Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday Jocemine!

Today the little princess turned one!

Chocolate cake with a birthday candle!

New dresses, shoes, hair clips, stuffed animals and a balloon!

and fun times with brothers and friends!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Trip to the Village IV

I wake up to goats baaing, and roosters crowing. Early morning light filters in through the screened windows. I guess it's time to get up. I roll out of bed, get dressed and then change Jayden who has woken up as well. We head downstairs and enjoy a delicious breakfast of Haitian fritters. Once we are finished breakfast we walk to Caleb and Debbie's house to borrow their vehicle and then drive on over to the camp. I'm excited! The camp is where we lived for three months while we studied the Creole language and I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends there. As we drive up we see a group of boys sitting under a tree. We make our way over and get reacquainted. "Kote Mona?" (Where is Mona?) I ask Sonson, Mona's brother. "Na Kay la" (In the house) he responds. "Eske ou ka rele li pou mwen silvouple?" (Can you call her for me please?) I ask and he nods. Minutes later he returns with a grinning Mona and her older sister Renise. I hug her and she hugs me back. It's so fun to see her and talk to her! I'm glad to see that she looks healthy and feels strong. I ask her how old she is now and she says she is eight. “You're still pretty small for eight,” I tease her in Creole, but she just grin and shakes her head. Jason has meanwhile gotten involved in an animated conversation with the group of boys and I hear their shouts of laughter as he jokes with them. We walk over to the group and it is then that I notice a small naked baby, crawling on the ground. When I take a closer look I see that he's actually a toddler and that his tiny feet are paralyzed. Not being able to get where he wants to go, or not seeing his parents around he bursts into tears. His cries break my heart. Tiny flies buzz around his eyes, and his body is covered in dirt. I walk over and pick him up. "You will get your clothes dirty," some of the little girls around me point out as I hold him on my lap. I just shrug. Meanwhile the little boy has stopped crying and looks up at me. I hold him close. A few minutes later a young Haitian man walks up to me and says. "Sa Petite Mwen." (That's my child) "Li rele Kason" (His name is Kason). He is friendly and doesn't seem to mind that I'm holding the boy. "Kote Mama li" (Where is his mother?) I question. And he points to an entrance of one of the camp buildings nearby. I pick up Kason and then make my way over to his mother. The woman is only wearing an over sized T-shirt and greets me with a shy "Bonjou". She has some hot coals on the ground and is boiling a pan of water over them. I sit on the steps close to where she is sitting and begin to talk. Mona makes herself comfortable on my lap and I hold her close. Seeing me sit on the dirty steps the young woman instructs her husband, who has wandered over, to get me a chair. I tell her it's not necessary, but they insist, so I comply. Talking with her I learn that she is only 19 years old and from Port au Prince. Her mother and several other family members died in the earthquake. Since their house was destroyed her and her husband and two children moved to the camp as refugees. She has a four year old daughter, who watches us as we talk.

She's a very cute, friendly little girl and soon runs off to play with Jayden.

Kason, her two year old son, was born paralyzed and although his body seems strong and healthy, his feet are tiny and small. She gives him a bag of Dominican cheeses and he is quite pleased.
Once he's finished she passes him some sandals which he wears on his hands. Pulling himself on his hands he drags his legs behind him. He can move surprisingly fast, but the dirt and the dust makes for one dirty boy.
Once the water is boiling she adds some spaghetti noodles and waits for them to cook. "Eske ou gen kek rad pou mwen?" "Do you have some clothes for me?" she asks, pointing at her shirt. I shake my head. "Nou pa pote anyen" (We didn't bring any). Meanwhile Jayden playing with her daughter has run into the room where the family lives so I go inside to get him out. Looking inside I see how bare it is. Only some bunk beds that belong to the camp. There is almost no personal affects at all.

Just then the door opens to the room beside, where some young men are living. Their music is on and from my spot I can hear the words of this song.

She calls out to the man on the street
"Sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Think twice
'Cause it's another day for you and me in paradise
Think twice
'Cause it's another day for you
You and me in paradise

Staring at the meager breakfast of spaghetti noodles and realizing how little she has and all the sorrows and trouble this nineteen year old girl experienced, my heart breaks. Her first child at fifteen? Her second child a paralyzed boy? Her mother and other family members dead? No home of her own and no proper clothes to wear? Compared to hers my life is just another day in paradise.

Do I have anything I can give her I wonder? I check my purse and then notice Jason’s wallet. Shifting Mona over I secretly pull out some money. I then lean closer and reach for her hand. I close my hand over hers and then transfer the money. “Bondye bay sa pou ou” (God gives that to you) I whisper. She nods, looks up at the sky and smiles at God. “Mesi” (Thank you) she whispers.

Are you going to walk to the river with us? Jason calls, surrounded by his admiring fan club of boys. “Okay” I respond. Once more I grasp the young woman’s hand and then lifting Mona off my lap I stand up. I say my goodbyes and together with Mona join the group walking to the river.

The scenery is beautiful and I soak up the morning sunshine.

Mountains, fruit trees, sugar cane fields, cliffs, the winding river.

I follow the steep narrow path down all the while holding Mona’s hand.

I sure love this girl! At the river we sit down in the grass and just enjoy nature’s beauty.

Later back at the camp, Mona invites me to her house, so after leaving Jayden with Jason, Marin and I walk over. At the house I get to meet Mona’s father for the first time. He is very friendly and shakes our hands enthusiastically in welcome. The entire time we were doing our language school he was working in the Dominican Republic so this is the first time I get to meet him. Although their house is small and simple, it is still quite nice compared to the other homes in the village.

It consists of a dining room/living room and then two bedrooms. The kitchen and bathroom are outside.

Peeking into the second bedroom I’m surprised to see a chubby baby boy fast asleep.

I question Mona and she explains that this is her new baby brother Jethro. He sure looks healthy! Mona’s family now consists of Renise, Sonson, Mali, Mona, Rosa and Jethro. As we walk out the gate Mona’s mother walks in. Seeing us she smiles broadly and gives me a big hug. Rosa, who was with her carries her and Mona’s dolls lovingly in her arms. These were the dolls from Oma Krul that we had handed out a year ago and it’s wonderful to see how happy they are with them. Although a little dirty and missing some hair and clothes you can tell the dolls are well loved.

After a walk to the other side of the river, we say goodbye to all our friends and drive back towards the village square. There we tour the hospital and eat lunch at the snack bar.

Once we’ve finished our Haitian hamburgers we head back to the hotel and pack up our things. We thank and say goodbye to Neil, the owner of the hotel, and then head back to the airplane.

It’s time to head back home. Looking out the aircraft window I catch my final glimpses of Pignon, before it disappears from sight.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trip to the Village III

Staccato rain hammers down on the tin roof, drowning out the words of the elders’ prayer. I strain to listen, but the noise is deafening and I can hardly catch a single word. A strong wind rushes through the wall-less worship center and I shiver. Power, God’s power. The force of His rain is incredible. I close my eyes tighter and bow my head. God is all powerful. The elders’ voice becomes louder and louder as he shouts to be heard over the thunderous noise, but I still can’t discern his words. Finally he stops and I open my eyes. A dog lying at my feet, stirs and looks up. I hear a baby crying nearby and then a mothers’ gentle “shush”.

Mothers, nursing babies, dogs. The worship center has no walls, thereby signifying it is open to all. Since most Haitians feel they need church clothes and church shoes to attend a “real” church, each Sunday Pastor Jean Jean holds a second informal service in the worship center to encourage people to come as they are. When I first attended an afternoon service there, about 30 people would come but now the crowd has grown to well over 200. Bare feet or runners, T-shirts instead of dress shirts and ties, jeans instead of black Sunday pants, simple work skirts instead of Sunday dresses, it really doesn’t matter. People still wear their best, but not everyone can afford Sunday clothes and Pastor Jean Jean wants them to know that although men may look on the outside, God looks on the heart, and their hearts are just so much more important.

Just as the sermon begins the rain dies down a little, so the words of Isaiah 6 can be clearly heard. With Jayden on my lap, I shift in the wooden bench for a more comfortable position and focus my attention on the reading of God’s Word.

Earlier that morning we had woken up to Haitian soup for breakfast, something none of us had ever had before, but always willing to try new and different things, I ate the unusual food.

Later, waiting outside for Kristie, Pastor Jean Jean’s wife, to pick us up for church, Jayden fed leaves to a goat tied to a nearby tree.

At 8:15 Kristie arrived in a pickup truck and we enjoyed a 20 minute bumpy but beautiful ride balancing in the back.

The first service we attended began at 8:50 and was held in an actual church building. Many people walked long distances from all over the area for the service, and the church was full. The service lasted 2 hours and was a special time of praying, preaching and singing.

After church we ate lunch at Pastor Jean Jean and Krisitie’s house. As soon as lunch was over it was time for the informal afternoon service in the worship center. That service was my favorite part of the day.

When the service was over Marin, Robert, Jason, a visiting Peruvian named Palousa, and some Haitian children went for a walk. I stayed at the house with Jayden, and was sure glad I did, when an hour later they all returned soaking wet.

Although it had been dry when they left, another rain storm drenched them as they walked back. Thankfully a team had brought clothing along to handout, and Marin, Robert and Jason were able to change into some dry clothes. After a simple meal of soup and bread for dinner, Pastor Jean Jean and Kristie drove us back to the hotel. The road was so muddy it felt more like we were driving over slushy snow and we kept fishtailing. “Turn off the lights, Jean Jean,” Jayden would whisper loudly in 5 minute intervals. Willingly Pastor Jean Jean would comply and without the vehicles lights we were surrounded by impenetrable black, darkness. “Ooh”, we would all say, and Jayden thought this was a great game.

Now, back at the hotel I try everything to get Jayden to go to sleep. Although it’s way past his bedtime he’s just too hyper. It must have been that chocolate milk energy drink that Kristie gave him with dinner, I muse, as I watch the bouncing boy. When Jayden kept begging for chocolate milk with his meal, Kristie remembered she still had some. It wasn’t till he was drinking it that I read the words “Energy drink.” Figuring for one time it was probably harmless, I let him finish it. That was a big mistake! Finally close to midnight he dozes off. Exhausted, I pull the sheet up to my nose to protect me from mosquitoes and minutes later I doze off as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trip to the Village II

I step into the hotel kitchen and find our room keys already waiting on the counter. After greeting the kitchen staff and explaining who we are, we make our way up to our rooms to deposit our luggage. The rooms are nice and spacious with Ikea furniture, new sheets and towels, freshly painted walls, a ceiling fan that works, and screened windows!

“You are spoiled,” I tease Marin, as we try out the comfortable beds. “You should be roughing it to get the real feel of the village!” She just laughs at me, as I ooh and aah over the room. Once our bags are stored we head back downstairs to the kitchen where the staff has lunch waiting for us. Lunch is a true Haitian meal of rice and beans, red sauce, pieces of chicken, a bowl of corn, pieces of mango and Haitian lemonade. It all tastes delicious!

By the time we’re finished lunch, Debbie Lucien is already waiting with her vehicle to take us to the market. I love Pignon’s market and am excited to give Marin and Robert a tour. The vendors are friendly and we have a fun time looking at baby chicks, goats, vegetables, cornmeal, clothing, hair accessories and shoes.

Marin, who works in a market in Holland, really enjoys the market experience. Robert says he can’t imagine buying anything there for a number of reasons and I just laugh. As we check out the wares, vendors keep trying to sell me large woman sandals for Jayden to wear or toys or candy for him, and I just shake my head. “Sandal yo tro gwo, li pa bezwen sa.” (“Those sandals are too big,” and “He doesn’t need that”) I keep repeating as they come up with a new product that I absolutely have to buy for him.

An hour later, once we’ve finished the market tour, Debbie brings us back to the hotel and we wait on the steps for Jason. In the meantime the sky has gotten gray and dark clouds are rolling in. It’s a relief when I finally hear the sound of the airplane’s engine and he’s safely on the ground.

Not even 15 minutes later the sky opens and the rain comes down.

After a few minutes I join Marin outside. The rain is so refreshing.
An hour later the sky is clear again, but the rain has left a muddy mess in its wake. As we walk over to Caleb and Debbie’s house for a cookout/barbecue it’s impossible to avoid the mud and it cakes our shoes and splatters our legs.

At the house we wipe it off as best as we can and then enjoy the hot dogs, hamburgers and Haitian side dishes that our hosts have carefully prepared. Besides us, there are three other work teams, which brings the number of people there to well over 100. After an enjoyable time of food and fellowship we walk back home as the sun is setting. Mules and donkeys plod toward us in the twilight, carrying their burdens of water bottles strategically balanced in hand made saddle bags.

Palm tree fronds scrape the darkening sky as children shout with laughter and roosters crow.

I love the sights and sounds of the village, so different from the busy city. Later that night, lying on a blanket on the grass airstrip we admire God’s majestic handiwork as we study the star formations. O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trip to the Village I

July 17, 2010

“Get down on the ground”, I yell to my sister Marieke, swinging beside me on the swing set. The earth rumbles and begins to shake with increasing intensity. Still swinging in full motion I half jump, half fall to the ground and roll over onto my stomach. I look around and see that we are in an open grassy field. As the shaking becomes stronger, fear grips me. I wake up sweating. Opening my eyes in my own bedroom the images of my dream begin to fade. Another earthquake nightmare. I sigh, roll over and hug my pillow tightly. Morning is dawning and the soft light filters through the cream colored curtains. How many more of these dreams will I have? I wonder. Every time I’m in a different place, with different people, but it always feels so real. According to my cousin Marin, who has studied psychology, these dreams are a good thing and a way that my brain is processing the experience. Might as well think positive I guess, but each time I wake up from one I feel drained. I lay quietly until ten minutes later Jason’s cell phone alarm goes off. Today we hope to fly to the village and there are still a lot of last minute things to do, so I carefully crawl out of bed. I quickly brush my teeth and get changed. Jason meanwhile has gotten out too, and is getting dressed in his pilot uniform. Once he’s dressed I smile at him. He sure looks handsome in his uniform! I go check on Jayden but notice that he is still sleeping. Willing him to wake up, I quickly change him, but he hardly stirs. Oh well, I guess I’ll go make some sandwiches for breakfast for us to eat in the car. Marin and Robert are up too, and when I reach the kitchen they are already preparing their sandwiches. With our bags packed the night before, it doesn’t take long for us to get ready and at 6:45 we are out the door. Now sitting in the car, Jayden is awake and hungry. “I want bread Mama, I want some bread.” I pull out his bread box and after he prays, he starts to eat. “I want more, Mama. Please, Mama.” He looks up at me, begging with his big blue eyes. “Alright”, I sigh, “you can eat some of mine”. I open my bread box and he begins to eat. “ You better save some for Mom,” I tell him. He looks at me for a moment and then hands me a small crust. I eat it, and then notice that the rest of the bread is already gone. “What happened to all Mommies’ bread?” I ask Jayden. “It’s in my tummy” he replies, smiling, patting his stomach. I laugh and tickle him. I guess he was hungry. I’m really not that hungry myself anyway, so I take a drink of my water bottle instead. Since it’s still early, the drive to the airport doesn’t take long and 15 minutes later we arrive at the domestic terminal. I notice the parking lot hasn’t changed as I help Jayden over the giant mud puddles. Inside, Jason fills out the manifest and then we head out through the doors to the tarmac. It’s Saturday and Jason’s first flight is to La Gonave. Not having enough seats available for all of us, he takes only Marin and Robert with him. I wait with Jayden in the MAF office and raid Jason’s candy supply. As Jayden reads his Thomas book, I take the opportunity to catch up on emails. Less than an hour later Jason, Marin and Robert are back and he now has time to drop us off in Pignon. I grab our carry on suitcase and purse and minutes later we are all seated in the Cessna 206. “I go in airplane! I fly to Grandpa’s house!” An excited Jayden bounces up and down on his seat. “I see Grandpa!”

“Not today Jayden” I gently tell him and give him a hug, but he’s not listening. He’s simply too excited. Giving up on trying to explain that we aren’t flying to Canada, I ready myself for takeoff.

Once the bags have been strapped down, our seat belts securely fastened, and Jason’s checklists completed, we taxi to the active runway. As the wheels pick up speed, I peer out of the window! I love the powerful feel of the aircraft as we lift off into the hazy blue sky.

It’s been six months since I’ve flown in one of the MAF airplanes and I always love the experience. I gaze down at Port au Prince below and only now do I see the full extent of the tent cities. Field after field of once vacant land has now become small towns of tents and tarps.

With a bird’s eye view, you can really see the changes everywhere. Before long Port au Prince
vanishes from view, giving way to rolling green and brown mountains.

As we fly further, clouds breeze past us and the ride gets a little more bumpy. Feeling myself get sick I reach up by my head for the sic sac. I fight the waves of nausea as I read the instructions on the paper sack. In case of motion sickness, focus on a stationary object ahead, it reads. I pick a mountain top and stare at it, willing my stomach to stop rolling. Slowly the sensation subsides. I look over at Jayden and he doesn’t seem affected at all. Since we are sitting in the tail section the bumps affect us the most. Looking towards the front of the plane I’m happy to note that no one else looks sick. When 10 minutes later, Pignon’s airstrip comes into sight, I’m relieved. I really need to get on the ground. As the airplane comes in for landing the ride becomes bumpy again. This time I really have to fight not to throw up, but I somehow manage not too. Once we’ve landed and my feet are back on solid ground I instantly feel better. People come to greet us and I smile and wave! It’s been a year now, since I’ve visited Pignon, and I’m excited about the weekend ahead! Jason quickly helps us unload the backpacks and our small suitcase before readying the aircraft for takeoff once again. He has a few more flights to do before joining us in Pignon. From the airstrip we make our way over to the MAF office and then carry our belongings to the newly built hotel, run by a friend of ours.

It wasn’t completed yet when we did language school in the village a year and a half ago, but it’s done now, and I’m looking forward to spending the next two nights here..

Friday, July 16, 2010

Special Moments and Seeing the Sights!

This last week has been full of special moments, fun times, and interesting experiences. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I'm going to post pictures of the highlights of the past week and let them speak!

Here we are celebrating Sabboule's 3rd birthday. His birthday is actually in the beginning of May, but since we weren't here he didn't have a party. Denise asked if we could still celebrate it and of course I said yes! He loved it!

Since I have to make everything from scratch, making meals can be time consuming! I really appreciate the help Marin and Robert have been giving me and I'm sure they've learned a thing or two about cooking! Here they are making homemade pizza.

It was very delicious, as you can tell!

In our spare time we've been going on walks and exploring the neighborhood!

We've seen beauty...

and filth...


and tent cities...

We ate at Epidor, a Haitian fast food restaurant close by,

and helped out at a feeding program...

We visited downtown Port au Prince...

and took pictures of the Presidential Palace...

We visited the Look Out, where we had an amazing view of the city...

and ate lunch at the Baptist Mission.

We drove up the mountain and visited the ruins of Fort Jacques, also badly affected by the earthquake...

and just enjoyed spending time together!