Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oh Well

"Oh well" is a phrase that, here in Haiti, comes to your lips more frequently than anything else. At least it has been for me these past weeks as we metaphorically try to gently place our toes into the water, test the temperature, and then, when we're all set and ready,  go find the stairs to easily get in the pool.

Yet Haiti is your "oh-so-funny" brother that pops out of a bush, runs at you full speed, shoves you from behind and before you can let out a resisting yelp you are under water and pretty sure you're actually flailing towards the bottom when you should be going up. And then, just for good measure, when you finally find air he is there waiting to give you a firm dunk back under. Of course you realize - too late -  that you would've been safer just to stay underwater.

Yep, that's my brother. And me.
Here's an example: I gave an English and typing test to 6 candidates who are applying for the coordinator position through Mercy Beyond Borders.

"They have a computer lab here!" So by the morning of the test I have all the questions on a flash drive ready to pop in to the computers.

I walk down the road and get a call - Sr. M (a Haitian nun) who will open the computer lab for me is stuck in mass because there was a wedding. Oh well. Not a big deal - the church is across the street and so I got to crash the last part of a Haitian wedding! 

After, Sr. M takes me by the elbow and we walk into the large school where the computer lab is. She still has a firm grip on my elbow as she yells instructions to the gardener, the people painting the stairs, the woman who should be sitting instead of standing while she does the laundry... I got a very lengthy tour of the place. Oh well, I'm not on time crunch here.

She brings me up to the computer lab. It is a dusty classroom with benches piled up on each other. Oh well? Then she shows me the outlets in the wall. That's where they charge the computers, she says.

But, they don't have electricity right now. Oh well. 

And I'm standing there with my flash drive still wondering where the computers are.

She leads me - again, by the elbow- to a different building into someone's bedroom and opens a dresser, where at the bottom is a stack of laptops. She doesn't know where the chargers are. Oh well. She lets me rummage around and I find them, and because we do have electricity at the house I proceed to walk back down the main road with a stack of laptops in my arms and everyone on my way asking me to give them one. Oh well.

And then the test ended up just scaring the candidates and wasn't effective at actually testing them. Oh well. 

Two of the six women taking the typing and English test.
Now maybe you're thinking, "Jen - that's just real life. Unexpected stuff comes up." But when you're sweating and you're busy patting yourself on the back thinking, "Wow aren't I so organized and prepared" and then two hours later you're lugging computers down the street and you only know half of what people are saying and at the end of the day all of your efforts did anyen (nothing)... it feels a little like flailing under water. Maybe that's just the sweat.

Oh, and there's a dead lizard outside your door? Oh well.
Some kid who we pay tuition for lied about going to school and even forged some documents? Oh well. (And then go to the police.)
Bought the wrong mangoes? Oh well. Didn't even know there were different types of mangoes? Oh, well... there are. And the kind you bought are disgusting.
There's an insect crawling on your ear and you have no idea how it got there but obviously it had to have traveled up your entire body and before you can think how long it's probably been on you... just say "Oh well."

Sunset over the river
Usually, right after a bunch of small mutterings of "Oh well," a few big exasperated ones, and maybe some internal expletives I am overcome with gratefulness. Because this place is beautiful and its people are beautiful and I am being given the opportunity to learn a new language and to put my own education at use for the education and empowerment of others - and that is fulfilling.

And out of the blue come people with ideas that are right up my alley. I've been asked if I would like to teach a computer and typing class for women and girls. I've been asked to help with a leadership camp for young women in December. This group of Haitian women, when asked who should be a cosigner on their bank account for the scholarship program, thought of me. (Obviously they don't realize one of my biggest struggles is just to return a movie on time.) 
Morning walk

In other news:

I rode in a van with a turkey.
("The turkey won't move" they said... "The turkey is sleeping" they said...)

That turkey was not sleeping. 
After we dropped off the 4 other people sitting with me, the turkey and I had some bonding time. 
We had a mango-eating competition to see who could eat 2 mangoes the fastest. Watch here.
Fierce Competitors
Barak won.
We now call him "Wa Mango" or "Mango King"

And here are some other pictures I will leave you with:

An artist painting at the workshop next door.

Aileen and me by the river

Some kids watching us 
Out with our friend, Gardyne


  1. JEN -- GREAT PIX, GREAT ESSAY! I loved the "Oh, well" piece: would you think of submitting it to a Catholic journal? I think it's well worth the try [probably not till later!]. Love to Aileen and Pat, and Congrats to BARAK, the Mango King! I posted the YouTube on my Facebook. People love to follow what you all are up to. . .

    Peace and prayers daily. You are learning the deep lesson -- it's not WHAT we do, but WHO we are and HOW we witness that really makes the difference in our world. . . let the Haitians keep teaching you! Thanks again!

    1. Hi Jennifer. This is uncle David. Hope your doing well. Merry Christmas. Happy New Years. B safe. Love ya.