Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A whole lot of swimming

Look. I'm not sunburned.
The pool down the road

Richard (who has a twin brother, Richardson)

Cleaner, and very possibly more reliable than Talulah, but makes me miss her all the same.

Many of the clothes people wear here came from the United States, and it’s always amusing to see the slogans people where that in no way apply to anything Haitian. One of the kids at St. Germaine named David always wears this shirt that says “Miller family reunion July 2000!” on it. He’s 7 years old and blind, and always swings his head back and forth like Stevie Wonder, and will of course have no idea what his shirt says but I find it funny. I also seem to see the same guy who wears a tie dye peace sign shirt that says Berkeley on it, often in the same market as the guy whose shirt says “My immune system is better than your immune system”. The best is when you see shirts that were bought in touristy shops in random states that say “Missouri love!” These people will never go to the US, and I’m sure they have no idea what Missouri is, but if the shirt fits you might as well buy it. On that note, I handwashed my laundry last week and suck at it. I’ll have to do it every 2 weeks because I packed light, so I better master it soon.

We took a few kids in the water on Saturday, and they all did extremely well. The blind baby was smiling and interacting, which is a lot more than she usually does, so we’re going to try to make it a weekly thing for her. I started my regular swim lessons with the kids on Monday and at first it was very hectic. I had 10 handicapped children in the pool with just water wings, which is really not enough to keep those with little muscle control floating. I had 8 sitting on the steps while I took one or two out at a time, but I couldn’t keep my eye on all of them, and the staff was drifting in and out. The next day, I said only 5 kids at a time and someone in the water with me, but the 5 quickly turned into 10 again. All the kids are so excited to swim and the summer session revolves around fun activities like pool times so everyone comes at once! Today however, things started to iron themselves out, and I had groups of 4 or 5 kids cycling in and out every hour which worked well for everyone. The summer session ends at 1:30 everyday, but with the van not leaving for Petionville until 3, I’ll have some time to walk next door to the hospital, pick up the babies and swim with them for half an hour.

Lucienne is one of my favorite little girls at St. Germaine who has both physical and mental issues. She can walk, but not very steadily as her knees point toward each other. She usually hangs onto me as I walk around, and likes to sit with me and play with my hair. She’s slow, but learns well with help and communicates very well as compared to the other children. She is quickly learning to swim after only 2 days in the water which makes me so happy. She’s already floating on her back without any help and can hold onto my shoulders and kick her feet out behind her which is the next step in my plans for them. Most of the kids (especially the ones with little control out of the water) hold on to me for dear life, but Lucienne has realized that her legs work just fine in the water and is quickly becoming a little swimmer.

This Sunday, Jean (a summer volunteer from Colorado) and I taught a class on conflict resolution to some of the former Kenscoff kids living in the city. Once they age out of the orphanage, the kids often live in groups in the cities, which can result in a lot of serious issues. They all are very young (16-22 years old) and of course struggle with being out of the sheltered orphanage and in the city and its poverty. A few months ago, two former Kenscoff kids got into a fight over food and one was killed, leaving the other in jail for the rest of his life. Most of the kids were about 20 years old, and we basically just talked to them about the effects of violence and the need for communication. Jean has her masters in counseling (which I’m considering) and teaches this kind of thing often. She can speak a little French, but I did a lot of the talking since none of the kids speak English really. They seemed to understand what I was saying, which was cool and will be back this weekend for another session. Adding “co facilitator of a French language seminar on conflict resolution and anger management” to my resume will be cool, too.

There are a few fancy hotels down the street from the Father Wasson Center with amazing pools that I think I will sneak into on a regular basis. We went for a coca cola on Friday, and then Jean and I went to celebrate our successful seminar with a frozen vodka tonic on Sunday. It’s a lot of business people and their families, I think, because no one there is Haitian and people don’t come to Petionville for vacation. No one will question me if I buy something to drink and swim and lay in the shade for an afternoon a week, so suck on that rich people, I’m using your amenities.

I also found crappy fast food several blocks away, and had a mediocre cheeseburger last week. It was awesome.

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