Deye Mon, Gen Mon – Day 6 #SOL18

Today is day 6 of the month long writing challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.

Deye Mon, Gen Mon

Beyond mountains there are mountains  ~ Haitian proverb

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It was 9 am and already 90 degrees when we left for our trek to visit the far off village at the top of a small hill in Haiti, known as Bellevue.  Maybe the correct word was lost in translation because it felt like a mountain as we hiked up the grueling path in the heat.  We stopped frequently for rests and water breaks and were rewarded with fabulous views of our home base and the mountains beyond.  We climbed over rises and around cow paths, growing tired with each step, only to be promised that our destination was right around the next corner.   After ninety minutes of sweating, we arrived at the top, our destination.   The villagers were anxiously awaiting our arrival as rarely did visitors pass through Bellevue.  They beckoned us to rest under the shade of a tarp that was placed over the mostly finished concrete block chapel.   

The large machete came down with a whack and sliced open fresh coconuts for us to drink in the refreshing waters. img_9181 The elders stood up and spoke.  Our translator shared that they were grateful for the money we sent to them to help build this chapel.  They apologized for not completing the building.  They noted they had grown tired.   What do you mean you are tired?  They replied that they had to carry each block one at a time up the hilly path, sometimes with the help of a donkey, but for the most part all the blocks were carried up the mountain on their backs.  The elders then told us they were so grateful and encouraged by our visit that they would finish building the rest of the chapel soon.

What??

I had a hard time getting myself up the steep mountain path, how could anyone possibly carry a cement block on their back too!  I tried to calculate the number of blocks in the

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building, and think of the physical labor of the hike we just took.   My mind was tired and numb and all I could do was cry at the thought of the resolve and determination of these people.  Here they were, the humble people of Bellevue, facing mountains, literally and figuratively, and yet they continued on, carrying the blocks one by one up to the top of the hill.  All to build a chapel.

Deye mon, gen mon

Education = Hope – Day 1 #SOL18

Today is day 1 of the month long writing challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.  I am ready and eager to begin!

Education = Hope – A Photo Journal of My School Visit in Haiti

Last month I traveled to Haiti.  The trip was a five day whirlwind of hiking, driving, and boating here, there and everywhere. On our first day we had the opportunity to visit the parish school that we support.  As an educator I was most interested in what the Haitian schools were like and curious to learn more.  This school visit turned out to be one of the most amazing and thought-provoking part of my trip to this country.

The school building itself is constructed of concrete block with open windows to allow the breezes (and mosquitoes and flies ) in.  The tin roof keeps the students dry during rainy season but it seemed to keep the heat in.  The rooms appeared rather dark due to the lack of electricity in the rooms.  None of the students seemed to mind.

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These slates are primarily used by the younger grades, while the older students use pens and journals and a few workbooks.  All of the classrooms had a large green chalkboard at the front.  These boards were utilized in all the rooms we visited. One of the requests from the school leaders was for our church to help fund devices to allow the high school students to begin to learn research skills that would help those interested in furthering their schooling.  I was quite surprised to discover that despite the sporadic electricity in the village there was internet access in the area.

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Outside in the school courtyard kindergarten children were playing on the new playground equipment that was recently purchased by our parish.  It was wonderful to hear the joyful sounds of children laughing and playing amidst the familiar squeaks of the swings going back and forth.

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We were greeted warmly by all the students in the school.  In many of the classes we visited, our tour guide and pastor Pere Didier, would call upon one student to greet us in English.  The “volunteers” were always gracious as they fluently spoke their hellos.  I later learned that all high school students leave high school having learned four languages: their native Creole, English, French, and Spanish.

I left the school filled with such a mix of emotions of pride, of wonderment, and of joy.  We were all animatedly discussing the amazing experience when we IMG_8973spotted this sign with the wise words of Nelson Mandela painted across the middle: “L’education est l’arme la plus puissante pour changer le monde” or  “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

I found promise in the sign and in what I witnessed.  In a country that is plagued with such poverty, I left feeling hopeful about the future of these students where education is a priority.   After this visit I am more committed in knowing that education, no matter how or where, can truly make a difference.  Education is the key to changing the world!

Language Lessons: A Small Moment in Haiti #SOL18

It’s Tuesday and I am joining The Two Writing Teachers in making writing a way of life.  Won’t you consider joining us?

Last week I wrote my slice while on the tarmac of the Port au Prince airport, waiting for the plane to take me home from my first trip to Haiti.  I had so many thoughts and ideas floating around in my head that I couldn’t make sense of any of them.  A week later I am still processing and reflecting on all I saw and felt.  To guide my writing this week, I decided to take one of my writing workshop teaching tips to heart and attempt to focus on just one small moment, a time that was especially meaningful to me. It was an easy decision as I recalled a 5 year old attempting to teach me Creole.


Language Lessons: A Small Moment in Haiti

Swing set purchased by our parish

They saw me in the chapel and stood there pointing and giggling at me.  I had to leave my group and get closer, to talk to the children and to say hello. As I drew closer I heard them speaking quickly and in animated tones.  I had met these same kindergarten children a few hours earlier in the school playground and they were excited to see me again.  I sat on the front steps of the church and they chatted away in their native language of Creole.  I could only smile at first because the translator in our group was still in the church.  I decided to sit and be with the children for a minute.  They came close and rubbed my pale white arms marveling at my different skin tone.  I got the sense they wanted to know me, to discover more about this person who looked so different from them.  Their chatter was animated and endless and I could only smile and giggle along with them.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed not knowing any of their language and judge the gap might quell their enthusiasm for meeting me, but the children continued to talk on in their native language despite my lack of engaging in talk with them.

My “teachers”

The rest of our group joined me on the church steps and translated for me, telling me that the children were commenting on meeting me at recess earlier in the day.  I asked if they could repeat the word recess in Creole so I could attempt to say that word.  I was told the word was “rekreasyon.”  The Creole language is derived from the French language so unfortunately for me, my long ago lessons in Spanish would not be helpful.  On top of that I did not take the time to learn any words in the native language prior to going on this trip.  I was stumped.  I tried and tried to say “rekreasyon” but I failed miserably much to the delight of the children.  Yet they did not give up on me.  They persisted, they took my chin in their hand to help with the movement of my mouth and cheered me on until I finally gave them a close approximation of the word.  They were so delighted in my success that they shouted a loud bravo and clapped their hands in glee. I am not sure who felt the most pride, me the learner, or the children my teachers. I do believe it truly was both learner and teachers who were filled with pride!  Either way I did not want to let this moment go unnoticed so I took out my camera and after asking permission, I started taking celebratory selfies with the children.  Their smiles were quite infectious and full of hope.  It was a sweet moment of joy.  One that I know I will not soon forget.

Silly Selfies
Video compliments of Alice

Too Many Ideas – Haiti Part 1

It’s Tuesday and I am joining The Two Writing Teachers in making writing a way of life.  Won’t you consider joining us?


Too Many Ideas – Haiti Part 1

What do you do when you have too much to write about?

 

That’s what I am thinking as I sit here on the tarmac at the Port Au Prince airport. I traveled here for a trip to visit our twin parish in Sucrerie Henry, a small village an hour outside of Les Caye, Haiti. My mind is numb and tired from all that I have experienced on this five day mission. Lack of sleep will be catching up with me shortly but for now I write quickly and with mixed feelings of joy and sadness.

This was my first visit to Haiti and I am certain it will not be my last. The sights, sounds, and aromas will make for many a “slice” post for sure. But first I must sleep and process all that I have experienced and felt. I am comforted in knowing that all my writing will be my guide as I try to make sense of all that is swirling around in my head.

There is one thing I know for certain  – I am changed because of my time with the people of Haiti.