Foret d’Pins

The Haitian Pine Forest!  Sixty-five degrees and fresh pine air awaited us at the top of the mountains, a welcome change to the hot and dusty streets of Port-au-Prince.  It is a rare day when we load up everyone in the middle of the week along with a big bag of muffins, Pringles, and some chocolate bars (that may have melted  beyond the point of eating).  Ahh, but that is what we did on Ash Wednesday, a day when all of the stores and schools are still closed in Haiti because of Carnival. The beauty of God’s creation surrounded us and at every turn we stood in awe and wonder at the One who made it.

Immediately as we hopped out of the car to hike up a trail through the pine trees, the kids spotted wild strawberries covering the ground.  They started picking and eating the strawberries.  As soon as they cleared out a patch, they went looking for more.  They were delicious, but only enough to whet the appetite for more.

There is no way these wild strawberries would ever truly satisfy my family of eight, but the kids were determined to try!  Strawberries are a coveted item amongst my kids. We found a 2 lb pack of imported strawberries at the grocery store for the bargain price of $13 just the other day.  Needless to say, we didn’t buy the imported ones.  I am pretty sure they didn’t taste as good as the wild ones anyway.

Other cool things we found on our trip to the Pine Forest:

Hannah's five leaf clover

Agave antillarum (as best as I can decipher)

Flower stalk of the Agave plant, close to 12 feet high!

As we were heading back near the end of the day.

I cherish these moments with my family.  I love the joy of hiking through the forest.  I adore the One who makes life worth living.

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Saut d’ Eau

Last Sunday afternoon, we took a two hour drive out of Port-au-Prince to see a part of Haiti that we have yet seen.  Eric was scouting out the land to see about drilling a well in a little town called Zorange.  The fam piled in the car to spend some quality time together. What we found was beautiful!

The road up the mountain was actually a great road, wide and even.  This is always a bonus!  As we wound our way up the mountain, the sights of the city were diminished by an amazing view of the Caribbean Sea.

We found the little village Eric was looking for and instead of turning around and heading home, we kept going up and up.  We came to this beautiful waterfall cascading over the side of the mountain.  As we were gaping out the window, Eric asked a man on the street what we would find if we continued up the way.  He laughed and said what we were looking at was nothing and to continue further up to see the real waterfalls.  What a surprise!  We found this little community at the top of the mountain called Saut d’Eau, ( French for ‘waterfall’)and a Haitian national park.  We had to make a donation to get in and then a group of locals followed us to watch us look at the waterfalls.  Funny how they didn’t have to make a donation…

Christa with her little brothers.

Unfortunately, we showed up late in the afternoon.  We are planning a day trip soon so we can go prepared with lunch and swimsuits.  What a gem in the middle of a country where everything is difficult!

Oh yeah, and on the way home we found these amazing watermelons for sale.  Watermelon for breakfast in the middle of February? Sure, we can handle that.

 

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Two Years Later

Today is the two year anniversary of the disastrous earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The eyes of the whole world shifted to and lingered upon the tiny nation on the island of Hispaniola on January 12, 2010.  Over the course of the past two years, many people have asked us to recount that day.  Sometimes I can tell it without too much emotion, other times I remember too vividly the wild adrenaline pushing though my veins for hours afterwards.  The fear, the instability, the ignorance that I had as I comforted my little Lotzes are all too real.  We were completely unaware of the complete tragedy that had unfolded around us.  With an attitude of humility, knowing that God’s hand was on each of us, we are forever thankful for the mercy that spared our family.  May we continue to live in Haiti to work and serve where our lives were spared tragedy.  May we forever be thankful for the huge blessings that God has supplied in our lives.  

Today is a national holiday in Haiti so the people can grieve, fast and pray.  Let us join in prayer for brothers and sisters in Haiti.

Haiti, how in the world I ended up here…

We had an awesome weekend, blessed to spend time with great friends.  Our friends, Jim and Debbie Hamilton were here to bring down their daughter for a year long stay to live and work in Haiti.  She is volunteering at Zanmi Beni, the children’s home for developmentally disabled little ones. You can read more about Zanmi Beni here.  Eric spends a great deal of time over there at Zanmi Beni, so we will be in close contact with Hannah Hamilton as she works there.  We are looking forward to having her frequent our home to eat some pizza in the coming months.  I am so glad she is here!

It takes me back to when I first graduated from college with a degree in middle school education.  I spent the next two school years teaching at Sonlight Academy in Port-de-Paix, Haiti.  My first year, I had a small class of eighth graders and the second year, I had a bunch of seventh graders.  I remember that time in my life with great fondness.  I loved my students and really felt like I was doing something for the Lord.  It was where Eric and I met.  It is where Christa was born.

That last year of college is kind of a scary time in life.  The previous 18 years of my life had been pretty much marked out for me, and this was the first time I felt the weight of my future.  I remember knowing around October of my “super” senior year (yes, it took me five years) that God was leading me to Haiti after I graduated.  I chose to put this information on the back burner and pretty much ignore it until March of the next year, in the middle of student teaching.  God was faithful, and I decided to obey rather than rebel.

Preparing for a year long trip out of the country is intimidating.  Trying to figure out what all you need, what you can do without, what you MUST have.  I have to admit, I am glad that season of my life is over.  Then comes the harder parts of language learning, trying to figure out the money and the exchange rate (no one wants to be cheated!), and learning cultural do’s and don’ts.

Right when I stepped off the plane for that first year in Port-de-Paix, a beautiful rainbow stretched across the sky.  I remember thinking that God was surely blessing us…then it started raining.  Hard.  We gathered all of our luggage and plastic trunks at the airport. The airport started to flood.  Soon we were in ankle deep water during a big thunder storm.  The electricity started flickering, and went out for a while. The water got deeper.  We waited on top of our luggage until we could locate our bus and make our way out into the black, rainy night in knee deep water.  I always thought Springfield, MO had a rainwater runoff problem until I moved to Port-au-Prince!

I love Haiti and I am so glad that Hannah Hamilton loves Haiti, too.  I am anxious to see what this year holds for her!

Pale Tortillas

When we moved our family to Haiti in the fall of 2008, perhaps there was a bit of guilt that played into my parenting.  Every time we traveled down from Ft. Jacques into Port-au-Prince, we bought the kids sodas and papita (fried plantain chips) on the side of the road. When we went to the grocery store, we bought them snacks that would remind them of the States.  These treats soon turned into expectations from the kids and unhealthy habits were formed.

Last December, I was desperate to move from “survive” to “thrive” with my kids and our home school.  Occasionally, I would get a glimpse of what our home school could be; what it needed to be.  Somedays everything went so well.  The kids were happy to do what ever I told them they needed to accomplish.  They worked their hardest and did their best.  There were no emotional outbursts and running to the other room.  It was enough of a glimpse that I started investigating ways to ensure that there were more days like these.

One area of our lives I focused on was the nutritional habits of our family.  I thought maybe eliminating sugar might be part of the solution for our home school woes.  As I investigated what “eliminating sugar” actually meant, I read about the differences between white flour and whole wheat flour.  I bought a five pound bag of whole wheat flour just to experiment some with it to see if I could do anything fun with it.  Turns out I found some really great recipes on the internet and in just a matter of time switched out all of my recipes for whole wheat flour.  My kids didn’t fuss a bunch about the switch.  It has taken some trial and error in finding the right amounts and consistency.  I found a lot of useful information from heavenlyhomemakers.com that I use on a consistent basis.

After nine months of mostly using whole wheat flour (and LOVING it), I cannot find any more in Port-au-Prince.  I am not the “sugar nazi”  and we have in no way eliminated sugar; but I am confident we are much healthier now than we were a year ago.  I don’t want to switch back to white flour, but it seems at the moment I have no choice.  I have pale tortillas, pale pizza crust, pale muffins.  When I put any baked items on the table, my kids all think they look funny.  My measurements are all off, I cannot get the consistency right anymore.

The question now stands, will the grocery stores ever restock with whole wheat or should I look for other options?  I can buy wheat here in Haiti, but I need a grain mill to grind it.  Do I want to be a hard core whole wheat grain grinder?

tomato and basil pizza, with a pale crust

I miss my whole wheat flour…must find a grinder.