It’s been about a week and a half weeks since we arrived back in Haiti, but it already feels like a lifetime has gone by. We arrived the evening of the 21st tired but happy to be back. The next few days were a scurry of unpacking, cleaning, unpacking some more, and cleaning some more. We then found out Sunday morning at church (23rd) that our Medika Mamba staff had scheduled a clinic day for the 24th. Yikes, we didn’t feel prepared for that yet! When we got to clinic our moms were so happy to see us back, it was like coming home to see everyone. So many of our babies are doing so well now, and it was just such a joy to see everyone after being gone for three weeks. Our wonderful Mamba staff did such an awesome job maintaining the program while we were gone. We hadn’t advertised the 24th as a new intake day, but we still ended up admitting about 15 new kids into the program before we scurried back home to get ready for the party.
Singing and dancing and silliness started us off at the party, and then we got to eat chicken, rice and beans, marinad, fried banans, pikliz, and cake. Yummmm. Haiti certainly has good food. While we were eating, all the presents were sitting on the table just waiting to be opened and the kids were just tormented having to look at them. Finally we got to open them all and everyone was ecstatic! Each child’s sponsor provided the resources to buy the gift the child wanted this year. We had dolls and race cars and harmonicas and guitars and tea sets and jewelry … so much running around and playing! The kids are remarkable in how willing they are to share with each other. In all that gift opening and playing never once did they get angry or say “that’s mine.” I was shocked and very impressed.
Aside from all the gift giving, it was really special for Mom and me to be able to spend Christmas here in Haiti. We’ve come to think of this as home, and we have a lot of people we consider family here. We got to see our moms and babies at clinic in the morning, as well as see our staff for the first time after being gone, and then to party with our giant extended family at the Louis home was just really a great way to spend Christmas for us. — As an aside, though, I really do have to say it’s weird to celebrate Christmas when it’s 90 degrees outside!!
Christmas Day was entirely different altogether. Nasson’s godfather was getting married, and he wanted me to come along. Mom was going to be in a marriage on the 28th, so I brought along a dress for that wedding. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to wear the same dress to two weddings in a row, though, so part of my Christmas present from Nasson was another dress, jewelry, and a shawl. He actually bought a dress that fit, too, which was a pretty amazing feat as far as I was concerned.
The wedding is an interesting story in itself. We arrived at the church at 8:05 for an 8:00 wedding, and the church wasn’t even open yet. The groom was called, and he said yes, indeed the wedding was at eight. So we weren’t there early, but the wedding was on Haiti time – late. We got out of the car to wait. And we waited, and waited, and waited. About 9:30 a car pulled up with a bride inside. Oh good, they’re here. No, that’s not her, Nasson says. What?!? Okay… so there’s another wedding. By the time someone came to open the church at 10:30 (yes, for an 8:00 wedding), five brides had showed up in assorted vehicles. We went in and sat down, and I think at about 11 the wedding started. The brides – all 12 of them – processed in with their grooms and one attendant each. The wedding lasted about three hours, during which I don’t think I saw one smile from a bride or groom. I couldn’t understand, why weren’t they happy?! After singing and preaching and vows we came to the “kiss the bride” part. The newly married couples got crazy and goofy and the audience was screaming and cheering after each kiss. When they were finished, everything went back to serious again. I don’t understand, but I guess that’s normal. So even with the ridiculously long wait, it was still fun to go see a Haitian wedding – and Nasson and I got to go on our first ever real public outing together (!).
The 28th we had clinic again, and another ten new kids were admitted to the program. We got home and I started the undertaking of making Nasson’s birthday meal. It was a much bigger project than I had anticipated, especially when the mango cake ended up taking two hours to make. Magalie came over to see Mom’s dress for the wedding and took pity on me and helped me with the chicken and taught me how to break open a coconut. The food turned out well, but I think the cake was the best part. Usually Nasson asks me to make pineapple upside down cake for him, but there were no pineapples to be found, so I found a recipe for spiced mango upside down cake. Yum! I asked which he liked better, and he said “when there are pineapples make the pineapple cake, when there are mangoes make the mango cake, and when there are both make two cakes.” He loves his cake, he does.
We had another wedding on the 29th. Mom was asked to be the “maren” (godmother/matron of honor) for this wedding. The couple have been living together for quite a while and have been raising the bride’s child together. They wanted to make things right with themselves and God and get married before 2013 started. Mom’s job as maren basically consisted of holding the bride’s train and draping it over her chair when she sat. Only one couple got married this time, and (thank goodness) the wedding only started an hour late! Pastor Firmin’s church got a new home this week, too, just in time for the wedding. They started and mostly finished a new, less temporary building. The original church fell in the earthquake, but they used the original concrete pad and put new walls and a roof on it. They had to do it in 10 days so it could be ready for the wedding on the 29th. All the labor was volunteer from within the church body, and they managed to do it!
The 30th was my birthday! Unfortunately, by this time Mom and I had caught the cold that has been knocking everybody out around here, so we weren’t feeling too great. We went to church in the morning, and while I took a nap Mom made cakes to share with the kids at Firmin’s. After listening to the kids choir practice, we shared cake and they sang happy birthday to me. I had a second birthday party later when Nasson made me what translates as black rice with mushrooms. It was very yummy. He also cut up a bunch of vegetables, and there was even lettuce to make a salad! Wooo! The not so great part was when Nasson made me try the beets and then when he made me eat some raw onion to help with my cough. Yuck-o! Mom made gingerbread for me, so that made up for the onions and the beets.
On New Years Eve I went to church with Firmin’s family. Church was supposed to start at 8 pm and go until 1 am. Mom was still feeling pretty sick so she stayed home. ;The service didn’t actually start until 9 (go figure), and it ended up lasting until about 3:30. Oh my it was long! I got tired at about 11 and struggled to stay awake for most of the rest of the service. Don’t tell, but I actually fell asleep standing up during communion. My knees buckled and woke me up before I fell down. Shh. The service was actually really fun, and it would have been more fun had I known the songs. There was a lot ;of singing and dancing and singing and shouting and cheering, all to thank God for what He had done in 2012 and to thank Him for bringing us into 2013.
All in all we’ve had a very busy week! I’m planning to write another post soon to tell about what’s happening in the mamba program, stay tuned!