Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lapli & Rit (Rain & Rhythm)

I woke at 4:20a Wednesday to the sounds of rain blowing into the bathroom, wind whipping around the building, and thunder cracking above. It rained, and rained, and rained and the staff who were able to make it in to Wings kept saying “It never rains in December.” Um. The rain doesn’t improve the road conditions here and it also makes the already slick ramps here really scary – given that, and the holiday, many of the staff did not make it in. Regularly scheduled programming did not happen. Instead, kids that wanted to play and chat stayed in the dining room and those that wanted to watch TV/videos, hung out in the TV room. This eliminated most of the transportation/ramps-as-death-traps challenge J

I took the opportunity to give Ted and Lazar the presents I’d brought for them. They’d not forgotten what they’d asked me for when I left at the end of July. In fact, the first night I arrived, after blinking his eyes open, finishing his sleepy yawn and beaming at me, Ted’s first sign to me (he doesn’t form words very well), was to use his good hand to point first to one ear then the other. This was the sign he’d used during the summer to ask to use my ipod. Not being the best keeper of secrets concerning presents, I just nodded and said “Pou Noel.” He then made the universal air-guitar sign [due to many logistics, I got a ukulele, not a guitar], and pointed to the sleeping Lazar. I asked if he could keep a secret (knowing full well that he probably wouldn’t be able to any better than me :-). He nodded his head yes and so did I.

Rony had bought the MP3 for me in PAP and had it filled with music he knew Ted would like. Rony had also suggested that I get an inexpensive cell for for Ted. Such joy to see them listening and playing with their gifts all day. Lazar had me go get Gary, one of the Wing’s directors and the resident guitar player. I was not successful in my attempt to refrain from comparing this gift exchange to the overflowing commercialism that we have in the states.

At 3:30pm Renee, KC, several staff members and Tress (the remaining guest) piled into a van with a bunch of stuff for St. Joes. We got here and the drums were sounding on the theater level. I helped unload the van, itching to run up the stairs, placed items in the kitchen and then flew to the third floor. Bill and Walness were playing with one of the boys I didn’t know (where was LeyLey?) and most of the other boys were dancing. My eyes met many loved and familiar pairs – huge smiles for Patrick, Joseph, and Woodward who commuted to Wings to work every day last summer – followed quickly by hugs as the rhythm drew to a close. I just caught the last song of their practice – ahhhh!

Patrick told me, as we walked up one level for Bravo and evening prayers, that LeyLey was in Jakmel until January. Piffle!!! I haven’t spent a lot of time at St. Joe’s but LeyLey and I connected the very first hour I was here in April and have maintained that friendship since. I really miss his presence here.

Bravo kicks off the evening service. Each person in the circle is given a “Bravo to [name] he helped me/gave me…/was great at.. today” from another boy. Two additional boys are then expected to acknowledge the receiver. The receiver then passes the Bravo on to another boy. Guests are included in the receiving. I was so thrilled that I was actually understanding some of the affirmations that when it came my time to give, I spoke in English for a bit before catching my gaff. The bible reading was from Mark and about how following the desires of your stomach will lead you astray [at least that’s what I think I heard]. The irony in the fact that we headed to dinner next, did not escape me…

KC’s brother Alec arrived during dinner and mentioned in passing that he’d brought 3 djembes with him to give to the kids at Wings. WooHoo! My trip just went from extraordinary to splendiferous. He let me borrow the full sized one and up to the roof I went with Woodward.

We messed around for a while, mostly me listening to him since I do not pick rhythms up easily. The iphone app that I’ve been using in Atlanta to record rhythms is not working here. Strange but very sadly true. I’d really wanted to record to share with Chuck and Amy – and Rony challenged me to play for his dancing next year – but technology has not been my friend here.

Actually, I’m reconsidering that last statement. I should say, it has surprised me and not allowed me to do all that I’d hoped but without it, I would not be able to share in the form I am now or communicate with really special people as much, or more than I’d hoped.

The roof was too wet to sleep on but was glorious for meditation this morning. Breakfast, as with every meal at St. Joe’s, was heavenly – a cheese omelet with my favorite fruits on the side: pineapple and mango. We followed that with cookie making – I lost count. Renee, KC and I made the dough and the boys rolled it into balls for thumb print, peanut butter and walnut yummies.

As the process slowed, I slipped away to play with the djembe more and was quickly jo ined by Bill – the head drummer at St. Joe’s. My ego was screaming “run” when I saw his head peak around the corner as I fumbled my way through Kuku.

He worked with me to learn some of Nago and Arenye. Learning by sound is horrible for me. I’m first a visual and then a verbal learner – then the others – followed lastly by musical. I breathed deeply a lot, told him repeatedly that he did not need to stay with me while I tried to get my hands to play what was so beautiful in my head, cursed my iphone for its refusal to record, breathed some more, and prayed for patience with myself. Bill seemed wonderfully content through it all and I really enjoyed learning some of the other many sounds that Haitians make on their drums. They do a slap where they leave the other hand on the head and one where they just use the tippy-tips of their fingers to create a really high sound called piano. On the cow hide drum, called an Asoto, they also do this really cool thing with the pad of their middle finger skating across the head (I just managed to turn my finger really red but couldn’t get the sound).

I’ve also spent my time catching up with Patrick, playing a variety of games with a newly arrived boy named Emerson , and getting to know Rolando, the security guard (who was dancing at UNT in my home town just two months ago!!). We'll be having the Christmas service at 8pm (I thought it was at 8am, so I've been wearing my beautiful new Christmas skirt all day - happy accident), then a party, then Rony is going to take me dancing!!! Seems this is the night Haitians stay out until dawn. Wish I'd been able to sleep past 5am this morning :-)

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