We haven't been to the super market in a few days and need to buddy up when we go, so today for me breakfast was yogurt that went a bit sour and some cereal with tiny ants all abuzz within, which hungrily crawled in overnight... Mmm protein for me! (And not to worry, you really can't taste tiny ants within a bowl of cereal).
Looking down at my feet while preparing said cereal, a spider the size of my hand with a large egg sack on its belly was crawling quickly towards my right foot. Definitely time to move, since it's poisonous and can jump, and soon after a kind caretaker squashed said spider so it would not have any chance to let its hundred little ones move in with us.
We have barbed wire on our outer fence and four levels of locks within our apartment, since thievery is the real deal here... A lock on our room doors, a gate for each level of the apartment that we share, a gate to the outer yard, and a final gate out to the street. Upon examining the barbed wire on the outer fence this morning, I noticed its attached with small pieces of wire that could easily be removed with a pair of scissors. All that said, I give each day and our protection to God. I appreciate that we lock up and when we are around town we are as careful as can be, but I also know and trust that my life is ultimately in His hands.
Driving to Tebarre
The drive each morning from Petionville to Tebarre, a subsection of Port Au Prince, is becoming more familiar. We hop in a van coming down from the mountains at the Kenscoff orphanage, and pass about a hundred kids and young adults out running and stretching at the local park (they have summer break now). We weave through people and motos (motorcycle taxis) at the market, shoppers with heavy baskets of fruit on their head, and smoking piles of trash. As we leave Petionville, we have a glimpse of a brightly colored hillside, all in bright pastels.
The Pastel Houses
A local hotel, in an act of false benevolence, paid for the houses to be painted in bright colors to make a beautiful view for their guests. The paint job stopped on the hillside when the hotel's view of the houses stops, and the closer you get, the more you realize that the homes are poorly built, sometimes four stories tall, and only look good from a distance... It reminds me of the whitewashed walls of religion, and how God looks at our heart, not just how well we look to others... And how we can put on a show for those at a distance to our lives to see and admire, without tackling our inner instabilities in our foundation or places that are broken within ourselves, with God's help.
We wind up through the hills and pass by many stone frames of houses, incomplete indefinitely... People many times start a building and then lack funds to finish them... A man walks down the street leading two large cows and a large car honks and speeds past our slower van, just quickly enough to avoid the oncoming traffic. UN cars drive by, and a visibly guarded UN gas truck and its retinue pulls into their compound. The U.S. Embassy is also visible with its long line of Haitians waiting outside for a turn to apply for a visa to the U.S.
Sometimes we pull into St. Damien's pediatric hospital for mass. Mass is a sweaty but beautiful experience. I appreciate how Father Enzo and Father Rick honor those who have died at the hospital, hold funerals for families, and honor the deceased who have been left around Tebarre for the fathers to find. We usually sit in a stone chapel with geckos chirping above us on the stained glass windows, and a few large and small coffins in the middle of the floor as a sharp reminder of death and life that is still fresh for me. This can leave a somber tone for mass, especially when families join and openly mourn for those who have died. We sing in Latin, Italian, English, and Creole and watch the fathers swing their incense over the bodies, which are covered by body bags, with beautiful cloths draped over the coffins till the end of mass. They are each carried outside to a flatbed truck and the fathers and a few others drive away with the bodies, singing and praying for them as they go.
I am encouraged by the faith of the fathers and their work with the hospitals and the poor in Haiti. Most recently, we heard Father Rick talk about how challenging true forgiveness is- he has seen people who he helped raise steal from his organization and even shoot a man on his staff, and he is learning what Jesus means when he asks us to love our enemies and forgive those who have wronged us- something that is not a simple, surface act, but that takes the power of God in our lives to accomplish.
The Abandoned Children's Room
Immediately next to the chapel is a window of the abandoned children's room. When I visited the other day, there were 13 kids there attended by two women. I am still heart broken to think about these precious ones. Some have been left for dead or abandoned by their families due to having a disability or injury that they could not afford. Others are there because their parents or caregiving parent are in critical condition or unable to care for them... You have to pray as you enter that room, to see the kids and realize they have no one, each one in their own bed, lighting up when they see you coming to see them. An older boy with autism grabbed my hand and didn't want to let go. A beautiful little baby with some gross motor difficulties was reaching for her toes. Others were in more serious conditions and recovering from injuries such as burns or wounds. Here in Haiti, I hear that adoptions are closed, except for kids with disabilities. Can I tell you that that crosses my mind and my heart just cries out for these kids? Is it right for any child to grow up without a family? I think about people I know who have taken foster kids or adopted, and see it as such a beautiful thing to invite into your family someone who was not your own flesh and blood. It's what Jesus did for each of us- died in our place so we could be included in his family, for all eternity, and given a new identity as the children on God, sharing in His inheritance... Amazing that he did so, and I am challenged to see how I personally will respond to God regarding the things that break my heart in this world.
I've been appreciating days of therapy too. I work with kids from the special needs part of the orphanage, and kids from poor families in outpatient therapy. I've been able to pass off ideas and help program iPads, and to learn about the kids and their needs from the Haitian therapist I work with. Picture me, with a toddler's vocabulary in Creole, doing a lot of pantomiming and modeling to show what I mean. I have a lot of respect for the people and families I work with. It's hard to hear some of the differences between care for kids with disabilities at home and here (for example, a local doctor told a woman that her 6 month old has autism even though that's much to early to give a diagnosis, and we don't use a bean bin for sensory regulation like we might in the states since it wouldn't be appropriate to play with food when it's so scarce for many families). It's also encouraging to see Haitian men and women teaching and providing therapy and working on increasing their skills with the kids and adults in the clinic.
On a lighter note, I've also been grateful for learning the classic French song Frere Jaques when I was a kid (it's come in handy a few times in therapy), for all the skits I did as a camp counselor (since I have to pantomime so much), and for my keen spider awareness skills.