Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
PS I took the picture!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I should confess that I purposely waited to write about Port au Prince because earlier I would not have had very many good things to say. This city is intimidating and scary ... I guess like most cities are at first ... except at a whole other extreme.
Port au Prince is packed with people and cars. The cars may just be the scariest part of the city, the drivers drive fast, park on sidewalks and really could care less about pedestrians. There have been a couple of times when I was walking that I could have sworn the car was trying to hit me.
Monday through Saturday there are people everywhere. The population of Port au Prince is estimated at about 2.5-3million people packed into a relatively small area. Its hard not to be a little intimidated walking on a street filled with people speaking a language you do not understand, and its clear you stick out, and are probably the topic of conversation. It also doesn't help when people are shouting "Blanc, Blanc, Blanc" at you, Which means white person or foreigner.
Admittedly, it's easy to be distrusting of some of the people on the street and for the first couple weeks I found myself gripping my bag tighter and tighter, not smiling, or responding to greetings. Now, I am happy to say, I've gotten more used to being on the street, realizing that it is more important to walk with confidence than to tightly grip my bag and that being friendly to Those that I regularly see on the street is a good thing.
Probably another difficulty is the poverty. I only need to walk out my apartment and onto the street and you can see the poverty on the street. From an old women sitting on the ground saying she is hungry, to a young boy in tattered clothes following you for a couple blocks asking for money. I know that this is not unique to Haiti but it is still hard to debate whether you should, or not, and to say no, because in all honesty if I gave some to one person I would be surrounded by others asking ... so I am going to try to find ways to help without giving money directly.
In spite of these and other challenges of the city, I am starting to see some of the good parts of this place more clearly. For example, it is hard not to admire the atmosphere of chaos that somehow seems to work. I really do think Port au Prince could give New York City's title of the City the Never Sleeps a run for its money ... just ask the three year old in my building who seems to be up playing outside at 4:30 am and is somehow still up playing at midnight.
Also there is brilliant artwork that is full of color that can bring dull, dirty areas to life with color. There are streets that are filled with people selling art. For blocks it feels like you are walking in an art gallery but it is even cooler because you are surrounded by the sites sounds of the city. And there are of course the taptap Which are nozzles that are painted with all different colors and themes. A lot of them have religious meanings and reference bible verses or simply say I love Jesus. I wish I had a picture of one now but I will try to get one soon.
There are also some really great people here that look after me. For example there is this man who runs my local supermarket. He always comes and says hello to me while I'm paying as he slips free gum or candy into my bag. I recently had a birthday and when he found out he told me I had to come back the next day for my present. He gave me a box of chocolates ... wrapped and everything!
I live close to the Champ de Mars which is kind of this huge public square with statues and museums and is really close to the Palais National, which is supposed to be where the president lives. It's a cool area and there seem to be a lot of concerts and what not there so it will be exciting to spend some more time exploring there.
The Palais National
Well I guess that's all I wanted to say about Port au Prince for now ... I will probably write more later as I continue to experience this city. I will also try to get more pictures. Gradually I am working up confidence to pulling out my camera on the streets, and right now I am only doing it on Sundays when the city is not as busy. But I promise more later.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
72 Avenue Christophe
Port au Prince, Haiti (W.I.)
If you absolutely want to or need to ship something to me please get in touch with me and I can tell you how to ship something through UPS.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
But I have found out a bit more about what I will be doing and now that I have gotten settled in to my new apartment I can show you pictures of that too.
First... my job.
Jude (the other YASCer here), Kyle (a missioner who’s been in Haiti for a year and leaving soon) and Lauren (a missioner that will be working here for three years) met with Pere Oge Beauvoir, the dean of the seminary this week, to touch base and figure out mine and Judes responsibilities for the year and what not.
So here is a list of some of things I am going to attempt to do or make steps toward while I am here.
- I’ve been told I’m the Director of Development for the Seminary (yikes) so some things I’m thinking about working on are
- Increased housing for students, missioners, profs, etc
- Classrooms separate from the University
- Work on income generating activities:
- Possible progress towards a capital campaign and endowment
- Seminarian summer internships
-Teach English to Seminary Students as well as continue classes that have been occuring for various priests
-Improvement of Seminary’s Website
-Help with Diocesan Development Projects when possible
-Elementary School income activities
-Proposal and Grant Writing
-Possibly help with Teacher Trainings for the Bureau Anglican de l’Education en Haiti
-Children/Youth Christian Formation?
-Lay Leadership Training?
Other tasks as they come along…this is the list now but who knows what will actually end up happening.
But as you can tell from the list there is a lot going on here. I have quickly learned that people working for the Diocese of Haiti, wear many hats. Priests often times not only work at their churches but also run elementary and secondary schools as well as teaching a class at the seminary. So it seems in this sense I will be jumping right into the life and work of the diocese. Admittedly I feel like I am in a bit over my head, however I am looking forward to the challenge and am excited to start working….
BUT if you have any suggestions or ideas for anything or think you would like to be involved or of some help to me or have ideas for people to contact… I would really appreciate it. I may be the one working in Haiti but I see this as an opportunity where all of us can take part in mission and help other members of the Episcopal Church. So please do be in touch with me.
Now for my living Situation…
I live in a very nice 2 bedroom apartment that I will be sharing with 3 of the female seminarians. I have still have yet really to unpack and have been sharing the space with Kyle, who will be leaving Haiti in November.
The Apartment is on Ave. Christophe and is close to the Champs de Mars and is right next to the seminary and the Episcopal university as well at the L’Ecole St. Pierre. A couple of priests also live in the same building but I haven’t met them yet.
My Front Door...its very secure!
There is also a hallway kind of area that has a washing machine (yes!)
There’s a bathroom…I don’t have much more to say about it …its a bathroom
And there’s my bedroom which as you may be able to tell from the picture is still in transition a bit since we have had people visiting and what not. I am slowly starting to unpack and get settled in. I’m especially looking forward to buying some art to make the walls in my room more interesting. I also just want to point out the AC unit in the room…its amazing.
That's about it. It's really nice and I feel lucky to be living in such a comfortable space. Anyway now you know a little about where I live and what I’ll be doing. I hope to write more later about my routine and also what its like living in Port au Prince.
Please do stay in touch and let me know if you have any suggestions or are interested in getting involved with my work!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I found out I was going on Wednesday and everyone kept calling it a ‘Grande Fete’ which to me meant big party…so I left bright and early the next day looking forward to some fun on the island, loving life and blessing animals. It would be the perfect break from my adjustments to Port au Prince.
So we get to St. Mark, which is the town we stopped in to catch what we had been told was a ‘Yacht’ to La Gonave. While the boat was very nice it was no yacht but I guess you would call it a power boat…whatever the next size up from a speedboat is. And we took it through the beautiful ocean water. It was amazing to see Haiti from the water. I was having a wonderful time on the water enjoying each choppy bump of the ocean and the tips and turns as Bishop Duracin stood there on the boat surveying the Ile de la Gonave ahead of him. I could just about taste all that I dreamed Caribbean island life to be like.
Well apparently I forgot that I was working for the church and that I was in Haiti. We got to the St. Francis’s church compound around 9:30 and quickly left for what would be an hour long (felt like 2hours) ride up a mountain driving over rock and some of the bumpiest most uncomfortable roads I have ever been on…oh island life.
I also forgot to mention that along the way we met up with a group of 6 Americans who are partners with various churches throughout the island who were also there for the Grand Fete. It was nice to spend time with them throughout the few days and hear about the work they are doing as well as lean on them for support for those few days. I will say that I admire the partners in these areas for committing to a relationship with a church that is so remote and difficult to reach.
Anyway we finally get up the mountain to this clearing of a beautiful church that has just been built by the partners and spend the next three hours blessing it as well as doing Baptisms and Confirmations. It was a long service even by Haitian standards from what I here.
Exhausted we all head back down taking another route. And our vehicles get stuck in the mud. Eventually we make it back very exhausted and wondering what the next day will bring.
So Friday we are told we will leave at 6am to do the next church blessing and Baptisms and Confirmations. We take a 2 hour car ride again on another crazy bumpy road and then we had to get out and walk. So we walked, for an hour and a half in the hot sun. Thankfully we had some donkeys which people took turns riding. At one point when we began our walk there was this amazing image of the Bishop walking ahead of all of us he seemed so comfortable in this setting and didn’t mind a little bit of walking. He also got up on a donkey at one point and looked a bit like a Haitian Clint Eastwood or John Wayne.
We have another long service (but not quite as long) at another beautiful new church. I will say that I admire the partners in these areas for committing to a relationship with a church that is so remote and difficult to reach. The walk back to the car was enjoyable because the sun was behind the clouds and you were able to really appreciate the beauty of the countryside. The other highlight was on the drive back we saw flamingos…a lot of them…just hanging out in the water…so cool
Saturday was a day of rest. And after the first 2 days we all needed it. There was also the chance to go to the beach. I did and it was so beautiful looking at the ocean and the mountains of La Gonave and looking back out to the main island of Haiti. But the one thing that distracted from all this was the trash which covered the beach. After getting past the trash I was out in the water swimming in the warm Caribbean for the first time, in my basketball shorts and a t-shirt because I left my swimsuit in Port au Prince. It was a bit awkward but totally worth it.
Now finally on Sunday we had the Blessing of the Animals. The church we were staying at in La Gonave is St. Francis. In the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, as I understand it, on feast days of name sakes and what not many of the priests and seminarians try to go to the parish to celebrate. Hence why all this stuff was going on at La Gonave.
So Sunday we have church and I keep waiting to see some animals to bless. The service ends and the Bishop and others process out to the courtyard. I’m thinking the animals must be waiting outside, we can’t celebrate the blessing of the animals without animals. Well there were no animals outside. I was so disappointed. In Haiti most of the dogs and cats are strays and aren’t taken care of but I really did think some cows or goats or even a flamingo would make it out to be blessed. Later that day we were talking to the Bishop about pet blessings in America and he laughed with a smile that seemed like he was thinking how crazy we Americans are.
The next day we came back to Port au Prince and I was so happy to be back. My island party was nothing like I had expected and was exhausting. Although I didn’t have the fun in the sun I had hoped for it was a good chance for me to be exposed to various issues in Haiti such as rural life, roads, environmental issues like trash and the treatment of animals. It was also a great chance for me to learn more about partner relationships in Haiti and how they can be used and grow to benefit both sides of the partnership. Lastly I really did appreciate spending more time with the Bishop, seminarians and others who I will be spending this year working with.
Heads up…I promise in my next entry to share more about where I’m living and my responsibilities etc. And please let me know if there is anything you would like to hear more about.
Holding Haiti at La Gonave
Monday, October 5, 2009
Things have been very busy here since my arrival. There was a small mission group that arrived the same day as me that was staying at my new apartment which added to the craziness. The adjustment has been a little rough but that’s normal when getting used to a new place and thankfully I have been able to take some of the lessons of adapting to new cultures that I learned in Uganda and apply it here…the biggest one being patience both with myself and my new country.
My first Sunday I went to St. Trinite Cathedral which has these beautiful Haitian wall paintings that depict stories from the Bible but place them in a Haitian context. Very Cool. I also met the first and currently only female priest here and she is really cool. I know we exchanged this look of understanding in communion before I even had a chance to meet her.
Monday I went to a blessing of new classrooms for St. Vincent’s which is a school for those that are handicapped or have some sort of disability.
Later that day I was off to St. Etiennes which is a small church in the mountains about an hour outside Port au Prince. There was a program to train the Sunday School type teachers (called monitors) and a Vacation Bible School that Kyle (the missioner I am currently staying with) and the small group of mission trip-ers were doing. Being in the mountains was beautiful and it seemed like a church in the sky. The hospitality of the priest and his wife there was wonderful too.
Tuesday night I was back in Port au Prince and bright and early Thursday I was off to Ile de la Gonave, which I will post about in the next couple of days. So far it has been a whirlwind of new experiences and I’m just trying to keep up. I am anxious to feel comfortable here and to know my way around. I feel confronted already with a lot of challenges such as working on my French, learning Creole, finding my way around town, figuring out how to get food…so many things
I will try to elaborate on a lot more throughout my time here but let me know if you have any questions or if theres anything you want me to post about!