Each day, before we’re even awake, before the children arrive, several cooks begin to prepare meals for approximately 900 children who will be given the opportunity to eat. This food is prepared right downstairs outside the door from where we are rooming. From where we are, we can look down and see the work that is being put into it. It is often these noises that awaken us from anywhere between 5-6 each morning. Because the cooks use charcoal (often carried in sacks placed on a woman’s head as she walks through town towards the school), we have to remember to close our windows so as not to be covered in the soot and ash the floats through the air. The smell, too, is inescapable. We have learned to live with it.
For many of these children, according to Pere Noe, this will be the only full meal of the day. Many of these children have traveled for over an hour to arrive at school to receive what their parents consider to be the best quality education possible. Modes of transportation in Haiti include the foot method, the tap tap (a makeshift small pickup truck which passes as a bus that is typically jam packed with people), the moped, and, for those whose parents can afford it, the car. No matter which mode of transport you use, you can expect to be somewhat covered with the dust of unpaved roads. When you look at the children, as well as the teachers, it is evident that they have done their absolute best to cover themselves during the ride. Somehow, they have found it possible to arrive at school with a sense of dignity and preparedness; dusted or not.
After breakfast this morning, Pere Noe announced that we would be going out to visit one of his other churches. It was a half hour bumpy ride through the mountains. I took photos of the emaciated cows, horses, donkeys and goats along the way. We also passed by people carrying water or other necessities on their heads. It was also not uncommon to see a chicken or a stray dog cross our path. Pere Noe talked about how he envisioned better use of the acreage where the church was located. He talked about how the inhabitants shouldn’t be given money, but should be taught the skills of irrigation, farming and carpentry so they could maintain the premises on their own.
The church, that from our perspective resembled a hut made of tree branches and covered with tarp, was where school was being held when we arrived. There were two adults teaching approximately 40 children of all ages who were seated on benches and the ground. Pere Noe did a check-in with the adults. He then showed us around and talked more about his dream for this place. Located several feet behind the church was an outhouse. This edifice was made of cement bricks. The place where business is handled was square shaped and also made of cement. I took a few pictures.
After we returned we went for a visit to a high school where Marc, one of the attendees of the workshop, teaches. It was about a fifteen minute walk from St. Andre’s. When we got to his classroom, I counted 76 students, 35 of whom were females. As it happened, this was the second day of their English class with Marc. After talking with his students for a few moments in Creole, he began to speak to them in English. He had us introduce ourselves and gave the students some time to ask questions. He then asked us to give an impromptu English lesson. Because it came up during the question and answer period, we talk briefly about pronunciation. Next we talked about birthdays. We asked volunteer students to tell us in English what day they were born. Although most were born in the late nineties, one student proudly explained that she was born in 1982. I found this interesting but didn’t get a chance to talk with the student more about her educational journey. Then Haley and Marie read through a short English dialogue and had a few volunteer students stand and read through it.
After lunch I was accompanied by La Croix on my hunt for a pair of shoes. It was nice having him along to see that I got them for a fair price.
While we were planning for our 4pm class today, we were informed that there would be a soccer game at a nearby stadium in the neighborhood. We were told that attendance would be down because if this. With this in mind, we decided to only teach for thirty minutes and then accompany the class to the soccer game. For class content, we chose to go over soccer game vocabulary. Luckily, Marie was totally familiar with the vernacular. During the game we had the opportunity to reinforce what we’d taught in class.
As is becoming a habit, we spent the remainder of the evening at Mr. Baldet’s laughing, talking and hanging out with members of the community. This time to wind down is much appreciated.