Same ol’ same ol’

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“So you must be getting use to it huh? I mean, you barely ever write anymore.”

At first his words stung. It could have been taken a million ways, but my first reaction was, how can you ever get used to it?! Get used to parents trying to poison their children or kids going hungry night after night. So I huffed, and I puffed, and finally wrote him back.

“No, brother, I didn’t just get used to it.”

“I didn’t mean that to sound mean, I just meant, you rarely write, so it must not be as hard. You’re assimilating.”

Well, okay, calm down.

I read back over my first couple of years here. I can hear the pain in my voice. The struggle between what I thought and what I saw. The turmoil of not knowing where to move or how to affect anything at all. and I realize… I have stopped writing.

This has become real life. Ive set into a comfortable pace. I know my way around and how to talk to people. I have relationships with my staff and students. I eat, sleep, drink, play- its a different life but it is just that- life. Normal, everyday life.

So it is hard to write about it. I call home and ask how everything is going. What has changed. “Oh, the usual” is the response I get. “Working, family dinners, you know same ol’ same ol’.” And I do. So when the question is turned around, I reply very similiarly. School is going well. Teachers are learning to teach better, students are learning their subjects. Im eating, drinking and playing. Same ol’ same ol’.

What a good feeling it is to be rutted in a track of familiarity. It may be nothing great- but it is my life.

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Christmas comes in all forms

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Lala likes to say that our school is run on thank yous. Which is pretty much the truth. Our money to pay our teachers, feed our students and provide a solid education is solely on donations. Moreover, sometimes, we get physical gifts too. People will collect items for the school and send them down. When they do, we think it is like Christmas. Sure the presents are actually for me, but since they are for the school and my heart is so invested there, it is practically the same thing.

Recently we have gotten a lot of Christmas. Some amazing individual sent us down a container full of fun stuff including three desks for our teachers!

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Another group collected books and curriculum for our school. It took over a full week to sift through all the new material and figure out how to use it!

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Even more, a very generous man sent us down some beautiful button down shirts our students received as Christmas presents from the school.

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Our boys are proud of their new gym clothes.

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The kids are loving playing on their new playground equipment.

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and I have about a dozen or so books to read on how to be a better teacher and administrator.

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Christmas comes in all shapes and forms. We are very blessed by our generous donors all year long. Thank you for your amazing support. It makes a significant difference.

Christmas Vacation

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Christmas this year was not spent in the states, but rather I chose to spend my last opportunity with Christmas with Youvendjy. This amazing little boy is a big deal in my life, and as his Godmother, I wanted to have a little one on one time with him. So we made big plans. Christmas Eve is the big night to celebrate in Haiti, so we decided to get all dressed up, go out to eat and go dancing on the square.

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Unfortuntely, I got pretty sick and lost my voice. Determined, however, we still went out to eat with a friend, who eventually sent us home to bed without dancing or partying.

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The next day we read the Christmas story, opened his three gifts, and then he played quietly while I slept off sickness.

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Thankfully I had the opportunity to make it up to him. We took a vacation down to a city in southern Haiti. IMG_2398

We went swimming, played in the sand, and even went hiking.

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It was a great Christmas Vacation. I am so glad I was able to spend this precious time with Youv

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Fet Noel

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It’s Christmas time again! With it brings our annual Christmas party. This year was super special for many reasons. First, our annual Christmas pageant was held in our brand new cafeteria! It is completely blocked in, painted and oh so beautiful.

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Secondly, we had a few special routines this year. Kelsey, Kara and Bekah taught some of our girls a special dance routine. They practiced several times a week, and I cannot even begin to explain to you the pride those girls shown as they focused on executing every move. More than that even, was the looks on the parents face as they saw first hand the amazing things their children were capable of. We were all beaming with pride.

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Finally, one of our older students, Yonelson, decided to choreograph his own dance routine and preform it with a few of the boys. Again, the pride on their faces is indescribable. Yonelson, especially, was strutting around. And well deservedly so.

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Christmas is always a special time for us. Sharing the story of Christ with the parents, going on a signing parade through the town, playing games, eating good food and a whole lot of laughter- isn’t this what Christmas is about?IMG_1766 IMG_1813 IMG_1827        IMG_2106

Walk in my shoeless feet….

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Day starts off before the sun rises. Typically because dog hears something outside and decides sleep is a second priority to making sure that unknown object/animal/person/blown piece of trash knows that he is ferocious. I ignore him long enough for me to realize I am not going to go back to sleep. I then pretend that I don’t remember that 5 am means working out.

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Breakfast is whatever I can find. Lately though spaghetti has been a favorite. Yes spaghetti, sometimes if I am lucky it comes with pieces of chicken or potatoes.

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As a principal, I have many different jobs in the school. I do things like buy rabbits from a sack.

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And then have to spend all night helping build a new rabbit cage. And teaching two students how to use power tools. It involved a lot of stripped screws, trying not to cry because I hit my thumb with a hammer, and tons of laughter.

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I deal the great privilege of dealing with misbehaving children. When I get to the end of my thoughts, punishments get creative. Kids holding hands, oversized shirts for two fighting kids, holding rocks in the sun… you get the idea.

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And the privilege of dealing with misbehaving animals. They get less creative punishments. Brooms are a multi functional tool. They don’t just sweep- they shoo very well.

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A lot of the time a teacher will come to us and ask us “Can we get such and such” and Lala will give me this sneaky smile and say “We can make that…” So we spend the next two hour theorizing how to do it. A full hour attempting it. Another hour convincing ourselves not to quit before we are finished. And the next week with all the tools still sprawled out because we are too lazy to put them away.

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I also have been making a creole preschool curriculum, because there isn’t one that has been written before. But you cannot just say to one of my Haitian teachers, please make me some caterpillars from pompoms. No, they will have no idea and will probably laugh at you behind your back. So instead, we had to make the caterpillars for them to see. Then we got so into it, we just finished doing all of them. Because who doesn’t want to make pompom caterpillars. Really. IMG_1972

Because again she gave me that sneaky smile and said “look at this rope I bought in Port Au Prince, we can totally build something with this right?!” and that is how our climbing ropes were born.

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Keeping those crazy munchkins in line is a full time job for our 12 teachers. I just have to walk past with an angry glare if they are having just a little too much fun in that supposed-to-be-straight line.

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Making sure the playground is clean involves less trash pick-up as much as trash burning.

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But I get to work with these beautiful hoodlums.

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And this amazing man.

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So after dinner is made…

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And homework is done…

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I get to kick up my dirty, dusty, tired, feet.

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Life is good. So good. Too good. God must be here and moving kind of good.

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Lessons from the dog

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I can learn something from my dog. As a puppy, he is blissfully unaware that another being may not want to play with him. He greets everyone, Haitian or American, as if they were long lost best friends. He has not had enough life to be hesitant with people. Or dogs for that matter. Enter Paulettes dog. A nameless straggly, grouchy dog who hangs out on our school porch. Everyday Zeke goes to play with him. Everyday Paulette’s dog growls, snarls, and snaps at him.

So he lays down near him.

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And inches closer.

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And does tricks.IMG_1861

Finally he yodels out a whiney sound and plumps down. He says he is in it for the long haul. Each day he inches closer. Each day he tries again. He is convinced that they were meant to be friends. Convinced under the rough exterior, there is a soft puppy inside just wanting to break free and play.IMG_1864

He hasn’t found it yet, but with each patient inch he gets closer.

(bell rings) We are baaaaaack!

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Third week of school. So many changes. We have had the wonderful blessing of privions coming out the the woodwork for our students. Hand-sewn book bags, beautiful gently used Frederica Academy uniforms, donations of toothpaste and toothbrushes. Grants for curriculum and new buildings. But the greatest thing of all-

…we are back in session.

IMG_1810IMG_1674After 2 month break (so nobody had to come in the scorching heat, though I’m not sure the 105 degree weather we have been having is that much cooler), school has begun again. 115 students. 12 teachers. 8 grade levels. One amazing mission.

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(and one new monkey bar set!)IMG_1675 As always, we started out our school year with a week long teacher training session.To teach us new things and remind us of old, but good, ideas. It also allows us the time to prepare our classrooms and make them look fabulous. IMG_1739This year the teachers have really stepped up, trying to make their classes look inviting. Such a stark contrast to the typical white walls, benches and chalkboard you see in Haitian schools. And dance class- did I mention? Our kids now have a dance teacher who teaches them to express their emotions through positive movement in their bodies.IMG_1760

And the smiles. Do I even need to explain the smiles? Or can you just feel them radiating their warmth in your heart and know the true joy that is beaming from the kids as they step onto our grounds again, eager to be back in school?

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IMG_1726(Okay we can’t win them all right?)

Selah

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The best news in my world right now: I am back in Haiti. You heard that right ladies and gentlemen. I made it back. Needed 50 supporters and a whole ton of prayer and somehow, even without making my 50, God called me back. And I responded in the most timidly enthusiastic way possible: “Here I am!” Each day I am here it feels like a gift. A secret present just to me from my Papa. I get one more day here in Haiti. One more moment. One more breath. One more hug. One more good cry. One more year to experience and soak up every last drip of beauty this place has to offer. And it has a lot of beauty to offer. Indescribable beauty encompasses me here. Teachers taking ownership of the school. Fresnel calling a Saturday meeting, and everybody responding with a ‘yes, I will be there.’ Students so excited about coming back to school that they beg me to open the doors early. Women who are coming to work for free because they want to help make their school beautiful. I sigh a sigh of relentless happiness. Sweat drips down my face, dust plasters my skin and mud cakes my feet but this- this is life. This is happiness. This is belonging. This is my best attempt at loving in action. Selah.

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We are not that different

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I remember coming back to America my first time, after spending a significant amount of time in Haiti. I did not break down until my mom took me to the grocery store, for me to choose whatever foods I wanted. As I walked through the isles and isles of available food at my fingertips, I started crumbling inside. 

Culture shock can take your breath away and leave you in a puddle on the floor of a big grocery store. It does not wait til you are in the privacy of your own home (an unfortunate event).

One of my friends told me, “You will get use to it. Eventually you will transition between the two relatively seamlessly. You will just know: This is how America works and this is how Haiti works.” I swallowed those words like poison, ‘how can I ever just accept it? Injustice!’ My heart was in turmoil. 

That was three years ago. One of the hardest parts about coming back to America now is not the transition period, or the culture shock, but this; this first blog being back. My friend was right, I have learned to adjust between the two countries. However, it is less about the way the countries work, and more about the similarities between the two countries that make the transition easier. I used to be highly focused on the differences: the stark contrast between pristine streets and sewage lined dirt roads. 

Eventually the outer was stripped away. Eventually God whispered to me (or I heard for the first time) Look at the heart, not at the outside. Judge not the appearance. Strip it away and see the condition of the core. 

For all of our differences- Haiti and America are the same. The problem in Haiti is not the rampant poverty, the lack of infrastructure, or the corruption. No, the problem is the heart. It is the same problem we have in America. In Haiti, the God of the masses is adulterated with a good dose of voodoo, confusion, and religiosity. In America, the God of the masses is contaminated with a sizable dose of patriotism, judgment, masks and again, religiosity. In both countries, God is bastardized.

My kids hunger more for love, than they do bread. In America, kids hunger more for love than they do the new iphone. We want to be witnessed. We want someone to regard us in delight. The pigmentation of your skin or the location of your house on a map matters not. The condition of humanity is the broken relationship. We strive, with every breath, to have somebody notice and desire us. 

My goal in Haiti has changed from when I first moved there. No longer do I want to feed the hungry children with fresh bread. My desire, above even the hungry faces, is for the untainted love of God to be held in their hearts. Only He will satisfy their hungry soul. 

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