Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go Tell it on the Mountains

With Christmas season in full swing, I have been teaching the kids a few classic Christmas songs. I incorporate the lyrics into an English lesson, encouraging them to read the words, not just mimic me. Slowly they are recognizing each of the words and the repetition of specific ones. It helps that they love to sing.

With a schedule in place and enforced, the kids go to bed around 9 p.m. This also means they wake up at about 5 a.m. I often hear them first thing in the morning, wearily singing their own songs. But, with a little bread in their stomachs, they come out in full force around 6 a.m. singing loudly. Their little voices, which I find far more endearing in the evening, permeate through my earplugs. One kid sings “Holy, Holy” another “Jingle Bells” and one of the teenage girls, with attitude in tow, belts out “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” I’m annoyed. I want just one more hour of sweet sleep. She seems to raise her voice as she passes my door. “Go tell it on the mountain,” vibrates through the walls. It’s as if she single handedly feels responsible for getting the song, “over the hills and everywhere.” I toss. I turn. I surrender. I’m up. I unzip my net and think, “what have I done to myself?” Next time I sound just give them a drum set and a loud speaker. Again, I’m NOT a morning person.

I slowly make my way to the bathroom. The already bright sun stings my half opened eyes. One of the boys belts out, “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,” although his mouth can’t quite form “bells” and it comes out as ball. (We’ll have to work on that)

I make my way back to my room. Oblivious to my stoic stare, the youngest gives me a big hug with a running start. I nearly fall over. She starts singing “Go Tell in on the Mountain.” As I reach my door I hear that most of the girls have settled for the same song. At least now the noise is in unison. I’m surprised they’ve remembered the notes and the words. Their voices are starting to sound a bit sweeter. I peek into their room. Some of them have their eyes shut, some of them are swaying. They aren’t just singing, they’re praising. They are singing from their hearts. I realize that although I taught them the words, I can certainly learn a thing or two from their song.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Ask and you shall receive"

Recently, I introduced after school activities for the kids.To be honest, this was done in a somewhat selfish manner. I found it verydifficult to get anything done with the kids around. Every day, at 1 p.m. whenschool is out, I would receive dozens of little knocks at my door. They knew Ihad work but just wanted to say hi. Next I tried leaving my door open.This just perpetuated the problem. The children would stand in my door waywatching me. I’d ask them how they were, how school was and let them know I hadmore work to which they’d reply “I know” in Creole.  Trying to exercise was just as bad. I’d tryto jump rope but the kids wanted to jump with me and I ended up accidentallywhipping some of them as I jumped. I realized if you can’t beat them….jointhem! So now, three times a week, I gather any willing participants to fakejump rope with me followed by in a cardio circuit.
Mondayafter “class” FranFran, our on site security, came over in his karate suit. Withpermission, the kids started punching him in the stomach. One of the youngerboys, who is a character in his own right, was eager to get his turn but keptgetting pushed back by the older kids. Being 6 years old and weighing about thesame as my left thigh, I asked him if he wanted to punch me instead. He lookedat me, smiled and said “oui”. His tiny little legs got in the karate stance andhis wiry little arm wound back before looking at me for one more nod ofapproval. I nodded and… BAM! He punched me. HARD. I mean I don’t know if he hada brass knuckle hidden but I was shocked at his strength. He looked atme. I looked at him. He looked at my stomach. I held my stomach. He looked athis hand. I looked at his hand. He shook it out a little, said “mesi” andskipped away. I laughed breathlessly, shocked at how strong the little guy wasand surprised that he didn’t hold back just a little. 
I “ask” and pray for a lot of things. I knowJesus doesn’t want to hold back but sometimes I’m just not quite ready toreceive His “gift” or blessing. I’m glad He knows when I can handle His greatgifts. My time in Haiti is definitely one of them!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Saying I am lonely at times is an ironic statement because Iam never actually alone. I constantly have 40+ kids in my company. I have madedeepening friendships with the staff on campus (although my Creole still has aways to go).  There are living thingseverywhere. I have found myself negotiating out loud with Haiti’s circle oflife. I kindly ask the spiders to eat the mosquitoes and in exchange I willspare their eight legged lives. I shower daily with a surprisingly cute baby lizardthat lives next to, and sometimes under, my bleach bottle. So, I’m not exactlyalone.

 Nonetheless my weeklyskype sessions with loved ones are times I cherish. About a week ago, I was gettingready for my long distance skype date. I was so excited that I managed to brushmy hair out and splash on some mascara. The kids were in my room watching my preparations.I was actually “early” for my date something he’ll tell you rarely happens inperson. With some time to kill I exited my room for the 10 minute break. After,I headed back to my room and reached for my door knob. LOCKED. The key was inmy room. I was only gone for a few minutes and didn’t lock it. Realizing thatone of the kids was probably helping me out and locked it for me, I decided Iwouldn’t panic just yet. I’ve watched as some of the boys, with their impromptutools, have popped a lock in 30 seconds flat. I called them over and watched asthey took their various “tools” and tried to get my door unlocked to no avail.AWESOME.

Slowly the inevitable happened. I realized I was hot,frustrated and disappointed. I watched the sun creep behind the mountainscalculating the 5 hour time difference in my head. It would be past hisbedtime. I went to get some air in the darkness outside. Enjoying the emotionalrelease of my own little pity party, one of the youngest girls came and satnext to me. We had a short exchange in Creole after which she commanded I closemy eyes. What happened next was one of the sweetest things I’ve witnessed. Outof her 6 year old mouth came one of the most sympathetic prayers I’ve heard ina while. “Jezi, Jezi, souple Jezi, Jaclynn bezwen l’ kle.” I squinted my eyesopen to see her head waving back and forth, hands gripped tightly, eyessqueezed shut. She was praying for me. In my frustration I forgot that I couldpray. As a young child, I often thought that I could only pray about the bigstuff. I figured there was some type of prayer quota I was allotted at birth. Icouldn’t waste prayers on little things. After all, God has bigger fish to fry namelyworld peace, poverty and hunger. My little mind couldn’t wrap itself around theidea that I could bring anything and everything to Him. Often, it still can’t.  I’m learning that it’s about being in constantcommunication with Him. The good, bad, and ugly. Sometimes it takes a 6 sixyear with her “little” mind and BIG heart to remind me of that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

In most aspects of my life, I would not consider myself to be a patient person but life here demands it. In preparing for this trip, my loved one told me to be patient with Haiti, its people and myself. I found the first week to be full of indicators of my impatience causing melodramatic ups and downs.
A day in the life of my first week looks a little something like this…
I wake up at 7:30 a.m. unless of course my ear plugs have fallen out, then I wake up at 6ish depending on the neighborhood roosters whose wake up calls I constantly underestimate. I’m excited to start a new day.  I settle myself, make a trip to the bathroom, call out my round of “Bonjours” and then return. I hear Luna ring the school bell at 8 a.m. and know that soon Michele will arrive with my breakfast; a banana, bread and coffee. I eat then head to the shower. I grab my trusty blue bucket and head to the faucet outside to fill it. The clear cold water fills to the brim and I make my way back.  I have a whole ingenious process for getting myself ready for the cold water. I’ll spare you the details but jumping jacks are involved. I shower. I feel great.  Clean and awake, I return to my room. My mom gave me a 5x magnification mirror and I take a quick glance. Yikes, definitely not a necessity on your packing list. I obediently put broad spectrum sunscreen on my face even though I’m already sweating.  I’m ready for work and hop online.  In my race against my natcom credit (my Internet system) I hurriedly copy /paste all the emails I’ve received into a word document without reading them. I don’t like feeling rushed. I’m annoyed. I Disconnect.  Click “safetly remove hardware”. Unplug. Yes! Take that natcom credit.
 At about 1 p.m., when I know school is about to finish, I step outside to flip the sign I made in Haitian Creole to, “Silans Souple” (Silence Please) from, “Pran ak de bra” (Welcome with open arms). My eyes try to readjust. My room is dark. Electricity here is off and on…literally. I wanted to read but will need to wait until I have more light. Instead, I write my email responses in word. My computer battery is almost out and I can’t recharge it. I change tasks again. I practice self-assigned words of the week in Creole. I’m frustrated. Why am I not absorbing the language faster? I can’t remember certain words. The electricity comes on. I read some of the citizen sector literature I brought. I write down daily notes and ideas.  I’m happy. I have some ideas that could work and am excited about the possibilities.  I notice it’s already 5 p.m. so I emerge to see the gang. 
I’m smiling. Each kid has such a unique personality. They are all such characters. I’m laughing with the kids as we play impromptu games. I feel so blessed.  But then night falls, I return to my room to find that ants have infiltrated my heavy duty Ziploc bag, they’ve outsmarted me again and I get frustrated.  In that moment I notice it’s hot and I’m sweating… still. I feel gross. How is it that ants can undo me? That makes me feel even more discouraged.  I glance at my to-do list. I haven’t changed anything today. In fact I’m just more aware of what I need to change in myself. I miss my family, my boyfriend, my friends. Grrrr. There’s a knock on my door even though my “silans souple” sign is up.  I reluctantly open it to find one of the girl’s with my towel that had been drying in the sun. “Mesi,” I force a smile. She stands there staring at me. This has become commonplace. What does she want!? She sways from side to side with a half smile. “Oui?” I ask. “Mwen renmen ou,” (I love you) she replies. My frustration melts away. I am humbled.

That’s all I need to remind me that on some days I won’t be able to impress anyone with my to-do list check marks or accomplishments. The kids just ask for my love, patience and a lot of play time. For some reason (ok reason being my ego) I struggle at times with how little is required of me on any given day.  The irony is that I find even the little requirements challenging on some days. So, as will probably be the case for life, I continue to learn to practice patience…patiently.