Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Living Color

While traveling from Port Au Prince one is struck by the drab grays. The tap-taps do their best to bring color to the landscape but the canvas soaks up all the paint. But as you travel furter down the road the greys give way to blues and greens. The the canvas shows off every color of the aritist's pallet. The flowers, the trees, the amazing caribean sea, the mountains and yes the tap-taps.But you can also hear the colors if that were possible. Music everywhere. Bold and strong.Loud. Chickens and motos, street vendors peddaling their wares. Chickens and cattle. Goats.Colors touching all of your senses.Bright colors, dark ominous colors. Happy colors mostly.Colors of beach glass and boats.

Update on Stanley

A few blogs back I shared the story of Stanley a Jacmel street kid. I am excited to post a follow up on this young man.
Before I left Haiti I gave Nick some money and asked him to find a tutor for Stanley. Even before that had the chance to happen Stanley came over the house and told Gwenn that he is going to school in January! I have no idea how but I am thanking God for somehow making provision for this young man!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fear of Food

It's almost like morning sickness.But it stays all day. I have not been able to eat solids since Sat.( I think today is Wed. but I might be wrong about that) Today I did have 3-4 saltine crackers. I thought maybe, just maybe I could eat some plain pasta.Now it is ready and I am not even liking the smell.I guess to desire to eat is a good thing. Don't think tonight will be the night. Abbie shared some of her icepops from when she had her tonsils out. Perhaps that would be a better choice. It's funny how I spend most of my life wishing that I ate less and now I just wish I could eat something.I know when I am well that I will struggle again with overeating but that is hard to imagine at this moment. Today I drove to Gretchen and Jon's so I could see the children. I pulled up in the driveway and that lined up about 10 ft. from the call and we talked for a few minutes. It's like water to a dry and thirsty land.Abbie's little no tonsils voice is so cute! My grandchildren make me want to get well and I am sure that they help me to get well.Soon they will ALL be here playing with the bikes and trikes and firetruck. The flu is a drag but life is so good. God is so good!

This video was taken just before Gwenn and Nick moved to Haiti. Now six months later all the grandchildren will be together again plus baby Cana will join them. The second little prayer that they sing was one that I made up for my girls when they were little. Gwenn then translated it into Kroyle. When I was in Haiti last week we went to the Pye's house for spaghetti dinner. When I heard the room full of 20 Haitian children singing this blessing it brought me to tears. You never know what God will do with what you teach your children. Some times it's the simple things in life that last.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Light at the End of the Tunnell-??

I arrived back at my house from my travels to Haiti at about 1 AM Sunday morning. As I was getting ready for bed I got the chills. Thinking it was just the cooler air of NC I ignored it at first. But then it happened again.Took out the thermometer- 101 degrees and all down hill from there. So here it is Tuesday and I have not unpacked the first thing. Aches and pains, fever between 101 and 103, loss of appetite, bad headache. Honestly I am beginning to think this will go on forever. But this morning I realized that there is still hope. I still have a 102 fever BUT I took a shower. This was the first shower since Friday when I was still in Haiti. AND I opened the blinds. Those two things alone greatly lifted my spirits. Maybe tomorrow the fever will be gone.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Stephania is a beautiful 15 year old orphan in Jacmel, Haiti. She has suffered from Elephantiasis since she was two years old. This disease is caused by a parasite and is not treatable. It has caused her left foot and lower leg to grow to extreme disfigurement. She is forced to beg for her food. But in spite of all of this she sings. She sings songs of praise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Walking through the shadow.

This morning Gwenn and I got to spend some 'girl' time together. First we dropped off the kids at school and went to visit at Pye's house. We pulled out of the Pye's driveway and I looked at the clock on the dash.Yes, it really was only 7:30 in the morning and we had already been visiting. We went to the store for a few groceries, went to team housing to buy vanilla and coffee, picked up the kids from school and returned home. By this time it was 9:30! (it was exam week so the kids got out early) It felt like the day was long underway and it was only 9:30. What a time warp Haiti is. Like who would ever go visiting at 7:30 in the morning???
After dropping off the kids Gwenn and I became tourists. First stop the cemetrey in Jacmel. Yes, the cemetery.It's a family thing. When I was a little girl we would pack pinic lunches and spead our blankets out at the cemetery and have a nice quiet lunch. Afterward we would walk around and read the epitaphs.It was in no way disrespectful. We would wonder about these people's lives and familiers and deaths. Seeing a plot with multiple tiny head stones was always very sad and we would wonder how it felt to be a parent with such grief. As an adult I would still go with my mom to visit old cemeteries. I remember one epitahp in Salem,NY that read "All you who read without a care, who walk away and leave me here, must not forget that you will die and be entombed as well as I." So far my most memorable cemetaires have been in Southport, NC.Salem,NY, and Penscola, Fl and now, Jacmel, Haiti.
We traveled down the narrow streets past vendors and motos( motorbikes),tap-taps and chickens. We pulled over in front of the cemetery chapel. We passed the man gathered at the gate and proceeded throught the rows and rows of mausoleums. We had not gone far when a man approached Gwenn and asked her a question in Kryole. I think it was "Are you looking for the grave of a family member?" or something like that. She explained to him (I think) that we were just looking around. He started to guide us through this maze of burial vaults showing the more promenent family sites. All of this was very interesting but as I looked back I realized we were being followed,by one, then two,then three men. One carried a shovel, the second a pick and the third a mechete. Now in my mind I know that they are just workers in the cemetery and are curious about these white woman walking around. The other part of my brain is saying
"What are you nuts??? This man is going to led you into some remote area and his friends are going to use these tools for other than the intended manufacturers purpose." Of course the leader led us back out to the front gate. But if he hadn't...
But actually, it was a lot of fun~
After that we did the normal tourist things. We checked out the fancy hotels,(yes there are some) we looked at the really pretty beaches, we took pictures of fishing boats and a vodo temple.You know, the normal stuff. We ended our moring with a nice lunch at a facny hotel. We appeared to be the only people in the hotel except for the staff. We stopped by the Pye's house again looked at the dash board was 12:36 PM! Remember, this is Narnia time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


This morning after Nia finished her home schooling we went for a walk to the beach that you can see from the back of Gwenn's yard. From that distance you don't get the real picture. The beach is dirty. Litter is everywhere. Random flipflops and bottles, plactic bottle caps. Admist this trash there is treasure. You can not walk more than a few steps without finding perfectly worn colored beach glass. I picked up green, blue, light blue,amber,clear and even pink glass. I had never seen pink beach glass before. The 'boys' came along for the walk. (Two street boys who help out around the house and a friend.)These boys looked after the children and even carried them when they became tired. They also picked up a lot of beach glass and gave it to me when we got back to the house. I thought how lovely this beach 'could' be and if it were you could not keep the tourists away. But when people are struggling just to get the next meal on the table I don't imagine they are interested in beach improvement.
In the afternoon we drove up to the land where Haitian Children's Home will build their new compound. The mountains rise up against the prestine pebble beach. The water is so blue it draws you in and makes you smile.
The same ocean, the same town, two completely different pictures. One picture painted by God, one painted by man.
So it is with our lives. God created us in His image.In our sinful nature we have corupted that which was good. We are left with the dirty beach that makes us unfit to carry out the orginal plans that God had for us.But the cool thing is:the beach glass. God sees us in all of our filth, and He searchs for the that which is still of worth.We are just like the beach glass being constantly tumbled with the stones and sand to wear down the sharp, jagged edges to create smooth edges. If surrendered to God that thing which is the most painful in our lives can become the very thing that makes us valuable to our Creator.And He can restore the years and he will redeem us. And He will even clean us up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Education and Stanley

I have read the facts about Haiti and I have seen the poverty.This small country has touched my heart on so many levels. Today was one of those days I was angry and sad at the same time. Angry because, plain and simple the world is unfair, and sad because I see how that unfairness has touched a young boy.
Stanley is a 14 year old street kid who may or may not have a place to call home. He has been known to sleep on Gwenn and Nick's front porch and is often at the front gate calling for "Papa Nick" and hoping that Nick will find some work for him that day. Sometimes he will come around a meal time in hopes of getting some food as well as a small sum of money for what ever chores he might do.It is obvious the way he hangs around that he likes it here.
Today I was going over some words in a Haitian/English picture dictionary with him and realized that he could not read. I came to discover that he maybe finished second grade and he could not even print his name. I gave him a notebook, a pencil and some crayons and we practiced letters for a little while. When Fritzie came home from school he hid our work from her seemingly ashamed to be practicing his name.
In America every child has the rite to attend public school. Every child can get special assistance and every child can get food. I know that not every child gets the best education, not every child gets the best food, but every child can be educated and every child can be fed.We have so much in the states that we have lost site many times of the value of what we consider to be our entitlement. Our chilren's life are filled with activities to entertain.Children complain about getting up early and they stay up too late.Parents fight with their kids about homework. While there are many who enjoy school, I mostly hear complaints from students and parents about what is wrong with their schools or how the teacher is to blame for not doing his/her job.
In Haiti the children who go to school all wear uniforms. Their white shirts are starched chrisp. Sometimes with a coal iron. Gwenn's girls are up and dresses and ready for breakfast at 5:30 AM. As soon as they return from school they take out their books to continue their study. These girls are 6,7 and 15. I have not heard one complaint all week about this arrangement.
I have spoken to three young men this week who have the privledge of attending high school. All high schools are private but follow a Haitian certificate program. Normal studies for these students are: English, French, Spanish, Creole (that's right 4 languages)math, bio, physics, soical studies,applicatons (?) and geography. ( I may have missed something as well) Before school and after school if you meet these young men they have their face in a book studying. If they do not pass their exams then they are taken out of the program.
Then there are the Stanley's. The children who either have never gone to school or only went for a very short time because there was not funds to go.They want so much to study. They are hungry for knowledge and hungry for food.
Then there is the deaf school. These children are educated in private schools up until about sixth grade. Then their education is ended.
I can't help but wonder "God why was I born rich?" Am I rich? By American standards, no. In Haiti, very much so. The only answer there can be is for me to respond to the needs I see with the resources God has given me. My money, my time, my blog. So that just maybe a few Stanley's in this world might be given hope.

Fine Dining

Tonight all eleven of us changed our clothing, piled in to the pick up truck went out to dinner at a really nice restrurant.
We sat on the terrace overlooking the beautiful blue caribean water. I walked on the beach and bouhgt a few trinkets to bring home. Nick had called to make reservations and to preorder our dinner. What did we have you may wonder. Well, we had french fries and coke, or 7-up or some other juice or soft drink.That was dinner. This was all perfectly acceptable. They were happy for our business. We were not treated badly for only ordering french fries and no one complained that french fries were considered the meal.We did have a big meal at lunch time. We had some kind of vegtable dish, a grits type of side dish and bean sause and a few slices of avacado.
Dining out was a treat for the whole family.It is possible,probable, that the three new children in Gwenn and Nick's home have never been to such a fine place.I left feeling very satisfied and it occured to me that what is on our plate is not the important thing. The important thing is who is sitting at the table.


I think I am beginnig to almost know what it feels like to be stalked by the Papprazzi. Everywhere we go people stare. In the disabled school the children came up to me and were pushing in to touch me.They want to touch my skin, my hair, my clothing.People love to practice their English when they find out I am from America.Today was the best. We took the kids to the park and someone was actually taking pictures with their cell phone of the 'blanc'.Nick says that when we were in the park we had every white child who lives within 50 miles of Jacmel with us. We are odd. When Gwenn speaks Kryole they are very surprised.
If anyone wants my autograph you can send me a self addressed stamped evevlope and $2.50 processing fee and I will see what I can do. Delivery should be expected in 6-8 weeks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Day at Raymond Beach, outside Jacmel, Haiti and stuff

(note to spell check again!!)
Sunday after church we packed up the pick up with Gwenn, Nick, Ester, Nahomie (the two Nannies)the six children and myself and headed for the beach. Unlike in the states it was not such a big deal. We took two towels to share.It's a lot of work to wash towels here, everything is washed by hand. That's it, just two towels and the people. No car seats here. The kids and I piled in the back of the pick up. Nick was driving and they started chanting something about "Go faster PaPa Nick!" (not in English so that is a loose translation) Then the kids would scream. Listening to my six year old grandaughter Nia was amazing. Not only does she speak fluent Kryole but she often will translate without being asked. (Speak first in one lauguage and then switch to the other so everyone can understand her :)The water was very warm but Gwenn commented about it being a little chilly.The little Haitian boys played naked on the beach as if they did not know that they were. It seemed almost like Adam and Eve in the garden. Until sin entered the world they did not know they were naked.These boys are naked innocents. I was taking a lot of pictures of my grandchildren when two young boys approached me. They wanted their photo taken. Shortly I was surrounded by maybe 10 teenage boys wanting me to take photos of their karate skills. They kept on posing and I could not make them understand it was a video camera. I lost the shots because without my glasses I could not tell that it was not recording. Gwenn and Nick were piling everyone in the truck and the boys wanted me to stay so they could show off for the camera.It is so funny how open people are here.
Sure there are many who will see that I am 'blanc' (white) and put out their hand and ask for money and say things like "I am hunrgy." It is so hard not to just stop and get them food. But you can't.I think of Jesus when he said "The poor you will always have with you." I could give money to every person who asked for it and at the end of the day the poor would still be here. It is hard to wrap your head around.I need to be delibrate in my giving so that I can change what I can change. I can't change it all.Others who approach me not asking for money I think are just curious about me. Not me, per sey but me the white person. Today I went into the store with Gwenn and a young man, maybe 15, began to speak to me. I told him in Kryole that I do not understad Kryole, I am American and I speak English. He said " What is your name?" I told him, we shook hands and he walked away. There is not the same social rules here.It is kind of refreshing.
I also got to go to what is called the iron maket today.We walked from the house a very short distance. Gwenn needed diapers for Josiah. It can only be compared to a flea market but way more crowded.We had to weave your way in and out of people and fruit and wheel barrows full of stuff with men pushing them and whistleing a high pitched whistle to let you know to get out of the way.We reached a place with diapers and Gwenn asked "How much?" the reply was fifty Haitain dollars. Gwenn said "I give you 40." The woman said "45" Gwenn said "No" and walked away. The woman called after her "Madame!Madame!" Needless to say she got her price. ( About $5.00 American)
I spent the morning with Nico, Josiah and Nia playing outside and protecting them from the sharp little teeth of their beautiful puppy Bigsby.What a great time just to hang out with them and get to know their developing personalities.
I am very impressed with Gwenn here. She drives like a crazy Haitian (but not as crazy as Nick!) She talks back to people on the street. A man asked her for $ for food and she said " I see you can afford ciggerretts.You should buy food." It's like in Haiti people say all the things you want to say in America but don't dare. (Let me clarify that Gwenn is in no way unkind, she is just wise to the ways of this culture.)
I visited the deaf school today and was surrounded by all the deaf students. We had a great little visit with lots of laughs. I will go back tomorrow to meet the younger childen and sit in on their class.
Tonight as a seasonal storm passed through Gwenn collected buckets of water in the kitchen where the roof leaks. I am talking serious leaks here. And water also came in the back door. When I get home I will post videos that don't really do it justice.But it's ok.Yes it will be nice when they can be in a house that does not leak but for now, this is home. Home to Gwenn, Nick, 6 children, two Nannies and a cute black puppy. It is comfortabe and safe and there are 3 meals a day.There is singing and laughter, tears and hugs. You can climb the fruit trees to get your snack food, little fruits the size of grapes that taste like candy.If you are Fritzie you only want your "Papa Nick" to climb the tree and pick the fruit for you.It's a hard life. It's a good life. It's a simple life. It's an honest life.
I know my days will pass quickly. I also know I will start to plan for my next trip here. I am excited for whatever adventures await me tomorrow. God is good and His covering is sweet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reporting Live From Jacmel, Haiti! (or Deaf for Today)

Grab a cup of coffe..this is a long one. (and the spell check is not will reading my honest I can't spell verson.

Wow! Has it only been two days since I left Manteo? In this time warp where everything is so new and so familar at the same time. JFK and the frustrations lie somewhere back in time and I have stepped thru the wardrobe into Narnia. Time at home (now where is that again??) has stayed the same. On this side of the wood it is all so strange and yet so wonderful!
I was met at the airport by Nixon. He "tipped" all the right people and got me in and out without any fuss. The excitement erupted as I stepped on the bus to chants of "NANA!, NANA! NANA! Nick brought all six of the children to meet me.It was AWESOME! The ride over the mountains was not to bad if I didn't look out the winow. But you can't help but look out the window because of the incredible beauty, and the incredible poverty. The winding mountains ride got even a little worse when the storm came and decreased vibability to say NOTHING! Everone slept but Nia and I ( and the driver thankfully) we had a lot to catch up on. Nia is a read dear child.
I brought gifts for the children (of course I did, I'm their grandmother!)I gave dolls to Fritzie, Wildane and Princess (that's not her name but I can't remember how to spell it and princess is my assocation word :)It was maybe the most satsifying gift givig I have ever done.Their reactions where so sweet and they have played with and cuddled their new dolls all last night and all day today.
We had campout last night and I slept in the living room with the entire Mangine family!And sleep I did. Out like a light in minutes, no...seconds.
This AM was Sunday and church. Gwenn stayed home because she has been sick. Josiah stayed home with her. Nick had to teach children's church so he and Nico went there. Nia pleaded to come with me to church so Nick let her :) I wasn't the only 'blanc' person there. I saw one other. As I entered the room there was the strong, yet not offensive smell of sweat. (The temperture was in the high 80's a far cry from the 100+ temp that I had seen predicted)Still with no AC and hundrends of people in a small church and lots of dancing and clapping..well you sweat. A nice, honest type of thing. If that is weird to you it is because you have maybe not been here.
I loved that the deaf kids who I met in the Spring all smiled and waved when then saw me. My friend Marie-Denise was quick to welcome me back with a big hug. Nia and I sat close to the front and watched the deaf as they signed the worship songs but I could not see the inturperter. When she stopped to allow a young woman to sign a song I caught her eye and signed to her "May I come over there so that I can watch you sign?" With a big smile she waved me over and Nia and I crossed the front of the church and sat slap in the middle of the deaf kids! I loved that I knew what was going on and was able to follow most everything in the service.I understood for the first time why sometimes deaf people tune out and get distraced. It is hard work,at least for me, to watch an inturperter for 2-3 hours! So here is this 'blanc' grandmother with her grandaughter in the middle of the deaf section in the front of the church. SO..someone sent for Leann so she could introduce me to the church. When church was over my deaf friends lingered for a LONG time. Most of them have aged out of the deaf school which is very sad. We spoke of God raising up one of them to be a leader and maybe even a deaf pastor. I have so many things I want to get some of my friends in the states to help me help these kids!Tomorrow I will visti the deaf school to meet some more of the students and speak with Jean-Claude the teacher.
The baach was wonderful and warm. Not quite so blue today as it was churnned up but beautiful none the less. The beach is still very littered.
I have so much more to say but it is I will close and listen to the fan, the distant drums and the lonesome treefrog.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Life as a Bag Woman

Sitting on the floor at JFK by my airport cart overflowing with my luggage I think of her. Her being any woman or man for that matter whom I have seen pushing her/his cart down the street with all of their possessions in the cart and the weight of the world on there sholders.
I am only sentenced to this life for a night. The floor is hard but it's not that cold in here. Where would I go if I were her? What must it be like to have this cart as your life rather than your night?
A few weeks ago I learned that on our lovley Outer Banks of NC that we actually have communities of homeless people. They even tac pictures of their loved ones to trees.
It makes me so thankful that I have a home. A family. A soft bed and plenty to eat.It makes me so mindful of those who don't.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Purpose

This Sunday my church prayed for me and my trip to Haiti. After the service Jim, one of our elders (and our family pastor) approached me with Daniel another man in our church. Daniel felt like he was given a Word for me and wanted to share it with me and pray with me. It was a word, one word, purpose. So before I thought I knew why I was going. I was going to visit my grandchild in their new home, to meet the new children in my daughters home,deliver the clothes and gifts collected for the orphanage, spend some time with kids in the deaf know this and that. A vacation of sorts. Of course it is a vacation WAY outside of my comfort zone! Traveling alone kinda freaks me out a little. But now, Daniel has me thinking. What is God's purpose for me making this trip? How does he want to use me for the next week. And if God wants to use me what kind of restistance might I expect? I can't dwell on that because the enemy wants me to fear. That's a trick he uses to throw us off course. So tonight I committ myself to God's purpose for me. Whatever that is. I am available for His use.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.
Psalm 138:7-8

Monday, October 12, 2009

Open the Flood Gates!

The Lord is cool! I had a small blurb in the local paper asking for dornations for the Children's Home in Haiti. Now I have piles and piles of beautiful children's things and more coming! Som much so that I wonder where I will keep it all :)I truly am seeing that people love to give. It is a blessing on both sides. Can't wait for Gwenn to come to the US and going shopping at my house!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Simply Sunday

The beauty of grand parenting is not that you "have to watch the kids" it's that you "get to watch the kids". Katie, Micah and Abbie came home with us after church. It was Abbie's turn to help prepare the meal. Leftover spaghetti with hot dogs..ummm... She got to cut up the hot dogs and stir it all together then she made the brownies.)We had a little lesson on fractions using the duck measuring cups to show how much 1/3 and 1/4 were.)We added some applesauce and lunch is ready.
After lunch Micah and Abbie and Grandad took a short nap while Kaite and I cleaned up the kitchen. But first we danced a little to Uncle Digger's CD. It's a very happy CD. We worked on a basic box step before we moved on to the dishes.
After naps the children got very excited that they "get to" garden. Again it is not a "have to" event. The first item of business was to look for the new fish in the pond. We only have three so far and grandad said they should be named Katie, Micah and Abbie, which is fine as long as we get more fish before the rest of the grandchildren come to visit.
Next Abbie and I worked on the compost bin while Katie,Micah and Grandad cleaned up some limbs on the climbing tree in the garden fort. Micah helped me put together the garden arch and Katie helped me decorate it with silk flowers. Katie and I raked as "the littles" worked on a design for a tent they were constructing for their dolls.I drew the line when Abbie showed up with a pillow from the sofa. :)
God smiled on us with a beautiful sunny day. I smile as I reflech on our simple Sunday. I would not trade these days for all the amusement park trills in the world.