A few nights ago, while searching for shooting stars in the clear Haitian sky, I was talking with a friend about sharing our stories and how different they would be if told on the same day each year. For example, me sharing what’s going on in my life with you today looks drastically different than if we were to have chatted together on January 1st of 2017, 2016, 2015, etc. This statement got me thinking about just how much change each year brings, especially all that came on the dates ending with the year 2017. So many truly bittersweet ‘lasts’ followed by major life changes and an abundance of foreign ‘firsts’.
While the new year is a time of reflection of the year(s) past and dreaming for the year(s) to come for all, in Haiti there is an entirely new layer of anticipation and excitement around January 1st. It is the day the former (and future, if you ask me) Pearl of the Caribbean gained her independence from France in 1804, the beginning of the good and the bad that would become of the first and only successful slave revolution in the world to date. It is a day of celebration and traditional soup joumou (pumpkin/squash soup)! For us all, it is a day of remembering and honoring what was and looking forward towards what is to come.
In honor of the roller coaster that was 2017, here is a listen into the soundtrack that played along the beginning of my post-grad ride (as Spotify so kindly reminded me):
Both in my senior year and in Haiti, I’ve taken quite a few “L’s” in 2017. And as Big Sean so kindly reminds us, “if you a real one, then you know how to bounce back… (Bounce Back).” Here’s to praying that I’m a ‘real one’ in 2018 and that I can learn to ‘bounce back’ faster and stronger from the inevitable “L’s” in the new year. This past year I also learned that “I got loyalty got royalty inside my DNA (Kendrick Lamar, DNA.).” Enjoying old and new relationships, playing my senior season of softball with a team and coach I would go to war for, living in Haiti, and working with Disciples’ Village has taken my sense of loyalty to those I love, work for and with to a whole new level. In the words of Johnnyswim, “love at any cost is a bargain, it’s quite the bargain (Summertime Romance).” Learning to better love and be loved in the past year has shown me what a true and priceless gift relationships and fellowship truly are, especially that found in family (my mother refers to herself as ‘Queen Mum’, hence the royalty inside my DNA) both in the United States and now in Haiti.
In 2017, especially in transitioning from my known arenas of athletics and academia and beginning my economic development and microfinance work in Haiti, I have become well acquainted with the many unknowns that come with new life stages and working in developing countries. As Switchfoot quite accurately says, “My lungs and I were born to fight, sometimes I’m not sure what I’m fighting for, but death ain’t the only end in sight, cause this ain’t a battle it’s a lifelong war (Hope is an Anthem).” But as the song continues, “My heartbeat, my oxygen, my banner, my home, my freedom, my song, Your hope is the anthem of my soul.” Through the unknowns and uncertainty in traversing new waters and new fields (both academic disciplines and the kind you grow crops in), I have found my anthem and source of hope. I have learned that “maybe I don’t know, but maybe that’s okay” if my next step is to seek the answers and act upon them (Jon Bellion, Maybe IDK), because “…I guess if I knew tomorrow, I guess I wouldn’t need faith, I guess if I never fell, I guess I wouldn’t need grace, I guess if I knew his plans, I guess He wouldn’t be God.” For, “without wonder, how could life ever be wonderful (Switchfoot, Begin Forever).”
Grace is the anthem of my days in Haiti, prompting me to respond with, “I wanna sing with all my heart a lifelong song, even if some notes come out right and some come out wrong (Switchfoot, Live it Well).” And trust me, especially in learning Haitian Creole, I’ve had some notes come out right with many more coming out wrong. But “I got one life and one love, I got one voice, but maybe that’s enough, cause with one heartbeat and two hands to give, I got one shot and one life to live.” Grace allows me to keep pushing, keep dreaming, keep finding ways that don’t work, and keep working towards what could be. Love and grace provide what is needed to keep giving, keep speaking, and “Keep On Keeping On (Colony House).”
Looking forward to what is ahead for me in Haiti with microfinance and economic development, “As I walk this great unknown, questions come and questions go. Was there purpose for the pain? Did I cry these tears in vain? I don’t want to live in fear, I want to trust that You are near, trust your grace can be seen, in both triumph and tragedy.” And, “I have this hope, in the depth of my soul, in the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go (Tenth Avenue North, I Have This Hope).” And as Aha Gazelle so confidently says, “Ima problem and they know it, you can’t stop me from where I’m going… (All Gold Party).” Are you “Ready for It?” (T. Swift).
December brought with it many joys and much hope for what is to become of my continued time in Haiti. I’m learning to create and operate my own systems from which to work and one day succeed from. My heart overflows with love and gratitude for the country and people I get to work with and for each day. Dreams and vision for the future of Haiti fill my heart and mind and help shape my steps for today. Here are some of the happenings of December:
- First trip out of the area without a man! Another female working with DV and I drove by ourselves to TFB to pay our lovely employee and deliver the dust pan to the coop. We were met with a hole in the feed box dug by a rodent and a beautiful record of the eggs produced by the layers—a record I thought was lost. Mesi Jezi for the small victories!
- NEW ROAD TO VIELO!! While I previously thought I enjoyed the hike up the mountain to Vielo, I sure enjoyed now getting to ride in a car for the first half of the trek. It was beautiful to see new grounds in Haiti, farming land with larger trees and dense crops. This is also a major win for moving forward with infrastructure development in Haiti.
- Most brilliant shooting star I’ve ever seen during the early morning of a meteor shower while making coffee
- Museum in Montrious- on beautiful grounds of a former plantation turned into a resort. “Not in Haiti anymore…” The tour guide gave a brief overview of everything from the voyage from Africa to be sold as slaves, the native Taíno people of Hispaniola, the living conditions and lack of accommodations on the plantation, development of Haitian creole, Haiti gaining her independence from France (in 1804 on this very day), Haiti aiding Venezuela and Bolivia in gaining their independence (I had not heard this before), Voodoo’s history in the nation, and a variety of other things that I had and had not heard or read before. I would like to go back when I have more time with a smaller group to ask more questions and read through more of the displays.
- Trip to Grand Goâve on the other side of the island to visit a team from Belmont Athletics- my joy overflowed! It was unbelievably refreshing to spend time with people so near to my heart and still get to serve the people and country I dearly love with much less responsibility. My time across the island brought much clarity, joy, and strength as well as a new friendship with the woman who runs the organization we stayed with. Time with Ms. Jenny brought much encouragement and insight from someone a little further down the path than I. She shared how she worked through some of the difficulties I am experiencing, giving me the push I needed to keep moving forward. She too is starting to implement business training in her organizations worked, and we discussed some of the materials we have come across and what has and has not worked so far. Grand Goâve’s beauty is also beyond comparison. The mountains were greener, the cities more developed, the speech slower, the air cooler, and the sunsets more vibrant. It was a beautiful time and place filled with awe inspiring people and memories that I will cherish for many years to come. Time at the beach on Sunday also brought new views, new foods, and new items being sold by vendors.
Times of Growth and Thought-inducing Lessons
- Christmas marketplace at Pizza Amour with many vendors/social enterprises, both for and non profit, who offered a wide variety of products from soaps to coffee to Haitian leather goods to bags made out of water bags—8 ounce bags that clean drinking water comes in. All interesting- creating value now but how sustainable is it? Eventually people (read Americans) will no longer need bags and jewelry that are piling up in their closets. Need a product that is needed on a reoccurring basis.
- After an early morning run to the beach to watch the sunrise, I followed a little guy who often hangs around our campus as he walked quite far to retrieve water before getting ready for school. I’ve heard hundreds of stories about kiddos and mamas walking miles upon miles a day to get water for cooking, drinking, cleaning, etc., but something about following in a few of the footsteps of a sweet little guy near to my heart brought the weight of the reality of the situation he and thousands of others face each day. What hurts the most is knowing that it doesn’t have to be this way.
- I’m slowly learning that I have forgotten how to feel—challenged to find two words a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, to describe my feelings at that time. My records of the December days are filled with sentences reporting that I had yet to be able to label my feelings.
- Finally able to label feelings of loneliness in the midst of a crazy busy week surrounded by plenty of people. So strange. I guess it’s more of a lack of being truly known rather than lonely because of a lack of solid interaction.
Continued Chicken Coop Activities
- Received the coop/egg records I had been asking for after several miscommunications- cross referencing the eggs laid per day and eggs sold to find them almost identical. And man, the feed from our supplier must be DANG GOOD. Almost an egg a day per chicken—2 more eggs per chicken per week than expected!
- Several improvements to the coop in preparation for the addition of more layers- lips on the nests so the eggs don’t fall out, filling the roosts with greenery to make them soft and a desirable spot to lay eggs, filling in the feed box with concrete to ward of a pesky rodent, spending hours training the chickens to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes- it was hilarious to observe the lead layer freak out when I moved the eggs from her hole in the ground and into the boxes. She walked from box to box, stopping and squawking at each one, until finally hoping up into one to lay an egg. Mission (temporarily) accomplished.
- Time spent crunching numbers for the coop expenses and revenues, trying to find out what needs to be changed to make it sustainable, self sufficient, and replicable for our other villages
- Teacher/egg seller in TFB approached me saying (in Creole) we needed to get more chickens in the coop so she could buy more eggs from us—yes ma’am!
- Adventure to find the Haiti Broilers chicken farm in Thomazeau, Haiti to purchase more layers, housing likely millions of chickens far, far away from any other civilization. Such a high intensity experience, trying to find the location, communicate our purpose for being there, retrieve the chickens and correct paperwork on a crowded pay day, and finishing the day by joyfully releasing the layers into their new home and collecting 5 eggs along the way.
- Chicken coop became a warzone between the old and new- super insightful to observe.
Preparing for Future Projects
- Attempted meeting with village leaders to discuss business leader training possibility in 2018—rough because translator got called away right before the meeting and two of four leaders ended up not being present for various reasons.
- Discussions of numbers of business leaders in DV villages, maybe if I ask the same questions enough times I’ll get accurate answers.
- Reading the GrowBook about essentials for developing business in the developing world
- Visit with another expat in Haiti discussing her vision for utilizing and exporting the beauty resources of Haiti
In 2018 I’m deciding to be bold and unrelenting in the pursuit of what sets my soul on fire. I’m resolving to take care of myself, but by the grace of God not live for myself (Mike Donehey). I desire to simplify my life (it’s absolutely incredible how much junk I have drug with me to Haiti and collected along the way), and to spend time cultivating things that will advance my work in Haiti both now and in the future, and my life and the lives of those around me. May my story on January 1st of 2019 tell of these things, si Dye vle.
Bon ane! Happy New Year!