Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Haitian Mothers' Day!

I celebrated Mothers' Day two weeks ago when I was in Boston with my mother (how convenient). But in Haiti, Mothers' Day happens in late May, so I had the opportunity to party again. I don't really have a Haitian mother, but I do know a whole bunch of ladies who act as loving mothers to a whole bunch of sick and needy children. So for my Haitian Mothers' Day, my friend Scott and I trekked to Dorothy's house where the older kids helped me prepare a little fun for the nannies. Cha-Cha was particularly helpful, walking around with plates of watermelon to offer the nannies and spilling a few gallons of juice on the floor in the process.

We had a wonderful afternoon and I hope the ladies walked away knowing that they are deeply loved and appreciated for their mothering of the babies at Faith Hope Love Infant Rescue.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Demolition at St Joseph's has continued at a steady pace. Dieuseul, one of the guards, has been named the foreman on the jobsite so Bill and Michael do not have to oversee so frequently. He keeps everyone productive throughout the day, and he works very hard himself. At the end of the day, he is the last person to take a shower and go home. Unless he has guard duty - then he stays the night protecting St Joe's and, beyond his job description, protecting me.

Last week, the crew was tearing apart the 4th floor, where the guest rooms once were. I never realized how colorful those rooms were!

Most of the time, I can forget how much I loved the old St Joseph's and I can just enjoy the cheerful camradery of the demolition workers and the sense of progress as they go lower and lower. When I got back to the Shoebox after my visit to Boston in early May, I woke up the first morning to the familiar sound of sledgehammers pounding concrete, and I thought, "I'm home." Every now and then, though, we have moments when we remember that it was not always like this! There was once a lovely tall building, full of art and flowers and music. I was helping clean out the Art Center when I came across one of my favorite paintings: a creative portrait of Walnes, the dance instructor, surrounded by images of the St Joseph's life. It survived the quake but it was badly ripped. A metaphor for all of us, perhaps?

This week, demolition has reached the 3rd floor and started going down onto the second floor, where the kitchen and dining room were. For once, my Shoebox is taller than St Joe's! Instead of looking out my bedroom window at a gray wall, I now look out at a view of the city and the mountains behind it. Plus, I have a wonderful breeze! Maybe they'll decide to build a very short new building...

All the rubble being removed from St Joe's lands in front of my house where a dump truck comes and removes loads several times a day. I'm used to it now but it gets annoying when the rubble comes too close to my door or when it blocks my path up or across the street. The guys are wonderful, though. They truly do look out for me and part of that means making sure that at the end of the day, my door is clear and I have a walkway up the road and across to St Joe's. My highlight of last week was when I walked outside after the work day had ended and saw Bill and 4 of the boys shoveling furiously to clear me a path.

St Joseph's is not the only building coming down in Port-au-Prince. Demo teams are working by hand all over the city and the streets are becoming more and more congested as rubble is simply dumped into the street and never removed. Occasionally, a building still comes down of its own accord. At the top of my street, the building that has been leaning precariously over the street for the past 4 months, finally crashed down last week. I have heard different reports, but it seems that only 2 or 3 people died in the collapse. Now that several schools are open in my neighborhood, school children and parents fill that street from 7am to 9am. The building fell at 7:30am. It could have been much worse!



Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I spent 4 days last week on retreat with the youth group at a camp near Les Cayes on the south side of the island. Marc and I took 40 teens and a few new leaders over the mountains for a weekend of waves, games, singing, camp fire, Bible study, and getting to know each other better.

Ever since I started leading at youth group, I have been frustrated by the division between the poor Haitian kids and the upper class and missionary kids. The Haitians feel inferior because they are poorer and because their English is not as good, while the other kids think that they don't want to be friends because they don't approach them. Along with the problem of division, the Haitian youth are much more shy and are very unwilling to talk to us leaders about what is really going on in their lives. Since the earthquake, all but 3 of the missionary kids and upper class kids evacuated, so we have a youth group that is almost entirely Haitian now. Without the social pressure, we have seen those shy teens come out of their shells. And on a 4 day retreat, we finally were able to touch some of the toughest ones.

Part way through the weekend, it came to our attention that some of the boys had been teasing the girls rather ruthlessly about their appearance. So Marc and I took the boys and talked to them about being gentlemen. Meanwhile, the girls received an encouraging talk from Scott and Erta about their worth in God's eyes. Something must have stuck with the boys because they snuck into the gazebo during the girls' meeting so they could serenade them! Later that evening, the boys got permission to go through the dinner line first, the one time they would have priority all weekend. I watched in awe as boy after boy filled a plate and carried it to a girl. It was the most beautiful act of brother-sister love that I've seen in a group of teens!

Zanglais is a beautiful place, so green and peaceful compared to Port-au-Prince. It was wonderful to be with friends and with God in such a haven.

I bet you didn't know...

- that in Haiti, construction workers don't send one guy out to buy coffee for everyone like they do in the US. Instead, the coffee comes to them.

- that one of the most popular songs in Haiti right now is titled "Aba Dekomb." If you can ignore the English curse words blaring at you through the loudspeakers and focus on the Creole words, it's a pretty clever song. "Aba Dekomb" means "Under the Rubble".

- that when this structure was built by President Aristide it was intended to be an eternal flame and a site for human sacrifices. It was never completed.

- that Haitian drivers can squeeze through spaces with less than a millimeter to spare.

- that a famous Haitian artist has adorned walls all over the city with this drawing of a crying Haiti. Underneath the grafitti is frequently written, "Obama, we need change!"

- that this is a pharmacy!

- that after more than 4 months, this is as far as the deconstruction has advanced on the palace.

- that May 18th is Flag Day, an equivalent to American 4th of July. The celebrations were subdued this year because all of the empty spaces generally used for partying were full of tents. Instead, there were protests downtown. President Preval, who has not accomplished much during his term, was petitioning the Senate to extend emergency powers that would allow him to stay in office for an additional 18 months. The people don't like the idea so they protested. The police don't like protests, so they shot on the crowd and killed a handful of people. The president doesn't like people getting killed, so he abandonned his quest.

- that no one in Haiti walks their dogs, but they do walk their cows!