Monday, April 29, 2013

Heard Around the House: April 2013

Noah, contemplating the trinity...
"So the Holy Spirit is, like, in us?  Like where in us?  In our small intestine?"

Mylie, ready to begin nighttime devotions and Bible reading...
"Let's do our Emotions dad."

More awesome tat-tap art... a nice little mash-up of Rose and Jack, 
with Jonah being swallowed by the big fish.

Noah, on contemplating the sunrise...
"A Sunrise is like a surprise, for my eyes."

Noah, at "field day" with some other Haiti homeschoolers...
"I love Gatorade popsicles.  It's hydration in my favorite form."

A conversation between sisters at bedtime...

Presley:  "Do bears bite?"

Mylie:  "Yes, like ants, except for way more hurting-er."

Potty training has been a huge success... and we praise her often for her awesome new big girl underwear, which is probably what lead to this conversation...

Neighbor lady passing by:  "Bonswa bebe"
Presley to neighbor lady: " Bonswa"


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Favorite Kreyol Word

Degaje (day-gah-jay) verb.  To make due with what you have, to jerry rig something, to fix using available materials*

I grew up in a home with two masterful Degaje-ers.  Every home improvement project my dad ever did was one part new materials and know-how, two parts re-used spare parts and guessing.  There were lots of close calls, a few trips to the ER, and some sketchy electrical work.  My mom degajes her way through every single recipe.  A recipe calls for balsamic vinegar?  Soy sauce looks a lot like balsamic, right?  She has been known to mash up several recipes for one end product when she was missing ingredients from one recipe.  Like the Tiramasu Tragedy of 2011.

I am a product of this household, and I am also a pro at the degaje.  Do you like the new cabinet shelf I just constructed out of spare wood I bought from The Crazies' shop?  I got the idea for this gem from the locker shelves my dad constructed for me in 7th grade.  Golden.

Some other instances of degaje...
 railing turned ladder

Scraps turned into a super secret GNO clubhouse

 Steel drums turned into beautiful art

Degaje stems from not having a lot of available resources, but still needing to get a job done.  Most of the degaje I see is kind of messy, but still a pretty good practice of ingenuity.  If ingenuity is the mother of invention, surely degaje is it's sister.

* The definition in my own words

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Can't Turn My Back For One Minute

Today we went to GNO for our usual Saturday morning routine... English class.  This morning was going to be even more fun because after class, we were going to do an art project.

As a teacher for 10 years, I have come to know what to expect on craft days.  I can handle a room full of first graders wielding paint brushes and glitter.  I am quite skilled at keeping the chaos at an acceptable level.  I try to think ahead, and outsmart those little Crazies who will inevitably put glue or paint on any surface not intended for such.  I am not scared or overwhelmed at the thought of handing scissors to some five year olds and letting them hack away.  Basically, I'm cool with the mess that comes with boisterous creativity.  

Today.  Today I experienced a painting activity with 35 kids who are not accustomed to the "school craft project."  I somehow thought my skills in crafting crowd control were transferable cross culturally.  In hind sight, I have pinpointed the lapse in judgement.

1.  I am not fluent in their language.  How can I set parameters without being able to communicate effectively?

2.  American grade schoolers have had ample crafting practice for a minimum of one or two years prior.

3.  Aforementioned practice was done with the guidance of someone who was fluent in their native tongue (see #1).

I started out confidently.  The goal was to paint rocks for the new garden.  Some would paint the words to label each section of the garden.  Others would decorate rocks for the border, so each child would have a piece of the new garden that they contributed.  We started strong.  Look how darling they are... sitting in small groups, using the drop cloth, keeping each paint brush in it's separate color.  

Soon after this picture, I started to get edged out.  Like tiny ninjas, they soon overtook me, wedging me out of the painting circle completely. Paint brushes began dipping into unassigned colors.  Do you know what this does to the part of my brain that values order?  Then paint brushes began to be claimed by an owner, dipping willy nilly into any old paint color. 
 Soon, it was everyone kid for himself, and a race to claim your own paint brush ensued.  Groups began to scatter and intermingle.  Paint bottles were emptied.  There was crowding.  There was rock hoarding.  I turned my back for one minute.  One single minute I tell you, and this crafting extravaganza derailed.
 I spied faces being painted.  Hair being painted.  A group of three began to paint the leaves on that bush up there.  Another group decided that all the rocks in the whole yard should be turquoise (see some of them up there?)
 Some had paint brushes and began to paint the foundation of the office building.

 There was more face painting.  Look, he is so pleased with himself.

 The little ones just started blinding painting their own faces.

At first I was shocked.  Then I laughed.  Then I grabbed the camera to document the craziness of kids.  Then... the wheels really came off this bus, and I just had to put the camera away and be the responsible one.  The bigger kids, who have had a little secret clubhouse project going for about a month now, took off with a gallon of paint and a couple big brushes.  They were now in an all out remodel that included a fresh coat of paint and their own set of painted rocks for their garden.  The kids that wanted to make every rock in the yard turquoise?  Well, they decided that it would be more efficient to just overturn a gallon of turquoise paint, add a load of rocks, and just mix it with their hands and feet.  You should see how many turquoise rocks abound now.  

So.  I have officially lost my touch, or never really had it to begin with.  We let them have their fun.  As we rounded up empty bottles and ragged brushes, and began to send kids to clean up.  The cistern ran out of water, and the generator ran out of fuel to pump more.  Oops.

So in short... Who wants to invite me over to their house to help their kids make something with the trifecta of messy craft supplies:  paint, glitter, and playdough?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Neck of the Woods

Here's what's going on around our neck of the woods...

We're having a gas shortage in Haiti.  We have not been able to fill our tank for about 10 days.  All stations have been out of gas.  We went out yesterday to fill it, hearing that gas was supposed to be delivered on Sunday, with no luck.  After stopping at four stations, we returned home.  We don't want to burn up any more of our 1/4 tank left, just in case we have an emergency.  We've been home bound for a week, except for a little outing Friday afternoon.  We'll try again today.  Apparently this happens pretty frequently here... lesson learned.

I'm having all kinds of conflicting emotions... homesickness, inadequacy, confusion, anger, sadness.  Most of which is connected to what I wrote a few days ago... but written with a lot more experience and clarity than mine {HERE}.  Please take time to read it.  I believe that you should not live with blinders on.  If you know more, you can do better for yourself and others.  

Two more weeks until we visit the U.S.  I am very excited to recharge, process what we have experienced for the last half of a year, and refocus the direction for the next 18 months.  We have a lot of things that need our attention while we are back, like filing our taxes, sharing with friends and family, a few meetings and presentations, and hopefully a few days away without children.  Also, a haircut.  I very much need a haircut.

That is all.

Gary made Mylie this little shop out of scraps from our yard and leftover paint.  She declared it "the best birthday present ever!"  Mylie Mae original bottle cap necklaces for sale ;)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mylie: Age 6

Dear Mylie Mae,

Today you turn six years old.  I say this every year, but I just cannot believe how big you are getting.  This year solidified that you are our most stubborn child.  You are also our greatest helper, and best big sister.  Out of all three Crazies, we were most concerned with how you would handle moving to Haiti.  It seems that you have surprised us all and made the easiest transition.  You grow more and more beautiful each day, tall too.  I see a glimmer of a sense of humor, which comes as a great relief to your parents.  You still love to create your own style, and I never even try to pick out your outfits for you any more.  You want to grow your hair down to your ankles, and I love the little curls that frame your face.  You are becoming less shy, and more daring.  You like to be someone's sidekick.  You are learning to read, and are super good at math.  You love to do puzzles, and play Sleeping Queens.  We recently discovered you are allergic to mangos, and you currently have a black eye from falling on the playground at Good Neighbor.  I love that you hold my hand whenever we go somewhere.  You have a cute laugh.  We are wondering when you will become modest, as you love to be clothes-less when we are at home.  Your sweet tooth is insatiable.  I love you so much Miss Mylie Mae, and as excited as I am to watch you grow, I know I will miss my little girl.

age 6 years and 0 days

Favorite color...  pink
Favorite food...  pancakes
What I want to be when I grow up...  a police officer
What I like most about living in Haiti...  my friends at the orphanage
What I miss most about living in the U.S...  not seeing Grammy and Pappy
What I like to do...  playing outside and coloring
Favorite friends...  Macy, Manoushka, Quinny, Will
What I liked the most about being 5... that I was old enough for having a mango (???)
What will you like the most about being 6... that I will go to big school

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sixth Month Itch

So.  We're inching up to our half a year in Haiti mark.  We were told by many who came before us, that the sixth month mark tends to be hard.  The honeymoon is over, reality of a new life begins.

So here I sit at my computer, gazing out the window, through the bars and over the razor-wire topped wall, at the beautiful blue sky.  The way in which I'm struggling right now is with a heaviness.  The weight of hurt and loss are too much sometimes.  All that I thought I knew before moving here has been tossed aside.  Here's the fact:  I am in need equally to those whom I have come to love.  I am in need of more God, less Michaela.  I am selfish and broken in lots of ugly ways.  

I am learning a lot.  A lot.  I can't even find the words to process all that runs through my head on a daily basis.  I have tried typing out something for this blog about ten times in the last week, but just can't articulate all that swirls within.

I'll try to filter through the mess of my brain and just share one area.  Orphans in Haiti.  Wow, that's a huge topic, and even typing in out makes me all squirmy and uncomfortable.  The fact is, I once thought this topic was fairly cut and dry, and that could not be further from the truth.  I cannot speak about orphans in other cultures, only what I am learning here in Haiti.  I will probably revise what I write below about seventeen times, and agonize over it's content for a good while before finally hitting "publish".  

First, the children at Good Neighbor are loved.  They are clothed and fed.  They are taught that Jesus loves them.  They are taught the Bible.  They go to school.  They play and laugh.  But.  BUT.  God did not design the world for there to be orphans.  Orphans are the result of sin in the world.  Loss, death, and abandonment.  When parents die, oftentimes family members who are already struggling to care for their own children cannot take on the added responsibility.  Other times, a parent chooses to give their child to an institution knowing they will be fed and schooled, something they feel that they cannot provide them.  No two children have exactly the same story.  All parents who have given a child up have different reasons, and different circumstances.  Most want the very best for their child, even if that means being separated from them.  It is a culturally accepted practice in Haiti.  I don't have exact numbers, but I would venture to guess that most "orphans" in Haiti have at least one living parent.  This is what makes me uncomfortable... orphans who are not true orphans.  This is what I struggle with.  Is it better to give your child up to have opportunities, maybe even be adopted into an American family, than to keep your child and fight each day to feed them, and maybe maybe maybe, send them to school?  Some people would adamantly say yes, it is better.  Some people would strongly disagree and believe a child should not lose their birth family.  I don't know what is best.  I struggle to understand this every single day here.  I feel it deeply.  It hurts me to think of this decision.  I get angry that poverty is the reason for so many broken families.

A child is not necessarily better off with material wealth over the loss or rejection from a birth family.  But, a family to love and be loved by, to receive personalized attention, opportunities for education and choices for a future is better than institutionalized living.  It's so hard to wrap my brain around how I fit into this equation.  As a mom, what would I do if faced with no resources, little hope for opportunity to better my situation, and children who did not have enough to eat?

I hesitate sharing my struggle with this because I am not an expert.  I do not have solutions.  I know God can redeem loss and abandonment with adoption.  I know there is a place for adoption.  How does God want to use us in this situation, here in Haiti, today?

The "Orphan Crisis" in Haiti is real to me.  There are 30 Haitian children who I love, who live in an orphanage.  They are not just pictures to stir someone's emotions.  These are real children, real souls, real hopes and dreams.  They cry real tears, they feel real pain, they have real stories.  They are not nameless.  They are loved by God.  They have a purpose designed by God.  They were not born by accident.

So this is what I struggle to understand every day.  This is one huge area that I hope God will shape a better understanding for me.  I pray for wisdom in this struggle.

It is my desire to be used by God