Sunday, November 30, 2008

More Thanksgiving weekend fun

Kevs had all the older kids into his room for "church" on Friday morning. They sang in Creole, French and English; they recited Bible verses; they learned "5 Little Duckies"; and they prayed out loud. It was better than a lot of church services I've been to.

On Saturday morning, Pastor Kevs held church again, with Johnny in attendance. Johnny can't sing yet, but he bobs his head back and forth with the music. It is so cute!

After watching his big brother, Sam, accompanying me on errands all over town, Kevs has decided that he should take over that job too. He also wants to be my chauffeur...

Since the trip to Titayen did not happen, we went to a pool at a hotel just a mile behind our house on Saturday. Ivens, Dannae's fiance, showed us where it was and then the two of them joined us for a fun afternoon of swimming. It was a cold day by Haitian standards - only about 85 degrees and partly cloudy - but we hardly got out of the water.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Even more to be thankful for

Two miracles happened today.

1. I drove through the chaos and terror of Bolosse, something I had sworn I would never ever do. Well, I did it, without killing anyone either!
2. Our rusty dusty overheating cranky old car actually made it across town and all the way to the top of the seminary hill! I have proof, a photo of my car parked at the seminary.

You guessed it - I got to visit HFC today!

I came with apples for all the kids, so while they were still in school, I placed an apple and a little piece of candy on each child's bed. It's such a simple treat, but they enjoyed it immensely!

Wislandy and Cindy were the first kids out of school and the first to get all excited that I was there. No one knew I was coming, so everyone, including the staff, was surprised when I walked in. The kids understand that I am in Haiti and working elsewhere, but the adults persist in believing that I am coming to and from the States every time I visit.

I was only there for about 4 hours, but it was great nonetheless. I got to chat with the girls and catch up on how things have been since I saw them a month ago. I told and retold the story of Dorothy's hospitalization and the baby passing away and my house-sitting arrangement.

In the late afternoon, just before I left, I stumbled upon most of the 11th graders, in their classroom, doing math problems all together. It was one of the coolest things I've seen between the boys and the girls since they had that silly hullaballoo last year. One would write a problem on the board and everyone would help him or her finish it. There was no teacher present, no adult who had organized the homework party, but they stayed on task, doing nothing but math all afternoon.

Duck attacked a very long and complicated equation. As I sat watching him sweat through the steps, I couldn't help but think how much these kids have grown up in the 2 and a half years that I have known them. There was a time when I could do their math without thinking, a time when I was as tall as most of them. But looking at that tall, muscular boy standing at the board, working out a problem that I don't know how to do, I had to admit that they are growing up. So sad.

Alex got home from Maranatha later than the other kids. He saw me and got a big goofy grin on his face. "I'm sweaty," he warned me. "I don't care, silly! I'm too happy to see you to be bothered by a little sweat!"

Ernso's adoptive mom brought a badmitten set for the boys. They are hopelessly bad at it, but it's a change from their usual mini-soccer games in the courtyard. Samelo and Job were the official score-keepers as Reginald and Stev played a championship round.

Stev, as always, ran and hid when I first arrived. But later, he asked me how long I was staying. "Just today," I answered sadly. "What?!" he yelled. "Well, fine then." And he waved a hand dismissively at me and stormed off to his bedroom. Ah hah! So you do care that I came!

I had lunch with the younger girls. It was wheat and meat sauce with bits of carrot and, good grief, was it ever delicious! I didn't realize until that moment how little Haitian food I have been eating since moving to Dorothy's. I eat labouille most mornings when they make it for the kids, but I really hate the nutritionally enhanced rice that we give the kids at lunch, so I don't eat it. It tastes like sawdust and the sauce just does not add much to it. Eating lunch with the girls today reminded me how good Haitian food can be. Dorothy is planning on getting a new cook soon, so maybe things are looking up.

Bernadin was precious. He walked me up to my car when it was time for me to leave. We talked for a little while and then hugged good-bye. Sometimes the kids are punks and give me a hard time about leaving or about only visiting for a short period of time. Not Bernadin, not today. He kissed me on the cheek and simply said, "Thank you so much for coming."

My dear Drisk was also precious. Apples are one of his favorite things and I gave him the extras that were left after each child received one. He was munching on apple all afternoon and just kept walking by and flashing me his craziest, Drisk-iest smiles. He makes me laugh every time I see him. Oh, I love that boy!

Jessica and Nounoun were darlings again today. We're 3 for 3 on our last few trips, friends! Amazing. Nounoun didn't pass the November exams; she was one of 22 HFC kids who did not pass. We've had poor passing rates in recent years, but 22 kids is abnormally high. Nounoun and Lovely explained to me how the exams were different this year: instead of having 2 exams per day, they had exams during their regular class periods. For example, if Lovely's class has French, history, English, math, and experimental science on Monday, she would have all 5 exams on Monday as well. Some of the exams lasted several days, and others simply got taken away from them if it became time to switch to another course exam. There is no excuse for 22 children failing, however, I do sympathize and I am confident that more will pass as they grow accustomed to the new system.

I am the luckiest girl alive. I get to do work that I love and I get to spend my days with the greatest kids around. I have so very much to be thankful for!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Meet the Beast

Dannae and I are house-sitting for our neighbor, Dottie, for a few weeks while she is visiting the States. Dottie runs a large guesthouse just up the road that is very unHaitian: it has electricity all the time, there is a fridge stocked with American food, the place is clean and quiet, and there are no children here at all. It's nice but at the same time very odd. I miss tucking Kevs in and I miss hearing the kids doing devotions before bed and then singing silly songs when they wake up at 5 in the morning. Lately, they had been singing Happy Birthday to me, Natasha, Mama Dorothy, Mama Casey, Sam...everybody they can think of. I don't really mind waking up every morning to "Happy Birthday dear Keziah, Happy Birthday to you!"

Here at Dottie's, I don't have children to put to bed or children to wake up to, but I do have the Beast. OK, his real name is Brown, but he looks so much like the Beast from my favorite movie, Sandlot, that I have temporarily renamed him.

The Beast is Dottie's new guard dog. He is big, he is incredibly strong, and he is wildly in love with me. Every time I go outside, he licks me all over and jumps on top of me, often nearly knocking me over. Supposedly, he's quite ferocious but with me, Beastie's just a big ball of energy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

My roommate Dannae asked her Haitian students if they knew what happened at the first Thanksgiving. One boy raised his hand and answered: "There was a great famine in America. So all the people prayed and God sent turkeys falling down from the sky for them to eat!"


Today, I was supposed to go to HFC to visit my kids while Dorothy, Kevs, and Dannae were going to go to Titayen to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends the Kendalls. Kevs and Dannae were especially excited about the pool at the Kendall's. Unfortunately, making plans in Haiti is a rather futile task. Our car had overheated and blown a radiator tube, so I couldn't go to HFC, and the woman who was going to take everyone to the Kendall's had something else come up at the last minute. So we all ended up at home. But we didn't mind! We celebrated royally and had a great day.

Part 1: We brought the older kids up for a movie and a special treat of chocolate pudding and candy.

Part 2: Kevs came over to Dottie's house with me and Dannae for a simple but yummy lunch of roast beef sandwiches with fresh cucumber and tomato.

Part 3: We made long distance calls to people we love. Kevs got to talk to Natasha, Mama Kathy, Sam, Papa Beaver, and Rebecca (his adoptive sister).

Part 4: The three of us went to Epi D'Or for ice cream! And we brought French fries home as a special treat for Dorothy.

All in all, a very fun day. We have so much to be thankful for here in Haiti and it was great to dedicate an entire day with our mini-family to remembering all our blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Homeward bound

This week, two more babies left Dorothy's to return to their homes. Emmanuel went back with his mother to their little house in another part of Port-au-Prince. His older brothers literally ran out of the house and grabbed him when they saw him being carried out of the car. They were ecstatic to have him back. Emily was picked up by Rusty and Cheryl, a couple who run the orphanage in Bercy, Cabaret, an hour outside the city. Emily was brought to them about a year ago but she was so sickly and malnourished that they sent her to Dorothy's with Tasha to get stronger. What a success story!

Pretty colors

My room is a dining room, clinic, nursery, den, cinema, conservatory, and now also a nail salon!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

For the very first time

We got a new baby on Friday night: one and a half month old Rosegerline. Her mother died and dad asked us to take her because he could not afford formula. This morning, I was still in bed when Dorothy and Kevs burst through my door. Dorothy was holding Rosegerline. "Keziah! I think we have a dead baby!"

Soeur Bebe had been holding her when she gave a little convulsion and went limp. They ran her upstairs to Dorothy who thought the baby might be choking. She got some formula out of her with the Heimlich, but the baby did not start breathing. That was when they brought her to me.

I checked for a heart beat. Kevs was sitting on the floor beside me, holding her tiny hand. I listened for nearly a minute. Nothing. Rosegerline was already going stiff and cold.

We laid her in one of the quarantine cribs upstairs, wrapped in a blanket. Kevs and I picked some flowers and placed them on and around her. Her daddy came to get her later and carried her out in a Nourisoy box. Dorothy stayed home from church to meet with the father and it was hours after we got back from church before she came out of her room.

It was my first time caring for a deceased person in Haiti, and it was Kevs' first time seeing a dead person. Her beautiful little body will always stick in my mind. But even more, I will always remember when Kevs looked up at me, fear and sadness in his face, and asked, "Keziah, why are her hands so cold?"

Thank you!

All last week we had a wonderful team of 18 Americans working at Dorothy’s. Every day, some of them just loved the children and others slaved over our house, getting it into great shape. They gave me and Dannae a new toilet seat and showerhead. I can take real showers now! They bought and installed a new fridge and a washing machine for us. They also gave us money to buy an inverter. We’re going to have power regularly! They built a water filtration system that is going to give us clean water for bathing and washing dishes and hopefully for drinking as well.

They built a gate to keep the dogs off the roof; they painted and cleaned rooms; they repaired the wiring to the pump; they cleaned and fixed the water piping; they concreted some broken areas in the kitchen floor and out back; they put shelves into the downstairs closets; they fixed fans; they rewired the little generator and got the diesel generator working; they replaced our car’s muffler; they painted new cribs; they fixed the hinges on the door downstairs; they hung swings in the trees for the kids; they did crafts with the older toddlers; they built new shelves in the office and rearranged the storage out frontl they went shopping and completely restocked our house with necessities; they took care of sick Levinsky and did therapy with Poutchino…the list just goes on and on. I’m sure I’ve forgotten jobs that they did for us.

These Americans worked non-stop for a week and improved our quality of life noticeably. It was great having their cheerful faces around and seeing how much the children and staff appreciated their presence. They are a fantastic bunch of people and I think they got the Haiti bug pretty bad, so we expect to see them back here soon.

My 18 new friends: thank you so much! From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!