Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thomazeau, Haiti

The little village of Thomazea is located outside (North-East) of Croix-des-Bouquets. It consists of about 100 houses. Though I am not sure about the number of people living in the majority of the houses, some of them have ten to fifteen people.

We were working in this village to help build chicken coupes. The community was great; they did a great job when it came to working.

The kids were also a ton of fun to be around.

Here are some photos of the village and villagers. 

Just hanging out.
Big brother

The men were incredibly hard workers and the women took care of the families (Also not an easy task).  Some of the ladies from our group were frustrated when jobs on the chicken coupe were taken from them by the Haitian men.  Though I completely agree, it was frustrating; I think we were there for something bigger that simply building a chicken coupe.  We were there to equip a community to sustain itself.  We were there to be Jesus to the kids who have never had anyone out side of the community spend time with them.  We were there to learn about a culture.  We were there to teach and love on people.  I think these greater things can only be accomplished to their fullest extent when we let go of our selfishness and go with the flow.

This guy was great.  He was one of the hard workers.

This was just after we picked up her son to help with the chicken coupe.
Some of the kids.


Hey God! 
Thank you for the privileges that allow me to the opportunity to work on a missions trip like this.
I pray that you would send me back at some point.
I pray that you would help us to accomplish the tasks you have in mind.  
I pray that we would listen to you even when it is difficult.  
I pray that the impacts from this trip will last many more years, 
and touch many more lives, than we can ever imagine.

You can see several more photos of the village "In the Country" section of my "Life in Haiti" post.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Language Barrier does not Equal a Communication Barrier Part 2

Human similarities

This list is composed of ways that we can communicate when overseas or in foreign countries, where we do not know the language.  This list can serve as a reminder of some basic human traits when working with kids or adults.

1. Everyone wants/needs attention and love. 
2. Everyone needs physical contact  Remember to keep it culturally appropriate, but many younger children and elderly adults love hugs.  Those in the middle do too but it seems that handshakes tend be work better for those in the middle.
3. We all eat (even if living in poverty)  I was a little worried about the cooking magazine that I had brought but the kids loved going through and teaching me the Creole terms for various foods.  Food is universal enough that this worked well.
4. We all enjoy sharing life.  People don't like to be alone and most seem to enjoy having a new friend and meeting new people.
5. Most people want to help others but many have a hard time accepting help. This is significant because it may be difficult to accept hospitality from someone who has little, but refusing their gifts denies them the opportunity to bless you.
6. Images – magazines, maps or family photographs can build relationships without words and can even help you learn words of another language.
7. Sounds – screaming, laughing, and crying are not cultural.
8. Expressions such as using signs or facial expressions seem to have similar meanings (though they can be misinterpreted)
9. Most people like to learn
10. Joy and the beauty of life. Holding a Haitian baby is very similar to holding an American baby
11. Kids love art. Kids are creative.  Artwork inspired by Haiti (I will also post about the art lessons I led in Haiti)
12. Men like to build things
13. Women like to look pretty

I know that there are many more…can you add to this list?  Are there any traits that you have noticed that seem to be universal?

I am Thankful for My Water...

There are many things that I am thankful for.  As I was sitting, I was thinking that I was glad I could just walk into the kitchen and fill up my water bottle from the sink.

I was originally thinking that it was nice to not need a water filter simply to enjoy the taste.  Because in the Connor, I do need the water to be filtered.  See the Connor has some problems, like corroding pipes, rotting walls, and windows that don't open.  If you don't use the shower for a while (like Christmas vacation) you have to run the hot and cold water for several hours to get it clear.  It is completely safe, just has metal in it.  Anyways, if you look at some of these pictures of the building you might understand (why we live there and the beauty that is in the old buildings of Laramie).  We also have circular archways, which make it all worthwhile.

Anyways, I began to think a little broader and thought back to my recent Haiti trip.  I am extremely thankful that I don't have to pump my water, or bathe on the road or carry my water several miles.  I am thankful that I can turn on the faucet and even if the water taste funny, I can drink it.

I decided to write a post about the many things that I am thankful for.  Here are the first 13 that I rambled off in about 1 minute....what are your top 5?

 I am thankful that I can turn on a faucet and drink the water without getting sick
I am thankful for my friends and family
I am thankful for my husband
I am thankful for my education
I am thankful that I have the option to be a stay at home mom, artist, or work in a corporate position
I am thankful that I have a job
I am thankful for my computer
I am thankful for my artistic ability
I am thankful for music
I am thankful for flowers
I am thankful that I can spend time with those I love
I am thankful that I have had the experiences (both good and bad) that I have had
I am thankful that I have had positive role models throughout my life.

I created this YouTube video in response to this blog post and a video produced by featuring Matt Damon.

In conclusion,

Thank you God for all the wonderful blessings in my life.  
Thank you for both the big and the small.  
Thank you for everything that I take for-granted
and help me to see what is truly important in life.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Critical Thought Tuesday

“Hatred is self-punishment. Hatred it the coward's revenge for being intimidated.”

~Hosea Ballou

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Haiti Journal: A Language Barrier, Not A Communication Barrier Part 1

Today for my Critical Thought Tuesday post, I would like to ask the question "can you communicate without language?"  My answer is "yes," but can you argue against my answer or add on to it?

One of the most significant things that I learned on this trip is that communication is not only verbal. You can communicate through facial expressions and body language. I would also recommend using sign language (ASL or even made up signs) as much as possible. Some of the other communications skills that I utilized included smiling, singing, modeling a behavior, using images, and doing crafts (or other projects when working with adultus). Being able to keep in mind that some similarities transcend culture is also huge.

Sign Language
Though I do know sign language (a mix between PSE and ASL), I do believe that anyone can use sign language skills in a foreign country. Learning some signs and the concepts behind them translates from English to Creole (and I would argue from any language to any other). Using signs allowed me to learn Creole words such as water, airplane, cow, chicken, walk, love, me, you, and marriage. I was also able to talk to a deaf woman at the airport who had just been working in a deaf orphanage in Haiti. It seemed like ASL and Creole sign language were pretty similar (because in ASL you don’t fingerspell anything but proper nouns, although I am not sure how initialized signs and varying alphabets work). ASL also helps you to understand the use of universal facial expression.

Facial Expression
In the airport on the way back we spoke with a man named Juan. He was from Haiti but has lived in the stated for about 13 years. He gave us a mini Creole lesson and explained how facial expressions are extremely important to Creole. I asked how you say “what?” in Creole, though I don’t remember the word, I will not forget the facial expression that goes with it. I now know I was asked “what” by one of the girls many many times because of the face she used. He also explained the importance of smiling. It not only tells others that you are nice, fun, happy, safe, but also that you might think that they are safe, cute, fun, or that you want to be friends.

Modeling was extremely important. We taught the kids “hook tag” by showing them how to play. I first explained the game to three other people who spoke English and we showed the kids what to do. The kids understood and were then able to translate what they saw into words for the younger kids. Modeling worked when I was teaching all the kids to make bracelets from embroidery floss or some of the older children the process of making paper beads.
The kids loved to work on crafts but the adults were great at taking over when we were modeling a way to build some part of the chicken coup.

In addition to sign language and facial expression, there are many aspects of life that transcend culture, especially when working with children. One way to relate to people is sharing photographs of friends, family, or even a food/cooking magazine. I will list some in a future post. For now, what are some aspects of life that transcend culture?

My artwork inspired by Haiti
Art is certainly a universal form of communication.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Next Haiti Trip...

...Or any Mission Trip

Things to remember for my next trip to Haiti

Things that worked well
1. Water – self filtering water bottle, tablets, and my camel back
2. String – no more than two colors per bundle
3. Little toys such as pogs (40 min), pre-cut string for friendship bracelets (40 min.)
4. A cooking magazine or a picture book
5. Excedrin Migraine
6. Pepto-Bismol tablets

New Ideas
1. Take nail polish to share with the girls. A huge need for the girls is quality time with other women. (could not be in a carry on)
2. Extra pens and pencils
3. An extra notebook to write kids names on and leave with the kids
4. Maybe some connect-the-dots or coloring books with crayons.
5. Low SPF sunscreen
6. A large warm scarf for the airport (I was thankful I had my lightweight large scarf but a warmer one would be better)
7. AirBorne and take daily or every other day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Haiti Journal: There is always Beauty in the Broken

Here are some images of Haiti that show the beautiful side.

Canal in Thoumazeau. Digging this out is a future project.
Sunset from our hotel roof.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Life in Haiti: Housing, Food, Electricity

What is Life in Haiti Like?

One of my friends who I worked with a few summers ago asked me about things in Haiti. Some of the specifics that he wanted to know about included housing, food, electricity, water, and gas services. He basically wanted a better understanding of what it is really like in Haiti…
In the city
These first two images of a mountain side in Port-au-Prince really helped me to understand the amount of lives that were lost.  These houses were not earthquake proof to begin with and are crammed together so tightly that it is little surprise that so many tent cities appeared, where parks had once been, the night of the quakes.
One of the smallest tent cities.
We spent one afternoon driving around Port-au-Prince to see the destruction from the earthquake. The few traffic lights were ran by solar power. There were restaurants and business that had facilities (not sure if it was gas or solar, my guess is both).  There were power lines in the city (of 2 million people). With the exception of businesses, most of what we saw in Port-au-Prince was pretty sad. This was the part of the week that was the most shocking to me. Driving through Port-au-Prince was the one thing to me that set Haiti apart from other poverty stricken areas.

A house in a tent city.
Not much seems to have changed. The tent cities from the night of the quakes are still full and appear to be some of the best homes in the area.  The tent cities that have the red and blue tops were set up by foreign aide (I think this one was the Red Cross, though I am not sure) The government is still keeping foreign aide (supplies and money) for themselves and many people are living in rubble and trash. I saw several people just going to the bathroom up against walls along the street. I would assume that there are some bathrooms and I just never had an opportunity to see them.

Images of city life
The ladders lead to ledges where people live/sleep
 An image of a tent city in one of the parks.

Trash is swept into piles and burned.  Families can pay to have trash picked up, but it is not a priority for many.

We were driving though the town and had to go to the bathroom. The restroom I used was in a house that was being used a store as well. It was pretty “normal.”

Our hotel in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets had electricity  (I didn't get any great photographs of our hotel). There were several large solar panels on the roof. We were pretty spoiled at Vila Mimica. We could even purchase AC for $30 a night.

Most of what we saw was driving from the town of Croix-des-Bouquets and going east to the village of Thomazeau. This drive was pretty rural. There were water pumps every three to six houses. I did not notice power lines. The majority of the houses were concrete and/or brick (picture) with a tarp for at least one wall.  Some roads were great some were not so great.  Once we got closer to the village the roads turned to dirt.
The road to Thomazazeau
See some of my artwork in response to this trip on my art blog, Felicia Follum Art + Design.
In the Country
I didn’t see many power lines in this area (though I think that most of the electricity is solar powered). There were about 100 families in the community and a few other buildings, mostly churches and temples. Thomazeau’s community center, currently the school, is solar powered. I did not see any other power lines, though I was not looking. The new school building does not have electricity yet but it does have a bathroom. I believe the water was controlled by gravity. The bathroom we used was a toilet placed over a hole in the ground. To flush you would carry a bucket of water from the pump and pour it in the bowl.

I am not sure if there were public bathrooms or where they were. The houses were small and I find it hard to believe there were working toilets in, though it is possible. This community bathed in the creek/spring water and drank from water pumps. The family that I was the closest to had a small fire one night to cook. Though I could not tell what they were burning.

The community center is cut off and the building farthest to the left.  The new school building is behind that with the blue roof. The rest are houses.

Kids swimming and bathing.  You would often see adults in these rivers soaped up and bathing as well.

Houses and animals.

Houses.  The blue structure may be a tomb.

The kids wanted me to take the picture of the water pump.