Friday, December 30, 2016

Rain, Power, Thanksgiving, and Christmas

After hurricane Mathew came I was relieved and thankful it did not hit Cap Haitian, but disaster still hit. In November it started to rain and it kept raining. For days Mitch and I were stuck inside the city, unable to get out due to the mud and pools of water. When there were breaks in the rain, we would go out and walk around the city to buy groceries or just get some new scenery.  Even the outdoor market was flooded. When the rain finally stopped, a friend of ours invited us to his neighborhood on a hillside to show us the damage. We walked up the hill on a dirt road which had a new stream running through it from the rain. He showed us an empty lot where a house used to be. It had collapsed on the family living in it. It was surprising to see the damage from something as normal as rain after a hurricane missed us. When we reached the top of the hill, not far from the empty lot, there were kids playing in the stream. The view of the city was beautiful and cars and people were going about their day. The resilience of Haitians to keep moving forward in the face of such hardship is amazing.

Later on in November the power went out in our house. Now this is a daily occurrence but normally for just a few hours. This time however the hours turned to days. We cleared out all the perishables in the fridge and started to refer to it as the cabinet. With the power out, we could not run the pump in the well that gives water to the house. To bathe we had to fill a bucket of water from the well and dump it over ourselves to get clean.  We also went to local hotels and restaurants to use their Wi-Fi to get in touch with work and family so that they would know we were okay, but that it might be a while before our power was back.   It turned into 11 days.

Eleven days without power creates the perfect opportunity to try the different foods at the local restaurants. The main Haitian dish is a meat with a side of rice and beans or fried plantains with piklies. The popular meats are poulle (chicken), griot (fried pork), and kabrit (fried goat). They come either plain or in sauce. Piklies is like coleslaw but spicy. You take the piklies and put it on the fried plantains for a delicious complement to the fried meat. Natural juice is a very popular drink to go with meals. My favorite is passion fruit juice, but you can also get mango, pineapple, and many other tropical fruit juices. When the power was finally back on we instantly stocked up the fridge, took regular showers, skyped our families, and watched a lot of Netflix. Electricity is really a wonderful thing.

For Thanksgiving Mitch and I went to an expat celebration. It was a potluck and we bought mashed potatoes (although we made them too early and they were cold when we got to the party). The other food included turkey, macaroni, and all the holiday classics that made the holiday feel a little more like home.   I had so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: the hurricane missing us, the rain not flooding our home, electricity, and knowing my family was happy and healthy. It’s important to be thankful for the little things and not just one day a year but every day.

My family came down for Christmas. It was their first time in Haiti and my first time seeing a familiar face since I left the United States. (I had met Mitch in New York for YASC training but that doesn’t really count in my opinion.)  I showed them the school even though most of the faculty were gone for the holidays.   We hiked to the Citadel and spent Christmas Eve Eve at Paradis, a secluded beach where a man in a kayak caught and steamed from crab for us.  On Christmas Eve, we hiked to fortress ruins so my family could see the route I usually take to jog.  That night, we went to the midnight mass at my church and then right to sleep after because none of us were used to being up that late. However, my favorite part was cooking for them and talking around the dinner table. It was wonderful to be able to share a week of this experience with them and for them to see what a beautiful place Haiti is. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Storm

Hurricane Mathew hit the southern coast of Haiti.  As you've seen on the news, many areas were devastated, with great loss of both life and property.  Rebuilding will be a struggle.  More lives may be lost as the threat of Cholera increases with the flooding.  It is truly a time for prayer.

Originally, the outer edges of the storm were projected to hit Cap Haitien.  It was believed that we would be hit with 100 mph winds and up to 18 inches of rain.  Weather like that would have certainly impacted the town and the school.  In the days and hours leading up to the storm, Mitch and I prepared by stocking up on water and other supplies.  You would have expected to see everyone in the city rushing around, securing buildings and stocking up.  But it wasn't that way.  I wondered how people could be so calm with danger eminent.  Then I realized that it wasn't calm, but acceptance.  When people have very little, they can't afford to prepare.  They don't have the resources, like television and radio, to understand how bad the storm is projected to be.  So, they wait and they watch.

After the storm, the city continued as it always has because that's what people can do.  At church, just as they did in American churches, they took up money for the victims.  The people here had little to give, but they did give.  And they prayed. 

I am so thankful the storm did not hit Cap Hatien.  When I walk around the town and see everyone still living their lives, I am thankful that we get to continue.  Being this close to what could have been and what actually is, I ask everyone to continue to pray for and support the southern coastal areas.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Centre d'Agriculture St Barnabas

CASB is the school where Mitch and I work with the Episcopal Church diocese of Haiti.  There are currently less than 20 students who attend the school, to learn more about farming and agriculture, along with other skills such as English (which Mitch teaches), French, and other business techniques.

The program is a 2 year program, where students have access to hands on experience farming crops such as corn for feed, peppers, eggplants and other vegetables that help support the school financially.  In the future we are working on growing plants such as Soy beans and Bananas to expand the schools crop variety, as well as one day expanding to aquaculture and poultry farming.

Side note, if you are interested in following Mitch's blog also, you can find it here.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trip to Dajabon

Yesterday Mitch, St. Ange and I went to the Dominican Republic to price-check some hand-tools in the city of Dajabon. St. Ange is the Field Operations Manager of the school and oversees all agriculture projects. Mitch is a fellow missionary that lives with me and teaches English at the school. The hand-tools we were looking for were weed whackers and chain saws that are greatly needed to help clear and maintain the land at the school.

When we arrived at the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the scene was chaotic. Cars and people moved quickly over the small bridge that crossed the river into the DR. We decided to park and walk across the border due to the shear mass of people going through.  Even then, the walk was intense. Motorcycles and people squeezed along the sides of the bridge where the larger vehicles weren't taking up room. Traffic was so close that, at one point, St. Ange got his shirt caught by a motorcycle flying by.  Fortunately, it pulled loose just in time.

Once in the DR, we headed strait for the tool supplier. The language spoken most in the Dominican Republic is Spanish, which neither I nor St. Ange speak. Luckily, we had Mitch. At the time it did not occur to me just how impressive this small feat of shopping was.  But thinking about it, it was really amazing to  have Mitch communicate using two, nonnative languages.  First, he received the price in Spanish and then he translated it to St. Ange in Creole.   With Mitch's expertise, we got our quotes and had enough time to grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant. With full bellies and an accomplished mission, we headed back home.

Now to see about actually getting the tools and clearing the land.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One Project Down

Prior to my arrival in Haiti the front entrance repair project had been in progress. The goal of the protects was to replace the old front entrance gate and fence to better secure the school. Today the project has been officially finished and is the first of many more to come.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Today I scored my first goal in street soccer! Sometimes you have to stop and appreciate the little things.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

one month

It has been a little past a month since I arrived in Cap Haitian. This month has taught me a lot. I'm slowly adapting to the heat and sun. Instead of looking like I just swam every time I leave a fan, I look as though I walked through a light mist. At the start of this journey I did not know any Créole and now I can understand an entire sentence if a person speaks very very slowly. I went from not knowing how to drive a manual, to only stalling once a trip. I went from never writing a blog, to making a few post (although I still need a lot more practice before I'm the next Hemingway). This past month has been an endeavor of learning and I hope it continues.

I wanted to give a special thank you to the people at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Clemson, SC. Without their amazing support as my sending perish, I would have never been able to make this journey.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Yesterday I finally played a game of pickup street soccer! The guys that play are pretty good and I am definitely out of practice. The street we played on was small and the sidewalk and walls on either side were extra obstacles to get used to, but It's still the same sport I love. There are only 5 men on each side and the goals are smaller. The keepers aren't allowed to use their hands at least, making it a little more fair when trying to score in those tiny goals. I definitely look forward to playing more street soccer and maybe even scoring a goal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First try at public transportation

Yesterday was the first day I was able to make it to the school since Dan left. While in Haiti we are lucky enough to have a truck to use for getting to and from the school. However, the truck is currently broken down and we are waiting for a new starter to come in.

In the mean time, the only way to get to the school would be public transportation. Yesterday Mitch and I decided that we finally mastered enough of the lanugage to try the public option. The original plan was to get on a moto (motorcycle taxi), and take it to the bus depot. From the depot we could take a bus to the school. Things never do go as planned, and what ended up happing was our moto driver just kept driving, taking us tot Limonite, the nearest town. From Limonite we found another moto that took us to the CASB, arriving just in time for Mitch to teach his English class.

My purpose for going to the school was to check on the construction of a reservoir that was started before I arrived. Overseeing the finishing of the reservoir is my first task as project manager for the school. It is almost complete and will provide an excellent water source for irrigating the fields. 

The only downside to our adventures was that both Mitch and I lost our hats while riding on the Motorcycles. Hopefully the hats will find someone in need of a little shade from the sun. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

quick update

After a few days in Haiti, I can tell you one thing… it's hot. I've been told that in the winter it can get cold enough to where you want to turn off the fan, but I don't believe it. Eliza Brinkley, a YASCer finishing her year here, has been our wonderful guide to the city, showing us the stores and market as well as translating Créole for us. Dan Tootles, one of my bosses, is also here to help smooth the transition to life in Cap Haitian. On the 8th we visited the school, St. Barnabas Agricultural College, and met the faculty. The school itself needs a lot of work but the potential there is enormous. The staff was very excited to meet Mitch and me and I cannot wait to start working with them.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

As I head for Haiti and St. Barnabus today, I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support. Please keep the prayers and best wishes coming.  Hopefully, I'll be able to play a part in helping revitalize the school.  I thank all of you for the trust and faith you have placed in me.