Last day here at HATS!

Bugs – Okay, so those that have been here before have mentioned in comments and emails they’ve had no bug problems. You’re welcome! I’ve experience all the bug issues during my stay so you all could come down bug free before and after me. You’re invited to show your appreciation with gifts of anti-itch cream!

Today is Dec 25th and we were up early again getting ready for the church service with gifts for attendees afterwards. Church was great, even though I can’t understand what they said. The singing rocks, even without instruments, and I had a great snug with baby Sandra who fell asleep after our late night of festivities last night. We had 62 attend church and everyone, adults and children, went home with a Kado (present), a pop, and 2 candies. They were SOOO happy and even the girls in their late teens were jumping up and down with excitement after peeking in their gifts!

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My soft cushioning is a sleeping baby magnet
So excited about Kado after church

Heat – the heat and humidity the past few days is what I remember. You feel sticky all day, if you rest your arm on a piece of paper it sticks to you & you have a constant sheen on your face. That’s great when you’re at Tropical Beach resort and can have a dip in the pool, it’s not so great when you’re in land with no water anywhere at hand. As much as I love these children and my mom I will never come here in July and will continue to visit this time of year during Haiti’s winter! Sandra was stuck to me, both of us with a sheen of sweat by 10am!

Kann. No words start in Haiti with a c. Oops! Sugar Cane is actually Kann. My Bad!

Painting. 1 building and 6 benches complete! In addition to the colored benches below there is the handprint bench for in front of mom’s house and also a plain turquoise bench.

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The building we ‘repainted’ the front of.
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4 of 6 benches

Goats – 46 were purchased by Dec 20th (with 3 purchased after that). My goal was to get those first 46 done. I got close. 44 have been sourced and delivered to us and so far 41 have been picked up. We’ll be sleeping to a chorus of bleating again tonight, oh joy! Our hope is that the last 3 people for these goats show up tomorrow before 10am since Mom is gone until evening in order to take me to port. The last few goats will happen when my Aunt Sandy gets here late January. I will miss my rotating group of goats!

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Last Load of Goats. Can you find all 8?

This is taken of the top of the 12ft cement block walls that surround mom’s compound to keep mom and the kids safe. To me this picture sums up Haiti.

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A country of contrasts.

This is my last post to publish while in Haiti. I’ve got a ~4hr wait in the airport in Port au Prince so I’ll write a blog or two there as well to put up after I get home. We don’t fly until 6:30 although will be dropped by by 1:30 or 2 since Mom, Luckner and the hired gun need to get back before it’s too dark.

Haiti Christmas

Yesterday was a lot of painting, a secret project of Christmas present for ‘mom’, tons of wrapping (well ‘bagging’), visiting in Borel, brining the turkey, getting the stuffing, potato and carrot/yam casserole prepped and of course handing out goats and emailing out goat photos. That’s just my to-do list. Mom did about 3x that, as usual!

Today I slept in. Every other morning we had to be up by 7 for 7:30 devotions and when you’re waking up multiple x in the night to listen to the chorus of goats (I will be hearing bleating in my sleep for weeks I think), roosters and the ‘gang shootout’ sound that is the neighbouring rice mill when it starts up, 7am is VERY early! I heard a new sound at 9:30 this morning as I was enjoying my sleep on the 2nd floor roof deck in my fabulously bug free tent. A slow twangy sound, which turned out to visitor from the southern US. Alexa said there was a guy here who sounded like he was talking underwater, lol. I guess she`s never heard a southern drawl before! The thing about Haiti is that sound travels! FAR!! The concrete here is quite different and instead of muffling sound it seems to amplify it! Mom talking in her bedroom a floor below you can hear on the second floor despite a thick layer of concrete in between. Mom and I talking quietly on the second floor sleep deck about the boys and how they were helpful and amazingly great with the kids (and with a fair amount of shock and awe in our voices) carried far enough for the boys sitting 50 feet away to hear….. `Mom, we can hear you, ya know!`

Today was the day that the Haitian’s celebrate Christmas, mainly this evening, Christmas eve. I scrambled to get ready and into the kitchen when I realized it was 9:30, I had a bird to cook! I cooked, mom ran to the `pharmacy‘ for paper plates for the kids, I accepted delivery of another 7 goats from Banika, mom bagged gifts, the boys played, I gave out goats & emailed recipients, I cooked some more, mom ran around doing everything, I un-tanged goats, fed goats, watered goats and finally at 4pm, the festivities started!

The children all received their annual Christmas gift from HATS, a new outfit. They all raced home to put on their clothes and came back for a photo with Mom.

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Kids with mom

As we gathered in the devotion/playroom the kids presented mom with their Christmas present for her. Antoinette, one of the house mom’s, was quite concerned the kids would give away the secret since ‘secret’ isn’t a word or concept in their language. Shockingly they didn’t!

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Mom getting her gift

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Christmas present from the kids to mom

Then Haitian Pere Noel handed out presents from the kids and I, each girl a Barbie, each young boy a car and clothes and a game from Vladimy. By this time the kids were hungry (it takes a long time to handout presents to 18 kids) so the House Mom’s served up traditional Haitian fare of Rice, Beans, a chicken leg and they made a festive pink salad. We also gave everyone some ‘Canadian’ food of Roast Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Baked Potato and Carrot/Yam Casserole. They gamely tried it although a few stuffed the weird Canadian food into their rice. It reminded me of my childhood and of being at friends houses and mixing in the things I didn’t like into what I did so I could choke it down as to not insult anyone. As Luckner says, a Haitian doesn’t feel they’ve eaten a meal unless they have rice, no matter how much they’ve eaten.

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Haitian Pere Noel getting socked in the face

Sandra, the 8 month old, who eats canned baby food decided tonight that mom’s food looked better! Within 5 mins she took the spoon from mom and went to town!

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Sandra eating mom’s food

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Graduating to a spoon only 5mins later!

After supper we did the Cado (Presents) brought down from donors by Liette & Yvette when they were here last month. Each child got center stage to open their gifts one by one while all the others watched with big saucer eyes! The grins as each child opened his or her shoebox of clothes, cars or dolls, sunglasses, candy, etc were AMAZING! I was the photog with Sandra in my arms sleeping and loved it! I’ve included a few random photos of the kids opening their gifts, which the babies slept though they were so tired.

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Shoebox Gift – Karena (3yrs)

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Shoebox Gift – Dieunel (5yrs)

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Shoebox Gift – Vladimy (16yrs)

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Sandra Conked out

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My largest baby is tired too!

The true meaning of Christmas is alive and well here. I have had the most relaxed (although by no means have I had more than 30minues of downtime a day, if that) lead up to Christmas ever. No stores, no hustle bustle, no endless baking/eating (well, I’ll address the eating in an upcoming blog!), no hurry scurry or stress to find the ‘it toy of the year’ or the item my child really wanted, since they didn’t make a list this year. It’s been amazing!!!! I told the kids yesterday, the same kids that were (2 of 3) bitchy and complaining about coming, that we were coming back in 2 years to do this again and one of the boys, the one who was going to bring his own knife or gun for protection said ‘do we have to wait that long, can’t we come next year or during Spring Break?’

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Gifts ready, Report Card Day, Biting Ants

130 Gifts are Complete! We did ~130 gifts, we may need up to 100 although with extra’s Mom will be all set and have gifts she can give out for other occasions as needed. We’ll be handing them out on Sunday at church. Today Alexa is combing, cleaning and dressing all her Barbie’s so she can wrap them up for the kids here. Christmas is celebrated on the 24th so we’re in full prep mode today! Mom had a turkey given to her by the UN for thanksgiving and she saved it for tomorrow. Gotta get that in the brine soon, Mom is SOOO excited about having a traditional Cdn feast instead of Christmas rice and beans

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Our Assembly Line
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Sample Gift

Report Card Day. It’s SO different than in Canada. School got out a week ago and today the kids (or parent) were to come back to pick up their report card. Many of the kids are away with their other parent so there were a lot of parents in the room. Everyone was in one room and it started with a speech by Luckner, the Director, who would be our version of the Principal. He talked to the parents about being responsible and getting their kids to school on time and talked to the kids about working hard since people are paying for their education. This part took about ½ an hour and they room was VERY quiet with little shuffling or movement. It was so amazing to watch. Then, in front of the entire room, their average is read out for everyone to hear. The process took about 2hours.

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Waiting for Report Cards

Ti Luc was dressed and ready to head over to the school until Luckner showed up at the house. Luckner, as Director, was in dress slacks and a crisp white top so Ti Luc insisted on changing. He picked out his new outfit himself and insisted on being changed into it.

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Ti Luc and Mom

Biting Ants: Lex has a bad case of Stomach upset and is spending much of her day in the bathroom so last night we slept in the room. Tonight we are definitely sleeping in the tents. As I awoke I discovered something had marched through my bed in the middle of the night and in their path was my right hand and face. 14 bites on my hand and 9 on my face and another half dozen random spots. Germaine inspected me and says it’s ants. She found a red ant nest in the bathroom yesterday (when cleaning up after the spider episode) although it’s not those. It’s the teeny tiny spec ants that were in my underwear drawer looking for Candy Canes (prior blog). Last night I was eating ‘can’ (Sugar Cane) and although I washed up before bed I must have had a little on my hand and face and the ants were eating me to get the ‘can’. She’s in my room spraying right now although I loved sleeping out in the tent and now have a really good excuse to get Lex to sleep out there too! A teeny bit of can must have fallen from my clothes onto the floor and that was swarming with ants when Germaine did her inspection. For perspective the red thing that looks like a hot dog is actually one of those mini advils. Lesson of the day, Sugar is evil AND it’s my own fault so suck it up princess!

For the record my Mom’s house is Extremely clean, it’s just that we live around bugs here and it simply can’t be avoided.

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Ants on Sugar Cane with a mini advil for perspective

As I was chasing a Gecko for a photo I discovered a dead rat so asked mom what to do. She yelled to Jacques I had a gift for him. When I showed him the spot he burst out laughing and said ‘Mesi pou bel kado sa’ (thanks for that nice gift) and since he has seen me taking photos of all kinds of people and wildlife he asked me if I wanted to take a photo of him with his bel kado (en francais: belle cadeau), so I did, lol

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Jacques with his ‘gift’

A few nights ago I was trying to get a lovely family portrait of my children with their uncle Ti Luc. They were quite the group of fools and this is the best shot I could get. It really speaks to their personalities! Ti Luc has today changed his name to Jared and Jared is Ti Luc. Jared has even mastered dressing Ti Luc! I’ll share more about Ti Luc as soon as I have more time

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My kds with Uncle Ti Luk

I have 3 more benches to paint today so I best get at it. By Haiti time I’ve wasted a lot of the day cause it’s already 8:50am and I’m not moving and shaking yet!

A whole blog about sleep

2 Big Sleepovers. My kids all decided last night to stay down at the kids home. There are two kids homes, one for girls, one for the boys. It’s apparently the first time this has ever happened here and the kids here were beyond excited to have my kids sleep down there with them, so ALL the kids, minus the 2 smallest babies and one really sick girl, slept in 1 room in each home! Mom and I decided we wanted a photo so we went down for a quick visit. Not a lot of sleeping actually happened in the boys room.

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Sound asleep, there are 5 in here
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All 8 boys in one room

Sleeping Security. A while after we went to visit the kids mom discovered her phone wasn’t with her and she must have it at all times in case one of the house mom’s or security or Luckner need her. We couldn’t find it so wanted the security to come up to the house and dial it so we’d find it by the ringing. She went out onto the deck and waved a flashlight down toward Security so they’d come up to the house. No response from security, which was very strange since they always come right away. We waited 15 mins, looked for the phone some more, and tried again to alert security. No response to the flashlight. We grabbed the camera and decided to sneak down quietly to check it out. We found both Security sound asleep. Not even the flash woke them up! We then started plotting what to do next. Me: ‘Let’s go pull on the gate like we were trying to get in’ (they were sleeping right beside the gate). If they woke up, at least we’d know it was still safe even though they were asleep. Mom’s idea was to go out the side door (the door to the school) and sneak around to the front and bang on the outside of the gate. Mom’s idea was tossed out, the reason there are security guards is that it’s not safe to be outside here, especially after dark. We laughed about that idea and how silly it was. So I brought up my idea again! ‘Let’s go pull on the gate from the inside, it will be safer cause bad guys outside wouldn’t be able to get us’. Mom looked at me and said ‘yes, and the security guards will be jolted awake and will probably shoot you!’. OMG. What?! I started to laugh (quietly) and told mom no way would I have crept down in the dark to take a photo if I’d thought about the gun! Turns out Mom’s idea was probably the safer of the two. I was fully aware of the gun since it’s handed to security every evening and I took a photo of Ronel with it a few nights before. We took off back to the house and called Luckner and left it in his hands! During our escapades we found the phone had been left in the boys home when we went down to take a photo.

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Sleeping Security (they are not in jail, we took the photo through a fence)
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Ronel with the Security Guards Gun

After our evening of escapades it’s almost midnight (everyone goes to sleep here at 10pm) and mom and I are knackered and heading off to bed. 3 minutes after going upstairs I’m back down and say to mom ‘It’s not a Tarantula but it’s WAAAAY to big to sleep with me!’ We head back up to take care of my nighttime visitor! We get some photos and I get into my PJ’s while mom goes to get what we need to kill it…. By the time she comes upstairs I’ve made myself insane, everytime my pj’s touch my skin and tickle it I am swatting and beating at myself. The mom arrives with a mallet and a Machete! We’re up there cackling like a couple of crazy people! So then mom says that we need bug spray first and runs off to get some. I go brush my teeth and feel something on my arm and see a brown spot and start beating at myself and it won’t leave (the lights are dim in there) and then I realize I’ve been trying to kill a freckle! Okay, I need to take a deep breath, I’m bigger than it! As we’re about to spray the spider (it’s at least 3 inches from end to end) and I ask mom if it’s the jumping or biting kind. It’s not, whew! She sprays it and it takes off under the bed. Oh crap! We move the bed (me jumping around like a loon) and we can’t find it! We search that whole side of the room… No spider. I am NOT sleeping in that room! I grab my pillow, shake my blanket out ALOT and head out to one of the tents on the deck, at least nothing can get in those!! As I’m leaving the room mom says ‘Well now that you’re not sleeping in here anyway… it was a jumping spider, they jump about 3 feet’. WHAT? Yes, now I’ll really trust her when I ask her a bug question! Germaine cleaned the room this morning and found it dead on it’s back under the bed. It had jumped up and was hiding on the underside of the bed while the bug spray took hold. UGH. We’re not telling Alexa or she’ll never be able to sleep in the room again.

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My Bedroom Visitor (at least 4 inches long)
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Mom brought me protection

Goat & Paint update, Roosters, Haiti Stats

Roosters. Contrary to popular belief Roosters don’t just crow at dawn, unless dawn is from 11pm to 8am. You know how in a movie one dog will bark and then all the other dogs in the city chime in and it’s utter chaos? Roosters are just like that, except they do it in the dead of night! It’s very interesting that laying in bed I pick out the different ‘voices’. Last night, by rough count, there were about 18 roosters involved. There’s the deep ‘cock of the walk’ COCK A DOODLE DOOO, there’s the ‘higher pitched adolescent’ cock a doodle doo and even the chain smoking grandfather ‘Cock a ack doodle ac d’. Every time he starts I lay in bed totally cracking up cause he actually sounds frustrated that he can’t finish it without his ‘voice’ cracking. Since I can’t sleep I may as well be amused!

Kabrit (Goat) Update. So far 30 have been delivered to HATS compound and 23 have gone home with their new families. We’re expecting more on Friday. We need another 17 goats to come and go before I leave on Monday since it will be too much for Mom to do without me here.

* It’s not so much the handing out of papers, it’s the moving them around, the feeding, the watering, getting their horns freed from the fence, keeping the kids out of the area. The goats spend a few hours during the day at the school field where there is lots of vegetation and then back to the side of the house for safety, water, etc. Today was the first day I wasn’t involved in the moving of the goats and left it to the kids. When I ventured out late this evening to make sure they all had water I discovered that 3 of the 7 weren’t asleep. That’s weird! Then I realized that 3 of the ones delivered today had ropes too short (this is new!) to allow them to lay down once tied to the fence and 1 wasn’t tied on at all (if we don’t tie them on they eat mom’s garden). So there I was in the mosquito infested dark with some wire that was on my painting tarp (can’t find any rope) trudging through the goat poop to fix up my poor babies. Two peed immediately upon my fixing their ropes (they couldn’t get into squat position with the short rope) and they all immediately started eating since their heads could now touch the ground. Goats take up about 3-4 hours of my day and mom doesn’t have 10 extra minutes!

* Okay, after that rambling missive about housing the goats… after we get them, then we need to find the families the goats are going to. It’s not like you can just pick up the phone and call them! You need to ‘send word’ through people who know people (that is Luckners job) and then hope they show up quickly although they won’t own a vehicle so will grab a tap tap to come pick up their goats. Coming home from Market today, sitting in the back of the truck of course, I hear this extremely load goat crying (I finally know the difference between children and goats) and realize it’s a whole bunch of goats tied onto the side of a tap tap. They’re dangling by their ankles and every time the tap tap goes over a ‘Police Kouche’ the goats would get jarred and start crying. Police Kouche is a sleeping policeman, which is actually a speed bump.

* Once the people come we get their name, take a photo, rename the photo with the receivers name, match that to a gifters name and then email the photos. The first goat photo emails for goats requested up to Dec 13th are being emailed out Thursday. The rest will follow as soon as we can source the goats.

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Goats on a tap tap

Paint Update. Despite popular expectation from those of you reading the blog… I haven’t been fired. I guess when you’re desperate for good help you take what you can get! Jessie doesn’t come back for 3 weeks so in the meantime I’m all mom has. I need to redeem myself after my painting fiasco’s, so I hope to have at least 6 benches done before I go! I painted a lovely bench today. Here is my one complete bench. I better step up the action!!

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One bench done

Stats about Haiti.

  • The country of Haiti is on an Island in the Caribbean called Hispaniola. It’s south of East Miami, and just to the east of Cube and Jamaica
  • The island was claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the base for the conquest of the Caribbean
  • In the 1700’s the French formed a plantation colony in the West. The French plantation owners brought in slaves from Africa and in 1804 the slaves revolted, the French fled, and the country became Haiti
  • The remaining 2/3 of the island is known as the Dominican Republic. The Haiti side has no tourism like the DR has. The DR side of the island is still Spanish
  • Haiti has a very small, very wealthy elite. They have walled residences along the water and large plantations. Haiti also a very large very poor majority population
  • Haiti is about the size of 2/3 of Vancouver Island or 2x the size of PEI. There are 10 Million people here and it is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Haiti has been ruled by Dictators for years, which is one reason the country is in such bad shape
  • The main language spoken is Kreyol (Creole) although the language of official documents and the language spoken at University is French. The slaves learned the language phonetically and mixed the French in with some Africans and Spanish, so Kreyol is shorter and more efficient than French. Sil vous plait is soupla. Sou Play. Merci Beaucoup is Mesi bokou (or Mesi anpil). I can cobble together a sentence in French although often it’s understood only by the older children who learn French at school.

After that little history lesson I’m going to end this blog with some random photos!

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Judel, Jared’s little buddy
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Mirlande with her favorite goat
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Vladimy & Ronel catching thrown food
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Karena with backpack