Saturday, 5 December 2015

Parties and Painting.

Hey, hey, hey from our little Caribbean island! Things have been busy, busy, busy around here. Krist and I head home for Christmas vacation in exactly two weeks. When we moved here in the summer we weren't quite sure if we'd still be alive by Christmas, but I think it's safe to say that we'll be back and hating the snow in no time.

Krist and I have definitely been spoiled this year. We got Canadian Thanksgiving and an American Thanksgiving. It was decided that we were going to throw a Thanksgiving party last week at the compound for the workers at our new school and Mission Haiti staff... which turned into around 80 people. Thank goodness we didn't have to cook for that many people by ourselves. We offered to do mashed potatoes, corn, bread and some dessert. Wednesday Krist and I had a huge dessert fiasco. We cook on propane burners that burn things almost instantly if you're not careful. Well, we needed to melt chocolate chips, and nothing happened when we put a bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. We ended up trying to melt them in a pan, and let's just say that our house smelled like burned chocolate for several hours (but at least the dessert turned out to be delicious).

Thursday after school we raced home to start cooking potatoes, and I had arm pain for a couple of days after mashing that many potatoes by hand without a potato masher. In the end we had a magical Thanksgiving feast under twinkling lights with enough food to feed a small army.

Other news from our neck of the woods: we have started doing English class with the kiddos at the orphanage every Sunday afternoon. We do a lesson, some games on our iPads, and a craft or part of a movie. Most of them know at least a little bit of English just from having mission teams come down so often, but we're loving having quality time with all of them on the weekend. We're also realizing how mentally exhausting it is to be translating in our heads all day at school or the compound. Our days are a confusing mix of Creole, French and English. We've been starting to talk what we fondly refer to as "Creolish" (an amusing mix of English and Creole). But we're still faithfully taking Creole classes and prying that the good Lord gives us some extra grace for our language learning ventures.

This past Sunday was the start of a tropical storm that lasted from Sunday at noon and didn't stop until sometime in the middle of the night on Tuesday. That meant RAIN DAY for us on Monday... the only unfortunate part is that we were cooped up inside for two days because everything was wet and flooded and it literally did not stop raining for more than 10 minutes at a time. It got so cold that we were wearing socks, sweatpants, sweaters, and drinking ridiculous amounts of tea. To pass the time we watched a lot of movies, slept, read books, did a thorough reorganization of our tiny house, and baked some dessert snacks with our limited food selection.

Yesterday was probably one of the funnest days we've had at school so far. Krist and I taught our classes about Christmas in Canada and how we get so much snow, and decorate Christmas trees. Then we did an activity where they got to paint Christmas trees by stamping egg cartons onto a triangle. Most of them have never been able to do any type of activity like painting crafts, and they were so excited they could hardly control themselves. It was precious enough seeing them in their little art aprons and I'm sure some of them would have been content to just wear their apron around the class for the rest of the day. It's kind of humbling to realize that something as simple as an art apron can make a child so excited.

One last thought before I finish writing for today. It has been really strange not being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. It's officially December and the closest we've gotten to the "holiday season" is seeing pictures of Christmas trees on Facebook and listening to some occasional Christmas songs. We miss it. We absolutely love Christmas, and decorating and baking sugar cookies, and wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. But ultimately I think what we're really looking forward to is spending deep, quality time with our family and friends, loving and being loved for two short weeks, and getting our fill of Starbucks.

There's a lot that's going to be happening in the next two weeks before we leave for Christmas: Christmas activities at school, testing and another report card period, and a Christmas party for the students and parents at school. But at least we don't have snow!

Sending lots of warm, holiday cheer from Haiti!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Rest, Routines and Realizations.

After a little vacation and rest away from school, the first week back to school from a vacation is always exhausting. I can say that I missed the kids and I was ready to see them again, but this week was very exhausting and was filled with trying to get back into school routines. Even after a small vacation, it seems like the children forget what routine is, and how to sit with self-control in a classroom. Thankfully by Friday, the kids were finally realizing that they were in school again.

Before we had our little vacation, where we enjoyed some much needed relaxation time in Florida with Paul's family and friends, we finished our English testing with our students. We have now finished report cards and had our parent meeting this past Tuesday where we discussed one on one with the parents about their child's success. Thankfully, we had a translator with us for our parent meetings and we were able to communicate with the parents exactly what we needed and wanted to say about their child and how they were doing in school. Both mine and Cassie's students are doing amazing in English. Better than we thought they would, and we are learning that small victories are glorious victories. Although it is very encouraging that they are learning English and enjoying it, I am being reminded that it is not just about teaching them English, it is about investing in their lives, taking time to ask them how they are doing, taking time to hug them and love them, taking time to smile and be silly with them, and taking time to make sure they know they are special, and so loved by Our Creator.

While we were in Florida, we enjoyed some time shopping for jeans, which doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but to someone who has been living in skirts for the past 4 months, putting on a pair of jeans feels pretty amazing. We enjoyed wearing our hair down without sweating to death and enjoyed being outside without being eaten by mosquitoes. We enjoyed a lot of American food, which included Chic-Fil-A that we tried for the first time, burgers, pizza, ice cream, and lots of salad. We went to a restaurant, and I decided to order a salad since we don't have the liberty of eating salad here, so I was very excited to have a caesar salad. The waitress came and asked how my salad was, just like every polite and good waitress would do, and I responded with a very exuberant, "IT TASTES AMAZING! THANK YOU SO MUCH!" Little did she know how sincere and truly thankful I was for that salad.

On the second last day of our time in Florida, I noticed that I was getting a little bit of a rash on my face and on my chest. I didn't really think anything of it until the day we arrived back in Haiti. My whole body broke out into a huge rash. We had no idea what it was. We were going through our options of chicken pox, measles, or an allergic reaction. With the limited internet that we have here, we tried to look up symptoms of each and tried to matdt it to how I was feeling. We realized how much we took for granted by having doctors and clinics nearby and readily available to us in Canada. In situation like this, there's really not much we can do except trust that God is our ultimate Healer. Both Cass and I were very scared because we didn't know if it was something very serious or something minor. As I was stuck inside my room praying to the good Lord that He would miraculously heal me, my wonderful sister was contacting family and friends back home trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and speaking loads of creole with people around here to try and help me. The next day, it still didn't go away so we got in contact with a Haitian doctor that worked in the United States for a bit. He came over and looked at what was wrong with me and gave me some medication to help my cause. Cass and I both learned a lot of patience, how to trust God with everything we have, and that God will always be our help in times on trouble. Thank you Jesus for doctors, people with willing hearts to help and for medication. We still don't know exactly what it was, but we are assuming it was an allergic reaction to some type of food.

One of my best friends shared this devotion with me and it seems to best explain where my heart is. The devotion is called "Changed Expectations."

Acts 1:1-11; v.6 "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?"
You've been waiting for God to restore your Kingdom. That's probably not how you understand your deepest longings, but that's what they amount to, in a sense. You have desire for fruitful and satisfying work, deep and lasting relationships, peace and purpose in your heart and fulfillment in your vision and dreams. Much of what you do in life is based on realizing these goals. You know deep down that you were built for fulfillment, and you are waiting for God to fulfill. In other words, you are waiting for Him to restore the kingdom you envision. Jesus' answer to you will probably be as indirect as the one He gave the disciples. "It is not for you to know" (v.7), He will say about whatever specifics fill your heart. What we are to know is that He is at work and we are His coworkers. We are to be about His agenda. The Kingdom is in His hands, and our fulfillment will come in its proper time. Meanwhile, by taking our eyes off our own agendas and fixing them on His, we find that He fulfills us anyways. That's almost always the way of Jesus. That's why He told His disciples to "lose" themselves in order to "find" true life. That's how they can carry their cross of death and still truly live. The paradox is consistent throughout Scripture: those who abandon themselves to God find themselves completely embraced. What Kingdom have you been expecting? Whatever is it, stop striving for it. Live instead for the agenda of Jesus' Kingdom. Be His Witness, live in His Spirit, seek His will on earth as it is in Heaven. In abandoning your own idea of the Kingdom for His, you'll find that His includes everything you deeply desired anyway. That may be a long way down the road or that may be soon. Either way, you'll be satisfied. The real Kingdom will be much more fulfilling than you own. Before we can pray "Thy Kingdom come" we must be willing to pray, "My Kingdom go."

For the next week, I encourage you to wake up every morning and before you even get out of bed, to pray this short prayer;"MY KINGDOM GO." We must be eager to pray these dangerous yet powerful prayers, and expect God to move in our lives. I encourage you to put aside your own agenda, your own things that need to be done, and listen to the plans God has for you in this week. Maybe God's agenda will line up with what you had planned, or maybe unimaginable things will happen.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting us through encouragement and prayer. We cannot thank you enough for how you have uplifted our souls and encouraged us on our journey here. Please continue to pray for us and for the mission as a whole.

Sending lots of love from Haiti!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Gratitude and Canadian Thanksgiving.

Seeing as Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend, I think a little blurb on gratitude is entirely appropriate. If there's one really big thing that I've learned about gratitude over the past several years, it's this: gratitude is a decision, not an emotion. Thanksgiving is not something that should be the sole result of a particularly amazing day, or even a season of life with few difficulties and struggles. When it comes down to it, thanksgiving is a daily, conscious choice.

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1 Thessalonians 5:18

This verse makes it uncomfortably difficult to ignore the times when life is hard, when we face temptations, or when the trials seem never-ending... which sometimes make it so hard to feel grateful. In times when I can't bring myself to be thankful for a trial itself, I am learning that there are dozens of things I can be thankful for while I am walking through the trial. Often though, my eyes are so blinded to everything else around me because my focus is so glued to my problems.

Especially in a place like Haiti when life itself can sometimes just be plain difficult, where our focus is can literally be life or death to our spirits. The highs can be really high, and the lows can be really low. Discouragement is probably one of our biggest enemies here, and the one reason why gratitude is so important. I think it's one of the commands in the Bible too, because it forces us to recognize God's faithfulness every single day; there is always, always something that God has put in your day to be thankful for. The amazing thing is that once you make gratitude a habit, it starts to become a lifestyle. A life of gratitude is a life of recognizing God's faithful companionship everyday of your life, even when the "feeling" of God's presence might not be there.

September was so busy with school that we took a break from Creole classes, but we started up again last week. This week, our teacher taught us a Haitian proverb: "Deye mon gen mon." Literally it means: Behind mountains there are mountains." It's supposed to mean that there are always going to be troubles and trials in life; once you solve one, another one will always pop up. Behind one trouble there is always another trouble. It was so fitting to learn this proverb this week because this week wasn't the easiest. Trouble after trouble seemed to pop up- some related to school, some not. Often when I would pray about them throughout the day, my answer would simply be to find- to literally actively search out- the little moment I could be grateful for; to recognize the blessings, however small, that are continuously being poured out on me to help me through each day.

On Friday, Krist and I had a real treat. We had been talking for a while about how Canadian Thanksgiving was coming up and how this would be the very first Thanksgiving with our family we've ever missed. So Bethany, bless her dear heart, concocted a plan to give us a Thanksgiving feast. She our cook Kenold slaved all day while we were at school, making turkey, real mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni casserole, beet salad (which is a Haitian thing), bread, and dessert made with canned apple filling (which is as close to apple pie as we're ever going to get here). They cooked enough food for an army, and we got to share Thanksgiving with all of the youth guys that make up our Haitian family here. What a blessing to have a little taste of our Canadian home here in our new Haitian home.

In other news, life here is moving along as usual. We are starting to form deeper relationships with our students as they come to trust us more and more. On Thursday, we had a parent meeting at the school in the afternoon. We had seen many parents before school started, but it was so neat to be able to associate parents with their kids now that we know them so well. We had many parents tell us that their kids are speaking English at home that they are learning at school, and are even trying to teach their parents some words.

The weather has been brutally hot this week. Last week was super overcast and rainy, and was a lovely little break from the heat. This week has been relentless and scorching and sweaty, and makes us wish for fall all over again. Once winter hits and you all are sitting in 3 feet of snow, I know I'll be grateful for the sun.

On a completely different note, I think our village has become accustomed to our presence. If you come to Haiti and you're White, you're called "blan" (pronounced blah but with a nasal vowel sound). When we first got here, that's all we heard when we left the compound. Now, we can walk to school or to the ministry center, and only hear an occasional "blan" from a little kid. It's a weird thing to be excited about, I know. I don't think we really think about being an extreme minority anymore either. We feel so home here with these people. But the one thing that is sometimes hard is the gender imbalance on the compound. There are really no girls that come to hang out here (which is something I don't really understand so I'm not going to attempt to explain), and so there will be days where there are 15 youth guys here with just Kristen, Bethany and I... it can get a little overwhelming if you know what I mean. Nonetheless, we love them all the same.

To our Canadian friends and family, we love and miss you, and hope you have such a blessed Thanksgiving. We are thankful for you all!
Sending love from Haiti!

Ps. Sometimes we're not sure what to write about, so if you have any burning curiosities, let us know and we'll share what we can. :)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Week One... CHECK!

We survived our first week of Haitian school.... thank the good Lord! It's scary to think about how fast time has gone- that it's been two months since we moved to Haiti. We've put in a lot of sweat and a lot of tears since being here, and it doesn't feel like real life that months and months of planning on our part (and years of planning on Mission Haiti's part) has culminated in the first week of school being finished already.

It's been quite a journey to get to this point, and in all honesty there are times when we question God's timing in relation to being here in Haiti. We have such a huge task ahead of us: teaching at a brand new school with teachers and students who don't speak our language. There are times we doubt God's timing and wonder if we truly are ready for this task ahead of us. But it's in those times of doubting that this line from a book seems to suddenly come to mind: You may not FEEL ready for what is ahead of you, but God KNOWS you are ready because He has placed it in front of you. So we rest in that and try to take one day at a time.

Here's a little snapshot of what school looks like for us here. There are two Haitian teachers that will be teaching preschool. Kristen and a Haitian teacher (who also happens to be the mother at our orphanage) are teaching Junior Kindergarten. Cassie and another Haitian teacher are teaching Senior Kindergarten. Each morning students will be fed breakfast at the school at 7:30. School will officially start at 8:00. We have two hours of class and then the school feeds the students "lunch" as well at 10:00. They get a short recess and then we have about an hour and a half of classes before school officially gets out at 12:30. That may seem early, but all schools in Haiti get out early because they don't have all the fluff and fillers that we're used to. Monday to Wednesday the Haitian teachers teach in French, and we co-teach with them as much as we can. Thursday and Friday, we teach in English (which isn't entirely accurate; it's more like a funny mix of English, French and Creole, and by the time we get home from school we can't speak proper English anymore).

We want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who covered us with so much prayer during our first week. It honestly worked wonders on our behalf. Our first day went about as well as could be expected. We had a lot of cry-ers and pee-ers and runners, but they all looked stinkin' adorable in their little uniforms. By Friday, the kids could pretty much remember our names, pronounce simple English words like hello, please and thank you, and were starting to figure out the routines of the school.

It's also worth a mention that it is ridiculous how much love these kids pour out on us, considering we only had four days of school last week (Wednesday was a rain day). They latch onto us like we're going to run away at any moment, and smile with so much joy shining out of their little dark eyes that we want to take them all home. It's kind of humbling at the same time. They fill us up with so much love, yet at the same time they are starving for love and attention themselves. I think sometimes we get so caught up in curriculum and planning and pedagogy that we forget that pure Jesus-love can sometimes make the biggest difference of all.

Week one is done, and week two is upon us. It's so true that the beginning of anything is always the hardest, and this year as a whole is probably going to be one of the most challenging of our lives. In spite of that, neither one of us would trade places with any of you. Haiti and its kids are weaving their way into the deep, deep places of our hearts.

Here are just a couple pictures of the school and classrooms.

This is our little school office.

This is our primary hallway with nine classrooms.

Senior Kindergarten class.

Front of a classroom.

Our little cafeteria where the kiddos eat breakfast and lunch.

Toy shelves in each class.

Sending love from Haiti!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Backpacks, School Supplies, and Hundreds of Shoes!

Well, it's been a little over two weeks since we've returned to Haiti. We went back to Canada for a short trip because my (Kristen's) best friend was getting married and I was the maid of honour- something I most definitely did not want to miss. A little taste of home was refreshing and filled with much gratitude. Family, friends, love, Tim Hortons, green grass and the taste of Canadian pizza were all much to be thankful for.

This past while back here in Haiti has been so busy that it seems like we never left. We had the pleasure of having a missions team down here our first week bck, consisting of Tim, Gretchen, Chelsea, Sara, and Tate, who are all from the States. They were here to help us with a wonderful job called Distribution.

Distribution is an event that Mission Haiti puts on every year to hand out hundreds and hundreds of shoes, backpacks and school supplies to students from the surrounding schools. On Monday our job was to bring all of the supplies to the new school to set up Distribution in the classrooms. We had a registration room, a backpack room, and a shoe room. Kristen and I were put in charge of shoe distribution, along with Gretchen, Chelsea, some of the youth boys, Samuel, and Junior, who was our translator. We spent ALL day organizing hundreds of pairs of shoes into shelves of the correct size. If we ever can't find a job teaching in the future, someone should probably hire us to work in a shoes store.

The first two days of Distribution focused mostly on high school students, which was interesting, thrilling, challenging, and joyful. It's worth a mention that Haitian high school students are extremely intimidating. They have this resting face that looks angry and sullen and unimpressed with the world. Add to this a language barrier and the fact that they are fashionistas, and let me tell you it was not a walk in the park to try and interact with them. On Thursday most of the elementary students came, and Kristen and I were just melted puddles at the cuteness of them, all smiles and wide eyes, and full of so much joy at their new pair of shoes. It has always been a dream of mine to participate in some form of distribution, so I was ecstatic to be a small part of something so large.

We had someone measuring the size of the people's feet and then our job was to pick out two or three pairs of shoes for them to try on. As easy as this may sound, and sometimes it was, for the most partit was far from that. There were times where we had someone that was thoroughly unimpressed with the options that we gave them and had to tell them that they had to choose one of the three pairs because if we gave them more options, we would have never gotten through everyone. I have to admit, sometimes this could pull my heart strings in the wrong way because every ounce of me wished I could give them the shoes that they would love, and sometimes it just didn't sit well with my soul and I had to try another pair because at the end of it all, the smiles and the endless thank you's are what make it all worth it. Our Distribution days were filled with loads and loads of shoes, spontaneous dance breaks, ear to ear smiles, gratitude, attitude and lots of hand sanitizer.

This week, Cassie and I have been getting things ready for school. We are starting to feel the craziness of school preparation. We finally have the furniture in our classrooms set up the way we like them. We have been slowly going through the curriculum that we will be teaching from, but it is all in French so it takes us twice as long to understand and fully grasp. Let's just say we take a lot of frequent breaks to not go crazy. We have also started pre-testing with our students, which consists of asking them a variety of questions such as basic numbers, colours, and alphabet to preassess where they are at going into the school year. ,It's crazy to think that school starts in about two and a half weeks We still have to put up decoration in our rooms, and make it look like a classroom rather than just a cement room with furniture in it. There is still so much to do. We are both excited and nervous for the school year to begin. We know that it will be challenging but we are excited to see how God will work in the hearts of our students as well as the both of us.

So much has happened since writing this blog. Our Internet has been so bad lately that we've had this blog written for probably over a week. Stay patient with us as we do our best to post as often as we can!

Sending love from Haiti!

PS. School is starting on September 7th. Next week is filled with staff meetings, parent meetings, more distribution of backpacks, school supplies and shoes, and lesson prep. Kristen and I so desperately need your prayers for strength and wisdom as we head into this busy school season!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

We're practically Haitian now...

It's been hitting me lately how many things we take for granted when life is good and easy. Take for example, electricity. Being able to flip on a switch whenever you want and instantly being able to see in the dark. Power in Haiti is a finicky and funny thing, we are coming to learn. The government, for a reason we haven't been able to figure out yet, only turns on the power at certain times of the day; maybe the morning, sometimes the afternoon, and if we're really lucky, in the evening or during the night so we can have our fans on to sleep. There are some solar panels on the compound and there is an inverter, but our house isn't hooked up to it yet, so as we patiently wait for that to happen so we can have lights on at night, we use solar lights in our house and bathroom.

Another thing we take for granted is the availability of food. We've only been in Haiti for two and a half weeks but already we CRAVE cold, fresh salad. It's not that there isn't any produce here, but we have to be really careful about what we eat and where it comes from because it could make us really sick. Our cook Kanal gets his produce from very specific markets and people. It's also safer to cook them most of the time, rather than eat them raw. The other day we had a rare treat of fresh pineapple with lunch.

There is also so much poverty here that we can't help but be thankful everyday for the house that we have to live in. Some people in the village have tied together pieces of material and a tarp roof for a house. Guilt is an emotion that can creep up almost daily here when we stop to look at what the people don't have, and how much we do have.

Laundry. I need to tell you about doing laundry here. Krist and I did laundry for the first time one morning last week. It felt like we were dripping sweat the whole time, and it's not even as labour intensive as it could be because the compound has this ancient washing machine that creaks and groans and runs on electricity. So we sort our laundry to similar colours, pour buckets of water into the machine, put the first load in, pop in a laundry pod, and let it run for 10-15 minutes. When it's done, you turn on the ringer that's attached to the top of the washer and run all the clothes in that load through one at a time. While one of us goes to hang up that load of laundry on our balcony railing, the other one puts in the next load of laundry. And so it goes until we're done. It probably took us about an hour and half in total for a week's worth of clothes.

I think our Creole lessons are also worthy of a mention. We started them on Monday, and our teacher is a guy by the time of Elysie, who used to take English classes but essentially taught himself how to speak and write English. He's super smart, and we're super not good at Creole right now, but he always says, "Nou se tre intelligen!" (You are very smart). It makes us feel better about our Creole abilities. We have lessons every Monday to Wednesday. On Wednesday our lesson was 2 hours, but I think we're both appreciating the challenge and like having something concrete that we can tackle to get us one step closer to adjusting to life here and being ready for school in September.

(That's our super high-tech lesson board)

The other day we also got to do some iPad activities with two of the orphanage kids next door, Mischi and Israel. We were trying to get them to do some educational games but they ended up having more fun running around taking pictures of random objects and having us pose.

(This is Israel- he has the biggest eyes and cutest smile you've ever seen)

(This is Mischi- she's a girl who knows what she wants)

Krist and I are starting to feel a little more adjusted everyday, but I can't say we're getting used to the heat. I am not a fan of sweating day and night and we try to stick to the shade as much as possible. The humidity has also done terrible things to our hair. There is virtually no possible way to be vain here because we care more about feeling cool than having matching clothes, and our hair usually gets piled up on our head with a headband. Haitian men are total fashionistas though... they take a lot of pride in having nice clothes, and will sometimes change their outfits two times a day. They also wear jeans, which I will never, ever understand.

Last Wednesday two pastors arrived from a church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where Mission Haiti is based out of. One of the pastors is on the Mission Haiti board, and it was nice to be able to talk to other people who speak English! We found out that they had been praying for us even before we knew about Mission Haiti. God is so good to give us glimpses of His intricate plan far beyond what we have an understanding of.. it makes you realize how out of control and small you are in the grand scheme of things.

We hope you're getting a little glimpse into our world here!
Sending more love from Haiti!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

We Survived Week One!

A hot and sweaty "bonjou" from Haiti! It's been over a week since we left home. Time is flying by but also going by quite slow. The days here feel super long, but there's less daylight (it's nearly pitch black by 8:30). The days seem incredibly long when it's so hot that all we want to do is sleep and drink water. We sweat all day and sweat all night.

Last Sunday we arrived on Haiti ground. After waiting for nearly 45 minutes to collect our luggage amidst Haitians pushing and shoving to grab their own luggage, Paul and Bethany (the other two missionaries living at the compound; Paul is going to be the principal of our school) treated us to a day and night at a little hotel in Port au Prince to help us adjust to our move. Looking back, we are so thankful for our time there.

Monday morning at 6:30am we headed to the bus stop for a 4 hour bus ride in what Bethany likes to call "The Arctic Tundra". She calls it this because they have the air conditioning blasting so high that sweat pants and a sweater are necessities when riding the bus. One would think that after being in the Haitian sun for a short amount of time, you would be happy to be in cold air, but think again.

The bus took us to Cayes which is the nearest large city to our village. When we stepped off the, we were swarmed by people asking if we needed a taxi, or if they could help us with our luggage. We got really good at saying no thank you - non, messi in Creole.

When we finally reached the compound, we got to see our finished housing for the first time. We really are spoiled; they built American bathrooms for us, complete with a toilet, sink and shower. Up until this point, any missionaries living here took "bucket showers" which is exactly what is sounds like, and use an outhouse. We even have a sink with running water in our house, all of which we are thankful for every single morning when we wake up.

We don't really have a set routine in place yet. We've slowly been adjusting to life here, and every day it seems we are faced with something new a different. We usually sleep until about 7:30, eat breakfast, do devotions, and head downstairs to start some task or project. And by eat breakfast, I mean either taking a few bites of a granola bar or drinking some water. Towards the end of this week our appetite has seemed almost normal, but at the beginning it was so overwhelmingly hot that our appetites seemed to have stayed in Canada. We have a pretty good variety of breakfast food here. Some is shopped down from the States with mission teams, some is bought from a market in Cayes, and some is bought locally in the village. We have bread, eggs, pancakes, peanut butter, oatmeal, apple sauce and dry cereal. Our main project for the past few days has consisted of going through the room of stuff for the new school that Mission Haiti has been collecting over the past few years. It is an overwhelming mess but we cannot express how thankful we are to have so many supplies to use to teach here. The kids at this school are going to be so blessed.

Lunch during the summer is cooked by Kanal, who is a Haitian hired by Mission Haiti to cook one meal a day. During the summer he cooks lunch, and during the school year he will cook dinner. So far he's made us strew, vegetable rice and chicken, pate (fried dough with stuffing in the middle), Haitian spaghetti (which is just noodles with vegetables in it), and soup with dumplings. After lunch in the afternoon we've been having naps because the heat has been draining us of a lot of our energy; the humidity is horrible. For dinner we have to fend for ourselves. Some days we don't have an appetite for dinner and we'll have something really small. Other days Paul and Bethany will cook something big and ask us if we want any. We haven't really figured out how to be decent cooks here yet. It's gong to take some imagination to use the staples we have and not get tired of having the same things over and over.

This place is slowly starting to feel like home. We have met some of the people from the village and all of the youth guys that come to the compound on a daily basis. Seeing familiar faces is one thing that has made it feel more homey. We can hold small conversations with them in Creole, which in all honesty is mostly, "Hello, how are you? I'm good and how are you? What's your name? How old are you? We are Canadians." We have learned a little bit more Creole from Immanuel (the security guard on the compound), and we started Creole lessons yesterday. Stay tuned for a post about that...
The language barrier has been one of our biggest hurdles so far. Sometimes we can get by with the French that we know, but sometimes the Haitians don't speak any French. Patience is becoming something that we are being forced to learn very quickly. A lot of the time, our communication consists of a smile and a wave, and that's always good enough.

Everywhere you go in Haiti, there is a different smell... well, at least that's what it seems like right now. We can be driving along the same road for 30 minutes and experience 30 different smells. There is a lot of garbage here and they don't have a garbage system so they burn all of it. The smell of burning garbage is becoming a regular smell to us by now (which I'm not sure is a good thing). Some mornings we wake up to the smell of burning garbage, sometimes waste, sometimes food cooking in the village, sometimes a smell that smells like rotten eggs (we still haven't figured out what it actually is). One of the worst smells you will ever smell in your life is the smell of rotting seaweed. We are living by the ocean, which is amazing and not so amazing all at the same time because there is an overabundance of seaweed that washes up on the rocky shore, and it bakes in the sun all day, creating this nasty smell that fills your nose and mouth and makes you want to gag. We can never really smell it from the compound, just if we are driving along a certain stretch of road leading out of the village. When it is really quiet on the compound and in the village, we can hear the crashing of the waves from the ocean. We sometimes just sit on our porch and listen and soak in the peacefulness of it all.

Stay tuned for more details and pictures soon! We have so much that we want to share, but it's hard to fit it all into a blog in a way that will make sense to all of you. Thank you again to everyone who has been praying for us. We need and appreciate it more than you will ever know!

Sending love from Haiti!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

6 Sleeps Left! [Cassie]

I cannot believe Kristen and I have only 6 sleeps left in Canada before we move to Haiti. This week, a lot... and I mean A LOT of people have been asking me one of two things: "Are you getting excited?" or "Are you scared yet?" That last question makes me nervous... should I should be feeling scared? Is there something I should be scared about that I don't know about yet?

It's been interesting to figure out how to pack up our lives into a handful of suitcases and backpacks. It really forces you to think about what you want and what you truly need. One thing that struck me when we were in Haiti in March is that yes, the people are extremely poor, but they are full of uncontainable joy. They have absolutely nothing, yet they have Jesus, and that's enough for them. So we are sticking to clothes, footwear, the odd toiletry item, and books. We won't be able to wear shorts or pants there, only skirts, which is fantastic until you have to manoeuver yourself in and out of picnic tables every time you want to sit down.

I think we are both feeling a strange mix of nervousness and excitement. There are going to be a lot of changes coming in the next couple of weeks, and we are going to need a lot of prayer [so please check out the Prayer tab as often as you can!]. Kristen and I were able to see our teacher housing when we visited as well, but it was still under construction, so we are not quite sure what we'll be facing when we arrive.

The school was still under construction as well when we visited, so it will be super exciting to see the finished product and be able to start envisioning what school will be like in September. 

This is the elementary wing. There will be a high school wing on the other side of the property.

This is going to be the "cafeteria". [students will be fed breakfast and lunch everyday]

One of the schools that we visited in the mountains was a one-room schoolhouse with four different levels being taught [one in each corner]. I was honestly shocked at the way even the little kindergarten-age kids you see to the right of the picture were sitting nearly perfectly still on their little benches and listening to the teacher. 

One of our jobs once we get to Haiti is to start taking Creole lessons. Creole is a mix of French and Spanish, and it's almost like a very basic and phonetic version of French when you read it and speak it. The problem is that even when Haitians are speaking French, their accent is so different that I had to say "pardonnez-moi" about 5 times before I could even understand what they were saying. Kristen and I have being doing our own version of French school to try and brush up on our skills.

We'll be flying out around 7 pm on Saturday and arriving in Miami around 11pm. We have an overnight layover at the airport, and will be heading to Haiti around 7am on Sunday morning. From Port au Prince it's a long, bumpy, and sometimes terrifying five hour drive to the missionary compound where we'll be living.

I've been posting this verse as a reminder everywhere I can. God has proven Himself faithful in all the preparations we've faced so far, and we're believing in faith that God is going to provide in all the ways we need once we're in Haiti. 

We are both SO excited to be able to share our journey with you, and we hope you'll come back and read as often as you can. Feel free to leave us lots of comments and questions and share the blog with everyone you know!