Friday, June 29, 2012

Things I'll Miss

Less than two weeks. I can't help but get excited about coming home, but I really don't want to wish away our last days here in Haiti.  So, I thought I'd make a list of the things that I'm going to miss the most when we are gone.

In no particular order...

~ The children at the orphanage - they have stolen my heart
~ New friends - Soliette, Joanne, Bee, Celine, Faby, Marie, Julian, Matt and the list goes on

~ The genuine friendliness of the people of La Gonave. You rarely pass someone without them saying hello and asking how you and your family are...even complete strangers.
~ Having Craig with us during the day every day for the past 6 weeks!!
~ Swimming in the ocean in crystal clear water at least once a week

~ My almost daily walks with Craig to get Toro (an energy drink)
~ The slow laid back pace of the island.
~ Having a Haitian cook once a week for our family for only $6.25 (This is actually a very good wage for a Haitian for those of you who think we're being cheap-o's) Check out this yummy goodness made from scratch!!

~ Having a Haitian house cleaner three days/week - let me tell you, at first, I was not at all comfortable with this idea...however, all the other missionaries use a house cleaner and they tell me that it's just as much if not more for the Haitians as it is for them.  They are providing a job and it does actually help quite a bit.  Ser Meigles has been marvelous! I have been SO spoiled.  She does our laundry (washes and line dries), cleans the bathrooms, changes sheets, does dishes (she will not let me wash dishes while she's in our house), mops floors, cleans windows, etc. It will be different to get back home and have these chores back for myself!
~ Sending the kids out to play with friends and not worrying if I don't see them for a couple hours :) It has been SO nice having all of these missionary kids for our kids to play with! There are 8 kids 10 and under living on the Wesleyan Compound. It is a very secure, safe area that is completely enclosed and locked with gates.  The kids know their boundaries and it's not rare if I don't see the kids some days until they come home looking for food.


~ Only buying groceries once a month. - I suppose I could try this out at home, but I'm afraid once I live two minutes from Meijer, I'll be back to my daily trips :)
~ Saving money on GAS!  We walk practically everywhere.

13 days and counting...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dolphins!

Here's the video of the dolphins from our boat ride over to the island on Saturday! I thought I was recording for a while when there were a lot more dolphins and then realized that I didn't hit record :( So, this is a video after some of them had already left, but it is still pretty cool!!  ENJOY!
video

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Half Way!

I know we're way overdue on an update, but I've been waiting for our internet to cooperate so that I can do a post with photos, but all week we have had very slow internet which doesn't allow us to upload photos or do any other major upload/downloading very easily or quickly.  But...we are in a third world country after all...I'm thankful to have internet at all.

So, I'll go back to the last time I posted and try to give you an update on what has been going on.

We've been spending most of our mornings up at the orphanage in meetings with Mme Solliette.  We have had a lot of progress with training her on the basics of budgeting and basic financial vocabulary.  She seems to understand what Craig is saying and has impressed us with what she is already doing to keep track of her expenses.  A little over a week ago, Craig had the opportunity to travel with Mme Solliette to the mainland to a market to purchase the food for the orphanage for the month!  As you can imagine, this was quite the adventure.  Craig got up at about 5:30am to catch the ferry across at 6am with Mme Solliette.  They did not have an interpreter for the day, so Craig said there wasn't a ton of communication, just a lot of observing and learning.  To buy food for a month for almost 80 kids is NOT an easy or quick task. However, Mme Solliette has the process down to a science. Craig was very impressed with her bargaining skills! He also had his fist ride in a tap tap - or public taxi.  Let me try to give you a mental picture - the back of a big truck - TONS of Haitians piled on top of each other and hanging out of the truck. He said he had a few people on his lap :)  I think this was a good time for Mme Solliette and Craig to see each other in a different environment and spending that time together formed an even stronger friendship.  Mme Solliette bought our family a watermelon and pineapple as a thank you from her to our family.  This past week, we have started training Mme Solliette on a computer program so that we will have instant access to all of her financial records.  That way, Okipe will know her balance and when she needs more money and where the money is being spent at all times.

Last Sunday we celebrated Jaron's 4th birthday!  I'm so thankful for the awesome group of friends we have here! We took the sailboat out to the sandbar and went snorkeling. What 4 year old gets to go snorkeling in the Caribbean on their birthday?! So cool :)  Then, we had a birthday party for him that evening on our friends' back porch. They had it all decorated with lights and super hero decor! One of the girls even made Jaron a Batman pinata!  It was a huge success and we had one happy four year old.

I've had the opportunity to start English classes in two different capacities.  First, we have two groups of six children from the orphanage who we are bringing down here to the Wesleyan compound during the afternoon for an hour and a half.  The first group comes on Monday and Wednesday and the other group comes on Tuesday and Thursday.  They are the older kids from the orphanage. We are thinking that if we start with the older ones, they will teach to the younger ones. Also, it's near impossible to teach all 75 of them by myself and be productive.  We've had fun playing games, learning new vocabulary and practicing our speaking. Craig and the kids (especially Morgan) have been helping me with the classes.  It's been fun (and tiring since it's the HOTTEST part of the day) to see the kids in a different environment. Some of them are learning very quickly and it's encouraging to hear them using English when we visit the orphanage!  I've also had the opportunity to help out with the adult English classes that some of the missionaries here are leading on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  Five of the workers from the orphanage are taking that class so it is fun to help them too!!

Some updates from the orphanage - If you've been following along, little David went home from the hospital last week.  He was there for about 9 days. He seems to be doing better, but still isn't 100%. I think sickness is just a reality here (like home). I think that a simple cold or virus just takes a bigger toll on your body here.  One of the cooks, Mme Phillipe is at the hospital now with one of her children. I've not made it there to visit her yet, but you can be praying for her. I know it is a tiring job.

You may remember me talking about my new friend, Faby. She works at the orphanage and was very lonely and so happy that we were friends.  Just last week, we had her over for dinner and went swimming with her. We were asking her if she liked it here on La Gonave. She said no. She didn't like that she couldn't leave and have freedom. She is only 23 and I think that she didn't realize how hard it was going to be to work at the orphanage.  Long story short, it just didn't work out with her working at the orphanage and she chose to go back to Port au Prince.  I told her that it made me very sad to think of her going to Port au Prince and living on the street (since she has no home or family) when she has a home here to stay in even though it's not easy.  She has continued to text me throughout all of this and I'm praying that God will be real to her and protect her physically and protect her heart and mind.  She is such a sweet girl who has had such a hard life already.

Morgan and Jaron are still doing well.  They both had their first successful friend sleepovers this past week!  (It helps that mom and dad are within walking distance away!) They were both so proud of themselves :) Again, I'm thankful for the families God has placed here during our time here. There are so many great people and fun kids to play with.  Jaron has not had a break from the mosquitoes.  They just love his sweet little body.  My heart just aches when I look at his arms and legs.  He's also been struggling with a rash on most of his body since the week we got here. He doesn't complain about it itching or bothering him at all, but it doesn't look normal.  We've tried prescription strength steroid cream which seemed to be the only thing to help.  It's pretty much gone except on his fingers which are now peeling as well.  So, if you would remember him - just pray that his skin would clear up and that those pesky mosquitoes would leave him alone!!

Finally, just Friday, Morgan and I had a girl date with Marty and her 16 year old granddaughter Hannah.  We were all getting low on groceries and so the four of us made a trip to Port au Prince and did shopping for five families!  We flew off the island in a little 6 passenger plane on Friday at noon. We arrived in Port a half hour later and our driver was waiting with the truck. He took us to grab lunch at the Haitian fast food place - Epidor.  It was surprisingly "American".  It looked like a mall food court.  Morgan and I both had cheeseburgers and coke.  :)  Then we spent the next 5 hours grocery shopping.  Morgan was a trooper and helped and didn't complain about being bored or tired more than once :)  We then made our 2 hour drive to Dan and Joy's house next to the wharf where we would sail out the next morning.  Morgan and Hannah decided to go swimming even though the sun was setting. It was a fun memory for them to swim in the dark. Then, Morgan woke up early and they were out swimming again by 6:30 that morning :)  The boat ride back to the island proved to be eventful! About a half hour into the journey, we were greeted by about 12-15 dolphins! They gave us quite the show and swam along with the boat for about 5-10 minutes.  It was so neat to see them so close! I was so happy that Morgan was able to see them. I know that she was hoping she would. She said that was her favorite part of Haiti so far :)  As we got to the middle of the sea, the waves became quite big.  I have to admit I was praying and fearing a little for our safety!  I even had a talk with Morgan about what she would do if she did happen to fall into the sea.  We were pretty wet from the waves by the time we made it safely onshore.  And our experienced Haitian sailors did a great job navigating the waters.  (and emptying the bottom of the boat 5 gallon bucket by 5 gallon bucket from the water accumulating!)

Today, Father's Day, has been a very restful, cool day.  The first three weeks that we were here, we had one night of rain.  It was dry and hot.  This past week, we have had rain three nights.  Today, we woke up to temperatures in the upper 70's and overcast skies!!  What a treat!!  I felt like I almost needed a jacket!  Today is the first day we've had rain during the day. It's made for a nice, peaceful Sunday.  (for me anyways...I think Craig and the kids are getting tired of being inside.)

This week we have more of the same - meetings and training with Mme Solliette, English classes with the kids and more planning/preparing for future teams who are coming.

Thanks for hanging in there for this long, picture-less post!  We are over half way done with our time here and are looking forward to returning home, but trying not to wish away our time here.  We miss and love you all back home and can't wait to see you all soon!



Monday, June 11, 2012

2nd Annual RJP Cutest Kid Contest

I know - this has nothing to do with Haiti...but I'm about a month behind on this contest...so bear with me!! Thanks!!

Click on HERE to see the contest rules on my ReneeJPhotography facebook page!!

Here is a photo from the session with last year's Cutest Kid Contest Winner, Tenley Kidder!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ups and Downs

I've been meaning to write for a while now but I just haven't had the right words.  Things are moving right along and I can't believe we've already been here almost three weeks.  Craig and I have been noticing quite a pattern. It seems that for about three days, we are doing really well - getting things accomplished, emotionally stable, etc. Then, we crash. It feels like we are emotionally drained, and we have no energy left to see anyone, talk to anyone or do anything.  So we don't. It's strange to feel that way. It's hard to describe, but as we were talking through this, we realized that it is a LOT of work to simply have what should be a basic conversation. What should take 30 seconds literally takes 5-10 minutes and a lot of energy and patience.  Everything takes longer. That's not always a bad thing...just takes getting used to. We walk everywhere. There are a lot of hills and the heat is intense. It's exhausting. Our bodies aren't used to it.  It is so dry. There is dust everywhere. You can wipe your counters off and in the next minute they are covered with dust again.

One of the hardest things for me has been the cooking. Not because I don't cook often at home, but because when I go to the cupboard, I have to make sure I de-ant our food before I serve it. When we first got here and I found that ants had gotten into the Vanilla Waffer snacks, I tossed them out and said, Oh well! The kids won't have that snack anymore! Well, if I threw away everything that was infested with ants, we wouldn't be eating. I got out some noodles and had to rinse off a TON of ants before boiling them. I still found a few in my water and a few on the plate, but they were dead...just a little protein, right?! It really is just a mind change, but it's hard.

Last week, we had a team from our home town here. It was nice to have people here from home, but it also made me miss home.  Jaron woke up one morning last week and came to our bed and snuggled and out of the blue started listing restaurants he missed! :)  He must have been dreaming - "Bdubs...Applebees...Welcome to Moes!...Culvers...!  Then it came time to say goodbye to our friends. It was really hard seeing them fly off the island. Morgan had a really tough time and it was hard to see her so sad.  Jaron on the other had said, Can we stay here forever and ever?!  Love him.

Morgan saying goodbye to Mrs. Sneed                Jaron and some boys found some shade!

However, with the downs, we have had some ups!  On what could have been our most awful day - saying goodbye to our friends - we also found an amazing semi-private spot of paradise on the beach! It was our little piece of comfort that afternoon.  An American lady owns the place and gave us an open invitation for any time we want to come back.  And we did. Already. We spent both Saturday and Sunday afternoon enjoying the peaceful waves and shade and sunshine.  There is sand for the kids, and amazing snorkeling for the guys :)

A swing, and even a pavilion/picnic area behind me - we have plans to have a family picnic there SOON!

Our family the day our friends left for home.

Another "up" is that we are definitely making great strides in creating strong relationships with some of the workers at the orphanage.  Friday, Joanne asked us to join her at a soccer match that afternoon.  We were already planning to go, but we were super excited that she wanted to spend that time with us!  We also invited Faby. Faby just moved to Anse a Galets from Port au Prince a couple months ago. She told me that she doesn't have any family. Both of her parents are dead and she doesn't have siblings. She lives at the orphanage to help care for the kids. She told me that she is very lonely.  We traded phone numbers at the soccer game and that evening, she texted me, "I don't know what to say but thanks cause you're my friend. Now I'm not alone. God bless you. Everything is okay my friend. I'm happy cause you gave me the answer."

Ann, Joanne (secretary at the orphanage), Faby, Renee, Morgan - at the soccer game

Today, I will be attending a funeral. One of the long time cooks at the guest house died pretty unexpectedly on Friday.  The women here have worked together daily for almost 20 years and they are like sisters.  I know this is a very hard time for them. I'm thankful that their load is a bit lighter right now since we don't have any teams here at the moment.  God knew ahead of time that they'd need this week for a break! Haitian funerals are very emotional. It is cultural to wail for your lost loved one. There will be a service followed by a processional to the cemetery.  A lot of the missionaries have taken their summer leave already and so I will be going to the funeral just as a "white face" to give support to the family.  Mme Gelles meant a lot to the people who live here. I hope that just by being there, we will be able to give some sort of peace to them. Just praying that God will use us today.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  We really do need them.  Morgan woke up one morning last week and asked if Craig and I were going to the orphanage again. I told her that that was what we were here for. She was pretty sad and was missing spending quality time with us.  So - we cancelled our plans and had some family time. Pray that we are sensitive to our kids. They are doing so well, but Morgan more than Jaron goes through that same pattern of highs and lows.  Pray that we are open with each other and attentive to each other's needs.  This week is a big week. We will be meeting with Mme Solliette tomorrow to start looking through her books and records.  Pray that communication would go smoothly with our new translator Bee.  Pray that Mme Solliette would be open and sense our hearts to help her.

Love you all!!