Highs&Lows

12/20

My six months in Haiti were full of many highs and many lows. After spending 19 days at home in Pennsylvania in August, I had a really hard time returning back to Haiti. Homesickness is real and I felt it nearly every day from August 28th through today.

But throughout my time in Haiti, despite feeling homesick, I experienced an unbelievable amount. Some highs that I will never forget include our adult students throwing us a surprise going away party which made me realize how much they appreciated our English lessons. Also, the connections I made with students, teachers, co workers, neighbors, security workers, and so on, will stay with me forever. Being able to learn, communicate, and understand the Creole language made me feel even more immersed in the culture. Traveling the country, and learning more about the culture helped me see even more of Haiti’s beauty. My elementary students cheering when I entered their classroom for a 45 minute lesson once a week, made me want to teach them everyday. My high school students desire to learn and their motivation is so admirable.

I could go on and on sharing my highs of living in Haiti for six months.

On the contrary, I also experienced some lows but through those difficulties, I learned necessary life lessons that I’m more than thankful to have. Instead of being frustrated from having to wait for most things due to Haitians being on “island time” I learned the importance of patience. Along with patience, I can see the good in taking life a little slower. Every day does not need to be filled with plans, but instead slowing life down allowed me to reflect on each day, my self, and my life. In addition, I learned that I can not control anything, especially in a country that speaks a different language and has a completely different culture than me. God is in control, and it’s important to trust Him. Next, I am beginning to learn that I don’t always need to speak to be heard, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. Rather than fighting back and trying to prove I’m right, I can step back and take in the entire situation, take a different perspective, and listen. During boring, or frustrating days in Haiti rather than only dreaming of the day I got to come home I tried to take advantage of each obstacle and learn from it. While I still have a lot to learn, I’m so grateful for how much I learned from the Haitians, their country, and their culture.

As I yearned for this day, I began to feel guilty. It is so easy for me to leave Haiti and come back to a clean house, clean (hot) water, thousands of food options, a job, money, and so much more. My difficulties seem so minor compared to what the average Haitian faces every single day. So while it is easy for my to come home, it is never going to be forgotten. Haiti is forever in my prayers, my thoughts, and my heart.

Finally, leaving Haiti today brought upon many mixed emotions. Sadness about when I will see my little babe again, and how old he will be next time. Sadness about leaving our English students who begged us to stay. Sadness about only staying in Haiti for six months, and about how much more I could do. Happiness to go home to my family, friends, and boyfriend for Christmas. And happiness about no longer feeling homesick. These past six months felt like the longest of my life, yet when I look back I can’t believe how fast it went. I can’t believe it’s over. I couldn’t have done this trip without Abby and while I already considered her a sister, she means even more to me now, and returning to life without seeing her everyday is going to be different and strange. Yet, we accomplished our goal and we had fun while doing it, therefore I’m so thankful to God, family, my church, Hunter, and all of my friends for their never-ending love, support, and prayers.

I will forever value this experience. Until next time Haiti. Thank you for being so good to me. ❤️

Love, Michaela

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What I’ve learned

I am sitting in the cap Haitian airport waiting for my delayed flight to come. After six months in Haiti I’ve learned that there’s a lot of hurrying up and waiting. So while I wait I have a lot of time to think about what I’ve learned the past half a year.

My time from June to December felt that it went to slow and so fast all at once. I learned that I am not in control of anything, absolutely nothing. I cannot control events, people, animals, weather, sickness, and even what I get to eat sometimes. The only thing I can control is how I react to the outcome of any given situation, and I have a long way to go. It’s so hard to not immediately react to a situation.
I learned that communication is key especially when trying to communicate with a cultural and language barrier. When we assume…well we all know what happens.
I learned that we have to love each other because sometimes all you have is the people around you. There aren’t many distractions in Haiti so you spend a lot of time with people because that is sometimes the only entertainment.
I have also learned that I’m not perfect. Imagine that. I’m filled with flaws and a lot of them and so is everyone else but we still love each other regardless. One of my biggest lessons learned I think. I think that others aren’t filled with flaws That somehow perfect people walk among me and they don’t.
I learned that I use to think my life was hard until I lived in Haiti. Haitians life is hard. They work relentlessly everyday. Students study and work twice as hard as I ever have. Everyday tasks such as doing laundry is vigorous and takes all day. Just to get water sometimes can be back breaking. I honestly don’t know how they do it but then they remind me how wonderful our God is and he always provides.
Our world is so beautiful and so broken and God is in charge of it all. I’m not sure what my future holds but I have to remind myself daily that everything will workout how it’s suppose to work out.
I saw so many beautiful places and met a lot of amazing people that words don’t do it justice. My time on Haiti was like the mountains it had peaks and it also had valleys. I wouldn’t trade my time I had there for riches.
I am excited to come home, spend time with my family and friends but I am also counting down the days to return
Haïti je t’aime beaucoup. 🌎

Love always, Abby

3 weeks

11/29

In just three weeks Abby and I will be leaving Haiti. In just three weeks we will have completed six months living in Haiti. It’s hard to believe that six months will actually be over in three weeks.

Last week, for Thanksgiving, we had some visitors come to see us. I had almost my entire family and my boyfriend here. While the weather wasn’t ideal, it was so nice to spend Thanksgiving with people I love and miss. We spent the first part of their visit in Cap-Haitian, vacationing, and the second half in Ouanaminthe, working. The best part was sharing my life and work with my family and sharing Haiti, for the first time, with Hunter.

The past three weeks in Haiti were extremely wet. It rained every day; most days it rained all day. Some weeks we barely had any clothes left to wear because we couldn’t get our laundry done since their was no sun to dry it. Many areas in Haiti and the Dominican Republic flooded due to the rain. Ouanaminthe was wet, but not disastrous. Although, the road to our apartment turned into multiple ponds, and many houses were wet, no one was badly hurt. In Haiti, what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger. I finally washed all of my muddy shoes yesterday because the forecast is looking up. We had a sunny day yesterday and we are also having one today.

Furthermore, it is officially turning into winter in Haiti. It’s the coldest I have ever felt here. Abby and I actually had to go buy sweatshirts because the evenings and mornings are very chilly. The temperature even dropped to 74 degrees last week and we were freezing! I’m starting to think my body is going to go into shock when I get back to Pennsylvania.

This week is our last week of regular classes. Our students are working on creating speeches on topics we assigned them. During our last meeting with each class they will give their speeches and enjoy some patè for a treat. Next week the students will begin to take their marking period exams. Abby and I plan to help give the oral exams for English teachers since we won’t have class. We are also planning to paint Pascal’s mom’s house and get his nephew a bed. In addition, we are hoping to do some shopping and start packing. Laura is coming to work on a project our last week here so we are looking forward to that.

Overall, it’s hard to believe six months are almost complete. Yet, at the same time I am so ready to go home, especially to spend Christmas with my friends and family.

Love, Michaela

Halloween

10/31

As of today we have officially 50 days left in Haiti. We are not celebrating Halloween, though. We wanted to dress up like cats, but figured we might be looked at even more than already are. October was a whirlwind. I thought October would go by slowly, but instead it flew by. Abby and I spent the first two weeks of the month being pretty sick, but now we are back to full health. While Hurricane Matthew caused school to be canceled, Ouanaminthe was spared of any damage and really of all effects of the storm. The south of Haiti was not as lucky as we are and we are still praying for all of the people affected everyday. We were off a week of school, which gave Abby and I time to rest and that was a blessing for us. The rest of October was spent normally, which means teaching 25 classes a week. We even got to help the regular English teachers give their oral exams, which we both enjoyed!

Now it is almost November and in the next few weeks a lot of fun things are going to be happening. For one, we have our first mission team coming to Institution Univers since July. They will be working with us to teach an advanced English seminar class that will focus on helping the students learn how to be translators. In addition, they will help us teach our adult English classes in the evenings. We are looking forward to spending time with them and for a change of pace. After they leave we have a five day break before my mom, dad, brother, and boyfriend come to visit. Abby’s mom and a family friend are also coming. I’ve been looking forward to their trip since September when I returned to Haiti. During their visit, we are spending half of the time showing them our favorite spots and taking a mini vacation. Elections in Haiti were pushed back from October to November, due to Hurricane Matthew, so we will have a long weekend to spend with them at the beach, and visiting our favorite city, Cap-Haitian, before heading to Ouanaminthe. After the long weekend, we will all return to where Abby and I are living to teach English, work in the clinic, and work on some computer repairs. They will stay in Ouanaminthe for five days before going back to the US. I am so excited to show my family and for Abby to be able to show her family where we have been living and what we have been doing. It is also going to be Abby’s mom and friend’s, and my boyfriend’s first trip to Haiti.

Therefore, November has been a month to look forward to and I am excited for all of the upcoming plans we have. We are so thankful to God and our family and friends for their prayers while we were sick, and we are so happy to be feeling better. But, we are leaving that in the past. November is almost here!

Spontaneous beach trip

From 10/2

On Saturday morning Abby and I woke up early and packed our book bags for either one day at the beach or potentially also one night at the beach. We did not know what we were getting ourselves into or even what our plan was, we just knew we wanted to go to Cormier beach in Haiti.

After our bags were packed and Renel was prepared to take care of our puppy, we were on our way. We grabbed a motorcycle taxi to the bus station and he directed us to a 15 passenger van telling us it was going to O-Cap, which is what the Haitians call Cap-Haitian. We had to get to the city to get another taxi to the beach town just 15-20 minutes further away. We squeezed into the 15 passenger van with 20 other Haitians, plus one on the roof and five holding onto the back. The trip cost us 100 gourdes each, which is less than $1.50 US.

Once in Cap-Haitian, about an hour and a half and later (and just a little sore and a little sweaty), we were bombarded by men at the bus station asking us to take their motorcycle taxi. We chose one who said he would give us a good price for the 15-20 minute trip to Cormier beach.

I have to add that we were aware that there was a hurricane approaching Haiti but with me constantly checking for news updates about the storm, we knew we had time for a quick beach trip before the storm really might hit.

By 10:00 am we made it to the gate at Cormier beach hotel and bought our $5.00 US wrist bands to spend the day on the beach. Later on our friend from the hotel told us that if we checked in after 4:00 pm we could get a room for $40, which is big different from the $165 per night we saw online. Therefore we decided it was meant to be. We couldn’t just pass up a night staying in a beach front hotel and being able to wake up the next morning still on the beach for $20 each, so we stayed.

After a relaxing day, evening, and morning, it was time for us to head back to Ouanaminthe to get ready for school Monday and potentially a hurricane coming this week.

We took a motorcycle back to the bus station, where we were dropped off at a Tap-Tap, because our motorcycle driver knew the tap-tap driver and wanted us to go with him. So we did. A tap-tap is a small pick-up truck converted into a taxi with two benches in the bed of the truck and a cover to block out the sun, or for people to sit on top of or store their bags during the ride. People ride the tap-tap from one city to the next and just tap the truck or ring a buzzer when they want the driver to stop and let them out. Abby and I were directed towards the front of the small truck and told to sit together in the front passenger seat. We did sit there together for about 30 minutes until I moved to the back of the truck for a more comfortable seat. I was told there was room in the back so I jumped out of the front, during one out frequent stops, and ran around to the back, where I squeezed in. There was just enough room for me, but I later learned there would be just enough room for anyone that wanted to get on and was able to pay for the ride.

In the back of the tap-tap I experienced a lot. Squeezed on a bench directly across from, and next to, other people you don’t know can be a little awkward. One man was singing church hymns out-loud, randomly stopping to pray. Another lady carried a big basket on her lap, which ended up also being on both people’s laps next to her. The lady next to me was very pushy, when she wanted me to move she just pushed her body on me until I got the picture. Later on the lady across from the singing man started to sing her own song, even louder, while the man still continued to sing/pray. Also, the little window that let in air was constantly being opened and closed depending on how the lady near it was feeling. The rest of us just sweat when she decided she wanted to close it. Every time someone rang the buzzer or tapped the floor to get off, I was excited because I thought I might actually have room to put my left foot on the floor, but somehow another person came in and we had even less room. A lot of the trip I closed my eyes or looked out the back to avoid making awkward eye contact with the two ladies across from me, who kept whispering and smiling at me. I did smile back a few times though.

Finally, I knew we were getting close to the Ouanaminthe bus station when all the ladies started to pull their purses to their laps and pull out money to pay for the ride. Money was flying everyone. Some people paid 100 gourdes, one lady paid 25 gourdes, and another person paid 50 pesos. Then the man collecting the money, while using one hand to hold himself on the tap-tap, he was standing on the back, started passing back change and in the end I never really knew how much the ride cost.

Abby and I ended up paying 125 gourdes each, for some reason we are not sure of. But, we were back in Ouanaminthe, safe and ready for a nap. We both agree we would do this again in the future. I would say it was a good weekend in Haiti.

Love, Michaela

Daisy Fay & my birthday

9/21

Abby and I rescued a dog last week. She has officially been with us for about a week. Although, last Tuesday when she was brought to us she ran away in our apartment complex and we could not find her until the next morning. But besides that, she is happy and clean and possibly almost flea free. We will keep her as long as we are here and then find her a loving home in December.

Along with that, we are into our third week of the school year and things are going well. We are now getting help from a translator in each of our elementary classes, which is seriously a blessing from God. Those classes were not the easiest, considering each class has around 35-45 students that do not speak any English. Now with our translators, Derline is mine and Caleb is Abby’s, I am already enjoying those classes more.

Our Advanced English/ TOEFL classes are such a vast difference in levels. Some classes have so much participation we have to be very strict about students raising their hands and some classes have such little participation it’s like pulling teeth getting them to talk. We split every class into two groups, which allows us to focus more on each student. I’ve learned every student’s name and I’m getting to know them better and more as people.

We also started teaching an English class for any IU faculty on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00-7:30. Our second class had 42 (adult) students. It was a little hectic but also fun! We would also not be able to teach the class without all of our helpers. We have IU graduates, as well as current IU 13th grade students helping us translate and helping monitor and answer any questions.

Today is my 23rd birthday and while I’m still missing being away from home, Abby and my mom surprised me with a fun weekend in Cap-Haitian- our favorite city, which is only about an hour away. We are going in the middle of October, which gives me something to look forward to. We got the people working at the Univers bakery to make us paninis today, and Abby and I are making Mac & cheese for my birthday dinner later. On top of all that, my first class of the day came into the room singing happy birthday and handed me lollipops as a gift. All in all, my birthday is Haiti is going really well!

9/11/2016

Back, for about two weeks, in the old soul town of Ouanaminthe! We’ve been back in Haiti for exactly two weeks now and had the first week of classes. The first week back was more of an adjustment week of getting back into things around the apartment and town. The mix emotions coming back quickly vanished as soon as I got out of the crazy Cap airport. I think its necessary to let yourself have breaks even little breaks such as going to the beach for the day because I think you’ll crack under the heat and stress sometimes down here. Sometimes people think all we should do is work work work but what is the pleasure in work with no fun? Michaela and I’s first Saturday back we went to the pool in fort liberty with our neighbors Jen and Chrisy.

I started my two online classes the first week and was in a panic the moment the internet decided not to work. I don’t know why I was so shocked that the wifi wouldn’t work when I wanted it to? Like I can play God or something. Someday I swear I am going to finish college!

Wednesday the 7th of September is when we started teaching classes. I had a lot of anxiety going into teaching, since I’ve never done it before and do not really like speaking in front of crowds. But, it went better than I expected! Michaela and I’s classroom is at the UTECH building, which is basically the mechanic shop. So here Michaela and I are sharing a building with the mechanics. It is wonderful but quite funny to imagine. I think the highlight of my week was teaching the third and fourth grade students English. I go to their class for 45 minutes each week and they learn words, phrases and songs in English. God Bless, elementary school teachers who teach 3rd & 4th grade students all day because after 45 minutes I am exhausted. They were so much fun but its like you have to have constant energy and attention on them or they will start doing splits on the ground or kicking their shoes into the middle of the classroom.

The highlight of my week was that the bakery at the school FINALLY started making pizza again. Finding pizza in Haiti feels like what people feel like when they find gold, its that good.
Overall, it was a great first week and I am eager to see how the rest of my time here unfolds. Hopefully it unfolds better than I anticipate.

Love always , Abigail