Haiti Revisited

Going backward in time describing my trip has allowed me time to mull over my thoughts about Haiti. What did I want to say about Haiti this time (I visited there for the first time one year ago.) What did I think about Haiti? And then my friend posted this wonderful piece of writing about the dreams and disparity that you see in Haiti. THAT’S how I felt! She voiced it so much better than I could.

When I go to Haiti, I tend to be overwhelmed by everything. The heat! The humidity! The electricity is off! The masses of people everywhere trying to sell stuff on the sidewalk. How can any of them make enough money to live when there are so many trying to sell the same thing? The dust! The despair that I see on so many faces. The traffic! The little trucks on their very last legs packed with people like sardines in a can–how can they even breath in there? The “roads.” The slums. The LANGUAGE. I can’t understand a word they are saying. (LOL, sometimes I can’t even understand when they are speaking to me in English…)

And yet. And yet….

There are flashes of brilliance. Of greatness. Spending time with a man who serves God like none I’ve ever experienced before. Pastor Gilbert is our host when we go to Haiti. He has an SUV and two cell phones. Every day as we traveled back and forth to the villages with him, we had traveling companions with us. He would be giving a ride to this or that person. Drop them off at their work corner. Get them down the road a ways. Taking them along on his journeys so he could talk to them and instruct them. Bringing them along to experience the small villages. Delivering a bit of food or some supplies. Constantly taking or making calls (presumably to arrange these pick ups and drop offs, and fielding other requests.) Providing a word of wisdom or encouragement. And if they happened to still be in the car when he arrived home, ALWAYS, a big plate of rice and beans for them before they returned to their own home. His life is God’s life.

And now, the trip. As we arrived in Haiti, Pastor Gilbert met us at the exit and took us to his car, where there were (of course) two other women that he was giving a ride to! One was an animated American who CAME TO HAITI ON VACATION EVERY YEAR BECAUSE SHE LOVED IT. What the what???? No comprehendo. I’m still mulling that one over.

This is one of my favorite pictures. Because it is so typical of my brother. This is Pastor Gilbert and my brother trying to order a plain cheese pizza at a huge fast food joint that we went to on our first night there. It was quite the ordeal trying to explain that to the young clerk.


This place was huge, and had a number of different types of food offered. Maybe like one of the food courts in our American malls? I wish I had gone around the corner and seen the Haitian chicken before I ordered my “steak sandwich.” I told my brother later that it was tasty, but there was no discernible steak in it! Tasty french fries though.


The next morning, as we headed to Carrefour Poy, I was surprised to see that much of the tent cities were cleared out. I hadn’t expected that big of a change in one year.

And then we came upon these little pastel block houses that had been built at the location of one of the tent cities!


This is just a typical scene of the street vendors. They are everywhere—city, country, and on the major roads in between.


And then we arrived at Carrefour Poy. My friend Claudel gave me a tour of the classrooms. It was Friday, and I think the kids were in high spirits because it was a half day.


The well that was installed in the church yard is constantly in use.


One of “my” girls, Ketlyn.


And the other, Elvena. Elvena was home sick, but somehow Claudel sent word for her to come to the school to see me. Its a mystery to me how they communicate out there in the middle of nowhere.

Alvena’s mom has died, and her dad is supposedly the voodoo priest in the town. What he really is is a man who has fried his brain on alcohol. I worry about her. But it does seem she has a stepmother who cares about her, because she has been well-dressed and well-groomed each time I’ve visited.


The main purpose of our trip: my brother presented a “seminar” on hog management in each of three villages. It cracks me up how they “do business” in Haiti. The seminar is supposed to start at 9. We show up about 9:10. No one is there. Pastor Gilbert hangs around outside for a while, and pretty soon people start appearing (again with the mysterious mode of communication in the boonies.) And then we start about 10.

My brother always spoke from the Bible for a few minutes, and then got into the hog management aspect. What he does is so far removed from what they do in Haiti, we wondered if there were anything he could offer them. But by the third seminar, it did seem that he had some very practical suggestions for them. I was so proud of my brother for doing this. Just going to Haiti was so far out of his comfort zone.


While my brother spoke, I stitched on one of my little travel quilts. I had put together some “quilt kits” to share in case anyone expressed any interest. Two different women started watching me, and so I gave each one of them a kit. One of them happened to be my favorite teacher from our previous trip to Haiti (she helped us with the shoe giveaway) so I was very happy about that. It turned out that the other woman was also a teacher! She opened her kit right away, and we sat and stitched companionably for about an hour!

On Sunday we returned to Carrefour Poy for church. It happened to be their 18 year church anniversary, so they had decorated the church with streamers.


Church is so special to these people. They all dress in their very best. There is no glancing at watches to see if the service will be over soon. They are there to worship!


My friend Claudel. He is the young man I mentioned in this post. 


He was so excited to show me the construction that he had started on his new home.


And for your amusement, (and to show that I’m not ALWAYS a whiny American baby,) here’s one of the “bathrooms” that I visited. I don’t think its used too often because the “toilet” (brick hole) was a little covered in cobwebs. A nice young woman did hold the “door” closed for me as it was quite breezy that day!


One of the young pastors we met asked me “do you love Haiti?” To which I replied “I love the people of Haiti.” I thought to myself as the trip neared its end, I don’t think I’ll come back again. But now as I write this, I know that Haiti is an important part of my Christian pilgrimage, and that I will indeed return again someday to Haiti.


A Different Perspective.

How funny that my blog friend Helen should write about perspective at the same time I was thinking about this. And my old blog friend Lynn wrote such a good post that also gave me some input to how I was feeling about my trip to Haiti. (BTW, Wendy wrote a really great overview of our trip with some great pics here.)

So here’s a few of the things I was feeling on my trip to Haiti.

  • Frustration. I can’t solve this problem. EVEN OPRAH WINFRY CAN’T SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. (I actually thought that…) I also get frustrated at “rich Americans” who can seemingly turn a blind eye to the problems of the poor and needy in our world. I call it flipping the channel. We all see it–the devastation that poverty and injustice brings to people all over the world– on television. But if you can’t stand looking at it, you can always just flip the channel. This is where Lynn’s poignant article about the ant farm comes in, describing a little boy who grew to love the ants in his ant farm as he watched them working, and then was devastated as he saw his friends stomping on some ants. Lynn made the observation that you cannot love what you do not know.
  • Disconnect. I felt disconnected from the process. I even felt disconnected from God, which was VERY irritating. I didn’t have the passion that Wendy was feeling. Like Lynn mentioned in the comments about how she felt from a distance (“punched in the gut”) when we ran out of shoes, Wendy was VERY upset about that. I was just pragmatic. I had hoped we would have enough, but the common sense side of me knew we didn’t have quite enough shoes with us, even if every pair had fit every child. Like I told Wendy, “there are 200 kids here, we would have had to have about 400 pairs of shoes to ensure we had exactly the right size for every kid.” That said, I have to admit that I was wrong before we left–those kids have big feet! They are not very big people, so I thought we needed more smaller sized shoes. We will be sending another suitcase soon with larger shoes.

So. The frustration I can get over. I even wrote about it here. You know, that old starfish story. I can’t help everyone, but I can help this one that I see.

The disconnect, that took a little longer to work through. Its funny the ways God chooses to speak to you. Well, at least the ways He chooses to speak to me… a friend called who had actually been to both the places that I have been (Nairobi and Haiti) so she knew in person what I had seen. That helped a little. A sermon by David Platt that I watched on video gave me a few more insights. Then, Saturday night, I watched a YOU TUBE video (and I cannot recommend this video to you highly enough–it was amazing) and I found a different perspective.

The youtube video was an amazing one-man play called C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey. It was so well done. The actor portrayed C.S. Lewis sitting and and actually talking to a group of writing students. When he talked about his wife, and the short time they had together, and how mad he was at her death, he said he finally realized that the three years they had together (she was expected to die in a few weeks and instead had a 3 year remission from bone cancer,) was a gift.

And that changed my perspective. The trip to Haiti was a gift. It went unbelievably smoothly. The difficult physical aspects (no electricity, sketchy running water, ? food) were all easy for me. None of us got sick. I saw one mosquito the whole time I was there, and NO spiders. (well, okay, I saw one small daddy long legs. I see more spiders than that in my own home in a couple of hours.) And this morning I finally put a couple of other things together. That personality trait that served me so well as a nurse, the ability to disconnect, was still in play. I always credited that as a gift, as I was able to be truly compassionate to my patients and their parents, and yet I could go home and not think about them on my days off. I believe that this is what allowed me to minister more whole heartedly to my patients without ‘burning out.’ So that hasn’t changed about me. Its not likely to change. That’s how God made me. And that is why, by Saturday morning, on my weekly talk with my brother, we could talk about making plans to return to Haiti.

P.S. I can’t leave the subject of Haiti without sharing my favorite memory with you. One of the little girls I sponsor is Elvena. Her mother is dead, and her dad is, well, just plain crazy (I’m quoting one of the locals.) So when I met her on Thursday, she was very shy, not too many smiles. On Friday, we walked around the village, and visited some of the sponsored kids in their homes. Out came Elvena, dressed in her new hot pink and coral Old Navy outfit! And by Sunday, when we went back to Carrefour Poy for church and our last visit, Elvena just kept hanging around me. Big smiles. Not wanting hugging or touching, just being around. And as we left Carrefour Poy (in the only car that even goes to that village!) it was just like a scene from a movie. There was Alvena, still in her colorful Old Navy outfit, running along behind, laughing and smiling and waving. And as we went on, she came to her road, and turned and ran on back to her home. I didn’t get my camera out for a picture, but I will never forget that. It was a gift.

P.S.S. If you want to see a slide show of my entire quilt exhibit “The Housetop Quilts,” go to my quilt blog, and there will be a link there.

Back to the Gym

I finally went to the gym today, after being absent from it for almost two weeks. It sure felt good. And it felt really great that I had not lost any of my strength or endurance during that time. I even challenged myself and got two 45 second planks done!

Oh, what’s that you say? Where was I?  Oh yeah. Haiti. What would you like to hear about?

The city slums?


The country slums?


Side-of-the-road slums? (a strip mall??)


How about what I thought were little ATM boxes everywhere on the side of the road? Turns out they were lottery boxes. Just what a devastated country needs.


Do I sound… I don’t know how I sound, or even what I feel. We were headquartered in Port au Prince, and drove through rubble and slums and tent cities and garbage and a LOT of people every day and all the way out to the country area where Carrefour Poy was. Its just a lot to process.

We did have a very ‘successful’ trip, accomplishing almost everything we set out to do. We brought over 150 pairs of shoes with us, but we still ran out before we were able to give every child a pair of shoes. We were able to meet with each of the sponsored students, and quite a few of the students still waiting for sponsors. We had a ‘teacher appreciation dinner’ (served them American style sandwiches) and we were able to visit with some of the students in their homes.


The similarities to Nairobi were almost eery. And as I learned in Nairobi, there is peace in a simple life. Our host and chauffeur and interpreter, Pastor Gilbert, lives in a modest home in the middle of the rubble of Port au Prince. Like I said, sometimes there is electricity, and sometimes there isn’t. When there isn’t electricity, there isn’t running water (one of the most useful things I learned was that I could wash my hair with 5 cups of water! One to wet my hair, and 4 to make sure it was rinsed. That will come in handy someday.) There were always people coming and going from his house, and they had several women living with them who had no where else to go. A young nursing student and their 5 year old niece also lived with them. And yet, in the midst of all that, I thought, “Gilbert’s home is a very peaceful place.” Oh, and they had THE MOST WONDERFUL COFFEE ready for us each morning. What else could a person want?

Here’s a couple of shots of us at the San Francisco airport, all bright and shiny, at the beginning of our journey.

My friend Wendy and her son, with their healthy choices of kombucha and coconut water.


Guess what I found?


And at the end of the trip, Wendy and I and the three outstanding young men who worked with us as interpreters and more.


As always, I had a little travel quilting project with me. I don’t usually have that much time to work on my travel quilts, but they are like a security blanket for me. And just taking them along with me usually inspires the direction I will take with them. You can check out my travel quilt over on the quilt blog if you want to.

Regular stuff: I was very happy that I didn’t overeat on this trip at all. And my joints did extremely well with the airplane travel. I swear they have added leg room to all the planes. After spending a week in 80-90 degree weather, with irregular weather and irregular running water, I arrived home in the middle of the night to bitter cold. And ironically, just as I was looking forward to a nice American hot shower, my water pipes froze up.

I’m glad to be home.

So Much to Say, So Little Time…

Well, I missed out on that whole end-of-year-review AND the beginning-of-the-year-goal-setting. I’ll just say that my BF pointed out to me that it had been a VERY GOOD YEAR for me, and she is so right. And it is already starting to be a VERY GOOD YEAR in this new year.

The two biggest projects for the past year are converging at exactly the same time, and that is the reason there is “so little time” to write. Tomorrow I go to Folsom to hang the quilts for the gallery showing. The quilts that I have been working on all year. TWENTY quilts. I am so pleased that I set a goal for myself to make 20 quilts, and that I actually was able to accomplish that. Some of them are pictured over on the quilt blog. I hope to have all of them photographed and to do a slide show or something. But that will have to wait for a week or two.

Because the other BIG THING that is happening is that I leave for Haiti on Monday. And this is also at the end of a year of working on our child sponsorship program for the children of Carrefour Poy. We are so happy with what we have been able to do so far. But have so much more that we want to do. It will be so helpful to ‘see for ourselves’ the situation and the needs. You can see some pictures of the kids on our website. We were so happy when they were able to start a lunch program. And our shoe drive for the month of December reaped fantastic results. We have about 175 pairs of shoes! Our suitcases are stuffed to the gills. Fortunately the weather is warm there, so our lightweight clothing will not take much room!

But you all know that what I really like to talk about is the daily dailies. And food. So here’s a bit of this and that.

I made crepes!! I was pretty excited at how perfectly I was able to make crepes for the first time. I used Georgie’s recipe, which if you look at it, it is a form of our protein pancakes.


But here’s the weird thing. I made these for myself Christmas morning, but I didn’t really like them. The chocolate banana filling was too rich for me. So I tossed them, and had a piece of that baked oatmeal that I had made out of the fruit salad. BTW, I liked that baked oatmeal so much that I figured out how to make it again and will post that recipe soon. The crepes themselves were great, though, and I will try them again. Maybe with a blueberry filling.

And then, for Christmas, I finally bought myself one of those spiralizers. SUPER COOL!!! I bought the one that Cammy had pointed out to me. So nice. Hand-held, and I can put it in the drawer when I am done. Look at these cool spiralized carrots and zucchini! I cooked them and made some of my Darn Good Spaghetti Sauce to serve on top of them.


And this is a nice little gift idea: Home-made muesli fixings. My mom likes me to make muesli for her. Lately I haven’t had enough oatmeal on hand, so I just put all the other stuff in a container and tell her to mix it in with oatmeal. For Christmas I had the idea to layer the ingredients in a mason jar. You can use whatever you want as the add-ins. This jar has slivered almonds, unsweetened coconut, date pieces, dried apricot pieces, and dried cranberries. The powder in the top is some cinnamon splenda.


And a little health and exercise update: after 6 weeks of PT, going twice a week, and dutifully performing all my exercises between visits, my knee is VASTLY improved! I celebrated New Year’s Day by taking the three mile walk to the end of my road and back. I haven’t done this for about 9 months because it hurt too bad to go uphill or downhill for too long, and there is a very long steep hill on that walk. On New Year’s Eve I was at the gym, and it was a bright and sunny day, so I got to take a dip in the pool. What a treat! I am doing fantastic staying on my “me diet.” I am not sure what will happen food-wise in Haiti. I am taking some protein bars with me, and hopefully I will not gain weight like I did in Africa. That was a bit weird…


I’m not sure I’ll get to blog again before I leave, so I will say Happy New Year and farewell. And will be anxious to share with you when I return!

This ‘n’ That

First I want to thank everyone for chiming in with some very good advice in my prior post about arthritis.  Even though I am (was) a nurse, my area was so specialized that I really don’t know a lot about adult medicine.  I feel more informed and am going to go forward from here.  In the meantime, I have been swimming up a storm, and am really loving it.  I am REALLY tired the next day, so I think its a pretty good workout.  Unfortunately, my weight lifting is taking a back seat, but I plan to add that back in soon.

Here is “The Bess Show.”  She gets the award for being the most photogenic dog this week.

Well, you KNOW that you-know-who was not going to be left out entirely.

Bess is very aware of where everything is supposed to be (I don’t know how she manages that in this house.)  If anything is new or out of place, she becomes quite concerned about it. Bordering on obsession, unfortunately.  She is also one of the few tv watching dogs I have had.

Watching The Dog Whisperer:

Watching “Hachi, A Dog’s Tale.”  That’s a pretty good movie, BTW.  Oh, that’s my new computer, which is working wonderfully as a tv/movie screen.  The picture is so clear, and the sound quality is much better than my old computer (very important for us old folks, you know.)

And a rare shot sans tongue.

I have found a few good peaches this past week.  I decided to try the Flax Cakes with peaches instead of blueberries.  And then I had the idea of making them into muffins instead of cakes.  Perfect amount to make six nice muffins.  Yummy, and very filling.

Two of them made a very nice breakfast.

It might seem like Noah is getting ignored on the blog, but don’t worry about him. As well as being lion-sized, he also gets the lion’s share of attention around here.

Almost every night he scratches that carpet up into a ball so he can sleep on the carpet underneath it.  Sigh.

The other morning I went out to check my zucchini plant, and I found this absolutely perfect blossom.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Here is my sad little vegetable patch.  I have actually gotten about 4 or 5 zucchinis and two whole tomatoes.  At the amount of water I have to use, that probably makes it about $5 per vegetable.  I’ll stop complaining about the prices at the Farmer’s Market now.

I bought a four pound bag of walnuts in the shell at the farmer’s market the other day.  $8.  Wanted to compare prices.  Just about half the weight was the actual walnut meat, so that made it $4 per pound, and a lot of hard work on my hands.  Not worthy.

Ah, I mentioned you-tube the other day.  When my computer was down I got very creative with my kindle fire.  I was able to watch you tube videos just fine on there.  And they have some wonderful full-length lectures and such on you tube. I started out looking for sermons by Francis Chan.  If you haven’t heard him speak, he is very compelling.  There’s just a ton of Francis Chan stuff on there. And then I found  an interview with Ann Lamott. I have to admit I have not read any of her books, but I love some of her quotes, and she was really interesting to listen to.  It was very well done, at a Writer’s Forum, and they had interviews with other writers I am interested in such as Eugene Peterson and Phillip Yancey.  Big Think does some interesting looking interviews.  The only one I watched was the interview with Marion Nestle, (New York University Professor of Nutrition) which was fascinating.  Basically she pointed out that people all over the world, in different times and different cultures, have eaten very different diets, and yet they are all healthy.  The main thing is to eat real food, and not too much.  She had such a common sense point of view.  I thoroughly recommend watching that video if you have time.  Its about 14 minutes.

Oh!  I almost forgot the most important news!  Wendy and I got together last week and worked on the website for The Bridge (our Haiti child sponsorship program.)  Well, Wendy had done all the work.  I just forced her to hit ‘publish’ and let it go public.  I think she did a beautiful job, and now you all can see what I am talking about when I talk about The Bridge.

Well, that’s about it for tonight.  Off for some lap time and a little more stitching before bed.

Various and Sundry

Well, it seems like forever since I wrote here.  I still don’t have much to write about.  Plus its so cold and it seems like my hands are permanently frozen.  Not much motivation to type.

I’ve been staying on track with my healthy eating, mostly bobay plan (which is a carb cycling type of plan,) and I have most definitely kept up with my newly defined “I am an active person.”  I told my BFF about this proclamation, and she said, “Debby, you ARE an active person already.”  And I said I know, but now I want to be.  That seems different to me than just fitting in activities/exercise because that’s what’s necessary to keep the weight off.  I think that’s partly why I stuck that sentence in there about “If being a little heavier is part of this, so be it.”  I am going to be active because I want to be active, NOT because I want to look a certain way or fit a certain size. Does that make sense?  And does anybody else think its weird that it has taken me seven years to come to this point?

So between being active and having too many new games on my Kindle Fire, creativity is a bit stalled.  Must work on that trait next.

Today, in between the five loads of laundry that are all folded and put away, I started a new knitting project.  I started it because ever since I taught Shelley how to knit, well, before that even, I’ve been thinking about knitting again.  And I had a whole bagful of beautiful white yarn (that was previously an almost finished fisherman knit sweater in my former size 26-28!)  But while I sat there knitting (and Shelley, do you know how long it takes to get through a row of 195 stitches) I started thinking really negative thoughts about myself.  Why are you starting a new project that you’ll probably never finish?  Why are you sitting here, when you could be doing so many other things that need to be done?  You’re never going to get around to getting chickens (topic for another day.)  There were a lot more negative thoughts, and they are quite common, I realized.  They go on every day.  And if I hadn’t started knitting that sweater, negative thoughts about what a waste–all that good yarn and you just never get around to knitting it.  What’s wrong with you? would have been added to the mix.  So I did stop with those particular negative thoughts and realized that I was doing something positive that I had thought about for quite a while.  Its exhausting to be me.

I have consciously worked (mostly through this blog) on not indulging in negative thoughts about my weight.  I feel like I’ve made major progress in that area.  But these others…I’m gonna have to put a stop to them.  Probably has a lot to do with the major changes in my life in the past year.  I have a pretty good daily/weekly routine down, but it is very different than my life a year ago.

Well to end this post on a positive note, we (Wendy and I, and our project, “The Bridge,” for the kids of Carrefour Poy, Haiti,) had a stupendous day at church yesterday.  We did another presentation in front of the church.  Wendy had made a slide show of some of the kids and the scenes in the village (I was so nervous I forgot to look behind me to see it.)  There was such a positive response.  Since starting this in mid-December, we already have sponsors for 23 kids.  I was just elated when I realized how much money this would enable us to send to the pastor down there  to help with their school.  There is a lot of work involved, but I am more than happy to be able to do it.  This is what I was looking for when I retired.  Only then I didn’t even know what I was looking for.  Just being open to God’s leading. I started out telling Wendy that I didn’t think I could sponsor another kid, and for sure I was never going to Haiti.  Guess who has another little girl to pray for, and guess who is going to Haiti, probably sooner than later.  There are just a lot of details that we could take care of that are difficult to do long distance.  Plus, I want to see for myself, and look for what else we can do to help.  I am very excited about how this project is going.  Wendy came up with a verse that describes exactly how things have been happening since we started:

 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Tomorrow is sewing day, and guess who is bringing the food!  I made Helen’s recipe for the Coconut Curry Kale Soup with Shrimp, and I looked up a recipe for low fat cornbread that sounds simple and delicious, and quite reasonable calorie-wise.  It just seemed like a good pairing.  And for the morning I am going to make that delicious Triple Berry Granola Crisp.  I got it covered with healthy food for the day!

And now, as one of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Taylor, says, “Its back to the sofa” to knit one more row on that new project.