Why We Choose to Live in a Twou Kaka Country

Writing this blog was not on my to-do list today, but as we see newsfeeds filled with posts and comments, we feel compelled to tell you why we choose to live in a (bleep) country.

It’s our job.

We live here because this is where our work is. It was a calling from God and a step of faith because let’s be honest… up until that point, neither one of us had ever pined to live in Haiti. The country was seldom on our radar screen and when it was, it’s because of something that was devastating or negative. But then we came here and learned more about this place and it will forever be a part of us.

Natural beauty.

This country has so much natural beauty, it could blow you away. The entire land mass is about the size of Maryland, but we have beautiful beaches, desert cacti, pine forests, and banana trees at the base of mountains that look like a scene from the movie Jurassic Park. The way the Artibonite River winds its way through the countryside shows its perseverance. Gorgeous waterfalls and basins, historical landmarks, breathtaking sunsets, terraced hills, and vast mountain views, all wrapped up in a tiny geographic package.

The people.

Haitians are beautiful, strong, resilient, and resourceful. They put up with so much and just keep keeping on. Are some corrupt? Yes. Do some steal? Absolutely. It’s because they are people too, just like you and me. They have families that they love, and they have hopes and dreams. They deal with serious issues as best they can, just like everyone else in the world.

Their level of patience and ability to accept whatever situation comes their way is enviable. Those in the developed world complain when they see a bank line with 4-5 people in it. Imagine walking into a bank and seeing 70-80 people in line. If you have a car that seats four comfortably, could you ride two hours with 7-8 people packed in?

As you read this, some of you may say, “I could never do that; thankfully I don’t have to.” There are many Haitian that don’t have to do that either. But if they did, there wouldn’t be complaining. That, my friends, is where the difference is.

Tim and I have some additional thoughts about the negative comments recently talked about in the media.

To our friends who express such righteous outrage, we can’t help but wonder what it is that bothers you most. You can criticize the president for being insensitive and crass, but what is your motivation for defending a country you’ve never been to and/or a culture you don’t understand? If it is rooted in compassion, is there a related action? Some of you are on this journey with us in various ways and for that we thank you. For those who are outraged at the comment, we hope that you will consider visiting/vacationing here.

For the man who made the insensitive remark in the first place, do you realize that parts of America are hurting? I’m not talking about slums in big cities and those with insecurities (please don’t get me started on the whole “food insecurity” thing), but do you really think that those living in Appalachia or on Indian reservations feel that they’ve got it good? The lack of basic resources such as running water and flushing toilets still exists in America.

Have you given any thought to why so many people came to America in the first place? What made it such a melting pot? My heritage is Irish and Tim’s is Norwegian. From what we know about history, those countries were also (bleep) at some point in time.

To our knowledge, President Trump has never visited Haiti. His limited viewpoint is what has been portrayed for decades by the American media and how they present Haiti to Americans. If that was all the information you had then yes, it is a (bleep). It is a country that has seen centuries of oppression followed by corruption and neglect. However, when you live here, when you experience Haiti, it doesn’t take long to recognize the beauty and resilience of her people.

We consider ourselves lucky that we get to live in a twou kaka.

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Hard to say goodbye

Tim and I have been in Haiti nearly five years, yet today we are witness to something that ranks in the top five (top three?) events on the sadness scale.

It may surprise some of you, especially with so much poverty, corruption, and death, but my heart is breaking as I type this.

You see, one of our technicians is leaving to start a new life in Chile. Most people might think this is a good thing – to get out of Haiti. Those with wanderlust might even be a bit jealous. But we know that K doesn’t want to go. We know that he is scared to go. If I had a dollar for every time he came to the house just so we could sit and talk about the possibility of him going, and then the reality of him going, I could buy a ticket and go with him.

You see, K’s family decided for him that he needs to go. Normally, the oldest son would bear the responsibility of providing support to the family, but this family knows that the oldest son doesn’t have a good track record. If he went, they would likely never hear from him again.

K is a family man. As is expected in the culture, the money he earns at work benefits everyone in his family. If he is lucky enough to find a decent job in Chili, he is honorable and trustworthy enough to send money back to family in Haiti.

His leaving has been a lengthy process. I can no longer remember when he first mentioned the possibility of going, but it’s probably been close to a year. The passport took a while to secure, and when it arrived, it had a typo. Fixing it cost more time and money. Truth-be-told, I relished every obstacle because it meant him staying here longer, but his family accused him of dragging his feet and wasting valuable resources. He was kicked out of his house for a while until everything was resolved.

Eventually, everything was resolved, and now travel day is here. When this blog posts online, Tim and I will be driving him to Port-au-Prince, along with the rest of our staff.

Yes, I’m sad that K is leaving because we are losing a kind, conscientious, hard-working employee. More than that, I’m sad because I know that he doesn’t want to go. I’m sad because he is scared. I’m sad because I know that he will miss his nephew, who he treats as a son, like crazy. I’m sad that his family put him in such an undesirable position. I’m sad because he has no choice. Better said, he has no good choice. He can choose to do what his family wants or he can do what he wants. Either way, he winds up separated from his family – by distance if he chooses to put family first, or he will be ostracized for putting his own desires first. I’m sad because I know that K will have to learn some very hard life lessons as he navigates a new world. I’m sad because the chances of us ever seeing him again are slim to none.

I’m sad because so many people here think that other countries are the promised land. We can explain all day long about unemployment rates and cost of living indexes in other countries, but they mean nothing. From what we’ve heard, jobs in Chile are scarce, especially for 24-year old men who don’t speak Spanish and have no college degree.

(People won’t try a new fertilizer on their crops because the risk is too great, but they’ll spend thousands of dollars to send someone off to another country. Desperation makes people do funny things.)

I’m sad because we are seeing our other technicians say goodbye to a friend… again. We went through this last year when Jucado emigrated to Brooklyn, though that goodbye was a lot more celebratory.

I’m sad because this country seems to be OK with superficial relationships. In reality, I know it’s a survival technique. After all, goodbyes are inevitable and frequent. Why would you want to get close to someone who is just going to leave? We can handle the pain of separation from time to time, but when separation happens as often as it does here – either by travel or death – you have to find a way to cope in order to survive.

I realize that this post is kind of a downer. Normally, I would be excited for someone who gets to try something new, but this goodbye is tougher than usual because the circumstances surrounding it are tough.

In a few hours, Tim and I will accompany K to the ticket counter at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, help him get checked in, and go as far as we can with him. We will hug goodbye one last time before returning to our truck for what I suspect will be a very quiet ride home with the rest of our staff.

We know that as much as we love K, God loves him even more. Just this past Monday, K and I sat in the living room discussing the various challenges and obstacles that life had brought and will continue to bring. We spent some time reading Ephesians 6:10-18 together. After all, it’s hard to do battle without the proper equipment. Thankfully, we have the instructions and tools, even in our sadness and uncertainty.

Those of you who believe in the power of prayer, please join us in praying for this young man. He’s going to need it.

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K and me during one of our “about life” chats.

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We took our guys to the beach for the day – combination celebration of the past year and farewell party

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Friends and colleagues

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Special treat – we rented a jet ski for 1/2 hour

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Best $40 we’ve spent in a long time

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The night before traveling

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I asked for a picture with this suitcase. I bought it in 1998 to use to travel back and forth to AL when my brother was sick. It’s been to a lot of places and is loaded with memories. Now, it is going to Chile.

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Smiling while holding back the tears

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Reunited

It’s official. I need therapy.

As I was working at my computer the other day, I could not escape the sound of a crying chick. The thing is, crying chicks are nothing out of the ordinary here. After all, it’s common knowledge in the Borel chicken community that if you show up at Madame Tim’s house, you will get fed. New moms show up with their brood on a pretty regular basis.

The thing is, this little chick showed up (seemingly) out of nowhere. It wasn’t with a mama or siblings, nor had I seen any new mamas with babies about the same size. And it wasn’t sickly, so it hadn’t been abandoned by its family. There’s normal chicken behavior and patterns and this little guy/gal wasn’t following the norm.

The crying was incessant; I couldn’t concentrate on my work because of it. This little chick was too young to be on its own! I even went for a walk around the compound to confirm what I already suspected to be true… the family wasn’t here. But where was it?

And then I remembered that a few days earlier, I’d seen a new hen show up for food. I had chastised her for coming because I could hear babies crying on the other side of a wall. What kind of mom leaves her babies for a few grains of rice? (One who is trying to feed her babies; that’s who.)

I hopped up on a concrete partition to peak over the wall, and sure enough, the same mama hen was there, laying in some grass close to the wall. When she saw me, she got up and two little chicks appeared from under her belly. Lo and behold, they were the size of the little one running around outside of our house. Mystery solved.

I followed the chick around the yard trying to catch it, and we circled the house more the once, all to no avail. Anyone watching me would have thought I was nuts. The only thing I succeeded at was making all of the other moms and babies very nervous. After some serious persuasion (and a bit of pleading), Tim came outside to help me. When one of the Haitian boys showed up for water, we enlisted his help. And then Charity stopped by to see what was going on, so we put her to work too.

Finally, little chick got tired enough that I was able to scoop it up. I reached into a hole in the wall where some PVC pipe comes through and deposited baby on the other side. Tim tossed some rice to the ground to draw Mom closer to the cries – it worked like a charm. Mom, baby, and sibs found each other.

The experience was kind of a silly way to spend the morning, but I found that as I went throughout the day, there was little that brought me down because I was just so happy for this chicken family! Crazy, right???? I KNOW.

A short while ago, as I was breaking up pieces of bread for the usual crew, new mom stood atop the wall – able to see babies to her left and me to her right. I tossed a piece of bread her way, and she flew out of sight with it in her beak. Once again, I hopped on top of the concrete partition to peer over the wall; she was dutifully tending to all three chicks.

I have no idea why it was so important for me to see this family reunited or why it brings me so much joy to see them together. They are CHICKENS.

In my attempt to make this story relevant, I’m reminded of Matthew 6:25-27:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

God uses different circumstances and people to help us deal with trials in our life. That day, he used me to help reunite a family of chickens. If He cares that much for them, how much more does He care about you?

Keep the faith, friends. Just as God used me that day, stay obedient to how He wants to use you, even when it seems crazy.

Keep the faith, friends. Just as Mama Hen waited on the other side of the wall because she knew her baby was close, God waits for us. He hears our cries and stays close.

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