Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cultural Saturday!

I roll over in bed and check my watch, 6:15 a.m.. I hear Jayden calling and reluctantly pull myself out of bed. He hasn't mastered sleeping in yet even though it is Saturday during the Christmas break. I open his door a crack and peek inside. He has already climbed out of his crib and now with Thomas clutched in his hand he peeks at me through the crack. "Turn your fan and light off", I remind him and he quickly puts Thomas down, changes the dial on the fan and pushes the lever of his small night light. While I get a bowl of cereal ready for him he pulls out all of his trucks and cars and plays with them on the floor. As soon as he's done breakfast he starts asking for Grandma and Grandpa. "They're still sleeping", I remind him, and he sighs. An hour later, when they are up he excitedly shows them the toys he's been playing with. Once we've all had breakfast and the house is tidied up we get our purses and camera's and head for the car. The streets are busy as we head towards Pettionville since Saturday is a busy shopping day.

Thankfully the roads get a little quieter as we head up into the mountains. As we drive Jason's' parents can't help but exclaim over the things they see. Here a man is carrying a heavy wooden cabinet on his head, walking up hill!

It's truly amazing what people carry on their heads here.
Our first stop on the mountain is the Baptist Mission, a place we always enjoy visiting. Since it's still too early for lunch we decide to head up to Fort Jacques. In the parking lot of Fort Jacques we take pictures of a colorful tap tap.
Some ladies selling vegetables on the side of the parking lot stare openly, and we go examine their wares.

After bartering with them we purchase tomatoes and militon, one of my favorite vegetables that you can't buy in Canada or the US.
After touring the Fort, and taking photos we head back to the car and drive back to the Baptist Mission. There we buy fresh cinnamon buns and bread. We also eat lunch there, which is delicious! Before we leave, much to Jayden (and my!) delight we pick out two more bunny rabbits.

Jayden loves them and keeps wanting to give the "mimi's" big hugs!

Our next stop is the market known in Haiti as the "mache". Since Jason's parents didn't have enough room in their suitcase to bring enough T-Shirts for the feeding program we hope to do in Ouanaminthe, we decide to buy more there. As all five of us head in I wonder how we are ever going to get through the crowds.

This is the busiest I've ever seen the market. As we walk down the steep road we see a giant dump truck flipped on it's side.

The crowd is so thick, even the police officers supervising the scene are pushed over. With much pushing and shoving we finally make our way inside and I breath a sigh of relief. For a minute there I didn't think we would make it in. As we head over to the second hand clothing section, walking single file, I keep checking over my shoulder to make sure Jason's parents, Jason and Jayden are still keeping up.

The clothing vendors are quite excited to see us, and it doesn't take long for us to find T-shirts we like and start bartering.

The vendors get quite excited as we buy bag after bag of T-shirts! The market is so cramped, as soon as we have all the T-shirts we head out as quick as we can.

When we finally reach the top of the stairs by the entrance of the market I take in a deep breath. "Wow, that was crazy!"
After the market we're still not done, and we head over to the store to buy cookies and treats to give out to the children as well. Then off to Epidor to buy Birthday cake for me. When we're finally home and have everything cleaned up and put away I can't wait to sit down. That really was a busy Saturday!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mom and Dad in Haiti

Saturday, December 19

It's 4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and Dana and I are relaxing on the couch in the living room chatting. At lunch we had participated in a Christmas cookie exchange and now full of cookies and snacks all we feel like doing is relaxing. I like that with friends you don't have to necessarily "do" anything and we are perfectly content lying back and just talking. A half an hour later, we hear the familiar beep, beep, beep of a car horn and I jump up. They can't be here already? Jason's parents' flight was supposed to arrive sometime after 4:00 so I didn't expect them here till at least 5:30. Jayden rushes to the door as Anoud opens the big heavy metal gate. Sure enough it's them! They look relaxed and happy and we soon here all about their amazing flight. I am so thankful! Last time they came, they had a bad experience, (check blog post in July), so the difference now is like night and day. Unexpected first class seats, delicious meal served for free, zipped through customs and no problems with their luggage. Very unusual for Haiti, I must admit, but I am glad! The sun dips down lower in the horizon and as soon as Mom and Dad's suitcases are inside I decide to drive Dana home. I prefer to drive before the sun goes down, especially when I'm driving by myself, since Port au Prince is, well Port au Prince, and I do need to be careful. The vehicles we drive here are not very reliable and I'd hate to get stuck on the side of the road in the dark. Night has fallen by the time I drive back, but I arrive home safely and can't help but be excited! It really is great that Jason's parents are able to spend Christmas with us, and I am definitely looking forward to the next two weeks!

Monday, December 21

Monday morning starts bright and early. Out of bed at 6:15 and on the road at 6:45. Traffic in Haiti in the morning can be crazy, so in order to make good timing to get to Wahoo Bay we need to be on the road before 7:00. The ride is uneventful for the two Jays and me, but Mom and Dad see all kinds of interesting things. Haiti can have a big impact on all five of your senses, but since this is Mom and Dad's second visit they seem a little less shocked! Just knowing what to expect really helps a lot! By 8:00 we are at the beach and spend some of the day enjoying the ocean. As I watch the waves churn up the sand and clouds flit across the blue sky, I can't help but wonder; is there a storm on its way?

Before we drive back we enjoy a beautiful sunset.

That night, bronzed by the sun and lulled by the waves we contentedly drive home.

Tuesday December 22

I double check our bags and then do a quick tour of the house. Windows closed, taps off, crumbs cleaned up, looks like we are ready. Jayden is already in his car seat and Mom and Dad are putting the last bags in the pathfinder. Today we are driving to the airport. As we drive I quickly go through the route in my mind. We don't really go by street names and It's been a couple months since I've driven to the airport last so I hope my landmarks haven't changed. People with special T-shirts on, clean the streets and I wonder for a moment if they've cleaned up the "goat pile" the landmark I need to get to the airport. Thankfully the garbage pile full of scrounging goats is still there and we make it to the airport without a single wrong turn. I'm relieved. As we walk to the terminal I worriedly check the sky. Something really seems to be brewing.

Dad gets to accompany Jason on a flight to Hinche and is amazed by the traffic on the runway. Goats, motorcycles and people all crisscross the runway oblivious to the approaching airplane. Thankfully they clear before the plane touches down.

After they return all of us make our way to the airplane. Since the airplane needs to be refueled. We wait on the grass by the MAF hanger. Jayden enjoys playing on the grass.

After strapping in the luggage and fastening our seat belts we taxi to the active runway and are soon on our way to Jacmel.

Within minutes a tired Jayden is fast asleep, his head held upright by the airplanes' seat belts.

The flight is beautiful and as I gaze out the window I take as many pictures as I can. Haiti from above is amazing.

As the airplane circles for landing this is what we see.

When we arrive we are greeted by a missionary who Jason flies and he takes us to our hotel. From our hotel, high up on a cliff, we have a great view of the ocean below.

That night the storm comes in. As thunder booms and lightning flashes I burrow deeper under the covers. Minutes later the sky opens and rain pours down. The land that has been dry for so long is finally getting rain. What a blessing.

The next morning I pull open the curtain expecting sunshine, but am greeted by a grey sky. The wind has picked up and the rain hasn't stopped. After breakfast we relax on couches, huddled under blankets! 22 degrees in Haiti feels cold for us, and since we don't use blankets normally it's a treat! After lunch the missionary comes back to pick us up and we visit "Haiti's home for children". He and his wife take care of 22 Haitian children in their home and after visiting with them and getting to know them better we hand out presents for the kids. Soccer balls are a real hit with the boys and the girls excitedly open their beading kits.

Other toys include note pads, pens, sandals, water bottles, hacky sacks and hair accessories. The boys don't waste anytime and are soon playing with the soccer balls outside.

After visiting another missionary's home where we hand out more gifts we head over to our second hotel. The rain has finally stopped, but the roads are muddy and many trees have fallen down in the storm.

When we reach the hotel the sun peaks out again and we jump into the still stormy ocean.

No Haitians are swimming today and they tell us they believe the ocean is angry.

That night the sunset is amazing.

December 24

We wake up to a cloudy morning, but within an hour the clouds have dissipated and we spend more time in the ocean and relaxing on the beach.

The cove we are in is amazing, surrounded by cliffs but we can't help but laugh as more and more people gather on the cliffs and sit for hours watching us! Jason has fun with this and using his good grip on the language spends a long time talking with the people. I take my tube out as far as I can and enjoy getting tossed by the big waves. Jayden makes sandcastles and soon makes friends with some of the other Haitian boys.

That afternoon we pack up our belongings and make our way back to the airport. As we pack Jayden pretends he's riding the airplane.

On the flight back, Jason flies over Canopy Verte, a massive tin shack town where Denise and the kids lived before we arrived. It is truly incredible to see all the thousands of tiny shacks crammed together.

The ride back home is uneventful, or as uneventful as driving in Haiti is, and we are happy to be back. As soon as Jayden gets inside he dashes for his Thomas the Train that his Tante Annedien has sent along. We were worried he would lose it during our trip to Jacmel so we hadn't taken it with us on our trip and he now refuses to let it out of his sight. As we put away our belongings and make sandwiches for dinner I feel content. Home in time for Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nicolas Francis

It's early morning, around 7:30 a.m. when I hear a knock on the door. Jayden is still in his pajamas, and we are both eating breakfast. I put my bowl of cereal aside and then go answer the door. When I open it I see a smiling Denise. "Madam," she says, "Nicolas ap ale na lekol e jodia li pote nef mayo. Eske ou ka fe foto silvouple?" (Nicolas is going to school and today he is wearing a new T-Shirt, can you take a picture please?) "Wi, mwen kapab" ( Yes, I can), I reply and start looking for my camera. Normally Nicolas wears a school uniform, consisting of a little checkered yellow shirt and tan pants, but since it's Christmas time, the school has given all the children one red shirt and one green shirt that they can wear to school. Meanwhile Jayden has clambered out of his high chair and escaped outside. Nicolas is his hero, best friend and like a big brother to him and Jayden is not going to miss out on this opportunity to see him. As I play with the settings on the camera, Nicolas posses against a wall. Seeing this Jayden does the same. "Jayden, move aside," I tell him, but he refuses to move. "Se oke", (It's okay) Denise laughs, so I take a picture of the two of them.

"Li bezwen pote chapo li osi," ( He needs to wear his hat also) Anoud pipes up and hands Nicolas the Christmas hat he received from the school as well. Sabboule doesn't think he should be missing out on the fun and finds a spot to stand on the other side of his big brother.

When I try to take a close up of the two brothers, Sabboule ducks. He can be so shy!

When the photo shoot is over, Anoud takes Nicolas to school and Jayden and I go back inside to finish our now soggy cereal. "Outside? Likka?" (Nicolas) Jayden begs as soon as he's finished his cereal. "You have to wait till he comes home from school." I reply, and Jayden sighs. Those two are thick as thieves. Both have way to much energy, love racing around, are very noisy and wild. They have sword fights with branches, races on the lawn, beat on buckets with sticks as if playing drums and get into all kinds of mischief. Sabbuole on the other hand is gentle, quiet and sweet. If it was up to him someone would just hug him all day. He likes colouring and can play quietly with toys for hours all by himself. Sometimes he tries to play with the other two boys, but that mostly ends up in him trailing behind them crying his eyes out because they are too rough and wild for his liking or he just can't keep up to their pace. How does a boy like Nicolas or Jayden do at school I wonder often. With that much energy? Nicolas is only four years old and goes to school five days a week from 8:30 - 2:30. Well, I shouldn't have worried.

That afternoon as I am cleaning the kitchen, there is another knock on the door. When I open it there stands a proud Anoud with a grinning Nicholas. He has just finished his last day of school before the Chritmas break and is now clutching his report card. "Ou bezwen gade li!"(You need to look at it!) Anoud says excitedly, so I do.

As you can see, in all his subjects he did good or excellent! And check out the bottom behavior section. According to it, he's always polite, disciplined, well behaved, good socially and participates well in activities! Wow, I am impressed and proud!

For Anoud and Denise who have only gone to school here and there when there parents or in Anoud's case guardians could afford it, and who can hardly read or write themselves this is incredibly important. Their child being able to go to school, speak French and get a good education means everything to them. It means that when he grows up he can get a good job, and do well for himself and his family. On behalf of Anoud and Denise I really want to thank the various people who provide support for Nicolas' schooling. I can't even start to describe how much this means to them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Hi, my name is Jayden and I'm two. It's winter time, but I'm not exactly sure what that means. I still can run around outside in my t-shirt and shorts and Mommy still puts the fan on for me whenever I go to sleep. Back in Canada, where we are from, they have snow, but I'm not really sure what snow is. To help me understand what it looks like Mommy and Auntie Dana put all this white cotton stuff around our house. I think they got a little carried away. People don't really walk around with snow on their faces, do they?

They tried to tape some on my chin, but it was itchy so I pulled it off. Another day Auntie Dana came over and Mommy and her decided to make gingerbread houses with snow. That morning I helped Mom "grind cloves" since she only had whole cloves. It was fun, but I did make a big mess!

That night Mommy said I didn't have to go to bed and that I could help build the house. My main task was eating the candies off the house that Mommy, Daddy and Auntie Dana put on. That was lots of fun!

I liked the gingerbread men and ladies that we made for the house too.

Daddy is the best gingerbread house decorator in the world! While Auntie Dana took pictures and Mommy was trying to get me to smile, he did ALL the work!

Mommy said that the white stuff on the house was snow and when I tasted it, it was good!

So apparently snow is itchy and sweet!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Help for Anse Rouge

As far as I can tell Haiti doesn't really have a spring, summer, winter or fall. Sure temperatures are warmer in the summer, and cooler in the winter, but year round temperatures are usually over 30 degrees Celsius, so that feels like summer to me. You never have to put on a sweater, socks, or even a coat for that matter. Flowers and plants grow year round, trees seem to lose their leaves year round and besides the different position of the sun in the sky you don't notice any significant changes. One thing Haiti does have though is dry seasons and rainy seasons. Dry season is exactly what it sounds like; days, weeks, and even months with no rain. Rainy season, however is not what I had expected. During rainy season it still is sunny everyday. The rain sometimes falls late afternoon but more often then not, after dark. Sometimes the rain pours down for less than 10 minutes, and sometimes it lasts for several hours. What's better rainy or dry? To much of either is bad, especially for a third world country like Haiti. When it rains, it pours and it doesn't take long for streets to flood!

Not only do gravel streets get washed out, but rivers rise, which make them difficult to cross by road because there are few bridges. Even worse, people living in small shacks in ravines get flooded out. Where does water want to go? Down of course. Where do people who have very little or no money live? Where no one else wants to live. In ravines, and ditches where they make their homes out of whatever material they can find. When it rains hard it doesn't take long for their homes to be damaged or destroyed.

When is it rainy season and when is it dry season? That's one thing I haven't been able to figure out. Different people have said different things. The only thing I know is that after weeks and weeks of no rain it will suddenly start raining every night. What happens if it doesn't rain for weeks on end? In a warm country like Haiti things start to dry up, shrivel and die. It means that water has to be rationed, since many people rely on rain water collected on their roofs to supply their homes with water.
Months without rain can make people lose all their crops. It means that the food they could hardly buy before becomes even more expensive. It means that their small gardens of food they planned to sell or use to feed their family is gone. It means they can't feed their children, it means desperation sets in and crime goes up.

Not all parts of Haiti are affected the same way. Denise said when she was in Jeremie (western tip of Haiti) for a couple days to bring her mother home, it rained every night. Other towns and villages are situated along larger rivers, which they can use to keep there crops irrigated.

Anse Rouge, a town in Northern Haiti; however, is really suffering. They never get a lot of rain in the first place but this prolonged period with no rain makes the town look like this. Just several days ago, Jason flew in to bring water and other supplies and these are the pictures he took.

From above it looks like a desert. You can see the runway on the top half of the photograph. Closer up you can see how barren everything looks.

Once the airplane is on the ground, you can see the effects of the drought even more. The dust is incredible in a town begging for water.

One of the missionaries living there shared this:
"Last year around this time, we were recovering from multiple hurricanes and tropical storms. Today, drought is causing even greater widespread suffering. Despite the destruction the hurricanes caused, they at least brought water, and people were able to plant and reap a harvest. With only one or two good rains since the spring, people are now facing almost certain famine. Even livestock are dying from the lack of water and food.

Manis spoke to some people in the community. As he recounted their stories to me, my heart broke. People are literally starving. One man, a trained mason and brick-layer, begged for any kind of work. “Even if you only pay me $100 (the equivalent of $12 US dollars) it’s fine,” he said, “Just something so I can buy some food for my children.”

Another lady left church so hungry she could hardly see straight. She was too embarrassed to come ask for food so she bought five cookies from a lady up the road – one for each person in her family. That night they were so hungry she sent one of her children to buy a little flour on credit so she could give them a little fried dough before they went to bed.

One of our school children was so hungry that when he received his plate of food he scooped it up with both hands and began shoving it into his mouth.

A pregnant woman, having no money, took her children with her to go buy some food on credit. The merchant, however, refused to sell to her since she already owed her and could not pay. As she turned to leave, her children burst into tears. They knew there would be nothing to eat that day.

There was a man watching the situation of the pregnant woman and her children that I described above. As he thought about what Manis had read in church, he realized that he could not let them go away hungry. Calling them back, he paid for some food for them. I believe that is what the love of Christ looks like when it is lived out through us. That man is not wealthy. He himself sometimes struggles to feed his children.He was willing to share part of his small salary in order to share the love of Christ." (written by Judy Dilus)

In two weeks time we hope to fly to Anse Rouge to distribute sacks of rice, beans, sugar, flour and cornmeal to the people there. If you would like to donate any money which would go directly to buying food for the people there please email us.