Tuesday, February 26, 2013

goodnight, puppies

It's an absolutely gorgeous night out.  If I weren't sure I'd get eaten by mosquitos, I'd go sit on the porch for the night.  Not that I'd stay awake for long.  But the sky is that midnight blue, the stars are out and I can see Orion right overhead, and the moon is clear and full. 

The puppies, however, don't seem to have much appreciation for the night sky.  They've found a spot by the back step under the porch light where they can curl up in a little pile.  When I came out the door with the trash tonight, five little heads popped up inquisitively.  "Adorable" doesn't begin to cover it.

Oh. Yes.  Sad to say, only five now.  We lost one this weekend, unfortunately. 

I sang them "Goodnight, puppies" on my way inside. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Did you feel that?

Well, the texts and phone calls were flying in Port-au-Prince tonight.  However, I missed all the excitement, I guess.  Did I feel that shake?  No, I didn't.  Not at all. No running to the streets that I could hear in my neighborhood, either.


I can't imagine it will make the news any more than the little blurb here:
I checked a local tv/radio station website as well and found a brief article entitled "Faible séisme de 3.5, panique à Port-au-Prince" http://www.radiotelevisioncaraibes.com/nouvelles/haiti/faible_s_isme_de_3_5_panique_port-au-prince.html

I have no doubt, however, that it will be a common topic of conversation tomorrow. There are still many here for whom this is all too live an issue. Perhaps for most here, even.  I'd be willing to bet there are still quite a number of people with significant PTSD. 

My only excitement for the evening follows my THANKS BE TO GOD!!! happy dance over the weekend when the power was finally (if tenuously) fixed after over a month without it.  It seemed like a miracle that I could actually turn on the lights and the refrigerator.  So when the power came on tonight just as I was falling asleep, I cut off my "why does it have to wait till now?" grumble with a prayer of gratitude.  Checking my email and the news is all the activity I need tonight.

Friday, February 22, 2013

iron iron

Well, in God's world, good can come of anything.  And so I am taking advantage of the lack of power to learn a few new things.  One of them is the use of a real iron. An iron iron.

a real iron made of iron
Since we have had no power for over a month now (other than the brief time we pump water up to the roof tank with our generator), ironing has been a challenge.  It's been more of a challenge for me because I haven't known how to do the alternative route. 

Sr. MT was kind enough to show me how last week.  I missed the heating up of the charcoal, but apparently she usually does it separately and then puts it in the iron, which has its own little iron trivet so you don't burn the porch tiles (should such a thing be possible).

Next step: swing the open iron like a thurible to get the air moving through the coals to make them hotter.

Once they are glowing orange, close the iron carefully and latch the top thoroughly.  Very thoroughly.  Which may not stop you entirely from wondering whether or not or you are about to dump burning coals on yourself.

Wipe the iron on a clean rag to make sure it's not so hot that it will burn your clothing.  Give thanks for the little spray bottle you bought in the travel section at Target - and then go get a whole container of water, because you will go through it really fast with this level of heat.

Scorch your habit collar anyway (fortunately on a spot that won't show!).  Plan not to iron your own habit with this anytime soon.  Successfully iron a less important stack of clothing that has been rumpled for far too long.  Feel very satisfied.

filled with hot charcoal

From time to time, you need to open the iron up to see if the coals are still hot.  If not, tap it somewhere apart to get the white stuff off of them, and wave your piece of cardboard over it to fan it again - or return to swinging it like a thurible.  (You never know when those acolyting skills will come in handy.)

One final essential:  it is imperative that you have a lovely view, since this process takes a while and you might as well enjoy it.

a beautiful view while ironing is essential

Saturday, February 16, 2013

First World Problems Anthem - I hate it when...

Nou toujou nan fè nwa

Still in the dark here... no comments on that, please!

Thankful today for the generator and for our need for it to pump up water - otherwise, we wouldn't turn it on and therefore wouldn't turn on the wifi, either!  The price of gas these days...  It is one of the mysteries of life that we are not supposed to attach the iron to the extension cord power strip from the generator, or I'd be ironing linens right now.  Not to mention my clothes.  I did take a bagful down to iron at the Foyer Notre Dame on Thursday, but as luck would have it they had no power either.  Well, we did have a nice visit with the ladies and one of the little girls in the neighborhood who likes to come over, anyway.

I had a few moments last night wishing for power when I faced off with a Bug of Unusual Size while taking off the trash.   I scooted around it, deposited the trash, petted one of the dogs, and headed straight back to my new can of Baygon bug spray.  

Picture me in the dark, can in one hand, flashlight in the other.  Point flashlight, point can, press button... Nothing.  Press button further up. Nothing.  Again. Nothing.  Shine flashlight on can. Peer at label on lid. Good thing I can read some Spanish... Put flashlight on chair, try pressing the spot indicated with both hands. Nothing. Wonder how it is that I can earn two masters degrees and still not be able to figure out how to work a spray can.  Finally push hard enough to break the plastic bit holding it in place and get a handful of spray in the process.

So now I'm there juggling the can, the flashlight, and a handful of spray, dripping my way to the bathroom to wash up.

Return.  Move door gingerly, wondering if the Bug of Unusual Size is still there.  No, he's off duty. However, he has been replaced: a Spider of Unusual Size has taken up the post.  Blast spider. Spider runs towards me. Blast spider again.  Runs up the wall and then toward me.  A third time.  He falls off the wall. Phew.  Then he gets back up and comes towards me again.  Seriously??? Blast four, even though I'm fairly sure three times must be the charm. Finally, he has the decency to give up the ghost and rest in peace, so I can, too.

A few minutes later, I'm giving thanks for a gas stove and coming down the stairs with a kettle full of boiling water for a warm sponge bath, having given up cold showers for Lent along with electricity. Peer into the bathroom, hoping I have no more company. Wonder if boiling water will do the trick, if so.  Decide a warm bath is more important than finding out; don't need to find out, fortunately!

Baygone is my weapon of choice, I decide.

At which point, feeling a bit punchy, I wonder if this might be some giant Monty Python-esque D&D game in which my character is a chaotic good cleric armed with the Holy Can of Baygone and the Boots of Stomping.  Quest: Seeking Jesus.  Except he's already found me. How would that work, anyway?

Did I mention I was tired and punchy?

Sometimes it's good to have no power, because at that point it was clear I just needed to go to bed, and there was nothing to distract me from doing so since I couldn't see anything anyway.  Blessings come in many forms.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

my first border

Now, this might seem an odd thing to be excited about, but I just finished the first fair linen with a border that I've ever attempted. 

We have an altar linen project here which gives work to Haitian women skilled in embroidery and brings in a little income to support our other ministries. We take the orders, prepare the linens and do the designs.  They embroider them and bring them back.  We then finish their preparation and send them off to their new church homes.  All this takes months, so we try to make sure people understand we are not Almy Quik-Ship.   Even cutting it is complicated - you have to shrink it before measuring, and then pull out a thread, bit by bit, the entire length of the item to be cut, and then cut along that thread line (in this case, that meant 108" plus large seam allowance). And that's before you do any basting or drawing!

I've been doing this for a year now and really enjoy the work.  I've always loved drawing and sewing, though I can't say I have any formal training to speak of.  Up till now, however, I have mostly prepared purificators, corporals and other small linens along with simple fair linens (large altar cloths).  This is the first time at something so extensive, and I liked it better and better as it progressed.    Yesterday I received the linen back embroidered, and I thought I'd share.

Here is the model for this first border:

This is what I am looking at as I begin to draw on the linen.

adding the first few elements to the border

adding the lettering - now it's starting to take shape

ready to be embroidered!

back to me with the embroidery - lovely!

Now it needs to be washed.  Getting all the pencil out from under the embroidery is never particularly easy - and there's a lot of embroidery here! 

And then it needs to be ironed.  That will be a challenge due to its size even without the lack of power, but it will happen.  Might post a photo later of the finished product.  It will be even more beautiful once it is clean and pressed.  I hope the parish will enjoy it for years to come.

And then on to the next set!

If you'd like to order something yourself, the catalog is on our main convent website at http://www.ssmbos.com/sites/default/files/Linens%20brochure%202012%20final.pdf

back in Haiti

The last week has been interesting. I’m back in Haiti from a really good visit to my parents in Michigan.  I'm so thankful for those who made that visit possible.  I'm glad to see my friends here again, and I'm especially grateful for the welcome I received on my return.  It surprised me that people had actually noticed I wasn't there and thought it worth mentioning.  And one of my classes at the seminary put up the nicest note on the board to welcome me back.

Do I have nice students or what?

I'm also glad my toes are no longer cold!

Of course, it's still an adjustment. It was only a couple of weeks, but I still nearly drank tap water in my sleepy state the first night.

We’ve had no power for some time now other than the short period of time when the generator goes on to pump water up to the château d’eau (our roof tank), and we're not likely to have it soon unless someone comes up with a new transformer.  Well, it is what it is.  It’s really not difficult to get used to having no lights. Other than my moments of slight trepidation on entering the bathroom (will there be another large spider or scorpion?), I’m perfectly fine with kerosene lamps, candles, and solar-charged flashlights and lanterns. [As an aside, let me just tell you that LLBean’s little solar lantern is far superior to the one from Eddie Bauer; flashlights the same. Thankful the latter was half-price so I don’t feel so irritated. That’s what it’s worth.]

I love my solar stuff.  And the LLBean lantern has my  permanent vote.

The two things that are the biggest pain in the neck are the lack of an iron and the lack of refrigeration. Now you might think that the former was not a big deal. However, this is Haiti. Everyone irons everything within an inch of its life. I fully intend later this week to learn to use one of the old ones filled with charcoal, which will make me look less of a ragbag. However, that won’t do for the altar linen order I’ve received back from the embroiderer, which needs to be washed and ironed before being sent out. I’m planning to go to our home for elderly women and spend the day there with it later on. Refrigeration, now – that’s not fun. Cheese isn’t very good when it’s been sitting around a while. But our milk comes powdered or in little cans, condensed, and we buy ice some days so as to have something cool to drink, so it’s not the end of the world.

So what surprises me now is to realize that my friends and sisters up in the northeast have it much worse. I gather the convent lost power and heat in this snowstorm, though I have no details. They have the wherewithal to take care of themselves, but there must be many who cannot. What about the elderly who have no one to check on them and can’t drive? It’s much worse to lose power up there than down here, at least in the winter. We don’t risk freezing to death. I trust the power will be back on soon up there, though, as it will not be here – but it’s a good reminder to all of us to take nothing for granted.