Friday, March 25, 2011

Random tidbits

6 young men (18 to 32 years old students in the English /construction class) dug a 12x 12 pit for the septic tank for the future orphanage , 7 am to 4 pm, with pick and shovel hauling dirt and rocks out in 5 gallon buckets, one at a time all day for a week under the 90 F blasting sun!  Anyone want to try? They are covered with dust but work with heart because they are grateful for the $ 10 /day pay check and the lunch. ( we are trying to give them something to pay for the tap-tap rides to the job $ 1.75 /day)
We are looking into two water purification systems: one bio-sand, the other solar powered.  Interesting stuff!
One of the dogs ate the rooster!!! The chicken is traumatized, no more eggs!  J  Now the dog is gone!!  Choices are made:  dogs are not food.  Everyone sleeps better:  the dog used to bark half the night and the rooster would start to crow at 2 am!
Yesterday lunch was “ragout” !! I had wondered what the goat head,  fore legs, and tail that were soaking in the kitchen sink were going to be used for… now I know!
Enjoy your peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches J

Monday, March 21, 2011

Election day in Haiti

Yesterday was the second round of the elections. Martelly vs Manigat. Most people voted for Martelly according to my students. Port au Prince was like a ghost town. Everyone expected trouble; there had been no sales of alcohol, gasoline , motorbikes and trucks were banned from driving, bars and dancing have also been closed for the past two days.  Extra police force ( 20 000 men) so the process was calm.
We are now anxiously for the official results. Aristide is back and he supports Manigat.....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teaching in PaP

I have to kick students out of class…..not because they are disruptive or disrespectful but because too many of them show up!  The young men and women are so eager to learn English they try to sneak in class and crowd me after class to ask for more.  Their interest is touching, all levels are in one class and somehow it works, the more advanced students helping the weaker ones, involvement is general.  No electricity means no technology, the books I brought are inadequate so I make up my own texts and they really like the personalization and pertinence to their lives. There is a lot of laughter and I leave the class charged.
My other delight is my afternoon group of young women novices who take advanced French with me. Today we worked on a book in French for children entitled:  “ Small  hurts, big disasters” , it deals with issues children have with the psychological trauma incurred after natural disasters.  Only one of the novices was raised by her own parents, the others were all placed in other families, sometimes a relative sometimes not.  It seems everyone has a story to share of a lost one.  We talked about how one could help a child deal with those issues. It strikes me that adults can be helped in very much the same way. Finding the strength inside, how what they have already done to get to this point is because of that inner strength.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

8 eggs

How can it be so much fun to go check every morning if the hen has laid another egg?  Well it is.  8 now! I GET A HUGE KICK OUT OF IT!  It made me wonder why, and why I am so happy the skinny cat had three kittens two nights ago and why I enjoy hanging my laundry in the sun to dry (it takes about 1 hour in this heat and sun). Then there are the mango trees, papaya, banana and my favorite a goyave tree. I go watch all these fruits grow and ripen each day during my walk around and around the yard within the confine and safety of the convent walls.  It dawned on me that they and the eggs symbolize life and renewal and that in the face of the abysmal misery , and filth they are symbols of hope J
My eager students were back this am, a little early for their 7 am class, again they had to be stopped after one hour ,then asked if any of them wanted to work in small groups, they stayed another hour gathered in a shack, (our classroom was no longer available) AND they WORKED: reviewing what we had done, some explaining to others, practicing and coming to ask questions!  It was so much fun. THEY ASKED TO HAVE A GRAMMAR CLASS ON SUNDAY  !!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teaching in Haiti

I am finally teaching! And what fun it is ! the Haitians are so eager to learn , so curious about everything and happy to be in class, it is a joy!  This morning English class scheduled for one hour,  lasted two + hours.. and people were standing outside the windows of the classroom, listening in! I had to tell the students to go , they kept wanting more information, more practice and asked precisions about expressions they had learned but were not sure about. It was wonderful….
And then…. This afternoon, same thing but in advanced French.. what a delight!
Less delightful.. next to the unbelievable poverty and filth in the streets of Pap ( there is no organized trash collection, so it just piles up everywhere) I saw pictures of a place called the Indigo hotel, private beach resort with luxuries usually associated with oil producing nations, where the mayor of PaP flies by helicopter to have lunch!!!!!! Do you know the cost of a helicopter ride? Well…I guess he does avoid the nightmarish traffic jams that way!   At the door of the convent, people bang the gates, and ask for a glass of water or a mango from the trees they can see towering in the yard…….

Friday, March 4, 2011

Oasis in Port au Prince

The internet has been down.

Raise your hand if you thought I would ever live in a convent!  AND if you thought I would actually love it! The convent is run by Sister Benoite, Sr Bee for her friends, a tiny Canadian nun that has lived in Haiti for the past twenty some years, always busy making sure the facility runs smoothly and everything is in good repair. The earthquake damaged the square shaped building and RT1 came to repair the condemmed structure with its construction trainees: they reinforced pillars, the roof, and fixed all the cracks until the convent became livable again for the nuns. 
At the suggestion of RT1, Sr Bee has started a guest house which has two long term resident: Pilar, a cheerful Spanish brunette who works for Foi et Joie and yours truly.  We wake up to the lovely voices of the nuns singing the morning prayers in the chapel at 6 am and meet at 6.30 for mass and 7.15 for breakfast.  At  6pm supper last night, around the table were Canadian, Indian, Haitian, Spanish, Italian, French, Burkina Faso, Congolese nuns, priests and lay people and we all speak some kind of French J  The group from Quebec has an intensive week long program to deal with post-traumatic syndrome and offer sessions to Haitians in distress. The intensive format appears to be really helpful.
The convent is shaped around an inside garden filled with trees (mango  J ) and flowery bushes.  Galleries close up the square with all the rooms opening into them; from the outside it looks like a fortress and one would never guess at its simple green peaceful lovely comfort.  The grounds surrounding it will soon have a goat herd and the chicken coop is under construction. When I painted the floor the other day, Louis the guard and “homme à tout faire”= handyman, couldn’t stand it; was it the way I was holding the paintbrush? More like a red pen than a tool? At any rate, he was pretty soon kneeling by my side and we were done in no time. The last time that Sr Bee bought a chicken, hoping for badly needed eggs, she kept waiting for it to do its job: lay an egg! After a while she thought she wasn’t feeding it the right stuff, so she went  searching for egg-laying special chicken feed…..nothing seemed to help……until one morning she heard “cockle doodle do!”
Rt1 ‘s goal of  helping  her with her guest house project, vegetable garden ( we have eaten beets, lettuce, tomatoes and the first carrots) and with building  the fences and outbuilding needed for her goats and chicken mini-farm is coming along nicely (  yesterday   Sr. Bee  was finally able to find and purchase the wire for the fence, not always available).  She is hoping to make the convent self-sufficient and even confided , that at some point in the not so distant future, not only would they not depend on their foreign mother house but their micro-enterprise would help sustain the other convents of their order in Haiti.
Next project: a small gift shop with local arts and crafts that visiting guests attending the retreats  or conferences hosted by the convent will be able to purchase. What fun it will be to help select items to stock the shop!  We are going to go explore an artist coop in the next few days, depending on car availability and driver and….whatever else is going on.
At 6 pm the convent doors close. The rooster is put under a box so he won’t wake us up like all the other roosters of Haiti, around 3 am (they must be on mid-Atlantic time), the large metal gate is padlocked,  and the watch dogs are freed to roam ( and barkL) in the fairly large garden surrounded by the  7 feet walls with barbed wires on top that are doing a good job at keeping us safe for instance from the serious gun fight that kept us awake most of the night a few days ago.
So life in the convent is good, it is very good …and it is a lovely and peaceful oasis.