Hello Bloggy, my little friend.

I just got through two months worth of accounting work and it feels so good to get that out of the way! With being sick and then Chris being gone I’ve gotten hardly anything done in the past month. I honestly was taken by surprise when the Shingles knocked out my energy. Was not prepared for that!

Chris came home last Tuesday and we’re all better with him here :) On Monday Olivia was really quiet at dinner so I asked what she was thinking about and she said, “I’m just thinking about 3 days from now.” Prodding her more she said, “I’m just so excited I can’t even talk about it!!!” Yeah, she had, for some reason, decided that it was still three days until Daddy was coming home. I had intentionally been really vague about it because I wasn’t up to having the constant questions about how much longer or dealing with the inevitable melt downs that would come with knowing exactly when. I had just said things like, “next week” and “a few more days” which, in kid terms, could be one day or a billion days. So, knowing that she had decided in her mind that it was still three more days, I decided not to say anything.

The next morning we went about or day as usual, and Chris phoned mid-morning to let me know he had landed. He was hoping to get back in time to go get Liv from school, but because of some vehicle complications Alex and I hit the road, with Chris arriving home a few minutes after we left. He was able to change and start unpacking a bit before we got back. When he heard the car come in he hid behind the door so when we opened it it didn’t go all the way. Olivia immediately whipped it back to see why and found Daddy hiding behind it. Then this happened:

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And this…

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I still feel a little weepy when I look at those. These kids love their Daddy and vice versa. Alex had been in a funk for 2.5 weeks which was super draining on me. He was really clingy, didn’t want to do anything, would ask for something and when I gave it to him told me he didn’t want it or that it was “yucky”. Our little caveman who often eats just as much as a normal adult didn’t want anything. He was just not himself. As soon as he saw Daddy he got this contented little smile on his face and for the next two to three days would just randomly say things like, “My so happy Daddy’s home” and “My love that Daddy’s home.” Melt(Aside: this kid is so free flowing with his sweet comments and verbal love. I regularly hear things like “Mommy, you buful” and “I love you”.)

Nanna sent boots in for the kids. Alex has barely taken his off since he got them. He even talks to them. Like, “Hey Boots! Good night Boots! It’s okay, Boots…”

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And yes, that’s his regular wardrobe. He has a diaper tan, and we have no idea how we’re going to ever get him to wear clothes regularly. Maybe when he starts school…

My energy is pretty much back to normal now and I’m super thankful about that. It’s so frustrating to not be able to do what you want to do.

We had friends come spend the day on Good Friday, then Sunday was our regularly scheduled missionary fellowship bible study day, so we had an Easter potluck and spent time doing communion together. It was a sweet way to spend the day with our missionary family, and time and time again I find myself thinking about how thankful I am for the people that God has brought in our lives. We’ve always had a solid group of people around us and try to make those relationships a priority, but in the last year and a half God has just solidified those more and brought new families into the area that have kids in our kids age range. On top of that there have been a wonderful group of single ladies that we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and who love to come over and hang with us and give us date nights by hanging with our kids. Every single one of these people is a blessing to us.

I had a bit of a laugh last week because there was this distinct moment in St. Marc while I was doing some shopping that reminded me just how much I’ve adjusted to the crazy that happens here on a regular basis, so much so that these events can happen and they just get mixed in with everything else in a day and I sometimes even forget to mention them to Chris. These are the things that would have been a BIG deal when I was first living here and the fact that they just become part of the kaleidoscope that is life here just shows me how much this has become home and how the “abnormal” has become my normal.

I was in town doing some grocery shopping before picking Olivia up after school. Chris had asked me to stop by a parts store to pick up some fuel conditioner for the car. The store that I went to is one of the better ones in St. Marc and is always busy. There’s a guy that fixes tires out front so there are cars and motos and people everywhere. Just being a white woman going into a hardware or parts store here gets enough attention as it is. Literally people whip their heads when I walk by. The guys inside are always surprised that I know what I’m asking for and that I speak fluent Creole. Also things not normal for white women here. I went in, chatted with everyone, bought the stuff I needed and headed back out. As I was walking to my car – literally just coming around the front of it to go to the drivers side door, a dump truck started pulling in. He very much saw me. And he very much did not leave enough space, or stop until I had passed my car. He literally kept driving and was so close that as I quickly tried to scurry around the car the box of the truck brushed my dress. I was shuffling sideways and my butt was touching my car, just to give you an idea of how tight a squeeze it was.

Yeah, I literally almost got run over by a dump truck! (And this is where my mother goes, “Ah! Les!” – sorry mom!)

The best part of this whole story though is not that I didn’t get hit (though that’s a very good thing and something that I’m grateful for!) but rather that the mob of people moving about in front of the store stood in disbelief at what they’d just seen and then they started yelling at the driver. So often there’s such a huge divide between classes and whatnot that we feel like we’re on on own with few times where others come to our defense. We’re often looked to as the ones to blame simply because we’re the foreigners, not because things are actually our fault. It leaves us feeling like everything here is work, because it truly is. In that moment where a mob of people started yelling in my defense I kind of felt like the playing field was not just level, but that we were all playing the same game for a moment. They were upset that he had done something that could have caused harm to anyone. I wasn’t alone in thinking the whole thing was crazy, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t need to come to my own defense. Instead I was able to yell a thank you, wave and get in my car and go.

People that come to visit often comment on our Creole or that Chris and I go and do a lot of things personally rather than sending our staff. We believe in giving our staff responsibility for a lot of things and are always looking for ways to give them more, but we also believe in being able to do things ourselves here. As a woman, I think it’s even more important. More often than not I get compliments on the fact that I speak Creole pretty fluently. People here appreciate the effort because to them it says that we’ve invested ourselves in learning the language of the people. It earns us a lot of respect in the sense that it’s so appreciated. As a woman, I see how men respect me when I can go into a hardware store or something like that and ask for things specifically and tell them in detail what it’s going to be used for. What I love is when I tell them that I’m the one building furniture or needing something for a project that I’m working on. They LOVE that I do things out of the box and they respect it. I like that people appreciate the effort that I’ve put in because I know they see that it’s hard work and I know that it means something to them. It bridges so many gaps that have been here for so long.

A few months ago we bought a used washing machine off of some other missionaries. They had owned it for 8 months and the motor went on it. Chris is handy, which I’m SO thankful for, so he loves situations like this where we can buy something for the mission and fix it rather than having to buy something new and spend more money. He gave the machine a good once over and confirmed that it was the motor, then found a new one online that he brought back with him. Our original plan was that he would do the fix on the new one and we would put it in our house and then move the one in our house down to the round house, because as Chris told me repeatedly, “We’re going to use it until it dies completely!”. The one down there works, but is really old and can only take small loads. I’m so thankful for that old man of a machine though, because time and time again we’ve needed a back up and we’ve been able to just go down and do laundry down there. Like the day after Chris left when the machine in our house stopped working!

Now would be a good time to tell you about the old machine in our house. We bought it off Craig’s List back in 2007, and received it here in Haiti in early 2008 after having it shipped in. It was in great shape and it’s been worked hard! I think the mission spent maybe $200-250 total for the machine and shipping. Great deal, especially since appliances are SO expensive here. Because we live on the ocean the salt and the humidity tend to cause a lot of rust on things. Our bathroom doesn’t have the best ventilation, and that’s where the washer is. Over the years of living up here it’s slowly been rusting apart. Not just outside, but inside too! We literally had the water hose coming into the drum clamped on with a binder clip because the fittings holding the plastic feed rusted away. Pieces of metal would regularly fall off from the drum surround, and if we had to move the machine out for any reason Yonese and I would find ourselves sweeping up dustpans of rust chunks. But the machine still worked great, and Chris said we would use it until it died. As far as washing and the load capacity that it would take, it was still better than the old man downstairs, so we figured Chris would just figure out what the problem was and we’d bring back the parts in the summer and fix it. That is, until he went to move it…

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Proof we have kids – a few dozen Q-tips on the floor…

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You see how the right side of the machine is lined up with the bars on the railing, and the left back side isn’t? Yeah, that’s not because the railing isn’t square or the machine isn’t level – it’s because that whole side of the machine almost fell off when Chris moved it.

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When he started to pull it out from it’s spot in the bathroom, the one side detached from the rest of the machine – because of the rust. He could barely move it because the outside was shifting separately. It left a trail of rust all the way out to the deck and once we could see the back of it Chris was able to see just how bad the rust was. Let’s just say he decided it had finally “died” :) This girl, and Yonese, are super happy with the new washer! And, for a total of $260 (machine and new motor) for an almost new machine it’s a win! Have I mentioned I love having a handy husband?

Here’s another window into life here…

Haiti has been rapidly advancing in the area of cell service and internet options. For the first year or so that I was here we had a few cell phones for the mission, but whoever was leaving needed to take all of them because the coverage would change between companies depending on what zone you were in. Just going 30 minutes away to St. Marc meant two different coverage areas. Now new companies have come in, we have great coverage, access to cheap phones and internet and even the poorest of the poor can afford to have cell phones in the family. We used to have satellite internet, but two summers ago we got back from vacation and our modem was down and the company couldn’t provide an easy fix. The cell companies were just putting out USB internet sticks so we switched over. That worked for a while, but we ended up having issues. About that same time I got an iPhone and when our USB sticks kept giving us issues I figured out how to tether/hot spot on my phone and we eventually switched over to using that for our internet. We could all tap into my data plan and it was a great solution. A couple months ago Chris switched over to an iPhone too so we’ve both had things hot spotted as our means of getting internet access in our house for work and personal stuff.

Then Apple released the new operating system update in the middle of March. Being new to the iPhone world Chris downloaded it immediately before I could warn him to hold off a bit. Whenever there’s a new update there are always bugs and I’ve learned just from watching facebook to hold off and let everyone else get annoyed and wait for the fix releases to come out before downloading it. We rely on our phones for too much here and it’s too important to not be able to use them as usual. Well, one of the bugs was that the 7.1 update wouldn’t let you use the hot spot feature – meaning Chris’ phone was useless for internet access unless he was just needing internet on his phone.

For anyone in North America, you might not even ever look at hot spotting your phone. For us… This meant that we went back to relying on my phone exclusively. If I had to leave for any reason, Chris couldn’t do anything internet related on his computer. No emails, no nothing. On top of all that, we had a very generous friend and board member donate her old iPhone 4 to the mission so we could have an extra. We know Haiti and know that it’s very likely something will happen where one of ours breaks, and since we also use it for internet, having a back up means we can seamlessly keep going with work and everything else. So appreciated! Well, when she got the phone unlocked they updated it at the same time to 7.1 – so the back up phone was useless for anything other than a phone :( Sadness.

For the last month we’ve been trying to figure out ways to fix it, and no cigar. The complaints on the Apple discussion pages were coming in from all over the world from users that rely on tethering/hot spotting their phones. Yesterday Chris, on a whim, checked to see if there were any new iOS updates, and lo and behold there was a 7.1.1. We decided to try it on the back up phone first to see what would happen. It worked! They fixed it and now both phones can use the hot spot again and we have multiple ways of getting internet! Woo hoo.

All this to say – when you just turn on your devices or go online, appreciate the simplicity of just having the service available in a way that doesn’t require electronic gymnastics with no back up support if there’s a problem (and no, being able to call a service desk and have a technician come out to your house within a week of the problem does not qualify as a valid complaint of “no back up support” when you’re talking to people like us, because  you can actually use the words “technician” and “coming to your house” in the same sentence. Here that would be a crazy luxury that we can only dream about.)

Have a happy Wednesday!

~Leslie

 

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