In the center of a roundabout not far from the Port au Prince airport, there is a monument with three large hands holding up a globe (pictured to the left). I’ve always been told that two hands represent the Haitian people and the other is the government’s hand reaching in their pockets. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the monument’s intended meaning was a representation of the Haitian proverb,
“Ou pa ka kwit diri sou de woch” or You cannot cook rice with two rocks.
It’s common to see people cooking rice, beans, corn, etc. in a pot held up by three rocks over a small fire while walking around the communities we work in. These three rocks represent much of Haitian culture—you cannot cook rice with two rocks, or you cannot do life with only your two hands. Three rocks and hands are often necessary to complete a task.
What a beautiful picture of the shared life that enables survival here, and this has been an accurate depiction of my time in Haiti—especially this past month. There have been many times I’ve needed a third hand, or a fourth or a fifth! It is evident that I simply cannot, and do not want to, do this life alone. And with each passing day it becomes more clear that my job here is not to always be the hands but rather to lend one of my own to empower another.
May absolutely blew me away. My cup has ebbed and flowed. I am worn out but invigorated from being able to dive into work I am zealous about seeing through. I’ve made many new friends, deepened relationships, and felt the heavy burden of doing life with my loved ones here. This month I’ve taken steps towards starting small business training and microfinance in June, continued trouble shooting with our chicken coop, facilitated several sewing projects, and experienced both fun and hard things in the past few weeks. I’m continuing to refine what my role with Disciples’ Village will be after the summer and the Lumos Travel Award while trying to steward and delegate current projects well.
There have been many three hand moments these past few weeks—mainly with the car I get to drive and navigating a few cultural things. And likewise there have been a few times where I was able to lend a helping hand to some folks here. I’m continually grateful for and in awe of every person I have the pleasure of conversing with and for my many third hands.
And…the 23rd of May marked two years in Haiti! Thank you, Lord, for your continued faithfulness, goodness, and mercy as I navigate working and living here. What a crazy few years this has been, and I look forward to many more years of sharing life with my loved ones here, si Dye vle.
A national coworker, business leader, and I went to a microfinance “Train the Trainer” seminar in the beautiful town of Thomassin. It is south of Port au Prince at a higher elevation and COOL!!! What a treat! The gracious folks at Middle Ground—a malnutrition clinic—translated and interpreted a small business training curriculum after witnessing so many patients returning to their clinic because their parents did not have the means to take care of them. They have kindly shared and trained others in using their information.
It was an honor to get to sit, learn, and share with a few rising leaders in Haiti. The seminar was a time of stretching my cultural knowledge and expanding my Kreyol vocabulary and listening comprehension. We soaked up all of the information and teaching techniques that we could, and we are ready to launch a business training of our own this first week of June, si Dye vle. Mesi Jezi!! I look forward to sharing more details of our training as is appropriate.
Attending this seminar consisted of many early departures, long car rides, and late arrivals home. I’m thankful for gracious hosts, kind coworkers, friends who know Port au Prince like the back of their hand, gas, and a car that made it over 400 miles of hilly terrain in a week! I believe this seminar will be a catalyst of not only Disciples’ Village’s microfinance work, but of my greater confidence of working and getting around in Haiti.
The older chickens continued to die at the beginning of the month, and I was finally able to get ahold of a vaccine. Now the remaining chickens are laying well and we are working out a plan to get eggs to some of the kiddos in our schools who are showing signs of malnutrition when school lets out in a few weeks.
Our chicken grandma has also started to build a new house with two of her daughters. It is beautiful to see these independent women pull their resources together to build a safer home. I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of the building and chatting with Madame Cecile as she goes through this process.
May consisted of the continuation of a variety of sewing projects. Our Dhal ladies continue to progress in producing good quality pot holders and they are learning to measure and cut the fabric themselves. Our older Alex’s House young ladies and some local gals are in the process of learning to sew pleated skirts to fit their size!! And private lessons continue between a local tailor/business leader and a young man looking to learn to sew to support himself. Lots of fabric and materials were bought this month!!!
- A wonderful gift of black beans!
- English ‘lessons’ with our Disciples’ Village nurse. She has such a beautiful heart and a hard work ethic
- Starting the census on Disciples’ Village’s newest partnering village!
- Talking with many local ladies about the small businesses they would like to start, and even visiting a wholesale beauty/medical supply boutique tucked away in a local market to get prices for starting a small stand.
- I’m thankful for our current and past interns who helped me inventory our girls’ store and enter census data! They have been one of my many third hands.
- A sweet gift of watermelon from some of my sewing gals!
- May day and Flag Day celebrations at the beach!! No one could really explain what May day celebrates, but Flag Day commemorates the creation of the Haitian flag and I would say it is one of the biggest holidays of the year! Lots of good food and time at the beach!
- Exploring new markets!! We spent HOURS at the best market I’ve been to yet. Lots of fresh produce, clothes, fabric, home supplies, and charcoal by the beach to wade through. Roaming through markets while buying vegetables and chatting with the machann (vendors) is possibly one of my favorite pastimes here.
- Buying, killing, skinning, then cooking a chicken all in about two hours!! I really just held the sad critter, took pictures, then took it out of the oven. But it was a fun experience that ended with a good meal in great company.
- Attending many futbol (soccer) matches to support some local friends and people watch. It’s always fun to enjoy regular life outings here instead of being so work minded all of the time and meeting some great friends along the way. It was also fun getting soaked with water during goal celebrations!
- Lots of time spent chatting with local ladies while they sell hotdogs and other Haitian foods at night.
- Spontaneous dance parties with my sewing gals
- A school dance party and pageant with our Alex’s House kiddos
- Birthday celebrations with a few sewing gals—a trip to the local gas station, visiting family off of the beaten path, and sitting down to enjoy a meal and some cake together.
- Learning to wash clothes by hand with my chicken caretaker
- A day in Port au Prince buying beautiful souvenirs for our girls’ store! Lots of pieces to choose from and traffic to sit in.
- It is an honor to be considered a friend and sister in our local communities here, but one can only be asked to help financially so much before wearing out mentally and financially! With friendship comes bearing each other’s burdens, and I need to keep praying about how to do so without burning out.
- Fighting insecurity and doubt about projects ahead
- Some of my sewing gals telling me they are too hungry to walk—probably half dramatic and half true. Hard times have fallen on many Haitian families with the devaluation of the Haitian gourde and fewer opportunities for jobs
- I am so hesitant to pay for things for my friends because I don’t want to only be the white person with money. However, they are always quick to share their water or a snack with me. Finding a balance is necessary.
- Disrespectful Haitian men.
- Fighting with my local phone company account. My data did not work for about 4 weeks until calling Digicel 3 times. Now I have LTE after only being able to access 3G for the last two years!
- A local lady telling me she is hungry because she does not have money to feed her family. When I asked about why she was not eating at the school where she works and receives a hot meal every day, she said she doesn’t like the food they serve. Tèt chaje (head charged)!! I don’t understand!!
- My phone fell from the counter top and stopped working!!! I’m thankful for resourceful coworkers and a local shop that repaired my phone the next day.
And last but not least, car things
- A new spare tire after the old one spontaneously popped!
- A coworker properly attached the alternator with a new bolt. This is the likely culprit causing the serpentine belt to shred.
Wow. What a month. What a time to be alive and working in Haiti. Maybe one day I’ll have the time and metal capacity to share all of the things I’m learning, feeling, and experiencing. But for now, here is a glimpse into the glorious madness that ensued this month. N’ap pale tale!