Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Preparing to say goodbye

Today was... strange.

On all the other days that I was here I had a certain glow about me.  I was back in "my country" with the people I love in the place I know as my second home.  I was happy.  Incredibly, incredibly happy.

But today, a certain funk fell over me.  The funk of knowing that I would be leaving tomorrow and there was nothing I could do about it.  Not that I don't have people and things to look forward to in Fort Worth - I do.  It's just not here. I don't know how to explain it fully. I don't know if I ever could explain it fully unless you saw how I am when I am here with you own eyes.  I am alive.  I am free.  I am plugged into my deepest passions.  Although there are certain luxuries that you live without, there is much joy here.

Tomorrow will be incredibly difficult.  At 6:30 a.m. I will hug all of my Guest House friends and say "au revoir."  At 7 a.m. I will load into one of the Guest House vehicles and ride to the airport with Oge.  And at 7:30 a.m. I will give Oge a hug goodbye and walk into the American Airlines terminal.  I will cry.  I will probably cry a lot.  Leaving half of your heart behind is a difficult thing to do.

But!  Because so much was accomplished towards moving Bracelets of Blessing forward on this trip I am hopeful that another visit will be needed before the end of 2012.  I am crossing my fingers and praying fervently that I might be able to make it back in December of 2012 to help with the transition into the new program.  I don't think I could go another year without getting to Haiti again - both for the sake of my soul and for the true establishment of Bracelets of Blessing.

So anyway, because of the funk I was in, today just felt a bit off.  Even Oge kept on saying, "You're leaving tomorrow.  I can't believe that.  This visit was too quick."  Too quick, indeed.  But this morning we had the opportunity to visit La Tremblay church and that was wonderful.  La Tremblay was opened about two months before I left and I had a hand in preparing it to be ready for teams and such.  I feel connected to that site quite a bit.  I also got the opportunity to visit it in October so I was so excited to see the progress now - a little over one year after it had begun.

It was a great sight.  If I come to visit in December I think it will be fully completed by then, which is great news.  This congregation has been worshiping underneath a big tree, rain or shine, since the earthquake.  What a wonderful blessing for them to be able to worship in a building again!  And a safe one at that!  I'm excited for them and for the day that I'll be able to see the building completed.

Beyond that, it was a pretty quiet day.  Oge and I picked up a team from the Baptist Mission, too, and ate lunch at the Epi d'or, but that was about it.  I also got to catch up with Tom a bit tonight which was fun to hear all the stories from the past few months as well as catch up on what TV the crew here had been watching. :)  Just kind of a poze day... which is probably appropriate as the other days seem to have been go-go-go.

And with that... I better sign off.  Time to get some rest and prepare for a long day of travel tomorrow.  Sending love to all of you.  And to you, Ayiti cherie.  Mwen renmen ou anpil.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Bracelets of Abundant Blessing

Today was a hodge-podge of a day in many ways, but it was excellent none-the-less.

This morning we said goodbye to Sarah.  Although she's not COMPLETELY moved out (she'll be back on the 29th to finish that job), she did leave for Martinique this morning and she is officially no longer employed by VIM.  I tagged along with her to the airport and we chatted about a whole slew of things. I'll certainly miss her here on future trips, but I'm sure I'll see her again at some point. :)

When I returned, I tagged along on a trip to Giant Market with Belorne.  She was shopping for a team and told me, "Beth, you do the shopping that you always used to do."  I panicked a bit as I didn't think I remembered most of the shopping that I used to do... but as I walked through the aisles, I remembered a great deal of it.  That was kind of fun and Belorne was very thankful for the small bit of help.

Also, Oge called his wife and daughter as they were walking home from his daughter's school and asked them to meet him at Giant Market.  They did and I got to see "Little Laura" once again.  Although now, I would say, she is no longer little.  Haha.  She's seven years old and starting to get taller and taller.  She's grown up so much!  It was wonderful to see her again, even though it was just for a brief moment.

After that quick hello, we headed back to the Guest House but we stopped at Rebo on the way.  I had been promising to get Rebo for Oge all along but he hadn't been able to make it on any of our other trips.  Thankfully, today worked out.  Also, I was able to purchase a Rebo'ccino Glace (Haitian frappucino) for Belorne.  She hadn't had one since I lived in Haiti so that was fun to treat both of them to a special drink. :)

This afternoon we just hung out for a little while as it was pretty quiet and calm.  Around 4 o'clock, though, the bracelet kids stopped by.

I got the opportunity to interview most of them and ask them about the program and why they appreciated it.  I also got to ask about their hopes for the future of the program and what their lives might be like without the program.  It was inspiring and humbling to hear some of their stories.

Some of the kids would be OK without the program, but life still wouldn't be particularly easy.  They would be able to pay for school and food, but they might not have money to pay for a tap-tap to get to school or good clothes for school, etc.  Most of the kids, though, told me today that their lives would be dramatically different - they would not be able to afford school, they would not be able to afford food regularly, and they would have very little money for clothes or shoes.  Hearing those stories, I was thankful.  This is a blessed program.  God is absolutely at work.

I also got the opportunity to interview Oge and talk to him about the program.  Oge has been with me in this journey from the beginning and his passion for Bracelets of Blessing is as deep as my own.  His interview was... perfect.  When I get home I will post it to Youtube, unedited, so you, too, can hear his powerful words.  It gives me goosebumps when I listen to it.

I also got the opportunity to pray with the kids today.  That was also a neat moment.  We stood in a circle and I prayed for them.  I thanked God for them and their energy, joy, love, and hard work.  I prayed the program would be blessed and would continue to grow and thrive.  It was wonderful to pray with them and for them.  What a special gift.

But then, the best part happened.  You see, I mentioned at the beginning of the week that something exciting might be happening with the bracelet program and if things moved forward then I would report it here.  Well, things are moving forward. :)  Today, I got the opportunity to introduce Jean Claude to the kids.  Jean Claude is one of the interpreters that we use here for the UMVIM program.  He is just an awesome, responsible, friendly, lovable man and he is officially going to be the director of Bracelets of Blessing.

I had been trying for too long to try to be the director myself, even though I am in the US now.  It just wasn't working and I decided before I came down to Haiti that I wanted to hire a Haitian person to run the program and be the person in charge.  I will still serve on the Board of Directors and I will provide whatever leadership and assistance I can, but I will not be the one in charge.  I was thrilled to introduce Jean Claude to the kids today as that means that the program is moving forward.  I think it's hit a critical mass at this point and it's really poised to enter the next phase.  I am SO excited to see what God might do in this next year.

After that excitement I had a quick dinner (and Jim Gulley arrived so it was great to see him again!) and showed Ronda and Chelsee (the two members of the HP team that stayed behind) some awesome Sara Groves songs.  At a certain point, though, I was ready to head back to my room and shower and work on this blog and such.  I started walking back to my room, but as soon as I entered the Swiss House, Danette stopped me.  "I have to talk to you," she said.

So we started chatting and she told me that she had a friend in the States who is in the advertising business and she was telling him a bit about the expansion of the bracelet program.  He has been to Haiti three times and so he knows about the bracelets and he was instantly interested.  He said, "You know, I'd be really happy to do some pro-bono advertising work for them... like do some campaigns with churches, set up a website, all that good stuff."

Uhhhh... what??  How awesome is that!?!?  God is absolutely at work.  I got the opportunity to talk to him tonight as well and he got really excited about the vision for the next phase of the program.  He's really excited to create an advertising campaign for us and he started to share all of his ideas for growth for the program. Wow.  Just... wow.

I started to tear up when I was talking to him.  It was the only reaction I had.  These kids will have a true future because of this program.  I just don't even know how to describe how... awesome, terrifying, and humbling that is... all at the same time.  But I am thankful.  I am so, so thankful.  I remember that when I was still living here I would lay in bed and worry about what would happen to "my boys."  I worried that I would lose touch with them and that they wouldn't get to go to school, or that they might be constantly jumping from tent to tent, never finding a secure, safe place to live.  But I don't have to worry about that anymore.  We are helping to build a true future for them - a promise for a better tomorrow.  A promise for a better Haiti.  Thanks be to God for that.

Tomorrow will be my last full day in Haiti.  I'm already heartbroken over it.  How can I say goodbye to this country once again?  Please, if you think about it, say a little prayer for me tomorrow and/or Wednesday.  I'll need it as I prepare to go back to the US.  However, I think that tomorrow is going to be another really great day - I'll get to see La Tremblay church and, as always, have dance parties in the car with Oge.

Until I blog tomorrow,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sometimes I preach in Haiti

The only way to describe today would be "special."  Very, very special.

When Oge first asked if I wanted to preach this morning, I was... unsure.  (Obviously, if you've been reading this while I've been here you know that already.)  I talked to my mom that night, though, and asked for her advice (as she preached five sermons in Tanzania last summer).  She gave me some verses that she thought were good and she said, "Why don't you just try to write something tonight?  If something comes to you and you find it's easy to write, that might be a good indication that God is at work and you'll have something worthwhile to say."

I took her advice and easily wrote the sermon in about an hour. I didn't know if it was any good, but I figured that Oge would be honest with me and say "It's not really what they're used to" or something like that if it wouldn't work well for his church.  I had him read it yesterday, though, and he said "It's really good!"  I prayed that he wasn't lying and went to bed last night still feeling a bit anxious about it.  I had never met any of these people... I had no idea what to expect or what they might think of me.  I just hoped the Holy Spirit would show up and all would be well.  Haha.

Well, I will say... the Holy Spirit showed up.  Oge arrived this morning with a tap tap he had borrowed from a friend (so we wouldn't have to pay for transportation - w00t!) and we took the winding trip up the mountain to his mother's church.  (She is the lay pastor of that congregation.)  It was neat to go into this back area that not many "blan" (foreigners) travel to.   It felt like the real, authentic Haiti.

We arrived a bit late, but quickly found a seat and joined in the singing.  WOW.  I have been in many Haitian churches, but they sang two songs this morning that were... so energetic, so loud, so joyful, that I couldn't help but smile when I was singing it.  (Even though I didn't know what the lyrics were saying!)  They also do a neat thing where the person leading prayer would say "Okay, we're going to pray for ___________.  Let's all pray together."  Then, each person would pray, out loud, their own prayer.  That was a Holy Spirit moment for me - hearing all of their voices lifted up to God all at once.  It was a holy noise.

As the last part of the service, I was introduced and Oge and I walked up to the front.  My main theme of my message was that God has not forgotten Haiti.  God remembers Haiti.  It was somewhat of an emotional sermon for me to preach in some ways, but it was just... awesome.  Having the opportunity to talk to a whole room of Haitian people and to say, over and over, "YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN," was special.  I can't really explain it.  I just felt so blessed.  I didn't get video of the sermon, but I do have the sermon written down and I'd be happy to pass it along to anyone who wants to read it.

After the service, I said hello to Oge's sister again (as I had met her once before) and I met Oge's other sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and mother.  That was also joyful for me.  I had heard so much about them and it was exciting to put a name with a face.  Oge's brother-in-law also has a lot of leadership within the church (and he speaks English!) and he told me, "I hope this is not the last time that we'll see you."  I told him that I was sure I'd be back to visit sometime and he said, "Good, you can preach for us again.  We were happy to hear you this morning."  Whew!  God showed up!  And how fun to have a standing invitation to preach at a Haitian church? :)

Once we had taken a few photos and greeted everyone, Oge and I went back down the mountain to visit the site for his new home.  He is currently living in a rental home, but he thinks this permanent home will be finished in September.  And I'll tell you, I believe it!  It's two stories high - 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen.  It doesn't have the roof on it yet, but the frame is there.  I'm THRILLED for him and I think the design and location of the house is really great.  I'm hopeful that it will be done by September for him to move there with his family.

Oge and I completed our "Sunday of fun" by having lunch at Brasserie Quartier Latin, one of my favorite places in Petionville.  We were going to go to Karibe Hotel and go swimming and such... but as we had heard the weather was going to be gloomy, we changed plans.  We had a lovely lunch out on the back patio area where there was a live jazz trio.  It was cool, relaxing, and just... lovely.  Pizza, chocolate mousse, amaretto sours, live jazz, and good company... what else could a girl ask for?

It was just a wonderful, special day.  I feel blessed to have such a close Haitian friend that welcomes me in as part of his family.  Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  I am already dreading the goodbyes that will happen on Wednesday.

Also, tonight is Sarah's last night.  She leaves tomorrow morning.  :(  Sarah was my replacement when I left and I have been BEYOND thankful for her and her hard work here.  It is thanks to her that things like the bracelet program have been able to continue and thrive among other things.  I am grateful.  It will be sad to see her go, but I am certain that Danette is going to do an amazing job in this position as well.

Beyond that, not much else has happened today.  Tomorrow will probably be a pretty "down" day, too, but I will HOPEFULLY be able to see Oge's daughter, Laura, which will be a special treat.  Also, the bracelet kids will be back to meet Jean Claude which is great.  There's always something in Haiti. :)

Blessings to each of you,

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Reunited and it feels so good!

Joy.  Deep, unbridled joy.  That would be the word to describe today.

So this morning was a little crazy... we had 3 UMVIM teams plus one extra team hanging out at the Guest House and none of them were leaving early in the morning.  There were lots of folks hanging out for quite some time.  However, it was thanks to this that I got to see my dad's best Haitian friend, Marc Anny.  Marc Anny just visited the US and so it was great to catch up with him and hear about all of his experiences.  He had a wonderful trip and it was so much fun to catch up with him briefly.

After that, I tagged along on yet another trip to the airport with Oge so I could really hide from seeing the boys.  As several of them show up early, I wanted to be sure that they wouldn't see me.  I REALLY wanted it to be a surprise. :)  However, when I was waiting for the team to get fully loaded, Michellet and Dolison came by.

Their faces lit up when they saw me.  It was not like it was last time I was here, but it was similar.  I was instantly greeted with big hugs and exclamations of "M kontan we ou!" (I am happy to see you!)  They did not let go until I had to leave. It was so special to have that brief greeting with them.  I have missed them so much.

When I returned from the airport, the boys were all off playing soccer so I was able to sneak through easily and get all the materials needed for a fun afternoon with them.  My mom gave me the great idea of playing parachute games with the kids and Wendy, Tom's (the director of UMVIM Haiti) wife, had brought a parachute down a while back for their mission in Furcy.  Thankfully, I was able to borrow it.

Finally, it was noon and I got to go and see my boys.  I feel like they were almost dumbstruck to see me... almost like I was a ghost, a hologram in front of them. :)  Soon, though, they were each coming up to me, giving me hugs and kisses on the cheek.  It was wonderful to be reunited. Sarah and Danette came out with Nathalie and began passing out some health kits, snacks, and, of course, their money for the week.  It was a big exciting week!

At that point, we pulled out the parachute.  I had found several parachute games online that I thought would work well with this group and I got the opportunity to play all of them.

I didn't know if parachute games would be great for all ages or not.  I know that I had played parachute games in elementary school and I loved them, but I didn't know if teenagers would enjoy them or not.  I hoped, though, that the new-ness of the experience might make it worthwhile for everyone.

Well let me tell you... they LOVED it.  I had this moment, while I was watching them play when I was struck by just... the complete joy that they all had and I started to tear up.  This is what I miss.  This is what I love.  I love making the day of a child who has very little.  These children struggle regularly, but in those two hours, they didn't struggle at all.  They just had fun.  They were just kids. Laughing, playing kids.  If you want to see some of that joy, go here.

It was just such a blessing to witness that.  I can't really explain it.  It was a moment worth savoring though.  I want to remember this day for a long time.

It was kind of a sad time for the kids, though, as they had to say goodbye to Sarah who has been working here for this past year.  I am certain that she'll be missed.  The kids also got the opportunity to meet Danette, though, who will be taking Sarah's job.  It was kind of interesting/fun to have "3 generations" of people in the same job there at once.  It was a party!

Beyond all of that, I took another trip to Rebo today with Ronda and Chelsee who are members of the Haiti Partnership team (but they stayed behind to help fulfill part of Chelsee's college requirements.)  It was, as it usually is, enjoyable.

Also, the plans for tomorrow have been up in the air for a while so I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  Plans were so up in the air that I wasn't even sure if I'd be going to church, much less preaching.  At this point, though, it looks like I will be going to Oge's mom's church and I WILL be preaching.  Whoa!  I'm a little nervous about it, but Oge read my sermon today and said it was "really good" so I am hopeful/prayerful that all goes well tomorrow.  I'm praying that the Holy Spirit is an active presence in worship tomorrow. :)  I'll try to get some video or photos of the experience.

And with that, I suppose I'll log off.  Oge and I were supposed to also go swimming and get some good lunch at a hotel tomorrow, but it looks like it is going to be storming all day.  If that's the case, then we'll just go out to eat somewhere nice.  Look forward to my installment tomorrow about preaching, stormy weather, and delicious food. :)


Friday, June 15, 2012

Soaking up the Haitian Sun

What another great day.  Have I mentioned that I really like Haiti!?

This morning I went to Mellier with Oge.  Mellier was the first opened work site that I visited when I first arrived.  There had only been two teams there and we went to drop off the third team.  Very little had been done, but it was obvious that there was a lot TO be done.  This is a compound where both the school and the church needed to be demolished and rebuilt.  It was estimated that Mellier would also likely be the longest running site because of the amount of work needed.

When I left Haiti, temporary school buildings, a security wall, outhouses, and the trenches for the foundation had been completed.  Now, the site is WELL on it's way to having a church where there was once mud.  It was such a joy to see.   It's going to be a HUGE church and obviously a great blessing to that community.

While I was there, I also ran into Boss Weche, our most-utilized site boss for our work sites.  It was joyful to see him and he was so proud of the work being done at Mellier. (As he should be!)  That was a wonderful extra surprise for me.

We were just at Mellier for a short time and then we drove back to the Guest House so the team we picked up could unload their luggage before getting back in the vehicle for sight seeing.  I went with the team and we journeyed to the Baptist Mission up in the mountains.  Sometimes, people don't believe me when I tell them that Haiti is a beautiful country, but I think it's pretty hard to argue otherwise when you're up there.  It's beautiful, green, and just... lush.  Also, it's a bit cooler up there so we got a slight break from the searing heat. (woo hoo!)

However, it was a bit difficult to figure out how to eat vegetarian there.  (While I'm at home I try to eat vegan (plus fish) but as eating vegan is NEAR IMPOSSIBLE in Haiti, I decided I would at least be a vegetarian here.)  It turns out that almost every dish offered at the restaurant there has meat in it.  Thankfully, though, I realized that it had a cheese pizza so I figured that would work.  :)  (This is a rather minuscule frustration, but it is interesting coming to Haiti with these new dietary habits.)

Oge and I also walked by the vendors outside the Baptist Mission and I ended up purchasing a new painting for the living room in my apartment.  (Lindsey, if you're reading this, it's not EXACTLY what I wanted... but it is a really neat painting and I think you'll like it. :) )  I also got some brownies because I found out that Oge had never had brownies.  That just boggled my mind and I decided it would be my mission to make sure he would get the opportunity to try one.  He was not disappointed. :)

We also stopped by the look-out (my dad's favorite spot) on the way back down the hill to get a nice view of Port-au-Prince, Petionville, and Carrefour.  It's really, really neat up there and, again, it's nice and cool.  (At least, compared to what it is in the heart of the city.)

I updated my Facebook profile picture today to a photo that Oge took of me while we were waiting at the Baptist Mission for our food.  I thought it was a nice photo of me and I needed to change my profile picture anyway (as I was wearing a scarf in the last one and it is not winter weather anymore) so I put it up.  It has been funny to me that the main comment seems to be, "You look so happy."

I think that's true.  I think I am just generally very, very happy while I'm here.  Going to Haiti is not a chore or a depressing excursion.  It is a life-giving trip for me.  I think I will leave here refreshed and renewed with a new vision of what my life in ministry might look like.  Although I don't have a significant agenda here, I think I need trips like this as it just makes me... happier.  It is my deepest wish that all of you might find the place in which you feel this happiness.

It is also my deepest wish that all of you reading this blog might eventually get to experience Haiti in some way.  Whether it is hosting a speaker at your church, or going on a mission trip, or even just trying some Haitian food... I hope that you at least get a small taste of what this beautiful country is all about.  Also, if you are interested in coming to Haiti, I am prayerfully considering leading a group sometime within this next year.  If that is something you would be interested in, please let me know.

With that, I suppose I will close this entry.  Tomorrow will be a big, exciting day as I will get to see the Bracelet Boys again. :) :)  I am BEYOND excited about that.  I haven't been posting many photos (mostly because it takes a long time to do that here), but I have been trying to post at least one photo a day on Facebook and a few here on the blog.  I'm almost can't wait to see what photo I might post tomorrow!  Hopefully I'll be able to sleep tonight!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another day in paradise. :)

What a wonderful day!

It started off fairly slow this morning, but there was a team here from Dallas that was going home so I spent some time chatting with them.  It was fun to swap stories about the DFW area and they were really friendly people.  It was a great way to sort of ease into the day. :)

Then I went with Oge to drop that team off at the airport.  We had another great chat as we always do and I once again marveled at the lack of rubble around.  There are still some collapsed buildings that have not been taken care of yet, but the streets are clear and in most places it is difficult now to tell that there was ever an earthquake.  That's WONDERFUL to see.

After we got back, I sat ate some lunch and chatted with Sarah and Danette, Sarah's replacement as she will be leaving this week.  (Sad day!)  We chatted about the bracelet program and it was just... such a GREAT conversation.  We carried it over to Rebo Coffee Shop in Petionville, which is like Haitian Starbucks... a truly wonderful oasis in Haiti.  (And the baristas recognized me and exclaimed how happy they were to see me. ... That should tell you how often I went there. :)  I don't like coffee or anything... ;) )

Anyway, the conversation was great and I feel like I have even more direction for the bracelet program.  We figured out today that it will probably take a little over $10,000 to cover start up costs for a year.  We're hoping to find some investors to help us reach that goal so that we can expedite the transition of the program.  I am thankful for their help and I am thankful that more and more things seem to be falling into place so that my dream for Bracelets of Blessing can become a reality.  Praise God!

When I got back from that, I thought I would just have a lazy afternoon, but then Oge found me and asked if I wanted to tag along on a trip downtown.  I said yes, of course, as it had been a very long time since I had seen downtown.

... It was... amazing.  I think I cried, I was so happy.  The vast, VAST majority of the tents near the palace are completely gone.  They just aren't there anymore.  This picture may not seem like much, but this is the yard/park across the street from the Presidential Palace and it used to be COVERED in tents.  I seriously did not know that the park looked like this.  I actually thought it was all concrete... who knew there was grass underneath!?!?  If you don't believe me, go here.  That photo is facing the Presidential Palace, but it's the same plot of land... crazy difference, right!??!  It was really, really wonderful to see.

Up in Petionville it was the same story.  One area that was a fairly large camp was now functioning as a park again with people chatting and children playing.  I told Oge, "This is why we work as hard as we do for Haiti.  For things like this.  We want to see Haiti rise up, we want to see Haiti move forward.  This is such a great example of Haiti doing just that."

Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures because my camera's battery is DEAD.  I am hoping to borrow someone's camera tomorrow, though, so I can take some better shots at Mellier and some better shots downtown.  If I can't do that, then I guess my camera phone will just have to do.  I guess it could be worse!

Also, the Haiti Partnership team is at the Guest House!  I adore Haiti Partnership teams as they really understand Haiti and how to "go with the flow."  They are just really great people.  Also, Holly is on that team!  Holly was on the very first team that I met when I came to Haiti.  When I first arrived in Haiti, I got off the plane, walked out in the pouring rain and met Oge for the first time, went to the Guest House, met Mike and Doug, and then went to the Epi d'or for lunch with the Haiti Partnership team that Holly was on.  It was great to see her again and re-live some of those early memories.

Oh, and Oge invited me to preach at his mother's church this Sunday.  Whoa!  Part of me wants to as it would be super fun to tell that story of "that one time I preached in Haiti" and I enjoy preaching (and Oge has never heard me preach!)... but it's also kind of intimidating.  I mean, what does a suburban white girl from Kansas have to say to Haitian people?  Would anything I say actually be meaningful?  If you have any advice for me, let me know as I am unsure.  (And I better decide quick or else I'll have no time to write it!)

To end this, I suppose I'll just say that being here has just reaffirmed my call to international work and particularly to Haiti.  This just feels like home... even now after I have been gone for a year.  I keep on expecting things to feel unfamiliar, foreign, different, unfriendly... but it hasn't happened yet.  I still don't know what doors may open for my continued work in Haiti but I am prayerful and hopeful that I am able to return.  Until then, I'll just keep plugging along and keeping my eyes and ears open for possibilities.

Sending love to all of you,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I made it! Whew!

It feels strange to be back in Haiti but normal at the same time. Strange in that I'm not very busy because I don't have much of an agenda while I'm here... but normal in just about every other way.

Yesterday, all morning and afternoon before I arrived I was feeling... anxious, almost. I knew it would be a great visit, but it had been such a long time since I had visited... I just hoped everything would go well and that I wouldn't get in the way. As soon as I landed and entered the Port-au-Prince airport, though, it felt as if I was coming back to work after a long vacation almost. It just felt so normal. It's really good to be back.

After getting through immigration and customs (quickly, I might add!) I found the porter for the Methodist Mission here, Jackson, and he called Oge to figure out the best place to find him. Soon, I saw a white Isuzu D-Max turning around the corner with my closest Haitian friend behind the driver's seat. We piled my stuff into the truck, exchanged a hug, and then took a photo so I could post it on Facebook and say "See! I'm really here!" (The photo has 41 likes, by the way... I feel so loved!) The drive home was great. I had made a CD for Oge and I to jam out to and he specifically requested that I have that CD ready and waiting for us to listen to when he picked me up... but we barely listened to it because we talked too much. Haha, we had a lot to catch up on!

Arriving at the Guest House was wonderful as well. I got to see the vast majority of my Haitian friends as well as the UMVIM staff and it was like reuniting with old friends or extended family. Most of them knew that I was coming, but, strangely enough, Erick (a driver and general maintenance man for the Guest House), missed that I was coming. When he saw me at dinner that night he gave me the biggest, most enthusiastic hug that I have probably ever received. Well, maybe not EVER... but it's likely up in the top five. :)

I was EXHAUSTED last night so I went to bed fairly early and attempted to sleep through the music blaring from the "disco" down the street. Wow. I forgot how noisy Haiti is at night. Between the disco, barking dogs, and crowing roosters... it's hard to catch any silence! Thankfully, I found some earplugs so I should be set for the rest of the week.

Today was pretty laid-back. Oge showed me a magazine that Haiti is starting to produce and hand out to visitors arriving at the airport that's all about tourism in Haiti. That was really fun to look through and see what restaurants and hotels and beaches they recommend and to see which ones we had already been to before. I definitely found some places to add to my list of "things to see/do in Haiti."

Oge and I also dropped a team off at the airport in the tap-tap, which most of our teams lovingly refer to as the "paddywagon." I expected to see a lot of improvement/newness since October, but on the route we took not much had changed. However, (my dad will be glad to hear this) it seems as if almost ALL the rubble around Port-au-Prince is gone! That is HUGE and definitely something worth rejoicing. I will be going to Mellier, one of our longest running sites, this week so I'm sure I'll see big signs of change/improvement both on that drive and at that site. I am SO EXCITED to see it! It's been at least a year and I hear that it's plugging along at a great pace.

After that, Oge and I enjoyed a simple lunch at the Epi d'or... a place you HAVE to go to at least once if you're staying in the Petionville area. I basked in the air conditioning. I am definitely already missing that the most. Wow, is it HOT here! (And the humidity is through the roof!) Beyond that I just spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and playing a few rousing games of Speed with Oge and catching up with some of the Guest House staff. Daniel, one of the drivers here, showed me some of his new jazz piano skills which was a lot of fun and I got opportunities to chat with Erick and Maxo, too.

Of course, I suppose that I should also add in one more thing... :) Oge and Sarah decided not to tell any of the boys that I was coming so it would, once again, be a surprise. I was not expecting to see any kids (besides the ones that live at/near the Guest House - Jessica, Belle, etc.) until Saturday. This morning, though, Robenson came by to drop off some books for his mom. That was such a joy getting so see him. He's 14 now and he's starting to look like a real teenager which is just so crazy to me. But he is healthy and doing well in school and that was all such wonderful, wonderful news. I am so excited to see him again on Saturday along with all the other kids... it will be great! Also I had a brief meeting today about the bracelet program and it could be an exciting new development! If plans begin to move forward this week, I'll be sure to report it on here!

I feel like I don't have much to report, but that's mostly because I always forget what's worth reporting! If you have specific questions or whatever, don't hesitate to ask!

Blessings, Beth

If you have never read my blog before, you should know:
1. I lived in Haiti from May 2010 to May 2011 and I worked for the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) program here. This program is stationed out of the Methodist Guest House in Petionville, Haiti... a suburb of Port-au-Prince. I lived at the Guest House. I am staying at the Guest House again this week with all of my friends. :)
2. There is no air conditioning in any of the rooms. Also, you do not flush the toilet unless "it is brown." You throw your toilet paper away in the trash can.
3. There is no hot water. Which at times can be chilly, but in these incredibly hot months, a cold shower is truly a divine blessing from God.
4. I "accidentally" started a program called Bracelets of Blessing and I am working to legally establish it. It is quite difficult to do when I live in the US most of the time... but I try!

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