Thursday, April 16, 2015

Snow Days

Just filling in with some photos from our home leave in December/January... the kids had a blast playing in the snow in VA, it was the first time Gabriel had ever seen snow - ever! - and Valerie hadn't seen it since she was a baby. 
Enjoying an Ithaca winter with Aunt Rosanne!
They had the most fun ever scraping ice off the cars, shoveling up piles of snow, trying to make snowballs...

Their assessment of what kind of winter wear they needed did not always match mine...
This has been a challenging week. Terry is traveling and I'm trying to wrap up my dissertation revisions. Tonight Gabriel has a sleepover with his school at the farm they go to. So tonight is girls' night at our house! I'm looking forward to some mother-daughter time! It's going to be a blast!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Crazy Cuy Lady

Grass we grew in the house for the guinea pigs
Last July, for Gabriel's 4th birthday, I bought him a guinea pig - or cuy, as it's known in the Andes. After bringing home the slate-colored female I read that cuys are social animals and it's best to buy them in same-sex pairs (unless you want them to multiply), and since males might fight each other we went back and bought another female. Gabriel named his Leona and Valerie named hers Brown and White. 

Over time we evolved a system of tubs filled with dirt and covered (usually) with sawdust, which we change once or twice a week. The tubs are linked by big PVC tubes that they love to hide in, and periodically we block off part of the complex to grow grass for them. 

They are way stinkier and messier than I thought they would be, but it's kind of fun to have pets. 

An early arrangement. These boxes were not hygienic.
Since I haven't found anywhere to buy timothy hay for them, the kids and I often pick grass in the neighborhood. The best places are along the university fence, although you have to be discerning and choose spots where drunk university students are not likely to have been peeing. Another good spot is an abandoned lot we walk past on the way to and from school, which has a raised flower bed border behind a wrought iron fence. The flower bed is nothing but grass, and it grows very long. Best of all I know that neither dogs nor humans are likely to have peed in it. 

A long time ago, in 1986 in fact, my 8th grade homeroom teacher (Mr. Jones) told me that all writers are weird. At that precise moment in time I decided not only to accept but to revel in my weirdness. I think it's pretty typical of third-culture kids to go through life always feeling a little out of place; some camouflage it (protective coloration), others revel in it, others are just selective about when and how they express that facet of themselves. 

So I've embraced the bizarreness of my public grass-picking practice. I'm the crazy neighborhood cuy lady. 

I've been thinking a lot recently about how our kids will learn to manage this aspect of themselves. This year has been a bit of a struggle for Valerie going to school in her second language. First grade is a whole new challenge of mastering language and content at the same time. I've been thinking a lot about the migrant kids I worked with in the US and the similar challenges they faced there, and strategies we used to help support them and their families, and how I might translate some of those strategies into our context here. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Something fun

Here's something fun for a Monday, a short video of the kids dancing at a rest stop between Ithaca and Harrisonburg. Their dad logged a LOT of miles on this road so it was kind of poignant - is that the right word? I feel like there must be a better word to exactly express the strange mix of happiness, poignancy, and nostalgia that this evokes for me. There probably is in German (or here).

Anyway, here's the video:
(I also love the song playing in the background - Dream, by the Cranberries).

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Work in Progress

In January, when we were on home leave, I defended my doctoral dissertation. It's been a long and winding road to get to this point. I did have revisions to do but didn't get to them until this week. So that is what I have been spending Holy Week doing. The office is very quiet right now!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


The kids are doing well, despite March being a very irregular month - I think Valerie only went to school a total of five days, with all our travel, plus spring break and other days off. Traveling always messes with their eating habits, but Valerie especially enjoys going places - Gabriel is more of a homebody, like me. 

The main place we stayed at in Haiti had a great playground for the kids, and there were seven other kids there. The youngest was just 2 months old, and one girl was 14 - Gabriel had a huge crush on her and wanted to be wherever she was at all times!

It was fun taking them along on some of the site visits in Port au Prince, including this girls' school.

They also enjoyed the hotel there which had a giant checker board (here they are making pretend layer cakes, with bougainvillea for frosting):
and a pool! Valerie is very interested in taking swimming lessons so I just have to figure out when and how to make that happen.

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.