A This Is Life In Haiti Post

There are a lot of fun and funny moments that fill our days here. I think those felt more blog worthy earlier on in my time in this crazy country, and over the years much of that has become normal for us, so it doesn’t hit on the radar as much as it used to.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours down in the yard planting a bunch of things. You might remember when I posted about our trip up to Port Margot earlier this year, and the bounty of plants that Cory sent home with us. Well, a bunch of those were finally ready to go in the ground!

I know I’ve posted pictures of the yard on here before and chances are that when you look at some of these pictures you won’t notice a difference. That’s cool. Really, the difference is going to come in a little while when these plants get a chance to get established, because then they’ll start flowering. Some have already flowered in their roof top home. We have a few flowering things in the yard – a couple delicate hibiscus, a pink plumeria, a red flowering bush, and some type of lily that sets off these white firework looking flowers. But, given the size of our property, it wasn’t much. We also have a lot of shade, so it was a case of finding the right kinds of plants that would thrive. Cory was great about giving us a big assortment.

Yesterday I planted about 10 heliconia. I think we have 3 different kinds. The great thing about heliconia is that they continue to spread and you can eventually divide them. I tried to plant them in some strategic places where they could fill holes and we can see the flowers and enjoy them for various places.

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Heliconia with some of those white flowered lilies in front and a flowering shrub. Looks sparse now, but in a few months it could look very different!

Several years ago I bought some canna lily seeds. Typically you buy a tuber from a garden center and plant it like you would a bulb for other things, then it grows. Starting from seed took a long time, and in the end out of a dozen or so seeds I think I got two plants. I honestly didn’t have high hopes for them. Eventually Chris noticed they were getting bigger (I was really pregnant so not going up on the roof at the time) and he transplanted them into a big cement pot I have up there. Without exaggeration that plant is now over my head, and Chris has divided it several times. We have 4 large plants now from the first ones, and two of those are now in the ground and another just got moved down onto our deck so we could see it and fill a corner. The first one is ready to divide again and this morning I broke off some seeds to give to someone.

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The tall, lighter green plant right in the middle is one of my cannas.

At the same time that I ordered the cannas I also ordered some Hawaiian ti plants. They do grow here, typically the red version. I ordered both red and green, but was only successful getting the green ones to take. Yesterday I transplanted a few that weren’t in ideal spots and am hoping they’ll take over in their new homes.

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A ti plant in the foreground with one of the heliconias right behind it (you can see the dead flower on it).

We also got some ornamental ginger from Cory and that went in the ground a couple months ago. Yesterday I divided the first plant to get another one going by the outdoor shower. When this ginger takes off it really fills in and gets these bright pink rod like flowers. I’m excited to see if it’s going to do something. I keep seeing it everywhere here in haiti and have just wanted some in our yard so badly.

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The ginger is right below the shower pipe, and a couple new ti plants on either side.

Cory also gave us another shrub. He gave us two cuttings that were only about 6 inches long, and now we have full size potted plants, so they both went in the ground yesterday. they have darker green leaves and get this little bright pink flowers.

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Side view of the round house.

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From the other direction.

We’re in the middle of a training class right now. In the afternoons the students are with Thony, so Chris and I have been doing other things – like gardening. While Chris was over in the banana garden cutting some suckers to take to the new land he found a big toad. The kids have never seen one up close, so he picked it up with a banana leaf and brought it over, then dumped it in the kids pool. Olivia went and got Yonese and we had some fun trying to see if it could get out of the pool. When it did finally get out Yonese and I became toad wranglers as we tried to steer it away from the buildings. Chris apparently developed some love for Mr. Toad though and wouldn’t let Yonese dump him over the fence.

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Did I ever tell you that the Creole word for frog/toad is krapo? It’s true.

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Yonese giving our new friend a lift over the fence.

And, if I didn’t share this next bit of news with you Chris would be sad, and really, a gardening/things around the yard post would feel, well, less than without it.

Chris has been growing dragon fruit plants for about 2 1/2 years now. We’ve gone through 3 flowering cycles and until now the flowers have all just wilted, gone mushy and fallen off. This is normal as it can take up to 5 years sometimes to see the first fruit. Last week we went through an AMAZING flowering cycle. There were literally about 7 flowers per day. Each flower is about the size of Olivia’s head.

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Something different about this cycle was that there were a ton of busy bees moving pollen around. Last time there were a few bees and nothing much going on. Two days ago Chris noticed that one of the blooms looked different. It wasn’t going mushy and yellow and getting ready to fall off. In fact, the flower wilted, but there was a very strong green bud at the base of it. He quickly figured out that one of the flowers had taken and we were starting to get fruit. We have one more doing the same thing! We’re keeping our fingers tightly crossed that maybe this time we’ll actually see the first fruit.

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The reason this is so exciting is that to our knowledge there are no fruiting dragon fruit plants in Haiti. We know one property that has plants in St. Marc, and Chris has gotten cuttings from the owner, but he said his flower and have never given fruit. We know another project that has a tree nursery, and they’re growing plants, but theirs are very young and haven’t seen flowers yet. Haiti has the ideal growing climate for dragon fruit, so if we can get ours going, we can keep making cuttings and pass them on to others that want to try. We would love to see this fruit introduced to farmers because it’s so easy to grow once it’s established. As a cactus it needs little water and would work so well with Haiti’s dry season. We’ll keep you posted!

And, just as a wrap up, I know that growing up in Canada when I saw “tropical” plants they were typically in a green house, or as house plants. I thought that what I saw was exactly how those plants grew in their natural habitat. After being here for many years (8!) I’ve learned I was very wrong. It’s so fascinating to me to see what would be a house plant back home, in it’s natural climate. Completely different. A couple of examples for you:

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This rubber plant is several years old and was given to us by a friend. We’re babying it so we can move it to the new property. Why don’t we want to put it in the ground here? Because we’ve seen a full grown one – one that was about 80 feet tall! It was AMAZING. For Chris and I, this is a long term commitment type plant and we want to pick the perfect spot for it at the new land where it will have the room to become huge and beautiful, and where we can landscape around it and enjoy sitting under it. If you don’t believe me, the one we saw in a yard about 5 minutes away from our house looked like THIS.

One of the most common tropical house plants that you see is a philodendron. While yours might be big enough to crawl along the top of your kitchen cupboards, mine look like this:

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Don’t you want to come visit???

~Leslie

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Making Things Grow

On Friday Chris and Ryan loaded up a bunch of trees and took them out to the new land to plant. This may seem like a small thing, but for us it’s not. For Chris it’s not. Our journey to the new land has been one that’s taken over three years, and it’s one that I’m so thankful for. Chris has been planting trees and nurturing them, giving some away, and starting others during this time. The whole time he has been thinking about the future of the mission and the fact that these trees would eventually go to the new site – wherever that was! 

Now we have a place to put them and I can’t even really describe how that feels. Probably surreal at best.

On Friday he planted an assortment of fruit trees along the back fence line, and Saturday morning we took the kids out and planted the last two that didn’t go in the ground on Friday. It was early and we visited with neighbors that walked by on their way to their fields down the path from the land. It was nice to hear how happy everyone was that we were planting more trees. I think farmers have more of an appreciation for this kind of thing than those that don’t farm.

Michelet has slowly been clearing out the brush on the land and we have a massive “compost” pile. The first time I saw it, it was about 12 feet high. Now that the leaves have compacted it’s shrunk down and the branches are left. Chris told Michelet to take stuff out of the pile that he could use for making charcoal and to cut down any other brush to do the same. Normally we don’t encourage people making charcoal, but that’s because they usually cut down a perfectly good tree to do it. In our case he’s using stuff that would otherwise get burned because there’s no where to haul it off to. It’s good for him and it’s good for us. I remember looking at the land the first few times we visited. it was so overgrown with grass and garden type things that you couldn’t see from one corner to the next. Now that it’s dry and Michelet has been clearing things we can get a vision for what can be.

Aside from the buildings, Chris and I are already dreaming about things like grass and plants. Getting all of the plants and flowers that we have from Cory in the past month has just opened up this excitement in us to make the place beautiful. It’s so fun to have a blank canvas to work with too!

I know that some people might think it frivolous for us to be thinking about this. Some people might think that we should focus more attention on ministry type things. Some might feel like having a nice property isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I beg to differ.

After living here for as long as we have we’ve come to learn a few things. Mostly, we know we’re in this for the long haul. Chris has already been here for over 11 years, and I’ll be celebrating my 8 year anniversary in the fall. That seems crazy! I remember when I thought 3 or 4 years was long-term, but now we find ourselves in the category of people who are already defined as long-termers. We regularly find ourselves passing along lessons learned to new people on the ground, hoping they’ll be able to avoid some of the hard things we had to go through. That feels strange in the sense that it hasn’t felt like that long. After being here as long as we have, thinking 20 years down the road doesn’t seem so scary anymore. In reality Alex will maybe be a year into college or university.

We’ve learned that balance is a much needed thing with living here. When we were newer on the ground, and young newlyweds, it was easier to spend more time focused on ministry stuff. Now that we have kids and we’ve been married for almost 7 years we realize that those things (marriage and kids) need as much, or sometimes more, of our attention if we want to be here for the long term. We’ve seen a lot of people let things get out of proportion and their marriages and family relationships suffer, and in return their ministry suffers. They burn out and don’t know how to recover. We came close to that because of some of the things we’ve been through, but thankfully were able to step back and get help. Since then we’ve recognized we’re of better use in the calling God has placed on us if we are nurturing our relationships with each other and taking care of ourselves.

One thing I’ve noticed is how few missionaries and expats have hobbies outside of their ministries or jobs. Yes, it’s hard to do certain things, but I think a larger part of it is that they either feel guilty for wanting to do those things, or have a hard time setting boundaries around their personal time. I think we need to be sensitive to the extra things God puts on our hearts, like helping out in times of need for example, but we also need to remember that Jesus set the example of getting away and doing things that were healthy so he could better minister.

For Chris and I, getting out and working in the garden is something that nurtures our souls. I, admittedly, haven’t done much around our current place in a while, but Chris has actively been working on his roof garden for years. Recently I’ve taken on some of the yard work for exercise, and I’ve been enjoying it again. Working in a garden gives us a front row seat to see God’s creation and a life cycle. It’s fun to step back and see that work leads to something beautiful that everyone can enjoy. God created plants to nourish our bodies, both nutritionally, but also at a soul level. That beauty was created for us. He created the relationship between man and plants, because it was good.

There are other things that we see too.

First, I want our workers to have a place to relax on their breaks. They work hard, all day long. Where we are now most of them can go home for half an hour if they want. In Kan Marie they won’t be able to do that, so they’ll most likely hang out at the mission. We’re strategically creating places that are shady and nice where they can relax and rest and I like that. We want that for them in the same way that we want better bathroom and shower facilities than what we can give them now. We want them to know that they are appreciated and that we put thought into things, with them specifically in mind.

Secondly, when we host training classes we welcome students from all over Haiti. They get to take one week away from the lives they live to learn something that could be life changing for them and their communities. They get a break from things, in a life that can only be described as hard in most cases. They get to sleep on a comfy bed (most Haitians sleep on the floor), eat three meals per day and visit with other Haitians. We want a place where our students can not only learn and work, but also relax and enjoy their time away. Haitians hardly ever get to take “vacations” so any chance to travel through the country is a big deal. We see that, and want an environment that is nice for them to be in.

Thirdly, when friends and family or Vision Trippers come see us we know they aren’t just coming to learn about Clean Water for Haiti. Most are taking time off work or school, using their vacation days, to come be with us and learn. We don’t take that lightly. Haiti can be overwhelming and a lot to process. We want a place where our visitors can relax and rest and process, all while learning about what we do. We don’t want the place to look like a resort, but we want them to see what Haiti can look like. It’s not all muddy water and poverty. God has created a lot of beautiful things that can exist here. We want them to see that side of Haiti too.

Fourthly, we’re excited about trying new plants and trees. We don’t really have any space at our current place to plant new fruit trees without having to take something else out. Some of the varieties that Cory gave us have never been grown in our area before. We love the idea that we might be able to grow things and introduce them to the community. Chris is especially hoping that his dragon fruit plants will start to give fruit because it’s something that would be ideally suited for Haiti’s climate and dry seasons. One fruit that we tried at Cory and Kris’ last weekend is a cousin to star fruit, but is really sour just eaten off the tree. Ryan liked the flavor and brought home a ziploc bag of them. Afraid they would go bad, we asked if Yonese could make juice out of most of them. When she did, and sweetened it, it tasted like green apple juice! It was a total surprise to all of us and Yonese asked if she could take seeds because she liked it so much! She said it was something that people would be really interested in if they could buy it in the market.

Lastly, over the years we’ve seen how some of the things that we love to do, like cooking and gardening, have blessed others that are serving and working here. Most of the foreigners we know are living in more urban settings, and don’t have green space like we do. Time and time again friends have thanked us for the time they get to spend at the mission, whether it’s for a meal or staying overnight to get away for rest, because it gives them a break from being in the grind of ministry and community. Haiti is a hard place to live and work, and it can be hard to find places where one can go to really rest. Our board has recognized that this is part of our unintentional personal ministry to others here, and they strongly encourage us to do that for others, which we love. We want to be able to continue that at our new place.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit sick, so I spent most of the day on Pinterest looking at “tropical gardening” and getting inspiration for what can be. Isn’t this amazing???

Pinned from Pinterest.

Found on Pinterest. You can ignore the deck chair in the background, I was focused on the plants :)

I call that our 15 year plan! The thing is, I know that grass can grow quickly if you do it right, and I know that most of those plants become large fast. That’s what’s fun about gardening here. What you grow back home as a tropical house plant becomes this large, amazing plant here in it’s natural climate. A philodendron, for example, as a houseplant has leaves that are a few inches long. Here in Haiti we’ve had them grow a foot and a half or bigger. It’s amazing!

Something else that Chris said on the weekend struck me. He pointed out the fact that we aren’t as young as we used to be, and that reality was settling in for him. He’s going to be 40 next year, and this year I’ll be 35. He admitted he doesn’t have the same energy he had 10 years ago and that he doesn’t want to spend his time on the same things. He wants to think about what we’ll enjoy doing for fun 10 years from now. Having a garden that we can work at is fun. Over time we can plant things that will require less and less maintenance, rather than more. Also, as our kids get older they can help with the process. Olivia has recently decided that she likes helping tidy up the house. As I’ve been mowing the lawn the past few weeks the thought occurred to me that in the next few years Olivia will be older and able to start helping with things around the yard more. My mom, and her mom before her, helped to establish a love for gardening and I want my kids to have that same experience. They already like to muck around outside!

I’m just so excited about this next phase and about the challenge of making something beautiful.

~Leslie

Over the Hills and Through the Woods!

Saturday morning we got up early  to head out on a little road trip. After a yummy breakfast we piled in the car and Ryan hopped on his motorcycle and we started making the journey across the island to the north of Haiti. Our plan was to visit friends we’ve known online for several years, but had yet to meet face to face, with the exception of Cory who had stopped by about a week and a half ago for the first time.

I had never been past Goinaves in the 7+ years that I’ve lived here, and it’s been years  since Chris took a trip up north. Back then the roads were horrible and it could take 5-6 hours or more to do the drive. Since then they’ve done a lot of road work and with the exception of a few places the roads were fine. We were able to do the trip in about 3 hours with a few stops along the way.

One thing I love about Haiti is how much the landscape changes from zone to zone. Our area is barren compared to most other areas in the sense that it’s mostly short grasses and scrub brush, if there is any. If you go north of St. Marc you arrive in the Artibonite Valley, which is where most of Haiti’s rice is grown. In areas where they haven’t irrigated the land is very arid. I do think it’s important to mention that when the island of Hispaniola was found, it would have been covered in trees and jungle type growth. Looking at Haiti now, at least in our area, it’s hard to envision that. But, when you have the opportunity to see other areas where large trees are still allowed to grow and under brush isn’t cut back it’s a tropical paradise. It’s sad to look at the terrain in our area and know what it could look like, if only the trees were kept or replanted and protected.

The dot of light is Ryan on his motorcycle following us.

The dot of light is Ryan on his motorcycle following us.

Early morning sunshine.

Early morning sunshine.

I love this moment in the drive where you crest a hill and the Artibonite Valley sprawls below.

I love this moment in the drive where you crest a hill and the Artibonite Valley sprawls below.

The Artibonite River in Pon Sonde.

The Artibonite River in Pon Sonde.

The start of a very busy market day. Two hours later and it would have taken us about 15 minutes to get through here.

The start of a very busy market day. Two hours later and it would have taken us about 15 minutes to get through here.

In the Artibonite you pass miles of rice fields…

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As you get into Gonaives the land changes again. In 2004 Gonaives was badly flooded and the flood left a lake where cacti used to live. The lake has finally dried up and shrubs are starting to come back, and the grass is growing. The last time we drove through there people were still fishing out of it.

North of Gonaives you start to see bigger trees. The Mapu tree is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. They have some significance in voodoo, so while you might see limbs cut off a Mapu tree, you never see one cut down. Because of this they’re massive. One time Chris and I were in an outlying area of Gonaives and we came across a Mapu tree that was literally about 10 feet in diameter! I have a picture of Chris somewhere standing next to it. In order to get a good picture of the tree I had to stand way back, and Chris looks like a dot. The Mapu trees will grow mixed in with old mango trees, trees that drip with fruit. It’s amazing!

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The road over the mountains is literally that – a road that goes over the mountains. You climb and climb and climb through a maze of switchbacks and curves as Haiti’s mountain ranges lay out before you. In Creole there is a phrase –  “Apre morn gen morn”. Loosely translated it means “After mountains there are more mountains.” It’s so true. You can look at the side of a hill and think that’s the highest range around, but when you get to the top you see miles of hills and mountains stretched before you going off into the horizon. I have honestly never seen anything like it.

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At the top of the climb you come to the place where the road forks. Go one way and you’ll head to Marmelade, which we’ve heard is beautiful. Go the other way, and you head to Cap Haitian. We went the other way :)

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You’re only at the top for a few seconds and you start to go down the other side. There is one spot where you are literally at the top of the range and looking down both sides you see miles and miles of valley below you, filled with it’s own smaller ranges. It baffles me to think of who originally cut these roads.

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Looking at the road to come…

Apre morn, gen morn.

Apre morn, gen morn.

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Smoke from charcoal pits filters up.

Going down, down, down you start to find yourself in green. Big trees, high grasses, flowering bushes – it’s so lush and fresh. After going down the switch backs and past small communities the road starts to climb again. This time the climb isn’t as severe, but climb you do.

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As we started to come down the other side of the second climb I looked down to see a river finding it’s way through the green jungle like landscape. It caught me by surprise, because rather than being the brown river that is the Artibonite River, this was clear fresh water that tumbled over boulders and wove through the valley.

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At the bottom of our decent we found ourselves driving parallel to this beautiful river. Children played in it and ladies sat in groups washing their colorful laundry. It wasn’t full of garbage and wallowing animals, and I thought to myself, “This is the Haiti I want people to see, because Haiti is so much more than what people see when they get off the plane.” The truth is, many never get past Port au Prince and it’s surrounding areas. If you only see one thing, you think that’s what defines a place, right? Haiti is so much more complicated and beautiful than that, though.

The Fauche campus.

The Fauche campus.

We got to Limbe and headed down the road to Fauche (foh-shay) to the Wesleyen campus where they live. Again, it’s a beautiful area. It gets hot, but the large trees and greenery make for a different kind of hot. I think it was cooler than our place, partly because it’s more north, but also because of the greenery. It’s amazing how much heat a large tree can cut out.

We really enjoyed our weekend with Kris, Cory, Eli and Anna and hope we’ll get to see them when they make trips down our way. There’s a big difference in spending time with people that have been in country for years and spending time with people who are only a few years in. Kris was also a missionary kid here so we heard all sorts of interesting stories about her time growing up in the country and how different things were back then.

Cory is an agriculturist, so Chris and I had fun walking through his “garden” which is really a loose term because it’s pretty huge and sort of trickles down one side of the property. He has a nursery area where he starts his plants or babies his cuttings, then finds new homes for them. The variety of things he’s trying out is mind-boggling. When he stopped by for a quick visit a couple weeks ago he brought us almost a pick-up truck box full of plants and trees. Yesterday we left with a trunk full of cuttings and root balls! Chris really enjoys trying out fruiting trees, so he and Cory had fun talking about what would work in our area and what to try. It was also fun for us to get to try some of the fruit from the things that he gave us, like ever bearing mulberry! People often ask us what we miss food wise, and when it comes to fruit, we both miss berries! They need cooler dormant times, and Haiti just doesn’t have that. But, this mulberry is great for hot climates like Haiti and is delish! We ate them fresh and in pancakes, and you can use them to make jam!

One of the other fascinating plants that Cory gave us is Miracle Fruit! Miracle Fruit is this berry that you eat that heightens your taste for anything else you eat after it, for about 20 minutes. Sour things can become sweet and sweet things become more sweet. We found one ripe berry on their bushes, so Chris, Ryan and I split it and had a tasting party before we left. I already have extra taste buds, so food tends to taste more intense for me naturally, so I was curious. Wow! The sour stuff was fun, but I noticed the biggest difference on a slice of mango. It was so syrupy sweet I could hardly finish it! It was fun, and I can’t wait until our bushes start giving fruit and we can let our workers try it. That’ll be a fun day! :)

Miracle Fruit!

Miracle Fruit!

Most of what Cory gave us yesterday are flowering plants, which I’m so excited about! We have lots of green things at our place, but not much that flowers. We now have about 10 different kinds of hibiscus and other things like ginger, anthurium, peace lily and several varieties of heliconia. Have I mentioned I’m excited???

One of the Hibiscus varieties.

One of the Hibiscus varieties.

Another Hibiscus variety we got. There's also a peach one like this, a giant coral orange one, the standard red, a deeper red, a pink with light streaks, a peach with burgundy center... so many!

Another Hibiscus variety we got. There’s also a peach one like this, a giant coral orange one, the standard red, a deeper red, a pink with light streaks, a peach with burgundy center… so many!

Cory getting some "help" from Alex. We already have the giant leaf plant that's over Alex's head growing in our yard. Cory is digging up some of the plant with the purpleish leaves for us to take home.

Cory getting some “help” from Alex. We already have the giant leaf plant that’s over Alex’s head growing in our yard. Cory is digging up some of the plant on the right for us to take home.

The drive back was just as pleasant as the drive there. We made a quick stop to buy some mangos just before we arrived back in Gonaives. There’s one area under a bunch of big old mango and Mapu trees where ladies line up along the road and sell their fruit.

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These Mapu trees are still very young, probably only about 15 – 20 years old.

It was a fun get away!

~Leslie

Traveling and other things

We’ve had some lovely overcast weather over the last few days. It’s been such a treat for us. Seems the rainy season has finally come to Pierre Payen and we’ve had showers almost every other day or more often.
Carmen and our little family have been having a wonderful time together. We’ve been busy showing her around and mixing that with down time. Yesterday her and I went to the lighthouse beach, this nice little hideaway that we’ve got here, and got ourselves thoroughly sunburned. Today we’re taking a trip into St. Marc to visit our friends Barb, Bev and Al. Olivia is going too so she can have some play time with the boys. At breakfast we were practicing saying “No boys.” My favorite was when she said it in her little voice and raise her hands up and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “No boys. Those poor boys. But I just can’t spend too much time with them.” As if it all made perfect sense. I told her just to keep saying that until she was 18.
On the weekend we left Olivia with some friends and Carmen, Chris and I took a little trip to Terre Blanche (white earth) to finally visit some friends from Washington. They bring medical teams in to the mission there several times a year and we’ve been trying to go and visit for the last year and it just didn’t ever work out, so it was fun to finally make the trip. We got to see some team members that had visited two years ago which was fun, and mostly just enjoyed the company of some great people and some time away from Pierre Payen.
One of the highlights of the weekend was church on Sunday. It was the first service in the new church building. We knew it would be a big deal, especially at 6 am when Chris said, “Oh no, there go the speakers in a wheel barrow.” Meaning, because it was a big deal type service, it was going to be a loud service. When we walked into the church I think we were all caught off guard by what we saw. The place was packed! There must have been about 1000 people filling every available space. And they were still bringing in more benches. And then they took a bunch of the kids over to the clinic so they could listen to the service from over there. We and the team were the guests of honor so we sat up on the stage and it was very, very humbling. As we sat down I looked across at Linda and saw her just bawling, which brought on the tears for me. The day before she had given Carmen and I a tour of the mission (school, clinic and church) and told us the history of how everything got going. As we sat there in that church it wasn’t just a celebration of a new building, it was a celebration of hard work, perseverance and obedience.
When Joe and Linda came to Haiti about 12 years ago they did so to feed 65 kids. Pastor Delamy, the Haitian pastor they work with, believed God was calling them to build a church and a school for the community. There was neither at that point, and voodoo was prevalent. The old church is about the size of my kitchen and living room. The school started as one or two rooms. Now it has 800 students, and last year they opened the secondary school. The clinic opened it’s doors two years ago after many years of doing clinics in the church. Now it’s open every day with Haitian staff and they can see a large number of patients when Joe and Linda bring their teams in. It was just a sweet, sweet moment to be a part of. I think the thing that just got me was knowing how hard life can be here, knowing how many times you feel like you have nothing left to give, and how many times you want to throw in the towel in frustration or just exhaustion. Knowing all the struggles there can be here, and knowing how hard it can be to make any progress left me feeling like a ball of mush as I got to be part of such a sweet moment for our friends, for Pastor Delamy, and for all the people that came from surrounding communities.


Checking on a filter built and installed by one of our former students who builds filters for people in Terre Blanche. It was really well installed :)

Carmen getting first hand experience with how excited kids get if they get their picture taken.



Carmen came to Medika Manba on Tuesday. It was a good day for all of us. We have about 30 kids coming regularly at this point and it was fun to graduate 4 of them, and admit another 10! Some of the severe cases of Kwash were looking so much better and are at the point now where they will start gaining towards their goal weight.
There are some things that are becoming funny to me now. I think that the longer a person lives in a place like Haiti, the less stuff seems like a crazy big deal, unless you have someone here from the outside that says “Huh, that’s a bit of a big deal.” Case in point. Yesterday Carmen and I went to the beach and came home after a nice time. I stopped the truck in the driveway and as I opened my door I hear “water” running off the truck. The first thing I thought, and said, was that we had gone through so many puddles and so much mud (true) that it was still pouring off the truck. Then I got out and saw diesel running out of the gas tank onto our driveway. I yelled for Chris and then some of our workers came running with buckets to catch as much as we could. They had just cleaned out the gas tank a couple weeks ago, and Chris realized that it hadn’t been tightened down properly, so it had shaken around a lot on the road and loosened a bunch of rust, and thus the holes. The crazy part of it was that we had taken the truck, about 25 minutes from home, on a back road with little traffic, and no cell service. To say that we were grateful that it happened close to home and not out at the beach was an understatement.

What’s going on

Man, has it really been a week and a half? Seriously? Sigh.
The blog break was not intended, and actually quite accidental. Sort of a series of circumstances that just all piled up on each other. Last Monday we were in court and then Tuesday was a Manba day. I always feel like Manba day means a day or so of catching up, so add that with Monday gone as well and you can see why the week kind of wandered away.
This last week, same thing. Monday our internet was less than stellar because someone, ahem, went over our internet download limit by watching videos of the space station on YouTube. He has been reprimanded and put on space station watching restrictions.
Tuesday, was again Manba. It was a good day that ended up heavy. The one HIV positive baby that we see was our last consult of the day. He was running a fever this week and Dad is desperately trying to find someone to look after the baby during the day so he can work and get on his feet, but has only found one person that is willing to look after the boy, but only if Dad can pay a bit. Since he has no money right now that won’t work. We’re doing some research and looking at some options to see if there are ways we can get the little guy stabilized and Dad can work for a few months to get his bearings. He’s trying so hard to do a good job and wants to parent this little guy. Pray that something works out in this situation please. It’s heavy.
Wednesday Chris and I went back in to the court house so he could see the investigative judge who is starting to work on our case. I get my turn next Wednesday. It’s interesting to see the legal system at work. We tried so hard for so many months, and now we’re at a stage where if the judge summons someone, they have to go. If the judge sends out the arrest mandate for the other two guys we believe are in this the police have to do it. It’s going to be a long process, but it’s starting, so that’s a good thing.
Today we’re going to bust out of the mission with all of our staff and treat them to a bit of a party. They’ve been so fabulous over the months that this has been going on and we want to let them know we appreciate them. We like to keep them on their toes so we just told them that they needed to bring clothes to “benyen nan piblik” – swim in public. What they don’t know is that we’ve worked out a deal at Club Indigo (the old Club Med) so that we can take them there for a few hours and swim in the pool and on the beach, and each person is going to get $5 in tickets to spend at the snack bar however they choose. The fun thing for Chris and I is that we know they think we’re just taking them to one of the local beaches that anyone can go to. Tee hee hee. After we told them this morning that the party was on the work yard was full of noise and happy people all day long. I love that :)
Olivia had one of *those* days today. Seriously, the kid was into everything. The salt and pepper shakers got emptied onto the table, the raisin bran got emptied onto the floor, she whipped off her diaper and pooped in her bed during a time out (for the raisin bran I think), she mauled an umbrella, threw her shoes in her laundry basket, made our room look like a cyclone had passed through it, put a bunch of toilet paper in the toilet, and pulled out half of my cilantro seedlings. And that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. Oh, she also ate some crayons today too. Yeah, I know she’s really cute and all, and that a bunch of you come here just to read about her and her cuteness. Just let me know when you want to babysit, okay? ;) Today was one of those days where I found myself watching the clock from about 4:30 pm on wondering if it was bedtime yet.
Today was market day, and I realized that I never did follow up with our milk experiment that I told you about a month or so ago. We have been buying fresh milk from the market for over a month now and we’re LOVING it. Pasteurizing it is so simple. As soon as it comes home I pour it into a big pot and let it heat up until it’s steaming. It only needs to get to 160F for a couple of minutes to pasteurize. I stir it gently with a whisk and then pour it into the milk jugs, and set it in the sink in a cold water bath. Our cold water isn’t super cold so it takes about an hour or so to bring the milk temp down a bit. After that it goes in the fridge and the next day I skim the cream off. Haitian cows aren’t all that chubby so the milk isn’t high fat, probably similar to 2% or so. It’s just so nice to have fresh milk again. And, it’s saving us money. Last time I went to get groceries in Port I was amazed to see our grocery bill go down simply because we weren’t buying the carton milk. We use 2 gallons of fresh milk each week now and it costs about $5 US. To buy the equivalent in the UHT carton milk we were paying $22! Crazy!
Also, I haven’t shared much about my roof top garden experiments. Some things are growing SO well, and others are a bit frustrating. After Chris got back I had all my flower seeds that I had ordered and we found some cheap plastic pots at Eko Depot for about $.10/each and picked up a bunch. I now have a little “nursery” up there and I love to go up every day and see what’s new, because there’s always something. I was amazed after I planted everything because a few things popped up after only 3 days in the dirt!

On the left are some devils trumpets, mixed colors of canna lilies and those fuzzy looking things on the right are red cypress vine for the fence.

My lettuce is doing good, which is so funny to me because out of everything I thought that would be the thing that would be the hardest to grow, but nope, it came right up and looks like it’s getting close to needing a trim so Mama can have some baby greens salad :) The carrots and bell peppers have NOT been cooperating. I planted the first batch at the same time that I did the lettuce and nothing came up. I realized that I had them in a spot that was too shady, so I moved them and tried again. Still nothing. I think I’m going to try planting some of the bell peppers in the little pots that I mentioned to see if I can get them going that way, then transplant. I have a couple of tomato plants coming up. I did plant several varieties and again, not all of them have showed. I think I might try some of those in the little pots too and see what I get. Someone also passed on some jalapeno seeds and I planted them on the whim that I might get salsa one of these days. I was feeling really disappointed because all that was coming up in that pot was weeds – until today! Yesterday there was nothing, and today there are 5 seedlings! Haiti is so crazy like that. It gives me hope for the other peppers :)

Future salad and my gingers.
Chris bought 3 big plastic tubs/planters and threw down a bunch of papaya seeds, and some grenadias (passion fruit). The grenadias are doing great, but the papayas have gone CRAZY. Over the last week or so he’s been making a papaya bed down in the big garden and transplanting a bunch of the seedlings. While he was away on his vacation he asked me to transplant some of the seedlings from the first two tubs that he had planted into the third one that he had just filled with dirt. When I did, I also snuck in a couple renegade melon seedlings that had come up in our compost on the roof. The melon is growing like crazy. I’m sure it’s shooting out at least 8′ of vine every day. That particular tub is almost above our room and we’re hoping that not only will we get good fruit off the plant, but that the vines will help shade the roof a bit for us and make our room a little cooler.

The renegade melon. I took this last week and it’s almost twice that size now.
Seeing how well the melon plants are growing inspired me to get some cucumber seeds. I think I might try tying some chicken wire along the railing and putting a tub in front of it so they can grow that way and not take up space on the ground. There are so many great varieties out there and some are designed to do just that. Chris wants beans too so I’m looking into that. Roof gardening is fun! We’re liking the fact that we can move things around and find good spots for them. Chris actually moved his fruit trees up there too because they were having a hard time down in the garden. They seem to be liking their new tree nursery.
And, because you would all be disapointed if Little Miss O wasn’t here somewhere… *helping* Mommy and Daddy do yard work by watering the grass with her sumo hair.

Our Christmas miracle and all things green

Hi Blog World,


I have to admit, I was really, really surprised to get our site meter stats this last weekend. You guys apparently ate up food week. Yes, pun intended. Never before have we had so many hits in one week, not even when our stuff gets lit on fire. I’m glad you enjoyed the offerings and want to thank you for reading along. I hope that it gave you a bit of a window into our lives. Sorry that there weren’t any pictures to go along with the recipes. I’m not one of those people that remembers to take photos of dinner before we eat.

If you haven’t already, I would really encourage you to read through the comments from the last week. There are some great ideas in there, like how to make your own cottage cheese (I’m so trying this) and the trick to really yummy, crispy pomme frites (real french fries). Also, check back over the next few weeks because we’re going to have a cooking special that bridges two countries. If we can get our acts together, that is.

Things are just plugging along here in Pierre Payen. The last few weeks have been crazy hot. The kind of hot where your brain picks up and moves out of town without leaving a forwarding address. Coming from a beautiful climate (the interior of British Columbia) I’m still not used to this. Every summer at about this time it’s like a lightbulb goes on in my brain and I realize, “Oh wait, I’m crabby and have no energy because we’re living in a soup bowl! Ah ha!!!” and then I can have more grace with myself because, Blog World, let me tell you – Leslie and heat don’t mix well. My husband might tell you that Leslie and a lot of things don’t mix well, but he’s not here right now to throw his two cents in.

All that to say that the last few days have been lovely because we’ve had rain. Every day. And by “lovely” I really mean a little less sweaty. And there have been moments where the cogs in my brain have started grinding against each other again. Yes, we’re in the rainy season, but sometimes about this time of year the rainy season decides to take a wee rest and just lets us sit in humidity soup to stew a while. Maybe the rain feels unappreciated and wants us to be thinking more about how lovely it really is. We have basically had one rain every 7-8 days for the last month and it hasn’t been fun. The rain over the last few days has been like manna from heaven. Jean told Chris the other day that it NEVER rains in July. Never. On Saturday when it started blowing so hard my clothesline came down and the rain was going sideways Chris just kept running from window to window saying, “It’s a Christmas miracle!!”

We have a visitor arriving this afternoon, and on Friday morning Chris and I are starting what I like to call the Season O Travel by going to our friends beach house near Petit Guave for a couple of days. Without Little Miss. Grin. From here on one or both of us will be going somewhere every few weeks or so until the end of September. We’re both looking forward to it for various reasons.

To continue on with the randomness, I planted some seeds a week and a half ago. About a month ago we cleaned out a flower bed in front of the round house and gave all the plants to some friends for their new garden. Nothing in there were things that Chris or I liked, and the soil wasn’t the best so we wanted to redo it. After the plants were gone Sara and I dug down several inches and got rid of the old dirt, and the following week Chris filled it with good compost dirt. Then I planted seeds. That was a week and a half ago, and within 5 days of putting the seeds in the ground there were some already poking through, and now I have at least three of four different varieties of plants coming up. I’m excited because they’re all flowers and we have hardly anything that flowers around here, just lots of green things, which are nice. But they aren’t flowers.

That’s just one of the many gardening projects I have on the go in my head. It’s in my head right now because I’m just waiting for seeds or cuttings to arrive. Some are on the container and have been on their way here for the gestational period of a human being. Hopefully we’ll get that stuff in the next week and I can finally get my veggies and herbs going. I have the pots all filled and ready to go, just no seeds to sow.

My other big project is one that developed out of our fence redo. We’ve been in the process of replacing our old, rickety stick and barbed wire (no joke -we’re super secure here folks) fence with chain link and razor wire. It’s a bit of an upgrade. We’re two thirds of the way done. After the two sides got put up Chris asked if I could look for stuff, like vines, that would grow all over the fence and give us a bit of privacy and be nicer to look at. This is the point where I should also mention that on the right side of the property (facing the ocean) we took down all of the candelab (latex plant? has sticky, peppery blood in it so they use it for fences) and in the process gained about 2-3 feet or more of yard most of the way along that fence line. People, do you know what that means? I finally have places, in the sun, to plant F-L-O-W-E-R-S. When Chris comes back from his vacation in a few weeks he’s bringing back a bunch of tropical seeds and cuttings for me so I can get growing. I’m so freakin’ excited. When Chris asked me if I was done ordering seeds and the like I just looked at him and said, “You started this.”

It’ll be fun for me to have some pretty things around and something to do to burn off some energy. I mean, Blog World, I like you and all, but I spend waaaayyy too much time on the internet. And that’s after I get all my chores and work done. I’m excited because it’ll be a good excuse to get Olivia outside more too. And we’ll have pretties to look at and enjoy! Eeeehhh.

I have a bunch of pictures that I took of the yard last week so you could see what I’m working with, but Blogger is being a booger and doesn’t want to post them. Lame. Another day then. It’ll probably be more fun when I can put them next to the progress pictures.

Gardening 101

Ange left a comment yesterday about my gardening efforts so I thought I would expand a bit.

It’s actually something that Chris and I both enjoy doing and I knew he was serious about this whole marriage thing when I didn’t have to ask where I could plant things anymore :) He loves trees, fruit trees especially, and I’m more of a flower girl. I think I get that from my mom who has a beautiful garden back in Canada that keeps evolving. Gardening is creative and something that teaches and reminds me that I only have so much control over things. You have to care for things, but you can only do so much before you have to leave plants to just do their thing, and their thing is affected by weather and soil and bugs and…you get the idea.

I did a wander around our yard this morning to take some pictures.

These are some of the orchids that I planted yesterday. The one on the left is in a basket that I made from large screening, and the other is just stuck into the side of our big date palm. I was told that orchids really like just being plunked in something and then left to grow. I tried to put them in places where I know they’ll get sprinkled by the sprinkler when we water the lawn. Rainy season will be no problem. This is really the most experimental growing project so far because orchids are totally new to me, and they can be hard to grow by the sea. In Port a new orchid plant costs about $200 Haitian, which would be about $25 US. If I can get some of my cuttings growing well then maybe I’ll save up and splurge on a plant down the road to get some more variety.

This is the hibiscus rooting that I was talking about in a previous post. It looks a bit ridiculous, but apparently works really well. It should take about 4-6 weeks to get a root ball, then I’ll cut the branch off and plant it in a pot until it’s big enough to go out into the big world on it’s own.


This is an air plant, and we have them growing all over the place in our trees. I don’t know how they start, but they do, and they just live off the air. They’re kind of cool and add a bit of interest to things.

On the left is one of my favorite trees in the yard. It’s a big, old, gnarly neem tree. Growing up it is one of our favorite plants because it’s grown so quickly and the leaves are so BIG. On the right is the same kind of plant that’s starting to grow up the house, just like the ones in the broken filters (we use them for planters). We would love to have the house covered in green climbers. We’ve got a good start and in a couple of years I think that’s just what we’ll have. One thing that still amazes me when I see a really good garden, is how many plants or trees here are common tropical house plants back in Canada or the US. The sad thing is that most people will never know that their house plants have the ability to become huge trees or bushes or ground cover or climbers. We saw a GIANT rubber tree at our friends house. It must have been about 20 feet around, and again, is a plant that usually never sees anything bigger than a 10 gallon pot in North America.

Ange, you asked about banana plants (called fig here, and plantains are called banan – yeah, I don’t get it either). You may have to go to a nursery to find a banana plant. Chris and his brother went hunting around in L.A. and managed to find some abandoned ones so they cut down a couple of suckers and planted those in Ben’s yard. Ben emailed in late November to tell Chris that his plants were huge and that he had a bunch (regime) of bananas that had come in. One of the keys to getting the bananas to come in is to hack away any suckers around the plant. They’ll just “suck” away the stuff that the plant needs to give fruit. Once a regime fully comes in – it sometimes takes a couple of weeks for all the fruit to show up – cut off the big flower/pod thing at the bottom. It’ll probably be at least another month or so before the bananas can/should be cut off the plant. You want to cut them when they’re green, then hang them somewhere to ripen which should take anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. Once you cut the bananas off the plant you have to hack down the plant because it won’t give any more fruit. That’s where planting more suckers comes in.

This is a grenadia flower. Grenadia is really passionfruit. The flowers are beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen. They only last a short time, then fall off and make way for the fruit. Grenadias grow on vines that love to grow up other trees. We often have to send someone up our trees to go find the fruit because they love the sun so much. We’ve planted these vines to grow over our back work area so that they get some shade. We planted them last spring and now they’re growing like crazy. They make great juice.

Judy just stopped by and we walked around the yard so she could give us some ideas about what will grow well where. I also now have about 30 hibiscus cuttings in water and ready to root!