time, I would look up and there would be my bodyguard, waiting for me at the curve in the road.

In early April last year, we were at Maranatha playing soccer and I was standing near the goal with a few of our boys. Some young men from behind the wall also came to stand near the goal. Within a few minutes, two of them got into a fight. Bernadin came off the field and led me away from them. "Those are bad guys. I don't want you to hear what they're yelling about." Then he went back and removed the rest of our boys too.
One day in mid-April, the boys and I were talking about the security situation in Bolosse. "I don't like it when you walk around Fort Mercredi by yourself, Keziah," Duck said. "You should take one of us with you." I explained about needing to feel independent and needing to trust God for my safety. "If I can't walk around freely, I can't live here, Duckhein. But I love the fact that you worry about me. That's really sweet."

Then the boys started discussing what would happen if I got attacked when I was walking with Bernadin. "Oh, he would just run away," a few of them said dismissively. "No, I wouldn't," Bernadin insisted firmly. "I would get in between you and your attacker and I would disarm him." "Or, you would get in between me and my attacker and get shot. At which point I would begin screaming and sobbing and wishing that I was dead, so in fact, I'd rather walk alone and save your life." He just glared at me and shook his head.
At Christmas time, we had several incidents with young men on the soccer field. They were threatening our boys and hitting on me. Both times, Bernadin stayed with me (against my wishes) and was fully prepared to get into a fight to protect me. On my most recent trip, a young man approached me in the street and started the usual "I want to marry a white girl" talk. Bernadin was furious. As soon as we were away from the man, he marched away and paced back and forth, angrily. Another day, I stopped on the road just inside the Maranatha gate to talk with one of my neighborhood friends and his mother. Bernadin usually sits up on the wall beside the field to put on his cleats, but when he realized that I was still down on the road, he came down too. He sat on the edge of the road, about 15 feet from me and very slowly put on his cleats. He didn't move from that spot until I was done talking.

When I noticed him sitting there, it occurred to me how often he does that. Many times, he will come and stand beside me, even put an arm around me if he senses that I'm really uneasy. But other times when I think he is just playing or going about his business, he is actually nearby and keeping an eye on me. Several of the boys - Argusto, Vandomme, Duck, Peterson, and even Job - have protected me in situations, but none of them with the diligence that Bernadin has displayed.
The day that I most appreciated having my little bodyguard was May Day last year. Lamarre, Levy, and several of the nannies drove 20 of us downtown so that we could go to the fair on Champs de Mars, the city common. The place was packed with thousands of young Haitians. The entertainment was music, food stands, small vendors, cages of chickens, and a big tub with 2 crocodiles. Oh, I forget to mention the last bit of entertainment: a white girl who was walking around with a bunch of kids and jabbering away in Creole with them.

People were intrigued, like they had never seen a blan before. They all wanted to talk to me and to touch me. And even when I could ignore the hands and the eyes, I was terrified that I was going to get separated from our group. The crowd was tightly packed and everyone was pushing and shoving. I grabbed Bernadin's hand and I wouldn't let go. So long as we kept moving, it wasn't too bad. But every time we stopped, the attention got nearly unbearable and I would try to hide behind Bernadin or one of the girls.

Once we had done the full tour of the fair, we headed back to the pick-up spot, only to realize that the 2 nannies were missing! Somehow, they had got separated from us in the crowd and now we had to wait for them to catch up. We stood in a relatively quiet corner of the common and waited. It was like vultures circling a dead raccoon - the men just started coming from all sides. Logically, I know that they didn't mean me any harm; they were just amazed that I was there and deeply interested. But it felt threatening and I couldn't get away from it. Bernadin put his arm around my shoulder and gathered the other boys into a circle around me. Emmanuel was laughing at me but he consistently told the men off as they came: "She's Haitian! Leave her alone." I just hid my face on Bernadin's shoulder and prayed that we could go home.

15 minutes later, the nannies arrived and Lamarre drove up with a second taptap load of children. As they clambered out of the vehicle, they asked me eagerly, "Are you going to stay and go through the fair with us too?" "NEVER!"

I don't know what it is that made Bernadin decide to become my bodyguard. I've asked him and he can't really give me a straight answer. But whatever decision he made initially, he has obviously made a decision to stick with the trend that he started. When my friend Maggie stayed in Haiti with me for 2 weeks, Bernadin made sure that no one bothered her. And when I left Haiti in May, he transferred his services to Nikki and then to Bryn. He's a good kid. A really good kid. And I owe a lot of my peace of mind when I'm in Haiti to his presence. As he wrote in his good-bye letter, "I am proud to have been your protector after God."

The troublemaker's face

I walked over to the boys' house to see if they were ready to go to soccer. Jean Claude had them all sitting in the living room and was talking with them about new lockers they were going to install, how to shower properly, and how often they were allowed to change their clothes. I stood at the door, listening in for a minute. Then Jean Claude saw me and immediately stood up and offered me his chair. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck sitting in front of all the boys during one of those meetings! So I refused. He gently chided, "Keziah, don't embarass me. Come sit down. Besides, some of the boys can't see you and they want to be able to see you, right boys?" Those nasty little brats all chimed, "Yes, we want to see you. C'mon, Kez!"

So I ended up sitting in the room with 30 boys staring at me instead of Jean Claude. I'm not the one talking; look at him, not me! So I focused on Jean Claude and pretended like I was deeply interested in what he was saying. (Now that I think about it, what was he saying?) Every time I looked away from Jean Claude, I made eye contact with one of the boys. That was fine unless the boy was Drisk. Whenever I made eye contact with Drisk, we both started laughing. There's something very pompous and overly dramatic about Jean Claude that makes him rather comical, and all it took was a little wink or my mouth twitching for Drisk to know exactly what I was thinking and for the two of us to start silently chortling.

As Jean Claude wrapped up his talk, he announced that he wanted to see a few of the boys privately. "You, you, and ... you," he pointed straight at Drisk. "You have a troublemaker's face. I want to talk to you." Drisk stared back at him, and looked around to see if maybe Jean Claude was indicating someone else. "Me? I'm not a troublemaker." "That's OK. I still want to talk with you." I would have defended Drisk but the truth is, I was laughing so hard that I couldn't talk.

It turned out that Jean Claude never did have that talk with Drisk. Later that evening, I teased Drisk about it, "Troublemaker's face, troublemaker's face!" The poor boy looked honestly concerned as he asked me, "I don't really have a troublemaker's face. Do I, Keziah?" "No, of course you don't. You have a face that makes people laugh." Even before the words were completely out of my mouth, I was waving my hands furiously. "No, no, no! That's not what I mean, Drisk!"

You see, the way to say "A face that makes people laugh" is "Yon figi pou ri". But when you say it fast, it sounds exactly the same as "Yon figi pouri" which means "A rotten face."

"Figi POU RI!" I drew the words out, emphasizing the space in between them. "Yon figi ki fe m ri. Ou pa pouri, Drisk!" You're not rotten! I swear, I don't think that you're rotten!

A flash of understanding and he was laughing again. And then pulling the most ridiculous faces to see how badly he has a "figi pou ri." Pretty badly. I called him "figi pou ri" all week and he loved it.

Let's talk

Kerlande, the new head nanny, asked the boys and girls what topics they would like to discuss in devotions and in Family Fridays. They gave her over 50 suggestions. Here are a few of them:

- How to manage money
- How to communicate effectively
- How to fight solitude
- How to avoid an argument
- Why do we always want to be first
- What makes people steal
- What are idols that people worship today
- How to laugh
- How to console someone
- How to avoid temptation
- Why do we have to go to school
- How to know the will of God
- What purpose do the other planets serve
- Who are our brothers and sisters and how can we show them we love them
- Why did Jesus have to be baptized
- How to kill a chicken

I want to be there the day that they get their chicken-killing lesson!

Monday, March 17, 2008

He's in love!

Bernadin Guy Junior, 8pm, February 23rd, 2008:

"Mathurin has a crush on the playstation."


I caught Jeanine writing the following in Creole for Argentine's homework assignment:

God created humankind in His image. But they decided to turn away from God. They lived in sin and did what was wrong in God’s eyes. God could have destroyed us, but he did not do that because he loves us. For us to be saved, there had to be someone who was without sin who could die in our place. But there was no one on earth who was without sin. Because he loves us so much, God sent his only son to die for us, so that we could be saved. It is Jesus’ blood that was spilled on the cross that washes us of our sins because that blood was innocent. That is why everyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life.

Why was I worried that our kids don't understand the gospel?

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Degraff = "Samelo" - no clue where that came fromI call Drisk "Mon Chevre" (My Goat) because his last name is Chevry

The boys call Miscardet "Master Negatif" because he can put a negative spin onto any situation. He generally doesn't believe what he's saying, but he says it nonetheless.

Wislandy is known as "Piwili" (Lollipop) because the girls say she has a thin body and a large head. I don't really see this one.

I call Renick "Spiderman" because he's obsessed with the movies.

I get called "Ti Lapen" (Little Rabbit) by Evens, Renick and some of the other boys. Alex calls me "Gwo Rat" (Fat Rat) and coach Manno calls me "Keke".

Everybody calls Souille (Stanley) "Touille" probably because that's how he used to lisp his own name.

This little one is simply called "Ti Alex" because she is Alex's little sister.

The girls call Nadia "Ginou". Ginou is one of the laundry ladies who is skinny and tall, just like Nadia.

This is my favorite: the boys call Monsanto "Bobby". Where in the world did that come from?

Faceless children

The kids accused me of being camera-happy on this last trip. I believe I took over 600 photos in just 9 days. I tell them that they should take it as a compliment - I mean, would I really be taking all those photos if they were obnoxious little twerps? So they tolerate it ... most of the time. There are still those moments when they just won't let me see their faces.

Nounoun (Nerline)

Stev (Adler in foreground)



I think this is Mikerlange but I'm not sure

Alex - was this a bandit disguise or an escape from my camera?

Peterson - OK, we all know he's not camera shy. I think he just feels cool in his new Ninja look.