Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Month Down!

Dancing at L'ecole de St. Germaine

Jolene, one of the abandoned babies I take into the pool

It’s been exactly one month since I arrived here. It feels like the time has gone by quickly, but I feel very comfortable here and think the next 11 months shouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve gotten used to the humidity and the constant heat- I even have a nice little tan going. Though I still sleep safely in my net, I think the mosquitoes are letting up a bit, and my legs are recovering from the immediate onslaught nicely. I eat what it made for me at work without hesitation, although I supplement with PBJ every night. I have successfully memorized every child’s name who swims with me although I often just call the adults “Madame” or “Monsieur” while I’m working on that side of things. I have picked up some off the job activities, like tutoring girls in English, teaching a seminar, lounging poolside and rearranging the living room of the Father Wasson Center. I have absolutely no problem going to bed at 10 pm and waking up at 6 am every morning, although I’m sure I’ll return to my regular 2 am to 1 pm pattern when I return to the states. I wear the first thing I grab in the morning, and put my hair into a braid or something without a thought for makeup or hairspray. I’m picking up Creole phrases more and more, but I still find it easier to speak French with those who don’t speak English. I deal well with all the extra time I have to myself in my evenings. I read a few books a week, and have been researching grad schools and taking practice GRE tests online. I have derived a nice little schedule for my everyday and it goes like this:

I wake up at 6:20 and eat peanut butter toast if we have electricity or a PBJ if we don’t for breakfast. The van leaves at 7 am and we arrive at Tabarre at around 8am. The kids go to summer classes while I set up the pool (which takes all of 5 minutes) and then I join them in class to listen to them sing, or read a book by the pool while I wait for them. At 9, I’m thrown my first group of kids, usually 4 or 5 boys. They splash around with various floatation devices, while I take one or two at a time and hold them while they “swim” aka splash and kick water right out of the pool or in my face. At 9:30 there’s another group, a few girls and maybe an older boy. They’re out by 10 and then there are a few stragglers that take me to 10:30 or 11. I chill by the pool, dry off and clean up a little until lunch at 12. It’s usually some sort of mush- corn or beans or rice and brown gravy. I then head to the hospital to pick up one of the four little abandoned baby girls who I take back for pool time. They can’t stay in the water for long, but it takes a while to walk next door, talk to about 4 nurses to get them permission to leave and then walk them back and set them up. I walk them back to the hospital and visit with my abandoned baby Carmelle for a few minutes (and the others, of course) and then head back around 2. The van leaves for Petionville at 3, and after a few stops, we’re back at about 4. The girls I tutor come at 4 a few days a week and I’m with them for 30 minutes to an hour. I eat whatever is left over from the lunch that was made here for dinner, which is usually rice and hot sauce and maybe something with potatoes in it or just PBJ again. I then have the evening to read, be online (if there’s internet), socialize (if anyone else is around) or go to the hotel to lay by the pool (at the end of the week, mostly). It’s simple and the days go quickly.

One of the days this week was too cold for the kids to swim, which sounds ridiculous coming from the Caribbean. That day, I went to the horseback riding place with the kids again. Basically, a storm was rolling in and it wasn’t very humid and there was a little breeze. The pool has a cover on it which is on of the reasons I’m not dying of sunburn, and I wasn’t sure if they would do alright in the cooler water. We’re very careful about the water temperature, because some of their muscles are too tense or too loose and are very affected by temperature changes. I’m even more careful with the babies because they are extremely small for their ages (malnutrition). I could bring 2 over a day, one in the late morning and one in the afternoon, but I let the sun heat the water a little so they don’t catch cold. Every child I work with has some sort of disability and I already know that some will not be able to learn to actually swim. Still, it’s good for them to be in the water and they have fun splashing around.

Besides all that, it’s been quiet around here. Robin and Alfonso are out of the country right now, so it’s often just me and Cecilia (a medical student from France staying here until the end of August) around at night. Johnny and Rena are two guys, both about 25 years old, who grew up at the orphanage and now live on the same floor as me and run the building. They’re in and out in the evenings, but are nice company and are helping me with my Creole. We had a couple Italian guys staying here last week, and they made great pasta dinners for us. Then another group of about 12 Haitians and Americans were here, and they also made dinner. Whenever people stay here, we eat well.

That’s all from Haiti. À bientôt!

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