Monday, June 27, 2011

The Citadel

This is Citadelle Laferrière.  If you type that name into Wikipedia, you're sure to come up with all the interesting historical facts that I can't remember about it right now.  Essentially, it's a very big, old fort built when Haiti was divided into a kingdom in the north (where I am) and a republic in the south.  The king built this as a defense from both the south and from the Dominican Republic to the east.  I went with Budry (my Creole tutor), some Belgian girl scouts who were staying next door to my house and some of their Haitian friends.  There were 10 of us packed into the back of a Nissan short bed truck for the 4 hour, very bumpy roundtrip.  All in all, we had a very good time hiking up to and seeing the Citadel.  If I had access to Facebook (which I don't by the way, so if you've posted something for me there and I haven't responded... that's why) I would post more pictures, but these few will have to do.
Budry and me on the hike up.

The view from the top of the Citadel.

Budry and I in prison.  
Oh and one comment about my Argentina jersey.  This spring, on my last visit to Haiti, I noticed several people wearing Argentina soccer jerseys.  So, as I'm packing I think, "Hey, I'll wear this and fit right in... well as much as possible anyways."  Au contraire.  Apparently, all of Haut-Limbé supports Brazil, who just so happens to be Argentina's bitter rival.   I have found a grand total of two other "Argentin" supporters in my town.  My loyalty is unwavering though and it makes for some good natured (though less than productive) bantering on the quality of the two teams.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's been one week...

My first week here at UCNH has officially drawn to a close, only to open up to 24 more.  Which is a big number.  I have to admit, the first two or three days, getting up was hard.  It was always just before 5:30 to my host dad, Amos, calling "Chris!" (which he pronounces "Christ").  It was especially disorienting the first morning when I didn't know that family prayer started at 5:30 and I wake up to, "Chris, Chris!  You pray yourself?"  I'm pretty sure he meant, "did you pray by yourself since you so obviously did not pray with us?" and not, "Chris, did you pray to yourself?"  But it's hard to tell.

The first few days were challenging.  I had some pretty unproductive and discouraging meetings with Caso (the popular name for Dr. Casseus, the UCNH president) and Bobanoit (Bob, one of the English professors here and my supervisor).  There were just a lot of unanswered questions that I thought would have been figured out by the time I got here.  Plus as I already mentioned, I was sitting on the front end of six months, a length of time that I had given surprisingly little thought before my arrival.  Let me just say... right now it feels like a very, very long time.

Things have started to fall more into a routine here, which has been a great help to me feeling more at ease.  On Thursday, I met with Laurie, Caso's wife, who was able to answer most of my remaining questions.  I'm still not entirely sure what my internship will be, especially now that most students are gone for vacation, but I'm just taking assignments week by week or day by day as they come.  Yesterday I taught the first session of a week long review class for students who didn't pass their exams the first time.  Though my experience has been limited, it's really nice teaching something that comes so easily to me.  I feel like for the first time in my life, I'm an expert in what I'm talking about.

Life outside of UCNH has been good.  My host family lives less than five minutes away from UCNH, which has been so nice.  I love the small community atmosphere of walking to work everyday, seeing and greeting the same people, familiarizing myself with my surroundings.  So far, my favorite part of the community has been the kids that live nearby.  I haven't been able to figure out who is related to who yet, but it's a group of about 7-12 brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbors, ranging in ages from probably around 5-10 years old.  For the first few days, they just yelled "blan" (white person) and "how are you?" at me from a distance, but a few days ago, I went over to introduce myself.  Since then, we've had a good time playing Haitian games, the objectives of which I only vaguely understand.  Yesterday they asked me to sing, so I gave them a quick a cappella rendition of Wagon Wheel, which they seemed to appreciate.  They even joined in clapping about halfway through.  It really makes my day to see them running up to me every afternoon.

Overall, living with Amos and Madame Amos (the name by which Amos instructed me to call his wife) has been good.  One aspect of living there that I found startling was that they don't eat together as a family.  Madame Amos makes very good food then just sets it on the table for anyone to eat at any time. Apparently in Haiti, meals are much more focused on eating and less focused on fellowship.  That's okay though because we have plenty of time for the latter.  Most afternoons and evenings are spent hanging out on the porch or the roof, just sitting and talking.  Amos speaks a little English, but his wife, none at all, so that's been some motivation to work hard at my studies.  Amos likes to improve his English by stealing my Creole/English dictionary and reading out loud all the words in order.  "Witness.  Wizard. Woman.  Wonder.  Wood.  Wool.  Word.  Word.  Word.  Chris!  How you say "word"?"  It isn't the most conducive environment for studying.

Speaking of speaking Creole, I have a language tutor named Budry (pronounced Bee-dree).  He's a 31 year-old agricultural student at UCNH who lives nearby with his wife and two kids.  He's pretty good at English and we get along really well.  He likes to get out and do stuff, so some of our "classes" have been walking around town, visiting the Citadel and going clubbing.  I feel like I'm improving in Creole most days, and Budry has been a great friend to have.  He knows pretty much everyone in Haut-Limbé (the town I live in) and is probably related to about half of them.  We have a good time together.

Well, if you made it this far, good job.  I appreciate your perseverance.  Sorry there's so much text and not so many pictures.  I'll work on getting the pictures from my trip to the Citadel up soon-ish and I still need to take pictures of my house, family, etc.  I don't anticipate that future posts will be this long... this was just to set the scene.  Thank you all for your comments, emails, thoughts and prayers.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I'm here!  And by here I mean Haiti, more specifically UCNH.  I actually did get picked up from the airport this morning and all my luggage made it... eventually.  Took an extra hour for one bag, but that just gave me time to run to the bank.

I've only been at the university for about 2 hours, just kind of settling in and meeting people.  I met my host family and dropped off my stuff.  My host dad, Amos, speaks a little bit of English... I don't think his wife speaks any.  And if I understood what he said correctly, I have two host sisters, ages 27 and 21.  I'm not entirely sure if I've met them or not.  Communicating is a bit of a struggle.  But helpfully, I have also met my Creole tutor!  We had our first lesson walking from my house to the Casseuses' for lunch.  I learned, "how are  you", "I'm fine", "what is your name", and "my name is."  Dinner tonight with the family should be interesting.

Lunch with Dr. Casseus (UCNH president) was a little awkward, but encouraging in some ways too.  He's just not a man of many words.  It seems his wife does a lot more coordination with visitors, so I'm looking forward to figuring out more of what I'm doing when she gets here.  But who knows when that will be.

Anyways, so far a good first 2 hours and I'll keep you updated!  Just not this frequently.

And thank you to everyone who prayed for my safe trip!

The Cusp

So, here I am.  In the Miami Airport Red Roof Inn.  About 4 hours away from getting back to the Miami Airport, 6 hours from getting on a plane and 8 hours from being in Haiti.  On the cusp.  The past few days I haven't been sleeping very well.  I tend to sleep poorly on cusps.  I think about this thing that I absolutely need to remember to do in the morning, but will I forget? I better do it now... and then there's that other thing... and then it's 4 in the morning.  That is to say, I should probably be trying to sleep now, but that would be fruitless and hopefully blogging won't be.
Basically, there's too much to say so I'll only say a little.  I'm anxious, but part of that is excitement.  I'm worried about my host family, that my internship will be helpful, connecting with students, being able to communicate with anyone, that someone will pick me up from the airport tomorrow.  Overall, I just want them to like me.  I'm not scared of looking foolish or out of place nearly as much as I am that the people at UCNH will just think I'm a waste of time.  I know all of this is premature and irrational (and if you want to post affirming comments, that's fine), but it doesn't stop it from being what I'm thinking.  So, if you pray for me, pray that people will like me.