Sunday, November 27, 2011

A typical day

We have received some requests to share what a typical day is like for us.  Of course, it is rare that we have a 'typical' day.  There is almost always something unexpected: one of us is sick, a guest arrives, we are asked to join Kesnel on errands or visits. But, I’ll give it a shot:

The sun rises a little after 5, sometimes we wake with it, others we are able to sleep until 6, when the bustle of life is too loud to ignore.   If there is power, we will use our little microwave to make a cup of tea or a bowl of oatmeal.  If not, we will have some water and maybe crackers.  We take turns looking at the walls to give each other enough privacy to change into clothes for the day.   We walk across the courtyard, where by now school children and teachers are beginning to gather, to use the washroom.  

Usually, by 8 we are offered a breakfast.  It may be spaghetti, rice, or bread with peanut butter.  Sometimes there is hot chocolate.  After breakfast, I begin teaching our children, taking a late morning recess along with the school children.   We continue our lessons into the early afternoon.  A very kind friend lent us 2 series of educational audio books, so in the hottest part of the afternoon, the kids lay on their bunks with headphones and listen to these stories.  Much of Haiti takes a nap.

It is also in the hot part of the day when we shower, finding the cold water (almost) refreshing.  Later, when the sun has dropped behind the mountains, the kids will go out and play. 

Meanwhile, Chris is working with Pastor Kesnel, attending meetings and seminars, visiting other pastors and churches, or working on the sermons he is asked to preach.  In the afternoons, there are English classes, church services, and bible studies. 

Dinner , almost always beans and rice, canned chicken and red sauce with onions, is usually offered around 4.  Sometimes there is ground corn in place of the rice- we like the change of it.  Several times a week there are vegetables- carrots, green beans, or potatoes.  We dread the days that whole, fried fish replaces the canned chicken.  We have driven through the fish market.  It is nauseating. 

There are 2 types of markets here: the outdoor market is where you can buy local and dried goods- seasonal fruits and vegetables, (right now it's oranges, grapefruits, carrots and green beans), sugar, coffee, beans, and rice- and meat (live chickens, turkeys, goats..and terrible fish).

Then there is a grocery store, which we visit about once a week.  It is a small store by American standards; huge by Haitian.  We buy things like canned fruit and juice, peanut butter, oatmeal, raisins, and snacks to replace our missing lunch.  The prices are 2 - 3 times those in America.  We are limited to packaged goods as we do not have a refridgerator.

Saturdays, we do laundry in the morning to the soundtrack of the 6 hour prayer service happening in the church.  In the afternoon, we read, play a game, or  maybe even watch a show downloaded from itunes.  Sunday is occupied with church services. 

The sun begins to set around 5, and by 6 it is dark. Sometimes, we have a bit of battery power to keep lights on in the evening. If there is a church service, the generator may run, and then we will have fans as well. There is almost always a few hours of dark silence between the last of the battery power and the begining of state provided power.

By 7pm we are tired.  By 8, the children are asleep.  By 9, Chris and I are too. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Xander's Eye

Since arriving in Haiti nearly 6 weeks ago, we've experienced our fair share of illness: fevers, colds, intenstinal troubles, and now our second case of pink eye.  Here's Xander's video diary for today.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The thing I hate about Haiti

If you have ever traveled to Haiti with me, or heard me talk about my travels in Haiti, then you have heard me talk about the things I love here: the hope, the joy, the stripping away of excess, the beauty of the mountains, the children’s smiles.   Chris calls me an optimist.

Haiti has her dark side, too.  So often, visitors here can only see the dark: the want, the need, the desperation, the lack of education, the chaos.  I see all of these things- I always have.  I’ve just been able to see the beauty as well. 

But, there is one thing I just hate about this place.  I hate the beatings.  In the last week I have witnessed so many children being smacked, slapped, spanked and outright beaten.   Toddlers are smacked on their hands and legs.  Preschoolers and children are whipped with belts, cords, or switches torn from the tree and de-leafed while the child watches. 

It disgusts us.  One 5 year old girl was beaten for ‘playing games with boys.’   Another, for not wearing underwear.  A 2 year old boy was hit on the legs with a stick.  For what, we don’t know.    Every day, children wait in a row in the principal’s office (which is right below our room) to receive measured smacks on their hands with a 1/2inch PVC pipe.

Not everyone beats the children (Pastor and Madame Kesnel are more likely to have a child kneel facing the wall) but, everyone condones it.  One older boy here who speaks fairly good English said that “if you don’t beat them they will just go wild.”    It is accepted as normal.    

I am powerless.  There is nothing I can do.  I shield my own children from witnessing it, but there is no denying the sound: the swish through the air, the smack against a child’s skin, her wail of pain.  Sometimes it repeats 7,8, 9 times.  I do all I can to not throw up.

I would love to hate the women- it is almost always the women- who dispense these blows.  But, I can’t.  I can’t hate them- I pity them.  They have never known any other way.  Could they number the beatings they have received in their own lives?  Has anyone ever given them love and tenderness, and invested the time and energy to encourage good behavior or thoughtful self-discipline in them?  Probably not. 

I think of the times, when, in my own fit of frustration and/or exhaustion I have lost my temper with my children.  I think of that moment when I can’t bear another irritation, another infraction, another complaint, another argument.  I snap.  I lash out, not with my hands, but still in anger.  Am I that much different from these women?  I have the blessings of plenty, of education, of knowing and sharing love and trust, of hope for the future.  I also have other outlets for discipline- I can restrict privileges, charge chores, or simply express my disappointment.   Yet, still sometimes anger wins.

In this place, where tenderness is scarce, where children have no privileges to restrict, where there is little bond between the women and the children they are paid to care for, where centuries of abuse and punishment have been endured, it is no wonder that the children are beaten.  But, I still hate it.