I have now been in Port-au-Prince for ten days and now am on my way to my mission site in Ouanaminthe ! I will teach English, be the P.E. instructor, and the computer techy for the Sisters. There will also be some aspirants (pre-nun) in Ouanaminthe, whom I met here. One of them, Beatrice, said she would be my Creole professor and I will be her English professor. I am glad to leave Port-au-Prince. The city is somewhat overwhelming and intimidating to venture into. The buildings are rubble and the streets are lined with garbage, which is picked through by children looking for their next meal. At night, there are screams of children crying and of women in pain. It’s difficult to be here because you feel helpless in the face of so much suffering. One of my ventures outside was to the beach at Port-Salut which is in the southwest part of the country. The Sisters arranged for 135 teachers and students to go as a retreat before school starts next week. The buses picked up the retreatants from the different Salesian locations. I saw the first house and school that the Salesians built here in Port-au-Prince. What’s left of the school are pieces of rock and the convent is cracked and falling apart. They were fortunate though that none of the students or sisters died. Many times when you look at rubble, you also are looking at a graveyard. The drive was beautiful; mountains spotted with palm trees line one side of the road and the ocean on the other. But, it was also through the earthquake’s center. The tent cities stretch out for miles and miles outside of Port-au-Prince. If the people are not living in tents, the houses are shacks, some slanting or on the verge of falling down. It’s just strange to be in a country that should be a tropical paradise but is a place of so much misery. Everyone got into the water at the beach and it was amazing- there was one ball which was thrown around the whole group! It was not until the ride back to Port-au-Prince that the sadness of the situation hit me. I talked to Jacques, one of the teachers, who is my age,teaches mathematics, and knows more American pop singers than I do! He taught me how to pray the Our Father in French, listening to me stumble through it at least ten times and I taught him thumb war! He lost his whole family in the earthquake, his father, mother, sisters, and brother and now lives with the Sisters. Buildings can be replaced but the loss of lives is irreplaceable and cannot be rebuilt. It is impossible to speak with someone who has not had a family member or friend die in the earthquake.
mostly all the Salesian Sisters here are Haitian, except for a couple of Italians who have been here for over forty years.
Haitians are really good at carrying things on their head, including laundry, bananas, and even TVs
There is always a smell of fire in the air from burning trash
Time is very different in Haiti. If someone says they will come to visit you on Monday, they might show up Tuesday or Wednesday. If you’re supposed to leave at five in the morning, you might not leave until 6:30
Lanes are non-existent in Haiti. Whichever car has the more intimidating honk gets the road.
Haitians say goodbye with a handshake.
Even if you are poor in Haiti, you try to look your best on Sunday for church. I actually was reprimanded by one of the Sisters for not ironing my skirt. She told me that even Haitians who don’t live in a house, iron their clothes.
No need to ask where a toilet is just pick a spot.
Things I have Learned to Do:
How to do Laundry by hand
You say courir when you ‘pound it’ in Haiti