Sunday, January 12, 2014

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. 

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