Friday, August 21, 2009

Things I've done since the last update:

She made that outfit!



Fabien and Innocent

-A few Fridays ago, I went to the beach with Kay Germaine staff members to celebrate the end of the summer session. We went past the nice beach I went to with the kids to a private resort complete with a monkey named Domingo in a little habitat greeting us at the entrance. I slept in the shade and swam in the ocean a little- but not too much because the ground was jagged and sharp with rocks and sea urchins from a destroyed reef that had once been there. The whole resort used to be a sugar cane plantation, and it was amazing how different the scene was 200 years later! Amazingly, I have come to discover that the grand majority of Haitians cannot swim- not even close. I had several adults clinging onto me for dear life in the water, and I have spent many hours in the pool at Tabarre teaching staff members to swim. Orlando, the guy who helps me out most days in the pool, can’t even float on his back- if he tries, he goes under, freaks out and spends the next several minutes coughing up all the water he inhaled.

-The end of the summer session came with 2 big programs, one in Tabarre and one in Kenscoff. The first in Tabarre was very fun at the beginning, with the kids showing us the dances and songs they learned. I was having a great time until someone shouted, “Everyone in the water!” and I suddenly had 30+ people in, out and around the tiny pool. I knew that parents would come in to see the kids swim, but I didn’t know that I would have all the children, their siblings and some of their parents in the water with me at the same time! It was utter chaos, and I was extremely mad at some of the parents for allowing their children to do absolutely anything they wanted. It was getting pretty out of control when Tony, the one child I have that can actually swim, decided to make a running jump in to the water and hit his head on a steel support for the cover. His father was cheering him on! While he was on his way to the hospital for stitches, Norma helped me kick everyone out (politely) and the day was done.

The Kenscoff program was a lot calmer, and I was very proud of my substitute English class and their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”. I videotaped it and put it on Youtube if you’re interested!


The kids played musical instruments, danced, recited poetry in Spanish and had a fashion show of all the cloths they made in the last few weeks. I sat with some adorable girls, including my little Dahlilah (pronounced like the Dalai Lama with out the “ma”!) who was dressed in what looked like a flower girl dress following church that morning.

-Tonight, Robin, Rena and I went to an actual supermarket and bought supplies to make a big pasta dinner. It was very nice not to be eating rice, which is really getting old! I made the garlic bread using my Nicolas Pizza and Pasta skill, and the whole affair was pretty awesome. And I got a package from my Aunt Kiko filled with pictures of my cousin and coloring book pages!

Besides all that, it’s basically been a lot of swimming and playing with kids! For now, the kids are on vacation so I will be heading up to Kenscoff to help in Kay Christine for about a week. A bientôt!

Monday, August 10, 2009

"If anyone needs to know me, I'm Michele"

The masks for Carnival in Jacmel

Man in Jacmel

At the Hotel Floride

Colonial architecture

In the waterfall Basin Bleu

The beach at the hotel

The kids and their starfish

Kenscoff boys at the beach

Our trip to Jacmel was awesome and relaxing and I mostly avoided sunburn. We stayed at an amazing hotel right on the Caribbean with a private cove, complete with a little artisan market where I bought quite a few things. There ended up being 8 of us total- Me, Norma, Jean, Maive, Anna, Liz and our driver Maxime.

We left early Friday morning for the long drive South in the NPFS jeep which bumped along and threw us all around the back. The hotel was inclusive and cheap- $40 a night including breakfast and dinner at the restaurant overlooking the ocean. I think my total bill, including splitting the cost of Maxime’s room was $89! We went into downtown Jacmel to see the artisan shops on Saturday which was very cool. Jacmel is different than the rest of Haiti in regards to poverty. It's of course a very poor city, especially without the tourism that used to center there, but its a lot cleaner and more put together than anywhere else I’ve seen in Haiti. The buildings are all colonial and the artisans have set up little shops near the water front. We went and saw a beautiful hotel called the Hotel Floride that we all plan to go back to someday. It’s just 2 blocks from the ocean and filled with voodoo art and French architecture. The manager there, Michele, took us all over the city to the artisan markets, where we saw the huge 10 ft tall Carnival masks and how they’re made.

While we were all floating in the middle of the cove on the water toys I borrowed from the swimming pool at work, an American man swam up to us and introduced himself. He works for a non-profit and lives in Haiti, and told us where we needed to go in Jacmel. He was also in a (not very good) band that performed at the hotel on Saturday night. So on his advice on Sunday, we traveled through a river and up a mountain to see Basin Bleu, a waterfall with a voodoo history of swallowing people alive. It was a beautiful long walk where we had to jump from rock to rock to cross various creeks, climb rock stairs that were carved into the side of the mountain and scale down a rope to get to the base of the fall. The whole way, several Haitian men in their 20’s walked with us trying to be our guides in order to get tipped at the end. We were told not to tip them (we had already paid for 2 guides) but they came with us all the same. They helped us balance as we crossed the rivers, held our things as we scaled down the rocks, and took our cameras to take pictures of us in the waterfall. The boy that was helping me was super nice and at the end, I broke the rules and tried to tip him in Haitian gouds- he was so mad that I wasn’t giving him American money! He kept saying “dollar, dollar” and I just said “Je n’en ai pas” (I don’t have any) and refused the gouds! I felt a little bad, but not really because any person that is bold enough to tell me I’m not tipping them enough when they aren’t even suppose to be tipped can wait for the next American to come along.

Sunday we returned to Petionville where I switched out clothes and went up to the orphanage for the week to teach an English class. The class was all boys from 9 to 20 who came into class everyday, shook my hand and told me I looked pretty that day, and sat down in their assigned seats. We mostly just played bingo and prepared for their class performance of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” that they would be singing at the end of the summer session. On my last day, one of the boys wrote me a thank you note that I thought was very sweet so I’ll copy it here:

I don’t know how to say you thanks for accept to take Jean’s place for this week
I know some times is’t not so easy because work with some children who you don’t it’s very hard But you were adapted to us and you took part in the atmosphere. And tried to understand each one of us that prove your love for us. I can’t find words for express my gratitude toward you. I think only God can say you thanks. May God continue to bless you. And may you continue to help those who want help. With my affection and my respect . I think my words can touch the bottom of your heart despite they are too littlest.

For the summer session, each house of kids gets to go to the beach once, and I accompanied a house of 50 boys on Friday. We drove for several hours north of Port-au-Prince to a clean, private beach where we spent the day swimming with a view of Isle de Gonaives in the distance. The boys can’t really swim, but they had fun splashing around and catching crabs and starfish. There was a huge group of white men next to us who stared and stared at us until they finally came over and started talking to us and taking pictures of the kids. They turned out to be UN Brazilians who only spoke Spanish, but tried their best to speak English with me. They gave us a lot of the extra food they had and several containers of bottled water, which was very nice. Then, they each took an individual picture with me, gave me a coca cola, a bracelet and their emails. I will not be contacting them, but I enjoyed the coca cola.

I headed back down the mountain to Petionville on Saturday and am going to start back up with the kids in the pool tomorrow. It was nice and cool in Kenscoff, and now its back to 100 degrees with scattered thunder storms.