Friday, October 29, 2010

My new BFF

Now that school has been in session for a full month, the kids are getting used to seeing me around campus. However, the kids can be put into two categories based on their reaction to seeing me. First there is the "Novelty" group. They love talking to and touching me. The older kids in this category seek me out to practice speaking English, while the littlest kids go out of their way to touch my white skin.  The older elementary students just find a way to make eye contact and then say, "Good morning, teacher."

Then there is the other group. I call them the "Avoiders." They avoid me at all costs. While most of the high school students are happy to see me, there are still some who keep their distance. They see me coming and hurry to their classrooms. The preschool children in this category look the other direction when I smile at them. Some of them have even cried when I got too close for comfort!

Darline, a preschool student, is definitely in the "Novelty" group. She waves at my every time she sees me, and she often comes running over to hold my hand. She is so sweet! She talks to me as if I can understand her, and she does everything in her power to be close to me. She leans on me while we're standing, and she often rubs my arm while talking to me. Today she even kissed me when she thought I wasn't paying attention. She is definitely my new BFF.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christmas in October

My tub from the trailer and some of my things from home. So very exciting!!!

Heaven Help Me!

Some of my older students want me to speak Creole with them. They claim they want me to be "strong in Creole" before I leave the country, and they said I must practice with them. Then, my Creole tutor informed me this afternoon that I'm no longer allowed to speak to him in English. I have to speak Creole only.

I think it's a conspiracy against me.

Speaking of conspiracies, my students, and my Creole tutor especially, have gotten this strange idea in their heads that I need to sing a special song in church. I have NO IDEA where they got this ridiculous idea because I certainly didn't give it to them! I like to sing and can blend in with a large group, but I am not about to sing in front of a group of people. Crazy kids!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thoughts on Today

  • It's weird to have a medical team here and not be working with them. I still have my normal teaching load, so I can't have a job in the clinic. I pop in and help where I'm needed, but mostly I have been trying to stay out of their way.
  • This afternoon, I sat with my friends Arold and Nalouse outside the clinic and listened to worship music on my laptop. There something amazing about looking out over the mountains and singing praises to God with friends who are singing the same song in a different language. 
  • Teaching English to 40 plus 7th grade students who don't speak your language necessitates the use of a variety of classroom management techniques. Facial expressions must be at a maximum. Throwing in Creole phrases helps their comprehension. Threatening to get the principal will buy me 10 minutes of their attention. And calling random students to the front of the class to speak English is an effective tool for assessment and punishment for those who don't listen.
  • I've learned I'm too self-conscious to practice Creole with people who speak Creole and English. Some of my students want me to speak in Creole with them, but I can't make myself do it. For now I'm happy muddling through with the little kids and the adults who don't speak English.
  • Tonight my heart breaks for my friend Amy. I've known her since she was in 6th grade, and I love the girl more than I can say. It was hard to say goodbye to her in September because it's her senior year of high school and I've been with her since she started youth group. Amy's mom has had fragile health for a couple of years, but this fall she has had a rough time. She went to the hospital earlier this week and today she went to be with the Lord. My heart hurts for Amy. I want to be able to hug her and hold her and cry with her.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't Freak Out

Yes, there has been a cholera outbreak in Haiti.

No, there haven't been any cases in our area. For now the sickness seems to be contained to north of Port au Prince, and we are southeast of the city. We are, however, preparing in case it does head this way. The clinic is stocked with antibiotics. We even have enough that we can share with other clinics and pharmacies if we need to. In church on Sunday Willem reminded everyone of the importance of washing their hands after using the bathroom and before eating. I will be making signs in Creole for the school and clinic about washing their hands.

Also, there is a 23 person medical team arriving today for a clinic that was scheduled months ago. While we are praying that cholera does not get this far, they have reviewed procedures for dealing with cholera and are prepared to treat patients should they arrive.

Please pray that the outbreak does not spread any further and that those who are currently sick would have access to medical treatment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Golden Nuggets II

Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti. 
  •  Elections take place on Nov. 28th. There are about 60 people running for president. Okay, there aren't that many, but it seems like it. There are posters and banners EVERYWHERE promoting candidates. When I arrived there were primarily two candidates plastered everywhere. Now that we are getting closer to the elections, there are more candidates' faces seen on posters and banners. It's a very different advertising system than we use in the States. I'll try to get some pictures this week.

  • I think all schools in Haiti require the students to wear a uniform. Uniforms here generally consist of a solid colored bottom (pants/shorts for boys, skirts/jumper for girls), and a button down shirt. The shirts are either a solid color that is a different color from the bottoms or a checkered pattern that is white and the same color as the bottoms. Gramothe's elementary uses turquoise as it's color. The high school uniform has dark green bottoms and a white top that has very light stripes. The ugliest uniforms I've seen have been canary yellow shirts with tan jumpers. Some poor high school girls had to wear them... everyday of their high school career most likely. I think the cutest uniforms are any uniform a preschool child is wearing. They are so stinking cute!

    My preschool friend, Darline. 

  • Everywhere I go I am called blanc. It means white in French/Creole. I don't know if I should be offended or not, but it does get old after a while. Sometimes when I'm walking there are little kids that will walk with me for a while. Often they work up the courage to quickly touch my white skin when they think I'm not looking. Sometimes the preschool kids at school will walk up and just grab my hand or arm. They are fascinated by my white skin.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Here's another picture of the shortcut Arold told me to take the first time I walked home from school. If you missed my account of the ordeal, you can read it here.  Incidentally, he asked me the other day why I haven't taken the shortcut since the first day. What a punk!

I think I took this picture from the place where you leave the Gramothe road to get to the riverbed. If not there, then one curve higher than the start to the shortcut.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Courtesy of Google Earth

This is my world from above. Gramothe is on the left and my house is on the right. I think North is actually right. At any rate, you can see where I spend the majority of my time, and the routes I take to get there.

Here's the walk from my house to the guest house. The elevation is showing from the guest house (left) to my house (right).

This is the route from the guesthouse to the school. Red is the road and yellow is the shortcut.

Close up of the short cut. The elevation is shown in pink.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

an all around great day

  • I officially learned to drive the four wheeler today. It was easier than I thought, and I think Willem is only suffering from mild whiplash. I drove from the riverbed up to Gramothe.
  • The neighbors always hang out under a tree just outside my gate. Today I went outside and talked with them for a couple of hours. They were intimidating at first, but now that I've met them I will be visiting more often. 
  • In fact two of the ladies want to practice English 3 times a week. Actually I think they would like to practice everyday, but I need some down time. I only committed to three days a week. But I need to start thinking of words to teach them. They are already very good at speaking English.
  • I taught three classes at Gramothe High School today. I was mostly pleased with how they went. It's still hard for me to know exactly what to teach each class, but I think I actually taught something new today!
  • I had a great English lesson with the Laboule kids after school today. It was raining when we started, but it had stopped when we were ready to walk home. The kids stayed with me the whole time instead of ditching me at the short cut, and I was able to practice Creole with them. 
  • I have internet at home tonight!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010


These are the kids that walk with me after school. They talk a mile a minute, all at one time. It can be very overwhelming because every third word is "Bwiney" and I have no idea what they are telling me!

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

For my entire life I’ve lived by the philosophy that the early worm gets eaten by the bird, so why get up early? I love sleep, and I especially love sleeping in. In the past I’ve struggled to wake up with enough time to get ready for school. At the beginning of the school year, I would wake up between 6 and 6:15, but at Thanksgiving I was regularly getting out of bed around 6:30. By February I was lucky if I made it out of bed by 7!

Since arriving in Haiti, my body has set itself to a different schedule. The sun comes up around 5:30am, and it’s completely light by 6am. Add to that the fact that I still haven’t gotten my curtains up, and it makes it really difficult to sleep past 6am. Since I wake up by 6am at the latest, my body is ready to sleep around 9pm. Sometimes I even go to bed before 9, which really isn’t good. On Saturday I fell asleep by 8:30pm and then woke up a little after 4am. Unfortunately I was up for the day!

I’m still not exactly happy to be awake in the mornings, but it is nice to be able to accomplish something before I leave the house. I’m often able to wash the dishes and do other cleaning around the house before I begin my work day. It doesn’t hurt that I routinely get 8+ hours of sleep each night.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


If there's a quality of God's character that I like most, it's probably the fact that he's unchanging. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. In my world that's ever changing, I cling to the One who remains constant. But my second favorite aspect of the Lord and his relationship with us is the concept of redemption.

Being in Haiti these past few weeks has given me a fresh look at redemptive work of Jesus. I've heard about former voodoo priests who are now following Christ. I've witnessed the redemption of a marriage. And I've been blessed to see how God is now redeeming a family unit some 19 years after a whole lot of ugly messed things up. Seeing God redeem the lives of those around me reminds me of my own redemption story.

When I surrendered my life to Jesus, he could have taken the parts of my life that were noxious and thrown them away. Instead he did something much more meaningful. Jesus took the darkness and all that was ugly, and he redeemed every part of me. He took that ugliness and made it something beautiful and good. Something that blesses others and points them to the great Redeemer.

Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!
from the song Jesus Paid It All

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Schedule

Here's my working schedule for anyone who is interested. I still need to add in times to work with the 8 or 9 elementary classes. I'm going to attempt to get to every class for a half hour each week.

12:00-?         Creole lesson with Arold
1-1:50           Grade 11 English
2-3                Special Computer class

11:20-12:10  Grade 12 English
12:10-1         Grade 8 English
1-1:50           Grade 9 English
2-3                English with Laboule kids

11:20-12:10  Grade 7 English
12:30-?         Creole lesson with Arold
 2-3                Special Computer class

12:10-1         Grade 10 English
2-3                English with Laboule kids

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Haiti Q & A: How much English do your students know?

Q. How much English do your students speak?
A. Honestly, it varies. I have some students in 7th grade, which is the first grade to study English, who speak pretty good English.On the flip side I have students in the 11th and 12th grades who barely understand me. For the most part the students in grades 7, 8, and 9 don't speak a lot of English. They know some basics (except 7th grade), but having a conversation with them is...difficult at best. The students in grades 10, 11, and 12 know more English, but some of them do not do so well at conversing.

It's sometimes frustrating to know what to do with the higher grades because the students are at such different levels. (Oh, and there are no books right now. The publisher isn't finished with them yet. That also complicates planning.) The lower grades on the other hand have been much easier to plan for. Since they know next to nothing, we covered basic colors and numbers in grades 7 and 8 on the first day. Next week we'll review those and move on to objects in the classroom.

Top 10 Reasons I Can't Wait Until the Trailer Arrives

10. old school printer paper I sent can be used to make posters and banners

 9. I will be able to snack on Jello of all flavors for several months
 8. Markers of all sizes will be mine, mine, mine!
 7. Beth will have an airsoft gun to shoot rats with
 6. The electric drum set for the church will be here
 5. My $8 toaster oven from Goodwill will be used at least 3 times a week
 4. The kids from Laboule will finally have their English books
 3. All my “special” writing utensils and office supplies will be available to me
 2. The four wheelers will all have new tires (right now there are several without tread)
 1. I’ll finally have two whole boxes of Puffs Ultra tissues, all the Kotex feminine products I need, and my dearly missed pillow!

The trailer is supposed to be boarding a boat that is leaving for Haiti on October 15th. Please join me in praying that the trailer makes it on that boat. All joking aside, there are vital supplies for the ministry here inside that trailer. It makes our ministry easier and its impact further reaching if we have those supplies.­­

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

School Update

I met my 12th grade and 8th grade classes yesterday. The 12th grade students were better at English than the 11th grade students, though there are still a few who had a hard time understanding me. The oldest student in this class is 24, but there were several others who were in their early twenties.

Having high school students in their twenties may sound crazy to citizens of the US, but the students are not grouped by age here. They are placed in the class that fits their academic level. If a student starts school at 10 years old, he or she is put into first grade even though the other students are younger. Really I think it is a good system. Students are not passed on to the next grade if they don’t know the material. In fact there is a national test the students must take at the end of grades 6, 9, 12, and 13. If the students do not pass the test, they do not go to the next grade until they have passed the test. So far I have not observed any issues with the multi-age classes.

The 8th grade students were exactly what you would expect. Well, they were exactly what Iexpected. They were enthusiastic, quick to please me (for the most part), and loud. (Are you surprised? I wasn't.) They learned quickly, but they also spent a good deal of time giggling. They even tried to trick me at one point. Okay, not the whole class, just one girl. Ten of the students are 13 and 14 years old, and the others are mostly 15 and 16 with one boy who is 18. He seems to be the class clown.

I think we’ll all get along just fine.

Feeling like a competant adult

For me, life here is very different than it was in the United States. I was a very independent person in the US. I could do anything I set my mind to, and for the most part I did.

For the first 5 weeks I was here I had a hard time feeling like a competent adult when I had to rely on others for so much. Spending time in prayer about it has helped. But there are two other things that really helped me get out of my funk of feeling sorry for myself. First, Johane asked me to help create a document on the computer. It was basically data entry, but it felt great to be needed. The other event was my return to the classroom. Even though the subject has changed, I am doing something I love. And although I’m not a perfect teacher, I’m certain I can teach English proficiently enough to help my students.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know how to do when I arrived, but I think most of the reason I felt so incompetent was due to the language barrier. Once I was told how to do something, for example buying water or getting more minutes for my phone, I still had to communicate with someone to make it happen. Until very recently I didn’t have enough vocabulary to say anything other than, “Good morning. How are you?” Now that I’m able to communicate very basically with people I feel more competent. It definitely gives me a new perspective on people in the United States who are in the midst of learning English. It is not easy to move to a different country when you don’t know the language!

Thoughts from Sunday

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. I mean, I know God called me to this place. I don’t doubt that he wants me here, but some days it’s difficult to see why. I can barely communicate with the locals. I haven’t connected with the Laboule kids for English lessons in more than 2 weeks. And I feel like everything I’ve done in the last month has been about me, when what I really want to do is impact the Kingdom of God.

I admit that I’ve needed the last month as an adjustment period. I can’t imagine stepping off the plane and into the classroom. It would have been too much for me. I needed time to get adjusted to a different pace of life (much slower) and to ask questions. I’ve learned some very valuable lessons about the culture and language in the past few weeks.

I also recognize that it takes time to build relationships. Very rarely has my life been changed because of one or two interactions with a person. In fact I know it’s the opposite that’s true. The people who have consistently invested in my life over a period of time are the ones who have made the biggest and longest lasting impact.

On the days where impatience rears its head and I wonder yet again what I’m doing here, I will try to remember these two things.

  • Serving God is more about attitude than it is about actions. (Colossians 3:17) 
  • God brought me here and he’s not going to leave me hanging now. (Philippians 4:19) 

Someday I will look back and say, “Wow! God was working there whether I knew it or not.” Until that day I’ll be thankful for the little flashes of his grander plan and continue to love people the best that I know how.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Laboule Kids Update

At the end of the school day, Marise was standing at my classroom window. She's one of the more outspoken girls at Laboule, and she is stinking cute. I told the Laboule kids that I would have a lesson with them after school today. We walked up to the cafeteria and found a table to work at. I didn't teach anything new. We just reviewed what they had learned earlier. There were a handful of extra faces in the crowd who generally walk down the mountain with the Laboule kids. It was very loud and boisterous. I tried to end the lesson because of the lack of focus, but the ones who were paying attention wouldn't let me! Eventually I declared it was time to go. We all took off down the mountain. They fought to hold my hands and talked very loudly. They asked me lots of questions and I tried to answer them. I even took a picture of my entourage, but I have to wait until later to upload the photo.

Thankfully Rosias and Modley (I can't figure out this kid's name. It sounds like Modley when others say it. I'll have to ask him.), my two favorite students, were with us. They helped translate when I had no idea what was going on. They also walked with me when I didn't take the "shortcut" with the Laboule kids. Bless their little hearts! I know I slowed them down considerably (I only had to stop and rest twice, but I was as slow as molasses by the end). Still they seemed to enjoy walking with me. They are also looking forward to seeing me tomorrow. :) I am so thankful God has given me teenagers to invest in!

First Class

Today I taught my first class at the Gramothe High School. I had nine grade 11 students. The principal introduced me, and then I began. I really wanted to see the books the students were using in their regular class, but they don't have them yet. Arold, my Creole tutor and translator at school, asked them about books and he thought they would have them next week. I started by introducing myself and asking the students to write their name, age, favorite color, and two sentences on a note card. It was clear during this activity that only half of the students really understood what I wanted. Since these are the upper level students, I was hoping their English would be stronger. After the note card activity I took pictures of the students so I can begin to learn their names. I wish I had made them each repeat their names a couple of times for me because I can only guess at the pronunciation. After learning that I wouldn't be able to look at their textbook for direction, I decided to work on contractions with the students. That proved to be a good topic. They copied down my (scattered) notes from the board and I made them write two new sentences. Then I made them read their sentences. They did not like that, but they suffered through it.

It feels good to be teaching again!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I thought I was going to die

Today I walked up the mountain (well down this side and then up to Gramothe) to go to school. Alone.

It only took me 45 minutes to get there from Willem and Beth's.

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone that it's only a little over 2 miles from the house to the school. Since I thought I was going to die of a heart attack on the steepest part of the road and I had to stop 4 or 5 times to catch my breath, I was pretty impressed that it didn't take an hour.

My two favorite students: Rosias and Mogley
Once I got to school (and caught my breath) my Creole tutor, Arold, helped me talk to the principal about my schedule. He wasn't quite finished with it yet, so I studied Creole verbs in the cafeteria while I waited. Two seventh grade boys came and found me as soon as their class went on break. They are both pretty good with English and are eager to practice with native speakers. They are also super cute. They asked me all sorts of questions: Are you here for school today? Are you a Christian? Do you see God in your life? Are you married? Do you know many Creole words?

Then I ate a delicious lunch of rice and beans with Arold and some other teachers. They spoke only in Creole, so it was a pretty boring lunch. But it sure did taste good!

After lunch I received my teaching schedule, had Arold interpret it for me, and then started the trek home. It looked like it could rain, and I didn't want to slip and slide down the mountain! I've done that already, and I don't care to do it again. Just as I got to the road, one of the girls from Laboule was coming up the road. I couldn't figure out why she wasn't in class. I thought all the kids went back to class after lunch. She asked me a question, but I didn't understand her. She dismissed me with "bye-bye," so I started walking.

I was just thinking to myself how wonderful it was to walk down the mountain when I heard a pitter-patter behind me. Nerlande was following me down the mountain. I waited for her and asked in Creole if school was out for the day. She said it was. Then I asked if she wanted to walk with me. Her face light up and she said, "Wi!" Then she told me the other kids were coming. We waited for them for 5-10 minutes, but I got impatient and told Nerlande and Makendy, who had joined us, that we should just walk. They agreed. They practiced their English words all the way down the mountain.

The Gramothe side of the road. There's one more turn.
After we turned a corner we could see the other kids walking down the road. Nerlande yelled to them, and they started running. We waited for them, and when they arrived I had about 15 traveling companions. I wanted to take a picture of them, but decided that the chance of rain outweighed that desire. Now for those of you who have been to Gramothe, you know there is a "goat path" or shortcut off the last turn (when going down) off the Gramothe road. At this point the kids were going to take the shortcut. Half of them wanted me to go with them and the other half thought I should take the longer, less steep path. I told them, "Mwen pa kabrit. Mwen va tonbe!" I am not a goat. I will fall. They laughed at me and I said goodbye. I was not going to take that shorter but steeper path.

Just as I said goodbye to the kids, Arold and some teachers came along. Arold says, "Britney, I think you can do the shortcut." So I told him what I told the kids. He still thought it would be okay, so I decided to do it. The kids went wild and cheered for me. I shooed them ahead of me and carefully picked my way down the short cut. The Gramothe side of the shortcut and the riverbed were not that bad.

The other side was a different story. The path is hidden by some bushes, so I couldn't see it right away. When I saw it, I'm sure my eyes popped out of my head. It was SOOOOO STEEP!! The kids encouraged me, allowed me to stop and rest, and held my hands when they could. Some of the girls even stayed back with me when I had to stop to breathe. Eventually we came to a little clearing where I stood for a while to let the line behind me pass through. I'm sure those guys were happy the slow blanc was out of their way! After the clearing I had to climb up some more steep parts, but when I got to the top all the kids were waiting on the porch of a house near the path. I asked Dania if all the kids were waiting for her, and she just laughed. I think they wanted to see if I could actually make it.

However, my walk was not finished. I still had to walk up a big hill to get to the intersection where I would turn to go to Beth and Willem's house. The kids were all Chatty Kathies. Asking me questions and telling me things. I was breathing so heavy people probably thought I had just run a marathon. It was at this point that I began, again, to think I was going to die. Nerlande and Marie Ange held my sweaty hands the rest of the way up the hill. I was happy for their assistance, but not their body heat!

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got to the top of the hill and the intersection where we parted ways. I was never so happy to desann (go down) to the Charles' home!  The kids, who were barely sweating and not out of breath, still had to walk up two big hills to get to the main road where I believe they would take a tap-tap to the Children's home.


On Monday I expressed my frustration with the high school principal because he hadn’t finished the master schedule prior to the start of school. On Tuesday I learned that the task is much more complex than I thought. It turns out that some (maybe all) of the teachers work at multiple schools. Therefore the principal needs to coordinate their availability with the needs of the school. Some teachers may only be available on certain days of the week or for certain hours on particular days. That, along with the fact that he speaks some basic English, makes me feel much better about the principal.

I also learned that on the second day of school there were about 20 elementary students who showed up for classes and 12 high school students. I was delighted to hear the students were in classes on the second day of school. It caused my fear of a wasted week of school to disintegrate. By today they had even split the middle school and high school students into groups. Even with a handful more students, school has been getting out early this week. Today the students and teachers left around noon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Day of School Picture

Some of the boys who hung out near me yesterday. The ones in uniform are from Laboule.

Monday, October 4, 2010

First Day of School

Well, I have to say the first day of school was anti-climactic. I let myself get all worked up last night. I was worried about not knowing where to go, not knowing the skill level of the students, no knowing if there are books, not knowing if the principal speaks English, not knowing... anything! In fact, I was so upset I cried several times just thinking about what an idiot I was going to look like.

Johane had told me not to worry about the first day; it would be no big deal. She also said there would be maybe 30 students there on the first day. Well, she was right. The first day of school was absolutely ridiculous. Only two high school students reported for class. Two kids in grades 7-12! That's crazy!

I went up the mountain with Willem and Johane on a four wheeler. When we arrived it was probably a little after 9 am. Classes begin promptly at 8 each morning, so I was a bit shocked to see a handful of the kids from Laboule plus some I didn't know standing at the top of the road. I was even more shocked to see more students sitting on the steps in front of the church and leaning against the rail outside the cafeteria. In total there were probably less than 30 students I could see, and there were no classes in session.

First, Johane took me up to the elementary principal's office where there were 6 or 7 teachers sitting in a row. I think they were having some kind of meeting, but at least one teacher could have been with all the k-6 students. Next I went up to the preschool where there were four teachers and one solitary student. Poor little guy. He looked like he wanted to go home.

Eventually Johane took me to meet the high school principal. He is tall and skinny, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't speak English. He hasn't made a good impression on me. He's still not finished making the high school master schedule. School was supposed to begin today. What was he going to do if even half the high school students showed up?!

Then I met the Haitian men who are teaching English. Johane introduced us, and then took off to find something. I wish she had stayed to witness the conversation that followed. I said I was interested in the vocabulary each class is working on, and the shorter man replied. He said something about the three of us working together and I could watch them teach and then the students would come to me.  Okay, so I didn't exactly get an answer to my question; that's okay. Then I asked which grades they taught. They did not understand that question and kind of mumbled something. I tried to clarify and say, "Does one of you teach 7, 8, and 9 and the other teach 10, 11, 12?" But the taller, younger one (named Gary) gave me a mini lecture about how each of us will teach our own way. He gave an example about how he likes to have the students write on the board, but I may or may not do that. He said I will watch their classes and they will allow me to follow them. And it's okay if we all teach our own way, but we will work together. We must work together. Seriously? Did you even hear the question? Finally, the short guy told me that they were planning today for the rest of the year, so he couldn't give me anything right now--we'll meet later this week.

It could be a long year with my colleagues! Some of the students I've met are easier to understand.

After I met the principal and English teachers, I found Willem and Johane. They asked me what I thought with smirks on their faces. When I told them about my trouble communicating with the English teachers, they both laughed. Then Willem told me how he spoke better English than his teacher in high school.

For the rest of morning I hung out near the kids. I took some pictures with Beth's camera (I'll try to post some tomorrow), and I talked with the Laboule kids for a bit. Then I found a shady spot on the steps under the church, and watched the kids play. Eventually about 15 kids came and hung out near me. Some of them were from Laboule, some were high school students I met at church, and others were just with their friends. I was able to use some Creole phrases I've learned, and my Laboule kids and the high school students tried out some English with me. It was a nice morning, but looking back on it I wish I would have gotten out my English books and worked with the kids. They needed some type of academic activity on the first day of school.

Johane and I discussed this cultural issue of not going to school for the first week or month. She said it's the mindset of parents who aren't educated. She said the first day is better attended at schools where the parents have all been to school themselves. It seems like the parents would jump at the chance to send their kids to school, but I can see why the first day isn't that important when the teachers use it as a planning day.

On Wednesday I'll go back up the mountain to see if the schedule is finished. Maybe there will even be enough students to form a class.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Golden Nuggets

Golden Nuggets is a term I am borrowing from my friend Sini who is spending her senior year of high school in Indonesia as a foreign exchange student. She calls all the random facts she's gathered about the country she's now living in Golden Nuggets. In that vein, I am going to periodically share Golden Nuggets about Haiti.

  • Humidity is alive and well in this country. My clothes often feel damp when I put them on, and in the afternoon when the clouds come I feel like I've been standing in a sprinkling rain. My sheets and blankets also often feel damp.
  • Because of the constant moisture in the air, mold grows on everything! When I put my tennis shoes on for the first time the other day there was mold all over the souls of the shoes. My suitcase has some mold growing on it. And the bullion cubes I brought with me drew so much moisture they "melted" in their wrappers. 
  • I have not yet found a sink that produces hot water. Thankfully my shower always has hot water!
  • Everyone is very friendly here. All the neighbors say good morning and good afternoon to each other. Johane often stops her car while we are driving to talk briefly with someone who is walking. I'm probably giving Americans a bad name because I find it out of my comfort zone to say hello to everyone. My neighbors keep talking to me in Creole and I don't know what they are saying. I hope they forgive me for being so rude.
  • There are no landline telephones in Haiti. The earthquake in January knocked out the telephone company, so all businesses and individuals use cell phones. There are three cell phone companies. I use Digicel.

Friday, October 1, 2010

M' ap aprann kreyol: I'm learning Creole

Way back in May when I committed to teaching English in Haiti for the year, I planned to hire a Creole tutor. Throughout our correspondence over the summer, Willem and Beth both seemed very  when addressing my questions concerning the topic. Once I arrived I asked Willem about recommendations for a tutor. His reply was, "Once you are on the mountain everyday, you will learn the language. There's no need for a tutor." However, he has mentioned on several occasions that Micka, a girl my age from Gramothe who works very closely with MTM, would be able to help me with my Creole. He thinks it will be mutually beneficial because I can help her with her English.

Anyway, I had resigned myself to studying my books and listening to people speak around me as much as possible. Until Thursday. I was at the guesthouse working* when several people came to talk to Willem and Johane. Suddenly I heard my name as Johane was speaking to Willem in Creole. They had a little conversation about me, and then Johane asked, "Britney, would you like to have a Creole tutor? Arold teaches people English and he could help you learn Creole." Can you guess my answer? It was a resounding yes!

Willem had actually introduced me to Arold, pronounced like the word owl with a drawn out beginning, during the medical clinic. He seems to be a sort of administrative person for the school, and is often the "go to guy" for events in Gramothe. He agreed to come to my apartment today at 4pm for my first lesson. He taught me the letters of the alphabet, some common greetings, some phrases that are handy for school, and then answered some questions I had. I took lots of notes, and he is coming back tomorrow at 2. I hope I have enough time to study my notes before he comes.

*I went to work with Johane because I had nothing to do and I said I would help her with a project. We ended up not working on the project because we didn't have enough supplies, so I was actually checking Facebook and attempting to study my Creole Made Easy book.