Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exam time

There are some kids that we just do not worry about when it comes to exams. James, for example, is always first in his class with a whopping 9 out of 10 or higher.John Peter is also first in his class, usually in the 8.3/10 vicinity.
Then there are kids like Camille who fail more often than they pass. Note: he is climbing through the hole above the door while the other kids are studying. I wonder if that might have something to do with his pass-fail ratio?
Yesterday, I studied biology with the 10th grade boys. OK, we might have got sidetracked and ended up talking about peanut butter for a while, but I was able to force Duck to actually open his notebook and look at the definitions of artery and vein.
Adler played in the rain (doesn't his plastic bag hat look like those traditional hats that little Dutch girls wear in old-fashioned stories?)
The 9th grade boys worked on physics - I am absolutely no help there!
Mathurin wrote practice physics problems on the board. He is another kid that I can completely ignore during exam prep. The only question with him is whether he will beat Martine for second place in his class.
In the early mornings, there are always a few boys on the roof doing last minute revision.
On Monday, I worked on chemistry with the 10th grade boys. I love chemistry! I hope that when we get to heaven, we can all sit down with God and balance chemical equations such as 8HNO3 + 3Cu ---> 3Cu(N03)2 + 2NO + 4H2O. No, I'm serious. I like balancing equations. The boys do not. "Exactly why is this important for my future?" they ask me, and I don't really have an answer except "When you're a dad, you've gotta be able to do your kid's homework for him just like I'm doing for you!"

These gals were actually not studying. They were working with Se Pradel to prepare the month's chores list. Don't they look enthralled?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


On Sunday evening, I was in one of the older girls' rooms, hanging out with a group of them. One poked her head out the door and squealed, "Se Pradel is coming. Quick! Do devotions!" I hadn't realized it, but apparently they had been told just before I walked in to start doing devotions by room instead of in a large group as usual. Knowing that Se Pradel was going to be opening the door in about 30 seconds, I started an impromptu Bible lesson about the first 8 verses of Psalm 139. When Se Pradel arrived, we were able to truthfully and primly tell her to please not come in because we were doing devotions.

What followed was one of the best devotions I have ever had with the kids. After I shared my psalm, I asked them tell me their favorite texts or verses and to explain why they loved them. Martine talked about Romans 8:31 , "If God is for us, who can be against us?" She said that she gets a lot of comfort and encouragement from those words, knowing that no matter what happens at the orphanage, God is on her side. Kattia read Jeremiah 29:11 about the good plans that God has for our future. Debbie quoted Ecclesiastes 3 (a time for everything) and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20. Edline read 1 Corinthians 13 and told us that she really believed it; if you don't have love, it doesn't matter what you do have because it's all worthless without love. Chrystel explained Hebrews 13:5 where God says he will never leave us or forsake. She said that even though her family abandoned her and people come and go here at the orphanage, she knows that God will never leave her. Merline Guillaume read Psalm 91 and whispered, with all the innocence of a child, "Sometimes I get scared, and God sends His angels to protect me."Last night, devotions were a little different. I have never known a teenage girl who did not struggle with body image, so I decided to invite all the girls to a Body Image Party. I am not permitted to disclose most of what happened at the party because we all swore an oath of secrecy, but there was a lot of dancing and a lot of laughing and a lot of serious discussion of topics such as what do you like and what do you hate about your body, what scares you about being a grown up woman, and what are you looking forward to about being a woman?

We read Genesis 1 together, where the Bible says that God created man and woman in His image and He said "It is good." I talked to them about loving our bodies, regardless of how the world may judge us. If God made us in His image, then every time we say we wish we were skinnier or we wish our eyelashes were thicker or we wish we had a larger bust, we are essentially telling God that He didn't do a good job. Every time we say we are ugly, we are telling God that this huge gift He has graciously given us is ugly. Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Wonderfully! We are beautiful, girls, every single one of us. And when we acknowledge that, we give God the praise He deserves.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I am multicolored this morning. My face is mosaic of pink cheek and brown freckle. My arms are a light brownish color. My shoulders are pretty close to white. And the back of my neck is pink. Not any old pink, but deep, dark, inching-its-way-to-red pink. This particular paint job happens to be the result of yesterday's trip to Merger, the little village beyond Carrefour where Institute of Grace is opening a school and a clinic. My dear friend Nikki is going to be running the school and other activities such as summer camp starting this June. I am interested in the clinic, though not as something I would do in the near future because I need more experience with Third World illnesses such as parasites, typhoid, malaria, and TB. But I am vaguely considering Merger as a place to work in a few years. So I wanted to see it.

I took Duckhein, Bernadin, Argentine, and Fabiola with me. Part of Nikki's scheme is to involve the older HFC children in the ministry at Merger. The majority of the population of Merger is under the age of 25 and many of them either don't go to school or have to travel a long distance to get to school. Our children are well educated and well provided for. We have thrown around different ideas (such as having the older girls teach and having the older boys be soccer coaches during the summer camps, or even something as simple as donating some of their books and craft supplies to the school) and I wanted a few of the kids to see the place so that they would feel more ownership of the project if we are able to have them help in some way.

We met Ernest, an employee of IOG, and Boss Jacques, the head construction man, at the seminary and walked with them through the neighborhood below ours. We hailed down a taptap and rode about 1 hour to Merger. This was my first time in a real Haitian taptap and I was so excited to finally have that experience. How can I describe it? It and dusty. We arrived at Merger and walked 15 minutes through the village to get to the clinic. The dirt road into Merger is in bad repair so taptaps only come as close as the paved main road.

The paved road and the Merger church.On our way up the dirt road to Merger.

The town watering hole - right near the road, with spigots that are constantly running. The people get clean water from those spigots to carry home for bathing, cooking, and drinking. Other people bathe right there in the runoff from the spigots that gathers in a large pool.

The cemetery on the way to the clinic.

We didn't see too many people because it was the middle of the day on a Sunday, but we did see plenty of cows.

The clinic and school building are still very much under construction. They are due to be functional by the end of August.

This is one of the most finished rooms - the floors are done, the walls are done, and there are bars on the windows.

Our guide, Ernest.

On the roof of the clinic where they will continue to build as needed to add classrooms.

One of the magnificent views from the clinic.

The downhill side of the clinic/school building.

The uphill side.

Currently, the only patients are the goats.
After we had seen the building, Duck and I wanted to see the rest of the land that IOG owns. Boss Jacques found one of the locals, a man named Wilber, to take us up the hill.
We climbed a little path, through brush and thorny bushes to a large clearing where Duck and I immediately began to envision the school's soccer field.
Further up, we came to an even better clearing. Duck was beside himself. He's not usually one to want to work particularly hard, but he was already making plans to bring the other boys up there to clear out the rocks and plants, level the ground, build goals, and make a field worthy of the game.
This kind of thing amazes me - in a country that is so poor and so many people are starving, the owner of this donkey can just leave him tied up to a bush on the top of the hill. No one will take him, no one will kill him. There is so much need and so much poverty, but such a sense of community too.
As we climbed, I asked Wilber about himself and about Merger. He told me that he has 12 children, some of them already grown. His 27 year old son Wisley was there with us. Some of his children go to school, but they have to walk down to the road and take a taptap to get there. He works as a farmer, though I did not see any agriculture near his house. He confirmed that they get all their water from the hole at the beginning of the road except on the rare times that the water truck makes it up the road to the town and he is able to fill his water storage hole. When I asked him what he thought were the biggest needs for the community, he said, "The school and clinic which are coming soon, electricity, fixing up the road, and a bigger church."

I also talked with the man who sells soda just below the clinic. He had an open wound on his leg that was partially healed. He told me that he had taken a taptap to a doctor in the next town and he had been given some shots (presumably for infection). He didn't have anything to bandage it with and he couldn't go back to the doctor's frequently enough for the doctor to wrap it for him. He was due to return to the doctor for a second round of shots this week. That kind of thing just kills me - I want that leg wrapped up so it will stay clean and not get infected! Yes, they need a clinic at Merger.

The kids seemed to enjoy themselves. Argentine and Fabiola were quiet most of the ride, but they were big-eyed, taking everything in. I asked them at one point if they would prefer to live out in a place like Merger and they emphatically responded, "No! We like where we live now." I was afraid that they would get tired from all the walking and from the heat, but they were troopers. They both climbed all the way up the hill with us and then just sat on the grass and enjoyed the view and the cool wind. Grass! That's a commodity we do not have in Fort Mercredi. Bernadin didn't do so well. He somehow was affected by the heat and the sun more than any of us, and he moped the whole way there and back. He perked up a bit when we all had sodas, but he wasn't himself again till we got home and he had a shower and some real food.

Duck, on the other hand, was in heaven. He was racing around, exploring everything, leaping over rocks, jumping off the roof of the clinic, visiting the neighbors to watch a little of the soccer game, chasing the donkey, spreading his arms and running down the mountain like he was flying, going slalom through the undergrowth, and grinning from ear to ear. It was like watching a colt being let out of the stable for the first day of spring.

You can imagine, then, how the back of my neck got to be its current tone. I had put sunscreen on my face, my arms, and the front of my neck, but I totally forgot the back. When you are walking up a dirt road or a little mountain path, your head is usually down to watch where you are placing your feet thereby exposing your neck to the most sunlight. I am ashamed of myself. I had managed to go 2 years without a Haitian sunburn until yesterday. Oh, well. It was bound to happen sometime. At least it was just my neck and not all of me.

Quiet Saturday

The girls were up very late on Friday with Dr B, so they were almost all still asleep when I cam in at 7:10am.
Once they were finally up, we all did chores and worked in the kitchen. I made bean sauce (sos pwa) for the first time. I don't like sos pwa at all - I always give my portion to the girls at mealtimes. Making it was fine so long as I didn't put my hands anywhere near my face. When I did that, I could smell it and feel its grainy-ness on my fingers and I just have to go rinse my hands off.

I brought the younger boys over for soccer practice in the late morning. Daniel, Camille, Job and Peterson directed them in warm-ups and exercises.

At the end of the practice, they played a real game with Peterson as the referee. He made them all tuck in their shirts (except Job and Daniel, naughty naughty boys!), line up to sing the national anthem, and then pose for a team photo, exactly the way teams do before a World Cup match.

The rest of the day was spent studying and watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3. The kids have been begging me to bring them that movie since before it even came out in theatres. When I arrived and said that I had finally brought it for them, they were sure I was kidding. I had to take it out of my suitcase and let them see it before they believed me. We watched it in English with subtitles, which is good practice for the older kids. After and during the film, several of them were asking me to translate certain words like "crew" and "bilge rat". Mostly though, they just laughed wildly at all the slapstick humor.

The boys' turn to the watch the movie got interupted by the monthly delivery of provisions. First, the janitors just called 6 of the oldest boys to go help, but when I went with them and saw the mountain of food, I returned to the house and made everyone come. We spent nearly an hour lugging spaghetti, rice, water, onions, milk, cornflakes, cornmeal, and herring down the road. At first, only the younger boys were enthusiastic about the work, but by the end, all the boys were joking around, challenging each other to carry heavier loads and working like men. Acheley and Argusto slaved in the storeroom, stacking all the food as we brought it in. Peterson and Bernadin spent most of the time unloading the taptap, handing boxes and bags into waiting hands. Richecarde repeatedly took loads that were too heavy for him and would arrive at the house panting and dripping with sweat, just barely clinging to the boxes in his arms. Job, who had been the first boy to jump out of his seat and volunteer to help, bruised the top of his head carrying things. And the NLL boys waited for me at the gate each time they made a delivery and as soon as I said, "OK", they dashed out the door and literally ran up the hill for more.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mango party!

Thanks to the generosity of my friend, Mandy, we concluded Family Friday with a huge mango party! I started them out at two apiece, but I think most of them ended up eating at least 3 or 4.

Merline Jean ate a total of 7 full-size mangos, so she had good reason to be so excited!

Washing mangos

The party continued for another half hour at the boys' house as they experimented with different ways of eating mangos.

The heathen way...

...or the civilized way.