Our goal for our first month in Haiti was very simple – to get ourselves and our children acclimated to life here. (Easier said than done!) The first week was a joyful time of getting to know all of the children at the orphanage, touring the clinic and houses, and getting unpacked to settle in for a time in the upstairs missionary dorm at the orphanage. The next three weeks were a blur of sickness and trying to settle into a routine amidst ever-changing days. At least one or two members of our family were sick on any given day, and getting back into the structure of homeschooling was near-impossible, especially with the challenges of fatigued parents and a slow internet connection. Being present at the orphanage was a wonderful way to get to know the children and staff. But it was difficult to find privacy, and living out of suitcases with a family of eight (plus a puppy) in a single room was a challenge.
Soon, we were able to move out of the orphanage and into a rental house that is only a five-minute walk away. It has been such a blessing to our family to have a private space – we can more easily put our little kids down for a nap, prepare simple meals, and spend a few hours a day getting into the routine of homeschooling our older children. We all sleep in mosquito-net covered beds, which the children are tolerating very well! We are learning to keep all of our belongings packed away and clear of ants, cockroaches, and mice (and we are working on cutting down on those pests!). We have running water from a well and a reservoir, and usually enough electricity (via solar panels) to use all of our lights, fans, and even a working refrigerator! We have been so very grateful to even have working internet installed in our home, which has made it possible to communicate with each other even if one of us is not home, and with friends and family back home. Unfortunately, our internet connection is not quite fast enough for our oldest girls to continue taking homeschool classes through the program they had started in Texas. We put together a modified curriculum of books that we brought with us, several online books, as well as daily Bible reading and Creole lessons. Several of our homeschooling friends have been so generous and kind to send us some of their used textbooks, which we hope will arrive on our next delivery on Agape Flights (the missionary airplane service that supports missionaries in the Caribbean with mail services and aid). Our kids will be excited to have new books to read!
The very kind cooking ladies at the orphanage have been checking on us every day, and helping to stock our kitchen with food: we now have a steady supply of coffee, bread, peanut butter, and pasta to cook when our children need a meal. We have been able to supplement that food with our own orders of food that come through Agape Flights. Agape organization is such a life-line, in which we can send and receive mail and order necessities such as medicine and household supplies. Our young children are especially grateful for the nuts, raisins, and oats that we ordered from Walmart so that they can have a familiar snack or meal. (We do have to be careful to stay in budget when ordering items through this service, because we pay additional charges for air shipping, as well as in-country custom fees.)
A very wonderful Haitian woman is helping in our home, cooking alongside me in the kitchen and helping us with laundry several days each week. She is most comfortable cooking outside in a charcoal kitchen, and I do the cooking inside on a stove with propane tank. She is very willing to work around our children, and to allow them to watch and help her with tasks. One thing that Haitians are very good at is making a meal out of a hodgepodge of inexpensive ingredients. The other day, she found some plantains growing in a tree in our yard. She cooked a fabulous lunch of boiled plantains, with a meat sauce that she made out of a small amount of summer sausage and some ketchup. Apparently every Haitian cook is a saucier!
Our children are doing so well with this transition and adjustment. Sometimes, especially when they are feeling sick with a stomachache or fever, they express deep homesickness. I help them talk through those feelings. Each time, it has been very temporary, and they have been eager to get back to their friends at the orphanage and to be involved in life here. Our little children have had some difficulty sleeping and eating the Haitian food when they don’t feel well, but they are even settling into a more consistent routine. Whenever we spend time at the orphanage, our children can be found playing games of tag, hide and seek, swinging, and just walking around with their Haitian friends. It is still a challenge to communicate with each other, but children are quite adept at finding a way to play despite the language barrier. Our older girls are improving with learning Creole, and can now say a few more words than simply “bonjour” and “mesi”.
It is hard to believe that we have been here for an entire month. There have been so many changes, adjustments, and ups and downs (all of that with the normal chaos and drama of life with six children!). What is our plan for our second month here? Of course, it is often difficult to plan in a country where shopping, transportation, and communication often is slow or non-working. However, we do have several goals: Ryan is observing and consulting with the mission’s administrators. My primary task is to provide a stable home for our children – to keep them safe, healthy, well-fed, and learning! I also hope to begin teaching health classes this month. First, I will present the material to the doctor and nurses, and offer the public health and natural family planning classes to patients at the clinic. I can also then expand those classes to the other employees of the mission here, and the older children at the orphanage. I’m so excited to have a small contribution to make here.
That’s our update from the first month in Haiti! Thank you to all of our friends and family for watching and praying with our family during this time. 🙂