Sunday, December 30, 2012

Running Fool

So as per requests from the masses (actually it was only 2 people, thanks Kathy and Renee) I, Gary will make my first and most likely last attempt at being a blogger. Since part of my problem with writing is not being able to come up with something to write about, let alone something good to write about, I will keep the topic simple. Running. Specifically, the run I went on yesterday evening. Just to clarify before I proceed any further I should categorize my version of running as jogging.

First, I am currently not in running shape right now, and secondly running on the roads around our neighborhood is a guaranteed 4-5 broken ankles per mile. I am sure some folks who are reading this are thinking running, jogging, call in whatever you want Gary, “why in the world are you running in Haiti in the first place?” My answer to that question would be, attempting to maintain my physical fitness is one of the components for me to be a more holistic Christian. Before some readers start backing the bus up thinking that since moving to Haiti Gary is losing his mind throwing some hippie, new age nonsense out there, I will briefly explain. As Michaela and I spent many months preparing to make the move to Haiti I really felt God challenging me to become more well rounded as a person, most importantly as a Christian. I started to realize that if I wasn’t striving everyday to grow spiritually, working toward mental toughness, being emotionally well and physically strong, “holistic” if you will, I may miss out on some of the opportunities God has planned for my life. (Note to self, idea for next blog post: “Keys to Holistic Christian Living”).

Alright moving on, so my run started off a little differently than normal yesterday evening. I walked with Noah to our neighbor’s house, which is on my regular running route, so he could hang out with his friends Jeff and David while I ran. After getting Noah dropped off I began to run. The first mile felt good and had the typical atmosphere during every run I have been on since we moved into the neighborhood. Typical meaning, constant stares of disbelief and curiosity, talking, yelling, and whispering in Creole with the word “blanc” (white) mentioned frequently, as well as laughing, joking, and giggling as I pass by. The kids along the way are generally sweet with big smiles and waves of hello. I will even pick up a running partner for a couple hundred yards from time to time. Commonly at the end of mile one my brain starts wandering with boredom since I choose not run with music here.  Both reasons for running without headphones are safety, first to better hear the crazy driving cars and motos, and second I don’t want my iPod to make me a target that changes my purpose from just running to running for my life. Although, running for my life could add quite an element of intensity in my run. (Second note to self: if missionary work does not pan out, great idea for infomercial fitness program, “Run For Your Life”).  Despite the boredom, the first half of mile two is my favorite part of the run. A quiet neighborhood on one side of the road and a beautiful, well maintained fruit tree grove that extends for about a third of a mile on the other side. On this particular run I immediately notice a larger more eclectic group of animals than usual. There were cows, sheep with bad haircuts, several neurotic goats, a couple donkeys, chickens, dogs, and even a cat. I must admit I was slightly disappointed that on this day I did not make a spotting of the legendary black and white flying duck that inhabits the Santo area. It is kind of like our version of Sasquach, only a selected few have caught a glimpse of the elusive waterfowl. About the time I am leaving the grove, I suddenly realize that subconsciously I am about three animals into singing Old McDonald in my head, so I spent the next half mile trying to unburn the farm song from my brain. As I am coming to the end of mile two and plan to turn around to start the two mile return run home I realize I am in unfamiliar territory since I began the run approximately a quarter mile farther down the road starting at my neighbor’s house. I looked up briefly from concentrating on the rough terrain to see four or five somewhat ominous looking guys starring at me. For some reason I felt like Buddy the Elf walking into the mailroom, “Why does it smell like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me?” Thankfully the run continued without incident. I am learning more and more that starring in Haiti does not necessarily mean you are about to receive a beat down or there is food in your teeth, it is just cultural.  Glancing down at my GPS watch and preparing to turn around I discover, to my chagrin, I have gone from familiar, to unfamiliar and back to familiar. I am less than a block from the Good Neighbor Orphanage! My thinking, since I haven’t talked to Johny (orphanage director) since to the birth of his new baby boy Michael on Friday, I should stop by. Once I got to the orphanage and spoke with Sophie (Johny’s sister) I found out Johny wasn’t around, so I started my way back.  I still think Sophie is trying to figure out how I showed up at the orphanage sweaty, slightly winded, and with no vehicle.  The trek back home was breezing along as I approached some teenagers who had started up a soccer game in the road since I had passed through earlier on the way out. I made sure to run out and around them as not to disturb play. Just as I had almost passed the game, a soccer ball with the velocity of a cannon ball went screaming closely behind me. It didn’t take long to figure out from the hysterical laughing that the ball was not an erred shot or pass to get the blanc involved in the game, but a near miss of the imaginary target they had painted on my back. Since I was thankful that they did not own a second soccer ball to reload with and the velocity generated first ball carried it what seemed to be distance of a quarter mile, no foul, no harm, right?!?

Well thankfully to say, I made it back to the neighbor’s house without further incident to pick Noah up. I think that pretty much concludes my first blog post, now Kathy I will be kicking back waiting for the dough to roll in. (wink, wink)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Oh, How I Hate Thee

Alright.  I'm going to take a deep breath and try to type this whole post out without using any expletives, but please know that in my internal dialogue, those bad words are spewing forth.

We have ants.  Not like, "hey, we have some ants that eat our crumbs that fall on the floor."  Although, they do that too.  No like, "WE HAVE {insert bad word} ANTS!!!!"

They inhabit and terrorize every surface of our home.  You could sit or stand in any position in the ENTIRE house and spot some from any angle.  They are in our dirty clothes.  They are in our clean clothes.  They are in our bath towels.  They bore holes in sealed food items.  They climb over clean dishes and dirty dishes alike.  They eat holes in our clean clothes.  They are in dresser drawers, sinks, desks.  They bite us as we sleep.  They climb in distinct black lines up and down from windows, doors, and cracks in the cement walls.  They infiltrate through electrical outlets and under the door.  Nothing is safe from these little jerks.  I hate them.  No, worse... I vehemently abhor them.

We have tried every bug poison available in Haiti to rid our house.  We spend a ridiculous amount of time each day cleaning to prevent them (i.e. following our children around with a vacuum cleaner and sweeping nearly 10 times a day).  We spend hours emptying drawers and shaking out clothes.  Daily.  Sometimes multiple times a day.  

Lucky us, as we were researching ants and extermination techniques, we discovered that our variety of ants are some of the most tenacious and hard to get rid of.  Every search query ends with someone stating that the only way to truly rid your house of them, is to hire a professional exterminator and seal all windows and doors.  Well... neither of those recommendations are going to happen here in Haiti.  

 These ants were crawling on the girls' bedroom wall, transporting eight (8!!!) queens.  That cluster there is ants surrounding one of the queens.  

I have been know to exaggerate.  Some may call it dramatic.  So, I took just a few pictures from the last day to illustrate that I am not, in fact. exaggerating.  Even Gary, my leveled-headed better half, will rant if you bring this particular subject up.

This is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen.  I get all kinds of twitchy even looking at this picture.  They gnawed a hole in the spout of the olive oil, when I poured some out while cooking yesterday, dead ants began to pour out in huge black chunks.  Barf.

We have another game plan to try to annihilate them.  Krulls are now on the offensive.  How is it, that ants are our biggest struggle in Haiti**? 

**(okay, maybe that's an exaggeration I can admit to, but it's at least on the top five list)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who Says?

Who says Christmas looks like snow, and fires, and holly, and hot chocolate, and gingerbread houses, and baking, and choirs, cookie exchange parties, and all the lovely looking projects on pinterest?

Is it any less Christmas-time if the temperature outside is 90 degrees with 79% humidity? Nope, just look at these faces!

Last night we spent the evening at Good Neighbor for their annual Christmas party and talent show.  It was awesome!  So much work was put into this event by both the staff and children for the past several weeks.  First was the talent show, emceed by the truly fearless duo of Fabiola and Michelove.  They have quite the gift of public speaking, I was impressed!  All the children were involved in this performance.  There were solos, recitations, skits, dances, group songs, and live nativity scene with a real live baby Jesus stand-in (Johny's nephew!).  It was precious.  Although I understood about 4% of all that was said in kreyol, I loved it.  Some of the children had members from their birth family there to visit.  After the show, everyone was served an amazing meal of Haitian beans and rice, fried plantains, pickliz (like a spicy slaw, Gary's favorite Haitian food!), and goat.  Mmmmm.  Goat.

The Krull kids LOVED the food.  Noah declared it his favorite meal ever (although he says that at least once a week, but it was still a big compliment).

Each child received a Christmas present, and several children cried when the evening was over because they loved it so much.

Christmas day was really hard for us as a family.  We missed the familiarity of our own Christmas traditions.  It just didn't "feel" like Christmas.  Plus, we had been without electricity for several days at that point and were battling trying to save the contents of our refrigerator, entertaining "bored" kids, and trying not to wallow in our own sadness.  It was just a rough day all around.

I'm so thankful for our time with the Good Neighbor kids last night.  It really helped remind me why we're here, and put things into perspective.  Christmas is for celebrating the greatest gift I have ever personally received.  Jesus was born not just for me, but for the entire world.  Thank you God for sending your Son!

Monday, December 17, 2012

So glad THAT'S over...

I wanted to chronicle the events of the crate with a computer generated, multi colored visual aid timeline, but it would really only serve to get me all agitated and riled up again.  So in light of that self-awareness, I'm just going to briefly lay out just enough details for you to understand our frustration, and then huge relief when we were finally reunited with 4'x4'x8' of used goods.

Okay, here are the details that someday I will want to look back on, throw my head back with a hearty laugh and proclaim, "man, those were crazy times, what a hilarious 49 days."
October 24:  Pack crate, send it off on its voyage to Haiti

October 27:  We arrive in Haiti, begin making plans to move into our rental house on November 1

October 30:  Crate arrives in Haiti

October 31-November 5:  Customs agents, with full reign over our belongs, hatch their plot to derail our moving plans

November 6:  We move into the house, our empty house, with high hopes of settling in to our new digs.

November 9:  Customs agent lets us know that they will soon begin to inventory our belongings to determine how much we owe them in customs taxes, fleeting thoughts of the mess of goods inside being pilfered by various customs officials

November 12-December 6:  We continue calling and emailing our customs clearing agent (the guy who has been hired to be our advocate in the customs clearing process) almost everyday, continue to get updates saying "we're almost done, we'll let you know soon what the final cost will be."

December 7:  We receive their final invoice, they have determined that we must pay a HUGE amount, equal to about a 400% rate, rather than the supposedly "standard" 40% rate... their amount was based on how much they determine the items in the box are worth.

December 7:  We contest the amount, they offer to start the process of inventorying the contents again, and mention by the way, that we have been charged a daily storage fee that will continue to build as they start the process over, we elect to just pay the amount rather than risk maybe getting the fee reduced, but paying more in storage fees... did I mention that this was the first we had heard about the daily storage fee?!?  They are closed on weekends, so we will wait until Monday to start again.

December 10:  Gary goes to try to get money from our bank in Arizona... is gone roughly 7 hours.  In that 7 hours he accomplished cashing a personal check, and opening a Haitian back account so we could get a cashier's check to pay for the release of our crate.  Errands take a really long time in Haiti.

December 11:  First thing in the morning, Gary delivers our check.  They say our crate will be delivered that afternoon.  Delivery truck never shows up, and the customs clearing agent stops answers any phone calls or emails.

December 12:  Gary goes down in person to figure our why our stuff wasn't delivered.  They tell us it is because we first must guarantee payment for delivery and another customs fee, plus storage fees, totaling over $1000.  Gary works with shipping company to figure out guaranteeing payment.  They assure Gary it will be delivered that afternoon.  Delivery truck never shows up, phone calls go unanswered once again.

December 13:  Gary goes back downtown.  Confronts customs clearing agent once more.  Is assured the crate will be delivered this afternoon, by 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  Delivery never shows up.  Now we begin to wonder if there is really a crate left at all... lament the fact that we are totally being taken advantage of.

December 14: Totally fed up... coming to terms with probably having to go through another weekend without our stuff.  Gary makes plans with Johny (our Haitian friend and orphanage director) to go back down in person and not leave without our crate... prepared to get it in the back of Johny's truck if need be and bring it home themselves.  Following Haitian Murphy's Law, Johny got detoured and had to pick someone up from the airport and deliver them to a distant part of town, wouldn't be available to help until 3:30, not enough time to get there before they close at four.  We resign to starting again on Monday.  I may or may not have said a couple of naughty words.  Gary continues to call, without luck.  At 1pm, we receive an email saying the crate will be delivered at 3pm.  We laugh and don't believe this guy for one single second.  At 4pm, we get a call saying the delivery truck is coming down our road, and to meet it so we can show the driver where to go.  WHAT?!  We throw everyone into the car, and fly down our dirt road.  With only a reasonable amount of damage, everything has been accounted for!

It's true that it was very difficult living in a nearly empty house for the last six weeks.  We were lucky enough to have mattresses on the floor, borrowed sheets and towels, and two borrowed pots to cook in.  Our bodies are pretty sore from sitting on the tile floor for every meal and all the times in between meals.  Our kids did relatively well managing to entertain themselves with some legos, two baby dolls, some coloring books, and all the treasures in our yard.  The physical discomfort of coming from a place so plentiful with creature comforts, to the starkness of an empty house in Haiti was hard.  Even harder than that though, was knowing that we were being taken advantage and treated unfairly, yet there wasn't anything we could do about it.  That was super hard.  Hopefully we have learned what to do, and what not to do, if we ever receive a shipment in Haiti again.

I'm hoping that we won't forget that discomfort, and will remain as thankful as we are today for the things we have.  In the wise words of Mylie, "Sitting on this couch is so fun!"  Yes... yes it is.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Noah's Shop

Need a last minute Christmas gift?  Noah has been busy setting up a shop in the guest house.  Inventory is a bit sparse right now, smashed bottle caps, sea shells, and rocks.  But the prices are reasonable.  I snagged 10 bottle caps for 10 kisses.  Stop on by if you're in our neighborhood :)