Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday, August 10, 2009

new adventures

You can follow my travels with the African Children's Choir at:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Teacher, how did they draw those pictures?"

I like to try and start posts with a catchy phrase that will draw you in and compel you to continue reading: alas, I have none, leading me to just dive right in with the story.  While I do this, I'd like you to pretend that you've just read, instead of this, something completely catchy and mind-blowing and I would like you to get really excited because you KNOW from that completely catchy and mind-blowing sentence that you've just read, that you're in for something FANTASTIC. 

In my English class I had about 12 adult men; some of whom were teachers, two were mayors in Anse-a-Galets, others Compassion representatives, etc.  The curriculum that I was using had approximately 20 lessons in it, which was to cover the entire six months of three classes a week that I had before me, so it was inevitable that I'd have to improvise just a few days.  One of the many improvisational things I did was lug the projector down to the class room and play the mind-blowing Planet Earth dvds that Barry and Beth had. 

One such day in class we were watching the "Pole to Pole" episode, which shows polar bears, ice caps, penguins, etc.  and after class one of my students came up to me and asked, "Teacher, how did they draw those pictures?"  

Confused, I asked "What pictures?" and he responded ,

"The pictures in the movie, how did they draw them so well? They looked real."  

It then occurred to me that this was the first time he had ever seen anything like that - ice, snow, penguins and bears... so I did my best to explain that the pictures were real, that there are parts of the earth that really look like that.  He was baffled.   

Another day I tried to explain that instead of "Cabrit Cabrit Chen" (goat goat dog) we play "Duck Duck Goose" and even after extensive explanation of what a duck and a goose look like and what they could compare them to, they were clueless.  

How small our world is, and yet how big.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

April Fools Day, 2009

Look at this: already I've beaten my goal.  Two post-Haiti posts.  Go me. 

In thinking about my less than simple transition back into the States, I started thinking about that fateful day in April (it actually was April Fools Day, and no, none of the following is a joke, it's all real) when my supervisor Dan and I made our way from the station in Anse-a-Galets to the small town of um... I can't remember, in South Carolina. 

The day started out at 4:09 am, when my cell phone alarm started violently vibrating under my pillow, bringing me to a conscious state while still lying safely in the bug-free security of my mosquito net.  My stuff was all packed and ready to be thrown into the back of the pick-up truck, and all I had to do was say goodbye to Barry and Beth, and Dan and I were on our way.  

The plan was to load up the truck, drive down to the wharf, climb onto the ferry, go to the mainland, hop in the truck with Juidan, and go to the airport, fly to the states, drive to Mysteryville SC.  Easy.  

But this was Haiti, and to think that the day would go directly as planned without hiccups and bumps and moments where all of your energy is going into not thinking and/or saying profanities would be a mistake. 

5:03 am we piled our stuff into the back of the truck and for the last time I held on tightly to the door handle and dashboard as we bumpity bumped our way down the street to the ferry, 57 minutes before it was scheduled to leave the island.  But when we arrived at the wharf 6 minutes later, the ferry was pulling away.  51 minutes early. T minus 7 1/2 hours before our plane left Port-au-Prince, and we were stranded on La Gonave. 

The next plan was for me to breathe deeply and remain calm while Dan secured some other way to get across the sea.  As we stood on the wharf watching the ferry chug-a-lug it's way over the water, Dan got us a spot on a fly boat.  What is a fly boat? Allow me to explain. 

You know that nice fiberglass motorboat that your friend's dad has that he uses to pull people on a tube and that has a maximum capacity of 7 people?  Good, now take away the seats, the little maximum capacity sign, the floor, and all the life jackets.  Now add 26 Haitians, an extra motor, a giant bag of charcoal, the occasional livestock and a pile of tied up chickens.  Behold: a fly boat.  

Now we had all of our stuff, which for me that meant my luggage as well as a ginormous keyboard case.  It just so happened that we were the first to board this particular fly boat, and so our luggage and the keyboard were lying on the floor claiming a decent amount of space as the other passengers climbed on.  Dan and I sat in the back close to the motors while people piled on, and on more than one occasion I had to tell people not to walk on my keyboard case.  One of those people being a lady with two arms full of chickens, and one a man with a giant bag of charcoal. On the plus side, I'm probably one of very few musicians that have had the opportunity to tell the chicken lady not to walk on my instrument.  I'll bet Bono hasn't done that. 

Very quickly the boat began to fill up with people and we, extremely crowded, began our 15 mile journey across the sea.  However, about 5 feet into this journey, the man behind me running the motors started to bail.  That's right, we hadn't even left the wharf yet and he was hauling buckets of water overboard.  But there was no turning back, we were going to cross the sea. 

Now a fly boat is called a "fly" boat because it "flies" across the sea and so it is inevitable that on this fast trek one will get splashed on by gross polluted sea water.  Yum.  And so all my effort went into protecting my computer bag that sat on my lap from the sea spray that soaked my hair, shirt, arms, and legs.  Which would have been perfectly fine if I was only traveling to the other side of the sea.  But I was traveling to South Carolina, and wasn't going to get there for another 21 hours. (CENTRAL.  We were going to Central, SC, and no, not the middle of South Carolina, Central.)

Being that there were 2 dozen + people on this one tiny boat, it was very crowded.  On more than like 87 bazillion occasions the man behind me running the motors and the man on my right came uncomfortably close to my backside, but I had no where to go as Dan was on my left and the man in front of me was driving the boat.  HIS backside came uncomfortably close to my face on a few bumps, and it was very obvious that he had wet himself, as the stain on his rear was not conducive to your typical "I got splashed by the sea" kind of stain.  

About 1/3 of the way across the sea the boat suddenly came to a splashy stop and all 48 eyes on the boat doubled in size except for mine, which quadrupled.  We turned to see the man that was running the motors behind me lift up one of the props and pull a plastic bag out of the motor.  Comforting in that they at least knew what the problem was.  He then put the prop back in the water and in no time we were flying and splashing our way across the sea again. 

Five minutes later, another splashing stop. 

More trash in the prop.  

Not long after the second piece of trash, the motor man pulled out a rubber tube and a jug of motor oil, opened the barrel of fuel, and started pouring the motor oil into the gas.  He then used the tube to transfer the concoction from the barrel to the actual motor.  Now, they stopped for trash, but apparently this kind of transaction required no decrease in speed.  So the boat bumped along and the oil splashed with the sea water and Dan next to me murmured that he was thankful his shirt was roughly the same color as the oil, because that way the spots wouldn't be as obvious.  You know you're a missionary when.

Once the fear of exploding passed, we again stopped to pull trash out of the props.  

Now, I don't know what usually happens to you when you spend a long time on a bumpy boat, but for me, it was about this time that I really had to use the washroom. 

It was also about this time that I was starting to wonder if I would have been better off swimming across. 

A few more trash stops, couple more bumper-butt incidents, lots of splashing and avoiding awkward stares, and we had arrived at the wharf on the mainland.  Once again I reminded the chicken lady and the charcoal dude not to walk on my keyboard case, which at that point would have served as an adequate step up to the dock, if only it wasn't completely fragile.  Climbing out of the boat I watched as eager men grabbed our luggage and carried it up to the area where we were going to wait for Juidan and the truck.  Fortunately I knew to expect this; they were just trying to make a little money by helping us, which we were glad to let them do.  T minus 4 hours until our plane left.

We then waited a while for the truck and once Juidan arrived, we piled in and made our way down the coast - but when we were supposed to turn off to go to the airport, Juidan went straight.  Apparently we had an errand to do outside of Port.  No big deal, we could still make it.  

Three hours later we pulled up to the airport.  The whole "get there early" thing is so engrained into my head that even though it doesn't really apply in Haiti, I was antsy, and don't forget that I still really had to pee.  Three security checkpoints and a staircase and I would finally have a washroom to use.  However, when I arrived at said washroom, the only open stall had a door that wouldn't lock, no toilet paper, and no toilet seat.  So I did the squat and wiggle.  PTL that I carry hand sanitizer with me wherever I go. eeeeek.

A plane ride later and we had arrived in the Miami airport and walked the 37 miles to the customs counter.  Another plane ride later and we touched down in Atlanta, our final airport of the journey, where we would rent a car and drive to Central, two and a half hours away.  Fortunately, all of our luggage made it, and with a few more scrapes and dents than when we last saw it, we piled it onto one of those metal cart things and went on a mad hunt for the car rental place. 

This hunt led us down a hallway that was extra wide and super extra long.  Given that it was 11pm, the airport was fairly quiet and there weren't that many people: except for in this hallway, which was lined from end to end on both sides with young military men getting ready for boot camp.  And so Dan and I made our way awkwardly down what had become a sort of "catwalk" and when we got to the end he looked at me and said "I hope you realize that I was pretending I was your Father back there." To which I replied, "I hope you realize that I was pretending you were my Father back there."  

Upon finding the car rental hallway, we stepped up to the first rental car counter and Dan tried to rent a car.  I say tried because his license had expired and the rental place wouldn't accept his temporary one.  Now since I'm under 25, it would be ridiculously expensive for me to rent a car.  Which meant, we had to call Joy in Central, two and a half hours away, to pick us up.  Except that neither of us had an American phone, or American quarters to use a phone.  So I rented a car for $267 and some change, for a whopping total of 15 hours.  Sick.  I then drove us to Central and around 1:30 in the morning, we pulled into our destination.  We were covered in salt, so much so that I had white salt crusties in my hair.  We were exhausted.  All I could think was, 

"Yep, April fools.  This day was one big joke.  Ha.... ha. Not funny." 

a world collision

Well, it's official.  I suck as a "blogger."  Six months in Haiti and I put up nine - yes, just nine, posts.  I'd like to blame that entirely on the sketchy internet that we had down there, or perhaps on the frequent power outages, or even on my schedule that was so chock-full of ministry I simply didn't have time to "blog" - but alas, none of the above would be true.  

So here I am, having been home for two and a half months (seriously, has it been that long?) and I'm finally attempting to catch-up (note that I said 'attempting' - thus ensuring that if I forget to post anything beyond this one, you can't hold it against me).

To begin my post-Haiti posts, I'm going to tell you a little bit about this huge major conflict that has been going on my head since stepping off the plane in Miami on April 1.  Below is a brief outline of that thought process while walking through the airport:

First thought: "Dang. Look at all the blancs."  

Second thought: "Dang. Listen to all the English."

Third thought: "Dang. How much money was spent on the pretty posters and fake plants and on that ridiculously long hallway, and how many families on the saline could have eaten with that money?"  

Thus began the long, tumultuous and ongoing battle between the thoughts in my head and the world around me now.  Haiti is the 2nd poorest nation in the world.  That means that every time you walk outside you see children with orange, patchy hair who are literally starving to death.  That means that when you go to the market you see biscuits made out of dirt for people to eat.  That means that the kids down the street are playing games with sticks and salvaged trash.  That means that every morning you have to choose who you will hire for the day and who you will not; essentially - who will eat today, and who won't.  That means that kids come to your front door asking for food.  That means that people are sick and are dying from diseases that could be cured with a simple antibiotic.  That means that clean water is hard to come by.  That means that people are building their houses with sticks and mud on foundations of trash and solid waste.  

That means that when you come back to the land of plenty known as America, you feel sick to your stomach.  So really, what would it look like if those two worlds collided, and not just in my head - but in real life? 

I saw a picture the other day of two rich kids playing on their computer, lying on the floor of a dirt house while a poor kid in the background swept around them.  It was both disgusting and beautiful because it described without words the confusion stuck in my head.  In the back of my mind I heard Michelle Tanner's friend Teddy say "that would NEVWWR happen!" and he was totally right: it wouldn't.  

Or would it?  You would never pick up your computer, iPod, cell phone, TV, and microwave and stuff them into your fancy-shmancy Coach luggage and travel to one of the poorest nations in the world just to lie on the floor of a dirt house and email your friend Jane about that beautiful new silk dress you just found online and HAVE to have (assuming of course that your computer/phone connects to a satellite and doesn't require a wireless internet connection... I don't need any snarky comments saying "duh that would 'nevwwr' happen because the dirt house isn't wireless"). But really.  

What if every day you set aside your Tim Horton's money and used the sum to sponsor a child in Haiti? Or what if you traded in your new car for an old clunker and used the extra money to buy a cow for a family in Ecuador?  Or what if you stopped buying bottled water and used that money to dig a well in Sierra Leone?  What if you didn't bother with replacing your worn carpet, but instead did something about your neighbor's leaky roof?  What if you actually sold all you had and gave to the poor?  

As if, right?  wrong. 

In no way am I saying that I do the above in a sparkling (yet humble) fashion, or that I even do them.  I'd like to, but easier said than done.  Nor am I really intending to end this post with a thought-provoking 'this will change your life' easy to follow formula for becoming globally minded.  I simply am expressing the marvel that I have regarding how easily we here in the states throw away money on making things look pretty, when there are people that I know personally who are starving to death on the saline in Anse-a-Galets.  Do you feel sick yet?  I do.  

What really makes my stomach churn now is when I look around my bedroom and think "Boy, I like my stuff. It's nice, I really like it."  I don't think there's anything wrong with liking your stuff.  I downright love my Teddy Bear.  I'd cry if I lost him.  I also downright love that photo my grandpa gave me of my cousins and my sister and I when we were little.  I'd cry if I lost that too.  But what if I could get rid of that other stuff?  I don't really need three pairs of pajama pants, do I?  Nor do I need that old t-shirt from 7th grade that reminds me of that one day when that one thing happened.... The point being that I could stand to have less. 

Now, I'm not an entirely big fan of "quotes" and to be quite honest, I tend to mock the whole idea of "favorite quotes" by inserting really stupid ones where serious ones are expected (example: my senior "quote" in my Christian High School year book was "Eagles may soar, but weasels never get sucked into jet engines."  The rest of the class had Bible verses, from the KJV, of course).  However, one of my friends has this quote on his Facebook page:

 "The rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live."  

And I whole-heartedly agree.  So I challenge you (and me) today - in a country of complexity and gizmos and gadgets and stuff, to live more simply, so that the poor may simply live. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


There is a little girl at the orphanage named Mary Therese and she's a girl who has a lot of emotional troubles. She's been through a lot, and you can see it in her eyes that she just has a weary heart. She's probably four or five. Well I usually scoop her up and hold her for a while when I'm up there - and I did the other day. She always wraps her arms around your neck and sits close to you and she's just precious. She rarely speaks - she rarely smiles, she's just very quiet and somber whenever I see her. Not to say she's miserable all the time, I just have never seen her bubbly and happy like the other kids. I always ask her if she went to school today and she'll shake her head to answer, I'll ask her if it was good and she'll shake her head, etc. Well the other day when I was holding her, I was surrounded by a bunch of kids and we were all singing together, so I asked her if she wanted to sing. She shook her head no, so I told her that was ok, but I was going to sing, and if she wanted to sing with me, she could. Well a few minutes later I heard a tiny little singing whisper in my ear, and she was singing loud enough for only me to hear, it was so cute. Made my heart smile.

Well today I took another group up to the orphanage, and once again I sat on the step and held Mary Therese. I don't think today was a good day for her. There were men on the team and they were playing soccer with the little boys, and the girls were playing cabrit cabrit chen (goat goat dog... duck duck goose...haha), and Mary Therese just was sitting on my lap. I asked her if she wanted to play and she shook her head no. So we sat together and watched the others play. Then she whispered in my ear, "Papa." And I looked at her and asked "papa?" and she just looked at me with her sad eyes and shook her head yes. I kissed her on the head and said "I'm here, and I love you. And Jesus is here, Jesus loves you and he is your Papa. He's your Papa and he loves you very much." and she shook her head yes. I held her close and did everything I could possibly do to keep the tears from pouring out of my eyes. There I was holding a little girl who was abandoned, who came close to dying (she still has wisps of orange hair from malnutrition), who is now just one of forty-two little abandoned kids, and she's telling me that she wants her papa. I have never felt so many emotions at one time. I was sobbing inside. She has no earthly papa who loves her, who can hold her when she's sick or tired or lonely or who can play with her or teach her how to do things or sit on the couch and watch cartoons with her before church. And I was sobbing inside because I'm so thankful that I do have that. My dad is amazing and I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I not had him. And I was sobbing because it isn't fair that she doesn't have that. It isn't fair that this little girl in her short little life has had more pain and sorrow than most of us will ever have.

My world changed in just one word that a little orphaned girl whispered in my ear today.