Earthquakes, Storms, Disease, Flooding … and Teenagers

Seriously, Haiti is a horrible place. Really. Why on earth do you want to go there?

I hear that a lot. Like, almost every time I mention that I have been there and plan to return.

In John 9:1-3, Jesus encounters a man blind from birth, and his disciples ask him if it is the fault of his own sin or that of his parents. And how did Jesus answer them? “You’re asking the wrong question. You are looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” (The Message)

A lot of people talk about Haiti like that now, including some high-profile televangelists. “Whose fault is it that Haiti experiences one disaster after another?” Who shall we blame? Is it the voodoo? Is it a pact allegedly made with Satan before the slave revolt? Is it Duvalier’s fault? Or the U.N.? Why did Haiti have two hurricanes? Then a massive earthquake, then a flood, then a cholera outbreak, then another hurricane….? Who sinned, that God would do all of this?

Maybe no one. It doesn’t matter.

I go to Haiti every chance I get because I believe that I have seen, and will continue to see, what He can do. Not everyone is called to Haiti. I have friends who are called to South America, Africa, and Thailand. I know that many people are called to work right here in the U.S., and there is certainly plenty of need right here. I believe that if everyone goes where they are called and does what they are gifted for, every need will be met. Naïve? Yeah, maybe. Don’t care.

And – why teenagers? Why do I feel so strongly about the youth of Haiti? For that matter, why do I spend so much time and effort and worry on the youth of America? Why this trip, with these kids, for these kids?

Again, this is where I am called. I can talk to teenagers. I can give them advice and they will mostly listen to me (unless they are actually my personal offspring, that would be crazy.) Teenagers and young adults are my “grid square.” Heaven knows I would be an unholy mess trying to work with preschoolers!  And in Haiti – teens are just as often forgotten about or brushed aside as they are in the States. They need friends and mentors, maybe a little advice, someone to help them figure out where they fit in. Not so different from teens here at all, really. And the value of the experience for our young people is immeasurable. Again, I’m not implying that every teenager in America should go to Haiti. But I do believe that there would be benefits to every young person in America going somewhere – especially somewhere where poverty means more than not getting the latest WiiStation87DBox the month it comes out. I believe that this trip will have some usefulness to the teenagers at the orphanage, and other teens that we encounter. We may plant some seeds, we may start someone thinking about a future career, we may even begin one or two cross-cultural friendships that will last. I hope so. But honestly the really most important reason for this trip is the awareness and perspective that it will offer to the ones going. Which really is the point of a short term mission trip in any case, honestly. Okay, the surgeons and dentists and ophthalmologists that go to the field for a week or two really do change a lot of lives – but most of the rest of us regular-type folks, in a week or two, are going to change ourselves more than we change the world.

Soup cans revisited

The most common apparent use of the “labels are for soup cans” catchphrase seems to be with regard to medical diagnoses. One blogger on the issue of childhood learning disabilities is considering it as a title for her forthcoming book, where she plans (I gather) to make the argument that when we “label” a child with ADHD or other “disability” we actually do more harm than good, as the child will then begin to define him or her self by the disability.

Well, I do see her point. It’s easy to use diagnoses as excuses or as descriptors of self.

“I can’t help acting this way – I’m bipolar.”

“I can’t go to college, I’m dyslexic.”

“That kid won’t ever amount to anything, he’s got ODD.” (oppositional defiant disorder – a pathological resistance to authority, like a rebel with a brain-chemistry cause)

I see the point, but I disagree with it. Again, “know yourself.” Okay, if you are into looking for excuses – you will find them. But I like my descriptors – even the negative ones, even the medical ones. They give me a path, a way to define what’s “wrong” with me so I can work with it or around it and accomplish my goals.

I have adult ADHD. This diagnosis is not an excuse to not go to college – in fact, I’m in postgrad work now. It IS the information I need to structure my study area with minimal distracters and schedule my study time with regular breaks.

I have social anxiety disorder (SAD). This doesn’t mean that I sit at home alone and avoid interacting with people – it means that I need to put some effort into identifying my anxiety attack triggers and take some preventative measures, like focusing on learning people’s names or finding one person to draw out and listen to.

I have fibromyalgia. Again, I don’t sit around on the sofa and whine about how I can’t do anything because of my “condition.” I take the appropriate medication, watch my diet and exercise, and when I have to exert myself past my tolerance I manipulate my schedule so that I can recover appropriately afterwards.

I have both sleep-onset and sleep maintenance insomnia. Therefore I blog 😉

My husband has major recurring depression. My son has severe ADHD. My niece has cystic fibrosis. One of my staff may have lupus. My friend has diabetes. One of my faculty has dyslexia. There are coping strategies for just about everything that you can “label” a person with, medically. I don’t understand the mindset that a diagnosis is a negative thing. If I didn’t know that I had SAD, for example – I would think that I was just a socially awkward terminal moron, and I probably would hide at home and avoid contact with the human race as much as possible. There are months-long blocks of time in my past where I did exactly that, come to think of it.

How can you address an issue without knowing what it is? How do you help a child with a learning disability learn if you don’t acknowledge that learning is different for everyone? If I work with a dyslexic child but refuse to openly acknowledge the dyslexia, that doesn’t stop the child from getting the idea that something is “wrong” with him or her. Just the opposite, in my experience. If we don’t address the problem and talk about how to work around it, the child self diagnoses and self-labels. Usually as “stupid.”

You have to diagnose before you treat. I’m no doctor, but I’ve watched enough House to get that much.

Anse-à-Foleur, Voodou, and rambling thoughts

So, Anse-à-Foleur is commonly billed as the “Voodou capital” of Haiti.  Opinions on this matter vary (ref. Curtis Rogers’ post from this spring) and I, knowing little about Voodou and less about the town, do not have an opinion. Here’s what I do know (very little) and what I believe (just a little more.)

The monument – formerly a Catholic cross, struck by lightning and widely believed to have been destroyed by Satan to “reclaim” the town for Voodou – is a moderately strenuous climb up a beautiful mountain. The area approaching and surrounding the monument is strewn with the remains of sacrifices.

The temple – a large complex near the center of town – is filled with people whose sincerity and devout worship cannot be doubted. Many are utterly desperate for answers to their prayers. If we (the American Christian Church body) prayed with that much fervent trust and confidence in the Lord, I cannot imagine what miracles would ensue. People travel long distances to pray to and petition St. Anne, Bondye (the God of Abraham, the “good God”), Jezi (Jesus), and other gods/spirits/lwa for healing, jobs, food – and they pray absolutely trusting that if they appeal to and appease their pantheon correctly, their prayers will be answered.

So, much like other pantheistic/animistic traditions, this is a logical offshoot of a population living on the edge for hundreds of years with little control over their own destiny because of poverty, lack of education, and poor health. It is not at all hard to understand why we can’t just come in and wave our magic gospel wands and have people give up centuries of a tradition that appears to offer their only hope. But the more interesting matter in my mind is this one. How do we – U.S. Christians as a group – compare this “primitive, animistic” religion to our “pure faith?”

Do we not generally believe in the very depths of our being that our happiness and success depends on pleasing and appeasing things that are not God – bosses, stockholders, board members, church elders, spouses, neighbors, parents, sometimes even children?

Don’t we depend on the tax sacrifices we make to our government, and the premium sacrifices we make to our insurance companies, to keep us safe and healthy?

When something happens that we don’t understand, don’t we look for explanations that fit our experiences to make it all make sense?

Isn’t idolatry idolatry, no matter if we are counting on St. Anne or on State Farm to meet our needs when the unexpected strikes?

One woman’s opinion – no theology, no anthropolology, just me and my little brain thinking thoughts.

And then of course we get to the part about “so, what do we do?” I only really understand education, so that is all I can speak to. People who know more than me must address the health care, the sustainable agriculture, the job creation, et. al. But the  best approach that I can think of to address idolatry (animistic, materialistic, whatever) is through a clear understanding of who God is and what He has done. Getting our minds around the meaning of words like eternal, holiness, and reconciliation takes (I think, for me anyways) a little bit more than a walk down the Romans road and a few minutes on our knees praying a Sinner’s prayer. The Holy Spirit takes over from there, of course. But we are clearly directed to do our own due diligence in seeking out answers in Scripture for the Spirit to illuminate in our minds (ex. Psalm 119:11-12; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:15).

Which leads me back to the Foundations curriculum that I love to teach. Yes indeed, my logic is just as circular as anyone’s.

I got the confirmation today

Jodi has purchased mine and Jareth’s tickets to Haiti. Now it finally seems real. Weird, I guess, but true – even getting the t-shirts and luggage tags in the mail didn’t really make this a “for sure” thing for me.

I am so excited about going back. I don’t have any idea what I will be doing or anything. I asked to help with the Neighbors Project, but I guess that all depends on whether they have any censuses or surveys that need to be done at that time. I really hope to be able to spend some time in the schools, and talk to the teachers. I want to know how they are prepared, what they need, how they choose their curriculum… well, everything, really.

I really want to meet Kerly and see Malia again, too. And I hope I get to see more of the peninsula than just Saint Louis, although if I can’t that will be fine too. I’m trying not to make any specific plans and just keep an open mind and see what God wants me to see and learn there.

FAES fishing projects spawn boat builder – Inter-American Development Bank – Inter-American Development Bank – Inter-American Development Bank

Final Project for Emerging Tech Class

Well, I think I’ve got the hang of some of these things we’ve learned about. I’m still a little in shock about just how much of a technophobe I turned out to be, but…

My project is posted at  . I decided to use the Google site to highlight some of the Instructional Strategies that we are using at the Academy.

On the page, “Games,” I built a Jeopardy! – style game, using PowerPoint. Then I used Screenr to record a screen capture example of how the game is used in class. I tried to export it to YouTube and then import it to the site, but I couldn’t get it to work properly. So instead, I saved it to my hard drive as an mp.4 file and then uploaded it as an attachment. Not quite the effect I was going for, but it will work. I also tried to use Slideshare to capture the presentation, but I can’t figure out a way to do anything except linear navigation.

On the page, “Demonstration,” I used Screenr to record a PowerPoint presentation about navigating a particular website. This is important in my classrooms, because we have computers and projectors, but no internet capabilities. So if we need to show our students how to do something on the internet, it has to be translated somehow to run on a stand-alone computer. I like Screenr for this. In this case, instead of saving the mp4 file and attaching it to the page, I was able to embed it in the html coding for the page. I like this presentation better.

On the page “Case Studies” I just played around with building navigation links and resource links.

When computers die

and human life comes to a screeching halt – is that a sign that we’ve become too dependent on them?

My ancient but familiar Dell started blinking and flashing ominously about two weeks ago. My brilliant husband and on-site tech support fiddled with it, defragged and scanned it (I have trouble remembering to do that), and convinced it to hang in there for a while longer. So I left on my trip to Burlington – and as soon as I got there, the blinking and flashing was back. Worse than any anime cartoon, it looked like it was intentionally trying to induce me to seize. So I did no computer anything, the whole time I was gone. A week without checking e-mail. It was dramatic. Seriously, how did I live without this thing ten years ago? Worse was the no homework thing. I am having enough trouble in my Emerging Tech class without missing days of content.

(Sidebar – to my old-fashioned way of thinking, the saddest part of the above paragraph is the use of the word “ancient” to refer to something I bought brand new in 2003.)

Got back home to the husband (yay), who did some more fiddling and playing, finally re-loaded the OS, and got it working well enough to confirm that I had everything critical backed up on my external HD. Well, almost everything. Little details like the student version of SPSS that I downloaded for my statistics class back in 2004 were lost. And my Brainiversity game. I really liked that one, too. Sigh. But the final diagnosis was that the video card was going. And apparently (who knew?) in a laptop, you can’t replace the video card. It is an integral part of the motherboard. In other words, totalled – in the car insurance sense of “more expensive to repair than it’s worth.”

Finally, on Thursday, I was able to replace it. I now have a shiny new Toshiba. The keyboard feels funny, the screen is bigger and brighter, and it runs a LOT faster. I am sort of getting used to it. Windows 7 is pretty cool, but again, different. Apparently, despite working as a full-time change agent and advocate for progress in the “real” world, in compuland I am a serious changeophobic. I miss my Dell. I knew where everything was on it.

The things I worry about…

how many people are aware enough of what they put online, and how available it is, to protect themselves? I know that the information is out there. I mean, I’ve found it and read it – but I’m not sure all of my friends have.

So, where did that come from? Well, I’m watching an interview with Sheryl Sandberg, from Facebook – and apparently there is a deal in the works that will make Facebook feed out to seach engines like Google and Bing. Why? I’m trying to think of a reason why this might be necessary or useful – what am I missing here?

I’m an old worrywart. I know. But it seems to me that as they make these social sites more and more user-friendly, and more accessible to people who aren’t particularly tech-savvy (yeah, um, like me), well, more people who aren’t too tech-savvy are using them. Which is very democratic, and it’s nice that all the computer fun is no longer limited to people who think in XML, but, um… I know that, for instance, my friend J (who has a Facebook) probably doesn’t worry too much about how her privacy settings are set. Or, for that matter, know how to change her privacy settings. Or even that she can change them. So it will soon be true that anybody who types her name into Google will be able to see, not just whatever scary stuff is already out there (that’s bad enough, but it’s a whole different rant) – but will also be able to see anything she posts about her family vacation, her cat, her plans for the weekend… someone, please, tell me who this will benefit (besides potential stalkers?)

I really might be too old for this stuff. I should learn to knit.

I may be too old for Second Life

or possibly I’m just not smart enough to learn a whole new set of rules for a video game world – I’ve barely got the hang of the laws of physics for the world I actually live in.

Seriously, I get the concept, and I can even see how it could be used for simulations, virtual battle space, etc. – but I’ve been playing around in the newbies area for two weeks now, and all I’ve managed to do is collect a bunch of information cards and get my avatar (Chan Faith, if I ever get good enough at this to bump into you there) to be a vaguely female looking bald person with a plain black T-shirt and jeans. It’s all I can do to get her to even walk in the direction I want her to, much less interact with anyone. I’ve read several “newbie” sites, help posts, information about skins and owning property and using money – but I still can’t even figure out the hair thing. Actually (virtually?) going to somewhere specific seems to be a bit out of the question for me yet.

I need to enlist a teenager to tutor me through the rest of this class. I’m just about all teched out.

I’m having trouble imagining even more targeted advertising,

but that is apparently a flaw in my imagination, not an actual limit to what is possible.

Already, if I shop at a site like, and look at, say, earrings – for the next several weeks about a third of the webpages I visit will have banner ads from overstock showing the exact earrings I was looking at. It all seems a little creepy and big-brother-ish to me.

On the other hand, I can see how it might work out well on an informational site. It could come in handy. Say for example that I did develop my “Adult Learning Methodologies” webpage into an actual fully developed tool. If User Smith logged on and looked up a lot of information about Case Studies, while User Jones surfed around the guided discussions area, then maybe the next time User Smith logged on the site could one day display any updated Case Studies posted since his last visit, while Jones would immediately see new posts about discussion groups. Hmmm…

It’s not quite the same, of course. To really mirror the kinds of targeted advertising/content presentation that the Yahoo! guy and his comrades were talking about in that Podcast, it would have to be true that when User Smith visited other sites, content about Case Studies would appear in sidebars, pop-ups, or banner ads. That goes right back to the creepy.

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