Feed aggregator

Our eyes are open, but do we see?

Livesay Haiti - Jul. 15, 2014 - 10:06 pm





I learned a while back that kids that grow up abroad can grow up with an entirely different experience than their parents.  They can and do observe and participate in the culture in their own separate and unique ways. 

An expat friend of ours tells a story of teaching a class at a school where many wealthy kids attend. He asks the class, "What is it you would like to be able to see or do in your life?"  The high-school kids talk and name a few things. One boy says, "I would really like to visit a poor country some day."

The school he attends where this question was posed, is located in Port au Prince, Haiti.

That student wants to visit a poor country.

*        *         * 

Our son Isaac is many things.  He is an optimist on steroids and cotton candy on a sunny day at Disney World. When the clouds do roll in, his clouds drop gumdrops instead of raindrops and it only serves to make him even cheerier.  

His favorite word? 
WONDERFUL
He sees life as wonderful. He rarely says things are "okay". His world has little room for "fine" - he likes it all to be "epic". He views things through his lens and doesn't necessarily willingly allow any other views to enter in.  

*         *          * 

We all went together one day recently to drop a woman off at her home.  She had delivered her baby at the Maternity Center and spent a couple of days recovering and bonding with her third child.

We piled in and headed northwest up the coast line and out of Port au Prince. We wound back into the hills in an area where many pathetic little structures are called "home".  As we parked the truck to walk down a hill to the house, I said, "Come on everybody, lets all walk Yveta home".  

When we neared the house, Isaac hung back --- The home was made of tarps and sticks and wood. No metal walls, no cement walls. It sits on a hill, with an uneven dirt floor. The bed is not a bed at all. It is a mat on the ground with bedding on it.

I prompted, "Kids, come with me. Let's visit their home. Let's pray for them."  I ask Isaac to pray in English first, promising to pray in Kreyol after him.  

He begins his prayer in his typical sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns fashion, "Dear God thank you for this WONDERFUL family. These wonderful people.  The wonderful" ....  his voice trails off. 

I open my eyes and say, "It is okay, buddy, not everything here is wonderful - keep going."  

He thanks God for the "wonderful new baby" and the blessing of said baby. 

He says Amen.

I pray. 

We say our goodbyes. 

We hike back up the hill toward our truck. 

"Thank-you, Isaac, for coming in the house to pray. That was kind of you", I say.  

Isaac replies, "It was hard to know what to say."

He is right, of course.  It is hard to know what to say.  It is hard to know what to do.  It is hard to keep from looking away.


*        *         * 

The materially poor, the marginalized and exploited are the ones we want to be especially sure to listen to, SEE, know, learn from, visit, and love. 

Cornel West is onto something when he says, "Never forget, justice is what love looks like in public." 

Later that day I pulled the three bigger kids in for a quick huddle. I explain that we can live right in the middle of things that are difficult and challenging without ever really seeing the very people that are daily living the things that are difficult and challenging.  

I explain that getting in our truck and driving to and from school is not real life in Haiti. 

I tell them that it is very important to me that they see people and by seeing them they come to care and by caring they one day want to act and by acting maybe their love will bring about justice.  

I remind them, and myself, of all of this. 

They listen closely and they nod. 

Later I watch them playing together and I think, even when our eyes are open, we still need help to see.




Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti: A U.N. Cholera ‘Pilgrimage’

New York Times on Haiti - Jul. 15, 2014 - 12:00 am
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations visited Haiti on Monday and sought to assure Haitians that he was committed to ending a cholera epidemic “as quickly as possible,” but he did not acknowledge his organization’s possible...
Categories: Haitian blogs

(it is never about) the effing chicken sandwich

Livesay Haiti - Jul. 14, 2014 - 3:09 pm
This post is about marriage and parenting. I am no expert at either thing, but since 1990 I've been learning the hard way almost everyday. Two decades in the school of learning by force and failure (formerly known as the school of hard-knocks) have taught me a few lessons. Do with them as you will. 




** ** **
"Eeeewwww, SICK, they are kissing again you guys, DON'T LOOK."

A few hours later, as Lydia enters the kitchen but has not yet rounded the corner where we will come into her line of view, she makes our one syllable names into two, "Mooooom-mm and Da-aaad, you better not be kisssss-ing in there."

This is a game the youngest one plays frequently at our house.

It is a game of pretending she abhors her parents showing any love or affection toward one another. She fools no one, especially not us. She begs for more by declaring frequently how much she cannot stand to see it and how sick we are.

There are not many things that make kids feel more secure than parents that love one another. Children are reassured when they see their parents communicating well, getting along, loving one another, and maybe even grabbing a kiss or a squeeze when possible. (Case and point, that photo was taken in 2010 when Paige said, will you guys please let me take some lovey photos of you?) 

The temperatures in our home seem to keep us from long embraces or any all out kitchen mack-fests. It is totally fine though, because our kids are sufficiently grossed out by the short (hot weather variety) of marital flirting. 

The number one question asked by friends that visit Haiti for the first time... "It is SO hot and tiring here. We are hot. We are tired. We don't even want to be touching pinkies. Soooooo, like, how do you guys ever, you know ... (trail off while raising eyebrow)?" That is an excellent question. One that only the very brave ask, but I digress. This is not about getting it on in hot climates. This is about marriage and parenting - or more precisely - our kids watching our marriages.

We have learned over the years that any tension between us is quickly noticed by our kids. They get nervous and weird when they sense we are shorter tempered with one another or not working together well.  

Whatever security they feel when they see us hugging in the kitchen, quickly diminishes when they hear us speak sharply to each other. 

If kids feel secure when their parents are best friends that show one another respect and affection, what about when kids see their parents fight? 

It is unrealistic to think they won't see us fight on occasion. Stress happens. Life is tense. People that live in my house are annoying together get annoyed.  

What are we teaching our kids by the way we have conflicts with one another? How can we have conflict that teaches something? There must be ways we can make our children feel secure even in the midst of conflict. Surely we can teach them that it doesn't have to end badly.

Any person in a long term relationship knows that one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to allow resentment over unmet expectations or small things to pile up.  

Instead of showing our kids how we fight about something that has nothing to do with the real issue, we hope to be honest and talk about things as they come up.  

When we do things that disappoint one another, we can chose to deal on the spot, trying not to get to the point where we are fighting about something dumb and unrelated because we've been simmering in resentment sauce for weeks or months.

My kids can hear me say, "You never do what you say you will do, you always put work stuff first", followed by a list of things that aren't the real thing and don't express the deeper feelings underneath - OR - my kids can hear me say, "I feel sad and disappointed that we had planned a beach day and now we can't go - I was so looking forward to time with you".  

It is less disrespectful to their Dad and it expresses my exact feelings without attacking him as a person. (I'm not saying how often I get this right. I'm just saying, I know which one is right.)

My job calls for a very flexible family. I feel bad about it, but it is a fact of midwifery that will not change. Sometimes I have just promised to watch a movie or go somewhere fun with the family when my phone rings and it is time to grab scrubs and run out the door. 

I want to teach my kids that they don't have to stay quiet and let their annoyance (and hurt feelings) go unspoken. I want them to have seen that it is safe to say, "I am so hurt that you promised us a fun day and now you have to go to work."  Even if I cannot do anything to change the situation and stay home or keep my promise, I want them to know that expression of disappointment or hurt in the moment it happens is a good and healthy thing. Resentment and letting it grow are the opposite.

** ** **
It surprises me how much I remember from when I was a kid. I remember my parents being super lovey dovey at times. (Oh my goodness! Vivid memory of one family vacation in a hotel in TN where they utterly and completely misunderstood what our sleeping breathing patterns sound like! Trauma!!) I also remember when things got tense for a couple years. 

During the years that there was a lot of change, transition, and financial stress, I remember them fighting. The most memorable fight for me was the fight we all call "the effing chicken sandwich fight".  

All kids remember the first time they hear a parent drop a loud and angry F bomb. 

That particular epic fight happened when I was probably 11 or 12 years old. I can tell you where I was when I was listening to it and everyone in my family knows right now exactly which story I'm going to tell.



My little sister and I were downstairs in our bedroom when voices were raised to a level we could clearly hear from the bedroom above us.  There was stress about money and how to spend it and how to be careful with it and Mom was mad that Dad had taken us to Burger King for dinner instead of saving the money and just eating at home.  Something was said about allowing us to order off the expensive adult menu and back and forth it went. Finally my Dad snapped and yelled, "If they want a ___ing chicken sandwich, they can have a ___ing chicken sandwich!!!"  (Our four blue eyes popped out of our heads in unison! Did he just say that!?!?) Then he threw his keys at the wall and the keys hit the baby picture of me (my sister has always been their favorite) and the glass shattered in the frame. Then I think he left for a while.

It is hilarious now; we love ourselves an effing chicken sandwich whenever we can get one.

Of course the fight was not really about Burger King or what we ordered. Most angry words come from a place of fear and wanting to have control in order to feel less afraid. Because money was tight Mom was trying to control things and having control over things helped her feel less afraid about money and the future.

We all have those fights; the ones that later kind of make you laugh because in hindsight it is easy to see where you veered waaaaay off the path.

So much of parenting is about letting kids see adults work out problems and frustrations in a way that models love and open/honest communication.  I cannot expect Lydia and Phoebe to stick to their "I" statements and talk to one another about their feelings during a conflict if I have spent the week doing the opposite when communicating with their Dad. 

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

A droite du couple présidentiel, l'artiste Rodrigue Milien et le Père Antoine Occide Jean (Père Sicot). A gauche, le musicien Raoul Guillaume, la Ministre de la Culture, Mme Josette Darguste, et le Dr Didier Armand, représentant de Mimi Barthélémy.

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Vue partielle de l'assistance à la cérémonie de remise de décoratiion au Palais National

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Le Père Antoine Occide Jean (Père Sicot), Sociologue et Ethnologue, est décoré de l'Ordre National Honneur et Mérite au Grade de Grand Officier pour sa contribution au développement communautaire

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Photo souvenir entre le récipiendaire et le Chef de l'Etat

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

M. Raoul Guillaume, premier compositeur de chants de Noël et grand Mapou de la musique haïtienne, est décoré de l'Ordre National Honneur et Mérite au Grade de Chevalier pour sa constance dans le milieu musical.

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Photo souvenir entre le Président de la République et le Maestro Raoul Guillaume

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

D'importantes personnalités ont pris part à la cérémonie de remise de décoration

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

L'initiative du Président de la République d'honorer des personnalités haïtiennes est saluée par l'assistance

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Une courte interprétation musicale rappelant les bons moments entre les deux artistes, sous le ragard jovial du Père Sicot

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Photo souvenir. L'artiste Rodrigue Millien n'a pas caché sa joie et sa satisfaction d'être honoré par le Président de la République

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Le Chef de l'Etat décorant Rodrigue Millien pour sa contribution à l'épanouissement de la musique population haïtienne. Décoré de l'Ordre National Honneur et Mérite au Grade de Chevalier, l'artiste a 28 albums à son actif.

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Le Chef de l'Etat et le Dr Didier Armand dans une photo souvenir

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Le Président Michel Joseph Martelly: « J’honore donc aujourd’hui quatre personnalités que je m’enorgueillis de donner en exemple à la Nation. Je propose ainsi à la jeunesse des modèles auxquels ils peuvent avec profit se référer. Je suis sûr que les générations montantes sauront s’inspirer des comportements citoyens dont elles ont fait montre au cours de leur vie pour apporter une pierre valable à la construction de cette Haïti de progrès que j’entends instaurer ».

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Moment de grandes émotions!

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Le Dr Didier Armand a aussi intervenu au nom de Mimi Barthélémy. Il a campé succinctement ce célèbre personnage.

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

Le Père Antoine Occide Jean (Père Sicot): « Excellence, les hommes honnêtes, sérieux et lucides voient par votre agissement, votre détermination à éteindre le feu par le feu. En effet, vous êtes en train, à travers vos œuvres sociales, vos actions hautement humanitaires, d’éteindre le feu de la haine par le feu de l’amour…»

Categories: Haitian blogs

Cérémonie de remise de décoration au Palais National

Carel Pedre's Flickr Stream - Jun. 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

carelp posted a photo:

M. Raymond Guillaume prenant la parole au nom de son grand-frère Raoul Guillaume

Categories: Haitian blogs