Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, 2010

This time last year, I was chattering away about the year's reading and posting links to interesting articles. I was looking forward to the new year after a relaxing Christmas vacation. I had no idea how my life was about to change.

When the new year began, I continued to post trivia: new words I'd learned, pieces I'd read. And then came the post from January 14th. The title was "We are alive." I wrote:
This is my first time online after the earthquake - guess I just outed myself about where I am. Please, please pray. Things are worse than anyone can imagine. Our whole family is fine and our house and school are standing and apparently undamaged. 14 others at our house.

What a year it was. This is my 410th post this year. I think my blog was on the verge of dying a natural death; in 2009 I had only posted 94 times. But in 2010 I became a compulsive blogger. I couldn't stop writing. I couldn't stop weeping and wailing about Haiti and what had happened to it and to its people.

But weeping and wailing wasn't all I did in 2010. This year I experienced the most intense emotions of my life. The most intense fear, panic, grief, and pain, but also the most intense love, joy, and gratitude. I felt like a teenager again, careening between one extreme and the other. In September I called it "the roller coaster of grief and joy."

For the last couple of years, I have chosen One Little Word. In 2009 my word was "LOOK." In 2010 I hadn't chosen a word when the year began. I was thinking about the word "LOVED." There was no way I could have known how 2010 would be the year when I finally began to grasp how very much God loves me. I wrote more about that here. My evidence for God's love for me, by the way, is not the fact that my family and I survived the earthquake. He loved those who died just as much. But in the middle of my grief and pain, God met me. He showed me His love through the beautiful way He took care of me when my world fell down. He met my every need. So much so that I felt guilty. On January 18th I wrote about how overwhelmed I felt: overwhelmed with pain, with gratitude, and with guilt - why was I being cared for when people in Haiti were suffering so much?

I did my best to tell others about what was going on in Haiti, both on my blog and in the opportunities I got for public speaking. I felt there was nothing else I could do. Well, that and support my husband, who was working long days in Haiti coordinating relief work. That was hard to do, being so far away, and not getting to talk to him very often. I had to try to be where I was and let him do the same. And God gave me other people to talk to; He gave me my family and He gave me friends, new and old.

I wrote here about some of the lessons I learned during my time in the States in the first half of this year.

When I got back to Haiti, the challenges continued. I felt broken and of course, Haiti was broken too. Here's a post about a building I see often. We were tired of crisis, what with people living in tent cities everywhere, cholera, a hurricane, and election-related protests.

I was going to say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," but Katie already used that line. Instead I'll say that this year was not at all what I was expecting. It was terrible and terrifying, but it was also joyful and I end it appreciating everything and everyone in my life more than ever before.

My One Little Word this year is "TRUST." God showed me in 2010 that I can trust Him, even when the worst happens. I can trust Him in loss and suffering. I can trust Him with those I love. I don't want to forget that in 2011. I hope it will be an easier year than 2010, but there's certainly no guarantee of that. But whatever happens, I know God will be with me. I will continue to pray fervently for Haiti and work as hard as I can helping to educate future leaders for this beautiful country. I will also leave Haiti in God's hands, trusting that even when I can't see it, He is working.

Poetry Friday: Apollinaire

I'm writing this post a couple of weeks in advance, since I'm not sure I'll have access to a computer on this future date (December 31st) to post. I looked in my copy of this book to give me inspiration, and I thought what Laurie Sheck chose was perfect, so that's what I'm going to share.

Sheck has Richard Wilbur's translation, and I will also link you to the translation at (why don't people list the translator?), and to the poem in French, which is how I read it first, in college.

I love Apollinaire's reminder that, though the days don't come back, joy comes back again after sorrow. I learned that this year, among many other lessons. And the joy that came back was greater than the joy I had before, because joy tinged with sorrow is an awareness of what life is, how beautiful it is and how fleeting. 2011, I fear you, and yet I reach out to you, too, knowing that God will be with me.

Mirabeau Bridge

Guillaume Apollinaire

Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine
Must I recall
Our loves recall how then
After each sorrow joy came back again

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

Hands joined and face to face let's stay just so
While underneath
The bridge of our arms shall go
Weary of endless looks the river's flow

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

All love goes by as water to the sea
All love goes by
How slow life seems to me
How violent the hope of love can be

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

The days the weeks pass by beyond our ken
Neither time past
Nor love comes back again
Under the Mirabeau bridge there flows the Seine

Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

Here's the translation at and here's Le Pont Mirabeau in French along with helpful commentary if you're preparing for your bac.

Happy New Year! I hope to see you in 2011.

The Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Harry Potter Revisited

My reading has slowed down considerably lately, or at least my finishing of books. I have been reading around a lot and not finishing much. But yesterday I finished book #66 of the year - and it's looking as though that will be the last.

I reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The first time I read it was right after it came out. I wasn't one of those who stood in line at midnight or one who pre-ordered; I showed massive restraint, waited until the next day, and bought my copy from the heaps at WalMart. Then I read it as fast as I possibly could. We went on a trip that week, and I was in a hotel room with my son and my nephew. I put the boys to bed and then sat on the floor between the bathroom and the room door and read the book by the light from the bathroom until I finished it.

If you didn't read the book yet, stop here, because there might be some spoilers coming up.

It was good to read this book again, and I enjoyed it very much. I love the King's Cross chapter, and seeing all the various threads brought together. I love the complexities revealed in the characters, particularly Dumbledore, James Potter, and, of course, Snape. My favorite quote: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" I realize that this could be taken to justify all kinds of delusions, but to me it simply means that the life of the mind has an existence of its own.

I like Rowling's wordplay, her creativity, and the characterizations, which became increasingly subtle in later books. The whole Harry Potter series was entertaining and fun.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out with the Old

I always enjoy reading people's end-of-year reflections. I've been in a reflective mood myself, and I'm sure I will be posting in that vein in the next few days. Meanwhile, I particularly enjoyed Heather's take on the year that was.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Poetry Friday: Hark how all the welkin rings

Two years ago I posted Charles Wesley's Christmas hymn, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." This year I found a more complete version, with the wonderful original opening line: "Hark, how all the welkin rings." Welkin is an old English word meaning heavens, or just sky. I wonder if anybody sang it this way this Christmas.

I am sad that some of these verses are never sung any more. For Haiti in 2011, I'm asking God, "Now display thy saving power, Ruin’d nature now restore."

For Christmas Day

by Charles Wesley

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconcil’d!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb!

Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as man with men to appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruin’d nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner man:
O, to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup, at A Year of Reading.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

John's Haircut

I wanted to follow up on this post. If you scroll down to the bottom of it you will see an announcement that John McHoul had agreed to have his head shaved if Tara and friends could raise $50,000 to begin work on a hospital at Heartline. They raised $56,000, and here's a video of the haircut.

It's fun to see John get his head shaved, but it is seriously wonderful to think of a fully-equipped maternity hospital at Heartline. There's already a birthing center, but because many of these women are high-risk, Heartline ends up having to transport women in labor quite often, and there just aren't a lot of good options for them. This hospital will be life-saving and will treat these women with dignity, respect and love. Every woman should deliver her baby in peace and safety. Hooray for Heartline for making that possible for the women they serve!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Amen, Tara

What she said.

In the Bleak Midwinter

Kelly Fineman shared this video with her Poetry Friday post and it is so beautiful I couldn't help sharing it, too. I love this Christmas poem with its reminder that Mary was a new mom, loving her baby, as well as its focus on the divinity of Jesus and the amazing fact that He came to this world even though Heaven itself isn't big enough to hold Him. (At the link to Kelly's post you can read the whole poem, since the performance doesn't include all the verses.)

Poetry Friday: The Present

I finished all my school work yesterday, so today I am home with a very different kind of to-do list. It wasn't easy yesterday, writing lesson plans for the first week of January, thinking about that upcoming anniversary of the earthquake and remembering last year, when I looked forward to the new year of 2010 with so much hope. I shed many tears as I wrote those lesson plans, and I am imagining that teaching them will be challenging as well.

Today I am thinking about the present, and what a gift each day is. Including this day, the first day of my Christmas vacation. This is the oldest of ideas, carpe diem. I always tried to seize each day, but the earthquake burned into my brain that we never know what day is our last. Life is a beautiful gift, and a gift to be enjoyed now because we don't know when it will be gone.

So of course, in that mood, the poet to be reading is Pablo Neruda. (By the way, I just recently saw The Motorcycle Diaries and one of my favorite things about the movie was the way the characters kept quoting Neruda.) Today I am thinking about Christmas Present, and about the joy that each day brings along with its difficulties.

I have the George Schade translation of Neruda's odes (sadly I can't read them in Spanish), and online I found a different translation (not sure whose). So I'll post part of the translation I have and then link you to the other one. I like the Schade translation better but I'm not equipped to say which is more accurate.

Ode to the Present

Pablo Neruda

as a board,
this hour,
this day,
like a new glass,
- there's no
of the past -
we touch
the present
with our fingers,
we cut
its measure,
its sprouting,
it's alive
with nothing
of irremediable yesterday,
of lost past,
it's our
at this
moment, bearing
sand, eating
from our hands,
seize it,
don't let it slip,
get lost in dreams
or words,
grab it,
hold it down,
until it obeys you,
make a road of it,
a bell,
a machine,
kiss, book,
cut its delightful
woodlike fragrance,
and make of it
a chair,
its back,
try it out,
or else
a ladder!

Here's the whole thing in a different translation.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Poem Farm, and Amy has a wonderful original poem today, so go read it posthaste, as well as the others linked there. That's one of the things on my to-do list for today.

Seize the day!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The next thing on my to-do list is to write lesson plans for the first week back at school in January. I am having a hard time with that. I keep trying, but I can't even think about what I'll do with those class hours. I just can't seem to write "January" on the planning sheet. I look at the plans I wrote for the first week of school last January, and I can't remember teaching them. And then I think about the second week of school, and that Tuesday that shattered Haiti and all of our lives: January 12th, the earthquake that destroyed the city where I live and killed 300,000 people in 35 seconds.

A friend suggested writing "Day 1," "Day 2," "Day 3," and so on, instead of those scary January dates leading up to January 12th. It's a good suggestion, but still, I can't start the planning sheet. I just can't.

So I was doing what I do: distracting myself with something, anything. I cleaned my board really really well. I made a bunch of extra copies of my Reading Log form. I looked at my schedule for next semester. I even got out planning sheets. And then I decided to read some blogs.

And I read this post, where Jonalyn Fincher writes about an accident her dad had, and how God met her family during their time of crisis, in big and small ways, in very personal ways that mattered to her.

Here's a quote from the post:
During house church this last Sunday, Andrew asked about what I do when I feel under the weight of a blues week – as last week was – what comforts me? I told him that I know I’m under Mighty Wings. I’m covered, I’m protected and if I’m under God’s shadow then he must be near. Even when I don’t see him.

Thousands of years ago a Jewish musical artist and king wrote,

“How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Ps 36:7). (Thank you to Robin Cox for sharing this meaningful verse with me!)

I’ve meditated on that verse for months and months now. Lynn, a pastor’s wife in town, shared a quote about lovingkindness at Finn’s baby shower months ago.

Giving a child a piece of bread with butter is love; spreading jam on it is lovingkindness.

Ah, God's lovingkindness. It brings tears to my eyes to think of how He has met me in the past year, like He met Jonalyn, in ways that mattered to me. In March I wrote this post about how God was showing me how much He loves me. I know that now in a way I have never known it before: God loves me.

Some of the ways God has spread jam on my bread in the past year:

Family. He let me spend months with my parents unexpectedly. And both my brothers were in the same state, with their wives and children. The three of us live in three different countries and who knows when we will ever be able to spend so much time together again? I got to go to Pigeon Forge with my parents and my kids, drink tea and talk with my sisters-in-law, who are like sisters to me, enjoy my nephews and nieces, share in family dinners where we all ate and laughed until we hurt. And in spite of the forced separation my family suffered, with my husband in Haiti and the kids and me in the States, God brought us closer together than we have ever been. We appreciate each other much more now than before, and treasure our time together.

Friends. God showed me how many wonderful people He has put in my life. Old friends and new ones blessed me in more ways than I can even count. I'm crying now as I write this, remembering how very, very good God was to me, and continues to be, through my friends. I've written often about this before. I needed people, and they were there. They loved me so well, and they continue to do that. As Haitians say, m'pap janm suspann di Bondye mesi: I'll never stop thanking God.

Writing. For years, my writing has been more a source of guilt to me than anything else. I should be writing more. Why can't I get anything published? What I write just isn't good enough. Now I'm writing more than I ever have (or at least since, as a teenager, I filled notebook after notebook with angst that I find excruciating to read now), and I'm experiencing, maybe for the first time since the inhibiting effect of graduate school, that compulsion to just write it down. Who cares if it's good or bad? Who cares if anyone reads it? If I don't write I'll explode. And it feels so good to be writing like that again.

Oh, and that's not all. I've written it before, how God blessed me this year with music, meaningful work to do, exercise, and so much more.

What does all of this have to do with planning for January? It's still going to be hard to do it. I'm still avoiding it, sitting here in my classroom typing away while the planning sheets lie, blank, on my desk. No matter what, January is going to be traumatic, and not just for me. I know it's normal to be afraid and anxious and sick to my stomach as that terrible anniversary approaches.

But I can trust Him. I know I can. I can trust Him not just for the bread but for the jam. No matter what happens, I know He will be with me. No matter what January brings, and the rest of 2011, and the rest of my life, however long or short that is.

How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another Monday

It feels good to be at work this morning after so many days at home. We are not having a normal day at all. This is finals week, and we are trying to get the semester finished off, so just the high school students are coming in today to take their exams while the elementary and middle school students stay home. I am teaching two small high school classes so I had exams to prepare (done and turned in), and I also have parents and kids dropping off writing that didn't get turned in last week, so I have piles of grading. There are notebooks that need to be graded too, and lesson plans that need to be done for January. But even though I have work to do, I feel a need to blog too, so I'm starting off with that.

So far this hasn't felt much like the Advent season, but a couple of things yesterday helped that. I've missed church the past two weeks - two weeks ago we had the elections and last week my husband had just returned from an overseas trip and was exhausted, and our car wasn't working either. Yesterday I got to go to church and that felt great. We worshiped at home on the days we missed, but it's not the same as being with our friends for worship. As always, I cried as I was overwhelmed with God's goodness and love for me - it feels so personal these days.

Last night we had a staff Christmas party; it was a rather muted version of the annual event, because of the situation. It was at school, and we sang Christmas carols together and ate and talked. I love Christmas songs, and particularly enjoyed "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," (which of course made me think of this piece, a Christmas tradition over at Tara's blog) and "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," with its "hopes and fears of all the years" met in the quiet streets of an occupied town.

Speaking of quiet streets, it rained in the night and is still raining now, and nothing is more effective at calming protests than rain. I felt conflicted about being happy about the rain. There are still so many people living in tents for whom the rain makes life miserable. But at the same time, it washed away some of the mess and the ashes from last week's burning, and it does prevent trouble in the streets. If we can just get our finals finished...

This year instead of a white Christmas, it's a black Christmas, with the dark ashes of burned tires raining down everywhere. But I don't need a white Christmas. Feeling like Christmas, for me, has nothing to do with cold weather. I have had more warm Christmases in my life than cold ones. It has to do, instead, with the music and the activities we usually have. I'm glad we got to have some of those yesterday.

And I'm glad to be at work today, with others who are committed to the mission of our school, with kids who have come in to take exams. and finish up the semester. I'm glad to be getting work turned in. These things make life feel more normal.

Christmas isn't about normal, though. It's about abnormal. It's about God reaching into the mess of humanity and saying, "Here's a gift." It's about a young girl whose hopes and dreams for her life were completely overturned. It's about those "hopes and fears" in the darkened city streets. It's about God's love right there with us in the middle of our pain and confusion, holding us together. Just holding us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eleven Months

Today marks eleven months since the earthquake. Haiti is in the midst right now of another crisis. CNN asks, "Are you in Haiti? Share your Palin images and cholera updates with CNN iReport." That article is so full of crises that there's barely room for Ms. Palin. It seems the crises never stop, but I'm taking a moment today to thank God for my life, and for the lives of all of us who survived that day back in January. Life will never be the same as it was before, and we grieve all who were lost, but we are alive. And to quote a philosophy I saw on a tap-tap once, "Where there's life, there's hope."

I thank God for every day He gives me. I thank Him for each day I have lived since January 12th, for every moment. I thank Him for the blessing of life, which is full of so much pain but so much beauty as well. I thank Him for hope that in spite of what we see around us, it will be better some day. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Saturday, December 11, 2010


This time of year is always consumed with grading, and even though life has not been normal for the past few days, the grading we shall always have with us. Tuesday was supposed to be the final deadline for my kids to turn in their writing, and of course we didn't have school on Tuesday, so it's still trickling in, dropped off by parents at the office or emailed to me. I have been plugging away at it, but it has seemed slower going than normal. I am distracted and it's hard to stay motivated.

I find that I have to pace myself with grading. If I try to do too much at one time, I either start being too generous and just slapping grades on things (which is what my students would like), or becoming hypercritical and marking kids down for not being Nobel Prize winners (which is what happens more often). When I find either extreme happening, I have to stop and take a break.

I am sad that the semester is ending this way, and that we won't have a chance to read our children's stories to preschoolers (we'll do it in January), or read the rest of the Christmas poetry I had prepared, or finish What Child is This? before Christmas, or play silly word games on the last day. These are minor pri manifestasyon, but they matter to me.

I sometimes still think of those lesson plans that were on my desk the afternoon of January 12th, great lessons for the next day and the rest of the week that never got taught. You make your plans, put in your time preparing, but you just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. All you can do is be faithful today, in this moment. It's a lesson that Haiti has taught me, and the earthquake reinforced it more memorably.

And being faithful today, in this moment, means more grading. And more, and more!

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Day, New Life, New Hope

Yesterday in this post I wrote about the costs of these protests and how sometimes they seem too high. I chatted with a friend online last night and got some reminders of how important hope is. We can't give up, no matter how bad things look.

Then this morning, I read this post. One of the costs I wrote about yesterday was women delivering babies by themselves because midwives couldn't travel. This woman, Ruth (we even share a name), was blessed to be a part of the prenatal program at Heartline. Ruth had to walk to the birthing center because tap-taps weren't running, but her story has a happy ending.
Ruth named her daughter Grace. It is not common for Haitians to give their babies a name at birth. Partly this is due to so many babies here dying. The last few women we have delivered have already picked out names before they deliver. This shows us that they are expecting to have a live baby. It is very special to be a place of life and hope.
We have seen Ruth a couple times since she delivered. She is adjusting to a whole new life. Please be praying that God would encourage her and give her much grace and patience in being a new mother.

There is hope. There's a new baby. Life goes on.

Ben and Katie on the Demonstrations

Ben and Katie wrote about the demonstrations here and here.

Poetry Friday: The battle that did not happen

Earlier this week, I wrote this poem, Fire, about the rioting in Haiti. But today, I want to post something more hopeful. I shared this back in January of 2008 during the post-election violence in Kenya. What I wished then for Kenya I wish now for Haiti: peace, peace that lasts so long that nobody remembers any other kind of life.


William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed – or were killed – on this ground
hallowed by the neglect of an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

More Riot Photos

We are very fortunate to have so many talented photographers on campus this year. Heidi Saylor has posted commentary and amazing photos. Take a look.

Amen, Alexis

What she said.

Pri Manifestasyon

Yesterday there weren't many merchants out on the street, but the guy who is usually selling sugar cane right by our gate was there, and my husband asked him if there was anyone around selling fruit. He disappeared and was back a few minutes later with a lady with a box, and in the box were some tangerines and avocados.

The gate guard let the merchant on campus and my husband started to haggle with her. He is very good at this; I have to admit that he is better at it than I am. This is a bit of a shame for me since I grew up in a developing country and he did not, and bargaining is supposed to be something women are better at than men. Also, my Kreyol skills are better than his, so I would be expected to bargain more effectively. But I accepted a long time ago that in this, as in so many other things, he just surpasses my abilities.

However, this time his haggling didn't work at all. The marchann wasn't budging on her prices. These, she said, were pri manifestasyon, demonstration prices. My husband laughed and paid up. She was right. Where else was he going to go to find better bargains? He ended up paying 100 gourdes for eight tangerines and 25 gourdes for an enormous, beautiful avocado. Normally he would pay ten to fifteen gourdes for an avocado and about 50 gourdes for six tangerines. (The exchange rate is about 40 gourdes to a US dollar.)

Of course, paying pri manifestasyon is something we can afford. But I started wondering about the other prices of this season of protest. How many children didn't eat at all yesterday or this morning because their parents weren't able to get out to sell on the street? How many people with cholera, or any other sickness, couldn't make it to the doctor? How many women gave birth by themselves because the midwife couldn't make it? How many people didn't get their AIDS or TB drugs, which have to be taken properly and on time if they are to be effective? How much aid didn't get where it was supposed to be going? How many people who might have invested in providing employment for Haiti decided to go elsewhere? How many children missed out on learning (remember, those children fortunate enough to be going to Haitian schools at all lost four months earlier this year due to the earthquake)?

How many people lost hope of Haiti ever being different?

And for what? Whichever candidate ends up being president, will he or she really make such a huge difference? We can always hope so, but based on what we've seen in the past, it's hard to believe.

Can't we have an election where people go and vote and their voices are respected? Can't Haitians be treated with respect and dignity? I read in people's comments online that a common opinion is that Haitians are acting "like animals" by demonstrating and protesting. Of course violence is never helpful, but tell me what other way the majority of people in this country have to express their point of view, other than getting out on the streets and demonstrating? (Or manifesting, as people here often say when they are speaking English.)

A Facebook friend posted this quote today from Herman Melville: ‎"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed." Really, how do we have the nerve to criticize how Haitians respond to the political crises of their nation? What do we (Americans like myself) know about being voiceless?

It reminds me of the advice people give to tent-dwellers to prevent cholera. Wash your hands with clean water. Great, where am I going to get that? Boil your drinking water. Where am I going to get charcoal to do that? And how will I store it so that it stays clean? Use latrines. OK, except that there aren't nearly enough and lots of them are out of order and not clean anyway.

What do we really know of how difficult life is in Haiti, even those of us who live here and see it all around us? We haven't earned the right to criticize Haitians. Go live in a tent for for eleven months without enough to eat and with no hope for anything better, and then vote in a corrupt election and have the powers that be decide how things are going to turn out without paying attention to the votes, and then talk to me about how you would react.

But even though I know that people have no other way to speak out, I'm tired of all of it. I'm tired of the constant crises. I'm tired of the disrespect for the people's voices. I'm tired of injustice and violence and the burning up of what people have worked so hard to have. It's too much. Haiti has paid enough of these outrageous prices. Enough now.

Heather quoted yesterday from the Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. (Caution: link plays music.) That is the cry of my heart. Emmanuel, God with us. We can't take any more. We have paid the pri manifestasyon and now we can't pay them any more. Deliver us.

And More

Heather posted one more time last night...

And Ben and Katie posted a video.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

And Another Post from Heather


Heather Updates

Here, with more great photos.


Photo Credit: New York Times


Burn it
Burn it all
Tires and logs,
Merchants' stands where on better days
Vegetables tempt passers-by.

Burn it
Burn it all
The contents of an overflowing dumpster
Pushed over in the middle of the street.

Burn it
Burn it all
Posters of a smooth, smiling candidate
Ripped down by people who support
A different smooth, smiling candidate.

Burn it
Burn it all
Schoolbooks, voters' cards, ballots,
Dreams for the future,
Pride from the past.

Whatever you have,
Add it to the blaze:
Stoke the fires,
Burn it all.

Ruth, from

This post is linked to Weekend Wordsmith from December 3rd.

More on Riots

I have stayed home today, even though I could have had a front-row seat to all the drama on Delmas. My husband went to work and watched some of the rioters from the campus, but I contented myself with looking at pictures taken by people who live over there on or near the campus, including people with cameras much bigger and fancier than mine.
Katie got some great ones, for example.

My husband told about a guy with a big super-soaker gun (you can see pictures of him at the link above) directing traffic. He saw people tending the burning tires, motorcycles going up and down with Martelly posters, people on the side of the road preparing Molotov cocktails. He saw people pushing dumpsters over and dragging them into the middle of the street. Others were pulling down Celestin posters and banging on billboards with rocks. There were some angry people but most seemed to be having a pretty good time, he thought.

I am sad and disgusted that this is happening yet again. By this I mean post-election violence, but not just that. I mean all of it; the drama, the continued state of crisis, the constant diet of adrenaline. When will this country have a few months of ordinary? When will there be a whole year with no messages from the U.S. Embassy suggesting Americans avoid crowds and public places? When will children have a full year, even one full year, uninterrupted by days off because of chaos? No hurricanes? No earthquakes? No epidemics of deadly disease? No riots? Is that too much to ask?

More from Heather

More photos and commentary from Heather.

More Riot Pictures

Here and here.

From Campus

Brittany Meadth took this photo over the wall of our campus this morning.

More photos here.


The election results were finally announced at about 9 PM. It was expected that Manigat and Martelly would be the two candidates in the runoff (if no candidate has more than 50% there is automatically a runoff). Instead, the two candidates are Manigat and Celestin. Celestin is the government's preferred candidate, belonging to INITE party like the current president, Preval, who is unpopular at the moment due to his lack of effective response after the earthquake.

I never talk about politics on this blog and I'm not planning to start now, but here's how it affects us: we are home again today. In the streets, crowds burn and shoot. Children all over the country lose yet another day of school. And don't forget that a million people are still living in tents after the earthquake, and that 92,000 people have been infected with cholera and 2,000 have died.

And here are some other people talking about politics:

Ben and Lexi
Haiti Elections 2010 (in French)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


The announcement about who won the first round of the elections is scheduled to take place in just over an hour. Rumors are flying, and they run the gamut from everything will be calm to everything will explode. Take your pick, and good luck trying to decide whether or not we should have school tomorrow.

Here's Ben and Lexi's take on the situation. Here's what the AP has to say. Here's a really interesting article about Manigat and Martelly.

Stay tuned.

Another Day Off

I'm not going to complain about having a day off. No matter what the reason, it's always a treat. But today was supposed to be the day all my final middle school writing came in, giving me plenty of time to get it all graded. Due to the anticipated announcement of election results, and potential problems resulting from said results, we're staying home again today.

I have plenty to keep me occupied: grading the work kids have already turned in, writing tests, and working on the growing mess in my classroom. Let's hope we'll have school again tomorrow.

Friday, December 03, 2010


I got this mango in the cafeteria today with my school lunch. I took a picture of the glorious fruit with a dictionary, for size comparison purposes. I didn't eat it yet because I didn't have time to go home and take a shower and brush my teeth before my next class. But I will be eating it as soon as I get home.

Don't hate me because I live in a beautiful tropical country where it's warm and sunny in December and we get mangoes like this for lunch on an ordinary school day. Some of us just get all the blessings.

Poetry Friday: Dawn Dreams

Wednesday's Poem-A-Day email from contained a poem about dreams, the kind you have right before you wake up, the ones that are tantalizingly close, but escape before you have a chance to look at them. I think Rachel Hadas has perfectly captured how that feels.

The poem ends:

Their colors at once brighter and less bright
than you remembered, they
hover and insinuate all day
at the corner of your eye.

Here's the whole thing.

I have been waking early lately, before sunrise. Since I live in the tropics, the sun comes up about the same time every day, even now, in the winter. I never used to be a morning person, but lately those moments of dawn dreams receding in the pink and orange sky really have been hovering in my mind all day long. Thank you, Rachel Hadas, for putting the experience into words.

Don't you love how poems do that: give you words for what you feel? What have you read lately that has put an elusive moment on paper for you? Or, what moment have you put on paper because nobody else had expressed it quite the way you lived it?

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Time Again

This morning I linked you to photos interpreting the theme of Time. I've been thinking a lot about that subject - time - lately, as this terrible, difficult, impossibly beautiful year of 2010 comes to an end. I can hardly remember the end of 2009. What did we do for Thanksgiving? (I looked back on my blog and found out.) How about Christmas? (I'm not entirely sure.) Everything was eclipsed and driven from my mind by the earthquake of January 12th.

Already I feel the coming of the year anniversary, as though I am being pulled towards it. Frankly, January scares me. Today in seventh grade we read a John Updike poem about December. He ends it by saying:

The shepherds wait,
The kings, the tree –
All wait for something
Yet to be,

Some miracle.
And then it’s here,
Wrapped up in hope –
Another year!

As soon as I read those words, I thought, Hope in the new year? Not likely! As I had that thought, a kid in the second row voiced almost exactly the same idea.

Where has the time gone, the eleven months, and soon a whole year, since the earthquake? Sometimes it seems as though it happened last week - after all, the city is still full of rubble, and of people living in tents. Other times, it feels far in the past. Most of the time I can hardly remember what my life was like before it.

As the year anniversary inexorably approaches, I wish the earthquake had never happened. I wish that for the sake of people I love who lost so much that they can never get back. I wish that for the sake of my beloved Haiti. And yet, God has brought so much into my life that is beautiful this year. New and deepened relationships. A greater ability to trust Him. A sense like I've never had before of how much God loves me - and all of us. God didn't let the earthquake happen so I would get those gifts. I can't say that often enough. I'm not that full of myself, to believe that. But I have been amazed to watch Him redeem the pain and misery in my life and the lives of those around me. I can't even explain it, but I am so grateful for it.

Time. We have no control over it. We don't know what will happen in the next moments. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

And yet, Time. Such a beautiful gift. Twenty-four hours a day, to use as we choose. To keep or give away. To praise or complain. To love those around us or to focus on ourselves.

Soon 2011 will be here. I greet it with some trepidation. What next? But I also know that God was faithful in 2010, even though one of the worst things imaginable happened. He was faithful to me, and He was faithful to people who lost so much more than I did, and He was faithful to people who lost their lives. His faithfulness is not about everything working out peachy. It's about how, when everything falls apart, He is there. He just is. He's there in so many ways, and one of the most amazing is in His people. And I know He'll continue to be there in 2011. I can trust Him to do that.

Theme Day - Time

The Daily Photo blogs always have a theme day on the first of each month, and this month's theme is Time. Eric has a photo of a public clock in Paris and here are thumbnails of the photos posted by other participants around the world. It's always fun to see how these talented photographers interpret the monthly themes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The month of November is ending today, so it's time to reflect on how I did with NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I didn't post every day, but this is my fortieth post this month, so I think it all evens out. In this post I reflected that such a month is really unnecessary for a compulsive writer like myself, and perhaps NaQuiBloPoMo would be more appropriate (National Quit Blog Posting Month). So maybe I'll try to cut back in December. We'll see how I do at that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back to School

I'm not going to lie: I enjoyed having five days off in a row. The Thanksgiving holiday, and the extra opportunity to spend time with family and friends, was wonderful, and having another day off on Monday, though I was sorry for the reason for it (election mayhem), was an unexpected treat.

Tomorrow we have school again, though, and I think I'm ready. I'm ready to see the kids and I know they are ready to be back. I can just hear them now whining about how bored they were having to stay home all those days. I know they will be excited to see each other, if not to get back to work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

And it's Official

No school tomorrow. Please pray for Haiti.


Since getting home from Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, I have basically been wearing pyjamas. (I did dress briefly yesterday in honor of a visit from the electrician.) A weekend in pyjamas is generally a good thing, although I was sorry to miss church this morning. Reports on whether people could be on the streets or not varied. Some said there was a ban on all private vehicles; others said only private vehicles could be out. The US embassy advised remaining indoors, and although I don't always turn to the US embassy for advice on my behavior - they tend to overreact - we did what they said this time. Why all this? Just election drama. It appears that many of the candidates are calling for the elections to be annulled. One person was shot out in the Artibonite Valley and there were "clashes" in the south.

Apart from more helicopters going overhead than usual, my neighborhood is quiet, but I am reading reports on Facebook of people protesting in the streets in other areas of the city. It's hard to imagine how an orderly election could have been carried out under the conditions in Port-au-Prince right now. This article talks about polls opening late, about confusion over dead people on the rolls, and people being unsure where to go to vote.

The next question: will there be school tomorrow? Officially yes, but if the unrest increases or gets worse, perhaps it will be canceled. We'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Read This

There's nobody quite like Corrigan. Here you can read about how he risked his life to get a Thanksgiving turkey and how he believes that Jesus really is making all things new.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Ordinary

On Sunday I mentioned that we would be reading odes in eighth grade this past week. We did, and a couple of kids tried one: I got an ode to water and an ode to chocolate. Good topics. When I started to write my own, though, I couldn't narrow down my thoughts to one object, so I ended up writing an ode to ordinary.

Ode to Ordinary

Praise the tedium of an ordinary day.

Getting up in the morning,
Spreading butter on bread,
Dishes to wash and laundry to fold,
Bickering children with beautiful, dirty faces.

Meetings and emails,
Papers to grade,
Sticky notes and dust.

The regular faces, the regular greetings,
Good moods and bad,
Grumbling about the weather.
Beans and rice for lunch on a green plate.

The sun came up today.
The earth is not quaking under my feet.
I am not in pain.
Dress up and use the good china!

Praise, praise the tedium of an ordinary day.

Ruth, from

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is what I wrote last year about the things for which I was grateful to God. This year I could write the same list, though the order would probably change a bit. I would still put my family first, but my friends would be second. How very, very thankful I am for the people God has put in my life this year. I can't express how thankful.

Every item on this list is so much more valuable to me this year than it was last. The earthquake brought all of my blessings into sharp focus. It takes very little to bring me to tears of gratitude for my survival and for the sheer abundance of my life - far beyond what I need. Thank you, Lord.

Sixth on my list last year was my health. I have a friend going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer right now, and she wrote a few days ago that anyone who wasn't suffering physical pain should thank God for that fact. I have, every day since I read her words. Freedom from pain is a wonderful gift, and one that could be gone at any moment, one to be appreciated.

This morning I read for the first time these words from Emily Dickinson:

One day is there of the series
Termed "Thanksgiving Day"
Celebrated part at table
Part in memory -

I have many memories on this Thanksgiving Day, mostly of people I lost this year, either to death or other kinds of separation. Laughter and tears are very closely related in my life right now, joy and sorrow, love and pain. I am a bundle of emotions, nerve endings very close to the surface. But the uppermost emotion today is gratitude. The words "Thank you" are much too weak to say what I mean.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers, wherever you are. Hug your friends and family and tell them what they mean to you. Enjoy every blessing God gives you. Believe me when I tell you that you don't know when it could be gone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seventh Graders and Books

My seventh graders are writing children's stories, so we've been reading picture books for a while together and talking about how the authors approach the stories, the kinds of stories young children enjoy, and issues of craft. It's a lot of fun - I have to admit that reading aloud is one of my favorite things to do, so I probably chose this unit partly because of that.

This year's seventh grade class is extremely opinionated and not at all shy about expressing those opinions. This week in our three days of school I read three books about people: Miss Rumphius, My Great-Aunt Arizona and Island Boy. They hated all of them, especially the last, which we read today.

"Why does everyone die in these books?" they grumbled. I pointed out that everyone really does die, and not just in these books, but they thought that young children should be spared that knowledge. They found the books depressing, too long, and, as one student always remarks, with not enough explosions.

Another book they hated was Jane Yolen's beautiful Owl Moon. The word "boring" was mentioned more than once.

This class doesn't do lyrical, and it doesn't do melancholy. The specific request for next week is "funny books." But I know that not all kids feel this way. A case in point: myself. My favorite fairy tale as a child was "The Little Mermaid," not the Disney version (far in the future still) but the heartbreaking Hans Christian Andersen original. It made me sad, but in a pleasurable way, and I loved the language of it. I cried when I read Little Women at about ten, not a few tears but deep, racking sobs. And then I reread the book countless times until I almost had it memorized.

I guess you could draw the conclusion that I was (and perhaps still am) strange. I wouldn't read those stories to this class, for sure. Instead I choose the funniest, most action-packed read-alouds I can find. I just finished Carl Hiaasen's Flush with them, and they liked it a lot. Now I'm reading What Child is This?: A Christmas Story, by Carolyn Cooney, a book about foster children. So far the kids are a bit grumpy about this one; it does tend toward the lyrical, and there are a lot of characters, something they find confusing. But I'm persevering because it's a good book and eventually everything will come together for them, I hope.

Mighty to Save

We sang this song in Chapel this morning.

We sang this the night of the earthquake, in the chapel. We all felt we needed to get together and pray, and sing, but we didn't end up staying in there long because the ground kept shaking and it felt much safer to be under the sky.

I remember singing, "Our Savior, He can move the mountains." Ben commented that he thought it was a little soon after an enormous earthquake to start singing about moving mountains. Then he said, "Excuse me, I always deal with stress by making inappropriate jokes." I think of that every time I sing the song now.

But there's much more in this song. Here are the words:

Everyone needs compassion
Love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations

He can move the mountains
For my God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender

Shine Your light and
Let the whole world see
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen King

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I finally finished Mockingjay this morning. I'm not sure why it took me so long. If anything, this is the fastest-paced of the three books. While the first and second books take their time setting the scene and developing character (though they are both full of heart-pounding action), this one felt much more rushed.

(Warning: spoilers ahead, if you haven't read the first two books.)

The book opens with Katniss making a return trip to District 12, which has been destroyed. She lives now in District 13 along with Gale and all the other survivors from District 12, except for Peeta, who has been captured by the Capitol. Peeta is being used as a propaganda tool by the Capitol and District 13 wants to use Katniss the same way if only she will agree.

Large parts of this book read like a description of a video game, and I think that will appeal to many of my students. But I'm not sure what they are going to think of the ending. To me it felt inevitable, and I was glad that Collins had the courage to follow through. I know that's cryptic, but I can't spoil it for you - go read it yourself!

I have read reviews that criticize this book for being too anti-war but to me this is the beauty of the series. Katniss learns about the futility of violence and hatred and deals with the terrible consequences of both. When people dehumanize each other and see other human beings as less than themselves, everyone suffers. There's not a way to sugar-coat this idea, and Collins doesn't even try. Heavy stuff for adolescents, and yet this is the way the world is. This dystopic series is well worth reading and discussing.

This was book #65 of 2010.

This post is linked to the November 27th edition of the Saturday Review of Books.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


We're going to look at some odes this week in eighth grade. To me this seems a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving, to read some of Pablo Neruda's joyous praise of ordinary objects. I wish I could read them in Spanish, but I enjoy them very much in English.

You can read some of Neruda's odes here and here and here.

I think I'll try to write an ode this week. There are so many things to praise.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Earthquakes are Taboo

Today I was playing Taboo with my English Enrichment class and a student gave this clue: "This happened in Haiti ten months ago."

Seriously? Even in Taboo, there's an earthquake?

Poetry Friday: I dwell in Possibility and Wave

Lately, the facts of life in Haiti - tents, storm, cholera, riots - have been extremely depressing. But there's more to life than facts, right?

I dwell in Possibility
by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility --
A fairer House than Prose --
More numerous of Windows --
Superior -- for Doors --

Of Chambers as the Cedars --
Impregnable of Eye --
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky --

Of Visitors -- the fairest --
For Occupation -- This --
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise --

I love this picture of gathering Paradise. There is so much beauty around us in the world and in other people. Possibility is a wonderful place to dwell.

For Emily Dickinson, gathering Paradise involved writing, and it does for me, too. (Not that I put myself in her league, or even anywhere near her league.) The other day I was overwhelmed by waves of emotion: fear, pain, love, gratitude. I felt almost that those emotions came from outside me. I closed my eyes and felt buffeted by them, unable to do a thing about it. But since I dwell in Possibility, I decided to write about it. Here's what I had at the end of my free period:


Floating on my back,
Face baking body cool,
Trusting the ocean to hold me up,
Mind empty of thought.

Without warning the wave submerges me.
I'm underwater,
Full of water,
Crushed by water.
Slammed into the sand,
Pinned down by a force outside myself,
A power that dwarfs my efforts to escape.
I struggle for air,
Claw towards the surface,
Where I will be myself again
Instead of nothing but a desire to survive.

How can you speak of controlling this wave?
This wave of pain-grief-love,
This wave that flings me onto the beach,
Gasping and covered with seaweed?

by Ruth from

I have no illusions that this is a great poem or even a good one, but oh, I felt so much better after writing it. I felt more able to deal with myself and my surroundings. As I've said before on this blog, you can do what you want with words, move them around as you choose; not so people or circumstances. I can't control those waves of emotion but I can control what I do with them. It's part of gathering Paradise, writing it down, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the unbearable.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vertières Day

Today we have the day off school to celebrate Vertières Day. Vertières was a decisive battle in the Haitian struggle for independence against the French. This site, which plays a loud, bombastic version of the Haitian national anthem, calls the battle "one of the most horrifying battles ever fought in the history of the world," which, if you think about it, is really saying something. Here's some more information about what happened.

This is the first year that I've been admitting on my blog that I'm in Haiti, and I'm enjoying being able to tell you, my readers, about the holidays here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I've skipped three days of posting. It's a disgrace, especially when Haiti is in the news again. And once again, not for a good reason.

So you can go read about that if you want, but this morning I'm reading about children's books. Specifically, the nine most subversive ones ever published. It's not what you think!

And speaking of subversive, Kelly Gallagher won't teach to the test. I mean, honestly. What can you do with a teacher like that?

Both of these articles, and lots more, came in my weekly email from the NCTE. I know about what's going on around me in this country, and my students write about it and talk about it. We talk about it together, and grieve and pray for Haiti. But some days I just have to choose to focus my energies where I can make a difference: in my own classroom. If my students learn to think more clearly and express themselves more forcefully, can the world be better in the future? I don't know, but I sure hope so.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mangoes and Haiti

Photo Credit:

In 2008, I described eating a mango for lunch and the ensuing mess. Back in 2006, I wrote this post called Joy is a Mango. I wrote:
The other day I went into the auditorium at my daughter's school and saw that they have put up a large fruit at the front to represent each of the fruit of the spirit. I laughed when I saw that joy was a mango. How perfect. Of course joy is a mango, as its juice runs down your chin and its sweetness fills you up. Joy is extravagant and cheery and so is a mango. Joy sustains us through tough times, and hey, a mango does a good job of that too. It's good for you and delicious too.

Today I read this article about Haitian mangoes, which does a good job of capturing some of the delight and frustration of this country I love so much.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ten Months

Today marks ten months since the earthquake in Haiti. If you watch the video at this site, you can see a graphic representation of how many aftershocks there were during the first month after the initial quake. Those have slowed (although apparently there was a small one yesterday), but the metaphorical aftershocks are still happening. Grief, pain, and fear still shake us.

And then there is the cholera. This article does a good job of showing the impact of this terrible illness.

I recently read that now 4% of the rubble has been cleared. When you consider that in my nine month anniversary post I said that 2% had been cleared, you can appreciate that the cleanup has been getting faster. However, there is still much work to be done.

I wonder which memories will last the longest if I am fortunate enough to reach an age where I begin to forget even the most intense moments of my life. Will I remember scenes from boarding school? What about my wedding day? Surely the births of my babies will be among the last memories to go. But I think the night that will stick with me the longest, even if all my other memories fade, will be January 12th, 2010, lying shivering on the soccer field with my husband and children, sick with fear, feeling the earth tremble beneath us again and again.

Today it has been ten months since that day. Every day I grieve in some way the losses of the earthquake, whether it is while reading something written by one of my students or while talking to a friend or while looking around me and seeing the evidence that still remains of the destruction. But every day, too, I delight in my continuing life, and the many gifts that God has given me. I take none of them for granted.

Poetry Friday: "as if death were nowhere in the background"

The cholera epidemic continues, and gets worse, and yet in the midst of it all there are many moments that are beautiful and filled with joy - joy in my family, my friends, my students. I almost feel guilty for being happy when so many are miserable, but I know that these days are to be seized.

So while it's a day of suffering in Port-au-Prince, it's also, in a strange way, a good day for a poem about peaches.

"From Blossoms," by Li-Young Lee, ends this way:

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

You can read the whole thing here.

Death is always, always somewhere in the background. Except when it's in the foreground. And yet life is filled with so much beauty, so many perfect gifts from God. I'm grateful. "From joy to joy to joy."

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cholera Continues

This is a heartbreaking article.

Missed a Day

Oh no! I just realized I didn't post at all yesterday! So much for my NaBloPoMo ambitions!

Well, sorry. I was too busy reading Mockingjay.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I ordered my copy of Mockingjay right after it came out, probably in early September (it was published in August). The book was shipped immediately and has spent the intervening time in Customs. Meanwhile a couple of my students have already read the book and are burning to discuss it, which means, to tell me how it ends.

While my husband was in the States last weekend, he bought me another copy and hand-carried it in. Last night I eyed it longingly but I knew that if I started reading it, I wouldn't go to sleep for hours, if at all. Today I took it to work with me, and I actually read a few pages while the seventh graders were doing their silent reading, but any teacher knows that's not a time when you can lose yourself in a book; crowd control is the main issue, and then I have to keep track of what everyone's reading, too.

This evening I was hoping to get started for real on the book, but guess what? I left it in my classroom! So I guess I will have to wait another day.

Nobody tell me what happens, OK?


at what my friend Jess saw today!

Monday, November 08, 2010


It was good to be back to a normal school day today. I enjoyed teaching, used my free period to write a poem, and still caught up with all my grading.

My husband was out of the country this weekend (I never like to tell that on my blog until he gets back, lest criminals read it and come rob me - senseless, I know), and got back today. While he was gone, as usual, things fell apart in the house, with the most dramatic example being an electrical fire leaving charred wires and no city power - again. (Oh yeah, and there was a hurricane. But maybe I mentioned that already.)

In any case, it's good to have him back.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Back to Work

Tomorrow I have to go back to work. I'm ready - my lesson plans have been done since Thursday, and my grading is all done, and I'm ready to see something other than my house. But work?

I only worked two days last week, since Monday and Tuesday were planned holidays and Friday became a Hurricane Day. Since I had caught up with grading on my free days, I lounged around most of the day Friday and all weekend. And you know, it's easy to get used to that.

Mind you, I'm not complaining. Six months of no job to go to cured me of complaining about my job. Each day is a gift and a blessing. I love my students and I love doing something that I'm good at (some days) and enjoy (almost every day). It's so much fun working to encourage kids to love reading and writing, to "craft literate lives," as Randy Bomer puts it in a great book I've been reading for as long as I can remember, and will one day finish.

But that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the rest.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Photos from Hurricane Tomas


The Story from Haiti, part twenty

In this episode, Conserving Haitian Culture, Dick Gordon talks to Cori Wegener, a "cultural heritage professional" who is helping to preserve art that was damaged in the earthquake in Haiti. She also worked in Iraq at the National Museum. While artwork isn't, of course, as valuable as human life, it is a part of a nation's history. This was fascinating to me. Here are some photos of Wegener working with art in Haiti.

Here's my index to the episodes The Story has done on the Haitian earthquake and its aftermath.

The Story from Haiti, part nineteen

The first segment of this episode, Recuperating after the Quake, tells about Francis Almonor, and his struggles after the earthquake to get his sister Myrtha to the US for the medical care she desperately needed. Myrtha was paralyzed from the waist down after her school collapsed on her. She was being cared for in wretched conditions. Francis was successful in getting her the care she needed, though she remains paralyzed.

Here's my index to the programs The Story has done about the Haitian earthquake and its aftermath.

Here Comes the Sun

"It seems like years since it's been here!"


The night seemed to go on and on, with the rain falling constantly. I discovered a spot where the roof leaks that I didn't know about before - I guess it only leaks at times when the rain has been going on for almost 24 hours and the whole world is saturated.

Yesterday I was talking to a Haitian friend of mine. She is planning to go to the Plateau Central, where she is from originally, to visit her family. Because I care about her, and because she'll be traveling through cholera country, I began to nag her about hand-washing, being careful about what she eats, watching her 2-year-old and being sure he is safe. She told me that she had talked to her brother on the phone and asked him about what kind of arrangements he had for purifying water. He told her that blans (literally, white people, but the word is used for any foreigners no matter what their color) had come around bringing water purification tablets. But he also said that many people were scared to use the tablets because they said that the blans were trying to kill the Haitians. She reassured her brother and told him to go ahead and use them. I wonder how widespread that kind of suspicion is. I have heard many stories of people introducing new water systems and making a point of trying the water themselves in front of the local people, to prove that it really is safe. It seems that this is not a waste of time, and if anybody distributing water purification tablets in the Plateau Central is reading this, you might try it!

It's only the 6th of November and this is already my twelfth post this month. I think that NaBloPoMo is completely unnecessary for someone like me. Instead we should have NaQuiBloPoMo, or National Quit Blog Posting Month, to encourage me to quit writing so often and allow people who want to keep up with my blog a chance to do something else with their lives as well. I just seem to be having an eventful year and to have something to say all the time.

Friday, November 05, 2010

More on the Storm

Here's a summary of how Haiti fared in Hurricane Tomas and here's what the Prime Minister had to say.

The Storm

While today was, I am sure, a miserable day for people living in tents, the storm was so much less damaging than it could have been. It has rained steadily all day, and there are reports from the south about destruction, but Port-au-Prince was spared the devastation we feared.

A friend posted this explanation from a meteorologist she knows. We were, she says, "drenched in mercy."

Praise God!

Poetry Friday: Longfellow

I'm writing this post on Wednesday night, anticipating that I may not have a completely reliable internet connection on Friday, what with the hurricane maybe hitting that day, and all. I found this enormously long poem by Longfellow about building a ship. It seems appropriate as I think about boats around the coastline of this island being moved to safe spots away from the ocean.

(By the way, as I keep saying, Haiti is more than disaster. Take a look at this found poem from the Haitian streets that I posted on Sunday.)

Longfellow is preachy and old-fashioned. Somewhere I have a volume of his poetry that belonged to my grandfather. They are the sort of poems you can imagine being read aloud by gas lamp in Victorian parlors. Somehow this is exactly the sort of thing I want to read as I wait for a hurricane. It helps me to think that

We shall sail securely, and safely reach
The Fortunate Isles, on whose shining beach
The sights we see, and the sounds we hear,
Will be those of joy and not of fear!

Here are some excerpts, and you can read the whole thing here.

(I left out the love story, in which the bride is compared to a barge. A barge? I would not take that as a compliment.)

The Building of the Ship

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Build me straight, O worthy Master!
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!"

The merchant's word
Delighted the Master heard;
For his heart was in his work, and the heart
Giveth grace unto every Art.
A quiet smile played round his lips,
As the eddies and dimples of the tide
Play round the bows of ships,
That steadily at anchor ride.
And with a voice that was full of glee,
He answered, "Erelong we will launch
A vessel as goodly, and strong, and stanch,
As ever weathered a wintry sea!"


And within the porch, a little more
Removed beyond the evening chill,
The father sat, and told them tales
Of wrecks in the great September gales,
Of pirates coasting the Spanish Main,
And ships that never came back again,
The chance and change of a sailor's life,
Want and plenty, rest and strife,
His roving fancy, like the wind,
That nothing can stay and nothing can bind,
And the magic charm of foreign lands,
With shadows of palms, and shining sands,
Where the tumbling surf,
O'er the coral reefs of Madagascar,
Washes the feet of the swarthy Lascar,
As he lies alone and asleep on the turf.
And the trembling maiden held her breath
At the tales of that awful, pitiless sea,
With all its terror and mystery,
The dim, dark sea, so like unto Death,
That divides and yet unites mankind!


He knew the chart
Of the sailor's heart,
All its pleasures and its griefs,
All its shallows and rocky reefs,
All those secret currents, that flow
With such resistless undertow,
And lift and drift, with terrible force,
The will from its moorings and its course.
Therefore he spake, and thus said he: —

"Like unto ships far off at sea,
Outward or homeward bound, are we.
Before, behind, and all around,
Floats and swings the horizon's bound,
Seems at its distant rim to rise
And climb the crystal wall of the skies,
And then again to turn and sink,
As if we could slide from its outer brink.
Ah! it is not the sea,
It is not the sea that sinks and shelves,
But ourselves
That rock and rise
With endless and uneasy motion,
Now touching the very skies,
Now sinking into the depths of ocean.
Ah! if our souls but poise and swing
Like the compass in its brazen ring,
Ever level and ever true
To the toil and the task we have to do,
We shall sail securely, and safely reach
The Fortunate Isles, on whose shining beach
The sights we see, and the sounds we hear,
Will be those of joy and not of fear!"


Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
'T is of the wave and not the rock;
'T is but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest's roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee, — are all with thee!

Poetry Friday is hosted at Teaching Authors today. Here's the round-up.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Ten Months Later

The Boston Globe posted some amazing, heart-breaking photos of Port-au-Prince now, almost ten months after the earthquake.

Thursday morning

So I've finally broken down and started tracking the storm. It looks as though it's coming, no matter what, but it has moved a bit west and may not be quite as direct a hit as expected. However, there will certainly be a lot of wind and rain, neither of which is pleasant for people living in tents.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Disaster Fatigue

I used to call my son's bedroom a disaster area, but now that doesn't work so well, since I've seen some actual disaster areas. I'm looking for a new metaphor.

Haiti is having quite the year for disasters. We began January with an earthquake which killed 300,000 people on the spot and left many amputees, and while we went for a few months with just the standard miserable poverty of 1.3 million people living in inadequate tents, we then had a storm in September that destroyed 5000 of those tents. That was followed by flooding and then a cholera outbreak (6700+ sick, 442 dead), and now we are waiting for Tropical Depression/Tropical Storm/Hurricane (not quite sure how to address him) Tomas to smash into us. (Not only that, but while I was in the States we had serious flooding where I was, and many people up and down the river lost their homes. This prompted a friend to comment that perhaps I was causing the natural disasters.)

I just read this article, which seems to me to have a slightly hysterical tone. I mean, since when does a news article use the word "terrifying?" Just tell me the news and I'll decide whether to be terrified or not. And on reflection, I think I'll pass. It seems a big waste of energy - there will be plenty of time for terror once this thing actually hits us.

At this point I wouldn't be surprised to look out the window and see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding by. I think I'd just offer the Pale Horse of Death a carrot and tell him he's looking, well, pale. I'm a tiny bit tired of all of the dramatic events.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

November 2nd

Today is another day off, this time for All Souls' Day. Here's an article about yesterday's All Saints' Day celebrations and how the earthquake gave them added significance for participants this year.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Reading Update

Book #64 was The Bull from the Sea, the second in a trilogy by Mary Renault about ancient Athens. This one is about Theseus after he gets back from killing the Minotaur.

I read this trilogy when I was in high school, at the recommendation of my Latin teacher. It's surprising to me that I remember nearly nothing about them. I wonder what I made of them at that age. The Bull from the Sea is a fantastic book, with a brilliant mixture of mystical myth and shrewd psychology. The love story between Theseus and Hippolyta is especially beautiful. I think I wasn't ready to read this at 16. Now I'm going to track down the other two books in the trilogy and reread them as well.

This post is linked to the November 6th Saturday Review of Books.