You're probably reading the title of this blog and thinking how can there be any??? 2020 will forever be remembered as one of the worst years ever for many people but even in the middle of pandemic there have definitely been some highlights. We came into 2020 hoping for a more peaceful year for Haiti. There had been political unrest on and off since July 2018 but really reaching its height in late 2019. Schools were shut, people were scared to go out anywhere and we pretty much stayed at home for weeks on end. By January 2020 the situation in Haiti was getting back to normal. After months of school being on and off the boys were finally back in school, Emmaus was busy with visitors and I had just finished a wonderful 2 weeks with a PT team meaning we had loads of patients to treat.
Then the first case of coronavirus was announced in March and borders, airports, schools all shut and well you know the rest of the story. We made it home right at the end of March, naively thinking we would return to Haiti in August. Now we are in the last day of 2020 and as I look back, it's been hard but parts of it have been good. Here are a few highlights:
- Cousin time
It felt like forever before the boys were allowed to spend time with their cousins but finally, it came and they loved it. Our summers home are usually so chaotic and busy the boys really don't get to spend that much time together. Plus wee Ben was born just after we moved to Haiti so the boys have really gotten time to know him much better during this year.
Christmas has been hard for so many people and not all what it usually is. For us Christmas was great, we were allowed to bubble with my family. The boys spent their first Christmas ever with their cousins and grandparents. We had so much fun seeing all the Christmas lights and one of my favourites, going to church on Christmas day, in English even though we took the service and we weren't allowed to sing. We were still there. We even got to see a little snow a couple of days after Christmas.
- Moving home
We moved house 3 times in 12 months and we are truly grateful for the 'missionary house' as it's known in our house, where we stayed when we came back in March. We have a few places which feel like home to us but it was so good to move into our own home in August. I have been sorting through all of our stuff and am thoroughly enjoying getting rid of a lot of it! Packing your life into suitcases and moving overseas definitely puts into perspective what you really need to live. Even though only Sam really lived here the boys are enjoying being in our own house.
- Access to speech therapy
There is zero speech therapy in Haiti (SLT's something I would love to develop at our therapy clinic if you're interested??). By January we knew Jacob was really struggling with his speech and needed some help, we had tried a zoom session which was helpful but if you know Jacob you will also know there is no way he was going to sit by a computer, with a stranger and participate. Jacob started speech therapy in July and is really making great progress. Not only has his speech improved, but his behaviour is much easier to manage, he is so much less frustrated and the other boys now think he is hilarious when he talks. And the three of them have been playing together much better just in the past couple of weeks. We are really thankful for this extended time here and to have access to speech therapy.
To be honest, our boys have amazed us. Those first few months in Bangor were hard. Our kids had been told we were leaving Haiti the morning they woke up, they then travelled for more than 48 hours to a house they hadn't been to for a year. We were not allowed to see anyone, we were not in our own home, all the places they associate with Bangor were closed, it was cold and we had no idea how long we were staying. They have really done well, moved house, settled into a brand new school and pretty much took the whole thing in their stride. They do ask often about going back to Haiti and are looking forward to going. We always try to remind them of the many experiences they have which so many other kids do not get to have and we hope that we are instilling an attitude of gratefulness for those experiences instead of feeling like they missed out. Sams sums it up well 'When I am in Haiti I miss Bangor, but when I'm in Bangor I miss Haiti.' However, their adaptability only goes so far, moving house/country is fine but they all explode if I make something for dinner they have never had before! 😂😂 - Food
At the risk of sounding superficial I'm going to put this in here. There are so many foods we just can't get in Haiti and sometimes things are just a lot easier when you are able to throw something in the oven for dinner. We just don't have that option in Haiti. All meals have to be planned out and thought through. I can't just nip out to the shop if I forget something. We are enjoying things like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, cheese (unrationed!), chocolate biscuits, sweet potatoes, crisps, sweets, parsnips and of course sausages. I think we have eaten more sausages in the last 6 months that we have ever!!
- Staying involved in our work in Haiti
We all may be feeling a little 'zoomed out' but the internet has enabled us to not only stay connected but to be a part of our work in Haiti. Bill has been able to continue his role at Emmaus through teaching online and going to meetings on zoom and registrar duties. It's not ideal but it's been possible. Five years ago it would not have been possible. I have been able to get stories, photos and information through WhatsApp from Bethesda to update the social media accounts and send out monthly updates. I have also had weekly meetings with Altidor and Echebert through messenger. It really is amazing what we can do with technology from the UK to Haiti.
Although life is always busy with small kids, I do feel that we have been able to get some rest. The past few years have been pretty intense, and this extended time at home has taken off some of the pressures of cross-cultural living and allowed us to relax a bit. I can honestly say that we have no idea what 2021 holds but the Lord does and well that's enough for me.
Happy New Year!
Proverbs 16 v 9 The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.