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!