Monday, February 25, 2013

Living On (Leah Penniman)

The first delegation of Ayiti Resurrect took place on the 1 year anniversary of the devastating quake where Cormiers, Leogane was at the epicenter. There were so many dead that proper funerals could not take place. So, the delegation led the construction of a memorial monument with the names of all those lost, adorned with the Haitian and Pan-African flags. Sunday, we visited that memorial to plant ornamental trees and pay our respects to those lives cut short. We sang Haitian and diaspora songs as we worked, the local children joining in for the familiar national anthem in Creole.

The day was bookmarked by spiritual experiences. Our group was invited as guests of Frtiz and Yveline to the 6 AM service at the Leogane Catholic Church. While the students understood almost none of what the pastor was saying, they had the common language of song, communion, collection plate, and the "peace be with you" handshake and understood the essential meaning. The church building was destroyed in the 2010 quake and since then, hundreds of congregants gather under tents for services. No one appears to be dissuaded by this; every seat was filled and standing room sparse. The service was international, European, standardized, and tame.

In contrast the essence of Haitian Ra Ra is exuberant, loud, untamed, and quintessentially African. Fritz is a Big Chief in Leogane, so we trusted him to lead us into the crowds of 1000's gathered to dance, celebrate the birthday of their village brass bands, eat, drink, and celebrate through the night. Lantern-lit dirt roads between sugar cane fields welcomed the band leader with his whip, cracking the air to pave the way for the musicians. Bands gathered from villages all around the celebrate the birthday of the host band. Haiti's popular Model d'Ayiti was present and roused the crowds, people dancing so close almost as if one body. Fritz made the students stay in the truck (wisely) but I got to be swallowed by the crowd for a few moments and could understand how the energy of the procession allowed its members to dance through the night, for nights on end without feeling the weariness.


In Cormier, we walked into the hills to try out the "seed bombs" we made on Friday. As they were pioneered on flat ground, we imagine the original visionaries had no idea just how steep the landscape is in Haiti. A student threw a seed ball up the slope and the seed ball returned. It took several tries before we acquiesced to placing the seed balls one at a time. We planted vetiver, mango, avocado, and tamarind on the most severe of the slopes with the goal of preventing future erosion.

The community tree planting was extremely efficient today. We planted a total of 200 trees (150 kapab and 50 mango) in under 2 hours. By now, everyone has a defined role - tree counters, compost distributors, waterers, planters, directors, etc. Today will be our last day of planting and we have already far exceeding our goal of 500 trees. We will continue and do as many as we can. We have learned so many lessons together with the Mango Growers leadership about how to refine future projects - such as establishing a long-term maintenance team, training the leaders, and gathering the correct quantities of tools and materials.

We also had a dance class today with Natscia's dance group and her drummers. Naima, Troy, Alysha, Lizzie, Hunter and I were especially tearing it up, barefoot on the packed earth, shoulders jirating. The drummers called out the Papa Legba song and the dancers responded, smiling, and stepping in time to the sonorous drums. Joyful!

The children of Cormier and the students of TVHS have become fast and inseparable friends. Games included itsy bitsy spider, Ms. Mary Mack, and skip-to-my-lou. It will be a difficult goodbye.


Tomorrow we depart. The students are praying for snow storm to delay our flight.

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