Thursday, September 10, 2009

Picture Links

Just wanted to take a moment to post links to a few more albums of pictures from Haiti.

Arrival in Haiti

Church in Haiti

More Impressions of Haiti


Monday, August 31, 2009

Haiti Photo Book

I recently completed a photo book project of images from my July visit to Haiti. Here are images of a few of the page layouts from that book. Enjoy!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Haiti was just a handful of hours ago

I already miss potholed roads and the press of a hundred dark, muscular people. Jostling in the back of a pickup through rain scoured gulches doesn’t bother me at all, and even though I wouldn’t exactly say that I like it, the constant blare of car horns and the smell of burning trash doesn’t mess with me too badly. But then why was it that I almost screamed inside when I saw a couple walking peacefully hand-in-hand beneath the quiet street lights on Front Street America?

Traffic has died and it’s only a few odd cars and pedestrians who are making their way past the assorted store fronts. On the art-house theater’s marquee words remain unfinished as the man who was, a moment ago, placing the letters is now engaged in conversation with a middle-aged intellectual couple. A few of us check out the upcoming schedule of foreign dramas and incendiary documentaries as the couple detachedly discusses their feelings on adult scenes and the f-word. It’s not the absolute sense of peace, stillness and safety that bothers me – it’s the absolute disconnect that seems to exist.

Just yesterday when we drove past the Doctors Without Borders (maybe that was Medecins Sans Frontieres…) office, I again took note of the signs boldly painted across the front of their compound gates. Businesses here in the US often have a little red circle with an imposing line over a cigarette. I now saw something much different. A whole series of circles lined the front of the gate. They contained items like a machete, a menacing automatic rifle, and a pistol. The people hanging out at the front door seem peaceful enough and it doesn’t seem that any are carrying items more threatening than a crutch. It might all seem a little overboard if it weren’t for the fact that the gas station and grocery store just down the road have guards posted with thick shotguns.

They convey a message. So do the UN troops whom you routinely see on their bored cruises through the streets – bristling with gun barrels. It’s also in the manned machine gun tower not so very far away. Sure, the biggest commotion that I saw was when the Haitian national team scored two quick consecutive goals against the US soccer squad, but there’s a nagging fact that remains. People may be walking down the street with a sense of confidence, familiarity, and even love – but it’s not in sleepy safety.

Mile after mile of silky smooth road stretches ahead of me. It stands in starkest of contrast with the world that most Haitians have come to expect. If you want to go somewhere you’re going to have to work for it. Maybe you’ll just walk. At the mountain school that I visited some of the students travel by foot four hours each way. If you are in a less rural area maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch a ride on a motor bike. These little overworked creatures only carry one passenger on the rarest of occasions. Two riders is standard, three common, and four and even five not unheard of. Or maybe you get a ride in one of the tap-taps (pickups outfitted with side benches and a roof), cramming yourself in with at least eight or ten other passengers or hanging on to the back rail as the truck dodges puddles and weaves through the discord of traffic. Nothing comes easily – even coming and going.

My host is one of those admirable men who has embraced difficult things. The doctorate degree hanging over the desk in his office speaks of his commitment to study and education. That office is nestled deep in a corner of the ministry complex that he is slowly building in Carrefour on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince. He possesses a green card and could be living and working in about a hundred places other than where he is, but here’s the thing – Jean loves Haiti. His mind is constantly brimming over with new ideas of how to help his people and share the power of the gospel with them; power that he believes can do immensely more than just save souls on some distant day. The moderate size lot where he works in Carrefour is now brimming with buildings. There are offices, a water purification company, a large cement structure serving as a temporary church, a kindergarten, a school complete with extensive library and science labs,

the beginnings of a radio studio. The list goes on. And all of this on one medium plot of ground in a neighborhood where the streets flow with mud and trash when the rain falls. But this is just the tip of his iceberg. Two hours up the mountain there’s another school. Right now it only offers education through sixth grade, but I saw as parents came to beg for more grades to be added.

Almost 400 students used to cram into this small cement block structure. Attendance is still strong, but declined sharply when the funds failed for providing a mid-day meal for the students. These meals were crucial for many of the students since they were walking so many miles over mountain roads just to be in class. Still, Jean has faith. He’s already envisioning how he can add classrooms. With just a few more dollars an elaborate system will be completed that will allow the school to have potable drinking water – piped and pumped from far across a mountain valley. And he wants to start a church at the location as well.

Pastor Jean casting his vision for the future additions to this school.
People are already lined up – just waiting for the services to start. Far to the north he’s already overseeing another small church. There, over 100 Christian believers pack into a colorfully painted building with leaning mud walls.

It’s the only evangelical Christian church in the area. The people are excited for the changes they’ve already seen in their lives and their community is taking note of the healing power of their God. But Jean wants more. He wants to build a larger building on their tiny parcel of land. Something that would not be a safety hazard and that could stand against any rain storm. He feverishly measures the land and discusses possibilities and costs for this new structure. He’s believing that God is going to provide. For the new country church, for the mountain water system, for a 12hr per day radio station, for more classrooms and grades, for adult education and entrepreneurial classes, for marriage retreats, for the completion of his home church that currently meets in the building intended as a parking garage. As he drives down streets filled with pigs and garbage, he sees his country with eyes of love and speaks of how different the sights will one day be. One of Haiti's most famous statues is called the Neg Maron.

A dark man has just burst his chains and holds a machete as he blows on a Queen conch – calling his countrymen to freedom. It’s a tribute to slaves who shook of their shackles and after years of fighting defeated the fighting machine of Napoleon. I had admired a small stone replica of that statue that Jean had on an office shelf, and before I left he gave it to me. Years ago someone gifted me with a tile inscribed with the word FAITH. Now the Neg Maron sits on that tile – sounding his conch and reminding me of the man who gave him to me: calling his country to freedom.

It’s people like Jean, his Jamaican wife Marcia (who has given her heart to the brave country), and Robinson who inspire me. Robinson is a lovely man. An attorney by trade he has deep eyes, a wide nose, and chiseled features that look like they could have been carved by the same artisan who crafted my Neg Maron. I first met Robinson when we picked him up on a dusty street. He was patiently waiting for us, looking as professional as any attorney I know, in a place that most attorneys I know would be hard pressed to look professional. Away from his profession he gives freely of his time to the church. He personally is responsible for oversight of a satellite church, and when Jean is absent it’s likely that he will take to the pulpit. On Sunday morning you’ll see him neatly dressed in his suit, listening attentively in the front row. When he sings in worship it’s easy to see that it’s flowing from the deepest places of his heart – as is the love that lights him up when one of his little children comes and takes hold of him. Though he’s a little nervous about his English ability, he actually speaks the language quite nicely. As a visitor I was given a brief opportunity to greet the congregation, and after the meeting was done Robinson paid me one of those deep compliments that goes in with the group that you can only count on one hand. He embraced me and struggling to find the right words said “I can tell that when you look at our country you don’t just see it with your eyes. You see it with the eyes – the eyes of your heart”.

People with faith inspire and humble me. My visit to Haiti makes me alternate between inspiration and the desire to go on a rant about economics, global power brokerage, and US foreign policy; grappling with the way that the tiny island has been punted like a football by various heartless powers. I think I’ll leave that for another time. Perhaps when I’ve done more thorough research, I’ll get back to it, but for now I’m going to think about beauty. More than I could ever be, the Haitians are aware of the challenges that they face. When I speak of beauty, they may shoot back with words about trash and dirt, but that’s not where they’re staying. They are weaving a vision for a new and better future. Haiti was once known as the Pearl of the Isles, and by grace, through faith, it can be so again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Malmesbury, SA but London soon.

I'm sitting at my friends' computer in Malmesbury, about an hour north of Cape Town. The family that I'm staying with graciously took me into their home for a few days shortly after I arrived in SA. Now, before I leave, they have invited me back for a short visit. They are dear people and have blessed me in so many ways! During my time here in Africa I have had to, like Paul describes, learn how to be abased and how to abound. The Viljoen family has certainly done their part to make me abound. I couldn't be more grateful to have such friends.

Just to fill everybody in on my latest travel plans: I'm not arriving back in the states at the originally stated time. That shouldn't be news as that date has already past, but still stating the obvious can be helpful sometimes. My friend Caleb predicted that instead of coming home when I said, that I would fly back a year later from Japan after trekking across the whole globe. I'm still a avid proponent of that plan, but at this point my plans are not quite that extreme. Instead of flying back directly from Cape Town to the US, I am instead going through London. I hope to spend nearly a week with a friend in London before finally arriving back in the US on the 19th of January. That's the plan. I'll let you know what happens.

When I look back of the past 12 months it truly boggles my mind. There was a time not so long ago when I felt like my life was over. Since that time God has swept me up and taken me on the best adventures of my life to date. He's enlarged my world and taken me to the most incredible places. Since January of last year I've had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles, New York, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and now London!

Thank you all for keeping track of my as i'm roaming the globe. I've been so blest by the prayers that I know many of you have said for me. My friends make me a wealthy man!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Strand, SA again

Hello everyone. It's Jared here from Strand, SA. Right where I started this whole African adventure. After a giant circle tour of southern Africa, I'm now finishing out my last week in the Dark Continent. There are so many memories that I now carry - moments that I'll try my best to share, but that sometimes just have to be lived. Watching the paintbox hues of the sunset in the Drakensburgs. The trumpeting of wild African elephants as they crash out of the bush. Sharing lunch in a mud walled Mozambican house. Dancing with ecstatic believers until sweat soaks my shirt and drips in large drops. Worshiping in Sesotho, Makua, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Zulu. New Years by the Indian Ocean. Jogging by the beaches of False Bay. So many stories that I'll love to tell for years to come. For now just a few more pictures.

These from Free State, QwaQwa, and the the Drakensburgs.

Africa VIII

And these from Lesotho

Africa IX

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Southbroom, SA

Wind and spitting rain are moving in off the Indian Ocean and the moisture is fogging the upper story windows at the beach house where I'm sitting. The leaves of a palm are waving in the salty breeze. I'm staying with my friend Caitlyn and her family at the house where they have been staying for the New Years holiday. Last night I greeted 2009 with hundreds of revelers who were dancing out the old year down by the beach. Some of the dance tunes are distinctly non-american: "You are my mate and I will stand by you". Still the omnipresence of American music is unavoidable. I couldn't help but note the slight irony as I was dancing in the middle of a throng of South Africans dancing and shouting along to "Sweet Home Alabama". I wondered if anyone else there had ever been to Alabama. The deafening bass of dance music was almost jarring after coming earlier in the day from the absolute and almost tangible quiet of Lesotho's mountains.

Christmas I spent in the Kruger National Park. On the 22nd I arrived in Nelspruit, the town that serves as primary gateway in the massive park that sprawls along the border between SA and Mozambique. The 23rd I spent kicking around at Nelspruit Backpackers and then on Christmas Eve I set out on my bush adventure. At the Backpackers I met Jimmy, a guide with 20 some years of experience in the African bush. Though he could be teaching college classes on the environments that he guides in, he spends his time at a ramshackle backpackers and does occasional freelance excursions with odd folks like me who want a less "touristy" visit to the big park. We spent Christmas Eve driving through Kruger and ended the day at the guest house of the Manyalete Reserve which borders the Kruger. On Christmas day the real adventure began. Setting off in the morning we parked the car and went on foot back into the bush. Way back. Through a drizzling rain we hiked 20km through some of the most untouched country I've ever seen. For hours we tracked wild rhinos and finally came upon the mother and child contentedly grazing on the new grass. We came close to the always skittish stenbok and saw the rare sidestripe jackel. Christmas dinner was steak on the grill back at our lodge.
During our last day in the park we drove to the eastern side of the park and saw the basalt flats. Hippos fighting for territorial dominance, a whole herd of elephants surrounding our car, and families of zebras - some of them scarred from their encounters with lions. We saw all of the big cats - lions, cheetahs, leopard, but only in the most remote of ways. They were there and I do have pictures to prove it, but I can see them better in my pictures than I could in real life.

The next morning I left Nelspruit and drove south-west to QwaQwa. While in Johannesburg I made a friend who invited me back to visit him as he visited his family in how home town. QwaQwa (which is said with a click that I can't manage) was one of the "homelands" during the Apartheid era and to this day it is still an almost exclusively black area. As a white man i was a definite novelty. People would look up and take notice when I drove through the community. David made a point to introduce me to as many people as possible. Meeting a white from the US was an event of some note in the community. I tried to be obliging and friendly, but it was distinctly awkward to be such a novelty. Still, i had a wonderful time with the dear people who so warmly welcomed me with such open arms. I was asked numerous times about Barak Obama, had extended political discussions about Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, and visited numerous churches. At one I was give a place at a table on the stage for after service lunch. The love that I was showered with was so undeserved and so special. I was showered with love, but not with water. :) A shower is a rare thing in this part of the country, and I had to become comfortable with bathing from a basin - in water heated in an electric tea pot. David took me everywhere and wanted me to become familiar with all aspects of his community. He took me down to watch the holiday celebrants spinning their cars until their tires were literally gone. They were until the police showed up and put an end to the fun that is... He took me up to the Drakensburgs where we climbed Sentinel Peak. We went shopping all over town. I even got to be a tag along on a date. I guess you're the perfect third wheel when the conversation is in Sesotho and you only speak English.
Leaving QwaQwa I made my way to Lesotho. This had been one of my most looked forward to elements of my trip. For some reason that tiny country that most people don't even realize exists captured and fascinated me. It was beautiful. I hope i get a chance to write more about just that place - I think i fell in love. Beauty indescribable. Smiles like I have never seen. They light you up. Oh, and then there was the Sani Pass. From the moment I heard of it, there was something in my man's heart that wanted to take it on. This winding grueling mountain road is perhaps the most notorious mountain gateway between Lesotho and South Africa. I could probably go in to the halls of Imperial Rental Car's worst customers of all time. Amazed and bemused loads of South African men in their 4x4s gaped at me as I started down the hairpin road in my little white 2wd Hyundai Getz. Half way down I was thinking they might be right, but I was having the time of my life. I won. I made it all the way down and the car survived!! Just barely, but I made it! They say it can't be done but the little car made it. And I have the passport stamps to prove it. Ok - maybe I'm a little too excited about this, but I guy can have his fun, right?

Coming down from the mountains I made my way all the way to the South African coast where I brought in the new year with Caitlyn and her friends. Caitlyn was one of my companions while at Iris in Pemba. Her family is staying at the beach house that I mentioned earlier. Early tomorrow morning I'll leave from here and begin the drive back towards Cape town.

Here are pictures from Kruger.

Much love to all. Blessings on your 2009!