Sunday, August 27, 2017

Patronal Feast in Jeremie, Saint Louis Patron Saint

So much of Haitian celebrations are an intermingling of religion and social occasions. The beauty of the Haitian people shines through, their elegance and their sense of color and festivity always comes through. Who would have thought that after hurricane Matthew this would even be possible. A feast for the soul, but also for the eyes and ears.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Truth and Consequences

Poverty changes people

Many outsiders have a hard time understanding why it is so difficult to obtain information from Haitians, and once they have the information they are looking for, it turns out it is not exactly the truth. But rather it is part of a narrative that can be repetitive and adjustable.
For Haitians in poverty (and even for those who are not) truth is a flexible means to obtain what they need. The underlying motives are often hard to discern, but usually have to do with what people see as self interest which might not be at all what we define as such. This different understanding of what truth is exactly, often leads to misunderstandings and even resentment on the part of foreigners, especially Americans.
This flexible understanding of truth is not a character flaw, but rather a coping mechanism to deal with the unremitting poverty. It is a survival mechanism that is not completely selfish, but rather a way of obtaining basic needs. Once this objective is achieved whatever comes of it it to be shared with those with whom they live. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Jeremie ou nan ke m

After hurricane Matthew struck Jeremie on October 4, 2016 it was difficult to recognize the town and the Grand'Anse region. To look at so much destruction was depressing, and I could not wrap my head around it. Little did I realize that I also had become traumatized. My beloved Jeremie was no longer the city I knew and loved. It has changed, and it took a while to accept that change.

But today I went to visit a friend who lives quite a ways away from the center of town, a good 45 minute walk. These are some of the things I captured:

Flowers, blooming, trees bearing fruit, dogs lazing in the sun, cocks crowing - all signs of life, simple, and yet profound. There is no reason for despair, life is persistent, hope springs eternal.
With that sentiment, I am starting to write my blog again, because Jeremie ou nan ke m (Jeremie you're in my heart) .

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017

"At the core of Farmer's longevity and success is his ability to see the problem for its stark reality.  Instead of always expecting to win--a trait he says is common to the American idea--Farmer advocates that a better approach when dealing with situations like Haiti is to be prepared for what he calls the "long defeat" an acceptance that we will lose but we will do it anyway, if in the process we will relieve someone's suffering."
This quote was sent to me by a friend, unfortunately she no longer remembers where she read it. But that does not take away from the significance of the quote and its impact it had on me. I have been in Haiti for 17 years now, and from time to time the question what has been accomplished begs for an answer. It is then when I read the quote, and it lifts my spirit and encourages me to continue.This is especially true when natural disasters hit, where we have no control. To pick up the pieces and to continue living means we do consider life a gift not to be abandoned so easily. we work through the pain and loss and come out on the other side.

 Hibiscus after the hurricane.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Impact of Poverty

One of the difficulties we experience with our students at the University of the Nouvelle Grand'Anse (UNOGA)
is their difficulty in dealing with "if" statements. This was pointed out o us by a professor who aught mathematics at the university. This could point toward a difficulty in looking in to the future and working with possible out comes and open-ended questions. Conditional statements such as "if" statements, are inherently future-orineted.
Th answer to a question about what a student wanted to do after graduation was usually: "Get a job."  According to the professor, when questioned further, most could not be more specific.
We can speculate that this is a phenomenon associated with poverty. When poverty has been the norm for an entire community for multiple generations and people are necessarily focused on obtaining their next meal, there maybe little time or incentive to dream about or plan for the future.
These observations can have serious implications for the future of the students as well as for the university itself. Graduates without dreams and a vision for the future may become employed by an NGO and make a good salary, but will never see the possibilities for future businesses and the impact  a solid, sustainable business can ultimately have on Haiti.
Students who cannot look into the future cannot create a viable business plan. It takes people with dreams and drive, fire in their belly, to inspire others and convince them that what looks impossible is possible.
Not all is lost. Problem-solving skills, planning and creativity can be taught. UNOGA is preparing for that.
Thanks to Bob Boeke for these very astute observations based on his teaching experience at UNOGA.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

This is a land
so vibrant and alive
that laughter will come bursting through
as imperious as the sun
and the spirit will survive
resilient as the soil.
- Dennis Brutus 1978 ”Love; the Struggle”

This poem so aptly describes Haiti. We are in a new year now, we have commemorated the 4th anniversary of the earthquake, and the strength and courage described in the lines above shines through at every turn There has been much improvement in 2013, but so much more remains to be done. Already in this the first month of the new year we have experienced a shortage of gasoline, almost 2 weeks without electricity, and because of the latter no water, and now no cooking gas. And yet, life goes on, and amazingly it is not lacking in laughter. The beauty of people visible at every step. While tragedy is always right around the corner, so is laughter, and an unfathomable faith that carries one though no matter what. 

This young man was under the rubble of his fallen down house in Port au Prince after the earthquake, now is in his last year of management study at the University of the Nouvelle Grand'Anse. A survivor in so many ways, who can despite it all laugh today.
Nou se wozo; menm si nou pliye, nou pa’p kase / We are like reeds, though we may bend, we will never break.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Before I came to Haiti, I only knew pointsettas growing in a pot. Here in Haiti they get over 6 feet tall and they always bloom in December. No wonder we adopted them as Christmas flowers. While I am enjoying myself in cold and wintry Chicago, I think about why I am in Haiti. And I come to appreciate this great gift contained in crossing over to other people's lives, communities and culture. Jwaye Nwel tout moun!