I started with the physical, not because it’s the most important, but because it’s the most difficult aspect for me to change and manage. I have been shifting over and under the 200 pound line for quite some time; never reaching below 194 and never going above 204. Even though I’m not uncomfortable with my appearance, I decided it was time to put more work in. Last year around this time, I started kickboxing and I started working with a personal trainer. However, with two jobs, babysitting on nights and weekends, preparing to move to another country, being an active member of several organizations, free-lance designing and being a head of household, it wasn’t easy to keep my commitment to myself and train as often as I wanted to.
As money got funny, the 4 for $4 from Wendy’s seemed more appealing and more convenient to grab than going home at 8:00 to cook dinner and as I grew more and more busy, trying to eat “right” at all seemed impossible. Now however, I am in a country where we walk more, we eat less, we eat earlier in the day and I’m sweating constantly. It is SO hot! Forgetting to drink water (like it’s so easy to do back home) will only allow me to take another unwanted trip to the hospital, dehydrated and dying, so BOOM, more water it is! I’ve learned that water is not only filling and great for hydration, but despite how much I sweat each day, I haven’t had a single break out, so it really does keep my skin clear. Drink water and mind your business! That’s what I always say.
It takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so I dedicated my 21 days to training every morning with a friend of mine, Rodrigue, that boxes. He works out every day anyways, with or without me, so why not add myself to the mix? I figure the arrangement gives me somebody to bond with while we exchange language tips, I make sure he’s staying in shape for the boxing season as he is trying to make it to the United States, and I’m challenging my body as well. At 6:00 in the morning, before my classes and meetings, we go running and by 7:00, we are doing exercising and doing work out circuits. In three months, I have lost 25 pounds, my waist beads are too big and my clothes are fitting more loosely. I look and feel smaller and I’m not just happy because I feel like I’m getting thinner, but I’m proud of myself for staying committed and working hard, even when I don’t want to. Ro keeps me accountable. When we started training, he used to ask me if I was able to do something. “You can?” he would ask, but now, he tells me what I’m going to do, regardless of the faces or noises I make. He knows that I’m capable and he believes in me. More importantly though, I believe in myself and I am grateful for that.
This also means being comfortable in the natural and allowing the inevitable to occur. Nature is a wild force. The universe wants you to be as you are, and I know who I am. Je sais qui Je suis. I’m embracing a more natural look, my natural hair and not worrying about things like shaving and my nails. My hair and nails are growing, my skin is glowing and I feel cute every day, breaking out all my little “teacher outfits” and clothes that I couldn’t fit when I got here. I don’t have to keep up with the Kardashians. They aren’t worried about keeping up with me.
Another thing I Love about Rodrigue is that no matter how he’s feeling or what’s going on, he won’t let me start or end a session with praying. Some days, after our workout, we lay on our training mats, right under the clear, blue sky and we pray. We pray to God for the day, for each other, for our families and friends, for our communities and nations, and anything else that comes to mind. It never matters if I’m praying in English or if he’s praying in Creole. All that matters is that we have honestly humbled ourselves and allowed God to take over.
That’s how I have gotten through the past couple of months, by God’s grace. I love being in Haiti, but it’s tough sometimes. You don’t appreciate what you’ve always had until you don’t have it. Working 14 hour days and having no water to take a shower is hard. Trying to sleep in 90 degree weather with no electricity for a fan to run is hard. Getting bit by mosquitoes until you don’t recognize your own body is hard. Doing social work with children and their families in desolate situations is hard. Being the only one to not speak a language and not being able to communicate your needs and feelings is hard, but despite all of that, God has kept me so grounded.
Every obstacle and every success for me is a daily reminder to holla at God. He provides in ways that I never saw coming. Because of that, I have learned to work with my heart and not with my head.
The type of work I do in Haiti is eye opening. I have become very aware of things in this life that I never had to go through. I work with families with no food and children who cannot afford to go to school. I visit homes that have nothing; no beds, no furniture, no electricity, and all of the kids sleep together on a mat on the floor. I have had young teens call me to tell me they were sent home from school or forced to sit with their knees in rocks because they did not have the money to purchase the materials and school books.
Life here is different and every day weighs positively and negatively on my mental state. I know that it is my job to practice mindfulness and to not let my thoughts consume me. I have to train myself to remember to focus on what I can fix and not so much on what I cannot. I believe that I am powerful beyond measure, but I must act wisely and my intentions must be clear if I want to be able to elicit great change.
My mental development is tied in with my spiritual growth, and yoga provides me with the opportunity to create harmony in a world full of chaos. It’s important to let it all go. APPRECIATE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AND STABILITY!
The Social and the Professional
I have taken on the responsibility of overseeing different initiatives, suggesting people to hire for new positions, creating positive development programs for youth, parents and families, and starting new ministries. Right now, I have a list of 20 people that all expressed to me that they need help practicing English. According to them, they have nobody to practice with. I started an English club to bring all English learners together to discuss real life issues and topics and to connect with one another.
At the same time, outside of my classroom, group chat and English club, my goal is to only speak Creole or French, the way I encourage my students to only speak English. I am creating a Creole zone in order to force myself to learn the language. It is only fair to my students, and to myself, for me to practice what I preach.
I’ve been using my time wisely and learning to ask more questions. I say all the time that closed mouths don’t get fed, and it’s time for me to get the nourishment I deserve. I love everything about teaching, consulting and managing. “Learn English with Alyssa,” the ESL program I’m teaching at Libellule Training Academy is a success. I have five class sections with 20 students that are anxious and willing to learn. I’ve developed three courses with a number of resources and supplemental materials that I created and after hours of prep work, I’m glad the courses are coming together so nicely. I’m excited to teach because education is the key to a positive future, but I’m even more excited to learn. The best part about teaching English in Haiti is how much of the Creole language and Haitian culture in the classroom. Teaching is fun and I keep my students engaged. It’s such a privilege to be given this opportunity to grow, not only as a teacher, but as a designer, manager, missionary, philanthropist, etc. I’ve been able to provide several people with a number of different opportunities and it’s a blessing.
Being a missionary, I don’t actually have an income, so it’s really hard to budget or to goal set financially. However, I know that my time in Haiti won’t last forever, and I’m still responsible for my own life back in America. Therefore, I have started allocating what funds I have. I have made a plan on how to budget what I have and started looking into opportunities for when I get home. It’s important to plan ahead. If not, I’ll find myself in a real financial drought and that will set me back. After raising thousands of dollars to support international communities and being such a powerful liaison, I want to make sure that I have a plan to move forward after this opportunity ends.
Overall, the only thing holding you back, is you. You will not be successful if you become complacent. Today is the perfect day to make a change, to try something new, or to develop a plan for your life. There’s no day but today and you are in charge of this life you live, so get it together. It’s time to do some personal training. I’m happy, you know? I think you deserve to be too!
Praying God's Peace Upon You, xo, Nee