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Pale Anglè? Not Yet!: St. Gabriel Trip to Haiti 2018 Five/Five

Pale Anglè? Not yet!/Speak English? Not yet!

This is the fifth and final post from my recent trip to Haiti with a small delegation from St. Gabriel the Archangel. The first post was an introduction, which can be found here. This is my third trip to Haiti, having traveled there in 2007 and 2009. A post about those trips can be found here. The second post in this five part series is about the school at St. Anne and it can be found here. The third post is about the St. Anne clinic, and that can be found here. The fourth post is about St. Anne church and the seven chapels the parish supports and it can be found here. This final post is intended to share about the moments on the trip when we were not in church, school, or the clinic, rather its focus is on places we visited, moments while traveling to those places, and the times in between.

Travel

On the way to our twin parish from the airport, we four women of our delegation squeezed into the back seat of the pick up truck because the bed was full of luggage. Having been to Haiti before, I knew that once the luggage was unloaded, future travel would find us in the truck bed. Haitians utilize every bit of space in a vehicle, sometimes carrying as many as twelve people in the bed of a truck or a few passengers on the roof of a van or standing on the bumper holding on to the racks on top.

Three of us in the truck photo at the top of this post are grandmothers. Grandmothers who once made sure to follow regulations to install car seats for our children and then watched as they carefully chose certified car seats for each stage of growth for their own children. In Haiti, as in many developing countries, there are no laws about this. Acknowledging culture shock, we shook our heads in disbelief as we watched a motor scooter pass with a man driving, a woman seated behind him facing backwards clutching a soft-sided baby carrier, presumably with a baby inside. We also marveled at motor scooters with as many as five people on board, including one on the lap of the driver:

Five on a scooter

Tap Tap with person on top

Riders on the bumper

Admittedly not the safest way to travel, we preferred travel in the truck bed anyway for its access to many and beautiful sights and the cooling of the wind in the Haitian heat. Père Didier drove fast when possible and although we couldn’t see where we were going, we knew by the sudden stops that we had reached a speed bump on the edge of a village, or through a quick toot of the horn and sudden acceleration that we were about to pass another vehicle.

On Friday, after our time at the school, the clinic, and LaHatte chapel, we drove to Les Cayes to pick up a few things.

Our Lady of Assumption cathedral in Les Cayes, mother church of the Les Cayes diocese under the pastoral responsibility for Cardinal Chibly Langlois

Père Didier picking up a few things

Seated in the truck bed, it was easy to get decent photos of all we were taking in. I had asked Santa to bring me a new camera for this trip and he delivered. I wanted something that had an automatic feature plus some manual settings, it had to be very small, and able to capture video, too. You may be wondering why I didn’t just use a cell phone. In fact, I kept my iPhone for communication, but ALSO used an old iPhone 6 to capture both photos and videos. The problem is that in the heat of Haiti, batteries drain quickly AND there is no promise of electricity for charging them. The camera I chose has a rechargeable battery and I also bought an extra rechargeable battery. It all worked out – when one device died, I always had another to use.  This is the camera I chose and I recommend it for all of the reasons above. Plus, it comes in purple! I would often hold it in the air and take random shots to capture the scenic view. It worked out great.

Verienne asked Père Didier to pull over to buy grilled corn from a woman cooking it on the side of the road:

We also stopped along the return trip for mangoes and to pick up gasoline for the generator.

The gas station security guard was happy to pose for this photo

While Verienne and Dany hopped into the truck cab for the ride back, Christine and I stayed in the back and decided to keep the gas container in its corner with our feet

At one point as the sun began to set, we heard the horn of a passing vehicle and then quickly pulled over. We wondered what was going on when our group in the truck-cab got out of the vehicle. Next we knew, the former pastor of our twin parish came around to the back of the truck with a big, welcoming smile. It was a delight to see Père Doussous again! It seems he had passed us and when he did, Père Didier recognized him and waved at him to stop.

Père Doussous, Père Didier, Father Larry

As we pulled away from our brief but wonderful roadside visit, in repositioning myself in the back of the truck I realized my dress was wet with gasoline. Christine realized she was wet with it, too. We rode home extra vigilant about holding the gas container in place, although we knew it was leaking beyond our control. When we arrived back to the rectory we changed out of our clothes, rinsed them, and hung them outside to air out.

Churchyard

The next morning, while the rest of the delegation was visiting Bellevue chapel, I asked for something with which to wash out the gasoline drenched clothing and was given both a liquid soap and a disinfectant. I scrubbed the two dresses and hung them outside on the veranda to dry in the sun, moving them every hour or so as the sun moved across the building. My goal was to get the smell of gasoline to fade enough that I could put the clothing in my suitcase to bring home without causing problems in customs. Both Chris and I were worried about giving them to the house staff to clean because we didn’t want to cause a problem for them. As mentioned before, Haiti has a trash problem and we didn’t want to “throw them away” because they would sit around a while before being burned. We also didn’t want to make a display of our privilege by simply discarding them. All of it was a big concern for us. The good news is that the strong smell of the disinfectant masked the smell of gasoline and we were able to do as we had planned – bring the clothing home in plastic bags in our suitcases and dispose of them there. While the group was gone that morning, I sat out on the veranda and listened to the sounds of the church yard while sketching.  A group of men were building something and I could hear their chatter, laughter, and hammers from my spot. In the kitchen courtyard below I could hear the sounds of pots and pans and the sounds of giggles and singing from a little girl whose mother was washing laundry and hanging it to dry. In a sweet and thoughtful gesture, one of the cooks brought me a pot of coffee and quietly left it on the table. I thought she was setting up for lunch and didn’t realize for a little while that she had brought it for me to enjoy. I was able to thank her later. The colored pencil sketch above is of the church from the veranda. The watercolor sketch below is of the view toward the school from the veranda, with the old church roof and cinder block towers in the lower left.

Food

Lunch after the uphill trek

Goats head soup (is this where the Rolling Stones album got its name?)

When the group returned home from their uphill trek to Bellevue, they were thirsty, tired, and hungry; we had lunch. Most meals in the parish consisted of water (only sealed bottles or water from the Culligan big bottles poured in a pitcher), fruit -including mango, papaya, plantains, pineapple, rice and beans, soup or stew, and sometimes meat or fish in a sauce. One day there were freshly cut coconuts from which we drank delicious coconut milk. We always had the option of Haitian Kasav bread (made from flour ground from manioc root) with peanut butter on top and often took advantage of this. Sometimes there were bon-bons, which is Creole for cookie. In the morning we had strong Haitian coffee, and at night sometimes sitwonad (limeade), or a Prestige (made in Haiti). On the road once or twice we were treated to a nice cold Coca Cola. On our last night at the parish, the cook made dessert, a sweet potato pudding called Pain Patate. The cook and her staff at the parish worked very hard to feed us, and for that we are grateful.

Haitian Kasav bread

Aquin

On Saturday night after all of our meetings, we drove to Aquin for the feast of Thomas Aquinas at the church there. The church was packed to the hilt with parishioners and on the altar sat over twenty priests. We got there late (seats had been saved for us) during the homily and we were still at mass for two hours.

Not even a third of the priests on the altar

Incense

Scouts in Haiti

After mass, as everyone spilled from the church, Père Didier led us to the rectory where a big feast of food was laid out on the dining room table. He made sure we each had something on a plate (plantains for me) and led us upstairs to the porch where tables had been set up. You could hear music and festivities on the ground below. At one point I went to the railing to see what was happening and was greeted by the young men in the photo below.

I asked them tentatively, “Pale Anglé?” (Speak English?) To which one of them quickly replied, “Not yet!” I loved that response! For anyone in education reading this, it is a great example of a perfect growth mindset response.

Île-à-Vache

There is really nothing so universally relaxing as a day at the beach, right? On Sunday in Haiti, after three hours or so dressed up and in church, people relax as much as they can while still going about the importance business of life and sustenance. For instance, there are no carpentry projects in the churchyard and the main meal is just a bit more special. Père Didier wanted to take us some place to relax and unwind and as Haiti is surrounded by water, the beach was a welcomed suggestion. And so we began our excursion to the island of Île-à-Vache (Cow Island).

Île-à-Vache

To get to Île-à-Vache we would take a boat out of Les Cayes. When we arrived at the docks, no boats were moored there and we waited while Père Didier made calls and checked in with some people there.

When the boat arrived it was not what we had expected.

But we took a giant leap of faith and boarded anyway. And just kept smiling.

Photo credit: Christine

What a ride. It took 40 minutes to travel the seven miles to the island. The wind was strong and the waves were high. And we were in a flat-bottomed wooden relic of a boat with one 40hp engine.  This was the first time I ever feared for my life in Haiti.

There is no Coast Guard in Haiti. There was no radio communication. We were four miles out with just two guys and their cell phones to make a mayday call. And we all know what happens when cellphones take on water.

By the grace of God, we made it to the island and put the return trip out of mind as we took in the beauty of Île-à-Vache at the Port Morgan resort.

We walked down the steps to the beach and it was indeed beautiful and peaceful, as promised.

Père Didier had a nice swim and before too long, Christine and I joined him (in our clothes).

After a meal, a swim, good conversation, and relaxation, we began the return trip:

Les Cayes coastline from the water

And made it back safely! The step from the boat to the dock was at least a good two feet. Suddenly about six men appeared and hoisted us, one by one, out of the boat. I remember reaching up my hands and next I knew I was on the dock. Just like that. It wasn’t until the next day I felt bruising on my left arm from the hands that gripped tightly to lift me.

Sleep

I found it particularly difficult to sleep in Haiti. I don’t remember that from past trips. It was hot in the room, at least 95℉, and humid. Coming from a particularly frigid few weeks in New England, the heat was a big adjustment, more so at night, where I slept without covers in a snow-angel-making position. Mosquitos buzzed only occasionally. I remembered a lot of mosquitos in past trips, this time there were few. We had brought mosquito nets and we took the Malaria drugs, but there was no need for them. As you’ve probably heard in the videos in this series of postings, the roosters crow whether day or night. There seemed to be one on each side of the house, echoing crows all night long. Needless to say, when I returned home I was exhausted and also dehydrated even though I drank water as often as possible.

Port-au-Prince

We let the roosters awake us at 4:00 in the morning on Monday as to have enough time to finish packing and have suitcases at the front door by 4:45. Père Didier borrowed a vehicle with six seats so we could make the four hour trip more comfortably. All of the suitcases were secured under a tarp on the roof. When we set off at 5:00am, it was still dark outside. Along the way, we were able to watch as Haiti woke up and started the day. Children walked or rode on scooters to school in their uniforms, vendors carried their wares to the sidewalk and set up shop.

As we got closer to the city, structures were more densely packed together, the streets were busier, and the trash piles grew larger.

Foraging pig

Haitian made furniture for sale

Hillside homes

Both times I had been to Haiti before this trip, we took a small plane out of a different airport in Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes, so I had only seen about a mile or so of the city, and my last trip was six months before the earthquake of 2010 that demolished the city. I was glad to be on the ground in a vehicle to take it all in.

We got to the Toussaint Louverture airport, named after the leader of the Haitian Revolution, after many hours on the road  and dense traffic in Port-au-Prince.

With help from some porters, we checked our bags and made our way to the security area.

After a lot of milling around and not knowing where to go, we filled out departure forms. No pens were supplied and I used a black marker I happened to have with me. The markings didn’t transfer.

We cleared security and went to the gate area, sitting at a cafe for sandwiches. We shopped at a little tchotchke shop and eventually went to the gate. Little did we know there would be another security check. At this one, they took my boarding pass away and ushered me to a private room for a random security check, which I had a difficult time understanding due to the language difference. I was separated from and could no longer see my group, my luggage, or my boarding pass. I was unnerved. In the private room, a young woman simply ran a wipe over my hands and pronounced us “fini”. I replied, “Mademoiselle, mon cœur!” and made heart pounding motions like you see in the cartoons.

Finally, we boarded and had an uneventful flight to JFK airport in New York. On arrival, I promptly failed the automated passport to photo facial recognition check and earned a big X on my receipt. Way to go.

All that means is that you have to present yourself (your face) to a human to be compared with your passport. But what it really means is one more long line before you can go to customs. We cleared that without incident and boarded the plane for Boston, where we arrived at 8:30pm. Needless to say, I was incredibly happy to be home.

Home with deep appreciation for hot showers, my own bed, brushing my teeth without using bottled water, fresh fruit and vegetables (especially lettuce), cell service and wifi, and solid sleep. With a stroke of luck, the day after my return was decreed a snow day, giving me an extra day to recharge. Although on the next day – my return to the classroom, I couldn’t help making constant comparisons between methods of instruction at home and in Haiti, and the multitude of resources, electronic and otherwise, that we have here compared to the simplicity of the classrooms there. At home, I consciously waited until the following Sunday to enter a grocery store. Almost a full week after returning home, the comparison in consumption between our countries was great and overwhelming.

Lastly, in driving my car to work in subsequent days, I was grateful for the cold weather. Had it been hot and humid I would have been missing those carefree moments of riding around in the open air in the back of a truck.

Photo by Père Didier

Mèsi, Ayiti. Bondye beni w!

 

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Let’s Enter In His Sacred House: St. Gabriel Trip To Haiti 2018 Four/Five

Vini rankontrew Granmèt la. An Antre nan kay sakre li a. Adore Bondye ki plen pouwa./Come and meet the Lord. Let’s enter in His sacred house. Adore the powerful Lord. Clap and rejoice in His presence.

This is the fourth post from my recent trip to Haiti with a small delegation from St. Gabriel the Archangel. The first post was an introduction, which can be found here. This is my third trip to Haiti, having traveled there in 2007 and 2009. A post about those trips can be found here. The second post in this five part series is about the school at St. Anne and it can be found here. The third post is about the St. Anne clinic, and that can be found here. This post is about St. Anne church and the seven chapels the parish supports.

St. Anne Church

St. Anne Parish encompasses the main church (above) as well as seven chapels in the surrounding villages. On Friday afternoon of our visit we went to visit one of them.

Chapel LaHatte

LaHatte Chapel

It took about twenty minutes to drive there on the unpaved roads. Once there we parked and walked up an incline to the chapel and school building.

View from the chapel down the incline

Chapel with school behind

Verienne, Pére Didier, Dany, Chris, and Father Larry waiting for the chapel director

When the chapel director arrived, he unlocked the door and we went inside the chapel. 

The LaHatte chapel regularly withstands violent hurricanes with its concrete walls and windows, The corrugated metal roof and framing has had to be replaced over the years. Usually we fund expenses like this as a special project  with either a dedicated collection or through payments made as installments.

Although very simple, the chapels in Haiti reflect the intention to revere and display the glory of God. There are some beautiful light-filled moments in this humble space.

The school at LaHatte is not open at this time. One of the goals with which our delegation arrived home is to open the school so more children can be educated. Two teachers must be hired in order to do so.

The view from LaHatte chapel is beautiful.

With my camera, I zoomed in on a hill behind the school and could see cows grazing high up on the hillside.

Adoration

Later that same night after a trip to Les Cayes, we attended an Adoration at the St. Anne church. Although the generator was running and the lights were on, they were no match for the nighttime darkness, hence my images and videos are dimly lit.

Jesus with no hands

Pére Didier led the congregation in song after song and there was much dancing.

The focal point was when Pére Didier walked around the church to display the monstrance holding a consecrated host for veneration.

The adoration went on for over two hours. Throughout its entirety, parishioners old and young danced and sang.

After a long, full day, we slept and found ourselves back in church for the 7:00am Mass. I didn’t take any pictures because, in all honesty, I was barely awake and happy to have made it to Mass at all. I simply soaked it in and let it awaken my spirit.

Chapel Bellevue

Friday night as we gathered for a light supper, Pére Didier expressed an interest in visiting the Bellevue chapel. With a big smile on his face he told us it would be one hour all the way up hill by foot on a rough trail to visit. We all thought he was joking, but soon realized he was completely serious.

Pére Didier’s big smile

Having recovered from bronchitis and asthma problems just in time to take the trip to Haiti, coupled with the 90º degree heat, I decided not to tempt fate and to stay at the rectory that morning. I took advantage of the time to wash some clothing that gasoline had spilled on the day before (that story in the next post). I can relay the adventure of Bellevue as told to me by the others, and I’m using Chris’s pictures here – thanks Chris!

Bellevue chapel was begun a little while back. All the concrete bricks and mortar must be carried up the steep slope, which may be passable by a mule, definitely not a vehicle. The materials are usually carried on heads or backs. The chapel is about 2/3 built, and the people are tired. Indeed it is a long, steep climb to the chapel.

The St. Gabriel delegation was followed to the top by some of the Bellevue residents, including the chapel director (above), and some men who helped the group along the way. Here are a couple of photos that show some of the objects on the way up.

Burial tombs

This rock looks like a breaching whale to me

Children flocked to the visitors, some carrying water, others playing with toys handmade with hoops and sticks (similar to toys from colonial America).

At the top of the climb, the group convened in the partial chapel where coconut milk and water were shared with them.

The others that went to Bellevue told of the uphill climb that ended up taking an hour and a half. The downhill climb is treacherous with many rocks and uneven surfaces. They also mentioned that currently students are making the trek daily to attend school at St. Anne. The chapel director at Bellevue would like to finish construction of the chapel so it can be used as a school during the week to help these children and more attend school without the difficulty of the climb. This is another goal our delegation returned home with.

Chapel Directors

On Saturday afternoon we met with the St. Anne chapel directors. The seven chapels are LaHatte, Bellevue, Parraseux, Corail, Loufranc, Terre Neuve, and Mercier. Five of the seven chapel directors were able to meet with us. They all began with praise for Pére Didier and then told of the state of their chapel and families.

Verienne was kept busy as translator. We are very happy to be establishing a brand new chapel, Terre Neuve (New Earth), which will be directed by a woman. We were all very happy about this.

I recognized our newest chapel director as one of the dancers at St. Anne nine years ago.

Some of the concerns brought up by the chapel directors include missing roofs due to hurricanes at two of the chapels, there are currently no schools open at any of the chapels, disputed land ownership, lack of a building altogether, and foundation leveling.

The Chapel Directors, including St. Anne’s first woman chapel director.

Parish Council

After our meeting with chapel directors, we met with the St. Anne parish council. The council is responsible for the day to day operations of the parish. They, too, began with praise for Pére Didier and all he is accomplishing. He is a good communicator and community organizer, and seems to never tire. Prayer opportunities have increased in the the parish, and they are bringing people back to the parish.

The council has long expressed a desire to transform the old church, which remains in disrepair in the middle of the parish yard, to a cultural center where meetings, concerts, and celebration can be held. The space is smaller than the big church and would be more economical to use for the stated occasions than the big church.

The old church in disrepair in the middle of the parish yard

The St. Anne Parish Council

Sunday Mass at St. Anne

Sunday mass at St. Anne is a big, joyous deal. The music is electric and loud, everyone is dressed up, and there is dancing. Father Larry concelebrated with Pére Didier.

Verienne translating Father Larry’s homily

One of the children was celebrating her birthday and got up to address the congregation:

After Mass Chris and I handed out some conversations hearts I had brought along.

We have done this before, once with friendship bracelets made by my students and the CCD students at St. Gabriel in 2007, and once with rosary beads made by a woman for our trip in 2009. As many as we bring, as much as we think we have it covered, there is never enough. The need is so great, it diminishes all of our confidence and shakes our faith for a moment. There are just so many hands.

My final post on the Haiti trip is upcoming and will feature our experiences and travels around Haiti, at the parish, in Les Cayes, and on Ile-a-Vache. Stay tuned…

 

 

 

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A Stone In The Sun: St. Gabriel Trip To Haiti 2018 Three/Five

Wòch nan dlo pa konn doulè wòch nan soley./The stone in the water does not know the pain of the stone in the sun. – Haitian Proverb

This is the third post from my recent trip to Haiti with a small delegation from St. Gabriel the Archangel. The first post was an introduction, which can be found here. This is my third trip to Haiti, having traveled there in 2007 and 2009. A post about those trips can be found here. The second post in this five part series is about the school at St. Anne and it can be found here. This post is about the St. Anne clinic, which is across the street from the church.

The St. Anne Clinic street sign from a clinic window

As we enter the clinic

Clinic waiting room

During the weeks before we left for our trip on January 25, we had placed boxes in the vestibule at St. Gabriel to collect medical supply donations. The Haiti ministry committee met a couple of nights ahead of the trip to pack the donations in suitcases. The donations filled four extra large suitcases.

Of course when we got to the airport, we realized three of them were overweight, so we had to remove items and place them in a fold up suitcase someone had brought for this purpose. Eventually, we redistributed everything and they were all under 50 pounds, ready for flight. We had some concerns about customs in Haiti, but they all made it through with contents in tact as we left the airport in Port-au-Prince.

Chris pulling a bag of medical supplies across the parish yard to the clinic across the street

After spending Friday morning touring the school, we brought the bags across the street to the clinic and opened them on the floor of the director’s office.

Once opened, we worked with the clinic director to sort the items by type: bandages, analgesics, ointments, etc. in corners on the floor.

Once sorted, we carried them by the armload to the storage closet and the director and Dany put them away by type:

Dany takes a break to wave

After everything was put away, we had lots of soap and toothbrushes left, so we put them in brown lunch bags and distributed them to the people in the waiting room of the clinic.

With these “tasks” completed, Pére Didier and the clinic director gave us a tour of the small facility.

The doctor in her office/examining room

Records room

Records room

Nurse at work

Intake room – blood pressure, temperature readings

Refrigeration for vaccines and meds that must be kept cold

Medical records

Phones charging

Pharmacy/Dispensaire

Lab

Waiting area

The clinic sees about fifty people each day, whether for initial treatment or follow up. There are small apartments where the doctor, nurse, and director stay on the premises. Recently they have opened one of the apartments up to create a recovery area. They hope to add more beds. This could be a project St. Gabriel might explore – salvaging hospital beds and shipping them to Haiti.

Recovery area

Water filtration system

From its location across the street from the church and school, the view of the surrounding area encompasses street traffic and the mountains.

Following the afternoon at the clinic, we went for a ride to Les Cayes, a trip I’ll write about in the final posting in this five part series. Upon our return from Les Cayes later that night, we attended an Adoration with Pére Didier in the church. You can read about that in my next post about the church and chapels. Stay tuned…

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The Weight Of His Hand On My Shoulder: St. Gabriel Trip to Haiti 2018 Two/Five

L’éducation est l’arme la plus puissante que vous pouvez utiliser pour changer le monde./Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

This is the second post from my recent trip to Haiti with a small delegation from St. Gabriel the Archangel. The first post was an introduction, which can be found here. This is my third trip to Haiti, having traveled there in 2007 and 2009. A post about those trips can be found here. This post is about the school at St. Anne in Sucrerie Henry, which is one component of the parish we sponsor. As a veteran educator, this is the ministry about which I am most passionate and curious.

Pére Didier with the school sign

When we visit our twin parish, we stay in the rectory, on the second floor. There is a large veranda overlooking the parish buildings, including part of the school and playground equipment.

View from the veranda overlooking the school and playground equipment.

When we visited in January 2007, it was just after the New Year and the school was on winter break. When we traveled in 2009, it was in July, and school was out for summer. I was thrilled to be able to visit while the school was in session, and the visit exceeded my expectations.

A visit with kindergarten students

We started with the youngest group, kindergarten, at first watching them play on the playground equipment, which is all new since my last visit. As a matter of fact, kindergarten at the school is all new since my last visit.

There is nothing like the happy sound of children at play outdoors! Inside the school, our young friends use chalk to write on mini-blackboards. There are neither paper nor pencils (or crayons).

Writing slates and classroom library for Kindergarten

In the foyer where students are given lunch daily, usually rice prepared by some of the mothers who volunteer

The kindergarten classroom

After visiting the kindergarten we visited classrooms:

And at Pére Didier’s coaxing were usually extended an official greeting – here is first grade:

First grade speakers

Second grade

Second grade math workbook

The second grade students:

Third Grade Students

We continued to tour the classrooms throughout the school – lower grades on the lower level and higher grades in the second floor.

Open air windows allow air and much needed light in to the classroom. Electricity is sporadic in Haiti, hence there is only natural light in the classroom.

As we visited the higher grades my heart swelled with pride at the large classes. We had not had a grade twelve class for many years; the teenagers would not attend school and work instead. In the upper grades, students are learning English and Spanish and it felt terrific to encourage them with their language skills. I was especially sympathetic as I spent my time in Haiti trying to remember how to speak French all the while picking up new words in Haitian Creole. It’s hard!

Due to frequent hurricanes that have  destroyed part of its roof, the school library stands empty of all but a few books:

St. Anne formerly offered vocational training in masonry, woodworking, and cosmetology, but those programs are not offered at this time. We walked through the vocational school part of the campus with its signs of previous use. Haitians are makers by necessity. It would be nice to offer these programs again.

Our continual  financial support goes to whichever area of the parish Pére Didier and the parish council deem appropriate, and we also send specific yearly payments for teacher salaries and for student tuition, which is roughly $250 per year per student.  In addition, they must purchase uniforms, which are made locally. As we walked between classrooms we took in the beauty of the mountains around us and although many of the buildings are in disrepair, we took pride in knowing our parish is helping to support education for these Haitian youth. The campus from a classroom on the second floor:

At the conclusion of our school tour, as we began our walk back to the rectory, we stopped by the church, where the kindergarten students flocked to visit with us again.

The weight of his hand on my shoulder

They were at recess, recreation, or R-E-K-R-E-A-S-Y-O-N and were happy to turn it into a Haitian Creole lesson for Chris:

As educators, both Chris and I were especially thrilled to see the school in action and to spend time in classrooms with students and their teachers. Our hope is that with education, our students will be able to change their world.

This is a word of gratitude from a member of the parish council, who we met with on Saturday:

My next post (3/5) will focus on the St. Anne Clinic, another leg of our twin parish. Stay tuned…

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Rivers, Rides, & Roosters: St. Gabriel Trip To Haiti 2018 One/Five

Chen gen kat pye, men li ka mache nan yon sèl chimen. / A dog has four legs, but it walks in only one path. – Haitian Proverb

After an 18 hour travel day, I returned home last Monday night at 10pm. Our day started 4am with a 4.5 hour truck ride to the airport in Port-au-Prince. Having been on the island for four days already, most of the ride was without surprise, until we reached Port-au-Prince around 9am, already teeming with humanity, traffic, tenuous dwellings, and piles of trash.

River of styrofoam trash in Port-au-Prince

The river of styrofoam took me by surprise even though lack of trash management had been frequently discussed, not only in the cities, but even in the countryside at our twin parish in Sucrerie Henry, where all trash is burned.

I have so much to share about my trip to Haiti from January 25 -29. Indeed, some of it reflects the lack of infrastructure in the country, yet most of it is joyful, reflecting the kindness of the Haitian people with whom we came in contact. There were four distinct legs to our trip; St. Anne Parish and Chapels, St. Anne School, St. Anne Clinic, and our journeys around Haiti. Accordingly, I plan to divide my reflection on Haiti into four postings plus this introductory post.

The delegation from St. Gabriel Parish: Father Larry, Verienne, Dany, Christine, and me

Our delegation traveled to Haiti on Thursday, January 25, leaving Logan Airport at 5am and arriving in Port-au-Prince at 12pm. Upon paying our $10 to enter Haiti as tourists, going through customs, and picking up our five large bags full of medical supplies, we were met by Father Didier Joseph who guided us through the corridors and crowds to his waiting truck.

Père Didier and the Toyota Hilux which St. Gabriel helped to fund

All of the bags filled the back and were covered with a tarp. Father Larry jumped in the front and we four women piled into the back. For four hours.

Four of us squeezed into the back of a Toyota Hilux for four hours and still smiling. Photo credit: Christine

We made a couple of stops along the way, one for lunch of traditional Haitian food, and the second to pick up some Dous Makos.

Haitian food: Griot, Plantains, and Pikliz

Douce Macoss Bakery

We arrived at St. Anne’s after sunset and settled in to the 90º heat in our rooms at the rectory, none the worse for wear.

Not a great photo of any of us, but still smiling after a seventeen hour travel day.

I had forgotten about the roosters and how they disrupt sleep in Haiti. Here is an example:

 

Did you ever notice that the word ROOSTER has the same number of letters as NEMESIS?

Post two/five will be about the K-12 school at St. Anne Parish. Stay tuned…

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I Don’t Always Wear My Heart On My Sleeve, But When I Do, It’s In Haiti

 Sa ki rete nan kè-m dòmi lakay: What is still in my heart sleeps at my home. – Haitian Proverb

This post is scheduled to publish as I leave for Haiti very early on Thursday morning. This will be my third trip to Haiti, the first since the 2010 earthquake. I’m writing this post because I’ve been poring through photos from my first trip in 2007 and the next in 2009. I am moved by the memories and want to share a few of them with you.

Memories of Haiti by Alice Gentili

As parishioners at the former Holy Angels (now St. Gabriel the Archangel) parish, my twelve year old son and I watched with admiration as two young women from the parish stood up one Sunday to announce their upcoming trip to Haiti with a group from the Worcester Diocese in 2001. That was the beginning of what has become a vital twinning relationship with St. Anne Parish in Sucrerie Henry, Haiti.

Within the St. Anne Parish are the central church, six chapels in surrounding villages, a school serving 500 children, and a medical clinic. Our parish supports St. Anne with monthly contributions to be used parish-wide as well as annual payments for the teachers in the school. I am a member of the Haitian Ministry committee. We are charged with overseeing the twinning relationship with St. Anne, including allocating contributions, reviewing project requests, and periodically visiting the parish to assess current and future needs. My first trip to Haiti was in 2007.

January 2007

My son and I in Haiti in 2007

My son and I went to Haiti in January of 2007. He was a junior in high school. We had planned to go in the summer of 2005, but the trip was cancelled due to significant unrest in Haiti. Instead we went on our first service trip with Young Neighbors in Action, a wonderful Catholic social justice program for teens that continues on at St. Gabriel thirteen years later  – but that is a story for another time. The opportunity to spend a week in service in Haiti arose again in early January, 2007.

Our 2007 group at breakfast one morning.

This trip opened our eyes to life in Haiti, which is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. While Haiti certainly is economically poor, it is wealthy in its beauty and in the faith and kindness of its people. During this trip we visited many religious and humanitarian sites including our twin parish of St. Anne, the parish school, and the medical clinic:

The church at St. Anne Parish

The altar and apse with Jesus who has no hands

Haitian Mass with dancers during the Procession

Part of the school

Classroom doors after hours

Dappled sunlight across the desks from the open-air cutouts in the classroom walls

School bench/desks pushed against the wall

School schedule

Some happy kids in the schoolyard

The St. Anne Clinic sign from a second floor window

St. Anne clinic waiting room

The pharmacy at the clinic

Meeting with the chapel directors

Meeting with chapel directors

To travel to the outlying chapels, we climbed up into the back of the truck and drove over roads, bridges, and dried up riverbeds:

Typical travel arrangement in Haiti

Over bridges

Both ways

I remember one day, on the road to one of the chapels, we suddenly had a flat tire. As we waited by the side of the road for the Haitian pastor and some of our group to fix it, many people stopped by to offer advice or their help:

Assessing the damage

Passers by

Fixing the flat

One Good Samaritan who stopped to help had the family dinner on his scooter

During our week of service in 2007, we also spent time visiting or helping out at a small orphanage for boys, a nursing home, and Pwoje Espwa (Project Hope), which is a large, multi-faceted orphanage.

Students in a multi-age classroom at Pwoje Espwa

It is inevitable that when you visit Haiti, there is a moment when everything you’ve seen there, living conditions so difficult and different from your own, come together in a cascade of stark realities that take your breath away and stop you where you stand. These are life-changing moments. My son and I shared such a moment at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Home in Les Cayes.

At the Missionaries of Charity, we were helping to feed the disabled residents and to comfort and console the orphaned babies. A baby boy was taken in while we were there. He had scabies all over his body, and his skin was discolored from the treatment lotion. He was miserable. My son picked him up and rocked him gently, patting his back and talking to him softly, trying to calm him. The baby was unconsolable. I held another baby in my arms, a baby who was just happy to be cuddled and quieted quickly. The crying baby’s anguish was mirrored in my son’s face.  I went to them to try to help, to try to comfort both the baby and my son. And then it hit us, we were just two people in this sea of people who needed so much, and really, we had so little to offer. We could only cry. And promise to do more.

 “There are no great things, only small things with great love.”Mother Teresa

July 2009

The 2009 trip was purely a custodial visit for the Haitian Ministry committee. We took just five days, two for traveling and three at the parish, to evaluate projects we had funded and to assess current and future needs. We were a small group of five adults. As with the prior trip, we flew from Logan Airport to Miami, FL to Port-au-Prince. We then took a small plane to Les Cayes, barely skimming the mountains, or so it seemed.

Deye mon, gen mon: Beyond mountains, there are mountains. – Haitian Proverb

View from the small plane

We settled in and began our visits and conversations. We are fortunate to have parishioners at St. Gabriel who are native Haitians. We are indebted to this couple for not only making our arrangements, but for traveling with us and translating our English to Haitian Creole. I also rely on what little I retained from high school French class as many Haitians speak formal French as well.

A rectory door with evidence of concrete work soon to begin

One section of the clinic

At the clinic

One of the chapels

School bell

Meeting with the chapel directors

Sugar cane treats

Mass at St.Anne

Mass at St.Anne

After Mass at st. Anne

Sunday is a true day of rest in Haiti. People come from far and wide to attend Mass and visit with others after Mass. On Sunday afternoon, our group can typically steal away for a few hours in search of the Caribbean Sea.

Our group at Gelee Beach

The 2010 earthquake struck Haiti just six months after the 2009 visit. Having been there so recently, we were heart-broken for the people of Haiti. We could not even consider visiting because the island was not able to sustain itself, never mind an influx of additional people. So we waited at home and led fundraising efforts, including one at my school, where we raised over $7000.

January 2018

By all reports, our parish is stable once again and can host our visit. Three days on the ground goes by quickly. This trip will pass quickly, too. The plane is no longer available between Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes, so we will drive the four hours west to Sucreri Henry. I expect traveling on the road will afford an opportunity to see much more of Haiti. And I’ll report back. Until then, let me share with you some images of the unique and beautiful Haiti I have seen:

Haitian home

The streets of Les Cayes

Tap Tap bus

Hand-hewn boat

Tamarind tree in the schoolyard

Haitian home

Fort at St. Louis du Sud

Young boys in a boat

One of the outlying villages

Les Cayes electric cords

Haitian home

A young parishioner

A young parishioner

Burial cairns

My head has been in the clouds as I’ve pored through these photos. I’m glad for them and the memories they provoke. Throughout the past five or six years I’ve been consumed by my teaching, coursework for certification in a new area, leadership in my local teachers union, and leadership in the state art education association. I have recently stepped away from these commitments to re-ignite my passions. In rejoining the Haitian Ministry I’ve realized that, even after all these years, Haiti is still deep within in my heart. And it feels like coming home again.

Sa ki rete nan kè-m dòmi lakay: What is still in my heart sleeps at my home. – Haitian Proverb

Should you want to learn more about Haiti, I recommend the following books:

Breath, Eyes, Memory – Edwidge Danticat

Krik? Krak! – Edwidge Danticat

Mountains Beyond Mountains – Tracy Kidder

Haiti After the Earthquake – Dr. Paul Farmer

 

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Miscoe Hill 5/6 Art – Welcome to Term 3!

“Let’s flip this record over and see what’s on the other side.” – Anonymous

This post is for all the families whose children have just begun taking art class in Term 3. This time of year is kind of like the first day of school for specialists who teach half year courses, except there is no open house or any of the fanfare that goes with the first day of school. I don’t want you to feel left out, so here are few items that you may find helpful:

The Welcome to the Art Room Letter:  Welcome to 5/6 Art

This video that shares information about the 5/6 art program including projects, exhibitions, and opportunities: Miscoe Hill 5/6 Art

Lastly, this presentation that officially welcomes students to art class, as told through parodies of Mona Lisa, who I just may have a slight obsession with: Term 3 Oh Mona!

Also, all of this term’s classes have now joined my Google Classroom classes, and all classes have been set up to include guardians in email summaries.

Enjoy!

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