April 4, 1998 - Personal Web Site: Wendy in the Peace Corps in Haiti

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Wendy in the Peace Corps in Haiti

Wendy in the Peace Corps in Haiti


Wendy in the Peace Corps
in Haiti

this site has been left essentially as it was when I concluded my Peace Corps service in June 2002. It is no longer being maintained, but was left here for your viewing.

I am still living and working in Haiti, my current activities can be viewed at

Wendy's new home page
PLEASE VISIT this new and exciting addition !

Read Letters from Wendy

View the Photo Gallery
BookView the Guestbook. Sign the Guestbook. Book

Wendy has joined the Peace Corps and expects to serve for two years beginning July 1998. She began her training in Haiti on April 15th. Wanting to stay in touch with her friends, this web site provides a way.

Wendy is sending letters and pictures which are posted here. Because Wendy may not be able to respond to e-mail, the best way to communicate with her and her friends is to sign the Guestbook. Wendy will be able to read your comments upon her visits home. You can also E-mail Wendy's friends who are maintaining this Web site.

If you want to write to Wendy directly, you can do so (snail-mail*) at:

Wendy Goodman
BP 101
Jacmel, Haiti

* Be aware this is REALLY snail-mail; letters to Haiti typically take about one month (sometimes quicker, sometimes slower). Also be aware this address is likely to change (in fact, will change around July), so check here before sending mail.

Welcome to

Wendy's life in Haiti !

learn about

My Peace Corps Service 1998-2000 (click here)

(COMING IN March 2003 !!!!!)
What I'm doing in Haiti now

(I'm still here, busy, and thankful for it! See below)

NOV 17 2002:
When I was placed in Jacmel as a Peace Corps volunteer, I had a strong sense that there was some reason I was placed there, something I was supposed to do beyond my Peace Corps service. Seeing the immense creative resource in town, the idea of a community arts center began stirring in me. Now 4 years later, the project concept has changed and grown as I have during my time living in Jacmel.

I am now taking the steps to realize SKAKAJ, a community arts and cultural center for the advancement of Jacmel. We have a governing board of 5 dedicated and talented people in Jacmel and a US charitable (tax deductible) partner, Avanse, supporting us in the US. We are well on our way! The new website will share information on and pictures of SKAKAJ, Tet Kole (a project for Street Kids in Jacmel) and Avanse, our charitable (tax deductible) partner supporting us in the US. We just need the next few months while I'm in Haiti to gather and add some information and touches before we launch it.

Please check back in March!

or contact us at Avanseorg@yahoo.com
Learn what we're doing, how we're doing, and how you can help!
SKAKAJ is an Arts Center, BUT it's so much more !!!
Our Mission: SKAKAJ is a community-based art center that affirms and encourages local artists and stimulates the creativity and learning skills of children. SKAKAJ provides artists with local access to art supplies, increased market exposure, work space and exhibit space. It aligns with Jacmel's development goals to increase tourism and strengthen its position as a national center for arts, crafts and traditional culture.SKAKAJ provides children with access to local artists and artisans and a learning space to grow intellectually and creatively through hands on exposure to the arts.
SKAKAJ'S objective is to engage and build on local art resources, to respond to community needs, to support Jacmel's general growth and development, and to do so in a culturally rich and sensitive manner.

SKAKAJ supports and develops the learning and creative skills of children and adults by engaging local artists to teach classes and through facilitating exposure to the artist's work.

We support artists in both the production and commerce of their art. SKAKAJ will provide artists with skill development in teaching and in effective computer and internet technology use to expand their visibility and marketing capability.

Participation in the center will be available through a cash and/or barter system rather than as charity. We believe "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a life time." We program for the lifetime.

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While I finished my Peace Corps service in June 2000. I was not finished with Haiti (nor Haiti with me for that matter).

The original web site began when I joined the Peace Corps in 1998. It was intended as a way to better stay in touch with friends and family. It turned out to be more than that. When I returned, I was amazed to see how many people had visited my website, and moreover how many people seemed to appreciate it. Responsive to that and to my current activities, I've decided to revive, expand and update the site (this time staying more on top of it.) I have learned it's power and am committed to wisely using it. I plan to be adding new information regularly, especially about SKAKAJ and TET KOLE.

I continue in Haiti, living there a more than half time now. Haiti holds me, and I am honored. My lifestyle is not very different from when I was in Peace Corps. Now however, I am again my own person, following my own rules. I continue to learn and serve. I hope you will come back in March 2003, check out my current involvement in Haiti , though I will keep the old site from my Peace Corps days available for you to visit as well. I hope you will continue to periodically visit this site, communicate with and support us as you are so moved. Please, do sign the guestbook. Thanks for visiting.

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Wendy in the Peace Corps in Haiti

Letters from Wendy

Wendy has been sending letters from Haiti. Some of them have been forwarded here to share with you...

Jump to: [Apr 98] [Oct 98] [Jan 99] [Jan 2000] [Home Page]

Letter Page opened: April 10, 1998
Last code update: October 23, 1998
Last purged: June 3, 2000

[Return to Wendy's Home Page]

January 2000 [Top of Page] [Home Page]

News from Haiti

January 27, 2000

Well, Hi everyone.

I hope this new millenium has been treating you well so far. I am in the Peace Corps Office In Port Au PRince, waiting for a ride home so i made need to leave quickly....what do i want to say? I am coming up on ;the time of closing out my Peace Corps Experience, wondering and creating what will be next.

It is a full time, i time that is clear change. I am doing well with it, and that feels good. So let me tell you about my new years...It was probably the best New Years I ever had (and the promise of improvement is being sustained so far.I left the village to have a rural haitian experience and it was a highlight of my time here. Arriving in La MOntay... a rural outskirt of Jacmel that has one dirt road leading to it, is a good 11/2 hour hike up out of the vil, ;and has no phones, electircity etc. And have been feeling blessed ever since. I am hoping to get email again , and so will be updateing this site soon (si bonje vle...if God/dess wants)

I hope you're all well, thank you for visiting the site and signing the guest book, it really is a treat to sign on and see that so many 'stranger's have been touched by my words and experience. Thanks again...


The above letter was copied to this letters page from her Guestbook entry.
Dated: Jan 27, 2000 - 15:46 - From: - It's me...Wendy

Updated by: Mike on May 20, 2000 +
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[Previous Guestbook Page -- Jan 99]

Wendy in the Peace Corps in Haiti

Letters from Wendy

Wendy has been sending letters from Haiti. Some of them have been forwarded here to share with you...

Jump to: [Apr 98] [Oct 98] [Dec 98] [January 1999] [Return to My Home Page]

Letter Page opened: April 10, 1998
Last code update: October 23, 1998
Last purged: June 2, 2000

[Return to Wendy's Home Page]

First letter from Wendy (before she left New York enroute to Haiti):

News from Haiti

April 10, 1998

Hi everyone,

Well, the countdown is in process. I left my house on Friday April 10. I head for Miami on Sunday, 4/12 and for Haiti on Tuesday 4/14. A happy Passover and Easter to everyone.

Preparing to leave home and go to Haiti has been an extraordinary experience. I realize the richness of the life I have created here, my friends and family being a major ingredient. You have made your presence felt, true to form, in a multitude of manifestations. So many of you have helped to ease my departure, I could not have embarked so solidly on this journey without your help, love and support.

Thank you, seems insufficient in the light of how deeply I have been touched. Feeling all the love and support that I have been sent off with, makes it more difficult in some ways to leave, but it is a bitter sweetness, and I look forward to staying in touch and to seeing you when I return.

While I won’t be able to sign on, (since I likely won’t have electricity or phone, I decided it was premature to take my computer with me) I am hoping this web site helps keep to us connected. It will facilitate my communicating with all of you, and might (hopefully) inspire you to communicate with me (please check for address change sometime in June).

This is how I hope/think it will work:

I will hand write to people, and will ask/hope they will then type in my letters and E-mail them to one of the 7 folks (Ashely, Bruce, Joyce, Merle, Michael, Mike or Robin*) who will be updating the letters. If people don’t have e-mail, they can copy the letter and send them to Joyce or Ashley (snail mail) who have graciously volunteered to type them in, and then update the site.

Once more, many, many thanks to Mike Harelick for making all this not only possible, but easy for us.

I know that as I embark on my new journey, we are all continuing our respective adventures. I wish you all love, support and fulfillment as you too, journey onward.

My next update will probably be from Haiti…..

Blessings upon you all
with love,

* If you need to contact one of the "7 folks," click on "Wendy's Friends" on the Home Page. Mike
Updated by: Mike wb2yaz1@aol.com on Apr 13, 1998 at 21:37
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News from Haiti


Hi Everyone!

We, Bonnie and Bruce, have just spoken to Wendy (10pm Thursday) and to say she sounds great would be an understatement. In her words "I'm better than I thought I'd be, and I'm a whiz at Creole, at least on the first day--but I doubt it will last!" She's been spending her first days in Haiti in the south at an ocean front hotel with a swimming pool, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Not too cushy!! Although she does say she hasn't been out of the hotel, yet. The training has kept her pretty busy. And she's been most impressed with the quality and organization of the training. She also feels she's been recognized and is making a contribution to the training program.

She leaves her hotel on Saturday and heads to a town north of Port-au-Prince called St. Marks, where the group will spend the weekend in a hotel. On Monday the volunteers will head to different villages in groups of five, each with it's own teacher, where they will each live with a Haitian family. During the week they will study Creole with their teacher, and on the weekends all the volunteers will re-group in a hotel (in St. Marks, we think) for the technical training.

Volunteers expect to get their site assignments sometime in late May or June. The U.S Ambassador to Haiti will swear in volunteers on July 4th. That's all of the detail she has for now. We'll keep you posted. She sends her love to all.

Love to all,

Updated by: Bonnie & Bruce ada@valley.net on Apr 16, 1998 at 23:00
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News from Haiti

Sunday, April 19, 1998

Dear Bonnie, Bruce, Brian, Mom, et al;

This is my first letter from Haiti, and so I am here--in Liancourt, a small village outside St. Mark, where I will be living with Madam Trouirl (I call her Mamam) and her family. I've been here most of the day and have met lots of people--her daughter Jennifer, another daughter, her father, and lots of others--still not sure who lives here. But I feel very welcomed and have my own room. The house I am in is large. Mamam has 6 children--all are educated--2 live in North America (US and Canada). While the electric isn't working now, she has it--a VCR, lights, fridge, etc. But also the more (I expect) traditional kerosene lamps, cooking area, etc. An interesting balance of the modern and the manual, or simple.

Haiti is delightful and the people almost all smile in welcome-- all that is needed for it is a "Bon Suir" and a smile.

The Peace Corps here has really impressed me. Being greeted by the Ambassador, and Peace Corps director and staff, and a Haitian dignitary was a surprise but just the beginning. There is so much support for our preparation to serve. Already there have been sufficient language classes for us to converse clumsily. We have been trained to care for ourselves and our health (bathroom and bathing habits are quite different here) and given a general overview.

I will spend the next three months in what looks to be an incredible training--my permanent site will be assigned in mid May, after the staff has enough sense of us to make a good match.

Slowly I am relaxing into not knowing--not knowing the language, or what work I'll do for the next two years (assuming I get this Kreyol language--which is fun and very poetic). So far Haiti is sweeter than I expected with little feel of danger and lots of laughter. The drums play in the distance.

Yesterday was my first day in "real Haiti" (we spent the 4 days at a conference center on the beach, with a pool, air conditioning, plumbing, phone, TV, etc, it felt like a U.S. vacation). I found myself relaxing into the breath I have only experienced in third world countries, and it felt good. I hope it will continue too, and that with the days my ease will continue to grow--as I learn their ways.

As for me--I am good. Only very occasional questions of what I am doing here, can I make it?--will I learn Kreyol? and then I remind myself that I have only been here not even a week. If nothing else (and there is much) I must and will learn patience--especially with myself.

I try not to think of being away from everyone for 2 years (+)--taking it one day at a time.

I hope you are all well--I love having the pictures of everyone--I have already shared them with many.

Love-- hugs to all,

Updated by: Bonnie Goodman ada@valley.net on May 3, 1998 at 13:41
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News from Haiti


Hello my dear ones

Haiti is slowly touching my heart. Or maybe quickly (since we've only been here a week!) Last night I found myself sitting outside with the quitar playing & singing to what began as 3-4 of the young people, ages 8-15, who live and work at my house. The number grew and suddenly I looked up to be playing to an audience of at least 13-adults & children included. I giggled, but my shyness & embarrassment gave way quickly to the evident joy I was evoking. I kept asking them to sing w/me-even it they didn't know the words to the song. We did a round of Puff- with 'na na's' instead of words, & then I lead us all in ' aman' images of Sidney Poities & "Lillies of the Field" sprang into my mind. It was great fun & I was deeply touched. I then proceeded to offer them the guitar to play-each one in turn shyly but eagerly took me up on the offer-it was truly precious!

So I find myself in bed between 9&10-the lack of electricity turns one into the natural rhythm of the day. The dark nights highlight an incredible sky! I am waking up generally around 5-5:30 but don't get out of bed until around 6:00. Quite a change for me and delightfully welcomed.

I'll be in this town, LianCourt, for my 3 month Kreyol and Culture training. I am living with an older womn, Madam Trouril in a large home that is wired for electricity which came on for literally 1 minute yesterday evening and again in the middle of the night. She has, I think 6 children and a town full of cousins. One daughter lives in Miami and 1 in Canada. I haven't quite gotten the rest. It's only Wednesday, we arrived on Sunday and all the communication is in Kreyol or in gestures. Anyway I have my own room and I am quite comfortable.

Kreyol seems like a neat language. Easy and to the point. A simplified French with some other influences. The people seem to sing their words. They also speak in proverbs quite a bit-a charming aspect of the language that I look forward to becoming more acquainted with.

Me and one of my training colleagues went for a walk the other day. We wandered outside of the main street and through more rural suburbs. Lots of little houses connected by paths and ended up at a beautiful river with rice fields and mountains off in the distance. It was gorgeous.

I feel a similar breath to what I knew in India. A breath that relaxes my shoulders and brings me into my belly. I can't expalin it, but I know its the draw and the gift of the earth. What a shame that it seems to go hand in hand with poverty these days-something is off.

The peace corps really has its act together here. I didn't expect such tremendous support or such great competency. It took me a little to receive the support, but now I appreciate it. Anything that is not going well or easily they seem to want to facilitate, from the food we've been eating to how we sleep at night, to bring us main every few days. We were chauffeured to our homes and to our hotels. I still haven't carried my luggage. The training schedule is very full, Kreyol classes, community activities, technical training, site visits, cultural visits. But I'm dealing well with the change in schedule, knowing that after 3 months I will again have more time and space. This afternoon we go to the local hospital, one of the Albert Schweitzer facilities renown in Africa.

Well that's all for now.

Love to all,

Updated by: merle mdrake@erols.com on May 21, 1998 at 21:56
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News from Haiti

mid april

Hi dear ones,

For the most part I'm really good. Feeling that my service in Haiti will be very special. My Kreyol is coming along pretty well for only 2 weeks. It's incredible to me that that's all its been. I've learned alot about Haiti, the people, their lives etc. already. Yesterday I went to my first voodoo ceremony and was invited back by a few people next week. the 4 of us p.c. trainees living in Liancourt went with our kreyol teacher. His step father is a medicine man. Lots of drumming, they got us up dancing. Some of the women dancing and teaching/showing us how. Clearly we were almost the attraction as much as the ceremony. Having had minimal but still some experience with African magic- this wasn't totally unfamiliar. The exorcism that was the purpose of the ceremony appeared real & powerful if with lots of added fanfare. The people were all delightfully welcoming as I have experienced most all of them to be in this country. I still hold to my vision of a small rural community by the beach where I have involvement with the community and am drumming and dancing. A vision which seems possible. The weather is hot though the nights cool down. We are in the rainy season which means it my rain at night. Slowly I am acclimatizing to the heat, its not too bad, better than daily snow!! I think of you often and am including your and others potential visit as I think about where I'd like my site to be. There's a town called Jackmel that is supposed to be beautiful. The cruise ships used to come to port there. I will request a site near there so the possibility of visiting is increased. I get the sense that p.c. wants to accommodate us as much as possible. They've invested quite a bit in us already and would like to help us to stay-at least this is my assumption-so far it is reality, and it is based on the reality I've been experiencing. Miss you.

Love to all,

PS. large soft envelopes get through.

Updated by: merle mdrake@erols.com on May 22, 1998 at 20:35
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News from Haiti

May 1 - rec'd via email from Amy Kaufman 5/21

Dear Amy

Where do I start? It's amazing I've been here only 2 weeks-my Kreyol is improving fairly rapidly-even though my most frequently used phrase is 'muen pa konpranu' (I don't understand) It's a fun language-poetic and to the point without a lot of rules-a good match for me, eh? I'm loving the town I'm living in for this first 3 months of what Peace Corps calls 'community-based training' - translation throw them into the fire and help them cook so they taste good when they're done! Actually I feel its a great way to train us as I've already written to others I'm with the training and support the PC is giving us.

Anyway back to my town and my dailyness. There are 4 of us PC trainees in Liancourt ( town) -I think it is the best of the 3 sites they are using for training both in size and resources. Last Sunday we took an hour walk with our Kreyol professor, his wife and daughters to a river source/bathing area-Tapyon. I loved the walk, being in the country-surrounded by green. Saying bonjour to everyone - the people here are delightful and I have not felt any threat-even when we've been surrounded by 50+ people! WE're quite obvious in our whiteness-even the 2 black PC women are called blanc but it is friendly and inviting and while asking us for money is common place its easy to turn it around -make a joke and find other ways to connect.

I don't think I've been anywhere where the people are as delightful and welcoming. Amazing given the conditions that many live in. But many here (at least from what I've seen) live relatively well. Our training sites are in the Arti Bonile- probably the greenest and most fertile area in Haiti .

(One week later) May 6

Sorry I didn't finish sooner-it seems that this training period is the most intense of all 27 PC months -I find myself just wanting to lie down when I'm not in a training session, eating or engaged in 'conversation'. I think of everyone and wish I was more adept at telepathy. Oh well-something to work towards, eh?

So let me tell you a bit about my home-it's quite fertile here and while the road itself is quite dusty - the canal that was built (US) the main river provides for beautiful diri(rice fields) and gardens. Mangoes of many varieties, avocadoes, bananas, plantains, limes, almonds, papaya, bread fruit and coconut are abundant. The valley looks as I imagine Africa to look when it is green. I live in a good size and comfortable house that is wired for electricity-though it is rarely available in the town. There are pigs, goats and chickens wandering around the yard -sometimes coming onto the patio and sometimes even into the house!

There is my 'mamam- she has 6 kids all away from home-3 in Port au Prince, 2 in Miami and 1 in Canada. there are 2 young girls (16 and 10) who live and work here too. They are joyful and fun-we laugh a lot especially as we dance together (they laugh at me) and a bunch of other kids -little boys mostly-who I believe are cousins as well -some are missing one or both parents. There are always people coming through and I feel a few if the women are becoming friends. We talk, laugh and sing together. They help me with kreyol and I attempt to teach them English.

I still don't know where I'll be for the next 2 years (assuming I stay full term) or what I'll be doing. I am trusting that with my effort and God's grace-it will be perfect. Trying to surrender. I work to stay present and centered-holding and creating the balance that I've learned is vital to my well being. I think I am doing pretty well so far. And I look for the gifts-as I hear the kids and women humming the songs we sing at night (Bonnie's gift-the guitar has been a delight and a hit). I take some comfort in the moments of joy we 're all sharing-I guess that is what it's ultimately about-though I keep wanting more. No more room.

Love to all,

Updated by: Bruce Renfro ada@valley.net on May 26, 1998 at 13:00 +
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News from Haiti


HI Everyone-

I can't believe I've been here 4 months. In some ways- getting to know the country, the different areas, speaking the language- feeling settled in- I feel like I've just arrived. In others especially not seeing you all and talking on the phone- or being in my garden- but also in my feeling comfortable here, feeling friendships developing- I feel I've been here quite awhile.

Lately- I've gotten a flurry of mail- great stickers from Amy- a very cool (I know that's not current slang- sorry Ashley) ankle bracelet macramed w/beads from and by Ashley- & Loving and supportive information letters of connection from lots of others. It's been great! But I'm concerned bout how long it'll take me to write a letter to each of you (I certainly will eventually). So I figured I'd write this to everyone- post it on the net- & that way cover myself until I can get/make/find the time to write to everyone individually.

Where do I start? (Some of this may be redundant- my apologies. I don't know what's on the site and what's not.) As most of you probably know- I'm now living in Jacmel. Probably the nicest and safest city in Haiti. It's situated in kind of a bay formed by 2 mountainous peninsulas jutting out into the Caribbean on either side. Quite beautiful. The Architecture- or at least much of it is quiet charming- being 19th century French- similar I understand to New Orleans construction. You can easily walk from one "end" of town to the other in 15min- though people live very densely within that distance and beyond we have 2 nice hotels & ample restaurants.

Many experts living in a variety of ways. There's even a couple (he's an Egyptian Jew- she's from ?) who have an art business- they've been here 18 years supporting the growth and development of the Bahrain faith in Haiti. Lots of M.N. People- lot's of projects (at least proposed). Music&art abound. It's probably the easiest place in Haiti to Live, especially since it's also very accessible to Port Au Prince (where everything is centralized- airport, licenses, registrations, health food store, you can get ANYTHING there & Peace corps offices and services.)

Currently- I am working with two Canadian woman Jane MacRae- in a consulting capacity as she works to help her center for handicapped children growing & development through some significant organization transitions. She has been a delight & great support to me & the rest of the PC volunteers in the area. Come Sept/Oct I will begin to help her research&Develop an outreach program.

I'll be working with a Haitian man named Verbo about whom I've been hearing delightful things. But these are not "Permanent" projects nor are they typical Peace Corps projects. So- I continue to keep my eyes open for a niche which will fit me in my desire to serve the peace corps. I am hoping to find something which will let me work out in the country-side while continuing to support Pazapa & grow other relationships in Jacmel.

So all you magic powerful thought beings- hold & promote that creative intention for me - no? To use my skills& talent s in service to the peasant Commonities (a community) in the hills outside Jacmel. (Woman's group would be great but not necessary) to live in such a community while still being involved in Jacmel. I guess I feel like I could be living & doing what I'm doing here, if I came on my own. Peace Corps real value to me [like] settling folks up in small villages with organizations that have requested help. And providing back up support while we do it. That's what I learned I needed help with in Guatemala. Settling into the village having a context through which I could continue to serve the woman weavers.

Here, in Jacmel, entry is much easier for a 'Blanc' (general term used for foreigner- even though it literally means white)- so I seek to enjoy the ease that alters me- while finding the newer, more challenging interests (to me) experience of living &walking in the rural communities & more traditional Haitian Culture.

Haiti and the Haitian people are fascinating. I still don't have a handle on them, the culture- not sure I ever will. Folks who have lived here 20 years, folks who are born here- say the same. Haiti seems to be an enigma a confluence of influences that have all kept some aspects of purity and yet have also been affected and changed by one another makes for an intangible and changeable energy and culture. The proximity of the US- and the huge Diaspora that has no small part in cultural impact. While African rhythms, dance and Rlogin are still very present in the Voodoo traditions- there is also much of these traditions that have been changed by the Catholic influences, the slave and abusive periods of Haiti where voodoo began and evolved and the mixing of slave cultures- the "religion"(for many here refute that it is religion) has not been written down and so is practiced and evolved differently and inconsistently. I really am very unqualified to say anything- even what I've just said- other than that I attended the beginning hours of a ceremony last week in a local village and absolutely delighted in the drums and the dance!

I was invited to dance (The only Blanc there) and as my shyness waned and my African dance spirit grew, I began to move in freedom. Folks were delighted- the hogun (Medicine man, who is also very well educated and traveled a lawyer, artist and language teacher in Port au Prince as well as an herbal doctor and voodoo priest) was enchanted. The dance connected us all- the dancers began to teach me as we danced together- laughing and enjoying the rhythms and one another. I was told "you dance better than the Haitians" I left with Robin (a PC volunteer who lives in that village) at about 10:30 PM. The "ceremony" didn't really begin till 12:00. I've been invited back and will surely go- I look forward to dancing and observing more! That evening was probably my highlight in Haiti so far- certainly in Jacmel. While I'm not sure how I feel about the Voodoo practices here (I hear so much) this particular Hogun is delightful- and the drum and dance in ritual community touched my soul and delighted me- answering a hope and desire of what would be part of my experience here.

I'm currently living in a small two room apartment in the middle of town with a small balcony. It's been a bit challenging- town that is. Noise Cars outdoor concerts on my corner, the market down the street make for a different kind of living than I have known in my woods- but I have enjoyed much about the changed scene. Especially the kids, music, and friendly folks. Still looking for a home- trusting all will work out as the universe always does.

While I have left myself very challenged over the last 2 months, most of it with the Peace Corps organization and missing folks at home. That's what I expected before I left. But Haiti itself and my being here is and feels good. There's so much to be done- so many folks are trying to help- unfortunately it doesn't seem like there's much happening- but people keep trying and keep smiling! And I wonder what my time here will be and what I will bring and take to and from Haiti. Already it feels rich- as I continue to grow in new skills and old personal work. Practicing patience, boundaries and appropriate surrender have been high on the list! Daily meditation is once again a practice!

That's all for now thanks for writing and staying in touch. I think of everybody often and knowing the strength of my community of friends and family there- your love respect and support is incredibly valuable and comfortinga s I go through my challenges and questions.

Oh- did I mention that even though the apt is small- there are 2 extra double bed sleeping spaces? You are invited and would be most welcomed! (And just for the record I haven't been sick yet!!!) Much love to all- Keep the letters coming no? (Small envelope packages are welcomed and come through easily!) Bye for now- Peace-

Love to all,

P.S. A special hello and thanks to Mike who I've been sooo negligent about writing to- but have thought of often! I've been hearing how much people appreciate the site - if it weren't for you and the usability you employed. our communications would be much impeeded thanks again hope all is well and I promise I will at least send a post card!

Updated by: Bruce Renfro ada@valley.net on Oct 17, 1998 at 12:22 +
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News from Haiti


So, Hello there everyone.

This is the second letter I've written in the last month or so for the web. I'm sorry I've been so negligent before now, but now with my laptop (arrived via, Jon Scholes, a Peace Corps volunteer who lives in Jacmel and was home on vacation. Jon just happens to be from Bethlehem, 15 minutes from where my mom lives. Bless her heart, Mom got it over to his folks house, and he carted it down for me)

I expect to be more communicative. I've been writing some letters on this, and journaling some, so periodically I plan to go through what I've written and take excerpts I think might be interesting for folks. Hope you enjoy... I've loved getting your letters, and my sister, Bonnie, sent me a print out of the guest book, so if you do check in, please sign it, it's like dropping me a quick note.

As you all know, I've been living in Jacmel since July 5. Everyone who comes through Jacmel, especially Haitians or folks who have been in other parts of Haiti, comment on how beautiful it is... While I recognize this easily in the beautiful views of the sea and surrounding mountains, and enjoy much that the town offers, as most of you know, I'm not a "city girl" and was hoping for/expecting a rural experience here. Granted, I'd much rather be here than Port au Prince, but still I find it nothing compared to the countryside, which is gorgeous!

Outside of Jacmel it's actually quite lush, volcanic mountains reach through clouds to touch the sky, they are majestic! And Steep... .due to over-farming and bad agriculture techniques including deforestation, erosion is major, and depressing especially when the rains come and you see all the top soil being brought down from the mountain and dumped into the sea. You can actually see color change in the bay where the topsoil is dumped out. But like I said, there is beauty too.

I was up at my friend Jennifer's Ruskin's site Labor day weekend. Jen, A Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) lives in the mountains, about a 2 hour hike (1/2 hour drive if you can find a vehicle going up) from Jacmel. The time there was delightful, and the hike up incredible. The walk itself is spectacular. Leaving Jacmel, we must cross the Jacmel river (which is bringing all the topsoil from the mountain into the sea), we, along with lots of other folks, wade through it. As we approach the river I felt my breath change, a sigh was released and both Jen and I laughed in the mutual recognition of how I was feeling, how she always feels when she feels Jacmel leave and the mountain earth presence take over. The river has been flowing strong 'cause we've had a fair amount of rain (only in the late afternoons or evenings) and the water is well above our knees.

We walk along, through a little village where we stopped to by some sweet candy made of coconut and sugar. The 'road' continues along side the Caribbean's shore. As we approach the ascent of the mountain the pitch changes dramatically, we have about 45 minutes of ascent in front of us. There are tons of people walking up, Saturday is the big market day in Jacmel, the men come in to check out the animals, and the women for the household, and we all greet each other 'Good afternoon, how are you?' sometimes the conversation gets extended some as people who recognize Jen engage her in some superficial conversation and tell her she's walking too fast for her friend (me) who is not used to this hike. A tiring but delightful walk, we made some stops to rest and enjoy the spectacular view of the Jacmel bay, the surrounding mountains, and Jacmel itself I have been somewhat intimidated to go to Jen's because of this hike, silly I know in light of some of the major walks I've done in Guatemala and Venezuela, but none-the-less, I was. But with rests and her delightful company and conversation we passed a most enjoyable 3 hours (she was very gracious in taking it very easy and making it more of a stroll and afternoon out than her usual 'hike home').

We arrived in Te Wouj, (means red Earth) to a delicious meal of Mayi Maulen, a ground corn meal staple, green beans, avocado and bean sauce, and engaged in delightful feasting. Returned to her cozy and comfortable home, lit the lantern and candles, talked and laughed and then went to sleep. Leisurely, we woke up Sunday morning at about 7:30 and wandered over to Madam Jo's (Jen's neighbor, friend, cook, laundress and generally 'family' here in Haiti).

I must say it's delightful to have meals prepared and ready for us whenever we are ready for them. Most volunteers have someone to help them cook and wash their clothes. I hope to as well, when I get more comfortably and permanently settled.) It would be a busy day, a 12:00 meeting 1/2 hour walk from her house (each way) and afterward a soccer game (Jen is playing on the newly formed woman's soccer team in her village) against the Jacmel women's team, I plan to watch.

After breakfast we still had a bit of time before we needed to leave for the meeting, so I took my flute outside, sat on the large banana mat she had laid out for me, read a little, wrote a little and then began playing flute to the trees, and the sky and the lizards and the chickens rustling in the foliage. It was a gorgeous day, a deep blue sky not yet whitened by the high sun' and the contrast of the lush greenery soothed my soul.

As usual, it took me some time to find my music, to become what I was playing and to allow the flute to play itself. But once it happened, it was truly magical, I feel so blessed to know such feeling. And I continue to learn to have patience with myself to allow myself the time I need to align with the music, whether it be flute, my voice, drums or guitar. Hopefully, I am learning this lesson of being easier and more patient with myself

Anyway, someone passed by (on the red earth foot paths that meander throughout the area) and stopped and listened. I don't suspect they hear a flute up in this area, and he said when I was finished (from about 40 feet away) 'Bonjour, ahh se bel' (good morning, it's beautiful), I said (in-my-not-so-good-but-ever-improving-kreyol) 'bonjour, Mesi, mwen kontan ou renmen la' (hello, thank-you I'm happy you liked it) and continued to play, delighting in the background sounds of the outdoor church singing and drumming not too far away.

Then it was time to leave for our walk to the meeting. The walk was even more beautiful... well differently so, than the hike up the mountain. We were crossing the mountain peninsula that is one side of, and helps form, the Jacmel bay. We walked on the red earth footpaths, to either side, and with some little distance were hills of green cultivation. It was absolutely delightful Many people were walking, coming back from a variety of places, visiting, etc.

The countryside was like a photo out of National Geographic and I felt my heart stirred by the beauty and the simplicity. And I realized that this was the kind of experience I was hoping, probably expecting, to have in Peace Corps. I'm hoping I can find away to integrate it more significantly into my dailyness, I think I will. I've had the delightful fortune of drinking in quite a bit of beauty these last couple of weeks.

On Friday, August 28, I wrote: I have found a wonderful beach/cliff spot a short and neat bike ride away. Found it yesterday, sat and meditated and swam and breathed. It feels like a gift! Today I went back and spent hours on the cliff. Let me describe the spot a bit, there's a dirt road that becomes a single bike or walking path and ends at this inlet. As you walk off to the left there are a couple of trees and then you come to a point that is a combination of rock and grass. The rock is filled with fossils and coral, I believe it is volcanic. About 20 feet below is crystal clear blue water, gentle waves creating dancing light from the sun. There seems to be a way that you could walk down the rocks to the water, but I have not yet done so... .1 guess I'm a little chicken, or perhaps appropriately cautious when I'm there alone. Anyway, below the point is a rock bridge, where the water has apparently eroded the cliff and left a beautiful formation. On the point there are a couple of places to sit, including a delightful spot under a mamosa-type tree... you look out to the vastness of the Caribbean, the blueness soothes the soul, and to the right and left are mountainous green peninsulas that frame the bay of Jacmel. I feel transported when I'm there.

Today I spent hours sitting on the cliff's edge, meditating, writing and feeling incredibly connected. The first weekend in Sept, I was heading up to Liancourt (my training village) to visit for a couple of days before going into Port au Prince for a meeting. I knew that whatever these few days were to bring me, they were necessary to catalyze movement, I have felt very stagnant and stuck. My trip to Liancourt was surprisingly easy and my visit was delightful! I could not have asked for a more loving and welcoming reception! Everyone embraced me with delight. My time with my women friends (Maju and Madam Chili and Madam St. Trouville, my host mom) and just walking on the street was so sweet. Madam Chill braided my hair again as we sat in her yard visiting.

The experience served to again, highlight what I do not and probably never could have in Jacmel, and what I was so hoping to create and live in during my Peace Corps experience. The net of the visit was that I have people in Haiti, in Liancourt who I feel love me and care about me and whom are dear to me too, and that feels good. I will visit again probably the end of the month or beginning of October when we have a 5 day Peace Corps conference in that area.

And now it is Wednesday, I have been working at Pazapa (a center for children with disabilities) to help create and implement a plan to bring services to the children of smaller rural communities surrounding areas. I'm working closely with a delightful and bright young Haitian man named Verbo who is involved in many service activities, including the Scouts which is involved in a variety of community activities. He is extremely patient and helpful with me as I struggle with my Kreyol, both speaking and understanding it. I am also teaching him to use the computer. So some other little dailyness notes: · I had my first dress made here, got it back today and absolutely LOVE it; I've already bought more material to get another one made.

I'm drinking caffienated coffee again (I bought the last batch from Madam Jo who roasts and grinds it herself), I drip it in what's called a 'grep' ... a cone shaped thin cloth that hangs from a wire loop, and drink it on my balcony in the morning where I look out across the road to the old stone ruins of a building 15 feet away, with large window spaces like doorways that show the mountains on the other side.

There are trees that are growing with their roots in the second floor cement terrace, a few almond trees, a breadfruit tree and some assorted smaller greens. Against the morning blue sky, and with the pink was on the inside walls it is strikingly lovely. I took a series of pictures of it the other morning, hopefully catching the full effect. Only from this place do you get the eye level perspective that I find so delightful. Not a bad way to start off the day. Also, got some fresh almonds the other day from Madam Jo's 11 year old daughter Nan nan. I was hoping she'd show me how she pounded them to get at the inside nut, maybe this weekend when I return. Anyway, they were so fresh I had to leave them sit out in the sun for a few days to dry them out.

I go to the outdoor market pretty regularly (because I like to eat) and have discovered a new vegetable here called 'Melit6n', its so versatile and delicious. I've used it in everything from stir fry, to sushi (yes bless my mother's heart, she sent me nori sheets and wasabi and we've feasted on sushi with mushrooms and avocado and melit6n and red pepper and even red wine.

Sometimes I love going to the market, bargaining with the women, being indignant about the prices, giving in or getting a good deal, always smiling after the purchase, always starting with "bon jour, k6rnan ou ye?" (Hello, how are you). A few times I've been told "you buy well" with a big smile on the Madam's face. And other times, I wish I just had a supermarket I could go into and not have to talk to anyone to buy what I wanted.

I buy home made Peanut Butter and Jelly (made from things like zabriko which is in the mango family but dryer, pineapple, tamarind etc.) from the maid of the woman who is the administrator of Pazapa .... Jane MacRae... (Jane, who is Canadian, has also facilitated my gentle landing in Jacmel. She has been very generous of spirit as well as with her knowledge and resources acquired over some 23 years living here.

Love to all,

Updated by: Bruce ada@valley.net on Oct 16, 1998 at 21:23 +

News from Haiti

December 11th 1998

Dear friends.

It is moving towards the new year, and I have managed to remain in both [Haiti and the Peace] Corps! As many of you know it's been quite a challenge for me. Not so much Haiti itself [but] the whole situation I have found myself in. It's been a year of shifting plans ... and I am pleased to say I am not yet so old and set in my ways that I can't adjust ... albeit screaming sometimes, but adjust I do.

[I am] in Jacmel, still. And believe I will probably remain here, though hopefully not in the [place] I am now. As you know, large towns/cities are not my chosen life style.... I find some challenges in my life here. But there is a lot happening, and Jacmel itself is [the] safest, prettiest, and easiest places to live in Haiti. I am adjusting, and finding the opportunity to stretch in ways I did not expect. Slowly finding my way to good people, slowly learning the delightful Haitian Creole. Always seeking the balance in myself.

...the balance I work with is maintaining communication with you. When I am getting [to a] computer, writing is easier, though usually in journal form. I have tried to update them..., but letters have never been my forte. I wanted to take (and am taking) this [time to] welcome in the new year with you, to make a tangible connection and let you know I am thinking of you and miss you and wish you the best for the coming year.

[It] is strange preparing for this winter solstice season (something I tend to do at the last minute anyway.) [The] weather would have me believe it is early September rather [than] December. It has been beautiful, ? nights and mornings, and warm summer days. As most of you know my friends Pete and Martha [came] to visit just before I 'swore in, to be a volunteer. The visit was delightful. I am now even more familiar with getting around and I welcome any of you who would like to come down.

[My] mom is coming to visit in mid-January, I'm sure she'd be willing to share her experience when she [gets] back (maybe I'll even get her to update my web page.)

For those of you who are wanting to come and work, I am still not completely clear on all the work I will be doing. It is slowly coming together and is feeling full, diverse and different than I expected. I [will keep] you posted as I believe there may be potential for some collaborative opportunity, at least for ... if not implementation of some programs. And play is also important! I'm just beginning to plug [to some] local musicians and dancers, and today I learned to weave a hammock! There's lots to share ... while Haiti might not be where you might normally think of going on a vacation, it is beautiful and unique, and I promise you an enjoyable time. Just for the record, Carnival is in February and is supposed to be something special in Jaemel. I'd love to see you here, whenever you'd like to come

[I] treasure your friendship and your support. I know you have busy lives, and I've appreciated greatly those letters that have reminded me that I am 'gone but not forgotten.' [My] address remains: Wendy Goodman, BP 101, Jacmel, Haiti.

Please stay in touch, you are in my thoughts and heart. Have a great season, stay warm and have a year of love and light and accomplishment.

Much love to you all,

The above letter was forwarded to me on Jan 17 by George Stuts (glstuts@idsi.net) as alluded to in his Guestbook entry. George said, "It might not be worth publishing," but with so few messages from Wendy, I have decided to include it.

The manner in which it was copied resulted in many missing words, but I have tried to replace those omissions. Where I have added or assumed words I have enclosed my words in square brackets; where there are still obvious omissions, I have placed ellipsises.

Updated by: Mike on Jan 20, 1999 at 21:25 +
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News from Haiti

December 31,1998

Hi everyone,

And so 1998 draws to a close. I sent out a bunch of letters, and then the copy machine went down, I couldn't get anymore copies and so I ended up missing sending my greetings to some of my favorite people. But that's Haiti, I am still considering sending them out belatedly. Anyway, I've written another letter, to post on the web. It is no longer a solstice greeting, but I still wish you all a great New Year!

One of the most interesting and delightful things I find in Haiti is that life here happens on the street, it's not like New York where everyone is rushing to get where they're going, people stop and talk and visit. While cars are on the street, there are more people in the road than cars. Donkeys and goats and chickens, and at times cows, m the street, along with a Mercedes; life is diverse. There are vast differences in the life styles of those who live andeyo (outside of town/country/rural) and those in town (never mind the disparity of life that exists within the town). There are many beautiful places here, and much that is good, and a lot that is tragic. The spirit of the people is amazing and seems to keep the joys of life very prevalent.

So let me tell you about my day. I had a lovely day of coffee and slow breakfasting on fresh eggs, onions and bread, all acquired within the previous 1/2-hour of their ingestion. Comfortable mosey onto Jane MacRae's (Jane is the director of Pazapa, the Center for kids with disabilities. We are working on developing the board of directors and the organization) a bit of work there, then on to Mario's Art. Shop (where there are some local artisans I'm working with)... off to the beach by 12:30 for a delightful afternoon of swimming and sitting and gazing at the sea and the cliffs and playing gentle guitar.

But let me get back to Christmas and the weeks recently past...Group 2 (The Peace Corps Volunteer group that has just completed their 2 years of service. There were 12 of them here; the group before them finished with only a few people completing service. Before we came ... group 5.... They were 75% of the PC Haiti program, now, with group 6, they were 25%.) has been gone about 2 weeks. Contact with Peace Corps has calmed down. I am starting to feel more present here. As I spend time with visitors from the states... going to new places I've heard about, enjoying and feeling energized. I have a great drum teacher, Tiso, (aka Maxo). I'm having a drum made for me (the old man who is making it hurt his hand, it will be ready early January) I have been hanging out and drumming with Tiso almost every day since Christmas. I enjoy his company, I love drumming (hope to be dancing too), and his artisan friends and he help me with my kreyol. In general I have been watching creativity and color and energy come back into my life this past week. I am still looking for a house, but aside from that I feel pleased with my settling in here, finally. Work is at times slow, but I can foresee projects and assistance I can give, and am easily trusting that 1999 will be great.

So let me tell you about a new potential project with these acquaintances-becoming friends. There are several local artists who work together as friends, family, colleagues and partners. They have the desire and energy to create a cultural center that will support and share the culture and work of the local artisans. They have spent varying amount of energies to progress since the initial inception in 1997. They have made some artisan expositions, have a tentative site plan, and have the land, the artisans and the heart. I am exploring the project with them now, and am likely to make it one of my secondary Peace Corps projects. One facet of this folklore center would be to house/host regular drumming and dance classes and gatherings as well as planned events.

Tiso is a great drummer and teacher and is hooked up with professional musicians and dancers and artisans. One of the things we are talking about is his desire to teach drumming, and the folklore songs and dances. We are talking about a variety of ways of doing that, 1 of which is likely to have a drum-dance-camp-tropical-vacation: beach front, accommodations ranging from all the amenities to sleeping in a tent), with potential (in addition to drumming and dancing) to learn other artisan crafts… make a hammock (or just watch Jeanty and buy one), make a mask (or again... watch & buy), buy some art, hang by the beach or pool, eat good food, drink good rum, hike to a beautiful spirit-rich tropical waterfall (Basin Bleu), attend voodoo festivals, or whatever else tickles your fancy. We're just in the early stages of talking, so any thoughts or ideas are welcomed.

Hopefully, some of you will be interested in coming for our inauguration... there may even be some consulting opportunities to make the trip tax deductible. I am pleased to have plugged into these guys. I am feeling how the artisans are holders of the culture. Most of you know how much I wanted to have the drum and the dance, and other aspects of the culture, be a significant part Of my experience here, well it looks like it may come to pass. These are nice folks, and I feel like they're some of the first friends I've made in Jacmel. I hope a project can work out.

So now you're all caught up. My mom's coming to visit me on Jan 13th for a week...I look very forward to her visit and sharing a small taste of Haiti with her. Hopefully I'll get her to update the web site when she returns.

For now, that is all. I continue to practice patience, sometimes better than others. I also continue to learn that things do work out as long as I hang in there. (I'm still holding out for the quiet house on the beach.)

Hope all is well with everyone, and that you're enjoying your lengthening days. FYI...Carnival (which is supposed to be something in Jacmel) in mid Feb, would love to have you visit. Hope to hear from you.

Love to all,

Updated by: Bruce Renfro ada@valley.net on Jan 25, 1999 at 20:53
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Haiti; PCVs in the Field



By twoweb ( on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 5:22 am: Edit Post

twoweb gavno syki hyevi

By Richard ( - on Monday, August 13, 2007 - 1:38 pm: Edit Post

Wonderful and informative web site.

By obe1 ( on Thursday, March 05, 2009 - 6:41 pm: Edit Post

hello wendy

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