Saturday, September 30, 2006

close proximity

The house that I live in is actually a duplex. A window in my room opens to the wall of our neighbors. Today one of the little girls next door was singing. It's pretty funny how I can hear something so well from inside our house that is actually coming from next door. I actually got the song she was singing stuck in my head. (It was also funny how I can hear her older brother telling her to stop singing). Most days I also hear the mom call for one of her daughters. "JULIA. JUUULIAA." I also hear her sing as she does the laundry, which is actually pretty soothing.

Now, granted we live in a duplex so it makes since that I can hear what all is going on next door, but the houses in general here are built very close together. There is a house under construction right behind ours. From the other window in my room, I can look out and watch the Haitian men build. They often sit on the balcony during the day to rest, and most nights they sit out there talking for hours after the sun goes down. They are close enough that I can hear their conversation clearly. I don't know what they are saying though because it is Kreyol. I often wish that I knew Kreyol.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

un dia loco

Yesterday cannot really be put into words, but I am going to do my best.

During the middle of last week, we had talked about the possibility of traveling to the Haiti/Dominican Republic border to meet a potencial family that was interested in adopting Ian that coming Friday (yesterday). We had not heard a response from them confirming the trip, so Thursday night Jennie called them to confirm. (Their internet had been down for a few days). The trip was on.

The woman that we had been in contact with had spoken greatly of this Haitian couple. Jennie knows a family here that knows this woman, Laurie, and he said that he had great respect for her and would take her at her word. He then preceded to say that you might want to consider leaving Ian with them if it felt right, as opposed to it just being an introduction. This sounded crazy (especially being the night before we were planning to go). The reality of it though was that it made sense. The couple had a bit of troubling figuring out how they would get to the border, as far as transportation goes. It is also a bit difficult for Haitians (or anyone really) to cross the border. We went on a market day though, so there are no fees. So, not only is it a difficult thing to do, but since the people we had talked to had great respect for everyone involved, we had to agree and say that if it felt right we would leave Ian there.

So, Thursday night we packed up all of Ian's things in case this was going to be it. His clothes (plus some that were still a bit too big), his diapers, wipes, towels, wash clothes, bottles, sippy cups, books, toys, blankets, car seat, stroller, and play pen (which we had never used but figured it would be better than the crib he is quickly outgrowing) were all packed up just in case. The border is about 3 hours from us and we had planned to meet them at 8:30am, so Friday was an early day. Jennie, Jennie's finance Miguel, his sister Ana, Alexia, and I, plus Ian all piled into the car with all of Ian's things and were on the road by 5am. Jim's last day here was Friday as well, so he did not make the trip with us. He was nice enough though to get up, say goodbye, and send us off.

We got to the border, parked the car, and walked with Ian to find some breakfast before crossing over. A group of officers stopped us because we literally stood out like a sore thumb. They accused us of stealing this Haitian baby and wanted money from us as a bribe to let us go. After showing his guardianship papers they let us go and were nice about it. All this happened before even getting to the border gate. When it came time to cross, Miguel held Ian because it didn't look quite so obvious (he's Dominican).

The border area was CRAZY. People were everywhere, and everyone was Haitian. Woman were carrying everything from clothes to eggs to shoes to toys on their heads. Men were pushing and pulling huge carts full of sacks and sacks of rice and other things. Miguel's sister grabbed my hand as we walked, and I was not reluctant in the least to hold on to hers as we maneuvered through the crowds of people. As the border became closer and closer, I realized that I had completely forgot to bring any type of identification with me. Jennie said that hopefully it wouldn't be a problem.

As we crossed the border, this woman starting speaking in my face with urgency. We had been told to walk straight and keep going and ignore anyone who tried to stop us. I didn't realize though that this woman was yelling, "Jennie. Jennie." We all pulled over to the side when we realized that we had encountered the Haitian couple.

We were still on the DR side of the border, so we quickly handed Ian to the woman to carry across (because remember, we really did stand out so much, especially with a Haitian baby in hand). The woman got across fine. Jennie, Miguel, and Ana (who were all in front of me) got stopped. Alexia and I kept walking trying our best to blend in with the crowd. Two men in uniform started calling out to me and Alexia as we went with the crowd of people. We tried to keep walking but they stopped us and made us walk back up to the border where the rest of our group was standing. I was nervous because the guy had been yelling out "passport," which I did not have. Apparently Jennie, Miguel, and Ana had run into the same problem and had been talking to the guards saying that they were going to cross and then shortly after come right back over. As Alexia and I reached them, Jennie told all of us to turn and keep going. I didn't hesitate. It's not that crossing the border is bad or dangerous, there are just so many people there and policeman always try and get bribes from the 'blancitos.'

Our plan was to keep walking once we passed the border until there were no more vendors in case the group got separated. Alexia and I did just that. We walked for a while, but didn't see anyone in our group. As we neared the last of the vendors, we didn't think it would be wise to stop and stand there, so I slowly got a rock out of my shoe and then slowly put all of my braids up in a ponytail. When then decided to slowly start walking back the other direction, as we still couldn't see Jennie, Miguel, Ana, Ian, the couple, or the translators. We soon saw Miguel and one of the translators walking towards us. The group had all been pushed off of the main road and were waiting by the car that the couple had rented. We were all united. Our problems were not yet over though.

In total, there were 10 people, and the car they had rented held 5. We couldn't drive anywhere away from the craziness. Not only that, but all of the open space was not shaded at all. It is HOT there, and there are no trees to provide a comfortable place to rest. So, we ended up walking up some and stood in a small space between two different vendors.

The couple spoke no English, no Spanish, only Creole. There were a couple guys there from the university who knew some English and some Spanish, so they translated to the couple. We told them all about Ian and his past and found out a little about them. All the while, the woman was holding Ian and he was not complaining in the least. THIS NEVER HAPPENS. After telling about Ian, I tried saying a few reminder things and wanted to know some more about the couple, but the translator guy was not really translating to them anymore since Jennie had stopped talking. None of us really cared for him much, but did very much as far as the couple was concerned. A crowd began to form in the little area where we were standing. Everyone was trying to listen in to figure out what we were doing. Throughout the whole time standing there I could not stop crying because I knew that this could very well be the last time I would see Ian, or at least least the last time we would see him with having the title of his 'mom.'

We took a picture of the two of them with Ian as they started asking about Ian's things and were talking of the best way to bring it over. Jennie looked over and asked what we thought. I wished that the circumstances had been different, but knew that I couldn't change that. I also saw how fine Ian was doing being held by the woman, and I knew that this would really be the best for Ian. He needs a family that can love and care for him and grow him up. It's hard for a handful of young woman to have that responsibility, and it would not be fair to Ian.

I could not believe how quickly everything seemed to happen. Before I knew it, we were all leaving the spot where we had all been talking. The translators and the husband came with us to cross the border, the woman and Ian stayed in Haiti. I didn't even get to give him a kiss and say goodbye. We had already drawn so much attention getting over the border, we had not planned to do it again. So the men came back over with us to get all of Ian's things. We got stopped once in the DR because the Haitian men did not have any papers or passports with them. One had to wait there for us to come back.

We got to the car and began unloading all of the things. I tried asking the husband what his name was, but he responded 'yes' in Creole. Eventually he figured it out and told me, and then I told him my name. They were able to carry all the suitcases and everything on their own. (The husband carried the largest suitcase and the playpen on his head). And off they went.

I was able to tell that the husband was very gentile and very kind while we unloaded the car, and that while the woman was holding Ian, she was very happy. It was a hard day. After all of this happened, it was only shortly after 10 am (11am DR time). We all thought that we would be able to sit in a park and leisurely sit and talk for hours and get to know the couple, but that sadly was not the case. We all had mixed feelings about how (quickly) the day went, but what it came down to was learning to trust. Learning to trust the people who had talked so greatly towards the American contact (Laurie) we had been in communication with the week before. Learning to trust Laurie who had spoken so greatly of this couple. And most importantly, learning to trust the Lord in that He knows what he is doing and His timing is not the same as our own.

We took a longer (but beautiful) way home. After dropping off Miguel and Ana in Montellano and picking up something for dinner, we walked into an empty, quiet house. All of Ian's things were gone. Ian was gone, and all of his giggling and squeals and laughing. Not only that but Jim and all of his things as well.

Today has been interesting. A day to rest from the day before. A day of quietness and without responsibility. A day very different from every other day since I have been here. The day I arrived in the DR 2 months ago was also the day that Ian was brought to us. So it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold. We know that it will not be the last time that we see Ian because of that contact that we still have with Laurie, and the possibility in a few months to go and visit him once he has settled in and adjusted.

We did what we were called to do when first taking in Ian, we found a good family for him which in turn gives him life, and for that I am overjoyed. It was a lot harder though than I thought (in every sense).

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

27 charcos

Last Saturday a group of us drove out of the city for about half an hour to a place called 27 Waterfalls. We had a guide take us up through all the waterfalls, as we walked through water, climbed up rocks, and walked along paths. It is such a beautiful place. When we reached the final waterfall, there was a small natural pool to jump into. On the way back, we were able to jump off or slide down the rock. At times I felt like I was in a scene for The Goonies right before they find the pirate ship, where they slide down the rock and land in the water. The whole trip up and down the waterfalls took about 4 hours. It was great fun!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

un buen dia

So, for the past couple of days I had been concerned about my role in the villages. I have built some great friendships with so many of the kids, but not really any of the adults. We walked around the bigger of the two villages to spread the word about English classes starting up next week, and I really couldn't say if doing that was purposeful or me simply being intrusive by walking around these people's homes. I knew that it would take a lot more time than being in the villages a few weeks for deep relationships to really be built between the people here and myself, but it stinks still being kind of in a way, an outcast. Today some of those fears were taken away.

While riding on a moto from Chichigua to Pancho Mateo, I was talking to the driver about many different things. He asked if I was a Christian because he could tell in what I was doing that I was. It is not everyday someone sees a person in a poor and small Haitian village teaching the kids and helping the community, let alone an American. We started talking about the hatred built up between the Dominicans and Haitians that is so present in this country. We then continued and talked about other things such as what all I do while I am here, working in poor villages as a teacher and so forth. It was a great conversation. I had him drive me all the way to my final destination (which is more expensive by moto) instead of just out to the main road. When we reached the parada, he said that it would not cost anything. How I wish my life would look more like that, that of humble services to friends.

After teaching that day in the village, again Alexia and I walked around to tell people about the English classes starting up. We went to Dona Mercedes' house to ask if she might want to host one of the classes since I would be with the kids in the schoolhouse at the same time. We ended up sitting outside of her house for about an hour, talking and enjoying the weather. As we first started approaching, her granddaughter started running and screaming that the 'gringas' were coming. When we got to the house I asked her if she remembered my name. She did. 'Camila. Camila.' I smiled. Then Mercedes (who is obviously older because she has grandchildren) stood up cane in hand and offered her chair, as did her daughter, who is mute. Mercedes and her daughter retrieved a couple more chairs for themselves. A neighbor, Mercedes' brother, and a few neighbor kids were there as well.

Her little girl, Janebel, sat in my lap the whole time telling and asking me things, singing songs (sometimes with her little eyes closed), and also playing with my braids. They offered us coffee and cherries, and also showed us a portrait of Janebel when she was a year old. (She also agreed to having a class in her home). I am continually dumb-founded at how hospital the people are here. It was a great time talking with them in their home, and made me feel so much more relaxed and welcomed in the community.

Friday, September 08, 2006

los uniformes

'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' Matthew 25:35-36, 40

This week was the beginning of classes for the villages. We passed out uniforms in Chichigua for each child, which included a shirt and khaki pants, in addition to a pair of underwear and a toothbush with toothpaste. I found great satisfaction in giving these clothes to the children and was reminded of the verses listed above, and was really able to see the joy that it brings in doing 'for the least of these.'

With the 'job' aspect of what I do here (seeing as it is my job and everything..), I have found that it will be easy for me to get caught up in the lesson planning and the tasks of caring after a baby at the house, and so forth. Though I do have a great deal of responsibilty here, I don't want my obligations to consume my thoughts. The first week of classes was a little crazy, as I knew it would be. My thoughts continue to be focused on the need here. If only there were more teachers... If only we could work with the same kids a little every day... If only we had workbooks to give to each child... or simply a curriculm or a teacher's Spanish guidebook to use... and so forth.

I know how great all of those things would be, and how much more could be done here, but then at the same time I am reminded that I have been placed here, that I have been given the opportunity to study and learn and therefore to teach and impact, and that (more importantly) I have the strength of the Lord and therefore, the ability to do anything.

The simplicity of putting clothes on a bare-backed child was so beautiful and so rewarding. I'm relearning the simple truths from the passage above and hope that my thoughts would be geared towards not the negatives but the positives, like continuing to pour out love onto these children.