Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It’s 10:00 a.m. and already getting warmer.

At the front gate I unlock the small door in the heavy steel security gate, ease it open and slip through. Jayden follows close behind me. A UN truck is parked on the street a few meters away. It wasn’t there yesterday. As Jayden and I pass the truck, the soldier sitting in the back smiles and waves. A Haitian police truck is parked just down the road. “Must be beefing up security around the senator’s house,” I muse, “Oh, when will this election nightmare be over!”

I reach down and clutch Jayden’s hand, and together we walk down the dirt road, stepping around the ruts and mud puddles. “Bonjou, bonjou,” I greet the people who pass by us; their friendly responses of “Bonjou” are as warm as the rising Caribbean sun.

"I can’t see her,” Jayden complains.

“Just wait,” I tell him. “I think she’s behind the black truck.”

As we approach the truck, the old lady sees us coming. Her weathered face breaks into a wide smile, displaying several missing teeth. She waves both hands in the air to greet us. We wave back

We cross the street, and as I greet her, Jayden begins to inspect the goodies in her basket. “You can pick out some cookies, Jayden,” I tell him.

In a minute, he has a package in his hand. “A lollipop too, Mom?”

“No Jayden.”

“Ba li yon,” says the old lady. (Give him one).

Now I have two pairs of eyes pleading with me. “Non, li pa bon pou li,” I insist firmly. (No, it's not good for him). I don’t like lollipops because the sticks come off which make them a choking hazard. I press the money into her hands and we say goodbye. She blows kisses at us as we continue on our way.

A little further up the road, we are spotted by two young boys. Immediately they begin to run toward us. It is Palo and Wilson. They throw their arms around me in a big hug.

"Bonjou zammi yo mwen!" I say. (Good morning, my friends)

"Nou remen ou!" (We love you!")

I smile. "Mwen gen bon bon pou ou," (I have a treat for you) I reach into Jayden's pooh backpack for the small package of cookies. Jayden starts to cry.

"Sa pou li, nou pa ka pran li." Palo says. (That’s his, we can't take it.")

"Come on Jayden, sharing is caring." I urge him. He reluctantly lets go of the cookies and we divide them. Quick as a flash the boys pop the cookies into their mouths. "Mesi, mesi" they say, grinning.

“You’re welcome.” I tell them in Creole.

When the cookies are gone they start to sing. The song is about washing your hands before you eat or else you may get sick and die of cholera.

"But you didn't wash your hands before you ate your cookies," I tease them.

"We didn't really touch it," they assure me.

I laugh. True enough.

Jayden and I continue walking to the Williams’ house where MAF’s Pathfinder is parked. It’s been almost two weeks since a vehicle has been available, but Glee, who is a teacher, has agreed to ride with the pilots to school today so that I can use the Pathfinder. Today is errand day.

After unlocking the vehicle, I strap Jayden into his seat and then back the Pathfinder through the gate onto the street. When I get out to close the gate, Lovena walks by.

"Bonjou," I say, "koman ou ye?"(How are you?)

"Mwen bien." (I'm well)

She kisses my cheek, and we chat for a minute.

As I drive home, I remember how I first met Lovena several months ago while walking home from the store. She was walking home from school. After introducing herself, she asked me if I knew Jesus. "If you don't,” she said, “I'd love for you to come with me to church!"

My smile at the recollection turns into tight-lipped concentration as I maneuver the Pathfinder over some potholes as big as drainage ditches.

When I honk the horn outside my own gate, Denise comes out the small door and gets into the Pathfinder. She needs to cut more cereal boxes to make jewelery beads so she's coming with us.

At the school library, Jayden and I pick out five books each; we both love to read. Then we drive on towards the Apparent Project building.

“I feel much safer driving than walking,” Denise tells me.

“Why is that?” I ask her.

"Because when you're walking you can get kidnapped and sold for $5,000 US dollars!"

"You mean like when the family pays to get you back?"

"No. They sell you to the Jed that eats you."

"I've never heard of that." I reply, unsure of what or who the ‘Jed’ is.

"But if you truly know Jesus," Denise continues, "then they can't touch you and you will be returned to your family."

"Hmm, interesting. Did you by any chance hear this on the radio?"

(Haitian radio is full of all kinds of stories and “urban legends,” my favorite one being a bridge that is being built from Florida to Haiti that will be completed this October. When I argue the impossibility of this with various Haitians, the response invariably is "Americans can do anything!")

"No, I didn't hear this on the radio. The pastor from our church was talking about it. A lady from the church we attend lost her son that way and she will never see him again."

I nod, unsure of how to respond. I've never heard of this before, and it seems unlikely for someone to pay $5,000 US dollars for a piece of meat, if they really meant to eat you, that is. I've never heard of witch doctors having that kind of money either. Also, considering the number of news reporters here, surely someone would have jumped on that story if it was really true. I can just imagine the screaming headlines: BEWARE OF CANNIBALS IN HAITI.

I honk the horn insistently, and then nudge the Pathfinder into the intersection in front of a ‘tap-tap’ pickup truck, its cargo bed loaded with sacks of rice.

"Well, Denise,” I agree, “I guess I feel safer driving, too.”

At the Apparent Project, building materials are being unloaded from a truck.

"Great!” I say excitedly, “this must be the five houses that MAF paid for!”

I park and unbuckle Jayden, while Denise grabs her cereal boxes. At the front gate, I stand on my tip toes and peek over. The guard recognizes me at once and unlocks the door.

Inside, Denise gets right to work cutting the boxes into long thin tapered strips to make the beads for her jewelery. I find Shelley Clay, who runs the Apparent Project, in her temporary office where she is working on her computer. Shelley tells me about the sewing program that a sewing team has started. I inspect the wallets and card holders a group of women are working on. It’s nice work.

For the next few hours, Shelley and I brainstorm ideas: the merits of sewing larger purses; the uses of tea tree oil; how to help moms with babies; and jewelery. Then we go downstairs to see Baby Pierre.

Vesline, his 17-year-old mother is currently living at the Apparent Project and she smiles shyly at me. "Vesline's mother died suddenly two weeks ago of cholera," Shelley tells me. "It's so sad." Thankfully, Baby Pierre looks healthy enough, and he smiles and coos in his sleep.

We walk back upstairs and I go check on Denise. She is almost done cutting up the cereal boxes. I help her finish up, and then we say goodbye to Shelley and all the artisans working at the tables.

Outside, the sun is a ball of fire. I brush back the hair from my face in the burning afternoon heat.

The black Pathfinder is like a baker’s oven; even the A/C blowing hard can’t cool it down. I roll down the windows a little, hoping to catch a breeze.

A twenty minute drive later, we’re back at our gate.

Denise waits in the Pathfinder with Jayden, while I run inside to get our empty 5-gallon Culligan bottles for the last necessary errand; a trip to the store to stock up on food and drinking water. Tomorrow, the names of the participants in Haiti’s runner-up elections will be announced, and the ‘word’ on the street is that things could erupt in violence all over again.

Oh, when will this election nightmare be over!


  1. ahh how nice it must be to feel the heat....can't wait for summer to come to B.C. cum'n camp'n with us this summer??

  2. A little cold sounds good to us :) Would love to come camping! Can't wait to see you all, especially Amanda!

  3. Thanks again for sharing bits and pieces of your life, it's always so interesting to hear how you do things over there. Hope all is well, take care.

    PS You can give Jayden a sucker once in a while, just make sure you're with him when he eats it.

    Love the Jansens

  4. Hi Will
    So did you find out what Denise was talking about? Or if it came from the radio? Is Shelly adopting that baby or not?
    We really are missing that nice warm weather.

  5. oliviadwhdvdc sdg@fsdvcxzqafsshajsvag agsjasgdga
    olivia always wants to type to someone.... so i let her to you this time..:) she say's it is for Jayden:)

  6. Hi Olivia! I bet you are getting so big! I'm getting bigger and taller every day and I like to tell my Mom this! I will make a card and mail it to you if your Mom emails your new address.. Love Jayden

  7. Dear Jason, Wilhemina & Jayden,
    Hello, our names are Yolanda & Theo Groeneweg. We have 2 adult daughters, Brittqany and Kaitlyn, and we live in Ontario.
    Your family does not know us as of yet, but we have had the pleasure of getting to know you through your wonderful website! Our dear family/friends, Chris and Joyce Klaassen,have gotten our hearts hooked with the work you and many others are doing in Haiti. We have lifted our prayers when Chris came to Haiti to give a hand last year. We as so excited for Joyce and Chris preparing to leave next week to give of their hearts once again.
    May you all be blessed with good health, peace, His precious love and protection, and! a healthy dose of joy and exuberance
    as you embrace the dear people of Haiti.
    Love, Yolanda& Theo

    P.S. we're not to 'computer savy,' so I hope this was a good way to contact you. :)