Well, I promised the fifth grade boys that if any boy got a grade 8 or higher for his final grade on his report card, I would give them a soccer ball which although might sound like a generous offer, I wasn’t expecting more than 2 to get it since most students don’t get higher than 7. Unfortunately, none of them reached the Mount Everest of eight this time around but I’m hoping for the third trimester but all their grades improved. A new soccer ball is a gold mine for boys here especially the fifth grade boys at school. Every recess they play soccer and every Friday afternoon I have to chase them off the school yard while they plead for another five minutes for soccer. On the streets they will play with a deflated, brown remnants of a ball and if they don’t have access to that, they will play soccer with a plastic bottle or a large rock or anything they can find. .

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Funerals are slightly different here. I was slightly frightened the first one I went to because Haitian women do not cry, they do not sob, they do not gently pat their tears away. They wail. It is almost like a seizure. Sometimes it takes a group of four to drag the person out. After the funeral service, there is a huge procression. You walk behind the coffin, which is placed in the back of a truck, to the cemetary. One funeral I went to, there were about five hundred people. What I really love about Haitian funerals is that they wear white or black. Usually the women wear white and the men black. March has been the month of funerals here. An uncle, who was like a father to one of the teachers, a mother of three girls at school, a mother of one of the ladies in the women’s prayer group, a cousin of one of the members of the youth group, and a mother of one of the sisters in Cap Haitien. The most difficult to see was the mother of the three children because she was a young beautiful woman and left behind three beautiful girls, two of whom are just about to make their first communion in May. Now, Sr. Daniel’s father, who had a stroke two months ago, just passed away this morning of April 11. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

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Exam time

Well the week of exams also turned out to be the week of bleeding heads. The students become a little more rowdy around exam time. But after school was done one day and after everyone had departed, I was eating lunch with the Sisters except for Sr. Gracitane who was still downstairs at the school office. Right after we had sat down, Sr. Gracitane came running up, her eyes huge as saucers and all I could manage to hear was boy and a lot of blood. She went as quickly as she entered. She took the boy to the hospital and he ended up having three different set of stitches, his forehead, between his eye brows, and below an eye. Sr Gracitane said when she saw him, his face was covered in blood. Afte the hospital, Sr. Gracitane returned with him and it was pretty ghastly. His head was heavily bandaged and his shirt splattered with blood. The sisters washed hisi uniform and gave him a new P.E. uniform because they didn’t want his mother to be scared when she saw him. Then they gave him some food and then he slumped in the chair to sleep.

Sr. Danielle was indignant of how that could happen at school especially with a Sister there. As it turns out, it happened outside, quite a distance from school, and the boy, Alti, made his way back to school. He happened to be walking along and accidentally got in the middle of a fight between three girls from school. The fight between the girls started a school and they agreed to finish it in the street. Unfortunately, it started from English. One girl called another b*%^. The other girl didn’t know what she was saying but became angry. In response, she said, Oui, je suis b *^ (Yes, I am). Once out on the streets, they started throwing rocks at each other and that is when Alti came walking along and got hit.

Sr. Danielle was pretty furious with the girls- one because it was a premeditated plan to fight in the street and it was disrespectful of the uniform, meaning degrading the respect of the school.  You can immediately recognize schools here by the uniform because every school wears a different color. The girls got kicked out of school. Sr. Danielle gave them one last chance but they said they couldn’t promise to stop their compartemet. It was their decision to leave in the end.

Please understand though, rock throwing is a common thing in jest and in fights. After soccer games, after an insult, for fun- it’s instict.

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Squawking chicken pot pie

So for my birthday, I told the Sisters I wanted to cook. It took some brainstorming to figure out what I could make. I really wanted to make green enchildas or fajitas but making the tortillas from scratch seemed a bit overreaching for my first ktichen venture in Haiti and also the sisters, like most Haitians, are not a fan of spice.  I decided to make a chicken pot pie. I went to the kitchen right after breakfast on Saturday morning.  I told the sister that I needed chicken so Marie Fleur, one of the lady workers, came in five minutes later, holding a squaking chicken in hand. Hmm, killing and dressing a chicken was not in the online directions. Fortunately, Marie Fleur helped me- it is quite a process. After killing it, you have to boil it a bit, pluck the feathers, flame it again to get the remaining quills, boil it again for a bit and butcher it. Afer that, it was a piece of cake or I should say pie. The carrots, celery, and onions were fresh picked from the garden that morning. The only other difficult part was starting the oven. You have to start the gas and then light the stove from a distance. Mode is scared to do this after burning her arm and some of her hair Also the directions called for 400 degrees. Since there was no temperature gadge, all I could tell was that the oven was really, really hot. But the chicken pot pie turned out a success and Sr. Danielle even asked me to show the recipe to the Saturday cooking class.

My next culinary experiment will be pancakes. I found some Aunt Jemima syrup in Cap Haitien which inspired me.

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We are the world …

I have now figured out how to handle my seventh grade class. I bribe them with Michael Jackson songs. Everybody in Haiti loves Michael Jackson. They try to dance like Michael, sing like Michael. So if they are good for their English lesson, I show them a verse to We are the World. To be honest I don’t know that many Michael Jackson songs and I’m not that much of a singer (they know the rhythm and melody better than I do) but they go crazy for the words. Sr. Danielle wants the whole school to be able to sing the refrain for Sr. Marie Claire, the Provincial, when she comes to visit and also You are My Sunshine. It might seem a little strange to greet a nun with a Michael Jackson song but after the earthquake a group remixed his song to raise awareness for Haiti and everyone loves it.

Now if I can just find the words to Shakira’s hit Waka from the Fifa World Cup…

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message from Martelly

Yesterday I got a text message from Martelly, the presidential candidate, at 4 am. Hmmm I don’t remember giving him my number and how rude- doesn’t he know people are sleeping at that time. He kindly wanted to inform me that Jean Wycliffe supports him in the election.

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world power

I don’t think a person from the United States understands the US’ world power unitl you live in another country. The US is deeply entrenched in Haiitian politics. For example, the results after the primary presidential elections showed Madame Manigare in first place, Jude Celestin in second, and Martelly in third place. It had already been decided that the run off would be between two people but because of violence afterwards and a strong push from the US, it was decided the runoff would be between the top three contenders. Then in January Hilary Clinton decided to take a look into things and it was decided only Manigare and Martelly would be in the runoff election. Now there is a question of Aristide the former President of returning which seriously could become a political disaster. The US has decided he cannot return.

Talking to the driver for the sisters, Mr. B, he thinks that the upcoming elections is a whole set up by the United States and France, the United States being the backer of Martelly and France the backer of Marnigat. Of course since the US supports Martelly, he is going to be the next president.

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So every Wednesday I meet with Lucia who works at the school. I practice my Creole and she practices her English. She brings with her her little nephew Giovanni (Sr. Danielle named him). She’s thirty- three years old and is in her last year to become a teacher. She was an aspirant for the Sisters for a year but left after that. Every time I ask her if she wants to get married. She says I don’t know what is in store for me but my vocation right now is to help others. Asking her about her life, she lives in a house with seven other people, her mom, her brother and sister-in-law, her sister and her two nephews and nieces. Her dad died when she was little. She is the one who takes care of the kids. She gets them up in the morning at about 5, tires to get them bathed and dressed, fixes them breakfast, helps them to study their lessons, and goes to school with them. Everyone else in the house works and doesn’t come home until very late. In Haiti, raising kids is a family affair. Sometimes a child will live with his aunt or uncle or his grandparents. Although Lucia works everyday, takes care of the kids, goes to school on Saturday, she likes to spend her time on Sunday with the poor- that is after she goes to Mass at 6am. She goes with a group of women to the poorer side of town and fixes the women’s hair there, talks with them, and tries to bring little gifts for them. She is pretty amazing.

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Exciting News…

We’re starting a volleyball team! I didn’t think much when I put on my application to volunteeer that knowing how to play volleyball and basketball would be of much use. In Port-au-Prince, the sisters told me my duties in Ouanaminthe would be teaching English, playing volleyball, helping out the Sisters. I thought cool I get to play volleyball. Upon arriving, I found out I am the  volleyball instructor.       Someone last year gave a donation to the sisters to constuct an outdoor volleyball/ basketball court. This year is the first year the students have had the chance to learn volleyball. They are all newbies.  It’s really great to see the girls play because generally you don’t see girls play sports- the boys take over the balls and space.  In January, some students started coming Friday  afternoon to practice playing. Well, first it started out that they just came to play and then Sr. Gracitane got the idea to start a team. Now they come Friday and Saturday afternoon and arrive about an hour or two early (needless to say they love to play). But soon we are going to select a boy team and girl team to go play another Salesian school in Cap Haitien!

Unfortunately, out of the two volleyballs that we had, one become utterly deflated and miserable. I tried ducktaping it  and reviving it with air. The kids were very intrigued by an air pump and eveyone wanted to try and use it. So now we are left with one volleyball, which is beginning to get a little bit worn out too. Volleyballs run scarce in these parts too so I’m hoping ducktape will manage to bandage the last remaining soldier.

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John Bosco

Although the Salesians carry the name of St. Francis de Sales, their founder is actually St. John Bosco. He truly had a deep love and respect for children. Never once did he strike a child which might seem normal and just in the 21st century but for a man in the 19th century, is pretty amazing. He was also known for loving to play and said all a child needs to play is a ball. So for his feast day we of course had a day of fun and games.

All the kids came in their PE uniform Each class had to present a game and I was in charge of preparing all the games and preparing the kids. We had musical chairs, a potato sack race (except it was with rice sacks), race with eggs, volleyball, basketball. The sought after prize was getting to eat the egg after the egg race (they were hardboiled that morning, don’t worry).The B Kindergarten class played Rachel and Jacob: a boy and girl are blindfolded and then call out to each other “Rachel” “Jacob” to find each other.

The big match of the day was between 4th grade A and B. It was a game of skill and teamwork- how many times a team could pass the volleyball to each other. This is the first year that they have taught volleyball at school so there was a a lot of buzz around the school.  It was two weeks of suspense because the teacher for the A class would come and practice after school. Secretly I was rootiing for the underdogs, the B class but it was the overdogs, the A class who won this time around.

Another surprise of the day was finding out how much some of the kids like Simon says. I don’t think they’ve ever heard of it before and now at recreation, some 2nd or 3rd grader will come up and beg to to play Simon dit.

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