Thursday, February 21, 2013
"In Community" (Leah Penniman)
On the tap tap ride home today, the students were sharing their collective realization that while the Haitian people are poor in material wealth, they are rich in spiritual wealth and rich in community. We planted well over 150, possibly 200 trees this afternoon in only two hours. The community worked together as one body, under Wislerson's (our local coordinator) expert management. Several men used pick axes to carve holes out of the hillside, others transported compost from wheelbarrow to bucket to holes, the students and children mostly planted the trees and moved them from nursery to work site, and women carried water and quenched the young seedlings. Some will receive stipends, other buttons ("I planted a tree in Haiti" re-purposed), but most "nothing." People work together because they work together and because they respect the leadership of APMKL, the Mango Grower's Association. My students witnessed this as stark contrast to life in the US, and wondered how to take this lesson of "community" back home.
We had a beautiful balance of work and art today. In the morning, students sat beneath a tree near the community center learning to carve river stone hearts with Claremont. While some carved, others continued our vetiver project, creating 4 additional dams in the ravine. Kiki hired Lakol and other local young men to assist in digging the trenches, well actually, to take over. We foreigners were able to dig the trenches but at great personal sacrifice yielding a mediocre quality product. Some students spent more time tending to blisters and scratches than actually digging. We were, however, quite successful at planting the vetiver in those deep, loose trenches. Thank you Lakol.
We then walked the long path to Bigonet, crossing the river several times. Despite our attempts to help each other across with hands and makeshift stepping stone bridges, most ended up with wet feet. I reminded the students to look up from their feet at times and take in the incredible landscape that is Ayiti - land of mountains - sun kissed, severely sloped, terraced, water cut, beautiful dark earth adorned with green. Grace said it best, "What is this life?!"
In Bigonet, we learned the art of stone balancing with Reginald. He explained that patience and love are the ingredients needed to work with nature to create art. As the Haitian proverb states, "With patience, one can even find the breast of an ant." Neshima and Alysha were particularly skilled at balancing, making towers 8 stones high.
The in between times were magic too - learning to eat a fresh mango, playing games with new young Cormier friends, helping a devastated Emet repair the lashed stone-on-stick wand he had carved earlier in the day. We exchanged hop scotch for the Haitian version of pin the tail on the donkey, where a blindfolded young one attempts to hit a bottle with a stick while others dash out of the way. It was a cacophony of danger and hilarity!
My heart grew a bit today, in loving confidence about the possibility of making a positive difference in my beloved Cormier.