Friday, February 27, 2009

Kanaval vacation at HFC

The boys have a dog! She's a very shy but sweet little mutt, and the boys really wanted to name her Snoopy. But because she's a girl, there was some disagreement over the name. Now, she has two names: Snoopia and Keziah. I think the latter is particularly nice...

Carmelle is one of the girls who has been very moody with me in the past, pretending that she doesn't want me to talk to her and running away from me when I try to kiss her. Not anymore. Carmelle was my best bud this week! She loves it when I tell stories, so every evening, she would gather the rest of the "younger" girls in the living room while I told stories. I love to watch their faces during the tales - they get so animated, laughing out loud, jumping at the surprises, mimicking the character's accents, predicting endings, and sighing with satisfaction when a story ends on a good note. To those of you who are bringing home an HFC girl, be prepared to tell bedtime stories. It doesn't matter that they are mostly 14, 15, 16, even 17 years old. They love stories.

Steve has also matured immensely since I met him over 2 years ago. We can have real conversations now, and he isn't constantly getting in trouble. He even shared his tiny bag of fried food with me, sweet boy.

My Emmanuel requested a one-on-one audience with me to tell me about a girl at youth group who tried to get him to dance in a talent show with her. He didn't do it because he didn't feel the dance was appropriate. I'm not sure if he was more concerned about the dance or about the girl, but I think that it was his backwards way of telling me that he has a crush. It was cute.

Argusto is a doofus. He is the biggest of the boys in terms of height and weight, so he was the first to be allocated one of the new bunks. He promptly rotated it and pushed it against the wall so he did not have anything to keep him from falling off the top and so that the drawers built into the lower bunk could not open. He completely ignored our reasoning. "It's my bed," he said, and grinned from ear to ear. Typical Argusto.

The Americans brought a new sewing machine and sewing supplies for the girls. Several of them made skirts and dresses and aprons. Kattia sat at her sewing machine, trying to rethread the bobbin, refusing any assistance. "They've showed me how to do it 3 times and if I can't do it myself by now, I don't deserve to be sewing at all!"

A few of the boys sat by, helping...or perhaps hindering.

The girls got coerced into modeling their handiwork for us. Martine's skirt was really magnificent, well enough done that she could actually wear it to church or downtown. She was very shy but very proud. Kattia, Debbie, Mikerlange, Daina, and Alexandra appeared proudly with their final products. Krystel was proud too, but I had to chase her down to get a photo, and even then, she would not look at the camera. Typical Krystel.

The happiest news I heard during my stay was that the no-soccer punishment for failing in school has been repealed. For as long as I can remember, a boy who fails the quarter in school is banned from going to soccer with the coach until he passes. It's a harsh punishment, where both the boys and the nannies suffer - the boys from losing their only outing and their favorite pastime, and the nannies from being stuck with hyperactive preteens with no outlet for their energy. I literally jumped for joy and hugged every boy in sight when they told me the good news.

Ernso's adoption is very close to termination. He is such a precious little boy, always playing and always ready for a hug. He will be going to France, perhaps before I visit again. I gave him a proper good-bye, just in case, and he squeezed me so tightly it hurt.

Look at those beautiful kids. I love them!

Bunk beds

I got to spend a few days this week with my HFC kids during their Mardi Gras/Carnaval vacation. There was an American team visiting too and one of their big projects was building bunk beds for the kids.

What a great idea! Most of our kids are too big for the little metal bunks that they sleep in, and the beds are not very comfortable, especially if you are as tall as Duck or Argusto - your head hits the upper bunk every time you sit up! Plus, it's a good project for the boys to learn some skilled manual labor.

There's only one drawback to the new bunks: they are huge and the HFC bedrooms are rather small. We moved all the beds out of Boys' Room 1 and put them in the salon while 2 new beds were assembled in the bedroom. This meant that all day, instead of sitting in chairs and on the floor to watch soccer games and play dominoes, we all sat, laid, and crawled on bunks. And come evening, we couldn't fit any of the 4 metal bunks back in the bedroom, so in the salon they stayed. 4 boys slept on the new bunks, and 4 others camped out in the salon.

I'm not sure how they are going to work things out with the bed situation. In general, we are losing 2 to 4 beds per room by putting in the new bunks. Don't get me wrong - they are beautiful and sturdy and comfy and I love them, BUT it would be nice if half the boys did not have to sleep on the floor.

More updates on the bed fiasco when I visit HFC in April.

Fort Jacques

Last Saturday, we loaded our entire youth group of 50+ kids into 6 cars and trekked up the mountain to Fort Jacques. We were given a tour of the early 19th century fort, complete with cannons and a secret tunnel that led to Fort Alexandre, a smaller structure on the adjacent hill.

One of the cannons still had an old ball inside it. Our guide told us the strongest cannons could shoot 17 kilometers, which means that from its vantage point over the city, Fort Jacques was perfectly positioned to protect Port-au-Prince from invading ships.

After touring the fort and crawling around in the tunnel, we split into teams to pick up trash. Haiti is a very trashy country - I mean, there is garbage literally everywhere and it's ugly. I worked with 4 boys: Sadrac, Junior, Anthony, and Bendy. We worked along one side of the fort, picking up trash as people gawked and laughed at us. The boys were such zealous trashmen that when every other group was done, they had to send someone to make us stop so we could leave.

The view from Fort Jacques is amazing! If you visit Haiti and have time to do some tourist-y activities, it's worth the trip.


We were happily watching a movie last night when it started to rain. It rained. And it rained. And it rained.

Long story short, the basement where the babies live got completely flooded. By the time we started evacuating the kids, all 3 rooms were engulfed by about 3 inches of dirty water. We moved a few cribs, some pads and a bunch of sheets upstairs to the living room and set up a temporary nursery. It was our own mini-Gonaives!

Dannae rescuing babies.

Casey rescuing diapers.

Rosemanie trying to stay dry.

The refuge.

Josue: "What in the world is going on?"

Once everyone was upstairs, I descended into the watery depths to turn off all the lights. It was so cool down there in the dark that I dragged my roomies down too. We are 23, 25, and 29 years old, but you wouldn't have known it to look at us. We danced, splashed, chased a huge spider, slipped, slid, paddled, and were very silly.

It only took 2 hours of mopping up water with towels this morning to get the rooms dry. The babies were able to move back into the basement by mid-morning. We really need to find a way to keep the water from draining in through the windows though, or I predict a very Noah-inspired rainy season.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nikki's wedding

My beautiful friend Nikki got married in Carrefour this weekend. I have known Nikki since 2007 when she came to intern at HFC immediately after me. We have remained close friends and I was very excited to be there for the wedding especially since none of her other good friends could attend.

I thought that I would just be a guest, however, I ended up practically running the entire thing. Normally, the mother of the bride and the bride's close friends are the ones making sure everything is in place, but I was the only friend of the bride and Nikki's mother does not speak Creole so it fell to me. I arranged for someone to film, I got the music and DJ ready for the wedding march, I reserved seats, I directed the special music rehearsal, I decided the order of the wedding march, and I even told the pastor what we wanted included in the ceremony (he had wanted to leave out the wedding vows and the rings since both were already done in a modified version for the civil ceremony last week). And during the actual ceremony, I was principal photographer, vocalist, and translator. In other words, I had to stand up front with the pastor the entire time (which was probably a good thing because he completely forgot about the kiss and I had to remind him) and try to translate sermon, vows, and proclamations as poetically as possible.

One of the funniest parts of the wedding prep was when we decided something had to be done about the white bride and groom figurines on the cake. I snuck downstairs while we were waiting for everything to start and stole them off the cake. I brought them upstairs to Noah, Nikki's stepdad, who colored the groom's face in with a black marker. I put it back on the cake without saying anything to Jemps, the soon-to-be husband. The look on his face when he noticed it later was to die for!

Another priceless moment occurred minutes before we started. I had taken Jemps his suit and then left the room so he could change. Suddenly, I heard his panicked voice calling me. I rushed in to find him sweating profusely and pointing at his tie. "Keziah, I need Noah. I don't know how to tie my tie!" I hunted down Noah and brought him in for an emergency tie-tying lesson.

Nikki's family is adopting 3 of the HFC girls, Edline, Kattia, and Childa, so they came along as the bridesmaids. While I was running around trying to make a wedding happen, they were in the room with Nikki and her mom, putting on make-up, doing nails, adjusting dresses, and keeping Nikki sane.

The wedding finally started at 1pm, only 3 hours later than planned. That's not too bad by Haitian standards. It was very unpolished, but special nonetheless. As the translator, I repeated all the important parts of the ceremony. There is nothing better than being the one who looks the groom in the eyes and tells him to love your close friend until death do they part.

Yet another unforgetable episode was the cake cutting. Nikki explained to Jemps that in America, the bride and groom always feed each other the first slice, but she omitted the part about smearing cake all over each other. So Jemps cut a little piece and delicately placed it in Nikki's mouth. Then Nikki cut a piece and smushed it enthusiastically into Jemps' mouth, cheek and nose. We just about died laughing!

When everything was over, the girls, Nikki's parents, and I went down to the beach and had a relaxing swim in the twilight. Childa was the only one stayed out of the water. She was probably the wisest of us - the water was very salty and had trash in it, including one of the wedding favors that Nikki's mom and I had so carefully wrapped early that morning. Oh, well. This is Haiti.

Nikki is Miss Nikki no longer. She is now Madame Jemps. We wish them both all the happiness in the world. Congrats, Nikki!

(NOTE: I realized after publishing this post that I had been spelling the groom's name wrong. It is pronounced James but written Jemps. Apologies!)