Into the Desert

This upcoming week will be my last working with Heartline as their driver.  Next Saturday, Lord willing, I move out to a village North of Port-au Prince called Ravine Seche(perhaps for 3 months?).

The village name is the Creole version of Kerith Ravine, the place where Elijah went to hide after informing evil King Ahab a time of drought was coming on Israel (1 Kings 17).

At the Kerith Ravine, Elijah was fed by ravens and provided for supernaturally by the Lord. In the Biblical narrarative, it appears this was a time where God had Elijah in a training “school,” so to speak, teaching him how He could (and would) supply his physical needs.

Perheaps I too will learn lessons about God’s provision at this modern, Ravine Seche.

Ostentisbly, the point of my moving out to a village is to spend time studying the Creole language in an immersive environment.  I’ll be the only “blan” living in the area.  Additionally, I hope to gain a better understanding of Haitian culture.

In relation to the closest “big” town (St. Marc), here is a map showing where Ravine Seche is:

Map

And here is a satellite view of the village.  Note the arrow pointing towards my new bachelor digs:

Map of House

While I remember thinking Silver Springs Apartments was inexpensive, this pad has Silver Springs beat to pieces… only $150/month.  Pretty amazing, considering for that price I’m renting a house with caribbean beach-access. 

My rental house consists of a concrete room with tin roof overhead.  No running water.  No indoor plumbing (not even a sink).  For toilet there’s an outhouse.  Water is funneled off the tin roof to a rain barrel out back.  A table and propane stove is included (see? furnished!).  There is no bed, so I’m bringing a cot to sleep on.

While electricity doesn’t come standard, I’m bringing my own solar setup (100 watt system) with a battery.  This way I can at least charge my cell phone. 

How do I feel about this move?

I’m sad to be leaving my friends here in Port-au Prince, especially Ryan and Melissa, who have become like a brother and sister-in-law to me. 

But I’m excited for the change of pace, and for the time to pull back from the busy (and at times stressful!) life I’ve been living.  Time to reflect, to learn new things, and to forge friendships across the barriers of socio-economic status, culture, language, and race.

My greatest worry is I’ll go stir crazy not being able to speak English with anyone else (in particular, a fellow Westerner whom I can openly “debrief” with about the myriad experiences bound to occur). 

I’ve mentioned to Haitians what I’m planning to do (living in a village), and they all seem enthusiastic about the idea.  They tell me how wonderful it is I will gain important perspectives about Haiti through being in close proximity with locals in this way.

Two Haitian guys I spoke with earlier this week explained to me, through stories, how important it was for a foreigner to first listen and understand before trying to “fix” things.  I recorded part of our conversation (which was in the car driving, so not very good quality) because I found their viewpoints fascinating. 

Here is a 3 minute clip, starting with a story about a missionary who had the idea to create a water well for ladies in a certain area who had to walk a long distance to get water:

[audio:http://simplefollower.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/conversation.mp3]

The advice to “listen first” has been drilled in my head so firmly by experienced missionaries that, before coming to Haiti, I had determined to not jump into any sort of people-ministry position until living here at least one year… as an observer.

When one watches something awhile, they begin getting a different opinion from their first.  My observation now is that Haiti is improving.  And I’ve also found it’s far more “Christianized” than I ever had imagined before. When I pickup a new guest from the airport and their immediate first response is shock at the trash and so forth, my feeling now is to be defensive and want to say, “But it’s getting better, things are on the upswing, and this country has so much beauty too!”

What Will Happen Next?

One never really know here. 

Driving Surprise

Recently my co-worker Troy was driving his kids to school when one of his car tires came off.  Yep, he heard a loud bang and then looked out his window to see what used to be his back tire rolling on down the street – with his brake drum rolling the other way. 

That was exciting, and the second time he said that had happened to him in Haiti.  His car had just got back from the shop after being repaired, if that tells you anything about the quality one can expect from certain mechanics here. 

Blowout

Also recently, a vehicle directly in front of me had a massive tire blowout that sounded like a gun going off.  The tire came apart in several large chunks that I drove around.

Many vehicles here are in poor condition mechanically, I’ve noticed.

German Tourist

One day I met a German tourist (Frank) at the grocery store… We got to talking (in his broken English) and come to find out he was here looking for a wife.  Yeah, that makes sense to me too, right?  He even had put up a sign outside his hotel with this written, “One man from Europe looking for a woman to marry,” and a phone number listed underneath.  That was bizarre. 

Frank told me I was the first white person he had seen in the three days he’d been here.  He looked pretty lost, far outside his comfort zone.  Later, after returning to Germany, I got an e-mail from him saying he sadly hadn’t been able to find a wife.  He had been introduced to three different ladies, but none of them worked out.  Frank said the deal breaker with one was that she had, “the face of a man,” whatever that means.  I would have thought not being able to speak a word of each others language would have been an earlier deal breaker, but what do I know? Perhaps communication in a marriage is over-rated?

Moto Repairs

One day I did a double take upon passing a motorcycle towing another motorcycle with a piece of twine. Their twine broke (or came apart) while I watched and they had to stop and re-tie it.  Moto’s towing moto’s was a new one. 

I commented my surprise to a Haitian lady I was with and she responded, “What do you expect, you’re in Haiti?  Keep looking and you may see a dog towing a dog.”  I’m still watching for that one.

Grenada Guy

One day in the Western Union Office I overheard a young man in front of me speaking English.  He looked perfectly Haitian, so I was taken aback.  We struck up a conversation and turns out he is from Grenada (a smaller Caribbean island with a population of only 100,000).  Apparently they speak English in Grenada.  This fellow is here working in Haiti as a technician for the cell phone company Natcom. 

I thought he spoke very American – no accent that I could tell.  It was quite entertaining watching him try his few Creole words with the lady behind the counter. 

He looked so Haitian it was comical comparing notes about the place in English.  He would say, “Everything about this place is crazy, like I’ve never had to wait so long at a bank!” Or, “It’s ridiculous they can’t keep the roads fixed up!”

I told him I knew people spoke English in Jamaica too, and was it similar to that in Grenada?  He was like, “Nah, you can’t understand anything those guys say in Jamaica, but where I’m from we speak normal English.” 

Wow, that was a random conversation.

The View out my Windshield

Lastly, here are two pictures I took with my phone while driving around Croix-de-Maison (w/Beth’s truck).  They showcase a local fruit & vegetable market and navigating dusty, congested traffic:

Market

Busy as Usual

Turning 30

I want to thank everyone who took the time to tell me “Happy Birthday”!  Thanks to all who helped make it a special day.

So perhaps the best part of having a birthday is the cake, right?

Fellow Heartline co-worker Melissa Alberts was kind enough to make my favorite kind: chocolate.

Cake

As far back as I can remember, my birthday cakes have always been chocolate.  Times haven’t changed much as you can see in the picture below of me celebrating my third (also outside the USA):

Turning Three Years Old

On the evening of my 30th, all the Heartline staff threw me a pizza party.  In the picture below I’m holding a special one with the numbers “30” created from pepperoni’s!  Wow, it was all really delicious.

30th Pizza

It did feel weird being overseas on my birthday.

But last year on April 25th I was also overseas: in Venice, Italy, celebrating the occasion with three random people I met at a hostel: an Argentinian, a Mexican, and a Filipino. 

And last year I remember having pizza too: at an outdoor café with my new acquaintances in Venice. Considering I was in Italy, it wasn’t that good. I thought they would have the corner on great pizza, seeing they invented it. But somehow the staff here at this unassuming guesthouse in Port-au Prince, Haiti have managed to improve greatly on the original design.

Here is a pic from last years 29th birthday, with my “International Friends for a Day.” 

Nick with his Venice Tour Group

I wonder if I’ve changed in the last year?  Am I in any way better now than before? 

One time I heard someone say we’ll be the same person a year from now as today except for the people we meet and the books we read.  In the last year I’ve done my fair share of both (meeting and reading), so maybe I am different somehow?

Post “big day” I feel the same.  Turning 30 wasn’t depressing, just another day.  What I think helped soften the blow of leaving my 20’s is bright hope for the future.  I’m excited about what all is coming up!

Though I’ve always imagined being in a far different stage of life than I am now at this age (like responsibly holding down a regular job and married with kids), I sure can’t complain.  Life has been good.  And the Lord has been good to me too: I have a life rich in relationships and experiences.

Like Abraham Lincoln once said, ”In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”