Monday, June 30, 2008

Damn Good Dog

Uga VI in his Blackout Jersey. The day we beat Auburn, 2007

Aye yi yi...remember this post? I saw Uga VI at the Legislature event last January, and commented he did not so look well? Poor Uga passed away on Friday from heart failure. The Bulldog Nation is in mourning. and he was buried today at Sanford Stadium in a private ceremony. You've got to be all Georgia to understand. R.I.P., Uga VI.



Yes, it's true, we University of Georgia folks reside in our own strange world!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Good-Bye Day


I wake up on Monday, and I am sad. I know the time is here. I don't know how the girls are going to take it. The room has become quite disassembled over the last few days, but I don't want to start packing in front of them. It's like pouring salt in a wound.

Ah, but there are other things to deal with. We get up and go thru the routine, me with the cold shower and all. Trying to get them dressed. They are picky about the clothing issues. W does not like anything being too large on her, and several of things I have brought, even though they are size 6 or 6X, are large. We finally settle on some white capris and a fuchsia crocheted tank top, and she looks very pretty. L wants to wear a baby-doll tank top as a dress. I say absolutely not, which she pouts about, but finally finds some shorts to go with. She makes a big production out of all this, and we finally get out the door. I turn my back for exactly 60 seconds, I think trying to find something or am putting something away. We are out in the villa courtyard again and Aves says "does L have her shorts on with that top" I automatically say yes, thinking about the ordeal of getting thru that. Aves says "are you sure?" and I look, and sure enough she has removed her shorts. So I march her little hiney back into the room. W follows to see what kind of trouble L is going to get into. L backs up in a corner and whines, and refuses to put her shorts back on and I'm not sure exactly what I am going to do next, except maybe not go to breakfast until she gets dressed? She gives in and puts her shorts back on and we finally make it to breakfast. Sheesh! The positive side is, she trusts me enough to try to defy me. And we have enough of a relationship that I feel I must assert myself as the mama-in-charge.

After breakfast I show them how to take a picture on my camera. They take a couple of shots which come out pretty good and I pat myself on the back for not showing them that earlier. I never would have had possession of my camera again, had that happened! And only God knows what would have been deleted! My most precious possessions upon leaving become my passport and my camera! Next time I realize I will have to buy them each one of those cheapie kiddie digital cameras to keep them off mine. Still, I'm glad I taught them how to do it, they loved that!





When we get back to the room, I bring them up next to me and I tell them "Mama visitau finni" The tears immediately just start flowing down their little faces. I hug them and tell them that I love them very much, and that we are getting much closer to the adoption being finished, when they can come home with me. Very last part I say in English because I have no idea how to approach it in Creole. After that, they immediately go for their zippys. I tell them they can take whatever they want with them back to the O, and they understand that, they start stuffing in all kinds of odds and ends, their new, clean underwear, toothbrushes, clothes....W wants hair lotions, my comb, etc. L goes for food. A whole jar of peanut butter, among other things. I am low on plastic bags, and things are starting to overflow so I empty out the dirty laundry and we stuff everything and more in that bag. I mean, that bag was stuffed like a sausage and overflowing! I have one more plastic bag that I put in things that parents sent for kids, to take to M. I will say, my girls were good about those things, I had told them what everything was, and who they were for, and they respected that and left them alone the entire time, even though there was a Barbie in there that they kept eying. But they would look at the picture of the Mama and the child, and they would know it was not theirs, and they would leave it. So, all this packing, mixed with tears. They wanted to take the necklaces I had bought from the vendor up at the Mission. I told W if she took it back to the O it would get destroyed or the nannies would take it away, so I wanted to keep it so I could give it to her when she got home. She seemed to understand and accept this.

We get everyone back together, and back across the street we go. Honestly, their bag was so stuffed full, it was hard to handle and it was breaking my heart. These "things" are their connection and their memory. There is some crying on and off, I'm doing everything I can to keep my own self together which is not easy. We waited on the porch for M for about 20 minutes. When she comes down, she invites us all into the kitchen, so we lug everything and everyone in there and sit down for a small visit. I ask her to please tell my girls that we are getting near the end of the process and they will be home soon. So she does, except she explains the entire end process to them in detail, I hear "interview with Mama and Papa, visa and passports" and a whole bunch of stuff I don't understand. They listen intently especially W, tears just rolling. We all visit for awhile longer, and I am just getting to where I cannot take it anymore, plus we have to leave for the plane in about 30 minutes. So we start making motions to go and we say good-bye. W and L are so sad and silent, tears still running down those faces. I just have to get out of there. I can't breathe. M follows us to the kitchen door. Aves is behind me somewhere. I go back and give M a big hug and thank her, and start walking to the outer door. I look back one more time and all the kids are crowded around M at the kitchen door crying and saying goodbye. Aves says later someone was wailing but I am in so much pain I don't hear that, by the time I make it off the porch the tears are streaming down my face and I notice my hands are clenched into fists at my sides. As I'm walking off the porch I notice that one of M's employees sees me, and has a real look of concern on her face, I keep walking out to the street and get out the gate and wait. Please God please, please let this be the last time for this. Aves shows up shortly and we wait outside the gate for Mrs. K who seems to be detained. She comes out after a few minutes...she was going to the Embassy, and was staying for another day, so it was not good bye day for her.


We go back to Walls and I throw everything left in the room into my suitcases and clean up as best as possible. I lug it out to the courtyard and settle my bill in about 5 minutes, and then we get in the van with Nicholson and Aves and me are on our way to the airport. We are somewhat emotionally recovered. At least I am not crying. It is such a difficult thing to leave them there, and they don't want to be left. These kids are wonderfully taken care of where they are, but they LONG to belong to a family. The question is always, is it better to visit, or not? I don't know the correct answer. The "experts" say keep the visits to a minimum, don't do this or that, blah blah blah. There is some truth and wisdom in their theories, but also, anyone that has raised a kid before know the experts are sometimes so full of themselves they miss the forest for the trees. I think it just depends on the kids and/or the circumstances. I know mine get huge benefits from these visits. I don't know that experts ever calculate a child's resiliency, which is actually incalculable, but definitely a factor. I will share this. On Saturday evening a man and a woman from France arrived at Walls. I sat with them at breakfast on Sunday, and they were entranced with my daughters. They knew very little English, and I must confess that my French is even worse than my Creole! However, I got that the woman was adopting (from another O) and the man with her was her brother, and that they were picking up the child that day. So when we came back from Kaliko, the child was there with her new mother whom she just met that day. The little girl was maybe 4 or 5 years old and I don't know one thing about her background or the O she had been in. But she appeared to be in complete shock. I'm sure in time it will all work out because obviously her mother loved her very much. But I wonder, is that really a better way to do it? It did not appear so, to me. So, just some more food for controversial thought. In my own case, I think the relationship that we are building now will be helpful for the future. As a single mom I do not have the option of staying home with them for a long period of time when the adoption is complete. Probably 6 weeks at the most. Perhaps I will get lucky and it will coincide with the holidays. We cannot offer any of our children a perfect life. Because life is not perfect. We love them and do the very best that we can, and this is true whether they are born to us or born in our hearts.

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Back at the airport. Aves is due to fly out around 11 so we are pushing it, but she makes it in time, no problem. After she leaves I decide to go sit near an electrical outlet to charge my phone. It had been charging about 20 minutes when we completely lose electricity. To my dismay, the generator does not kick in immediately. So we sat there for 4 or 5 minutes without electricity, and I am a little concerned. Not about my phone. Just the fact that everything will go completely down like that...what about the computers? The flight tower? You know, I am not the happy fly er anyway. But whatever. Part of me is still so sad, I really don't worry myself too much.


My plane to Miami is on time and when I board it there is an elderly Haitian woman sitting in my seat. Her hair is white, and neatly braided and pulled back. She is wearing a dressy suit. She seems to be traveling by herself. She immediately gets up and sits in near the window, which I guess is her rightful seat. I sense she does not want to sit there. I ask her if she speaks English, she says no. I look around and see a young woman across the isle. I ask her if she speaks English, and she says no, but the young Haitian man sitting next to her asks me "what do you need". I ask him to ask the elderly woman if she would rather sit in my seat? If so, I will sit at the window. He asks her, and she says yes, and smiles at me and seems relieved. So we switch seats, and I thank him. I know her feeling. For years, I flew uninhibited. And then one year, inexplicitly, the flying phobia hit me. It was really terrible and debilitating. I still had to fly, but it would take everything out of me, and worse, I was usually flying with small children. The last few years have gotten better for me, but one thing I used to do to help myself was sit on the aisle instead of the window. I must really be making progress to offer to sit at the window! But it gave me the opportunity to take some last pictures of the airport, and leaving Haiti. As the plane started taking off, the tears just started flowing down my face and I could not stop them. It was just pure gut emotion. I was leaving. My children. Again. I'm sure if any of the Haitians saw me, they were wondering what in heavens name could be wrong with this "blan", she is leaving Haiti, and she is crying???




I really did not care what anyone thought. I'd had no make up on for 3 days, my hair was flat and in a pony tail, just as it had been for 3 days, I was sunburned, I was on a plane, which I don't like, and I just could not have cared less about any of it. I was just terribly sad.

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I have learned the hard way to schedule about a 5 hour lay-over between Miami and Atlanta, whether you are coming or going, and this worked to my advantage once again on the trip back. More delays, changing gates, you name it, we did it. It's only an hour and a half from Miami to Atlanta, just as it is from Miami to Port-au-Prince, but it takes all day. I used the time to edit my photos. I just did not have any brain power to do anything else.

I arrived home at about 11:30 that night. I was thankful I'd had the foresight to take the following day off from work to recover, and more importantly, to process my thoughts and feelings about everything.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Daytrip



So, readers, do you wonder, what is the deal with all the detail? The deal is that I am trying to record the journey, my thoughts, what happened, the whole shebang, as a record for the future. For the girls, for the rest of my family, for me. I have made more trips to Haiti in the past year, than I probably ever will again, in my lifetime. In fact, for the immediate future, there is probably only one more. We wait so long for our children to come home, but when we see the end, we realize we might be missing something in the experience. I don't want to miss a thing!


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Sunday morning, and I am trying not to think about the fact that we are leaving the next day. Why does it even cross my mind? Why can't I just live in the moment and enjoy it? I resolve to do it! After all, we are supposed to go to the beach today. That is, if we can find Veniel. I think he has gone to church, and later Mama J confirms this for us. In the meantime, we play!










When Veniel came back he said, "if we are going to go to the beach, we need to leave right now!" This was not a problem for us. We are Americans. We are used to the time factor, and we had those kids as well as ourselves, packed up and ready to load within 10 minutes. W was clapping, "Yea! The machine!" She was loving these car rides. The only downside was, in the rush I forgot my sun-block. Big mistake. At any rate, Veniel, who is a very skilled Haitian driver, made the run out to the beach. It's pretty flat and mostly straight, but the road is narrow, and people on it drive fast. We did go thru a few small towns, and all of a sudden, we arrive at this swanky beach club.



I know darn well these kids have never seen anything like this before, but they are so cool and collected I wonder what the heck is going on in their little heads. Do they think in America we come to places like this all the time? Because the truth is, I really am a small town girl at heart, and although I can adapt to this lifestyle...this was my former husband's preferred mode of travel...swanky...it's not mine. I like getting in with the folks, for the most part. So I wonder, do they think this is how we will live?




It is simply beautiful, however, and I am a little sad that Haiti is struggling so hard to survive that most people, native or foreign will never see this natural beauty.


But then I remind myself, today it is about the kids. It's about not thinking about tomorrow, or contemplating other problems. Live in the moment, please!





We play in the Caribbean water for awhile, and all us are LOVING IT. But then, some jet skiers come out from behind the jetty, and start showing off. Mrs. K's little boy may have liked it, but all those little girls did not. They screamed laughed and ran for the shore. We decide it would be more manageable up at the pool.







After a few hours of this, lunch is served, so we go in to eat. Not sure what to expect, but really not expecting a catered luncheon buffet! It's all Haitian, and my girls have big plates, and pretty much eat up every bit of it. Luckily, we have gotten in before the lines get long, and we don't really linger over lunch. When we go back out to the pool area, we pretty much have it to ourselves for awhile, and we claim a small shallow pool as OURS! Because here is what was happening. As the day wore on and more and more people arrived, we had what was turning into a party crowd. OK, but not the best for these little people to be in the middle of. Their own pool gave them the opportunity to have their own space and still watch the goings on. The kids, especially our girls, were enjoying the music and getting their groove on, and it was really cute! Made me realize I better start locating some music for them.




video




Also, it appears that Cheetah is a good swimmer already, and is passing on some tips to my girls, because they were doing things in the water they had never done before, like holding their breath, (a hard thing to explain when there is a language barrier) kicking, how to move your arms...FANTASTIC!





Another hour or two of this, and it is time to get back to the city. I look at my two traveling mamas (Mama J did not come on this trip) and they are sunburned. I realize I am too, and maybe far worse! Oh well. The price we pay! Even though at my age, I have no business doing this to my skin! The kids don't protest about leaving. They had hours and hours to get it out of their systems, and we think they may fall asleep again on the way home. They should be tired by now! We stop at a roadside stand and Veniel buys watermelon.






We continue back. The kids do not seem to want to sleep. They are wound up! But finally, as we get closer, L crawls onto my lap and out she goes like a light. W never does go to sleep. She is enjoying the ride too much.







I think I may have figured out the Haitian driving system. The idea is to pass as many people as possible. Your most important option on your vehicle is your horn! At any rate, we come back into town.


video



After supper, I am thinking I am about out of energy, but the kids feel revived and aregetting wound up again. All of a sudden, it starts to rain! It feels so good, Mama J and I just stand out in it for awhile. It's wonderful to see the plants, the trees, the streets, everything and everyone, getting wet, washing the grime away. It has not rained in the city in awhile. I take a bunch of the kids up to the swing, where they can play, and I can still enjoy the rain.



My younger child is on the verge a meltdown. I know it does not look like that, but trust me. The more tired she is, the more wound up she gets, and when she crashes, it is not a pretty site. Somehow, thankfully, we avert it for the most part. As Aves observed, "We did not do alot of nesting. We took them out and overstimulated the heck out of them!" And we both laughed, because that is exactly true. When I finally get them to bed, I am too tired to think about tomorrow. Which is good, because it is good-bye day, always the hardest day of the visit.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baptist Mission


In trying to judge, I would say the whole drive took just over an hour going up. It's not that far, but the road is a series of twists and turns, almost switchbacks. Even thru towns and villages. Did I mention bumpy???? Lord! But it was really nice to see another part of Haiti. Cobblestone streets. Big beautiful houses. Next to cinder-block dwellings with the customary corrugated metal roof. We even saw a pampered dog riding in the back of a truck. We knew he was pampered because he was big (maybe a Rottie-Mix?) and shiny with a red collar. Aves and I were impressed!
We go to the look-out first.




The landing/take-off strip at the airport

So hazy down there. You can see it needs to rain! The girls are fascinated with the view. Then, back to the van----easier said than done, as we had to walk thru a wall of very aggressive vendors---and on to the Baptist Mission. Which appeared to be a group of very neat little shops grouped together, like a shopping center. The first building was a store that sold all things Haitian, and also had a restaurant, and most importantly a restroom attached to it! The crowd was an eclectic mix of Haitians, North Americans, Dominicans, Cubans, and French. The restaurant was North American in style, kind of a mix between a pizza shop, and an upscale "Subway". The whole menu was in English. We decided to eat here, and something told me this was the first time my girls had eaten in a restaurant. I had no clue what to order for them or what they would eat. I gave it my best shot. A hot ham and cheese sandwich, an order of french fries, an order of chicken fingers, 2 small "Sprites".

While we were waiting for our order, they brought a little tray of popcorn, and that was a big hit!




They wanted nothing to do with the hot ham and cheese, which was really well done on thick toasted bread. But the french fries with catsup and the chicken fingers were the bomb! Of course!

After lunch, I look at some things in the shop, and ponder. There is a large variety of embroidered linens there. I am a fool for all things like that. Table settings. Linens, glassware, kitchenware, etc. I decide I am going to think about it. Mrs. K and I had discussed Haitian linens earlier, and her idea was to get some for her girl, to give when she is older and ready to go out on her own. I know that is really planning ahead, but I don't know when I will have the opportunity to get these things again. Someone says there is a small children's zoo on the grounds, so we all take off to find that. We walk past the shops, a church, a hospital, some body's house, and we find the zoo. A young Haitian man comes out to help us. I'm thinking WHAT???? We're in Haiti and we're in the mountains, and we're going to the ZOO???? Ya just never know!








The scariest thing, however, was the crocodile. He was down in this concrete pit with a sturdy screen built up over him. Good thing!


The most popular animal, by far, was the monkey



He would bounce around his cage, screeching and making faces, and the girls would scream, well, like little girls. And they would bang on his cage in response to him. We sort of had to drag them away from the poor monkey, they would have stayed there harassing him all day if we let them!

There was also an iguana and a snake, but I did not get good pictures of those. So next, the Haitian man takes us to a garden overlooking the hillside and we take some pictures.


And then we decide to walk back up the hill to the car. But we pass a big playground slide on the way, and the nice Haitian man says "Don't they want to play?" Of course they did!





They play for quite a long time, running and climbing and sliding until they are panting with exhaustion, but they just keep going. We finally say it is time to head up the hill, because somehow we've become separated from Mama J and Veniel. We find them waiting for us in the van. We make one more potty trip and I buy two sets of linens for the girls. We haggle with some street vendors and pick up a few things there too. Then it really is time to go and head back to PaP. Going down the hill is easier than going up, and even tho it is bumpy, the kids pretty much all fall asleep. I am realizing that I'm having a hard time staying hydrated. L has confiscated my water bottle and put some pretty yucky things in it like some fruit, and chocolate, and there is no way I am ever going to want that thing back, even tho I am getting a slight headache from lack of water. By the time we get back, it's late afternoon, and we are all dry. I buy the girls and myself a soda, and it does hit the spot. By the way, Baptist Haiti Mission does offer sponsorship primarily towards a child's education if you are interested in doing something like that for $15.00/month. They are involved in a whole lot of stuff, and it's pretty impressive.

After supper we decide to try a movie on the dvd player, back at the Villa. At one point we had 8 kids and 4 moms in my room watching the movie, including Veniel's daughter who was having the time of her life! They did not remain interested in the movie for too long, but they were having fun together. FYI, I renamed the Villa at that point. PAC3 !

Last installment, coming soon....

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