Monday, February 10, 2014

Reminiscing (Part Two)

When I left off we were still in the DR and had just made an appointment at the US Embassy.  We traveled back to Haiti by bus and tried to get used to life as a married couple.  I will not mince words.  It was hard.  We had dated long-distance for two years only seeing each other maybe a total of five weeks that entire time.  Then we were married and together all the time.  All day.  Every day.  When school started in August I think we were both relieved.

We lived at the school where we taught because it wasn't really safe for me to be outside those guarded gates.  I rarely left the school grounds.  And it was stifling.  I felt so alone and so frustrated.  I cried.  A lot.  Oh, how challenging those first months were.  It wasn't all bad.   I learned a lot about myself.  A lot about Ysmaille.  He was a great support and somedays he just held me because he knew that was what I needed the most.

In October it was time for us to go back to the DR for the appointment we made back in July.  We took the bus again.  The next day we went to the embassy and waited outside in a long, winding line for our turn.  When we made it to the door they asked to scan our belongings.  Unfortunately I had my camera with me and they wouldn't let me bring it in.  They told us there was a cafeteria down the street that might hold it for us.  We found the cafeteria, but they were not interested in holding a camera from a couple of foreigners.  We finally decided to ditch the camera in someone's garage and hope it was there when we got back. 

Once inside the embassy we waited for several hours.  When it was finally our turn we explained that we wanted to take a trip to PA to see my family, but we couldn't go to the Embassy in Haiti because it was closed due to the unrest in the nation.  The lady was very kind, but a little skeptical.  After a few minutes she separated us to question us individually.  One of the things she asked was where our first date was.  I told her "Tiger Mart."  She was suprised that I described our first date at a gas station.  When Ysmaille told her the same thing she was convinced ours was not simply a green card marriage.  I told you that unconventional first date would save us.  We got the visa!  In two months we would travel on a plane for the first time together. 

We had so many crazy experiences that year-- days off school during the election because there was rioting in the streets,  another trip to the Dominican Republic (this time on a tiny plane because the bus wasn't traveling due to the unrest in the city), our first Thanksgiving, a trip to Pennsylvania, and learning how to be together. 

We finally left Haiti in March of 2006.  Things were not easy here.  We came here without jobs, without a place to live (thanks Mom and Dad for helping us out!), and without much direction other than knowing we wanted to settle down here.  During that time we saw God's hand like never before.  He was such a wonderful Provider for us in that season.  We had so many trips to Lancaster and Philadelphia for immigration paperwork.  The lessons we learned during that time have brought us through some challenging times in our marriage.  In 2010 Ysmaille became a U.S. citizen and we started a new chapter.

Through it all, Ysmaille has been a steadfast and faithful husband.  We have some very real challenges, some moments that we felt so unprepared for this life, and some times us such pure joy that we can hardly contain it.  So, this Valentine's Day I celebrate our beginning and look forward to the rest of our journey together.  Ysmaille, ou gen ke'm. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Many of you know bits and pieces of the story behind Ysmaille and I, but I thought I'd write a little bit about our early experiences.  Since Valentine's Day is coming up in a few days I thought I'd celebrate by telling you the story of our life.

When I moved to Haiti in 2002 I did not go there for love.  I simply wasn't ready to settle down yet, and thought I'd be a little adventurous.  I moved out of my parent's house for the first time in my life and moved to a country where I didn't know a soul.  I lived in an apartment right outside the school where I taught with four other girls-- one American, one German, and two Haitian.  Ysmaille and I soon became friends and within a month or so we were a couple.  We had our first kiss outside the gate of my apartment under the bougainvillea flowers.  Our first date was at Tiger Mart gas station (a fact that would later save us) for ice cream.  We also rode on the back of motor cycles to explore downtown, hitch-hiked up the mountain for pottery, watched movies in French, and spent lazy Sunday afternoons talking about our future. 

The school year soon came to a close and it would soon be time for me to go back home.  Ysmaille had a half-scholarship to go to a school in New York, but was unable to get the visa so we embarked on a two-year long distance relationship.  Each Christmas, Easter, and Summer vacation I would spend a few days or weeks in Haiti hoping that one day we would together forever.

In the summer of 2004, while I was visiting Ysmaille, he asked me to be his wife and I said yes.  We decided to get married in Haiti because we didn't want to rely on a fiance visa.

In June of 2005 we had a gorgeous wedding at Hotel Montana, a beautiful hotel above Port-au-Prince.  It was a scary time in Haiti with kidnappings happening almost daily and the U.N. presence heavily noticeable, but I was blessed to have my entire family there for the wedding as well as several other treasured guests. 

We had an unconventional start to our honeymoon.  There were no flights from Port-au-Prince to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, but that didn't stop us.  On the morning after our wedding we left at 7:00 a.m. on a bus bound for Santo Domingo.  We made it past the border and to the capital.  Once in Santo Domingo we took a taxi to our resort.  The entire trip took nearly 14 hours.  Ironic when you consider how small the island of Hispaniola is.  After a week in Punta-Cana we traveled to La Romana, where our friends Karly and Tania, were now living.  We were not in a hurry to leave the DR because things were so tense in Haiti, so we took one more side trip to Santo Domingo to visit our friend Guerline.  While at Guerline's house we made a phone call to make an appointment at the US Embassy so Ysmaille could get a visa to visit my family for Christmas.

To be continued...