Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 9 (1/15) - written by (almost) everyone


Today was our day of departure from Haiti. Our morning started as usual, with a breakfast of mangoes and bananas and we had our usual starchy soup. It was accompanied by the mango juice we had come to crave like an average teenager craves Starbucks. After finalizing our packing, we saddled up and started toward the airport.


Once we "saddled up" some of us got into Fritz's van and the rest went into his truck. Almost as soon as we left the hotel I looked around and saw bobbing heads, almost everyone was falling asleep. During the trip we went over some very bumpy roads that woke everyone up, which was helpful because we had to get out to visit a factory called Manutech Inc.. This factory made electric parts that go into various electronic appliances like cell phones, medical equipment, etc, from this factory in Haiti they ship them to the US, Great Britain, etc. there were about 400 people there and they made on average $0.56 an hour, which meant only about $5 a day. This factory employed mostly women because "women tend to be more focused and disciplined than a man would be at that kind of work". This seems unkind but it was actually beneficial because women were usually working in kitchens and taking care of the houses in Haiti, rather than having paying jobs. After we left Manutech Inc. we went to the airport.


During our 5 minute drive to the airport, I waved at 5 people on the street. Haiti seems so friendly. When we arrived at the airport, we unloaded our bags and said heavy goodbyes to Fritz and all of our other friends that we made on this amazing trip. Our carefully packed bags were hand checked and tousseled before being tagged and loaded onto the conveyor belt. I think half of us were crossing our fingers that our stone carvings wouldn't be taken away. We then walked through metal detectors. At this point, a few people lost some honey and other liquids unfortunately. As we boarded the plane, we had one more bag search and a full body pat down. We were finally able to board the plane though. At least we knew we were safe (after about 2 hours of checking in and security).


Once we got on the plane business went about as usual. We took our seats and quietly waited for NYC. Around half an hour to NYC, I awoke to the sound of our snacks coming. We had peanuts, pretzels and a ham sandwich! Then Ben and I decided to tag team on the most frustrating iPhone game ever. I think on the plane we got a high score of 7, that's not even 30 seconds in to the game. Around 6:30 we had arrived at JFK. 


When we arrived at JFK we were each given customs forms to fill out and were rushed to get them done by the agents that where working. When we got through the first part of customs we had to go to baggage claims and get our luggage. We got through the the final customs check and stopped to get Dunkin Donuts, where Drew and I split a delicious dozen donuts. I love the Haitian food we had, but I must say I missed good old Dunkin Donuts. After our quick food and drink stop, we went outside and loaded our stuff and got on the party bus with Tech Valley High School being our final destination, where our parents would be to pick us up!


We finally arrived at Tech Valley at 10 pm and waited in the lobby with bags in our hands and under our eyes. We waited for what seemed like forever for our parents to finally pick us up. It was so great to see my family again. I had missed them so much! Despite my exhaustion, I excitedly told them about my experiences and how I was absolutely inspired by the Haitians. I definitely learned a lot of life lessons from this trip that I will forever carry with me. 


Overall this trip in my opinion was very successful. We were able to help the people of Cormier and the school in Bigonet in more ways than one. Between the workshops that were given to us and the hands on experience building the dryer and taking care of the trees, I think we all learned a lot about ourselves and I think that we can take the lessons we learned and use them throughout our lives. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ayiti Vivan (Ms. Penniman)

The culminating and concluding event of our Ayiti delegation was an arts and cultural festival co-hosted by Ayiti Resurrect, the Mayor of Leogane, and Arawak Hotel. We drew a crowd of over 2000 people to enjoy artists from Leogane, Komye, and the USA as we shared folkloric dance, poetry, song, music, theater - and a special performance by Ms. Penniman on a makeshift aerial trapeze. The crowd went absolutely wild at some of the performances, which were unlike anything they had seen before: a female hip hop artist (Naima), operatic soprano singing (Beatrice), and trapeze. Even Emet got up and recited a couple of his original poems, beaming at the immense approval radiating from the crowd. The theme of the concert was "Ayiti Vivan" (Haiti Lives). At the 4th anniversary of the earthquake, the important truth to hold in our consciousness is that Ayiti lives on, growing stronger. To that end, we played a slideshow of the development taking place in Leogane just this year, including the work of Ayiti Resurrect. It was incredible to see the work projected larger than life and to understand that we accomplished all of this in ONE WEEK! Granted, we have been planning since last year, but we did so much - solar mango dryer, tree care, women's empowerment group, health clinic, dental clinic, 20+ classes in Bigonet School, arts and healing classes at the community center, and a commemoration ceremony for those lost in the earthquake. 

Earlier in the day, we had a refection and evaluation meeting with our volunteers in Komye. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the community's main wish being an expansion of existing projects. We had some dynamics to work through, as residents had different ideas about how the material resources and social status associated with Ayiti Resurrect should be fairly distributed.  After some missteps and learning, we think we accomplished a fair and transparent way to honor each person's contribution. We had an awards and gift giving ceremony where the people who built, weeded, cooked, cleaned, carried water, taught, etc. were each honored. We also gave a series of financial and material donations for the ongoing work in the community. The women's group received a laptop. The Mango Grower's Association received a donation for continued tree planting in the rainy season. (As much as we love planting trees, it makes more sense for the farmers to do this in the correct time of year.) Bigonet Peasants Movement received a donation for their seed bank project. We gave funds to the school to continue to host community artists as visiting teachers. We also gave cameras, art supplies, and health supplies to the community projects that needed them.

Overall, this delegation was a huge success. On our day off to visit Jacmel beach and Basin Bleu waterfall, it was so clear how relationships of closeness and trust had developed between each person. The adult and teen delegates were laughing together, jumping in the waves, singing, sharing stories, and enjoying the beauty of Ayiti. In sharing reflections on the last day, I learned that many people in Komye were greeting delegates, not by name, but by singing. Song so permeated the experience that it became our signature. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day 8 - Garrick

Today will be our final full day in Haiti. We've all agreed that it was a fun experience, but we will miss it here, and I personally will miss it because I feel almost as cozy here as I do at home.

For the beginning of the end of our stay, we enjoyed a breakfast of pasta. During breakfast, me and Drew made a mistake. There was hot sauce on the table, and we covered our pasta in it, ignoring the label saying "One drop does it." We eacy ate a big forkful of sauce-laden pasta, which left us sweating and thirsty. We decided that listening to the label is a good idea.

After breakfast, we boarded the tap-tap we liked the best out of the two, Ebenezer, and went down to Cormier for a final meeting and delivering of donated supplies, and we said our goodbyes and departed to return to the hotel.

   (Ms. Penniman and her sister address the people of Cormier) 

Upon returning, we settled in again and had lunch. After a couple of hours of resting and napping, we were up and began to head to our next fun community venue.

We went to a community music and dance event called Ayiti Vivan that was going on less than a minute's walk from the hotel. I had shown up a bit after the others because  I wanted to get a bit of shuteye.

Upon arrival, I was surprised to see it so lively and energetic. After settling in with a few of the other delegates, we enjoyed the music and danced to particularly catchy songs. It was fun to me because I'm a music person, and having never heard Haitian hip-hop before, I was enthralled.

After roughly an hour or so, the singers who were friends of Ms. Penniman went on stage and sang some songs together, a couple of which we knew and sang along with. It was a great experience, and I'm glad I didn't pass it up.

We then returned to the hotel after we had been satisfied at the concert, and we had bonding time sitting around a table chatting. All in all, not a bad finale to our trip. It's been fun. Good night, and keep it real.

(The house the delegation last year helped built) 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 7 - Thomas

Today we got up around 6 in the morning and had eggs with peppers, toast, bananas, mangoes, and papayas. We left for "Bassen Bleu" near Jacmel at 7:15. It was a really long and bumpy ride, but the view from up on the mountains were beautiful.

We arrived at Bassen Bleu at 9. The walk down to Bassen Bleu was very rocky but beautiful. When we got to Bassen Bleu we had to climb down the rocks with a rope. There was a waterfall in the back of the bassin that was a very popular swimming spot, so of course we had to stop there! The waterfall was beautiful, it was so clean and refreshing.

When we were done at Bassen Bleu we went to a beach on the Carribbean Sea in Jacmel. The sea was beautiful and warm. For lunch we had the choice of lobster, conch, red snapper, or chicken. The lobster was very good but had a little kick. Shortly after lunch we all got back into the van and head back to Leogane!

 Dinner was very nice it included all of our favorite foods like rice, bean puree, salad, and barbeque chicken. Reginal was also here again to showcase his works and sell them. After dinner we went back to our rooms to hang out, write this blog post, and get ready since tomorrow is our last full day in Haiti! Until tomorrow!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day 6 - Drew

Hey Drew here! 

            Let me just say that my time in Haiti has been absolutely amazing. We've helped so many people and put so many smiles on people's faces. We've done everthing, from going to schools and donating supplies, doing activities with the kids, and to providing compost and water to fields of mango trees and cherry trees. Its been insane.

But you've heard enough of this from the other students. Today was good. We started off the day with breakfast as usual and then we took a solid 4 hour hike I want to say. We visited a waterfall and cave (I love hiking so I was loving this trip). The cave had sacred markings in it because the cave was where the Haitians would run off to and hide from the people enslaving them and making them work. After the trip back from the hike we went to the community center for lunch and to hang out for a bit. 

Lunch went about as usual. Amazing chicken, fried plantains, rice and some spicy slaw. After lunch is where things get interesting for me. I finished my lunch and in the middle of the plot of land the community center is on is a big tree, perfect for climbing. So I did what everybody would do and climb it. I go to pull myself onto a branch and "SNAP" the branch I'm using for leverage breaks. I fell just a short distance and scraped my elbow, but it's all okay no need to worry! But yeah that was my eventful lunch!

After lunch and after recuperating, we took part in comemorating the 4th year of recovery since the terrible earthquake in 2010. At the very end, we sang the first verse of the Haitian National Anthem, led by us, the students. Then everyone made their way back to the community center in song, and I know that this song is going to be in my head forever (thanks, Tonya).

Once we got back to the community center we watched a theater performance. It was all in Creole so us delegates had no clue want was exactly going on. Jenny and I, eventually made our own dialogue and it was pretty good. After this we had dinner and sat around in the dark enjoying some music and singing. We were supposed to stay later than we usually did but Fritz, the hotel owner, came with his van and we all left about our usual time. 

And to end the day off, were all watching Jurassic Park 3. So I guess your all fought up for today, this was Drew and I'm signing off. Whos gonna be tomorrows blogger?? Don't change the channel everybody, well be back soon! Bye! 

Work is Prayer (Ms. Penniman)

While a few of our delegation attended the 6 AM Catholic Church service today, I had a prayerful dawn run in the dry Leogane riverbed. After a traditional Sunday breakfast of soup joumou, we headed to Komye. There we learned that  Emmanuel was sick, so Wislerson and Harold kindly skipped church to be our guides on the morning hike. First we walked to Bigonet and traversed the stony creek bed to encounter a modest waterfall and its basin. The young boys had an amazing time submerging, splashing, and rolling in the shallow pool. On the walk down, Naima and Anais collected flowers to plant later in the monument to those lost in the 2010 earthquake. We then visited the Taino caves, where the indigenous people of Ayiti hid out to escape death at the hands of the French colonizers. Traditional veves, made with colored chalk, marked the path. We learned that the veve comes from the Taino tradition, where other aspects of Haitian religion are drawn from Catholicism and from African traditional practices. The cave was vast and dark, with bats, cockroaches, and a powerful sense of history.

Back in Komye center, we rested with some fresh coconut and then shared lunch in the usual style. We hire Yvelia to cook for us at a quantity of about 5x what we need, so after the delegation is finished, the community gets to share in the nourishment. After lunch, English club had its regular meeting and some of us attended. Aristede was a wonderful teacher and modified his class so that it was equally a Creole class for us as it was an English class for the local students. There was a compelling comfort in his very traditional teaching method - chalkboard, rote repetition, and public practice.

The time of the commemoration was drawing near. The exact anniversary of the quake was 4:53 and the plan was to have already processed to the monument to honor a moment of silence at that exact time. The students got to work cleaning up trash and practicing the Haitian national anthem. I worked with the farmers to fill the hollow monument with soil so that we could add flowers during the ceremony. The monument's internal space was much greater than it originally appeared and almost seemed to mock the puny size of each wheelbarrow full of soil we added. Even working at full tilt, the monument was complete just in time and we were late to the ceremony, running up with flowers in hand. Even so, I had to make a quick stop at the mango dryer to assess the success and emerged victorious with a delicious and fully dried slice of mango to share with the others. Yay! Ayiti Resurrect is blessed to have 5 professional singers on the delegation who led the group in beautiful and reverent harmonies around the monument. Our host Fritz's young godson was in attendance. He only has one leg, because he was trapped in the rubble of the quake for 2 days, rescued, and then amputated. His resilient spirit is unbelievable. 

After the commemoration, we sang our way back to the community center for a theater performance by Lakol's local theater troupe and a small meal provided by Ayiti Resurrect. The desperate energy from hungry people reaching for food was a bit overwhelming, but Amber and I tried our best to organize the food distribution and keep it positive. We were relieved that everyone (hundreds of people) were each able to have a small something. Fritz Jr. celebrated his 13th birthday today and we had a little party in the community center under the solar powered lights. From there, we squeezed very tightly into Fritz's van and headed for rest. 6 of the adult delegates remained behind to camp in Komye tonight under the full moon. 

I had a moment of regret today, having missed the very beginning of the commemoration and hence, the writing of hopes and intentions on colored cloth. While other delegates were dressed in beautiful whites and carrying flowers, I was covered in rock dust and sweat. Then, I reminded myself that for me, work is prayer. The monument was full of fertile soil and donning beautiful flowers because of our effort and with those who pray with calloused hands - I belong. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 5 - Arianna

We got to sleep in today! That was great because after all the hard work we have been doing, I was tired.  Then we were surprised with the most delicious crapes and fresh bananas, Papaya, and mango.  Then we got on the tap taps and left for the community center!

When we got there, everyone except Jenny and myself went to go care for the trees by adding fertilizer and watering them and work on the Solar Dehydrator. Jenny and I went to the 3rd and final woman's empowerment meeting because our j-term project is backed on health. In this meeting we observed some of the women in the community being taught things like how to take care of yourself, sex education and how to make relaxing body oil. I thought this was really good because the women were really happy to have the nicely scented oils and looked happy after they took the time to stretch.

After the meeting was over we had lunch. There was rice, chicken and plantains.  Then after lunch once again everyone but Jenny and I went to care for the trees again, but this time we did arts and crafts with some of the children. We made animal puppets and a fishing polls and fish game. The game was that you had to try and attach the magnet on the string of the fishing poll, and stick it to the magnet on the mouth of the fish. So you basically "catch the fish". It was fun to see the smiling faces of the children when they played with their new tours or the glitter we used to make it.

After we finished this we all got back as a group and got on the tap taps back to the hotel. When we got back we had a great dinner of BBQ chicken, salad, and rice. After dinner Ben, Kayla, and I had a conversation about our Views of the world. Overall,  I thought that today was a pretty great day!