We’re doing this in bullet points.

Weeks since my last post?

  • I came down with Shingles mid-March. So very thankful for the support network around us. We had a doctor friend come by the same day that the red bumps started to show up and I was able to get antiviral meds the following morning, which pretty much eliminated all the pain and things ran the course pretty quickly. The crazy part is that the only thing I can think about that triggered it was grade one homework. I wish I was joking about that. After a good holiday where I truly relaxed for the first time in many years, coming back and spending a week fighting with my daughter to the point we were all in tears over homework is what did it. Not all the other stuff we’ve been through in the past, like arson, death threats, earthquake, adoption, everyday stresses – grade one homework. Yeesh.
  • While I got through most of my illness unscathed, I wasn’t expecting the fatigue. It doesn’t affect everyone, but almost three weeks later I’m just slowly starting to feel more like myself again. This explains the absence on here.
  • Chris is away right now. He’s back in Canada and the US on a fundraising trip. This will be the longest we’ve been apart as a family since the month before Alex was born where Olivia and I went back to Canada and Chris came a month later. We’re managing, but it’s not fun. It feels very long and I keep telling myself if we can just push through to Monday we’ll be at the halfway point and then we can start counting down.
  • On a good note, Chris has had several opportunities to share already, some in new places, and people are already asking when we’ll be able to do future presentations. Such a good thing!
  • Along that vein, I got our summer flights booked last night. It’s always such a process! I mean, spending a bit of time every day for about a week watching fares. My mom was and is again working as a travel agent so I’ve picked up a lot of tips over the years which help, and I have a good idea of what we should be paying, but sometimes what we should and what is are two different things. I was feeling stressed because flights can be so expense, especially when you’re paying 4 full fares. I had narrowed things down to one option yesterday and had that reservation on hold but when I went to pay for it I got a message that they couldn’t use my Canadian card. Funny because they haven’t had a problem with it for the past ten years… I was going to phone to see if I could pay over the phone, but decided to sniff around a bit more and found a much better deal with a different airline that literally saved us at least $600. I say at least, because that was compared to the tickets I was not apparently allowed to book. In comparison to the other options it was around $1000 in savings. Felt like a divine intervention and we are thankful.
  • Having had Shingles and knowing it’s most often stress induced or revived, I’ve been thinking about stress and what I can eliminate. One thing that’s been really hard this year is just feeling worn out with the kids. It’s not just me, it’s both Chris and I. So much work. They both have such big personalities, and while it’s often funny, there are times where we just feel exhausted in the discipline realm. With Chris gone I’ve had the space to think and pray through a lot of things specifically relating to me and I feel like I’m making good progress. Our kids have never been off the wall or anything like that, we just realized that we were feeling like we were on repeat all the time, so it’s been a case of having to firm up some boundaries, but in a way that lets the kids know this is the line. I’m in the process of reading “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” as recommended by several friends and it’s really good. The summary is that I’m feeling less stressed in this area and actually enjoying the kids even though I’m in this situation where I’m on my own and doing everything (Chris is a fabulous Dad/husband and I MISS him when he’s not here tag teaming with me!).
  • The kids actually crack me up most of the time. I wish I could bottle the stuff that comes out of them because it’s like gold. The hardest part is not busting out laughing when they say something so ridiculous that it’s funny or endearing. Alex is in this phase where he’s trying to figure out where he can exercise his opinions and independence, so it’s very normal for him to all of the sudden yell something like, “I said NO!” But about something that you wouldn’t normally say no about. He’s also in a stage where he likes to blame his sister for things. Like when he takes a drink of water from the cup we leave by his bed, while lying down, and it spills all over him, which shocks him and results in him crying. I go in and he says, through jagged crying, “Yaya throwed water on me!” “Yaya” is dead asleep and has been for hours… Every. single. night.
  • Olivia is in a stage where she tries to tell jokes, but it’s usually something like, “Why did the zebra walk through the jungle? Because you have orange hair!” Enter the stifling of laughter from the parental unit and a “Um, okay.” While Chris is away I’ve been trying to teach the kids jokes that they can tell Daddy over Skype when we talk. The two year old can nail a joke, with a side of “ba dum dum” but the 6 year old? Yeah, she has a zebra on her head or something.
  • Alex has started giving inanimate objects personalities. Like tonight after dinner the tongs on the counter became “my sister” and he was in a very intense battle with a tea towel protecting his sister. While his “sister” was in his hands. At one point I tried to tell him to go put the tongs in the sink and I was quickly corrected with a, “That’s not tongs! That’s my sister!” Yes sir!
  • Two days ago on the way home from driving Olivia to school we got hit by a chicken. Yes, you read that right, WE got hit by a chicken. While driving about 100 kms/hour down the highway I heard a loud thump hit the side of our car. When I looked in the rear view mirror I saw feathers flying as the chicken hit the shoulder. We literally got hit by a chicken. When we got home Alex and I checked the back passenger door and found a dent where the thing hit. Don’t worry, it just added to the plethora of dents already there. Alex went to open the door to see if the chicken was in the car…
  • And, since the chicken story was so exciting, when we talked to Nanna and Daddy on Skype later that day every time anyone asked Alex anything about anything he would say, “And a chicken hitted the car and it went “BOOM!” with arm flailing. The best part of this whole story is that he can actually tell it in two languages, with just as much animation :)

Okay, time for this girl to turn in for the night. The good thing about Chris not being here is that I am getting caught up on my rest because I can go to bed at any point after the kids are in bed, so you know – 7:30. And, I’m almost regretting the decision to not move up to a king sized bed when we had the chance last year because apparently I do like to sprawl when I sleep :( Being gone for this long Chris is going to have to fight for his side of the bed back.

Have a great weekend!

~Leslie

Peru: Day 1

I’m back in Haiti, and because I didn’t have enough time to post or write while I was gone, I’m posting all of this after the fact. I hope you enjoy reading!

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I’m writing this more as a travel journal for myself because, wow, we did a ton yesterday! I know if I don’t get it all down while it’s fresh in my mind, by the time I get home I won’t remember half of the details. That said, I hope you enjoy getting a peek into life here in Lima!

I was awake around 6:30 am, which in and of itself is a bit of a miracle considering I went to sleep close to 3 am. Good grief. Just reading that makes me feel tired. I think my body is just so trained that it’s hard to break that cycle.

Things don’t get moving around here until 10 am. As in, banks don’t open until 10 and some major businesses don’t open until 10. That meant that we could have a lazy morning. I was able to catch up on email and talk to Chris over Skype. I can’t tell you how much I love technology right now. To be sitting in South America and talking to my husband in the Caribbean for free – priceless. Forget Mastercard. This morning I got to talk to Olivia before she went to school and then Alex over video chat after they got back from the school drive. It was so fun to see his face light up when he saw mine :)

Okay… so a typical Peruvian breakfast is coffee (most prefer instant, but Carmen and I are coffee snobs so only French press will do), some kind of bread, deli ham, deli sliced cheese, yogurt, fruit and jam/butter. There’s a bakery just down the street where Carmen’s family get all their bread from. After travelling to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and now here, this kind of breakfast is a very Latin American thing and I love it. It’s like the best combination of everything :)

After we finished up we headed out and changed money a few blocks away. Money changers here sit outside a business, usually 2-3 on a corner. They all have to register with the city and have a permit to change money, and all have a little stamp. When you change money, after everyone confirms the amount is right, they use their little stamp to stamp every bill they give you. This stops people from moving counter-fit currency. If you get a fake bill you can turn it in and report where you got it. They can check their files and see which stamp is on it then know which money changer gave out the bill. Ingenious!

From there we walked to a nearby Hyundai dealership. This is probably a good place to touch on just how “cosmopolitan” Lima is. Or developed? The city is huge. Carmen said it can take 2 hours to drive from one end to another, and the population is over 13 million people. But, that said, it doesn’t feel congested and crazy. There is traffic, but it’s constantly moving, and they have a law in place that fines you for using your horn. We were laughing about the fact that we wouldn’t be able to drive in Haiti without a horn. Streets are pretty well designed from the areas that I’ve seen so far, and traffic just flows. Stop lights, over passes, pedestrian crossings… everything. There’s everything from McDonald’s (which apparently delivers, as does Burger King, but not Chinese or pizza?!?!) to every kind of car dealership you can name. Starbucks are all over the place, malls, casino’s, movie theaters, shopping districts with names like Hilfiger… you name it, it’s probably here.

So we went to the Hyundai dealership. Weird stop on a vacation and tour of the city, I know, but it was for me. See, when you live outside of North America, the vehicles you have are often made for the specific markets of the countries or regions that you live in. We have a Hyundai Santa Fe, but it’s not the same as a Canadian or American Santa Fe. Ours is diesel, a model they don’t make for North America. This means that any specific engine parts can only be bought in places where they sell the same type of model that we have. We’re still having problems with our alternator, so Chris asked if we could check in to see if a) they sold a Santa Fe here in Peru, b) if they did, if it’s the same kind that we have back home, and c) if it is a diesel automatic transmission, to see what the cost was on an alternator here compared to Haiti and buy it if it’s a match and not crazy expensive.

We checked in there, had to go to the main branch where they had the service department, and they needed the VIN on the car so they could check specs in the system. To do that we needed to get to a wi-fi connection so I could call Chris on Skype and get it from him. So we hopped in a taxi and went to Starbucks. For the record, Starbucks is Starbucks is Starbucks. The only difference was that everything was in Spanish, and they sell carbonated bottled water as well as regular. Got something to drink, got the VIN, emailed it to the dealership and then went on our merry way.

We took a taxi to another neighborhood so I could get my haircut. The salon looked like anything from back home. Another for the record moment – sometimes I cut my own hair in Haiti because I just get done with it. I did that back in October/November and cut off at least 8 inches. I *may* have cried the next morning, but then cleaned it up a bit and as people started seeing me they kept telling me how great the short hair was. I actually liked it more as it grew just a bit and relaxed into itself. I just needed a trim and a clean up. The guy cutting it said I had actually done a pretty good job on things. Except thinning. Apparently I shouldn’t thin it myself :) I realized as I showered this morning that he didn’t put an ounce of product in it when he was styling it, and considering the fact that Lima is moderately humid the fact that my hair was still in a sleek bob this morning made me understand why women get a professional “blow out”. It could have stayed that way for several days, I’m sure. Maybe one of the best hair cuts I’ve ever had, and we were joking around about me having to come back in 6 months so he could do my hair again since no one in Haiti knows how to do white girl hair.

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Carmen and I really liked the clips…

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First “blow out” ever. That sucker would have lasted all week if I’d let it. The ladies in the shop kept asking about my grey hair, like “How did she do that??” The looks on their faces when Carmen told them it was natural were fabulous.

After the hair, we walked a couple doors down and had a small lunch. Carmen and I shared a tamale and a meat filled potato fritter (can’t remember the name) that gets deep fried. I had something similar in the Dominican Republic. Carmen was telling me about how much the cuisine changes depending on where you are. In the city you can literally get any kind of food you want, and there are restaurants here that are well known in the food world. In Lima it’s normal to get a sort of pickled onion “salsa” with lime and cilantro or parsley and a bit of chopped peppers. It’s not spicy as much as it is fresh. You put a little on your fork and then fork a bite of food. We also shared a pork sandwich. Lunch is the big meal of the day and while they don’t do siesta anymore in the city, people might still take a few hours off for lunch. The evening is more “small” food and nibbling on things. Inca Kola is the national pop/soda. It’s yellow and has a cream soda feel to it, but actually tasted almost exactly like Couronne, a pop/soda made in Haiti, but it was less sweet which I liked. Couronne is like drinking syrup.

After lunch we hopped on a bus. There are a ton of private cars, but a lot of people use public transit. Taxis are everywhere. There are vans, which are a small bus, medium sized buses, and big buses. The routes are always painted on the side, and in the vans and medium sized buses there are people calling out to people where the bus is going and taking care of ticketing/payment. On the larger buses you either pay the driver and get your ticket, or there’s a guy walking through the bus to take money and give ticket stubs.

We got on a large bus and went over to a more touristy area of town – Minaflores. Carmen said that when things were really politically unstable about 25-30 years back the city decided to focus on one part of town and develop it and have high security so they could still have a tourism trade in the midst of everything. Now that everything has stabilized and the economy is experiencing a major upswing, other areas have and are being reconditioned and beautified. There were cobblestone streets, lots of shops and restaurants and lots of trees and plants along the sidewalks. Peru has a big garment industry and apparently it’s very normal practice for big brand buyers to go through a box of t-shirts, for example, piece by piece, and if they see one small flaw on ONE shirt, the whole box gets rejected. The rejected apparel then gets sold at discounted prices in small shops around the city. I picked up a bunch of Old Navy t-shirts for about $5/each. They’re made from pima cotton, which is really soft and really light – perfect for Haiti. I grabbed a couple for Chris too knowing how hard it is to find light comfortable t-shirts.

We wandered over to John F. Kennedy Park, which has a fun little “feature”…

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Did you see it? No? Look again.

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Anything “abnormal”?

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If you said “cats”, you win!

Back in “the day” there was a rat problem in the park, so someone got the fabulous idea to introduce a few cats to the area, which did in fact clean up the rat problem. The only oversight was that the cats weren’t spayed or neutered before they were introduced. And, well, cats know when they have a good thing. The park is now full of domesticated cats that just hang out in the park and play with visitors. There is an adopt a cat program run by the city, and people put out water and food for them. As we were walking to a different area a woman in front of us just reached down and scooped up a cat sitting on a park bench, and cradled it in her arms and petted it as she continued to stroll. See, these are the things you don’t learn from the guidebooks!

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Street next to JFK park in Miarflores, Lima.

To finish off the day we headed down to Barranco, and older part of town known for being an access point to the beaches back in the day. It’s slowly being restored and boasts little eateries and bars mixed in the midst of old architecture.

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Looking down from the “Bridge of Sighs” in Barranco.

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The Bridge of Sighs at night.

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Can I just take a second to mention how FUN it is to have a camera that takes great pictures. Most of these night shots are SOC (straight out of camera – no editing)! I was like a giddy school girl.

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Peru!

Every time I go away or travel I tell myself I’m going to step back from technology and disconnect a bit, but then I get where I’m going and I just want to write about it. That’s actually a good thing I think, because it allows me to get things down while they’re still fresh in my mind and I’ve got somewhere I can look back to. That, and everyone can keep up with me!

First off, let me just say this – there are friends in life that are the real kind. The kind where you can literally go without seeing them, and not talking much for, oh, let’s say five and a half years, because you both live overseas and you tell yourselves that’s hard, etc, BUT when you see their face and can talk to their face it’s like you just talked yesterday. Carmen and I are living proof of that. The last time I saw her sweet face was when she came to visit us in Haiti in October of 2009. We’ve emailed here and there, and literally Skyped for the first time two days ago. (Aside: neither of us have figured out why we didn’t do that more over the years…) Last night we were up until 2:30 am (same time zone, so wow about that for this grandma who is usually in bed by 9:30 pm…) and we bypassed a lot and went to the deep and hard and catching up stuff. There is a reason this girl was one of my bridesmaids, and last night was a reminder.

One of the things that Chris and I are realizing we struggle with as we live in Haiti longer, is that loss of identity, and yet a gather of identity. Maybe a change of identity??? When you live in another culture for long enough, you start to have parts of it that become part of you. You see things and talk differently and view things differently. Those are all good things. The hard part is that over time you can start to feel like you don’t really “fit” anywhere. When we go home, we’re surrounded by people that love us and care about what we’re doing and those are wonderful things. We look forward to it and need it. The hard part is that no matter how much people try or they’ve visited, there will be aspects of our lives that they will not be able to connect with, and we’ll struggle to communicate them because they’re so ingrained in us. We feel less like we “fit” in what has always been home. In Haiti, we are fully aware that we will never fully “fit” there, either. We will always be seen as foreigners, no matter how long we’re there and how fluent we’ve become and no matter what relationships we build.

All in all, a person who lives like we do starts to feel like they have multiple personalities and that maybe they don’t quite “fit” anywhere. That’s not a terrible thing, it’s just a challenging dynamic. As I was landing in Lima last night and anticipating a giant hug from Carmen, I realized that I was going to be spending an entire week with someone who not only “gets” me as a person, but someone who also “gets” the concept of not quite fitting anywhere, and yet feeling deep ties to multiple places. I mentioned it last night and Carmen said, “Exactly! In Peru, I’m too white and not Peruvian enough. In the US I’m too dark, and not American enough.” Exactly.

I realized that having someone that gets that means that I can relax in a different way. She understands the urge to speak a language that the other person might not understand, which has happened a lot already, by the way. I keep wanting to use Creole while everyone speaks Spanish or English. We were laughing last night because I said something and realized that she wouldn’t know that word and she keeps having to catch herself because I probably won’t understand. We’re a funny pair :)

Anyway, that in mind, I’m so happy and excited and blessed to be here! It truly feels like a vacation, something I really needed right now.

Now, onto the trip itself…

Chris dropped me off at the airport and check in and immigration went speedy once I got to the counter. I was excited to see some good improvements at the airport, things like not having to go through security to get in the door, and a new gift shop in the check in area. People always ask about progress, and when you’re in it all the time you realize that what they’re looking for are the big things, like new construction and what not, and what you look for are the little things like something working better or faster, or a nice change here and there. So, good on you Haiti!

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When I booked my ticket with my advantage miles they booked me in coach, which gave me “priority access”. Um, not traveling with kids and priority access – yes please! Seriously, it was bliss to be able to pack only my own stuff in my bags, and to get everything for a week away into a carry on and still have room left over. And to board and not worry about someone needing a snack or kicking off their shoes or not wanting to wear their seat belt… You get the idea.

When Carmen came to see us she kept saying that there were things that felt like Peru. FYI – the best place to start seeing the culture you’re going into, is in the airport boarding lounge. Carmen and I had a good laugh last night when I told her, “So then they started to get ready to board…” And everyone went flocking and they had to keep telling them to back up, and again, and again and no one listens. I always want to yell, “You all paid for a ticket, you’re going to get on the plane!!” she said laughing. And she could imagine how hard it was for me when I was trying to keep a straight face while watching all of it, because have you seen Haitians get ready to board a flight??? It felt like home in it’s own funny way.

For those of you reading this that are traveling into Miami from an international destination any time soon can I just say this – Immigration KIOSKS!!!! For US and Canadian citizens they now have these fabulous little kiosks where you use a touch screen to answer a bunch of questions, you insert your passport, and it takes a picture of your face, then prints a receipt. Then you take the receipt and go to a desk where an immigration officer compares the receipt with your passport and your face and stamps everything. It literally took me two minutes to go through. And, by the way, for you Canadians reading this, just in case you didn’t know – when you fly into the US from an international destination you’re allowed to go in the US Citizens line rather than waiting forever in the International lines.

Lima is HUGE. Carmen said the population is about 13 million. It was fun to drive and see things like Burger King and McDonald’s. Carmen is in the city so we’ll be taking public transit and getting taxi’s most of the time that we’re here. She lives with her aunt and grandfather, and for me it’s so fun to get to meet her family after hearing about these people for years. Her grandfather is 89 and hard of hearing, and her aunt Lucy just apologized for having to yell at him because he didn’t hear her the first time. I told her it was fine, that my husband doesn’t respond to me half the time either :) I love seeing people that look like Carmen and her dad and to see more of what makes her who she is, and I know that it’s such a rare gift to be in their home and see their Peru, not the touristy version.

Landing in Lima last night.

Landing in Lima last night.

The best part of being here is just being together and like I said to her in the wee hours of the morning, getting to talk to her face. This morning has been a lazy morning where I drank an entire french press of coffee, by myself, and got to talk to Chris on our phones over Skype. Seriously?!? Technology is fabulous. He can just give me a quick call if I’m where I have a wi-fi connection.

Okay, time for breakfast! Then, it’s off to hit town. I think I might be getting a hair cut, which I’m really excited about. And then some wandering and shopping. Tomorrow I think Carmen’s family’s housekeeper, who is also a good friend, is taking me yarn shopping!!! :) She’s a knitter and crocheter so she knows all the good places to go.

Normally I would fill my bags with stuff to bring someone like Carmen, but, well, Haiti... So, being the fab friend that I am, I brought Krispy Kreme from the airport. Because America.

Normally I would fill my bags with stuff to bring someone like Carmen, but, well, Haiti… So, being the fab friend that I am, I brought Krispy Kreme from the airport. Because America.

A Vacation???

I shared a bit ago that this girl is getting out of Dodge shortly. In exactly two days I will be standing in the Port au Prince airport in the line to check in.

And it’s sinking in. I’m starting to get excited.

I know that might sound funny, considering I’m going on a trip to Peru. In South America.

I would normally be getting more and more excited as time goes on, but I think because I wasn’t planning and hoping to take this trip for a long time, and that it came out of nowhere really, my brain hasn’t had time to really wrap around the fact that I’m going on vacation! 

I was literally getting myself put together the other day and saw my suitcases in the room, and I thought, “Wait a second… I’m actually going on vacation.”

The last time I was on what I would call a real vacation, was two years ago when I went to the Dominican Republic with a friend for a few days. Yes, we take time away every summer, but it’s a lot of traveling around, and even when our family gets a bit of time away on our own to go camping, I’m still cooking and cleaning up after people. My kids still wake me up at night and I still feel worn out.

To me, the definition of a holiday is going somewhere where I don’t have to do the regular day to day stuff. Not being the person relied on for food sustenance. Not having to clean up after people. Not having people wake me up at night. Basically, getting away from it all.

And it hit me the other day, that’s exactly what I’m getting. I won’t be the main source of food preparation for everyone for 10 days. I will be able to sleep without anyone else waking me up at night. Maybe I’ll get some rest and feel a bit refreshed. I get to spend time with someone I love and talk and laugh and just have fun. I get to see something new.

I know I’m going to miss my people like crazy, but I also know I need the break right now. I feel worn out and tired. I need to regroup and have some time away so I can be a better mom and wife. And I love that my husband knows this about me and encourages it.

So, here’s to hopping on a plane in two sleeps!

~Leslie

The Day We Made Plans

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I know today is Valentine’s Day, but in our house it is better thought of as “the day we made plans”.

Yes, we had heart pancakes for breakfast, but for the most part I don’t think of Valentine’s Day as the day we celebrate love and hearts. For me, it’s the day that Chris and I decided to become “the Rollings”.

Let’s back track about 8 years…

Chris and I started dating in September of 2005. I had already quit my job as a youth pastor and booked my plane ticket to move to Haiti to work full time with Clean Water for Haiti (I always feel like this point needs to be emphasized because I don’t want to be thought of as one of those girls who made a life altering decision for a guy!). The day before Valentine’s Day 2006 I made a comment that it was V day the next day, not anticipating anything. It was more of a realization that the date was on the calendar. I’ve never been one of those girls that made a big deal about it, and Chris didn’t strike me as the type that would go all out either.

When I mentioned it he said, “Well, we need to go do something!” and I tried to let him know I wasn’t expecting anything and it wasn’t a big deal for me. He informed me we were going to go out on a date and do dinner etc. Okay, I concede.

The next day was funny. In the morning some new to the area missionaries that I had already met called to see if they could stop by and meet Chris on a trip to St. Marc and he told them to stop by. Late morning he told me he was going to take off on his motorcycle for a while. I asked about the visit and he told me he would meet them some other time. I tried to remind him that they were coming to meet him, but no cigar.

Then, he was gone for hours. I had no idea what was up. It was so out of character for him. A friend of ours stopped by late afternoon to use our internet and Chris came back. He realized, when he got home, that he had forgotten to tell the cook that we weren’t going to be there for dinner, so she had made food. I suggested we just put it in the fridge but he insisted that we eat, and just go for dessert. I insisted it wasn’t a big deal and we didn’t need to go out. He insisted we did. I mean, really insisted.

I started to get ready to go, and realized that he had gone in his room and was taking forever  to get himself together. You need to know that this is the guy who, when we go out, literally walks into our room and pulls off his t-shirt and throws on a button down shirt, which he’s still buttoning as he’s putting on his shoes. He takes a nano second to dress himself to go out. 45 minutes, was not normal. While I was getting ready there was a very brief, fleeting moment where I thought, “Maybe he’s going to propose!” which was quickly followed by, “No way. He’s not that kind of guy. We’re going to need to date for at least a year before he gets there.” This would probably be a good time to mention that he was the person who, when I told him I loved him for the first time he said, “Don’t say that!” at which point I reminded him that he couldn’t dictate my feelings :)

(This is making me giggle to myself as I write and remember all of this…)

So, we got ready, and went out. We ordered a bottle of wine and the only edible dessert the restaurant had – flan. Rather than sit in the normal restaurant area we chose a table on the beach where we could watch the sunset. And the rats. Or, long tailed squirrels, as we decided to call them that night so as not to ruin the ambiance. These things are important.

We talked and drank our wine and ate our dessert. I could tell Chris was acting a bit funny, but kept dismissing it.

Eventually he said, “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Okay. What do you want to talk about? 

“I think we should make plans.”

My first thought was, “Okay, he want’s to talk about summer vacation!” Because I had wondered if we would leave around the same time and plan to spend some time together while away.

“What kind of plans?” I asked

“Long term plans.”

Again, I’m thinking summer. Because apparently when you’re 27 four months down the road is long term…

“What kind of long term plans?”

“I think we should get married.”

And I go quiet. Because I wasn’t expecting that. Nope. Not at all. 

And then the tears started. And I smiled. And he looks at me.

“Is that a yes?” he asks while holding his breath.

“Yes!”

And he exhales.

“I was worried you would tell me you needed more time.”

“When do you want to do it?”

“This summer? I don’t want to wait a long time, and we could do it when we would normally take a summer vacation.”

So sensible. 

“That means I’m going to need to go home for a while to plan stuff.”

And that was the point where we started thinking as “us” rather than “me” and “I”.

Later that night I asked him when he knew I was the one. He told me that when he said good-bye to his parents at Christmas that the next time he saw them we would either be engaged or broken up. There was no middle ground, and if it was going to happen, it was going to be sooner rather than later. And, he hoped it was the former :)

Four and a half months later, to the day, we became “the Rollings”. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Has it always been easy? Ha. Do you know my husband? He is intense and has a deep sense of right and wrong. He doesn’t mince words. He is stubborn. And so am I. And we meet in the middle and rub each other the wrong way sometimes. But it works for us.

I tell people all the time that we’re like oil & vinegar – they push away from each other, but when you shake them up they make really good salad dressing. We can be polar opposites in so many ways, yet we compliment each other so well that one of the comments we often hear from people is how good we are together. Our gifts and personalities fill the spaces in the other. Since we got married I feel like I’ve learned what God meant when he said that the two shall become one.

And I feel grateful. Last night when we crawled into bed I thanked Chris for being the type of man who, from the very start of our relationship, told me that communication would be everything because we would be doing life under a microscope here. Everyone would be watching us to see if we did marriage differently. They would watch how Chris treated me and vice versa. They would see how we treated our adopted daughter compared to our bio-logical son. Any tension in anything within our home would spill over to the mission and our relationships with everyone we work with. We needed to guard and protect and work hard at all of it. And those weren’t just words for him.

Do you know what made me realize there might be something to Chris that was more than any other guy I had been interested in? He wasn’t easy. No, not that kind of easy. The kind of easy where I knew he would challenge me, and be a challenge to be with. Not in a caretaker sense, but in a way where I would have to hold my own. I had a strong leadership gifting, and predominantly found myself in those roles in life and ministry. Most of the guys I knew were great, but would eventually not challenge me enough and I worried that I would have a life that would be boring.

Not long after I met Chris we were having a conversation about missions he said something about too many people making excuses for not going out into missions work. I got defensive because I was in that place where I wasn’t ready, but God was starting to tug at my heart. I challenged him on it. And I never did that with a guy. I would have normally just pulled away and thought him arrogant, but not Chris.

And you know how some people just have this vibe around them that lets you know there’s something there and it’s deep and well, kind of indescribable? That was us. For two years, whenever we were together, just as friends, people would pull me aside and ask, “What’s going on between you two???” And I would shrug my shoulders and say, “I have no idea.” Because I didn’t. And it wasn’t until months after I committed to coming to Haiti that Chris knew I was the person he needed to put the effort in with. That was no small thing, considering that both of us had decided years before that we wouldn’t pursue a relationship unless the person was the marrying kind. Neither of us felt it was a good use of our hearts and what not to be involved in something that was obviously not going to go the distance.

The years have not been easy on us. We have literally been through things that would normally rip couples apart. That would break down their communication and find them questioning if they were ever meant to be together. But not us. And I’m so grateful. We’ve both had to grow and bend and change a lot to make this work. Like I said, oil and vinegar here.

We are partners in this whole life thing. We compliment each other and we’re strong for each other when needed. We’re getting better at all of it every day.

So yes, when I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of the commercial expressions of love, but more than that I think of the real expressions. The commitment and the willingness to jump into something for the long haul. When I look at my husband, I see that commitment lived out every single day and I feel so grateful to be called his “wifey”.

Happy Heart Day!

~Leslie

 

Prayer Request!

When we went into this year we knew our funding was down, and that we would be slowing things down a bit. Chris and I firmly believe in working continually and balancing our output with our available funding, rather than going hard and running out completely. The fact that we have employees, with families, who are not only our biggest asset as an organization, but also reliant on their full-time jobs is something that is never far from our minds. Aside from that, working continuously provides a better quality of, well, everything that we do here. Did you know that Clean Water for Haiti is one of the only continually running bio-sand filter projects in the world?

So, we’ve been plugging along. And it was fine. Yes, we would love to have more funding to be doing more filters, but we looked at the time as a blessing where we could focus on other things that needed some TLC.

Fast forward to today. Phew!

This is the short version…

Our Santa Fe alternator went out last week. It’s in PAP, will be picked up today and needs to be re-installed.

Our van has been making a clunking noise. Evens finally had time to check it out yesterday and knows what the issue is, but in the process a bold broke and fell inside a section of the motor that is hard to get to. After talking to a mechanic Chris was told that under no circumstances should we start the motor until it’s fixed. We have no idea how it hasn’t destroyed the motor to this point. We’re looking for a mechanic that can come from Port au Prince to fix it.

If you’re counting, that’s two passenger vehicles not running today. The only thing left is the work trucks…

One work truck left first thing to get a load of gravel to take to the new land for the driveway.

The other work truck left with Chris, Olivia, Sean and the rest of the guys going to the new land. Chris was dropping them off, then taking Olivia to school, then getting dropped off back at the house and Evens took the truck to go get another load of gravel.

Are you starting to feel the crazy settle in? If not, let me keep going…

Jimmy is still here at the mission today working on the septic tank. We’re all hoping that he’ll be able to finish laying the blocks today so they can do the form work for the cement lid tomorrow. Man, I miss flushing our toilet…

We have an organization coming to pick up 10 filters. Two of our guys will go with them to Cite Soliel to install the filters today.

Those two same guys will the take public transit across town to go and get the fixed alternator for the Santa Fe, then take public transit back to the mission.

Until the org arrives those two guys are digging leach lines for the septic system.

Um, it’s almost 9 am and the org hasn’t arrived yet, so it’s going to be a very long day for those two guys.

Feeling scattered yet?

Now, because we don’t have any working passenger vehicles we had to ask friends if Olivia could go to their house after school until Evens can take the truck to go pick her up. Hopefully they’ll be able to load in the gravel quickly today and she won’t have to be there too long.

Sean needs a push broom to fill the gaps in the pavers with sand. We don’t have one and can’t think of where we would buy one in our area. A friend has one. But, because both work trucks are gone and both passenger vehicles are broken down we had to ask our friend to make a special trip out to the land to deliver the broom for us because we can’t go get it from him.

Do you feel completely confused? Yeah, me too. 

Oh yeah! I leave for South America on Tuesday. My husband gets to stay here with two kids, school runs, a volunteer, a big project, a septic tank and non-working vehicles to fix.

Oh dear. 

Needless to say (why do we say that, then actually follow it up with whatever statement we feel is “needless to say”?) things have gone from slow and quite to outright nutty around here. Last night Chris was trying to make plans for who was going in each direction and could hardly keep his head on. He didn’t sleep much last night either.

But, it’s not a bad thing. Yes, it’s a lot to manage but we’re actually excited about all of it and feeling blessed.

Blessed because we’ve connected with a great mechanic in PAP who was able to fix the alternator in a couple days, for less that $100.

Blessed because of Sean. Everything about Sean.

Blessed because while it’s taken almost three weeks, and we still don’t have a working septic tank for our house, it’s getting closer to being done and one of our guys has learned so much about block laying in the last two weeks. The tank is triple the size of the old one, and built the right way.

Blessed because, while we have two broken vehicles, we have two vehicles. When I started with the mission in 2005, if the truck broke, that was it. We were tap tapping. While it’s logistically crazy, we are able to get everything done. The Santa Fe should be fixed soon too.

Blessed because we have a staff that work hard, want to learn, and have a good attitude. These guys work in the hot sun all day. When I go out to the new land, I typically find them joking around and that’s hard to do when you’re slinging gravel and dirt and doing all the hard work. I admire that.

Blessed, most of all, because we know that when things get a bit crazy like this it’s usually because good things are coming. We can choose to get discouraged, or we can choose to have joy in the midst of the chaos and confusion. Our attitude and what we’re willing to leave in God’s hands determines everything. 

We would love it if you would keep us and the mission in your prayers in the coming weeks as we take care of everything here. In our experience it comes in blips and it’ll be a lot of things to deal with all at once, then things calm down. The challenge is remembering to step back and breathe, and then take care of business.

Thanks, and happy Thursday!

~Leslie

The Love Is In the Details

I’ve been itching to write about this for a week now, but knowing Haiti and life and all the things, I knew it was probably better to hold off until the end. Things have a habit of falling apart here or not panning out or being incredibly complicated and hard, falling flat and not being what they were hoped to be. Just wanted to keep things real and see if it actually happened.

And it did.

Today, today we are feeling cared for and loved by our God. And are reminded of how he does that with the details. The details of our lives. The things that might not get spoken outside of our doors or even our own hearts. And that in those moments he can not just provide, but provide the exact thing. At the exact moment it is needed. Before we even realize that exact moment has arrived.

Back up Leslie…

Last week I got an email from a guy I know from during my youth ministry days, pre-Haiti. I was on staff with his mom at the church for a little while when she was the head of the children’s ministry department. His brother was one of our leaders in our student ministries for several years, and I met Sean through our young adult stuff and because he was friends with a bunch of people that were our volunteers. He was just sort of “around”. I didn’t ever get to know him well, more of a “Hey! How’s it going?” kind of thing.

Fast forward to being in Haiti. Periodically over the years I’ve gotten emails from Sean where he would let me know that he was interested in what we were doing, to say hi, to ask questions etc. It’s always nice to connect with people from “home”, so I always appreciated them. In every case his hopes of coming for a visit someday to see what we were doing got pushed down the list of life.

Last week he wrote again because he had some free time. He works in the construction industry, and the specific nature of what he does means he is a slave to temperature, so he has to take winters off in the area that he lives because of it. During that time over the past 6-7 years he’s traveled to all sorts of places and wanted to see if he could finally come see us, and whether we needed help with anything. He wanted to do something where he could help out rather than just travel, if possible.

Chris and I don’t usually do this. Because of our development strategies, we try to use our local staff for as much of the labor on any mission projects, or hire locally because it provides employment and we get people who are used to working in the conditions here with local materials. And, because we choose to focus on one thing and do it as well as we can, we don’t have a lot of side projects that need attention or outside help. When we have volunteers come in, we have them come for a year so they can truly fit into our program and be an effective help to the mission.

But, here we are with a filter program running, a swimming pool sized hole in our yard that is becoming a new septic tank, and a project going on at the new land.

And there it is – the new land development.

We’ve been doing things slowly and for as little cost as possible. Our filter funding has been down in the past few months, so as we went into this year we decided to work on some things out at the new property that weren’t expensive, but needed to be done. The biggest of which is our driveway.

Now, we wouldn’t normally put in any kind of paved driveway. We don’t have one at the current site, and see it as more of an aesthetic thing than necessity. Until the rainy season started last year and our trucks kept getting stuck at the new property. See, it was irrigated farm land before we bought it. The dirt is soft from being turned over repeatedly and when it rains it becomes a river running through. We wouldn’t be able to get in and out without some other plan of action. Thus, the driveway. Not aesthetics – necessity.

When Chris priced out putting in paving stones, they were going to cost about $0.65 each. We needed over 8000 of them. Yeah, not something we could justify spending mission funds on, even for something that would be needed. Then we visited some friends in Gonaives and saw a pile of about 600 pavers sitting in their yard and asked where they got them. Turns out the road company responsible for the major construction of the national highway and repairs on streets in Goaniaves was pulling up all the old paving stones. They told people living on the streets they were going to start on that if they did the work of pulling up the pavers they could keep them. All through town houses and businesses had piles of pavers out front. You just had to go and ask if they were for sale, make a deal and then often someone else came along to tell you they had a pile too. And the price? 3 for 10 Goudes, or the equivalent of $0.08 each.

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Back in September – piles and piles of pavers!

The love is in the details.

God provides.

We started sending our truck and over a period of about a month or so we bought up over 8000 pavers. We saved a ton of money to do something that needed to be done, and we get to recycle in the process, something that is hard to do here.

In the past month Thony, one of our workers, has led a team of guys to build curbing around the driveway perimeter. That was the easy part. Once that was finished we needed to rent a tamper machine, from somewhere (because we don’t have a ton of options for equipment rental…) and level and tamp the dirt base. Then there was gravel to bring in, and then a layer of sand. None of us have ever done this before. Chris was stressing out about not only knowing how to do it, but about having to be in two places at once. How would he manage things here, and also oversee a project that needed to be done a certain way with supervision? We’ve literally been talking about the logistics for months.

When we got Sean’s email we realized that it might be a great opportunity. The supervision needed was for things like making sure stuff was level and straight, and to see problems and give them attention as they arose rather than having to go back and rip up half of the driveway if we realized something was done wrong. Even someone with a general construction background could help with that. Sean had traveled, mostly to third world situations, and was familiar with having to fumble through language issues. Maybe it was worth asking him to help? So we did.

The next morning I got an email that said something like this…

This is amazing! I worked for a company as an operations manager doing “hardscaping”. I’ve laid THOUSANDS of these pavers. I couldn’t be there for more than a few weeks, but in that time we can pound out a bunch of work and I can be teaching your guys how to finish up after I leave. I could be there as early as next week if that works for you.”

The love is in the details.

God provides.

Not only would Sean be helpful, he had skills. Very specific skills. We got excited, but it was controlled excitement because, as I said, things tend to fall through here. We didn’t want to get our expectations up, then feel defeated because it didn’t work out.

We started talking travel arrangements and details. Everything was set in motion. Sean was able to fly to the Dominican Republic for almost free, so that was the plan. From there he would need to get on a bus to Port au Prince. I’ve done that trip, so was able to walk him through which company to use etc. It was all loose, with lots of opportunity to fall apart. Again, not getting our hopes up, we said we would believe it when it started happening and fully expected to get an email saying that something had happened or come up making it not possible.

Instead, when I checked in on Friday Sean wrote back that his flight was booked and he was leaving that evening, weather permitting. Weather permitted.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

We checked in with each other after he got to the Domincan Republic. He still had to bus from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo to catch the bus to Haiti. The bus company would only let you book online with a minimum of three days in advance of your trip. They don’t take reservations over the phone. That meant Sean would have to show up at the terminal and hopefully get on the first bus out yesterday morning. Not getting on the first bus would mean waiting for the second bus, putting him in Port au Prince too late in the day for us to pick him up and us scrambling to make arrangements for a guest house, etc, while having limited contact.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

Not only did everything come together, Sean’s trip over the border was fast and he was in Port au Prince earlier than we expected. Chris and a friend of ours had planned a day of errands, and estimated that Sean would arrive between 3 and 4 pm, but by 3:30 they had already picked him up and done a few other things, and were headed out of town. This put everyone home before dark and with plenty of time to relax and settle in before dinner.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

I love our staff too. I have to acknowledge that they very well could have chosen to be offended by the fact that once we started the project we chose to bring someone in. But, they didn’t. In fact, when we told them that Sean was probably coming the first thing our foreman said to me was, “And he’s going to teach us?” Yes. I loved that his first thought was about learning. About seeing an opportunity to be more. And they’re all like this. As our friend is here helping with the septic tank he’s teaching Jimmy about laying block in a way that produces stronger and more level results. About doing it with quality. And Jimmy is soaking it up like a sponge and the other guys are teasing him about being a boss mason now, someone who could do this professionally. The teasing is in a way of respect, indicating that they can see he’s learning something valuable. I love that they are willing learners, and I love that people have the heart to teach. To fumble through language and culture and try to pass on something they know that can be useful here. While we might not need anyone to lay paving stones for us, that’s something they can hire themselves out for on weekends or times when the mission is closed for holidays. It provides more income for their families. It has long term effects.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

I need to back track a bit here too.

So all the work going on out at the new land… In a situation like this, where you have someone coming in to focus on a specific project, you tend to want to use their skills to the max, which means making sure that as many things are in place as possible to get the most work done. Haiti is notorious for ruining any best laid plans. If it can break, it will. If you need something specific, you won’t find it. Vehicles will break down when you need them most. You get the idea.

The guys were working on finishing the curbing on the driveway last week. They finished it the day after we got the first email from Sean. That meant we could move on to preparing the base. The dirt needed to be moved and leveled – something we thought would take days. It didn’t. It took two days, and was much less work than we all expected. We thought we would have to truck in load after load of fill. We had to truck in less than half a dozen, which was way less than we thought was needed.

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The beginning stages of the curbing.

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The first major construction on the new property. It feels like SOMETHING!

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Progress! A week an a half ago as they were getting close to finishing the curbing. The driveway will be level with the top of the curbs.

The next step was getting a tamper to start packing down the dirt base. We knew we could rent one in Port au Prince, and would if we had to, but it would get pricey and complicated with having to get it back at a certain time. Chris mentioned the need to someone out here and they suggested a guy who might have one – in St. Marc. Chris went to see him, and he did and Chris left with the machine. The guys have made great headway on getting the base done, and following each section up with a layer of gravel.

We are further ahead than we expected. It meant that this morning rather than having to direct prep work, Sean is able to start working the first sections of pavers with the guys, while others keep advancing on the base layers. And none of it was pushed. None of it was rushed.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

But, this is Haiti, and as I shared, things break.

Yesterday the tamper broke down. When Evens went to town to get some stuff he took it with him, back to the guy. Because things were busy yesterday afternoon with Chris being gone and people going in several different directions, I forgot to ask Evens what the status was on when we would be able to get the tamper again, and so did Chris. Last night Chris phoned the man we rent it from and asked how long it would take his guys to fix it. He told Chris that they had already fixed it and it was sent back with Evens. It was already waiting to go this morning. This doesn’t usually happen here.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

This past week has been so encouraging to us. The new property has been something that has been in process for about three years. It has been slow and calculated. We’ve taken the time to pray and check ourselves. To wait for things to be right and be done right. To not rush or push anything. We knew that if this what was was the next step for Clean Water for Haiti it had to be because God wanted it, no matter how much we could see the benefit of it all.

It’s easy to doubt yourself in situations like this. Are things working out because we’re working really hard to make them work? Are things happening because we’re failing to see the warning signs that we should stop? We didn’t think so. We’ve gone slow intentionally so that we have space to see those things and stop if needed. But we never felt led to do that. We did feel led to keep moving forward, always asking if this was the right next step. When we were looking for land we had checks and balances that we weren’t willing to compromise on, and we saw how God took us from one piece of land that was good, to something so much better because we were willing to say no, we won’t compromise. 

Paperwork on property purchases can be a nightmare. We were so blessed to have good people who know what to do come alongside us to help navigate that. The seller did his part and everyone that needed to, which was no less than 15 family members, signed off on things. The t’s were crossed, the i’s were dotted. Every stage of work that we’ve done there has been provided for and done well.

Sean being here is such an affirmation to us of God’s plan for the mission. I know, it’s a driveway, but we can’t help but think about his specific provision. The materials, something that seemed out of reach, became within reach and saved the mission thousands of dollars. Chris and I believe we are called to be good stewards of what we are given, so we take these things very seriously and are always looking at how we can be doing things the most cost effectively, while doing it with quality. It was like God was saying this is the way you need to go. We didn’t got seeking it out, the supplies presented themselves when we weren’t looking for them.

This whole project has been on Chris’ mind a lot. Everything we do at the new site we want to be done with the long term in mind. That means making solid decisions about construction that mean things will stand up over time, or will account for growth in the coming years. We don’t want to get a few years down the road and be rebuilding things or having to fix things because we didn’t do a solid job the first time. To us that doesn’t feel like good stewardship, or responsible. We would rather the project take longer if it means more time and funding to do things right, from the start.

That process means lots of thought and leg work. It means research and taking stock of things. It means knowing your own limits and knowing when to call in someone who might know more. Except in this specific case, we didn’t know who to call. I literally have an email from Chris in my inbox, that’s been sitting there for months, with a construction supervisor job description in it. It hasn’t gotten posted anywhere because we didn’t have the funding in place to start any major construction. We weren’t actively looking for anyone to help out yet. But we knew the need was there. We talk about it regularly. It’s been a source of stress. And rather than us having to put the need out there and run after it, God chose to bring the solution to us without us being any part of the process other than saying yes. 

The love is in the details.

God provides.

And he can do it so specifically, speaking into the very yearnings of our hearts. Into the places where sometimes only we know the need has been acknowledged. Where sometimes it’s nothing more than a fleeting thought of I feel. I need. I wish… 

This journey is amazing. This whole thing, this God thing, has been such a blessed reminder of how God cares. Of how he loves. Of how, as a parent, he wants to take the heavy things from his children and do what he can to help shoulder the burden. We feel loved and cared for and me, I feel hope in a way that I haven’t in a while. The past few years have carried a lot of heaviness and a lot of questions about how we lead and our chosen path. But, God knows, and he’s telling us to move forward, even when we have no earthly idea how all of it is possible.

For a while I’ve felt that this year is a year of turning, of heading into the “new” for the mission. The last few years have been about building a stronger foundation. Of readying ourselves, both here in Haiti and at a board level. We’ve done a lot of important work behind the scenes, and other pieces are coming together so that we can all do this better. I am so excited to see how this whole thing plays out. It’s a privilege to be in the middle of all of this. To see how God cares for his people,  the least of these. His plans for Clean Water for Haiti are greater than ours. He knows the intimate details of the process. He simply plants the yearnings and ideas and dreams in us, then helps make it happen.

Do you get how huge that is?

We get to be part of this. To be active participants in God caring for his people. To watch it play out every. single. day. Yes, sometimes the road is hard, but then he takes us into seasons of rest and rejuvenation and hope. Of building and pouring into us. Gosh, I’m so grateful for all of this and that we get front row seats. It’s so humbling.

~Leslie