Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Eventful Advent

As usual, my life never stops, and December was a prime example of this! The month was filled with many visitors and events. Our first set of visitors were from Trinity Wall Street in NYC. They had come to Haiti to scope out potential new projects for their church in the Northern Region. Their spirit was contagious and we very much enjoyed their visit. 

Shortly after their visit, we then hosted the Regional Northern Assembly Meeting. It was nice to see all of the priests and lay leaders of the region, but I was particularly happy to see the 13 US partners who had visited from the United States. A special shout-out to my buddies from the Diocese of Virginia! The meeting was a great platform for bringing topics of interest within the region to discussion among all parties! 

Following the conclusion of the Regional Assembly meeting, the next day I helped put on the first Lessons and Carols for Saint Esprit, the Episcopal Church in Cap-Haïtien. The preparation included working with the choir, making marketing materials, making decorations, and practicing myself! My favorite part of helping put this on was getting to know some of the Saint Esprit Choir members better. It was a beautiful evening, especially Silent Night sung to candlelight. 

This brings us now to Christmas! A belated Merry Christmas to everyone! Mine was spent at home, enjoying Christmas presents that had been left for me by my roommate Kyle and making Christmas presents for my Haitian friends. Two days after, I was blessed with the presence of Julie, and then two days after that, I was blessed with the presence of Cameron. Basically, it was a little reunion/party in which we enjoyed the beautiful sights and food of Cap-Haïtien. It was really nice to bring in the new year with fellow missionaries this year and I wish all of you a happy and blessed New Year! A huge thank you to all of my sponsors for the months of November and December. 

I’m Gonna be a Movie Star!

Getting to be in Haiti means that you get to see visitors from 815 yet again. But this time, they were on special assignment. This year’s visit included David Copley, Director of Mission Personnel and Global Partnerships, Mary Brennan, Officer of Mission Communication, and Andrew, our film guy. The purpose of their visit was to help to create two films advertising for missionary work in Haiti. One film is to feature our older missionaries in Haiti (I am not considered one of these yet!) and the other is to feature our three Haitian YASC missionaries. 

Their trip began in Cap-Haïtien to film the work that Dan, Kyle, and myself do in the north. This included filming us in worship during a Sunday morning service, filming Dan and Kyle in their workplaces, getting individual interviews from the three of us, and also filming the beautiful Haitian countryside. 

My favorite day of filming in Cap was the day that we went up to San Souci Palace, an old historic site in Milot. We decided to go up to this site for interviews to try to minimize the noise factor associated with the city. In good Haitian fashion, unexpected opportunities arose from this location. While roaming the ruins of San Souci Palace, next thing I know, I am being volunteered to teach a music class at the top of the mountain! It just so happened that a group of school students were visiting the palace the same day as us, and thanks to our tour guide, I was volunteered to teach them a song, for the purposes of the film crew. I don’t think I need to say anymore about this moment because someday, you might see it on film. Like I said, I am going to be a movie star! 

The following day, we flew down to Port-au-Prince for round two of filming. The group from Cap met up with the other two YASCers, Julie Burd, who serves in Léogâne at the nursing school, and Alan Yarborough, who serves in Cange in projects relating to economic and community development. The first part of our day was spent in Léogâne, filming Julie at her site teaching English to nursing students. Then we traveled back to my old stomping grounds, Holy Trinity Cathedral. Due to convenience of now having five missionaries in country, it was decided that the filming would be done this year, which means that we had to stage me teaching my students from last year as if it were last year. As entertaining as it was to teach my old students, it was even more fun to see all of my old friends reactions to me being back in the area. 

Along with the film crew being in town from 815, a handful of bishops were visiting for a pilgrimage through Episcopal projects in Haiti. We had a wonderful time sharing experiences with the visiting priests, along with catching up with some old friends I had met through other conferences. A fantastic time was had by all, but I was happy to finally get back to Cap Haitian to celebrate Thanksgiving with my fellow missionaries. 

Over the River and Through the Woods to Teacher Training We Go!

Thank you to everyone who keeps coming back to read about my first month in Haiti.  This is the last post to get you caught up on what’s been going on this month.  After two long weeks of preparation, I said a prayer and hopped in the car to Port-de-Paix, the first music school site to visit.

The drive there, as I talked about last year, is a bit grueling for only about a fourth of the trip is on paved roads.  Although the roads are rough, I can testify that the beautiful scenery of the Haitian mountains and forests make up for it.  By mid-afternoon Monday, we had arrived in Port-de-Paix and after a quick meal we got right to work.  Myself and Dan Tootle, another missionary from the Episcopal Church serving in the northern region of the Diocese of Haiti, first had meetings with the priest and school administration.  Dan is doing school evaluations of every school in the north and presented first, followed by me explaining the music program and its details.  The next day, I worked with my two teachers going through teacher guidelines, pedagogy types, solfege review, and looking at the instruments. 

That afternoon we hopped back in the car and headed back to Gros-Morne to do teacher training at La Resurrection. Visiting Gros-Morne was particularly fun because my interpreter, Fritz, has family there. So not only did I get to do teacher training there, but I got to visit with his family. A particular highlight of working at La Resurrection was how I spent a few of my extra free moments. As I was doing an assessment of recorders that had been donated to the school, a crowd of children gathered around me. We had a conversation about if they were excited to start music and to play instruments. Next thing that I know, I am teaching them songs from mini camp in Port-au-Prince. We were a little bit of a distraction during the school day, but it was quite a pleasure to spread the joy of music again. 

Two days later, I hopped in a tap tap to head down to Gonaïves. My first day in Gonaïves I went straight to the school and did an assessment of the instruments. I was disappointed to find out that many of the instruments are in need of repair, so if you know of anyone who can repair instruments, you know how to find me :) The following day I did my last set of teacher trainings with the teachers of Gonaïves. The whole trip was quite fun, getting to meet the teachers I’ll be working with, as everyone is extremely enthusiastic about the program. Thanks again to all of my sponsors for the month of October. Another update is on the way for November! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Let’s Start a Music School! Go Team!

As promised, here is post number two this weekend to tell you about the preparation going on with the music school and my other little adventures!  

During my first week back in Cap-Haïtien, I was given the time to get settled in the new apartment and learn about the city.  My fellow missionary and roommate, Kyle has been living in Cap for a few months and has been extremely helpful in getting me acquainted with my new home.  We were all over the place in my first few days to meet people, see places, and get a few more things for the apartment.  As you can see, I was short a pillow and had the joy of carrying it down the streets of Cap (every taxi and moto thought I needed a ride!).

On my first Friday back in Haiti, myself, Kyle, Bishop Ogé and Serette drove out to Terrier Rouge to visit St. Barnabus, the Episcopal agricultural school.  They were having a graduation, so as expected my flute skills can in handy.  It was a wonderful ceremony and it was nice to see many of the priests from the northern region again.

My second Monday back I was hard at work with the music school.  As I have explained, I have been relocated to Cap-Haïtien to assist the northern region of the Diocese of Haiti with starting a music program.  Eight Episcopal schools and three villages were donated band instruments from the NGO, Food for the Poor.  Now that the schools have instruments, my job this year is to help provide administrative structure to the program and to train the music teachers at each site.  The sticky notes on this map that hangs in my office shows all the different locations of the schools and where I lived last year.   

This means that I not only work here in Cap-Haïtien, but I also travel to these other locations to meet in person with the priests, school administrations, and music teachers.  My first visit which covered three of the sites, Port-de-Paix, Gros-Morne, and Gonaïves were planned a little sooner than I had anticipated.  This led to long hours, and as you can see from the pic my co-worker took I was just a little worn out (I promise I was just resting my eyes)!

Along with the preparation for the music school, I did have the chance to do a fun trip one day.  About an hour outside of Cap-Haïtien lies the town of Millot.  My co-worker has family in this area, so we took a trip to visit them.  It was a lot of fun because it was the first time I really got to experience Haitian country life.  While there I was asked if I wanted to see the “garden,” to be completely honest I would call it a jungle.  All sorts of great things were growing there including chadek, cocoa, plantains, coffee beans, and bananas.  

After our walk through the “garden,” I also had the opportunity to try my very first coconut.  It was delicious!  The whole trip was a lot of fun and wonderful way to get some fresh air away from my office.  I also really enjoyed experiencing a very different side of Haitian life that I didn’t see last year.  Music school preparation continued throughout the week and in my next post I’ll tell you all about my first trip to do teacher training!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Last Week in the US and Back to Haiti Round Two!

Hello from Haiti again!  I realize that it has been awhile since my last post and I thank all of my supporters back home in the states for your patience!  I must apologize for my silence on the Haitian front; my internet situation is a little more challenging this year.  Of course though, I will do my best to catch you up on everything that’s happened.  So for this post let’s rewind to my last week in the United States and my travels back to Haiti.

As many of you know, thanks to the Episcopal Church Center and slight change to return date to Haiti, I was able to attend the reentry retreat in New York City.  The reentry retreat brings back all of the YASCers from the most recent year into one place to process our year of service and share stories.  The retreat is held at the Episcopal Church Center, also fondly known as “815.”  

I was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to see everyone from my YASC class and loved hearing about everyone’s experiences.  Although each of us had our own unique experience, it was comforting and interesting to learn that we all experienced similar battles and triumphs.  Overall it was just wonderful to spend time with my fellow missionaries and the 815 staff.  

Upon returning from New York, I headed back out to Winchester to spend one last Sunday with Christ Church before flying to Haiti for another year.  After the service, members our youth group and other parish families all joined together to say goodbye to me in a very special way.  This is when I now admit that my favorite movie is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, so for my send off we all saw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.  Got to love my parish!!!

After spending all night packing (I really should learn how NOT to be a procrastinator), I hopped on the 5:55 am flight to Miami to then take the flight down to Port-au-Prince.  Travel this year was a piece of cake and I can’t tell you how good it felt to actually know some Creole at the airport!  After landing in Port-au-Prince, I then took a small regional flight up to Cap-Haïtien and was greeted at the airport by my fellow missionary and roommate Kyle Evans. 

My first evening was spent unpacking by head lamp (electricity goes out a lot more here).  I couldn’t resist showing you how much fun that is! 

It was a great way to arrive back in Haiti and as you can see, the view from my new place is stunning!  Thank you again to everyone for all of the prayers and support!  Come back soon, I promise there will be at least two more posts this weekend highlighting the adventures from this month.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Les Petits Chanteurs in Winchester, Virginia

As you read in my last post, Winchester was blessed with a very special visit yesterday.  Les Petits Chaunters, the boys choir from Ecole de Musique Sainte Trinité the school I worked with all year, made a stop last night to perform at Christ Episcopal Church.  I have to admit that this was probably one of the most special moments I've had in my ministry.  It was so amazing, and rare, to have the people that I served in Haiti be able to visit my home parish and meet the people who have been supporting me all year long.

The choir and chamber orchestra came into town yesterday afternoon.  I was surprised at how early they came in, but delighted to come running into our parish hall to find all of my friends from Haiti!  I was greeted with loud cheers and lots of hugs.  I cannot tell you how exciting it was to have everyone there.  

After a little tour of our downtown walking mall and rehearsals, we all joined together for a Haitian inspired dinner.  During the dinner, myself and a few of the boys from the choir were interviewed by our local TV station.  You can watch the clip by following this link: Les Petits Chanteurs.  (Click on the video called "Les Petits Chanteurs")

The concert, which filled up with people from our parish and the community, was spectacular!  I was touched that my request was honored and the choir sang my favorite song called Tap Tap.  And as I expected, no concert with Haitian music is complete unless it involves a little dancing!  

The evening ended with combined choir and chamber orchestra pieces.  Everyone loved the concert and enjoyed visiting with the musicians after the concert at the reception.  

After the evening ended, the musicians headed home with host families from Christ Church.  All I heard this morning as families dropped their guests back off at the church was how much fun they had with them.  I loved being able to watch my two families become one larger family.  It was a truly beautiful evening and I can't thank God enough for making it possible.    

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Welcome Home! is all I can say because it's hard to believe that I've returned home already!  In some ways it feels like I never left and in other ways I feel like I really have been gone all year.  Regardless, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time home thus far and most of all loved getting to see everybody!  I know my family and friends were with me on my journey, but seeing everyone in person is so much better.  As I'm sure you're not surprised, I've been doing lots of exciting things since my return so here's a little update of my most recent fun-filled American adventures!

After quite a few delays, I finally got home very early in the morning on Friday, August 9.  I spent my first few days with my parents catching up with them and some American favorites I've been missing.  As you can see, I shared a great frozen treat with my Dad! 

On Sunday I made my way back to my home parish, Christ Church.  It was so fantastic to see my amazing supporting parish.  I had a great time seeing everyone (especially reactions from people since I didn't say exactly which did I would be back...surprise!)!  On Wednesday, Webster and I travelled down to Richmond to visit the Diocese of Virginia diocesan office. 

We were invited to the office for a mission luncheon for the diocesan staff to learn about mission work in Haiti.  I came to talk about my ministry from this past year in Haiti, and to talk about my future work in Cap-Haïtien.  Père Val, a Haitian priest, and his wife also joined us to talk about their work in Haiti and the partnerships that they have with the Diocese of Virginia.  A wonderful time was had by all and I was excited to meet everyone in the office.  

In my time in Winchester, I've enjoyed catching up with friends through a variety of multi-cultural events.  Last weekend I enjoyed a Celtic music concert and then the Greek festival with Bridget!  

And my time at home was not complete without a chance to share about some of my adventures through delivering the message Sunday morning for both of our services at Christ Church.  If you weren't able to catch it on Sunday, you can visit Christ Church's website to listen to it  Thank you to everyone for helping me feel so at home!  I look forward to continuing to share my stories from this past year and also preparing for this coming year!  Thank you also to my sponsors from this week Marlene Coffey and Rob & Susan Ross.  Check back in a few weeks to learn about the visitors we're getting at Christ Church...Les Petit Chanteurs, the Haitian boys choir!