Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back in the US of A

Susan and I got back late Monday night (Aug. 22) and are just getting back into the groove of being home. Both of us seem to have brought a cold back with us. Just our way of holding onto Haiti awhile longer? It was a memorable trip this year in so many ways. Tons of kids, 230+ on our last "school" day, some great Haitian adventures (for us these always involve transportation and/or food), textbook shopping in Cap Haitien and confirming well drilling plans with Haiti Outreach were all part of this wonderful journey.

The results of all our combined efforts to gather school, recreational and health supplies, five suitcases full (180 lbs.), were almost lost before we left the States. Seems that the shuttle driver leaving our Fort Lauderdale hotel at 5:30am just assumed that we were in the van with him, it was actually another couple, and he unloaded all the suitcases in the road outside the departure terminal and sped off leaving the bags there. Susan and I got downstairs at 5:35am, asked about the bags and nearly panicked when we found out what had happened. A mad dash to the airport revealed that, although security had been called, the bags were still sitting in lanes of traffic waiting for us to retrieve them. A mad dash, a close call and a two hour departure delay, but other than that it was an uneventful day. 

This year we stayed in Pastor Carsel's family home. As always our Haitian friends are gracious hosts giving us our own bedroom, preparing wonderful meals everyday and treating us like honored guests. By the end of the week we had the routines down for showering from a 5 gallon bucket and using the outdoor latrine. We continued to get favored treatment but we started to feel like we were part of the family. The Pastor's house seems to be the center of community business as well as a social hub. Lots of neighbors would come by to conduct business, sit and chat for awhile, examine "new" fashions that arrived in two boxes of clothing from the States, play cards or sit in the shade enjoying fresh fruit or sugar cane. These were relaxing times for Susan and I, a wonderful break from the intensity of 200 kids at school.

Although the time we spend with our kids in the classroom is draining physically and emotionally it is the highlight of each trip. It is the reason we go to Haiti. This year our friend Jean Ronal got together a group of his friends (Chedlin, Phanel, Lenna, Benjamin, Son and brother Joseph) to help us out. They were invaluable!! Without them someone may have died. A student? Susan? Me? These young men were there everyday helping to communicate with the kids, teaching songs, telling stories, maintaining order (of sorts) and being there to support us in every way. Susan and I are constantly amazed by Haitians' level of generosity and their willingness to help. Even in the most stressful of times, times when I was ready to pull what remains of my hair out, Jean would smile and say, "They're just kids" or "That's life". I'm starting to understand that when daily life is a struggle and everyday presents new challenges there is no need to sweat the small stuff. A good lesson for me to learn. All of our planning for "learning stations" went out the door on the first day. Too many kids, too little ability to effectively convey detailed instructions, the heat and the humidity did our planning in. For the four days of school we focus on a daily craft (paper plate fans, paper bag puppets, English language color flags and coloring project), teaching songs, telling stories and playing outside. Everyone seemed to enjoy each day with a nice balance of classroom time and playing outside. The Frisbees, soccer balls, jump ropes and balsa wood gliders were a huge hit and went a long way in burning some of the kids bountiful amounts of energy. Susan and my admiration and respect for school teachers continues to grow.

Well that is enough for now. We will be posting more about our adventures later and will try to set up links to photos and videos. Bye for now.....    


Friday, August 12, 2011

Just About There.....

Susan and I are making a final mad dash to get everything ready for being in Haiti on Monday. Thanks to all of your generous donations we are taking 180 lbs. of school & health supplies jammed into suitcases. All our personal stuff will be in a backpack. With the help from a number of educators we actually have some lesson plans prepared for this year. What a concept, right? We are going to divide the younger kids into 5 or 6 groups with the older students (18+) helping as group leaders. Then each group will spend 30 mins. or so at six different learning station. We didn't have this level of planning and preparation last year and still we realize that with over a 100 young kids involved it may all crumble into chaos at any moment. We are hoping that soccer balls, jump ropes and Frisbees will burn off enough energy to maintain a minimum level of control. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Also...because local Rotary Clubs from Oakhurst and Tracey, California have stepped up, in a huge way, we'll be able to sign agreements to get a well drilled later this year. What a treat it is to get clean water by just turning a faucet. We are very fortunate. The company that is drilling the well, Haiti Outreach, has an office in Pignon with a 6 or 8 bedroom guesthouse so Susan and I hope that some folks who have expressed interest in going to Haiti may be able to join us on the well drilling trip, December or January.

We are excited to see our Haitian friends and look forward to an amazing journey. Pictures & stories upon our return....