The Tinii

It's plural for Tinius, because we said so.


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Mountain Biking Haiti- Josh

Here in Haiti, we live way down in the valley in a neighborhood called Santo. The house looks out over a pretty awesome Mountain Range.  My first thought when we arrived was, “I have to mountain bike that”( even though I’ve never really mountain biked).

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I planned on just buying a bike off the street, but our Haitian friend, Robinson, said he knew of a good place to buy a bike. So, he took me to the “bike store” where I could get a mountain bike. This place is downtown in a big market.

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Bike Store

The number of bikes in this picture really does not do justice to the experience.  There must have been ten times that many bicycles at that place! I actually found a newer one for only $80. It’s nothing fancy, but I was glad to have found it in that awesome mess.

My friend, Brian (who actually mountain bikes), wanted to join in so we looked up a few places and took some suggestions. We woke up before sunrise to beat the heat. Not really knowing where to go, my friend Brian and I took the suggestion of a friend who described this road near Titanyen as “rolling hills” that have some really great views. I figured rolling hills = beginner mountain biking. So, we loaded up and came to these “rolling hills”…

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Clearly this was more than rolling hills.

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We mostly were riding on the gravel road.  But once we got to the top we found some goat trails that also made great single track riding.

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The ride back down was filled with obstacles.

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And more obstacles.

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All in all it was a great time.  But luckily I met somebody the other day who knows where there are some trails much more conducive for riding.  I know there is a 30 something mile trail that goes from PaP to Jacmel on the south coast. Once I master “rolling hills” and dodging goats, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

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Haiti For The Win part 1 – By:Allison

I think the world has the wrong idea of Haiti.

Don’t get me wrong – a lot of what you see and hear is true. Haiti has it’s fair share of poverty, sadness, and corruption. Traffic is deplorable. People are in some really bad situations here.

When I see or hear people talking about those things I can’t help but think, “Tell the world something they don’t know.” I’ve only been here two and a half months, but here’s a nugget of truth for you…

…I can buy kefir in the grocery store.

Really.

That super hipster, fermented milk drink that you have to buy at super hipster, local, organic (insert every other granola catch phrase here) grocers is easily bought in Haiti. I hear people sometimes comment on how shocked they are that there’s internet here and I want to be like, “Really? There’s freaking KEFIR!” There’s organic kefir on the shelves of Belmart, yet people envision Haiti as some sort of land that is entirely cut off from the world, stuck in its depravity and waiting for white, church going westerners to rescue it.

And here’s the real secret that I almost don’t want to let out.

Haiti is kind of awesome sometimes. Sure, it’s not always awesome living without hot water or basically off roading everywhere you drive (well…). But, Haiti has a lot going for it and the world needs to see the bright side in regards to Haiti every now and then. That doesn’t mean you have to sweep problems under the rug, but there’s no harm in a truthful, healthy perspective. There’s an award winning rum distillery and brewery here. There are really, REALLLY gorgeous beaches. There’s delicious food, great hiking, mountain biking trails, waterfalls, interesting history, old forts, heck there’s a WORLD HERITAGE SITE.

So I introduce to you a new kind of blog post about Haiti that I like to call, “Haiti For The Win.” This idea started when we realized you can buy filet mignon here for less than a meal at Taco Bell. That’s definitely a big, fat win for Haiti.

Last Friday was April’s birthday so we all went to the beach for a quick break. The best part of Haiti’s landscape is how the mountains just roll right on down into the ocean. It’s breathtaking.

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So we spent some time snorkeling, sitting poolside, eating good food, and taking in the views.

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While sitting by the beach trying to figure out what to do for lunch, a Haitian guy comes up in the water with a massive crab in one hand and a lobster in the other – both still kicking it. The toughest decision of last Friday was whether to have fresh crab or fresh lobster. We went with lobster.

Within a half hour, this guy had cooked up the lobster for us on the beach…total cost – $10.

Haiti for the win.

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A year ago… By:Allison

About a year ago, we started getting serious about quitting our jobs and uprooting our lives in Nashville. We had the sailboat, were eyeing Haiti, and were feeling like it was time.

A year ago I was also on the verge of straight up panic attacks at the thought of it all.

I am, by nature, a worrier. And a pretty adept one at that. I can take a mundane task and conjure up everything that could go wrong with it. So, a year ago, I made worry a full time gig.

Now, looking back, I can’t tell you how happy I am that we quit really great jobs, left a great neighborhood, a great church, and great friends. There are still things that get me stressed and worried, but I feel more determined than ever to make my life meaningful – to try and ignore the little boxes the world says a life should fit inside.

The thing is, boxed and unboxed lives can be lived anywhere. I see people in Haiti still trying to cram their existence into the box that the church says a missionary’s life should fit into. I see people in small town Alabama and neighborhoods in Nashville whose lives are so full of joy and purpose that they break boxes left and right.

More and more I am understanding what our pastor in Nashville means by “being instead of doing”. If I can live just learn to live well – to live outside of fear and worry, to live with joy for others – then the “doing” part will be done and done well. Being is much harder than doing. I can do nice things for Josh, but actually being kind for a solid 24 hours is near impossible!

I had settled into a nice life of “doing” in Nashville and fear was keeping me in that box. I could easily do the same here, but I really don’t want to be crammed back in there!

If I haven’t gotten cheesy enough for you yet, listen to this…
I don’t know much about life, but my advice is this. Do not worry. Do not be afraid. Yeah, it could all go to hell I’m a handbasket fast but that can happen anywhere at anytime. Be who you are supposed to be. Break your box.

For extra cheese measure here’s an inspirational photo of rainbows over the mountains of Haiti.

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Driving in Haiti – By:Allison

When my Grandfather passed away, Josh and I inherited his bright red Jeep Wrangler. That Jeep is how I learned to drive a stick shift. I used the term “learned” loosely. The few lessons I had from Pa pretty much involved him telling me to “push the gas and let go of the clutch” and then me driving him to the bank while stalling out a dozen times. Pa laughed at me the whole time. Teaching maybe wasn’t his strongest skill.

By the time we got the Jeep, all my lessons were out the window and Josh was now reliable for refreshing my memory. Josh has driven a stick shift as long as he’s been driving. Learning this skill from that kind of person is like learning algebra from a math genius. They don’t give you the important details a newbie needs. Josh took me to a hill in a church parking lot and told me to go for it. I felt like Pa was probably laughing from heaven somewhere.

After avoiding Gallatin Road’s stoplights on hills and traffic on all interstates (which often meant driving circles around Nashville) for a few months, I grew a pair and got it down. When we applied for the gig with the Salvants here, one of the requirements was knowing how to drive a stick shift. I actually cried a little when I read that because it felt like Pa had been helping me get ready for my future without me knowing it.

Fast forward to Haiti. So, traffic in Haiti is absolutely nuts. I can’t really explain it. There is a lot to pay attention to at once. Pedestrians, stray dogs, goats, motorcycles (who have NO fear of dying apparently), dump trucks, tap taps…you name it and it’s probably on the Haitian roads somewhere. Plus the roads are in really bad shape. Then there’s the general atmosphere of driving. Aggressive might be a good term to use, or fearless, or reckless, or everything-Allison-is-not. Add to this a lack of good depth perception and not having driven for six months (because of being on the boat) and you have a recipe for disaster.

Let’s not forget that I have a really great imagination for an adult. This comes in handy when working with kids or writing stories and is a thorn in my side when it comes to anything risky. I automatically create a million ways everything can fall apart. 

Josh is good at taking risks, weighing them well and being wise. He’s also really…uh…good at driving with some degree of attitude. He won’t mind squeezing into traffic, honking his horn, and pulling in front of people. For me, it goes against EVERYTHING I was taught about driving. The only thing that makes me really angry in the car is when I let someone go and they don’t give me the “thank you” wave.

The Salvants let us use their vehicle and I can’t tell you how AWESOME that is. It gives us freedom here. Freedom that I haven’t really taken advantage of because driving here seems..well..death defying. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I’m pretty sure you can never go faster than 30mph here because of traffic. I’m more scared of scraping up the Salvant’s vehicle.

But, the day came and I knew I needed to man up. Six weeks and I hadn’t even tried driving here. Pa was probably up in heaven feeling really disappointed and feeling like I’d wasted all those months with the jeep. Can’t disappoint Pa. 

April and I had taken some of the New Hope girls to a weekly club they have that’s not too far away and I decided to try and drive them home. Pretty sure the girls were a little hesitant. Things started out well, dodging pot holes was okay. Then April said, “I’m going to send you down a little short cut. It doesn’t seem like a road and it sort of feels like you’re driving through a market, but I promise it’s a road.” Cue Pa’s heavenly laughter.

I was nervous, but April helped guide me through what seemed like a bustling outdoor grocery store. Next thing we know, I’m cruising along and there’s a police stop. Now, the other thing I’ve slacked on since being here is keeping up my Creole lessons – so this should go swimmingly. Between driving skills and Creole skills I thought I’d either accidentally run over him or completely offend and weird him out with my concentrated stares while I tried to decipher a word. First things first, I didn’t run over him. And God was shining down on me, because this cop spoke English. He complimented my name and waved me on. After that, it was a straight shot home. Besides infuriating drivers behind me by creeping over potholes while continuously apologizing to everyone in the car, we made it home scot-free.

I know that Pa would get a huge kick out of his little granddaughter driving a stick shift around Haiti. 


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Life in Haiti (slash I AM AWESOME AT FANTASY FOOTBALL) – By:Allison

We’ve sort of gotten into a groove here which is nice.

Clearly in a groove.

School started a few weeks ago and is going really well. We teach the Salvant kids so Scott and April can do super fun things like fight Port-Au-Prince traffic, keep generators running, and help raise 21 kids in addition to their own. Scott and April are the executive directors of New Hope Haiti Mission which is an orphanage right down the street. There are 21 kids and they’ve all been there a long time. New Hope is definitely home to these kids. It’s a cool vibe. Since it’s right down the street the kids show up here sometimes or you pass them in the neighborhood and there is a log of coming and go from the orphanage all the time. We run over to borrow eggs or watch this weird version of Haitian American Idol (with only children and these really weird clowns in the background…in fact one clown IS a child who always falls asleep on stage. Maybe it’s her shtick?). It reminds me of Joyce Lane Farms (our neighborhood in Nashville) but with more stray dogs, roadside stands, less partying, and a lot more kids.

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Hanging out on the roof.

So while Scott and April are doing long, slow, hard work in the community…we teach their kids and help out where we can. School is going really well. The kids are pretty much amazing. They’re all really mature and super interesting. Honestly, each of them is really fun to hang out with. So far we like a lot of the same things, such as Dr.Quinn and hot sauce (seriously the amount of hot sauce between our two houses is on the verge of being out of control).

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Science with Josh.

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View from the roof.

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Our house!

Josh is going to start teaching guitar to some kids at New Hope today. Hopefully, with the school year in full swing we’ll be doing more at the orphanage and getting to know those kids better. We’re slowly getting the courage to drive in this INSANE traffic which will definitely make us more helpful than we are now! Josh will be fine dodging motorcycles and squeezing into traffic jams. I, on the other hand, am an extremely non-agressive driver so we’ll see how that plays out…

In other news, we’re in a fantasy football league for the first time ever and it consumes a significant portion of our lives right now. All you need to know about it, is that I am pretty much awesome and I am the only undefeated team. I need to publish this post asap though or that statement may no longer be true.


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A Kitchen Conversation

“What’s that smell?” -April

“It’s the meat I just put on the stove. It smells bad, right?” -Allison

“Uh, yeah. That happens sometimes.” -April

“Should I throw it away?” -Allison

“I’m not sure” -April

“Hey, Josh come smell this meat.” – Allison

“That smells like seafood.” – Josh

“Should I throw it out?” – Allison

“No! Don’t waste that!” – Josh

“Maybe if I cook it long enough it won’t make us sick. I mean, it sort of smells like when you slaughter a deer in a stuffy garage.” – Allison

“It happens and sometimes we eat it. We take meds for worms every few months anyway.” – April

“Well, I’m cooking my pasta in the sink water instead of the filtered stuff so if we get sick we just won’t be sure what it was and I won’t kick myself for eating this meat.” – Allison

 

FYI….we ate the meat and didn’t get sick. I’m going with the “it’s so fresh it smells like a newly slaughtered deer” theory.


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We finally sold Willy!  We definitely have mixed emotions about it selling.  It is really disappointing that the guy who delivered our boat from TN was a month later than he said he would be.  It also sucks that our rudder broke and pushed us back another three weeks.  It also sucks that we cant afford to keep it stored over the winter while we are in Haiti and keep going next summer.  At the same time, I am really glad that we don’t have to worry anymore about trying to sell the boat from another country.  Its nice to have money in our account and to know that it is no longer going to be slowly disappearing in slip fees.   Thanks to Jaqui and Captain Crunch (see earlier blog post) and Allison’s parents it all went down without a hitch.

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We have been living in Haiti for about a month now.  We came here a few years ago right after the earth quake so we knew already that we really like it here.  We have been getting along great with the family that we are living with/ working for.  We really dodged a bullet with that one…

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View of Haiti from the roof.

Last week we took a trip down to the Irish Embassy for Scott’s birthday.  I was really confused at first, the way they talked about it, I thought that we were going to an Irish restaurant in the Irish Embassy in Haiti…  Turns out they just call the local Irish pub the embassy as a joke.

After enjoying our delicious fish and chips, and bangers and mash (we actually ate burgers) we were approached buy this German guy named Stefan.  “Hello” he said “I have a proposal.  If none of you have any moral, ethical, religious, or political objections I would like very much to buy you a drink.”  None of us had any objections, but we did have to go pick up Scott and Aprils kids from work (the kids work for some friends at their pizza restaurant) so we really didn’t have time.  However, before we could even respond the waitress brought out 6 beers and 6 gin and tonics…  My first inclination was that he had slipped something in the drinks and was was planning on taking advantage of us all monetarily (and lets be honest probably sexually too).

He said that he just wanted to have a conversation about economics.  When we asked him what he did for a living he slapped himself in the face repeatedly and then sniffed his armpits.  When we asked him how long he has been in Haiti, he slapped himself in the face and sniffed his armpits.  We decided pretty quickly that unless we wanted to wake up on the side of the road in Port Au Prince we should probably head out quickly.

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