Thursday, February 24, 2011

I love... carrying baskets

If you have spent any time with me, you know that coordination is not my strong suit. I bump into doorways. I spill whole trays of food on the carpet. I drop stuff. I trip on nothing in particular. My husband, affectionately making a play on my maiden name, calls me "Spaz." It didn't take much observation of Haitian women to notice that I have a lot to learn from them in this arena.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Haitians women carry themselves beautifully. As one of our compatriots observed, "They're not afraid of their bodies." They walk with purpose, but only as a woman can--back slightly arched, abdomen gently pushed forward, chest proud, shoulders relaxed, hips swinging. And to top it all off, we saw many women (and a few men) carrying precarious loads balanced on their heads.

Photo above by Ron Holt

The contents of the head-top cargo varied. Many women seemed to be headed for the open air market, where most people buy their food and supplies. Some carried baskets heavy laden with fruits or vegetables. Others had 5-gallon buckets full of water, weighing about 40 sloshing pounds. One whom I observed confidently carried about 20 dozen piled-up cartons of eggs.

Photo above by Ron Holt

The men seemed to have similar technique, but slightly different contents. The one below was walking up and down the street selling bannann peze, fried plantains, to the drivers stuck in traffic and pedestrians. Others carried building supplies--wooden doors, bags of cement, bundles of rebar.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Even children were in training. Boys and girls carefully loaded small jugs of water, school books, or cardboard boxes on their heads, glancing at their near-by mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends, for verification of the technique.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Of course, carrying baskets and goods on one's head is difficult. It is a hard reality in a country where only the ultra-rich have cars, and even the wheelbarrows have a rental fee. Carrying drinking water for a family is a time-consuming and arduous task that often prevents women from having enough time and energy to take on an informal side-business for a little extra money. Even so, there's something beautiful about seeing a person use the little bit that they have--their own body--to move their life forward by a few small steps. And these steps are not stumbles. They are intentional. Poised. Strong. Balanced. Confident. Practiced.

Like I said, I have a lot to learn.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I love... eating locally

As in the US, farming policy is a big deal in Haiti. The video above is part of a local Haitian effort to encourage local food consumption. The idea is to buy traditional foods from Haitian farmers, rather than imported rice from the US. Better for the economy, and better tasting, based on the menu items listed in the song.


Thank you to Ben and Lexi for sharing this video and the translation of the lyrics from Creole!


Lyrics translation:

Mama darling
Papa dear
Give us local food to eat
Mama darling
Papa dear
We want to eat local food

Monday, what we want : Corn and beans, vegetables
Tuesday, what we want : Manioc, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, yams and sauce
Wednesay, what we want : Sorghum, beans, meat sauce and fresh juice
Thursday, what we want : Tonm tonm [a dish made with okra], uncle tonm tonm…
Friday, what we want : White corn, fish and avocado
Saturday, what we want : Soup with goat meat, black beans, dumplings and crab
And Sunday? Local rice, local chicken, plantains… yes!

Elders agree? Yes!
Even children agree? Yes!
Farmers agree? Yes!
The government agrees? Yes!
Haiti, stand up! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I love... boats

Photo above by Ron Holt

I love boats. I love the faded paint that decorates their sides. Worn, experienced--almost wise. This boat knows the heat of the sun and the coolness of the water, the rhythm of the waves lapping against it, and the weight of the fishermen's bodies. When they climb in, they are hopeful. When they climb out, sometimes relieved and joyous, sometimes empty and disappointed.

Photo above by Ron Holt

I love the way that the boats sit on the shore. Like the fishermen, they too are hopeful, expectant. Sinewy muscles and the firm grip of calloused hands cooperate with oars, inching into the deep waters. As they launch, both the men and the boats are empty, and longing to be filled. Trusting that the sea has what they are looking for.

Photo above by Ron Holt

In Haiti, as in many places, the sea is less and less able to deliver the promise that its inviting lapping belies. The fish are fewer and fewer in the polluted waters closest to shore. The little boats, powered only by human strength and will, are not able to withstand the waves and currents further from the island's desolate beaches.

Photo above by Ron Holt

And still they sit. Waiting. Beautiful. With hope.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I love... play

Photo above by Ron Holt
As we prepare to return to Haiti in April, I find myself reflecting on our last visit again, thinking about the many things that I came to love about this remarkable country and these beautiful people. And, with Valentine's Day rolling around tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to join in with some fellow bloggers to share some things that I love during this month of February... Haitian style, of course!
So, to start the ball rolling, I love... play. I love to play. I love the laughter and joy of play. I love watching kids play. I love playing with my nieces and nephews. Most of all, I love the way that kids' imagination and ingenuity blossom so freely and effortlessly in play. And Haitian kids are no different in this respect than American kids, though the raw materials may look a little different.

In the US, most kids have an overflowing roomful of stuffed animals, plastic toys, dolls, trucks, cars, and on and on. In Haiti, most kids we saw barely had shoes that fit them properly, let alone any commercially made toys. But lack of pre-manufactured toys did not prevent any of the kids from playing.

Flat pebbles became tiny balls to toss, spin, and catch. Sand became a chalk board to trace pictures in. Human backs became a jungle gym to climb up to the top of. Pieces of tent tarp, some string and a couple of sticks became kites to fly in the breeze. An empty plastic oil jug and a length of rope became a wagon to pull a little brother in. A discarded plastic bag with some holes poked into it became a super-hero mask to scare a neighbor with. A broken bike wheel with the spokes removed became a hula-hoop to balance and roll. A baseball cap became a coveted object for a game of keep-away.

I was particularly delighted to watch Robbie play with some kids at the tent city that we visited. Not only did they not need any toys, they also didn't need any shared language! One of the boys introduced the idea of playing with the pebbles first, tossing one tentatively up and down in his hand and glancing over at Robbie. Robbie responded to the invitation by picking up his own pebble, and giving it a flick to spin in before he caught it again. One of the other kids jumped in to intercept the pebble from Robbie's hand, giving it his own attempt at a spin. Other kids joined in, picking up their own and showing off their skills, adding juggling to the repertoire. The kids looked on expectantly, watching Robbie scoop up a handful of dusty pebbles in his baseball cap. What is he thinking? What is he doing? They erupted into squeals and giggles when he placed that cap (pebbles and all!) right onto his head. That day was very hot, and I'm sure some of the kids' stomachs were empty, but at that moment, none of that seemed to matter. At that moment they were just playing. And I love that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A little town called La Croix

Here's a short video about La Croix New Testament Mission in Haiti, where Robbie and I will be traveling in April. It gives some background about this grassroots organization, its founding, and its current work.

La Croix Haiti Mission from CTTS Productions on Vimeo.

Would you consider supporting us in prayer or financially? The total cost of the trip for both of us $2100 (that's $1050 each). We would love to exceed that goal, so that we can offer more financial support directly to the ministries of La Croix Mission. You can make a donation by clicking here, through Church of the Holy Spirit's website. Just click on "Guest Transaction," and designate your gift by writing "Haiti Mission--Robbie and Irene Pruitt," under "Other."

Thanks for your interest, your prayers, and your financial support!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Next steps

All photos from LaCroix New Testament Mission website

For a couple of years, I have felt God increase my interest and passion for Haiti, inspiring me to long for some kind of long-term involvement. In August, when Robbie and I heard about the opportunity to to on a trip with CCH, I could see this dream starting to come to fruition. On the plane on the way back, the same longing stirred, fueling the desire to return, to hold my face toward the people of Haiti even when it would be more comfortable to turn away, to allow the Holy Spirit to draw me into greater love and understanding for my Haitian brothers and sisters. The sense of calling is undeniable, but the details of the long term involvement are still hazy. Thankfully, through prayer and discernment, the next baby step has become clear.

In April, Robbie and I will have the opportunity to join 2011 Mission Haiti, a short-term mission to LaCroix New Testament Mission. This trip is sponsored by the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an organization to which our church community belongs, and will include both adults and teens. Robbie and I are excited to be able to provide leadership and support for the teens, in particular.

LaCroix New Testament Mission is located about 40 miles north of Port au Prince. This organization is run by a Haitian pastor, fondly referred to as Pastor Pierre. He has been running this organization since 1975, and it has expanded and grown tremendously. They provide free schooling to 3,500 children in this rural region, and have a number of other ministries, including churches, water purification, a free grain mill, medical and maternity clinics, housing projects, and reforestation efforts. These ministries are community-based and Haitian-run, and are a lifeline for this arid and impoverished region. Our trip leader, Rev. John Nuzum of Church of the Holy Spirit, has known Pastor Pierre for almost 30 years, and has upmost trust and respect for him as a person and in the work he does. We hope that we can continue to build on this strong relationship.

While we are there, April 13-23, our group will be involved in a number of projects identified by the LaCroix New Testament Mission leadership. These will include building school benches, distributing food, and teaching Sunday school for children, among others. We will also have the great blessing to participate in nightly worship services together with the community. Our hope and prayer is that this experience will also minister to and teach us, and draw us closer to God and to one another.

Would you consider supporting us financially or in prayer? In particular, please pray...
  • For the people of Haiti, that God would meet their every need and restore the country
  • For team unity, discernment and wisdom
  • For protection against accidents, sickness and disease, and for travel mercies
  • That God would change our hearts through this experience, drawing us closer to Jesus, as more obedient followers of Him
  • For Godly encounters, in which we can be witnesses, and impart the love and grace of Jesus to those we meet
  • For protection against discouragement and distraction
  • For each team member's fundraising efforts, that they meet or exceed their goal.
The total cost of the trip for both of us $2100 (that's $1050 each). About half of is for air travel, and the rest is divided equally for room/board and to directly support the work of LaCroix Mission. You can make a donation by clicking here, through Church of the Holy Spirit's website. Just click on "Guest Transaction, and designate your gift by writing "Haiti Mission--Robbie and Irene Pruitt," under "Other." If you choose to support this trip financially, please let us know, so that we can be praying for you and can thank you.

Thanks for your interest, your prayers, and your financial support!
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