The Beauty Of “Do-Overs”
I look out the window and see water quietly rolling onto the beach and pink streaks in the clouds. The sun has just fully gone down. There’s a goat bleating in the field next to our house. He’s been going all day. The sound of small rocks pelting the tamarind tree on the beach as kids try to knock them down to eat the sweet fruit has finally ceased. I wondered how much longer they could keep it up considering they probably can’t even see the pods falling. There’s a group of people talking really loudly down the way. Probably a soccer match finishing up.
It’s been a rough day or so. I’m happy to see the sun going down, knowing that tomorrow morning we get a “do-over”. Every day is a do-over. That feels like grace to me.
Yesterday I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, my stomach flip flopping. I thought it was excitement, like before I travel. I was going to Port au Prince with Chewie, a friend who’s helping us with our construction project. We had a big day of buying about a billion things ahead of us. Toilets, sinks, a bathtub, fixtures, pipe, wire… The list was long. We had to get a bunch of stuff to finish the staff bathrooms and decided that it made sense to buy a bunch of the stuff for the house since we would be getting it from the same places anyway. It would save trips later on, and everything would be here for Evens to refer to as he was wiring and plumbing things, rather than making due later on and crossing our fingers. Concrete is pretty permanent, and once a drain pipe is laid, it’s laid.
We prayed with the staff, as we do each day, and then the construction crew took off in the white truck with Chris. Chewie and I loaded up into the red truck and left. I was driving because Chewie is still waiting for his Haitian license to come through. It’s complicated. I thought the truck was pulling funny, but also don’t drive it much and was trying to adjust my seat and what not as we pulled out. A few minutes down the road the reason for the pulling made itself fully known when the right front tire completely blew. I pulled over. Chewie lowered the spare and started to attempt to loosen the lug nuts. They didn’t want to budge. Chewie isn’t a small guy, thus the nickname Chewie, as in Chewbacca.
We called Chris, who was just leaving the construction site in the white truck. He said he would come if we needed him to. Chewie and a moto driver who stopped to help kept working on the nuts and finally managed to make them budge. I called Chris to tell him we were good. We’d swap out the tire and continue on our way. That is, until they put the spare on, lowered the jack and the rim went right down to the ground. It was flat too.
I get Chris back on the phone and tell him to come. We need to send the tire into Montrouis, just a couple minutes down the road, to get repaired. He tells me the white truck has a broken U joint and the bearings are shot. It can’t go on deliveries as planned the next day, so the red truck needs to come home after the tire is fixed to get loaded.
He arrives, and they load up the flat tires, he passes me the iPad so I have something to do while I wait with the truck, and they go get the tires fixed. He drives back and forth a couple of times as he leaves Chewie at the tire repair place and goes to get Olivia for school, drops her off, then comes back.
When I opened the iPad to read, I find the screen shattered.
We still don’t know how it happened, but somewhere between him putting it on the seat and giving it to me the screen got shattered. There’s a gouge in the top of it, but we have no idea exactly what caused it. And, there isn’t much we can do about it. When they come back with the repaired tire I show him. That’s three things in the matter of an hour and a half. Oh wait, it’s actually 4. The original tire blew out the side wall when it blew, so rather than being repaired, it needs to be replaced.
While I was waiting my stomach kept flip flopping and I started feeling really tired. I realized I wasn’t getting a flip flopping stomach because of excitement, I was getting it because I was sick. By the time I got back to the mission with the truck all I wanted to do was curl up in bed. Alex was having a rough morning, so after putting a bandaid on a hurt toe and cleaning him up a bit I changed into comfy clothes and we curled up on the bed with a movie. Within a few hours I had a full on stomach bug, if you know what I mean.
Later in the afternoon we had a visit from our Haitian board member who also helps with paperwork, licensing documents, etc. He was taking care of some tax stuff as well as new license plates and stickers for the 5 motorcycles the mission has. Haiti has changed over to new plates on all vehicles in the past 6 months, and it’s come at a high cost. It cost us about $5,000 US to updated everything (fees, plates, taxes, etc) on the 5 vehicles the mission owns before the end of last year. The motorcycles are going to cost about a 1/3 of that, if not more. It hurts. It’s frustrating. $3,000 is a load of filters for 30 families/households. Being a registered foundation here means nothing when it comes to this kind of thing. This is the president’s last year of his term so he’s trying to generate income before elections. This is the cost of “doing business” in Haiti. Oh, but we’re not a business. I forgot…
At this point we’ve lost track of how many things have been on the table to deal with in the day. Peggy starts feeling sick around dinner time and turns in. Chris puts the kids to bed, then we curl up and watch a movie in bed. I’m on Ibuprofen because my body hurts.
I spent all of today in bed because I still felt beat. Thankfully the other stuff has subsided. Peggy was down all day with the same thing. Chris carried everything else.
Just after lunch Chris got in the van to head out to Kan Marie to check on construction. He didn’t get far before the van completely died. He got the van home and then tried to figure out what the deal was, to no avail. It wouldn’t turn over again. He called the mechanic we use in Port au Prince and they decide to get the thing towed into town. He calls “Mad Dog”, the tow truck driver. Two hours later they’re here and loading the van on the flat bed. It’s the third time the van has gotten an all expenses paid trip on the tow truck. I’m still amazed that it only takes about 2 minutes for them to pull it on and flatten the truck bed out again before the start tying things down. It feels like it should take longer.
It’s been a rough couple of days. And the irony is that in a board meeting phone call on Monday night Chris was telling everyone how well things were going. So well, that he was fully prepared for something to go wrong really soon. But not all the things. We have 5 vehicles, and now only one that is currently running. It’s been logistically difficult with 3 for the past two months.
The amazing thing to me, though, in all of this, is how well we’ve learned to roll with stuff. If you would have put all this in front of us 8 years ago it would have been high stress. That’s not to say it isn’t stressful, it most certainly is. But, we’ve gotten better at dealing with things in general to the point that the stress is less and easier to manage. We’ve developed a take it as it comes attitude, and the ability to think quick on our feet. To make fast calculated decisions. This actually really hits me when we’re home on vacations and I watch people struggle with easy every day decisions, like where to go for lunch or what to do when making plans with friends. I have to exercise a lot of patience because here time is valuable. There is a lot riding on every decision we make and people counting on us using wisdom in those decisions. We plan fast, we execute fast, as long as Haiti works with us and not against us.
So, we roll with it. We pay the taxes. We pay the licensing fees. We fix the tires. We rest and get better. We call the tow truck driver and the mechanic. And, we pray.
These days/weeks/months are hard and draining and we see that they’re fragile and something we have to hold onto loosely. We have to be careful with how we deal with them, and we recognize that we’ve really been entrusted with them, rather than left with whatever is there after everything falls apart. We have the choice in our attitudes and responses. While we might not be able to control the circumstances, we can control how we deal with things. We do our best, we leave things in God’s hands when we’ve done our part, and we pray for wisdom and his provision, even if that comes from being creative. Like Chris getting back on a motorcycle again after years of not riding here, just so he can get to the construction site every day to check on things. It means Yonese takes Olivia to school on a tap tap until we have another vehicle freed up. It means we juggle and problems solve and schedule. I’ve learned that while it might feel a bit better in the moment, kicking my feet and crying and getting worked up doesn’t seem to do a lot of good because there’s no one to blame. It’s just life. Life in Haiti.
And tomorrow we get a “do-over”.