here and there and somewhere in between. [5 July 2017]

Haiti felt like home, but yet not quite. Portland feels like home, but yet not quite, and yet at the same time too much, and it’s so hard to articulate why.

Portland is familiar in that no one stares when I drive down the street, because they see white people every day and I’m not an anomaly. It’s comfortable in that I can walk out the door and go for a run and weave down random neighborhood streets without it being a thing. It’s familiar in that I don’t have to think twice about being able to communicate with the cashier at the store, I just have to remember that chip cards are a thing now. Portland is unfamiliar in that everything is air conditioned and white people are just weird sometimes, and that there are so many dang choices to be made for everything.

Haiti was familiar in that life there became my normal. I was a ‘regular’ at the barbecue spot, and at Toutarelle, and the supermarket. The guys and I would split a french press of coffee every morning (25/25/50, because I drink too much coffee evidently). Castro would ask when we’re going to Jacmel again, and Mamay would be waiting at the gas station on the orange moto at 4:30 and we’d go drive around. Lionel would wander up and find me sitting on the roof after the sun went down, and they would make sure I locked all six hundred doors each night. They’d yell ‘nou gen kouran!’ up the stairs when the power came on, and we would all go make sure our phones / lights / etc. were plugged in to charge.

Life in Haiti is lived close and loud and warm. Everything is interconnected, to the point of frustrating complexity sometimes, but nevertheless intertwined and complicated. You’re right in the thick of it.

i.e. Monday evening in Haiti: I need to call Mamay in the next half hour so we can go to the store before they close so that I can cook something tonight to have for lunch tomorrow, but wait, we should get gas for the generator too, so we should probably take the truck instead of the moto, but it’s not here, so maybe Castro has it, so we should call Castro, and maybe we should all just go get barbecue instead. But wait, it’s only 7:30, too early for barbecue. Okay, so let’s go to the store on the moto then, and then get barbecue when Castro comes back with the truck later, because that’s a better idea than cooking macaroni for the eighteenth night in a row. Oh, and we should remember to take the gas jug with us so we can have power tonight too.

Monday evening in Portland: hmmm, I think I’ll drive myself 3 minutes down the street to Trader Joe’s to get a salad and a couple Clif bars for tomorrow, and then enjoy eating said salad in my friends’ quiet backyard because it doesn’t get dark till late.

Haiti is hot and loud. It’s bright and in your face, like hip hop and reggae smashed together and blasting at volume 11.

Life in Portland is independent and green and quiet and maybe just a bit chilly. People are in their houses or offices instead of randomly hanging out in the street. It’s absolutely great to see friends and familiar faces and to go wander around in the forest together, but unless we intentionally choose otherwise, life can easily be really disengaged by default.

So tonight in a beautiful smashup, we’re going to get dinner at the only Haitian food cart in town, with some of my Portland friends. It won’t be street barbecue at Toutarelle with Mamay and Castro, and the conversations will be in English, not Kreyol, and I doubt there will be palm trees, but there will be fried banan and sauce and friends and stories, and it will be good. No matter where we are – here, there, or in between – we have the opportunity to share life with the people around us, and that’s where the good stuff happens.

 

Conversations as a fi blan na Ayiti. [11 June 2017]

So yesterday afternoon I was hanging out downstairs on our front steps working on some CFI renewal stuff while Castro was finishing cleaning the truck. Chill Saturday.

A woman came to the gate asking if I wanted to buy citron (small limes). They’re pretty much my favorite fruit here except pineapple, so yes, I would love some. Went upstairs to get a few dollars, come back down and she has her whole kivette (big tub, like 3ft diameter) sitting there, and without hesitation says ‘kat cen dola!’ (400 dollars Haitian, so like $30 US).

um, no. I mean, I like citron, but I’m one person. even if I make juice to share, that’s like four people. We don’t need an entire kivette of citron. Thanks, but nou pa bezwen, mesi. Here’s kat dollars (20 HTG, about .35 US) – how ever many that will buy is great.

So she gave me eight citron and today we made ji (juice), and it’s delicious. #winning

 

—-

 

About 30 minutes later, guy shows up at the side wall, and starts talking at me through the bars (in decent english):

Hi, how are you?

I”m fine, and you?

I’m not okay.

Okay, sorry, I don’t have any money to give you, I can’t help.

No, I don’t want money, I can make plenty of money if I want. I’m lonely.

Well I can’t help with that either. I have a boyfriend already. [note: this is always the answer. always.]

Well (something something… that’s not a problem …something something)

Mwen gen mennaj deja. [I have a boyfriend already.]

(something mumble something)

Mwen pa ka tande ou. [I can’t hear you.]

Well come over here then.

Nope. I’m busy.

Come over here to talk.

Still nope.

 

 

Maybe this is why I’m single. HA.

 

—-

 

 

Probably two hours after that, Castro and I went to go wash the truck. We stopped at his house for a couple minutes, and I waited in the truck while he ran inside for a sec. No more than 12 seconds later, there’s a gaggle of boys (ages 10ish-15ish, that I’m sure had just finished a futbol game in the street) at the truck window asking me questions in a Kreyol / English smashup.

First question: How are you?

Good, and you?

Second question: How many kids do you have?

Mwen pa gen ti moun. Poco. [I don’t have kids. Not yet.]

blank stares.

How many kids do you have? (thinking I didn’t understand)

Mwen pa gen.

blank stares.

Third question: Do you have a boyfriend?

[see above answers from earlier conversation.]

Fourth question: How old are you?

Trant kat. [34]

Wow, ou granmoun (you’re old).

Fifth question: Is this your truck?

 

—-

 

So all in all, a pretty typical Saturday afternoon.

 

Conversations are good, and engaging with people is good. Answering the same questions practically every day, and the constant reminder of no, I don’t actually have a boyfriend [no matter how I choose to answer that question], is not as fun. The idea that I can be a 34 year old woman and have chosen not to have kids yet because I’m not married doesn’t make sense to hardly anyone here (and to be honest, a decent amount of people in the states too). Even if it’s not with malicious intent in any way, the blank stares and confused faces and awkward silence of not knowing what to say feel like judgment, like I’m an anomaly and there must be something wrong. Honestly, it’s exhausting.

Every day I do my best to intentionally choose to brush this off as not true, and focus on truth and gratitude instead: this is exactly the life stage I’m supposed to be in right now, and exactly where I’m supposed to be. Yes, I hope to have a partner in crime (/adventure) at some point in the not-super-distant future, and yes, eventually some time after that I would love to have kids, but this is my reality right now. And honestly, it’s a pretty good reality. I’m glad to have the opportunity to live a full, full life, and will continue to seek joy in the here and now, because as always, that’s where life is lived: in the inbetween.

 

 

6 June 2017

Side note: how is it June already?

 

The student team here the last week of May was super solid; they were from an international school in Massachusetts, which was a really fun dynamic. Several had been here before, several were new. It was really cool to see some worldview shifts throughout the week, and to see these students interact with the kids next door, with little ones at a school visit in Saint Louis du Sud, and each other.

 

Sometimes I feel like Haiti itself is a character in this story. The power of a place can be tangible, when it recalibrates your ‘normal’. Sitting on your roof in the cool of the early evening as literally the entire neighborhood does the same. Getting almost to ‘regular’ status at the local hangout. Which just happens to be under a few palm trees on the edge of the ocean with a perfect summer breeze.

 

Knowing to always get on + off a moto on the left side paske ou konnen sa exhaust pipe se sho! Being able to cook macaroni seven different ways. In the dark. And making enough to share, because that’s how we do. Being pleasantly surprised when grid power turns on. Every time. But still always taking a flashlight with you to shower, because that one time you don’t is when the power cuts out again. Actually using your cell phone to call people. Like to talk to them and hear their voice. Realizing that this is probably more effective also because you have no idea how to spell pretty much anything in Creole and it still looks weird written down sometimes.

 

Pretending that it’s 2008 so you have appropriate expectations of internet speed and that it will randomly cut out. Realizing that the internet in and of itself is crazy and that you couldn’t do half of what you’re doing now even ten years ago.

 

Knowing that pretty much everything you do will take twelve times longer than you expect because of four different factors, and that patience and grace are both traits you need to actively choose to develop more.

Example: French Press doesn’t need power. Hooray. However, coffee grinders do. And needing power to grind coffee in the morning means needing gas for the delko, but it quit at 6am probably because you ran out. And it’s super annoying to send someone to the far away late night / early morning gas station. And hot water means needing propane for the stove, but that tank is empty, and the valve needs to be fixed before you fill it. And it’s Sunday and the place is closed.

And so now you’ve learned the important life lesson of grinding coffee the instant EDH comes on and starting a batch of cold brew in aforementioned French Press, because backup cold brew is always a good strategy, all because the gas station is far away and the propane tank repair guy is closed on Sundays.

 

This kind of place has a way of drawing out your true self, good or bad. When you are faced with a pile of inconveniences all at once, frustrations and anger can boil to the surface so, so fast. I then immediately get even more frustrated with myself that I’m angry in the first place. Which is obviously helpful. Definitely still learning how to live in the tension of ‘we can do better’ vs. ‘this is just how it is’. Yes, rolling with the punches is absolutely necessary and simply a part of life (no matter where we are). And yes, there are absolutely some things that we can look at and say ‘how can we do this better next time / plan ahead / prevent unnecessary issues. We get to live in the inbetween, smack in the middle of the learning and the mess and the wonderful and the difficult, and it is scary and hard and exciting and good.

And at the end of the day, we get to try to love each other well through it all, because that’s really what it’s all about.

 

privilege. [20 May 2017]

So electricity in Haiti is kind of a thing.

 

EDH (the power company) decides when and where they want to give power and when they want to take it away. One street might have grid power while the next one doesn’t, you’ll most likely have power if there’s a big soccer match on TV (because everyone is hostile if they can’t watch), and your chances are also pretty good if it’s a holiday.

 

When they decide not to turn the grid on, the only current option at the house is a delko, as we don’t (yet) have a battery/inverter system installed.

 

Side note: a good amount of words in Creole are the first brand name that showed up: delko is a generator (A.C. Delco), fridgiaire is refrigerator, and igloo is a cooler.

 

Fun fact about delkos: they’re loud. So not only it is obvious that your house has power because the lights are on, but it’s also broadcasting to the whole neighborhood as well. We’re not the only one, but there’s only about 4 houses within a few blocks of ours that run one frequently. Evidently there have been issues in the past with neighbors complaining when teams are here and running the delko. Last week was the first time I was aware of any of this, when someone came to our fence/wall/gate literally ten minutes after we started it, complaining about how loud it was and that they couldn’t sleep and that it was just SO loud.

 

Another fun fact about delkos: they need fuel. Our current one, a 9kW gasoline one, burns about $13-15 US worth of gas in eight hours, which is about a tank full. The other night when the neighbor came to complain, I had just been trying to decide if I wanted to turn it on yet, since I knew that if we started it at 830pm, we’d probably run out of gas around 5am, which means I’d almost for sure wake up when the fan quit.

 

 

It’s not too hot yet this time of year, but having a fan running is the difference between me sleeping for seven hours versus lying awake for four and sleeping for three. Having at least one light on for security at the house is nice too, since when it’s dark here, it’s

D A R K.

 

Also, no power means no reliably cold fridge, which means not buying much in the way of perishable food. Hot dogs and macaroni are healthy life choices, right?

 

Yes, these are all silly American luxury things to complain about, but also very much all a reality of daily life here.

 

 

So, what do we deem important? When things don’t go smoothly, and the delko quits working, or the fridge compressor breaks, or there’s no matches to light the stove (or all three), how do we react? What battles do we choose to fight, and what fights do we choose to let go?

When everything goes smoothly, should we take advantage of every luxury we can when we can? Or do we forgo all comforts of any kind, out of solidarity with those who cannot afford them? Do we indulge but then feel guilty? Where is the balance? Do we share but then foster resentment? How can we be generous in a sustainable way that multiplies the gifts we have by affirming those around us, drawing everyone upward together?

 

Far more questions than answers, but these are the things I think about sitting on the roof in the dark, enjoying the breeze of the night, because it the midst of all the questions, gratitude is what I choose tonight.

The Rundown. [16 May 2017]

It’s been a busy couple of weeks! Here’s a few highlights of recent goings-on:

We had an OB/GYN + Neurology specialist team from GCF here at Klinik Fonfred on May 4 + 5, so that week was a flurry of getting ready, then two very busy clinic days – we saw 65 patients that Thursday and 110 on Friday! In addition to other miscellaneous logistics and such, I got to help out as a pharmacy tech both days as well. It was good to work side by side with our nurses to really understand their workflow better, and to be actually helpful while things were busy.

IMG_8229
busy day in the KF pharmacy

Also that Friday, the Minister and Director General of MHAVE (the government ministry of Haitian expats) visited the clinic, as she has worked with GCF in the past. It was great to be able to share our current projects and potential expansion ideas for the future, and to see that she was genuinely excited about the work that we’re doing. That evening, we also had a great debriefing conversation with the GCF specialist team which was encouraging and helpful as we look to establish some best practices and continue to improve with each team that returns. We’ve got a lot of projects and pieces and underway at the clinic [more on all of that in my next post], and so every process improvement counts.

KF staff + GCF team + MHAVE
KF staff + GCF team + MHAVE staff

To top off a pretty fantastic Friday, Nadege surprised me with a birthday cake, and I got to enjoy birthday serenades in about three different languages from the entire KF staff plus the specialist team. It was a great way to kick off 34!

Since then, last week has been back to ‘normal’ (which is still a very fluid concept here). They’ve added a new layer of concrete to the FIH guesthouse roof to help with a few leaky spots, so while the beautiful tile is now gone, there’s swirled concrete, less water everywhere else, and the starry sky is still very much a thing, so we’ll count it as a win.

Also last week, Travis and the F1 Engineering crew swung through Les Cayes to do a solar panel installation for a couple out in the Torbeck area (just west of the clinic), and stopped by Klinik Fonfred while they were in the area too. It was great to be able to offer them a place to crash for the night at the FIH guesthouse, even if it happened to be the same day the work crew moved the water tanks to fix the roof.

New working definition of “scruffy hospitality”: “Come on in, there’s plenty of room. There’s no running water currently and not too much in the way of snacks, but we’ve got a freezer full of Coke, Prestige, and Guinness, and some chairs for the porch, so make yourself at home.” Grateful for friends that get it.

In coincidental timing – just two days later actually – we (Mamay, Castro, Lionel, and I) headed over to Jacmel, swinging by Grand Goave to pick up Alicia at MOHI, for a visit with Travis and Jamie and Mara. It was a great mini-vacay: plenty of sunshine, great cruising jams, a super cute and happy small child, wonderful conversation, board games, brunch, a meandering walk on the coast, a dip in the ocean at Cyvadier Plage, and an evening balcony chat at Militon. Pretty much everything you could want a weekend road trip to be.

Bienvenue a Jacmel! [L-R: me, Alicia, Lionel, Castro, Mamay]
old friends + new friends = great Sunday fun.

Grateful tonight for meaningful work, new adventures, and refreshing friendships.

…and that EDH power is on. and that we have running water at the house again. Balances out the current annoyance of a mosquito bite in my armpit. (#firstworldproblems)

Just keepin it real.

Bondye ka fè. [see also: Bondye. Kafe!] 7 May 2017

Recently,  the tower of Babel [Genesis 11] has come to mind on pretty much a daily basis. Whenever there’s a disconnect, when something needs to get done, but there’s a communication barrier [read: often my limited vocabulary], I can’t help but think of post-fall Babel, reaping the consequences of our actions – at the time necessary to keep humanity’s pride in check so we didn’t destroy ourselves. Now in a broken world, we have often allowed these language and cultural differences to split us into ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ – fear of the unknown that transforms into insulation from anything different than what is familiar and comfortable, or even further into failure to listen or respect each other as fellow human beings worthy of dignity and respect.

 

There is such power in language. It can have the power to divide us… or it can have the power to bring people together in a holistic, affirming way, saying ‘I see you, I hear you, I understand you, and you are not alone’.

 

Choosing to talk with someone in their language – whether you’re completely fluent or only know eight words smashed together – speaks volumes. It requires a genuine effort, an intentional step out of our own comfort zone, a humble willingness to sound foolish or wrong, and the ability to laugh at ourselves when we don’t know the right words or say something with a terrible accent. It opens doors to connecting in ways that aren’t possible through a translator [yes, there is a time and a place where translators are necessary]. Intentionally choosing to engage with someone eyeball to eyeball by speaking their language… there’s no substitute for that. Starting the conversation invites the other person into relationship, and opens the door for true connection as we get to learn each other’s stories.

 

Nadege and I are starting to finish each other’s sentences, her helping me understand spreadsheets in French, and me helping her write up the weekly report for the Operations Committee. She explains details of why we’re starting a new process at our clinic staff meetings, and I help fill in some nuances from short term team debriefing conversations. While both of us are very much still learning new things and words every day, we’re starting to get into a rhythm of working as a team, and hope that the momentum continues to build with each step forward together.

 

Getty is our sassy, awesome, hardworking housekeeper. I’m beginning to learn to listen better, and she’s learning to speak slowly and use small words as though I’m a small child so I can understand her. The other day she and I were standing in the doorway talking [after she had spent literally three full days in a row washing linens for the entire house by hand]. She saw the Creole bible on my bookshelf, and we were talking about church and Jesus, and how both bibles [that one and my English one] say the same thing, but in two different languages. At one point, Getty said “Bondye ka fè”, meaning “God is able/strong/capable/He can do anything”.

 

I heard it as “Bondye. Kafe!”, meaning “God. Coffee!”

 

Sometimes you can’t help but laugh at His sense of humor.

 

At the end of the day, whatever the particular context is, choosing in, making an effort to meet people on their terms and not your own, and being willing to laugh at the mistakes you will surely make along the way – this is what life in another culture is all about. Stepping into every situation as a student, humbling ourselves, always looking for new ways to learn from each other, valuing each other’s uniqueness and equal standing as fellow humans worthy of dignity and respect, making the first move in starting a conversation – this is how we truly connect with each other, as we trust the Spirit to fill in the gaps.

Anpil Dlo Tout Kote! [27 April 2017]

Bonjou, zanmi mwen!

Things are still going well here in Les Cayes. After a busy, fun several days with the student team, they headed back to the states last Wednesday (19 Apr). In the midst of the team’s hectic exit, I hitched a ride up to Grand Goave on Wednesday, and was able to spend that evening and most of the day Thursday with the Mission of Hope Intl (MOHI) crew, particularly Angie, Alicia, and Renee. It was great to spend a bit of of time at Militon – the last time I was there was last November, and I distinctly remember Renee saying ‘you need to use your Creole more’. Funny how things work out!

Thursday I got scooped up by the FIH guys on their way back to Les Cayes. After an extra couple of hours waiting to get through a roadblock near Mirogoane, we arrived back at the guesthouse around 9pm.

This past weekend, we’ve had a LOT of rain – ’tis the season! After a slow day at the clinic Friday, we decided to close on Saturday since it was still downpouring. When it rains that hard in Haiti, no one goes anywhere, and most things are closed… kind of like a snow day in the States, but 40 degrees warmer. Rain meant a slower weekend to hang out at the house and catch up on a bit of sleep – all good things.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 4.02.26 PM
rainy Saturday afternoon – this is the alley / side street next to the guesthouse.

This week, things are going well as we settle back into a ‘normal’ rhythm…. [as much as normal is a thing in Haiti]. The clinic has been a bit busier the last couple days as the rain has let up a bit.

IMG_7894
finally a sunny afternoon on our galleria

Improving my Creole is the single biggest thing I’m trying to work on, since that will help make everything else a little easier, especially interactions with the rest of the clinic staff. It is really fun though, when random kids come up to the truck window or see you on the street, saying blan! blan! and then you respond to them in Creole – they never know quite what to do with that. A white girl speaking Creole? Weird! There’s normally giggles and whispers, and then they probably ask for money, and you respond “mwen pa genmwen regret sa”. High fives are absolutely free, though, all day everyday. Eventually they meander away with more giggles and whispers.

So all in all, although the context is different, things are largely the same as in the states – choosing to seek Jesus in the quieter moments, and choosing into intentional conversations and relationships even when it requires effort. Most important things do.

Les Cayes Living [15 April 2017]

Hello from Haiti! Thanks to everyone that has sent prayers, words of encouragement, and general good vibes toward my corner of the world over the last week and a half. I am truly grateful that so many of my friends and coworkers ‘get it’. It’s empowering to be part of such great pockets of community – know that I carry your words and encouragement with me.

A quick rundown of recent events:

John Mulqueen and I met up in Miami, and he was here with me for the first few days, working to get the Radiology room up and running at the clinic – victory! After a few quiet days early last week, a team of high school students from Gardner, MA arrived on Thursday with Paula Mulqueen (the other half of FIH). It’s been fun to watch the students build sandcastles and play soccer with some local guys at the beach, listen to what high school students think of a new culture, and to remember what it’s like to be part of a large group of blans in Haiti…

The team’s chaperones are great, and it’s been awesome to dialogue about long term missions, and what may be in store for the future, particularly for one couple, Kiley and David. This is their first trip like this, and they’re looking toward potential overseas opportunities while David is in medical school (and thereafter), and I’m stoked to see how their perspective continues to grow and how things will unfold for them in the future.

At Klinik Fonfred, things are good overall. Nadege is fantastic. She and I can communicate well, and we have similar perspectives as far as what standards need to be set and how things need to be run for the overall smoothness and longevity of operations at the clinic. So far I’ve put together a thorough inventory of the equipment and supplies we have in the lab, including a complete price list for the reagents and consumables we’ll need moving forward. The next step with the lab will be running a few basic tests to check out the equipment and make sure everything is functioning properly, followed by prioritizing a list of the most frequent and important tests we’ll be running and getting the appropriate chemicals ordered.

While the lab operations are getting underway, I’ve also been tasked with helping Nadege make a complete inventory of the equipment we have throughout the clinic, so that things can be appropriately tracked moving forward. She’s focused on getting good operational processes and systems in place, and I’m glad to be able to lend a hand.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 9.21.11 AM
Klinik Fonfred staff

Secondarily, Conrad Dynamics projects are still running on the side also, as I’m helping plan a retreat for a Transformative Arts Process grantees in Pittsburgh next weekend, which I truly wish I could attend myself. It’s always really cool to see how intersectional different life pieces can be, as discussions and learning about culture and holistic positive leadership from those projects overlaps into experiences here in Haiti.

The new rhythm of normal that is life in Haiti is starting to take root. Always learning (and then subsequently trying to remember) new Creole, riding to the clinic on the back of a moto, exchange rate math, important reframing of #firstworldproblems, hammock life, and more stars than you could imagine from a roof in the middle of the city. I don’t think I’ve worn makeup in 4 days, I have more mosquito bites than I care to count, and my skin is just a bit more toasty. Sounds just about right.

a new Haitian adventure.

IMG_7881

[As I’m sitting in the airport in Phoenix, one leg into a three leg journey and a bit sleep deprived already, I’ll do my best to hit the highlights and keep the rambling to a minimum. No guarantees.]

Just over a month ago, I received an email from Paul Fallon (the architect of the Mission of Hope Intl school that I worked on in 2012) entitled “Kim, meet Paula”. Paula Mulqueen, along with her husband John, are the founders of Forward in Health [forwardinhealth.org]. We exchanged emails and then a few phone calls – fast forward a few weeks later, and today I’m beginning the journey to serve as the Assistant Director of Klinik Fonfred just outside of Les Cayes in southwest Haiti for several months.

A few highlights:

  • Klinik Fonfred is run in partnership between Gaskov Clerge Foundation [GCF] and Forward in Health [FIH]. The staff is entirely Haitian / Haitian-American, with the goal of being a long-term, self-sustaining facility with an unmatched standard of care in the area, and facilities to include a lab and a surgical wing. The clinic itself has been open since Fall 2015, with many short term teams and clinic activities for many years prior.
  • Klinik Fonfred is just a couple of miles over from the area where I helped Travis and F1 Engineering with Hurricane Matthew relief work last November. Prior to that trip, I hadn’t been to the Les Cayes area at all before, as it’s much further southwest than my previous work at Mission of Hope Intl in Grand Goave.
  • My main goals at this point are to get the clinic’s lab facility up and running, and to work with Nadege, the new Administrative Director of Klinik Fonfred, to establish operational processes and generally help lay the groundwork for things to run smoothly moving forward.
  • The clinic has an electronic records system, and therefore a good internet connection, which will allow me to continue working with my Conrad Dynamics clients on the side as well.

As confident as I am that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, I am also confident that my time in Portland is not completely at an end. I’m excited to see how this next chapter unfolds over the weeks and months to come, and am so grateful to have such a supportive and encouraging community of people in Portland – and many others elsewhere – standing behind me as well, praying for me and cheering me on.

Thank you, friends, for encouraging me to step into what is sure to be a challenging, exhausting, growing, and hopefully fruitful time. I pray that God would be near, as I am thoroughly incapable of accomplishing any of this on my own. I love that our God is a God that uses broken people, makes beauty out of ashes, and leads us on. Here we go.

 

“Safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

FullSizeRender 3

 

Haiti Update 17 Nov 2016

What a trip. Four small houses, 100 tarps, and about 30 local guys employed each day.

I arrived home late Tuesday night, back in the land of reliable wifi and salads. For me, it’s always a rougher adjustment coming back to the US, rather than adjusting to life in Haiti.

The single aspect of this trip that I most appreciated was working with a Haitian crew, not other Americans. Often on short term work trips, there’s a group of Americans serving together, and so while you might be working with a Haitian crew during the day, in the evening, you slather on the hand sanitizer and bug spray and debrief around the dinner table in English, talking about what impacted or challenged you most that day. The tendency in these situations is often to be somewhat insulated, retreating to a more familiar or comfortable situation when you can, simply because that’s what we as humans gravitate towards.

This time, our team around the dinner table was Travis, myself, four of his guys from Jacmel (Gayly, Waly, Andersen, and Keely), and Jude from Les Cayes. These guys are all like brothers (Gayly and Waly actually are brothers), and while several of them speak good English, it meant almost all conversations were in Creole. Nothing else quite like the solidarity built over dinner and a cold drink together – this kind of holistically immersive environment is absolutely my jam. It was sincerely awesome to see how these guys stepped up as leaders during our time in Savannette. Gayly led a machete crew of 10-12 guys everyday, and Waly organized the rest of the workers, determining who was on the list for each day – not at all an easy task in this community, where people are desperate for work.

IMG_3502 copy.jpg
Waly se boss la.

I got to lead a carpentry crew of 7-8 guys for the week. We framed and then built 4 “ti kai” (literally “small house”), each one 12′ x 12′ with tarp walls and a tarp roof. While they are meant to be temporary shelters, the wooden frame is strong, and allows for people to add tin roofs or walls later as they are able.

IMG_3505 copy.jpg
Me, Piti (left), and Samar (right) with the frames for two houses.
img_3514-copy
The ‘ti kai’ crew lifting a roof into place.

One of the hardest parts of the current task at hand is determining the wisest avenue to help given the resources we have. Do we build a more substantial concrete home for one family, or do we use the same amount of money to build temporary homes like these for four families? Every organization and relief effort has a different strategy. For our work in this community, which has been untouched so far by other efforts, there are still so many immediate needs to be met. We are still very much in the initial relief stages, trying to ensure that families have a tarp or roof over their head at night. Eventually the hope is to be able to move on to the next phase of rebuilding with a longer term view, but now, even a month after the hurricane, there are still immediate needs to be met.

So where do we go from here?

Travis is back in the states for the next two weeks, spending time with his wife and 7 month old daughter, and they are planning to go back to Haiti together in early December. He will continue this work in the Savannette area as resources allow over the next several months [follow the F1 Engineering blog here for updates]. One of the biggest ways we can help is by continuing to provide paid work opportunities for people in the local community as we come alongside of them to facilitate rebuilding.

I’m tentatively planning to return to help again in the early spring, as work and resources allow. In the meantime, I’ll be praying fiercely for wisdom and endurance for Travis and his crew, and I’ll be practicing my Creole. I was surprised at how much my brain remembered from a couple years back, but this limitation was also the point of the most frustration for me personally, as there were several times that I wished I could understand people’s questions better, or that I wanted to explain more thoroughly that we are doing all we could to help with finite resources. Trusting that God fills these communication gaps where I cannot, and helps the people of Savannette know that they are seen and heard and cared for.

Na we anko toutale, si Bondye vle, Ayiti.