What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. The most eclectic of memories combine to form the sweetest and most unknown moments of my time in Haiti so far. All I can do is look back at the assortment of snap shots—both photographed and undocumented—and marvel at the utter beauty of every situation no matter how precarious or vague it may have seemed at the time. I wish I could write a grand narrative that would encompass all that July has meant to me, and maybe one day I will look back on these days and see how what I learned and stumbled upon and fumbled through worked together to change the trajectory of my work in Haiti and future life. So for now my words haven’t come yet, but what I can share are some snap shots of the most precious of memories.
At the beginning of July, we took a day trip to Gonaïves to hike Bienac mountain and spend some time with the artisans at 2nd Story Goods learning and practicing their craft. We conquered the most difficult mountain I’ve ever hiked, chills ran through my body as we heard the entire city roar after Brazil scored during the World Cup, I enjoyed catching up with the founder/director of the company and being in the presence of her great wisdom, I discovered a hidden talent for sewing with a trundle machine and learned that designing clothing is not a strength of mine—no major shocker with that one.
I treasure the moments from that day with Disciples’ Village’s summer interns, fellow DV staff, new and old friends. How beautiful it is to get to walk through life with people who share the same fire to see Haiti rise to her full potential.
4th of July
The saga of the Tracker I get to drive continued on the fourth of July. After a few days of strange noises escaping the front of the vehicle, an important belt snapped as I turned off the road for a business leader training meeting. That day was filled with situations I could not control, and I had the opportunity to exercise patience and quieting my heart and spirit when all I wanted to do was scream. Today the belt is fixed after two weeks of miscommunication with the local mechanic, and I am equipped with more knowledge on how to navigate unfavorable situations in the various forms that they arise.
The DV summer interns and I had the honor of singing at the shared wedding of five couples in one of our partnering communities. I’ve had the joy of getting to know at least one person in each couple over the past year, and I cried many happy tears during the beautiful service! Weddings seem to be expensive no matter where you live, and it was neat to see the community and families rally together to make this day special. This is the second time I’ve gotten to sing at a wedding in Haiti, so maybe you can catch me at a wedding near you sometime in the future if my popularity continues to grow and cross borders. I’ll just have to change my going rate from Haitian gourdes into US dollars…
N’ap Boule. We are burning.
On the streets of Haiti it is common to hear the exchange, “Sak pase?” “N’ap boule!” meaning “What’s happening?” “We’re burning,” with ‘we’re burning’ being equivalent to “I’m fine” or “I’m good.” It’s a cute shirt design and many expats cite it as their favorite Kreyol expression.
Unfortunately, this past month ‘we are burning’ became a literal representation of the tires on roads all over Haiti and many businesses in the capital of Port au Prince. Myself and the rest living on the Disciples’ Village campus remained safe in our rural location, but we grieve for the continual symptoms that bubble up from the root problems of government corruption and other uncertain international interests.
We pray for leaders to rise up and lead this nation into prosperity, and I believe that a life spent working towards justice and peace in Haiti is a life well lived. The few days of protesting and demonstrations and road blocks caused some uncertainty for future progress, but I have this hope that in my lifetime I will see just leaders and businesses and trade thrive and continue to push this country forward even on the most uncertain of days.
Fortunately, we used the unexpected down time from laying low for a couple of days at beach and on the ocean with our Alex’s House kiddos and catching up on some rest. Some of my greatest moments of insight came during these days through reading books that I have not made time to read during the busyness of the summer. It was during this time that I was asked, “What if we weren’t afraid anymore?” that shook me to my core. I also began to see the value to loving people right where we are at…with no elaborate plans or grand vision involved, just pure and simple and life-transforming love.
After college I fell into the trap of thinking that in order to enact real and lasting change, I had to become one with the elite in order to influence their decisions and make things happen to better the tough situations we find people in all around the world. That means going to the schools they go to, finding myself running in the circles they run in, attending the events, doing the networking, and on and on it goes. While I believe receiving the best education I can and seeking out people with similar interests is important to furthering my vision and fulfilling the desires I have for my life, this past month I was challenged to reevaluate with whom I need to be focusing on building relationships with in Haiti and beyond.
While I want to be acquainted with and love all people, many inputs into my life (books, scripture, conversations, observations, etc.) have been nudging me towards a different way of living than that of the elite. I ultimately had to ask myself, “With whom did Jesus spend most of his time?” If history and many world religions report that Jesus was arguably one of the most influential people to ever walk this earth, then I need to be studying how he loved and led those around him and adapt what I find to my own life. Isaiah 57:15 says,
For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’ (New American Standard Bible).
If Jesus—whom I believe to be the King of Kings—spent his time with the lowly and the forgotten, then so must I. If he dined with sinners and those cast out by society, then so will I. While I will continue to work with the business leaders in our partnering communities to develop ideas towards microfinance and job creation, I also want to begin focusing more on building relationships with the families that have captured my heart. I want to learn more about their victories and their struggles, to watch their children grow and to hear of their dreams, and maybe one day I will have the honor of cheering them on as they raise themselves out of poverty with the help of a little love and properly placed investments along the way.
This was an interesting month for feeding the chickens. The road blocks made it difficult to get feed to the coop, and the price increases with the feed we’ve been buying has become too expensive to continue purchasing from our current supplier. In all honesty, in the middle of the month I was almost ready to sell our layers for meat and be done with the thing. My goodness I was so frustrated.
Where had my problem-solving spirit gone? Why was I willing to give up so easily? While this was a minor situation that I got over (by the grace of God we still have all 50 layers), it was a much needed wake up call to reevaluate my thoughts and how I handle frustrations. I’m thankful that after a little digging and reaching out to some chicken-raising friends in Haiti, I was able to find another feed supplier for a price that will work with our revenues and other costs.
This past month I’ve spent more time in the kitchen with our cooks learning the ins and outs of Haitian womanhood and authentic cooking. Wow—I have so much to learn! In the past few months I’ve enjoyed going to the markets more and more and building relationships with the sweet machan yo (sellers) there while getting fresh fruits and vegetable to eat! It has been so special to become a student in the kitchen and to observe how much time and love goes into the foods we eat.
Our cooks are fierce women who love and work hard from sun up to sun down and go home and do the same. The more I observe Haitian women cooking, cleaning, making money, mother-ing, and getting stuff done despite the abundance of obstacles they face, the more I want to spend my life championing them.
I’ve also come across some interesting finds in the market lately, from live crabs and shrimp to massive puffer fish looking things to lalo and lots of gorgeous avocados and grapefruit and pineapples in between. I’ve grown to look past the chaos and cat calls and other things the market represents for a foreign woman and have fallen in love with all it represents—local people earning a living and providing sustenance with Haiti-grown goods and smiles and sass thrown in.
Meeting hundreds of families while completing a census of DV’s partnering communities last summer has been a highlight of my time in Haiti and has launched many great relationships with those we were in contact with. While we learned many peoples’ names and saw many faces, a few stood out from the rest, including my dear Benita and her spunky little baby girl Matid.
A trip to visit another friend of a friend again led me to their house, and I fell in love with this sweet family once more. Matid is now a year and a half and is the star of the show! She draws the attention of the entire household to herself with her silly dance moves, taking on fake phones, and strong willed attempts to defy changing clothes. Her momma has become a dear sister that I enjoy chatting with, and I love that I’m able to go sit in her home and talk as old friends.
In her modest lean-to my skin tone doesn’t matter, and the perception of my wealth fades away. It has been the sweetest experience to reconnect with this family and I look forward to many more shared chats together. The more time I spend there the more I see the power of loving one person at a time and I learn the beauty of being still and enjoying friendships for a while. So often I can get caught up in what I came to Haiti to “do,” but now I’m seeing who I came to Haiti to “be”—a friend, an encourager, a sister in Christ, and a lover of business and what it can accomplish in peoples’ lives.
MY LITTLE SISTER CAME TO HAITI!! I haven’t been this happy in a long time! It has been surreal to watch my two worlds collide, and for Syd to put faces to the names I’ve talk about non-stop for many years now. My cup overflows.
July was possibly the craziest yet most peaceful month I’ve had in a long time. Lots of time for reflection (thanks to the protesting) mixed with frazzled attempts to get everything done between road blocks, a busy ending to the summer, and lots of friends/family walking through our doors. It was a sweet and sour month indeed, and I’m so very thankful for the snap shots that provided clarity and breaths of fresh air along the way.