My Birthday

Trip Start Jun 19, 2009
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Flag of Haiti  ,
Thursday, June 25, 2009

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."  ~Edward Everett Hale

Today is my birthday and what a beautiful way to spend it!  I hike up the mountain, with Chris after breakfast, to take part in teacher training.  The rest of the group is off to more houses.  There are 18 teachers here for training (10 K-2nd, 8 3rd-7th).  The primary focus is reading and math.  They are working on word walls, pattern blocks, and number grids.  There are so many challenges facing these teachers.  The primary language spoken is Creole, but when they can obtain materials or tests they are usually in French.  Also many of them want to learn English too.  As I talk to them they tell me they chose teaching because they like to help, and although the income is little, it is steady.  Some of the teachers have only a sixth grade education themselves.  Students spend an average of 5 hours of day in school and their attendance is good.  However, the dropout rate after sixth grade is high.  It's hard to afford school, especially when your family is starving.  To go to high school, one must travel to Port Au Prince and live with friends or relatives.  It's tough to send your children off to such a poor and volatile place.  Class sizes average around 40!  Oh my, I could go on and on discussing the adversities these people face.  These teachers know, however, that with out education, the Haitian people will not be able to help themselves.  They are so eager to learn.  The 3rd-7th group spends the morning discussing reading strategies using a picture book similar to Chicken Little.  It is fun to watch them make the connections.

In the afternoon I meet up with the rest of the time to visit completed houses.  We take pictures and reunite with all the families.  We also visit some of the homes that will be completed after we leave.  We were able to finish 12 houses in our four days, but have brought materials to cement twenty-five.  Over the next week, our fine crew of masons will finish the work.  Father Reginald joins us on our journey to visit everyone.  We are following a path that would be closed off in America.  Just when I think it can't get any worse (rocky, slippery, narrow) it does.  Several of us fall, slide, run into our poor helpers.  Sure-footed we are not!  Meanwhile the Haitians are running up and down these hills, no shoes, with fifty pound baskets of things on their heads.  What a treat to get a peek into their world!  Again, how can I describe the joy and love of these people.  I am so happy for them.

That night we have a final meal with our hosts.  We are very excited because we brought spaghetti and sauce.  We've been saving it for the whole week.  It's a big celebration!   People in our group are almost hallucinating over this Prego, that's the level we have sunk to!  Laurie graciously tries to help them prepare the food but the sauce is lost in translation.  When the spaghetti appears on the table, the noodles are "normal" but the sauce is something else.  They obviously doctored it as it's a strange pinkish color with chunks of chicken and jalapeno floating in it.  Oh the sad little faces of some of the group!  It was so spicy and with so many people with tender stomachs it was not okay for them to eat.  We were able to share it with our helpers and they loved it.  I actually liked it as well but my stomach felt great all week.  After the dinner we pass out the pay and small gifts to all our helpers.  There are so many; the girls who take care of the rectory, the cooks, the crew chiefs, etc..  It is a wonderful party with laughter and hugs and tears.  Our final treat is popcorn.  Maryann and Jane make popcorn over an open fire for us.  It is like manna from heaven.  I was afraid to put my hand to close to the bowl it was gobbled up so fast.  It is bittersweet as we enjoy our last night in St. Pierre together.  We have accomplished so much but at the same time everyone is ready to see their family again.
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