Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Another view

Here are a set of photos that more closely match what I imagined Haiti would look like. 

View from our hotel balcony in Port au Prince.
 Our hotel was near the edge of the city and you could hear very little traffic noise here - mostly roosters, goats, voices, household noises like pots and pans and running water.

My kids learning to dance!

The countryside around Desarmes holds both barren hillsides and tree-lined riverbeds. The MCC staff there told us that when Terry did their program evaluation in 2007 (or thereabouts) he pointed to the mountain tops and asked, "Why aren't there trees growing up there? When I come back, I want to see trees growing up there." So they were very happy and proud to show me the thousands of small trees now growing on the mountaintops!

Beginning of a 3-hour hike up and then down the mountain

View of the valley from the mountaintop; trees from the project in foreground

Baby trees! I think these are called cassia.

Tree nursery #2, I think these are citrus varieties

Near a capped spring were a lot of old, thick trees of different varieties. We were told that the local people will never cut them down because of what they believe about spirits living in and around the spring and the trees.

There were goats EVERYWHERE. Lots and lots of goats. They do cause problems for reforestation by eating everything in sight, although supposedly they don't eat the cassia trees that are the main species being used for reforestation.

I'm really thankful for the opportunity to visit Haiti, and glad I stayed for the learning tour after our meetings there.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Beautiful Haiti

I think one of my favorite things about our recent trip to Haiti (yes, I know I said I wasn't going to blog about work...) was finding the unexpected - everywhere. This was my first trip there and my mind was full of images of disaster, rubble, poverty... and mangos. I'd heard from friends who were involved in the post-earthquake disaster relief that it was very hot and they had to bathe in DEET because of all the mosquitos.

So it was mind-blowing, after flying into Port-au-Prince (where it was indeed very hot, and the airport reminded me of the airport in Barbados) to drive up the mountain into a cloud forest where for the next five days we were COLD.

Ivy, pine trees, lichens, and mist.

The food was amazing. And spicy!

This mosaic was on the side of a school we visited. Gabriel looked at it and said "Mom, that says Sas!" So, he is beginning to read!

We spent one day at this gorgeous beach, then went to Desarmes (Dezarm) to see an agroforestry project. Another amazing place was this gorge - cool and, well, gorgeous, though sadly littered with trash. It went on and on, curving through the rocks.

You hear so much about deforestation in Haiti. And yes, there are barren hillsides everywhere. But there are also lots of trees.


Friday, March 27, 2015

abbreviated trip report

We just got back from a fantastic trip to Haiti, for regional leadership meetings. After the four days of meetings we had a day at the beach, and then a three-day learning tour in Desarmes. I haven't downloaded my photos yet but will do soon. I thought before going that Haiti might remind me of Guyana, or the Caribbean coast of Colombia, but it doesn't at all - for one thing everyone was speaking Creole, and it just has a different vibe overall.

Coming back the cold and altitude hit me pretty hard and I was pretty wiped out yesterday. Now just trying to catch up with everything here after being gone for 10 days!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Knitting again!

I recently finished this cable-knit wrap/poncho, a long strip with one end sewn to the side of the other end. It turned out exactly how I was picturing it in my head which is... rare! I love it so much I'm thinking of making it again in different colors.

Knitting, and having multiple projects on the needles at the same time, profoundly increases my sense of normalcy and wellbeing. This is so much more than a wrap.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mixing it up

I think I enjoy playing with Legos almost as much as the kids do.

My favorite thing is how they mix together different kinds of toys into these elaborate long dramas of love and war.

And creating fantastical creatures they call "Mixels," after a line of Lego monsters that can be re-combined in different ways.

We never really get tired of making these!

Monday, March 16, 2015


These aren't really the best quality photos but I was just thinking about how glad and thankful I am for how our kids are learning to play together. They really only fight if they are tired, hungry, or thirsty. Otherwise they just love to play for long periods of time imagining worlds together - worlds of pirates and fairies, heroes and villains, rescue pups and other fantastical creatures.

Giant ice cream with a cherry on top
Gabriel loves to "direct" the drama, while Valerie either goes along, adds her own layers to the story, or contests his pronouncements. It's really fascinating to listen to them negotiate their different ideas about what should go down.

Hugs at church in the US
I remember at some point in high school or college, I realized that my sister and I shared a unique perspective - nobody else in my world experienced all the same places that I had, from a child's point of view. I can see the same dynamic developing with Valerie and Gabriel. It will be a lifelong treasure.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Quick Note

We are going to be out of the country for about a week, and I don't know what our internet connectivity will be like, so I've scheduled several posts to go up while we're away. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Retreat on the Coast

We just got back from our team retreat on the Coast, it was a lovely 4 days of sunshine and water.

This is the same place we went 2 years ago, in CoveƱas, and it is beautiful.

The kids LOVED the pool. They were less sanguine about the ocean but did play in the waves a bit.

I knit most of a sock with this yarn! We had this balcony room overlooking the sea.

Friday, March 06, 2015


View from our kitchen window in the morning
This is by far the biggest city we have ever lived in. I felt after returning from the US, though, that it's starting to grow on me.

Parque Simon Bolivar

There are some truly beautiful places in the city, and it is possible to connect to the cycles of nature even here.

View from our kitchen window after dark
At the same time, it's a really big, dirty city. Even the pigeons are unappealing to me and I really don't understand why people feed them...

Central plaza 
There is so much air pollution and traffic. But there are also sunsets and rainbows.

View of Monserrate from our neighborhood
There are parks with playgrounds everywhere (although you have to be careful of all the broken glass left behind by drunken university students, and dog poop).

Local park
The one place in this city that I feel all warm and fuzzy about is our office.

Flower blooming outside our office
Every big procession, parade, or protest goes by here.

Soccer parade outside our office
Regardless of Terry's and my mixed feelings about "Bog," the kids love it here and tell us from time to time that they plan to live here forever. They were beside themselves with happiness to be back after our time in the States (which they also enjoyed a lot). From their perspective, it's home.

Parque de los novios - boats for rent!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Meta: Reboot

I've been thinking about updating this blog and resuming a regular blogging schedule. I think about this probably several times a week. If I blogged every time I thought about blogging, you'd all have something to read on a regular basis. So then I started wondering what is holding me back, and I figured it out (I think).

Bear with me as I go a little meta.

The first rule of blogging is that blogging about blogging is boring. But I need to do this to get unstuck.

The second rule of blogging is never blog about your work. While a lot of people in my organization do blog about their work, and although doing so is considered a great tool for promoting the work of our organization and bringing attention to serious advocacy issues, for some reason I feel very resistant to the idea of flipping this into an advocacy or PR blog.

Blogs have genres; this started as a knitting blog and then migrated into mom-blog territory when I had kids. I feel like the golden age of the blog was when we lived in Albania and I used this space as an online diary for documenting our experience there as well as milestones in the children's development - we were so far from our families, that it was an important tool for connecting with them. So in that sense it became an expat mommy blog.

So why isn't it still? When we moved to Colombia, I moved into a new role in leadership, sharing the national director position with my husband. I was still writing my dissertation as well. The first 18 months here were a long, dark haul of fairly intense stress because of the wave amplification effect of these three processes - adjusting to the job, trying to finish the dissertation, adapting to a new country and culture. All this while caring for our kids in their own processes of adaptation and adjustment.

About 6-8 months ago I started to come out of that dark hole. But in the meantime I fell out of the habit of blogging. I didn't have time, I didn't have energy, I didn't know what to say... Honestly, I didn't really want to write about the hard parts of living here. It was too personal, and this is - ultimately - a public blog.

Now that I have the time and energy again, I still don't know what to say. I can write about the kids, our pets, our neighborhood, the city we live in... I don't know how to write about our work. Because our job title is literally to be representatives of our organization in Colombia, I'm perhaps hyper-aware of how I am representing that work on my blog (remember that second rule of blogging...?)

I was thinking recently about something I heard a memoirist say (and I paraphrase): remember when you are telling your story that you are the narrator, not the protagonist.

So, with that aphorism in mind, I'm going to give it another shot here. I'm going to narrate our lives here, knowing that the narration is always partial, perspectival, incomplete. I might end up writing about our work from time to time. We'll see how it goes.