Thursday, May 24, 2012

6 years later... 6 memories

So, after yesterday's post, I wasn't sure what to write about next.  I asked for ideas on Facebook, and my husband came up with this:

What was the single most notable experience you had in Haiti, that you will never forget? Why? How do you want to move forward from that experience?

It's been six years since I spent five weeks in Haiti.  I taught English for three of those weeks, and followed my team leaders (who had lived in Haiti previously) around for the other two.  It's nearly impossible to pick just ONE notable experience.  There are several that stick out in my mind.

1.  Landing in Port-au-Prince
I will never forget what it was like landing in Haiti for the first time, on my own.  I flew in on my own, because I was coming from Ft. Lauderdale, and my team leaders were coming from Miami.  My flight landed 30 minutes before theirs did.  So, after disembarking from the plane, I got my suitcase, and planted myself right in the middle of the airport, and proceeded to just take in the sights and sounds around me.  There were police with big guns, and very few Caucasian faces!  I don't remember being scared, just knowing that I wanted to be absolutely sure that I was able to meet up with my team leaders as soon as they landed.  I think this experience changed me for the better because I realized that I could travel on my own, and wasn't scared to do so!

2.  Traveling in Haiti
While I never drove in Haiti, I certainly rode in enough vehicles, and from what I could see, drivers in Haiti are CRAZY!  There are no lines on the roads, though they do tend to drive on the right side of the road most of the time, it definitely gets exciting if someone coming toward you decides to pass a slower moving vehicle!  Throughout my time in Haiti I rode in a Mitsubishi Montero, a Daihatsu dump truck, and a tap-tap. Even though the Montero was a good solid vehicle, and the tap-tap was brightly colored, I think my favorite of the three was the Daihatsu dump truck.  Our team rode, standing, in the back of the truck.  Coming back from the Universite Chretinne du Nord d'Haiti one day, we got soaked by a passing rainstorm.

One of our team leaders with our borrowed tap-tap

3.  Meeting the rest of the team
As I mentioned earlier, I traveled by myself to Haiti, and met up with my team leaders.  We were joined about five days later by nine students from a different college.  I'd never met any of them before, and while I would like to say I'm still good friends with all of them today, that's just not the case.  We only had about a month together before they returned to Canada.  But while we were all together, we had a good time, and they were welcoming to me.  I do wish I had gotten to know them all better.  Here is a picture from the day we picked them up at the airport in Cap Haitien.
At the Cap-Haitien Airport

4.  The accident
I'm sure this is the one thing that we would all like to forget, and I hope the others have forgotten, but an experience that will be with me for the rest of my life was the day a young boy ran into the side of our truck. As I recall, we were driving back to our compound at about dusk, and all of a sudden, a young boy ran out into the road, and right into the side of our truck.  He had apparently been visiting family on one side of the road, and wanted to cross to the other side to get home.  Haitians are known for being an emotional people, and as soon as the accident occurred, there was a HUGE crowd around our truck.  It was obvious that we weren't going to be driving anywhere until the boy got medical attention (he had a gash on his head), so the ten of us on the team piled out of the back of the truck, and walked the rest of the way back to our compound.  It wasn't too far, but I remember being kinda nervous because it was getting dark by this point, and none of us spoke the language.  We made it back to the compound safely, and a few hours later our team leaders returned from taking the boy to the hospital.  I'm not really sure how I can move forward from that experience, or what I can learn from it, but it does stick out in my mind as a major event in my trip to Haiti.

Our team in the back of the dump truck

5.  Teaching English
This was the stated "purpose" for my trip to Haiti.  I needed to fulfill an internship requirement in order to graduate with my BA, and I needed to teach English for a certain number of hours to graduate with my Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages certificate.  My team leader gave me the advanced class, and basically put me in charge.  Two of the other members of the team acted as my assistants/co-teachers for the three weeks I was teaching.  Some things that stick out to me about my class:
-  I was younger than most of my students
-  They didn't like homework any more than I liked grading it!
-  Most of them were eager to learn.
-  Some of them didn't even really need to be there, because they were quite competent already!

Part of my job as teacher was to teach them a Bible verse.  I can't remember now which verse, or verses, they had to learn, but I do remember that I threatened them with a pop quiz.  The next day, I was too sick to even get out of bed, so my team leader had to teach my class for me.  Apparently my students were NOT happy that they still had to take their quiz that day!

Looking back, I think I enjoyed teaching more than I thought I did at the time.  I still don't really like lesson planning, or grading.  I would much rather "teach" in a conversational setting where the topic may be chosen in advance or otherwise assigned, and I much prefer working with intermediate or advanced students rather than complete beginners.  If I had the chance to go back to Haiti and teach again, I definitely would.
Teaching!  That's me on the left side with my arm in the air

6. The people
I met so many precious people on this trip.  When we weren't teaching, we would visit orphanages or other orphan care organizations in Cap-Haitien.  With the whole team, we also visited the local Christian university which I mentioned earlier, as well as a local medical clinic.  After the nine other team members left, I tagged along as my team leaders visited family and friends of theirs who were still in Haiti.  I met two Haitian pastors, St. Ange, and Codo, and their families, and I also got to meet my team leaders' son-in-law's parents!  They don't speak English at all, but scratching at mosquito bites is sure a universal language!  At one point, the husband of the couple we were visiting handed me a bottle of Calvin Klein cologne, and motioned that I should spray it on my arms.  So I did.  And it worked.  The bites stopped itching almost immediately.  And I smelled good for the rest of the day!

But I think the thing that has stuck with me the most is the children.  They're precious, and they just want to be loved.  The children at the orphanages loved it when we came to visit and play games with them.  Here are some pictures of those precious kids:
            Karma and two kids                          Our team at an orphanage

One day, I would love to be able to give a Haitian child a forever home.  I think THAT's the one notable experience I had in Haiti: the way the country, and the people, wiggled their way right into my heart, and stayed there.

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