Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back in Haiti - Day 7 - Fini

What a day. What a seriously great day.

It started off super slow. No real plans this morning. Oge and I picked out some songs for his last CD but that was about it. I talked to Sarah about wanting to do something fun for my last day but not knowing what that should be. She and Tom put their heads together and decided it would be a great idea to go to lunch. Sounds good to me!

We went to Bouchara, a great Haitian place with reasonable prices, air conditioning, and great food. It was a relaxing lunch. Wonderful to share stories and experiences with each other - comment on places we've been and places yet to go. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

After that, Oge had scheduled for the two of us to meet with some lawyers to discuss the possible establishment of the Bracelets of Blessing program. Unfortunately, Oge had a family emergency that he needed to deal with so Peterson helped me for the first half of the meeting. Thankfully Oge came in at the end to best understand the whole process.

I found out that it is entirely possible to establish the organization in Haiti AND I have an actual plan of action after speaking with the lawyers. It was SUCH a helpful conversation and I am so thankful for all the prayers over this meeting. It was really an important and necessary step towards establishing the program officially and moving it into its own separate entity. I am excited to start the process and work with folks here and in the US to make this program into everything it can be. I am just so glad that I was able to have this meeting before I went home.


Tomorrow I go home.

I am definitely feeling sadness over that. I really wish I could have stayed longer - spent more time with my family here. However, I suppose all good things must come to an end and there is a whole slew of things waiting for me back in Fort Worth that I need to attend to.

Just because I'm leaving, though, doesn't mean I'm not taking part of Haiti with me.

I'll leave with sounds of "Poupe" (my nickname) still ringing in my ears. I'll leave with the memories of hugs from great friends filling my mind. I'll leave with wonderful Haitian food still filling my body and soul. And I will leave with the knowledge that I am not forgotten and that in many ways, I am still part of the tapestry that is Haiti. My fingerprints are still here. My life and my presence has been important.

I'm sure I will cry again tomorrow, though, as I did when I first arrived. When I arrived they were tears of joy - so glad to be reunited. Tomorrow they will be tears of sadness - frustrated that land, water, money, and time must separate me from my friends here. However, I am certain I will be back, and depending on my financial situation... I hope it is sooner rather than later.

Bye Bye Ayiti. Mesi pou bon semen. Na we...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back in Haiti - Day 6 - Poze

Another wonderful, relaxing day in Haiti!

This morning Oge and I traveled to La Tremblay to pick up a team. La Tremblay is a site that opened while I was in Haiti in January so I was excited to see how far things had come in the 5 months I had been away for. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

You know, I get asked all the time, "Is anything actually being done in Haiti?" My answer is always a loud YES. Unfortunately, the media does not always paint that picture. Yes, there are still collapsed buildings. Yes, there is still rubble around. Yes, the rebuilding process has been slow and tedious. However, that does not mean that there haven't been improvements. The roads have gotten better (and seem to be mostly rubble free!) The mood seems to be lighter. There aren't near as many tents as there was before. Seriously, so much is happening in Haiti. It's truly wonderful.

La Tremblay is one of those wonderful things. It was cool to see a partially completed two story building (as it will have a balcony to be sure and hold all the people) and workers hard at work. Also neat was that this site has a cement mixer so the work was super efficient. It was SO COOL to see their process in action. I have never seen anything like it, but it was a blast... and so quick! Basically, being there made me incredibly optimistic and proud of the work that is being done here. It is awesome.

Oh, and of course, my ride with Oge was fantastic as always. Car dancing and laughter included.

After that visit (which was pretty quick because of what little traffic there seems to be now...) Oge and I hung out a bit and then Oge, Sarah, and I went out to lunch. We decided to go to Fior di Latte which is a European bistro in Petionville. I had gorgonzola stuffed ravioli with a pesto sauce and we all shared a chocolate ice cream ball for dessert. YUM. It was wonderful to have that time to poze with the two of them and hear some of the stories of life around here.

You know, on this trip, I have realized just how much I really miss being here. However, I have to keep on reminding myself that I am in divinity school so that I can CONTINUE to be in places like Haiti and working towards the betterment of the world. It is such a tough thing to remind myself of at times, but I also know that I have a ton of fans here waiting to see my graduate and become a pastor. (I've already had several people ask me when they can start calling me Pastor Beth. So fun.) I just need to remember that once I'm back in Fort Worth.

Beyond that, I had a nice chat with Pastor Paul this afternoon (although I couldn't help him much with what he talked to me about.) It was good to spend some time with him, even though it was brief. It was also good to sit in his air conditioning.:)

This afternoon I also had the opportunity to visit Giant Market with Belorne once again. You know, before I left Haiti, Oge told me "Haitians never forget." I believed that, but to a degree. I mean, I knew that the people at the Guest House would not forget me, but I figured that most others would. I'm finding that I was also wrong about that.

At Giant, I always used to exchange money there from US dollars to Gourdes when we went shopping for teams going out into the field. It always seemed to be the same guy at the counter and eventually it became almost a running joke - "same amount?" I didn't know much about him, but it still felt like tradition to say hello to him each time I was there and request an exchange.

Well, today, when I was there, he was there, too. He saw me and waved excitedly and motioned me over. He said, "It has been so long since we have seen you!" "Yes, I went back to the United States. I've been gone from Haiti for about 5 months now... it's been too long!" He then smiled and said, "Wow, 5 months!? I can't believe it! Well it is very good to see you." We chatted for a little while longer before I departed to find Belorne, but that was really, really neat. While you're here, you don't realize the people that you've left an impression on. Once you return, though, they seem to come out of the woodwork to say hello and tell you that they've missed you.

To end this entry, I will just say this: I love this country. I am so glad to be here. Only one more day left and then I have to say goodbye. It is going to be extremely difficult. Prayers appreciated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back in Haiti - Day 5 - Bon Bagay

Today was pretty neat. Spent the morning on the road with Oge to go pick up a team in Arcahaie. Arcahaie was the first community (outside of Petionville) that I visited when I first came in Haiti. It was nice to see the community again and some old friends. It was also nice to see the site and re-live some wonderful memories there.

It was great riding in a car with Oge today, too. I can't even tell you how much I missed our road trips. I made him a new cd and so we enjoyed some car dancing. Good times, as always.

This afternoon was pretty "poze." (Relaxing) I mostly looked at some theology homework and hung out a bit. At 4, though, the boys came with bracelet materials so I could take some photos of their work in progress. I took some great shots and I'm excited to compile them into resources that churches and other communities can use to tell their story.

Also fun was when I remembered that my camera has HD video. I got some GREAT footage and I'll be sure to upload some of those videos as well as (hopefully) an edited piece. I'm so excited for this possibility. It was a great day to see them and talk with them and see the bracelet process in action.

My time here is already coming to an end. So strange. However, I think once my time here is over I'll be anxious to get back to Fort Worth. I've done SOME studying since I've been here... but not enough for the 3 papers and 2 mid-term tests that are coming up next week. Yikes! So much to do, so little time.

Tomorrow Oge and I are headed to La Tremblay in the morning and in the afternoon I will meet with Pastor Paul and maybe take another trip to Rebo with Sarah. We shall see!

Have a great night, everyone!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Back in Haiti - Day 3 &4 - Right at Home

These past two days have been pretty low-key, but very nice.

Yesterday Mike Willis came back to Haiti. Mike was my first boss in Haiti and it had been a while (I think since February...?) since I had last seen him. Always good to be reunited!

We stopped for lunch at a nice place near the airport - La Maison. It was just Oge, Mike, and I which felt strange and wonderful at the same time. The old crew back together again. We chatted about a few things and just had a nice, relaxing lunch hour.

After returning to the Guest House, Mike attempted to get some work done to prepare for his trip to Les Cayes and I attempted to work on studying for my Theology mid-term. It sort of worked except streams of kids kept on coming by to say hello to Mike. As Mike was here the entire time the tent city was on our campus, he has a lot of friends outside the Guest House that are always anxious to see him.

After dinner, I spent about a half hour with Belorne showing her how to scan documents onto the computer and attach them to e-mails. She was so happy to learn how to do that and I felt blessed to have the opportunity to teach her. It was wonderful watching her light up with joy whenever she proved to herself that she could do it.

I also got the opportunity to watch a few episodes of The Office with the UMVIM crew (plus Mike) last night. Good times filled with lots of laughter, that's for sure.

Today was also pretty low-key. Mike left very early in the morning for Les Cayes so I didn't even see him leave. I said my goodbyes last night. We have a team here, though, that is working in Duplan and I decided it would be fun to tag along to see the site. Duplan looks wonderful and lively. Great to see the kids utilizing the new spaces that were created for them. Oge and I also got the opportunity to visit again during recess today and it was a joy to see all the kids dressed in their adorable yellow and grey Methodist uniforms smiling, laughing, and playing with each other.

Of course, as it always in Haiti, the kids were mesmerized with my camera and once it was discovered that I was taking photos... each child wanted a picture. It's cool, though, because I had a ton of fun taking pictures. I've also been working on taking pictures of each member of the Guest House staff so that's been fun for me, too.

After that brief visit, Oge and I stopped for lunch. We were going to try to do a nice meal out (as we were originally supposed to go to the beach today but that didn't work out due to it being kind of a rainy/dreary day) but all of the nicer places are closed on Mondays. (I tell ya, Haiti is a whole different country! :) ) I asked Oge where he wanted to go instead and he said, "I think we should go to Rebo again." I was happy to oblige. Rebo has really great sandwiches and, of course, coffee. :) We had more great chats there. Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to hang out with him again? It's really wonderful.

This afternoon I also saw Pastor Paul (the President of the Methodist Church in Haiti) and that was fun. (Although he was upset with me for not telling him that I was coming back to visit - whoops!) He wants to meet some time this week so it will be good to sit down and talk with him.

Beyond that, I just chatted with Oge, Erick, Maxo, and Peterson. Also, since I showed Oge how Skype works on Saturday I've had a few requests for help with setting up Skype for others. That's also been fun. I'm happy to expand their communication possibilities by adding Skype into their lives! :)

Tonight I'm going to a place called "Hang!" for dinner with the UMVIM crew. Although, if it keeps on raining, then we might be going somewhere else instead. I've heard it's a fun place with great music, though, so I'm excited to try it out. Could be good!

I called this entry "Right at Home" because that's truly what it feels like. It feels like coming home. Also, it's been fun for me stepping into my old role here in small ways. I've enjoyed having the opportunity to assist in whatever ways are most helpful. It has been good to re-live that time of my life in small ways this week.

Anyway, I'm off - tomorrow's going to be a big day, though... trip to Arcahaie in the morning and bracelet making in the afternoon. Exciting!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back in Haiti - Day 2 - Remembering the Kids

Another lovely day in the same magical place.

Today was so much fun. Relaxing. Wonderful.

It began by seeing more friends of mine as they came and went - Johnny (one of our beloved drivers), Caz (a great interpreter), and Jammes (the accountant), for example. However, as you could probably guess, the best part was seeing Oge and all of my boys.

I saw Oge this morning and gave him one of the biggest hugs ever. (Almost cried, but was able to hold it in this time. :) ) Oge and I have kept in touch over the phone every now and then... but seeing him in person is... awesome. I've really, really missed him.

We spent the morning chatting and sharing stories. I showed him some photos from Europe and of the new apartment in Texas. I also introduced him to Flat Oge (his "mini me" that went around Europe with me.) That was hilariously awesome. Several members of the Guest House staff cracked up when they saw Flat Oge. I also set Oge up with Skype so I'm excited to use that with him once I leave Haiti.

Then, at noon, the bracelet kids came for pay day. For the most part, word had spread that I was back... but not to everyone. The surprised faces were way too much fun. During Pay Day, I was able to take some great pictures and the kids are coming back again on Tuesday so that I can take some pictures and video of them actually making the bracelets. I am beyond excited for that - it is going to be wonderful to finally have shots of that process in action... as well as maybe getting some interviews from the families about how the program is impacting their lives.

Especially wonderful today, though, was seeing Michellet, Robenson, Robenson's Mother, and Schnyder. Seeing every kid was wonderful... but throughout my time here I built special relationships with those four. So great to be reunited again.

However, I do have to put out a plea.

Due to a lower volume of teams (and therefore, fewer donations), the staff here has not been able to provide any assistance to the bracelet kids and their families for school this year. It's not that they don't want to help out, it's just that there isn't enough for everyone to get an amount that would be helpful so the money that they are able to give is just going towards things like food or clothes. In Haiti, It costs around $200 - $500 for a child to go to school for an entire year. For some it is more, and for others it is less. $200 is probably the average amount that they would need to pay the inscription fee and for the first quarter or trimester.

If you or your congregation feels led to give, PLEASE DO. I know that some already are (big shout out to Don, for example, for his continuous giving) but unfortunately, with such few people donating... there just isn't enough for the money to go far. (And in Haiti, you can't really give to one and not the other... so that adds a whole other dimension in terms of what is and is not possible.)

If you are able to give and need information about who to send money to... please contact me this week at I will get you all the information you need.

Seriously, I asked the boys how school was going... and too many told me that they were not in school at all this year because they could not afford it. It is heartbreaking to me that such intelligent, driven, wonderful kids would not be able to get an education. I am hopeful that their situation will change soon... but at this point, the future (at least the immediate future of the next few months or year) looks pretty bleak.

There are 24 kids in the bracelet program now. If we can raise at least $4800... then that could/should be enough to at least get the kids in school, with the hope that with bracelet income they'd be able to pay the rest of the money for the year.

Anyway... beyond the sadness of that reality... it really was a great day. I even got to go to my favorite coffeehouse for lunch (Rebo!) with Oge and that was wonderful. I also got some studying in for Christian Theology and had a brief opportunity to chat with Tom for a while.

Have I mentioned how awesome it is to be back? Because it's really, really awesome. M renmen Ayiti ANPIL! (I love Haiti a lot!)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back in Haiti - Day 1 - One of the most joyful moments of my life

Today I traveled back to Haiti.

Reading week/fall break is this week and I wanted to take advantage of it. With my parents help, I made the plans to come back here about two months ago. Since then I have been looking forward to this day. Dreaming about it, praying for it, hoping that the reunion would be everything I wanted it to be.

But instead, it was something greater than I ever could have imagined.

I got a text from Oge earlier today telling me that he wouldn't be able to pick me up from the airport. I was bummed about that, but he said that he'd try to see me later at the Guest House. I started to wonder if today wasn't going to be the big deal that I was building it up to be. I mean, I knew that it was going to be so good to see every one and that they'd be happy to see me... but was it really going to be that big of a deal?

Anyway, so I arrived in Haiti to a MUCH IMPROVED airport and, believe it or not, Martelly (Haiti's president) also happened to be there. He waved to the crowd saying "Bonswa toutmoun!" (Which means "Good afternoon, everyone!") So that was pretty cool.

Then, as I was walking out of the airport, I saw Jackson, our head porter. He gave me a big hug and called me "boss" like he always has. I tried to remind him that I was never really his boss and I'm REALLY not his boss now... but he decided he liked calling me that just the same.

After that I met up with Daniel at the tap-tap. It was so good to see him. We caught up a bit and he was also so happy to see me. Needless to say, I was already feeling extremely welcomed. There were also some other porters that I used to run into now and then with team pick ups (back in the day) and they also recognized me and came over to say hello.

Driving back to the Guest House was also a joy as I got to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of Haiti again. Although, I will say, I think that traffic has improved quite a bit. I mentioned this to Daniel, though, and he said "No, it hasn't." I'll be paying close attention to that to see if it really is better... or if it was just a fluke. Haha.

Back at the Guest House is where it really got good. I think some people knew I was coming, while others did not. I was greeted by Tom and Sarah... wonderful, of course, to see both of them again. After that, by happenstance, I ran into Pastor Ralph and said hello to him.

And then... I saw my favorite ladies in the kitchen... which started a whole bunch of rounds of hugs. First Marie Claude, and then Claire, and then Vivienne (who literally screamed when she saw me), and Tantnette, Ysmeus, Belorne, and Ruth. That was a moment. Seeing all of them, hugging all of them, and having them welcome me back like family... I can't even fully describe what that felt like except to say that it felt like putting on a warm snuggly blanket on a freezing winter night.

However, after saying hello to them, I noticed that something (besides Oge) was missing... there weren't any boys around. I thought for sure that they'd be there to greet me as they had at almost every other occasion... but they were nowhere to be found.

Then Sarah called for me and said, "I think I see some of the boys." She told me that they hadn't told them that I was coming because they wanted to make sure that they just came during the Saturday pay day time and she knew they'd see me then. However, since they happened to be around, she figured that she'd surprise them.

We walked to the end of the Guest House driveway and opened the gate just a tiny crack to see if they were still there. Sarah spots them and says, "Yep, they're here. Timoun!" (Kids!) Then they turned around and saw me.

What happened in that moment is a memory that I will probably replay for the rest of me life. Especially on those days when I wonder if what I do means anything. Their faces said it all.

Instantly all four boys had their eyes bugging out of their heads, shocked to see me, which changed suddenly to faces overcome with joy as they practically tackled me with hugs. I admit that I cried. I cried like a baby, so joyful myself. These are my boys... and so they shall forever be. It was wonderful to hug them, to talk to them, to tell them, "M tre kontan we ou!" (I'm very happy to see you!) I am so excited to see the rest of them tomorrow. So flippin stoked.

During that time I also saw Gregory, one of the artists who sells work in the street, Jessica (Erick's daughter,) Nathalie (Claire's daughter,) and Erick.

Basically it was a homecoming not to be forgotten. One of joy, laughter, and blessing. Seriously, how blessed am I to have such an amazing Haitian family!?!?

And that's what it's felt like... coming home. Spending the vacation with my extended family. I kind of expected this place to feel foreign, different, new. But it doesn't. It feels like the same Haiti... the Haiti I fell in love with... the Haiti I still strive to serve.

Anyway, even though I still haven't seen Oge yet (bumma! - hopefully tomorrow) it's still been an amazing day. Thanks for the prayers. Please continue praying for this trip - that it may be a time of renewal, new possibilities, and friendship.

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