Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I am in Jax for the holidays.
I feel remiss for not giving more official notice of the event, but I really didn’t have time. Prior to arriving in Jacksonville last Sunday night, I had only been home (in Cayes) for a total of two weeks between Oct 31 and Dec 13. Life has been hectic. But I am happy to be in town for the holidays. I spent the first week doing absolutely nothing aside from a little bit of Christmas shopping. I needed it. I didn’t call and I didn’t e-mail. I just relaxed and watched reruns of all my favorite shows on the Discovery Channel.
This week I’ve been busy being creative with friends. Kelsey and I have a tradition of random art projects including but not limited to designing and building a chair, making paper butterflies, flowers made from old readers digests, and this. Kelsey, Anna, and I made those last night.
And then tonight, I spent the evening with Laura and Robbie. And we made these. The cookies on the left are the ones I decorated. Laura decorated the cookies on the right. Its become an annual tradition. We are hoping to start a New Year’s tradition as well; fruit cake sculptures.
I’ll be in town until January 5th. I’d love to see you while I’m in town. Until then, I hope your heart is light, you spirit is refreshed, and you remember that you are loved.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Whatever your kitchen looks like, I imagine its got more storage and counter space than this.
They also have a refrigerator. I wasn’t able to get a picture because its in the room right off this porch that they also use as their bedroom. (Its actually a great space although it may not sound like it.) The refrigerator is 12 years old and both the freezer door and the main door have dead bolt levers on them; not to keep people from stealing things but to keep the doors shut. Madam Pastor said she was so thankful to have that refrigerator and that God had blessed them.
So, now, go stand in your kitchen, take a good look around and give God a huge prayer of thanks.
I took a little walk around Picot today. I didn’t go far. It was hot and for lack of a better word, DUSTY.
Picot is set in a picturesque area, surrounded by mountains and valleys on every side. However, they are building a road through this area and as with many things, it has to get worse before it gets better. Dozens of dump trucks full of rocks and dirt pass this way every day. They come and go, flying by, and every time they do, a large cloud of dust emerges. I only walked down the road about 10 minutes and 5 minutes into my walk, my camera and feet were covered with dust.
I took these photos while en route. Some of them may not be particularly interesting but I wanted to demonstrate how much dust there really is. Each photo of a dust cloud is from a different vehicle that passed while I was out. This was only over about a 10 minute period and these vehicles cross back and forth dozens of times each day from morning ‘til night
Although the dust is a nuisance at best, it is for a good purpose; a better road. Just with the smoothing out of the route in preparation to build the actual road cut down the trip from an hour and a half to just under and hour.
Sometimes, though, and I’m not sure how often, a water truck comes and sprays the road to help subdue the dust. It happened to pass as I was walking.
They always look so cheerful in their brightly color shirts and brightly colored bottoms. Some of them are so small. They probably couldn’t get any cuter. They look like little pieces of candy and I just want to put them in my pocket and take them all home. I call them little tic-tacs.
These are the kids enrolled in Pre-K. I think they’re generally between the age of 3 and 5. I’ve seen them in every color in the rainbow- but these kids, the one’s enrolled at the school at Picot Church, happened to have uniforms of bright pink shirts and bright green shorts.
On Tuesday, Madam Pas took me on a tour of a the school, which also shares grounds with the church, The primary grades were in the middle of their lessons but she took me to the Pre-K class and presented me and she also had me say a short greeting to them. She had them greet me as Mademwazel Amy.
If you say it exactly like that, using your cutest 3 year old voice, you might be able to imagine kind of what it was like. Only you’d have to imagine it like 30 times at once. And add the voice of one little girl within ear shot that said it more like this, “malmwalezl aymeane” And then maybe, you’d come close.
Most of the kids pass through the yard to get to the street that runs in front of the church. If I happen to be out in the yard at the time they dismiss there are always a few that linger. Most of the time when teams come (at least to Picot) they bring balloons for the kids and take about a million pictures. Because I am blan (white) they keep asking me for balloons, and they' want their picture taken. I don’t have any balloons but I do have my camera. And I do like to take pictures.
Its usually a few of the older kids (the 4-5 yr olds) that ask and the little guys just happen to be with them. One in particular has taken it upon herself to remember my name and remind me and the others often, that she knows my name. She seems to kind of be the ringleader and a bit motherly. Thursday, I had gone into my room and when I came out there were about 6 of them standing staring up at me. She was with them. She had a banana and she was sharing it with all of them, giving them each a bite and instructing them how much to take. And she made sure that everyone had a bite. She told me her brother had been sick the day before and asked if I could take some pictures of him. When I had taken pictures the day before we had searched for good spot in the shade and when I said I would take a few pictures, she herded the clan directly to that same spot and got them lined up.
I asked the kids why blans like to take so many pictures of the kids and she responded with every assurance in her being, “Paske yo rememn (re-meh) nou anpil!”
“Because they love us a lot!”
Its kind of hard not too.
I felt very “local” today.
Every two months the Church District which Picot Church is a part of has a program for the women of the church. All the ladies come together early in the day and sing together, pray together, listen to a sermon, and then eat lunch together. All the women that come bring all sorts of food, and set it on the table and its there to share with everyone. After lunch there is more singing, they take care of some “church business” like head counts, offering, etc. and then they do a Bible drill to see who can find Bible verses first. It was a lot of fun to be a part of. I mostly watched and took pictures but enjoyed it a lot.
Yesterday morning at breakfast Madam Pas asked me what I wanted to take for our contribution of food. I really had no idea what to suggest but she suggested pizza and I said OK. So, yesterday afternoon she made pizza dough and I helped prepare the toppings and we made pizza. She covered the dough, first with a light coating of mustard, and then with a bottle of ketchup. She said she prefers ketchup to the “American Version” of sauce. I shredded parmesan cheese, and chopped up slices of ham and hotdogs (Haitians use hotdogs for a lot of things- you’d be surprised how great they taste with spaghetti for breakfast!). She chopped up onions, and red and green bell peppers. We layered all ingredients on the dough and then she covered it all with what she called “Kraft” cheese. And it actually is Kraft cheese. Its some kind of white American cheese. Its the kind you buy in the states from the deli. Here, you can buy the whole block or you can buy it in smaller chunks.
That's what we made and that's what we took. There were LOTS of bananas, and bread. There were a few fruits and veggies. Some ladies brought coffee. I ate pizza, bread, a banana, and I tried for the first time something Madam Pas was calling “……”? It looked sort of like brazil nuts but tasted more like boiled peanuts. If I can figure out what to call it, it might be one of my new favorite foods!
The church is about a 40 minute drive by motorcycle taxi. Its a very difficult route, through a lot of Haiti’s back roads, which is also through some of Haiti’s most beautiful terrain. The route was spotted with sections of fairly steep inclines covered in rocks, sections of deep red dirt, a few pot holes, and a couple, albeit brief, sections actually covered in smooth concrete (3 sections about 10 feet long). Because it is a difficult and long journey, you can’t just find any taxi driver. You have to hire someone who is experienced on that road. Our driver’s arrived on time this morning, at 7:45. I road on the back of one, and Madam Pastor and another lady from the church shared the other. I don’t know how she did it but the other lady rode side saddle behind Madam Pas, the entire way. A lot of Haitian Women travel that way but I’ve not been brave enough to try it. And I most certainly couldn’t have done it on the route we took today. What the road lacked today in comfort it made it up for in its beauty. I wish I had been able to take pictures b/c I don’t even think I can adequately describe what I saw. Many of the roads were narrow, and packed smooth with deep red dirt and overhead was a lush tropical cover of trees, and flowers. We passed small concrete houses, and small straw huts, many of which, despite their humble presence sat pristinely in the midst of beautifully manicured lawns. The valley below us was lush and green as well and the sun-bounced off the mountain peaks effortlessly. Although some of the terrain was rough and hard on the body, I was actually little melancholy when the ride was over, because it was so beautiful.
For the ride back, the driver who had taken Madam Pas and her friend wasn’t able to make it so he sent someone in his place. Although he was a fine driver, he had forgotten one very important thing before he set out. He forgot to fill up his gas tank. And so, in the middle of almost nowhere, with Madam Pas and her friend in tow, he ran out. My driver and I were a few yards ahead, around a bend when we heard him call out. My driver slowed to a stop and in about 30 seconds we saw Madam Pas walking up the hill smiling. Not far behind her was the other driver, and her friend pushing the motorcycle up the hill. Another of the ladies at the service had taken a taxi in and she and her driver had stopped as well. My driver had a sufficient amount of gas and was able to empty some of his gas into a metal mug that one of the other guys had found in the brush. As the drivers crowded around “my bike” I told the delinquent driver that he was in luck because I had my camera. Everyone laughed including him but I not sure he was really keen on the idea. I told him for $10 bucks, I’d make sure I didn’t show the picture to anyone else and he laughed and said he’d give me $10. He started his machine and we all started out again. A little ways down the road he stopped and put a little more gas in the tank. Hopefully he learned his lesson and it won’t happen again. Madam Pas and I had a good laugh together and made a great memory.
After we got home, we were both exhausted. Madam Pas didn’t get any rest because Pastor was home and she had things to do around the house. But I was able to take a nice long nap. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I woke up from a two hour nap. I guess that's what happens when your day starts at 5am. It wasn’t by choice but there was lots of noise in my room- as there has been every day since my arrival. Most days it hasn’t been quite as early. But I’ll post about that later. I’m exhausted again and I”m going to bed.
This thinking in two languages is making me tired.
All in all, a very lovely day.
I believe we’ve met before. I think I shall eat you for lunch today.
That’s kind of how it happened. Yesterday, while i was out in the church yard (which is in the same yard as the Pastors House) taking pictures, Pierre, a church member who also works here at the House during the week, and stays on the grounds while the Pastor is away, stood at the top of the stairs and called to me to take a picture. Coming closer, I saw he was holding a chicken, which had its feet bound. I snapped a couple pictures to oblige him and quickly realized what was going on. I knew that soon, Mr. Chicken, would meet its fate and become my lunch.
I am not against eating meat. I eat meat, often. But when I’m out with teams. I usually refrain from eating the meat because its often goat or fish, neither of which I am a fan of. It is also somewhat awkward for me to have previously met something I will eventually eat. Sometimes that happens too, as it did in Tiburon and as was the case this time. But as was also the case this time, I really had no choice but to eat the chicken. It had been selected, killed and prepared especially for me.
This morning while Madam Pastor and a couple ladies who work at the house were preparing lunch on the porch where the stove and “kitchen” area is located, I was in the sitting area, reading. As I read, she brought over to me a plate with two very strange looking pieces of “meat”. She handed the plate to me, indicated they were for me and asked me if I had ever eaten them before. I had no idea what they were. I smiled politely and said I didn’t think I had and I can almost guarantee you I had never eaten them before.
She told me that women in Haiti use “all of the chicken” and that the men, including Pastor, enjoyed this particular part of the chicken. She told me what it was called but I didn’t recognize it. I looked up the various “innards” of a chicken in the Creole dictionary I had and couldn’t find anything that sounded similar.
She had gone back to the stove and continued cooking but my world was standing still. I didn’t want to eat it. I had no idea what it was. There were two small dark pieces of a chicken parts that I couldn’t recognize staring at me, beckoning me to go and ahead and taste them. And what could I do, I didn’t want to be rude…
I have seen a lot of things and done a lot of things in Haiti that I never thought I would. I’ve used small almost non-existent holes in the ground as a toilet, I’ve eaten rooster and goat, I’ve had mice in my closet, mildew on my clothes, I’m even now, on week three of taking bucket showers, and none of this has ever bothered me like the moment I had to decide to chalk it up to experience and eat this mysterious chicken part that had been so graciously offered to me. What was a girl to do. I was having an American, out of my element, you can’t expect me to eat “THAT” can you?, moment. I wanted to cry.
And then I ate it.
And it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Although I probably won’t be making a special request for them any time soon.
And I’m not sure I really want to know what it was that ate.
But the important part was that I ate it. And I survived.
And we had chicken for lunch.
And it was good.
That's the name of the little girl the Pastor and his wife have taken in. She has been here about a month. She’s very shy. She’s having problems wetting the bed at night and she’s also having a lot of problems in school. She should be in about the 3rd grade but isn’t ready for that class. She actually is at a preschool level but is too big for that class. She they’ve got her in a class somewhere in between but she’s having a lot trouble, especially with her alphabet. She can’t remember the difference between a & e. As soon as you get her to recognize a and move onto the next vowel, e, she has trouble distinguishing the sights and sounds of both. Madam Pas says she thinks she can work through it with her but she just hopes she has the patience because she’s already done raising her kids. Her children are all out the house, in their 20s. So its’ like starting over for her.
Marieange talks up a storm with the other kids, but in the presence of Madam Pas she is very quiet. Only answering questions in whispers mostly with one or two words. She is shy and makes very little eye contact. I asked her why she was so quiet with Madam Pas and she said it was because she didn’t want to make too much noise. I imagine it has something to do with her past. She doesn’t answer many questions about her past so very little is known. Around the other kids, she’s like one of them. A sweet, playful child, doing what all the other kids do. When I first arrive she was very quiet and shy around me as well. She was curious and would watch me and if I caught her watching, she’d sheepishly smile, duck her head and look away.
Sunday night at the church service she and two other little girls were sitting on the front row. There weren’t too many people in the service and I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for “sitting” so I just slipped in and sat on the front row as well. She and her friends giggled and smiled as they watched me. She was sitting in the middle of the them when the service started but at some point in the middle of the service she changed places sitting on the outside closest to me. I motioned for her to sit closer if she wanted and her friends edged her towards me. By the end of the service she was sitting beside me and her friends were right alongside her.
She was still shy around me but I would often find her lurking around where ever I was. Monday afternoon I discovered her love for drawing. I brought a sketch pad with me and now every afternoon she comes to me and we draw together. Tuesday after drawing, we took a walk together. Wednesday morning before she left for school, she was telling me a list of all the things she wanted to draw that afternoon; a cow, a pig, a truck, a dish, a spoon, a fork, the list goes on. Most of what she draws doesn’t really look like what she says it is, but I don't really imagine its really all that important.
Every afternoon I’ve been taking a short nap after lunch and every afternoon after a little while she sneaks in my room to see if I am awake. And she asks me if she can draw. She’s quite the chatterbox. I ask her lots of questions too. I've asked her about her mom and dad I’ve asked her about her brothers and sisters. She always answers my questions very matter-of-factly but I am saddened because I still can’t understand most of what she says. I am encouraged though that she is talking. She does love talking on the phone. She’ll often pick mine up to have imaginary conversations and they are so funny to watch because she’s so animated and dramatic. I love it.
She usually, eventually gets called away by Madam Pastor, partially because she has homework to do and partially because I think Madam Pas thinks she is bothering me. I assure her she is not, but I think she still worries about it.
I love my afternoons with Marieange. She’s had a hard life. And even though her circumstances are better now, I imagine she’s got a difficult future ahead.
Pray for Madam Pastor as she raises Marieange. Pray for wisdom and grace. And pray for Mariange. Pray for her past- that she would be released from the damaging effects of whatever it was that led her here. Pray for her present- that God would continue to grow her and change her and heal her. Pray for her future- that God will guide and direct each step.
I’ve just started my two weeks of language immersion. By the time your’ reading this, I’ll be fluent in Creole. Ha. Ha. I wish. But ideally I will be much further along.
I’m staying in Picot with a Pastor’s Family. Its one of our sister Churches. Its actually the first church I visited with a team. The idea is, with two weeks of only Creole, I’ll be “forced” into learning the language. Its not because I’m not already working on it- many of the missionaries in Cite Limiere go through this- and its just my time.
The Pastor is actually in school in Cayes so he is only here on the weekends (and Wednesday night, so he tells me) One of his daughters, Racamoline, age 22, was here also during the weekend but she is also in school in Cayes. During the week, its just his wife, his brother’s daughter and a little girl they have recently taken in. She was abandoned on the streets somewhere and was running around without clothes, food, shoes, or a place to stay. They guess she is about 7 but don’t know for sure.
So far, its been fun. I’ve been sick since I arrived but they are taking good care of me. I feel bad because I’ve been mostly sleeping but its been a rough grip (greep- or cold) and I’ve just felt completely drained. But Madam Paste (Past) has been so sweet and keeps bringing me juice to drink b/c she knows its good for colds b/c it has Vitamin C. True story.
Its customary for visitors such as my self to greet the church. When we travel with teams, each team member does it and often so do the RMI staff. Sunday morning in Picot was no different. Since the beginning I have been intentional about giving my greeting in Creole- the first several visits I would write out my greeting in English and have someone (usually my language teacher) help me translate it. I would then read it to the church. Since late summer I’ve been trying to do it on my own without writing it out first. I’ve managed but have always had the security of a translators standing beside me. This Sunday though I was translator-less. In fact, there was no one there who could really speak much English at all.
I was sitting towards the back of the building with Racamoline and when I heard the Pastor start his introduction of me, I shyly approached the pulpit to give my greeting. I got several Amen's- a customary response to any matter of agreement in the Haitian Church- so I felt like they at least understood what I was saying. I closed with the traditional ke Bondye Beni Ou (kay Bon-dyay benny eew), or God Bless You. And I went and sat back down, relieved. I laughed and asked Racamoline if she understood me. She laughed and said, “wi, tout moun te konprann ou.” “Yes. Everyone understood you”.
One of the hard things about learning Creole is that the Haitians speak it so fast. Its hard to distinguish one word from the next. Pastor Calixte told me that he was going to speak a little more slowly so that I could understand. He also told everyone in the congregation. Nice.
I did actually understand a good bit of what he preached. I may not have understood every word but I was able to get the sense of what he was saying. Sunday night I understood even more.
So far….so good. 1 day down. 13 to go.