Three Weeks in Haiti

We spent our first two weeks in Haiti living upstairs at the orphanage. It was a great period of immersion- living in close quarters with all the children really helped us develop relationships. Sometimes it was difficult for us and our children, because there were always kids wanting to talk to and touch us. But, it was really worth the sacrifice of space and privacy in order to have that time at the orphanage. We were able to attend nightly chapel time as often as possible, and our big kids had many late nights staying up with the teenagers to chat and have impromptu Creole lessons.

Several days ago, we moved into a nice little house that we are renting until the future orphanage boys home (which will first be our home) is completely ready. The children at the orphanage were so sad when they first saw us load up our things in a car to bring to the house. They surrounded us, and kept wanting us to stay longer. We promised them that we were only moving down the street, and that we would be back every day to eat dinner and play with them. They couldn’t believe it – I think they just expected us to leave for good! Sometimes they still ask us, “Are you coming back tomorrow?” It is so beautiful to see the friendships that our kids are making here. Even the Haitian teenagers love my little children, and light up every time they see them.

The move to a house has helped our family to have a little bit of space and privacy – we can now have a quiet family prayer time at night and our kids can do their homeschool work at home before heading to the orphanage to play in the afternoon. The puppy loves having a yard to explore – she especially likes finding a fallen coconut to chew on. We are only a short walk from the orphanage, so the kids can walk back and forth and we still have plenty of time visiting there. We had to accept a lot of help in order to move – the teenage boys from the orphanage carried beds and mattresses, the cooking ladies supplied our home kitchen with simple foods, orphanage workers helped us find bleach and ant spray and other essentials. It has been humbling to accept so much help. We have been given such a warm welcome by the orphanage kids, the staff, and everywhere we have visited.

Now that we are becoming more settled, we are craving a bit of routine and a way to fit into life here. Soon, Ryan will begin working regularly at the clinic and helping with administrative work there. It has been difficult to begin much work yet, because a fever has been working its way through each member of our family. Also, the internet can be very intermittent, so communication is difficult. Routine is often a challenge here – often days are spent waiting… for the internet to work, for transportation, or supplies. It is a different pace of life, and it takes flexibility and patience!

JP playing in the orphanage playground

Eliana loves making Andre laugh

Olivia can always find a girl to play tea party with


Small sacrifices

We’ve made it through a whole week here in Haiti. We’ve had some fevers, homesickness, fighting and whining and general angst while getting used to living in a brand new culture, with 50 new people, and sleeping our whole family in one room.

I was worried that my kids would have terrible moments of hunger for familiar foods, and homesickness for friends and family. They have experienced that, but they have also been amazingly willing to make the small sacrifices required to live here for a while and invest in these people.

There are those moments when I really am proud of my kids for being willing to make sacrifices. The bucket showers are shockingly cold. There have been times when the meals are not quite what we expect, or aren’t available when we are hungry.

Sometimes, we wake up starving and wait until after morning prayers to eat, and then there is nothing except bread and peanut butter. We are far away from any stores out here in the mountains! Breakfast is bread, lunch is bread and pasta and potatoes (“pommes de terre” – translated as dirt apples!). Spam is a good little burst of protein! Homemade donuts, fried plantains (“bannam peze”)… carbs carbs carbs. All of a sudden, fruit began to appear yesterday – woo hoo! We always enjoy a big dinner with rice and beans (“diri ak pwa”) and fried chicken or fish!

Today, Luke got into serious trouble for being mean. I really think he is just confused and acting out. There are dozens of kids running up to him and touching him, so he sometimes gets annoyed and overwhelmed. When he was sitting in time out, he told me that he missed his living room with toys. He just blurted out, “I want a living room!” I totally understand how he feels!

It has been a bit of a challenge for the introverts in our family to get used to living at an orphanage with about 50 people. The Haitian children constantly want to play with and talk to our children. The Haitians especially love Olivia and John Paul. We can hear voices say their names over and over, everywhere we walk. The kids are starting to warm up to the people, saying “Bonjour”, “Mesi” for the food, and giving high fives. It makes someone’s day when John Paul is brave enough to wave at them, or give them a fist bump!

Our big kids have been extraordinary. They have been playing with the kids here practically non-stop. They attend morning and evening prayers and Masses, always sitting on a bench surrounded by new friends. We have been teaching kids how to sew, crochet, and draw.

It has been difficult to get accustomed to the slower pace of life and the challenges of learning a language, but we are slowly but surely making relationships and settling into this season of life. Next week, we are scheduled to move into a rental house – that should be interesting and exciting!

Olivia learning to wash clothes

Arriving in Haiti

We arrived in Haiti, I was very surprised when we landed on the runway. It was bumpy – all the other runways I have ever been on were smooth. When I felt that, I knew that I was in a very new place.

Once we got off the airplane, we went to pay our customs. There was a huge line, but the people working there let my family go through a really short line. After that we went to baggage claim – it was really packed and loud. Lucky for me I only had to stand and watch our stuff while everyone else went and found the baggage. Once we had found all of our baggage we took a “bus” out side to the helicopter. We were short on space for the baggage, and had to put the rest of the baggage by people’s feet. We arrived at the helicopter and got instructions for boarding. I was able to Co-pilot the helicopter it was very fun, and the view was amazing.

Once we got to Haiti 180 I was very amazed to see all the kids standing waiting for us. They all were excited to have us there. All the kids helped with our baggage, even though it was quite heavy (some of the bags were almost 40 LBS or 20 LBS). The kids helped each other, and walked up the stairs to our room we would be staying. Our room is very big with a lot of bunk-beds. I choose to sleep on a bottom bunk. I did not really like the thin metal bars used for climbing up. Ellie choose to sleep above me… I do not know how she likes it up there. Then again I like weird things.

For any meal time, they ring a bell three times. The first time meaning “Come get food.” The second time means “Hurry up get your food” and the third time means “Okay, Okay, HURRY UP it’s time to eat.” Almost everyone eats at different times. I prefer to come at the second bell. I think its best not to eat before everyone else and not to eat after everyone else. I love their bread (I think they make it themselves). It is like no other bread that I have tasted. The bread is extremely smooth and soft and with peanut butter its amazing. The rice that they make is also amazing – I love rice! The chicken legs are amazing as well, the only thing I do not really like is the bean sauce. Everyone tells me that I need to try it. A sweet 4 year old girl named Sarah made me try it. I did not want to be rude and tried it, It’s the nice thing to do right?

Every night and very morning there is prayer time – everyone goes to the chapel and has prayer time. They do a different prayer every day because if they did not the kids probably would get bored. I find it hard to go because I do not know what they are saying. I normally do go every single day though, although (I will not lie) I have skipped morning prayer.

The kids here are amazing – they are so sweet and fun to be around. They also love to learn. Once, I was on one of the swings there and was doing a weird contortion thing on the swing while it was moving. Naica was swinging with me and said “Teach me.” I was kind of nervous to teach her how to do this weird thing I came up with… but I did. I showed her step by step, the first step was to but the swing seat on your back, second step was to run forward with the swing still on your back, third step was to bring your legs up to the chains and wrap your one foot around the swing so you will not fall, forth step is to let go of the chains with both hands, fifth step is to bring one leg down (the one not keeping you from falling) and then grab your foot with your hand and bring it all the way past your head. (This is all while moving.) Naica did okay she could not bring her foot past her head she did however bring her legs up which is good. Naica saw me doing handstands, front walkovers, back bend kick overs, and a few more gymnastic moves. She wanted me to teach her, sadly I taught her but she did not get the hang of it.

One thing I am very surprised about is the internet. I was told the internet would never work. It is pretty terrible, but it is still okay to do some things. I have been able to go onto YouTube and email people, call my grandma and grandpa, and do quite a bit more. I was even able to make a You Tube video.

Me and friends!

Welcome to Haiti

After a long and exhausting journey we are finally here, in Haiti. After so many years of waiting for the right moment to return, and after months of planning, it feels very surreal to be here, and to see our kids in this place.

Haiti is a different world. The sights, sounds, smells, textures, everything seems filtered through a different light. It’s almost like experiencing everything through completely different eyes.

We left Austin on Monday the 4th of January. 
Luke, Olivia, and John Paul had their first plane ride, and their reactions were priceless. Luke was terrified, and wouldn’t let go of my arm at first. He squeezed so tight! He insisted on having his window shade down, and didn’t want to see what was outside his window. After I reassured him and promised that we would be safe he relaxed, and even allowed me to open his window. Then he realized that this was actually fun and amazing, and he loved watching the runway recede as the plane took off. John Paul laughed and laughed, and Olivia tried to get a view from the middle seat.

Finally we made it to Port au Prince, and although the baggage claim was the usual bedlam, it was not as bad as I’ve seen.

We made it through customs to the helicopter, and despite my doubts, the pilot was able to fit all of us and all our luggage. Emma got to fly in the copilot seat this time. I had John Paul on my lap, and after a little crying, he fell asleep mid-flight, poor guy. Luke and Olivia had the time of their lives, they have no idea how lucky they are.

When we landed at the field near the orphanage, there was a huge entourage to welcome us. Somebody grabbed each of the kids, and they were gone before I could look up. They were so excited to see our kids.

After supper they offered a special mass on our behalf, and it was so sweet. Sister Florence said some very kind words about missionary work, and how wonderful and special it is for our family to be able to serve the Lord and serve the poor in this way. After the mass there was a special presentation to welcome us, and then the orphanage kids danced for us, and they served cake, and partied late into the night.

Poor John Paul was a little shell shocked because everyone kept trying to pick him up. Luke just ran with the boys, and I kept seeing flashes of him at various times. Olivia is very popular with the girls, and just ran and played all evening. Selah drew a crowd with her balloon animals, and Eliana and Emma found many friends.

The house we are planning to live in is not ready yet, so we are staying upstairs at the orphanage. It is fun to live right at the orphanage with all the children, although it is a bit uncomfortable to be living out of suitcases.

We’re looking forward to getting to know all the people here, and to begin our work at the St. Mother Teresa Clinic, and to many adventures. Please don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and our email list for updates.

Emma got to ride in the copilot seat on the helicopter.
John Paul didn’t like the ear muffs, but he loved riding in the helicopter.
The children at Kay Mari were so eager to welcome our kids.
Olivia fit right in.
John Paul found a special friend.