Saturday, December 26, 2009

Noel at St. Joes was beautiful. I loved the flow of the day. Lots of together time and plenty of alone time also. The slang term for relaxing, similar to our “kick back” is “pose” – I wonder if this comes from “repose.” Throughout the day people would check in with each other by asking “Ou pose?”

The service was run almost exclusively by the boys. They took turns reading, giving short(ish) sermons, leading songs, and singing solos. I love how they would clap for each other after each one completed their portion. After the service we moved down to the kitchen for cookies and milk with a Haitian twist. The “milk” was actually sweetened condensed and spiked with the local moonshine – clairin. Given this was the one night during the year that the boys do not have a curf

ew, I wondered if the spiking would make them more sleepy than excited to go out…

Rony came by and we walked to a club called Extrem. The name was a tad misleading! There were several couples there, dancing to Kompa music – Rony and I joined them but by 12:30, it wasn’t extreme enough to keep me away so we headed back to St. Joe’s via Rony’s house. I was really honored when he asked if I wanted to see his little room in the “Bario.”

The journey there was the most fascinating part for me. We walked down many sketchy cement steps, around several tight corners, and through really narrow alleys before arriving at his place. There is absolutely no way I could ever find it again. Once there, it was exactly how he described it – a single room, about 10x10 with a small mattress on the floor, his clothes stacked neatly against a wall, and a couple of 5 gallon buckets where he keeps his small propane stove and his


I’m really hoping I can figure out how to raise money for him to come back to Atlanta next year so that he does not have to pay for his own plane ticket next time. He gave so much to Galloway while he was there! I’d

love to be able to give back to him and also see how I can help him long term to find a way to study in the States!

We returned to Wings about 4:30 – I love being back, connecting again with the kids, teasing them, feeding them, holding them. Simply loving them and feeling their love. It won’t come as any surprise that I have my favorites here. What does surprise me is that I keep adding more (if everyone eventually becomes a favorite – what does that mean? Chuck might have a word for this because my vocabulary is failing me!). After dinner the boys go back up to the TV room which is in front of their rooms. They hang out there until bedtime. I usually stay there too until it’s time for our dinner, chatting with them, sharing my ipod, etc. Sometimes, like last night, I’ll take one of them out to the balcony (where it’s much quieter), to play one-on-one.

I had not spent much time on this trip with Alenson (a.k.a pretzel-boy, yoga-boy, or the nick name his mother - who still comes to visit him sometimes gave him – TiBooboo) . He’s the most flexible human being I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember exactly how old he is. He stays in his wheel chair most of the time but can pull himself around, and up, with lightening speed when not strapped in (hence the need for the straps). He is not vocal and his eyes rarely work together which can make him really fun to watch and play with. When we went out on the balcony last night, I thought it he would scoot and climb, and I would follow closely behind insuring his safety. Instead,

after we both sat on the floor, he crawled into my lap, turned around, leaned back, and fell asleep. Wow – talk about comforting and love inducing! I leaded back against the wall and let my conscious drift too – 45 minutes I will always treasure.

I think he really liked it too…after I gave him a quick hug before breakfast this morning, I walked about 5 steps away before I heard a distressed cry behind me. I turned to see that he’d flung himself from his chair towards me and was dangling about an inch from the floor by the one remaining strap that held against his onslaught. Whew! We cuddled some more before I placed him back in his chair with his straps tightened. We’ve cuddled several more times throughout the day – yum!

Alcindor and I walked towards Ft. Jacque this evening, but only made it as far as the soccer fields before we had to turn around to get me back in time for dinner. He is such an incredible man. I so admire how giving he is, how everyone who enters his kitchen is greeted with a smile and how most people leave with one of their own too. His friendship last summer and on this trip has been invaluable to me.

Last night he invited me to join him and many of his friends in dominoes on the patio to the entrance to Wings. Didn’t take me long to see that watching them play would be a lot more fun than trying to keep up with them in the game itself! They are cut throat, in that beautiful, loving, teasing, Haitian way. The loser of each round (which lasts until someone wins 5 hands in a row) is called a dog, made to stand, not allowed to drink his beer, expected to place the other players’ domino in the correct location once they set it down, and has to hold a tree branch in their mouth for all of the next round. If they lose another round, another branch is added. It sounds horrid but everybody is laughing hysterically the whole time, giving as good as they get!

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 :-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fét Noel nan Wings [Wing's Christmas Party]

I wasn’t able to sleep until after 1am this morning…too excited to be here…thinking about home and loved ones there…reviewing Kréyol numbers, colors, months…back to loved ones…then drum rhythms… Well, you get the idea. When my 4:30am alarm strummed its gentle tune, I considered how much I love yoga on the roof and the run up to Kennscroff and peeling garlic for Alcindor while he makes breakfast for the children and talking to him in Kréyol…for about 3 seconds before I fell back to sleep.

I woke again at 6 thinking that if I took out the run, I’d have time for the other events. Unfortunately I discovered there is a large locked, gate to the roof now. (Yes, I considered climbing over but thoughts of the consequences of getting my broken parts fixed here prevailed.) Seems Steve and some other children found their way over the small gate and on to the roof last week. From the back of the house, we’re talking about a 5 story fall. Luckily, my plans to spend more nights on the roof and then salute the morning sun were the only things that were lost in the incident. So, a bit of yoga at the garden level and a quick and brisk sponge shower got the morning off, but not running :-)

I then spent the next hour unwrapping garlic, playing with Delmas and chatting with Alcindor in the kitchen. ***Wawa, ou gen reson! [You were soooo right. ] I have learned a whole lot more Kréyol from you than I gave you credit for. Mwen regret sa ! *** I’m able to form sentences now that not only make sense, but that don’t leave the listener itching to look at their watch. I can also follow the gist of most conversations – Sézi, sézi! [surprise, surprise]

Pictures: KC with Raul - who is truely a wiseman, day in and day out; Ted and Delmas, my favorite shepard and ti mutan [little sheep] ever; Maritza as Mary.

The morning was filled with pageant preparations: the loading up piñatas and the dawning of costumes. The pageant itself was wonderful! Renee will be posting the video I was enlisted to shoot on the St. Joes facebook page soon. A guest here stepped into a TanTan Noel [Santa Clause] costume and launched the kids into fits of joy. They all got a present and a hug from him – even Steve.
Steve the brave, the official greeter of all who enter Wings, the resident bouncing Tigger – was terrified of TanTan Noel. The region of my heart that can become more than a little annoyed with Steve as he continually throws his body into mine, and tries to touch parts that are more than a little inappropriate, softened for him. The whole event was such an incredible reminder to me of how I too can cover up my own fears by throwing myself into things and pushing boundaries that I too know are inappropriate.

The afternoon was slow. Most of the kids were in a post-party, post-adrenaline, post-sugar comma and the adults were in the fatigue stage of the holiday season. Ted, Lazar, and I listened to my music – they have wonderful taste! We chair danced to Manu Chau, Michael Franti, Youssou N’dour [thanks Chuck!], and my world music collection.

After dinner, I sat and talked with Alcindor and Jocelyn, with more of the same music playing in the back ground. Alcindor helped me with Kréyol and I gave him another lesson in MS Word. His ability to remember things blows me away. We also walked together to the “internet café” [picture a 6x6 room with a table, 4 chairs, one computer, and two telephones – not exactly state of the art]. I tried to call home but the connections were horrid and I just ended up saying “Hi” to my mom before it was dropped - twice. Alcindor offered to let me use his phone, so I bought 10 international minutes for ~$6 US. The connection I made with that time was priceless!

Tomorrow, several of the guests here, along with Renee and I, will be headed down to St. Joe’s in the afternoon. We’ll spend two nights there and get to be apart of their Christmas celebration too. I’m so excited to see LeyLey again. He's one of the lead drummers and the first person to ever show me anything on a drum (he laughed at me the whole time – maybe that’s why I took such a liking to him and to drumming), and show him what I’ve learned. I’m definitely packing my sleeping bag – that’s one roof that even a large gate will not prevent me from dreaming on!

Monday, December 21, 2009

M'ap Toune! [I'm Back]

If I were to ever need of an intentional, experiancial refreser in the beautiful lesson that Brek and the Chain Ring of Fools first taught me in 2002 - "It's the journey, not the destination" - all I have to do is return to Haiti! As I wrote to a few people this morning in during the small period of internet time:
> Late leaving plane, lost and found luggage, pot hole induced flat tire,
> sleepy smiles and laughter from glorious children, roosters and honking
> horns filling the star bright night - so good to be back!

The day started with the usual cacophony of yelling children, barking dogs and market chatter (I love Monday mornings here!]. It was pitch black when I arrived last night and I could remember where I'd packed my flash light so I used the pre-breakfast time to unpack the bags that I'd had to hurriedly repack and cram at the airport. FYI - despite what the AA website says, you can't take bins to Haiti during the Christmas holidays.

After my toothbrush and teeth had had a joy-filled reunion, I headed down to play with the timoun yo [kids] before breakfast. I'd snuck into their rooms last night when I'd arrived and had been covered with sleepy kisses, but I was craving full on play! Flying with Delmas, walking with Josephine, dancing with Sammy, making fun of Lazar with Ted (aka Teddy - he wants to use his adult name now)...laboui cooking in the kitchen...all is well in the world.

Thoughout the day, I played the djembe rhythms that I've learned over the last couple of months from the beautiful drumming community in Atlanta. Delmas, Steve and Franke Le were quick to pick up the beats and bang them on any found object in range. It was good for me to to miss my new friends and the connections I'm now making in Atlanta. So often I've head off on my adventures, floating free of any desire to return. The heart tugs I feel to home on this trip are new for me, and I'm glad for them.

Once breakfast was gobbled and prayers sung, I headed back up to help Renee bind a billion folders for the various homes and schools in the St. Joe's family. My assistant was Jozye - a new child here. As if this place wasn't already filled to the brim with amazing children, they've managed to find one more. He is brilliant - both in smile wattage (seen to the left, beaming in his blue hoody) and in intelligence. We had each other in stitches for most of the morning.

There is one bright smile that I keep looking for, a lovely soul who is now living with his family rather than at Wings - Dad, Delmas's right hand man, the "double" in his trouble. His little purple chair is now filled by another new child, Lew. I haven't connected with Lew yet, maybe because all I can do when I see the chair is miss Dad.

I'm also torn a bit in being here - my heart lines to Adrian are tugging. I read YoA's blog in the Miami airport and it sounds like his ALS is progressing much more rapidly than anyone who loves him could possible want. I'm sitting here with tears rolling down my eyes, hoping I can get back to NC at least one more time to tell him in person again how both his life and his transition out of it have made a huge impact on who I am and how I live my life. I love you YoA and continuously send blessings to you, Padmini, and the rest of your family!

And the journey continues...

I got to be apart of the annual Christmas Tree decoration party before lunch and the joy therein. [I finally found my last piece of luggage last night under a real pine tree that someone had shipped on the plane. Between that and the giant snow flake lights that lined the street from the airport to downtown - in a place that has never seen snow - I never have to doubt the influence of US culture on this little island!] The kids were each given an ornament and assisted in placing it on the tree. Their faces beamed and their bodies swayed to Christmas music. It's so much easier for me to connect to the spirit of this holiday when I'm in another country and surrounded by children. Ahhhhh.

The funniest thing that happened to me today was during lunch. I was feeding Ted, picking out the onions and peppers for him, saving the hot dog bits for last, and busily, happily catering to his every whim - I have missed him sooooooo much - when Nelio made an attack from my flank, grabbed a handful of food from Ted's plate and stuffed it into his mouth. Ted hardly had time to scream before Nelio was busily spitting it out with gusto! Nellio had grabbed the handful that contained two huge hot peppers. Ted and I roared at him while he vigorously rubbed his tongue and shook his head. How I love natural consequences! (The picture is of Delmas feeding Wilner at lunch. The spirit of community can be palpable here :-)

Tomorrow will bring the Christmas pageant and so much more! Pictures below are from the dress rehearsal - Lazar and David as shepards, Josephine as an Angel and Delmas as a sheep - not half baaaaaaad :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lé vole (time flies)

I've been filling by days with kreyol lessons and conversations. Thank goodness it's coming so much easier than Spanish did!!! I finally got a hold of Jude, the translator extrodinare from my first trip here. His wife and kids are spending the summer with friends in St. Louis so he has some free time. He's been running with me each morning. We meet outside of Wings and run/walk up to the next town, Kenscroft, and back down together. It definally upped my milage and I really enjoy his company. He also took me dancing one night down at RAM in downtown PAP. WOW - The music was over the top and that man can dance! He's also started giving Sarah and I more formal Kreyol lesson after dinner. Alcindor, the cook here, has been kind enough to let me trade my skills peeling lay (garlic) for early morning conversations. So my days go something like this:
4:30 wake and do some yoga
5:00 meet Jude and run to Kenscroft
6:15 bucket shower
6:30 peel garlic and chat with Alcindor
7:30 my breakfast
8:00 play with kids (Mwen ede Josephine marche e vole ak Delmas and Dad.)
8:30 feed ti dejane to the kids
9:45 work in classrooms or help with paperwork
1:00 have my lunch
1:30 bay mange a ti moun yo (feed the kids)
2:30 teach Teddy and Lazar how to type using the IntelKey Board
4:30 read, study, rest
5:00 plis manje pou ti moun yo (more food for the kids)
6:00 hang out in the girls or boys rooms for pre-bed quiet time
6:30 my dinner
7:30 kreyol lesson with Jude
8:30 hang out with other volunteers, Alcindor, and/or the other guys who work here (I've learner how to be a really good loser at Mancala)
9:30 bed time!!!

Sorry my email and blogging have deminished. I'm definately feeling the sand in my little Haitian hourglass rushing away.

Tonight Sarah and I will go to a concert where Jude and his family group, The Union Brothers, will be singing. Tomorrow, the 4 other volunteers, me and Jude are going to start walking over the mountians to Jakmel at 5 am. The first day of the jouney to the little cabin/cottage that's about halfway there should take us about 7 hours. We'll stay Friday night there then finish the journey with another 7-8 hour hike on Saturday. The second leg is sposed to have stunning scenery. We'll have a guide for this section so that we'll get to see all of the waterfalls off of the beaten path. [Unfortunately, I was a dope again (I *knew* I should have brought a bag with a zipper closer rather than a flap) and my most valuable possesion here - my camera, now has a new owner. I hope they love it half as much as I did and really enjoy the photos that I'd taken.] We'll spend Satuday night at Trinity House, the third home in the St. Joe's family, wake for a sunrise service on Sunday and head back to Wings via tap-tap. Renee says very few people take the time to make this journey - I can't wait!

Monday, July 6, 2009

We spent a good part of the weekend at St. Joe's. About 3pm on Saturday the 6 of us volunteers hopped on a Tap-tap (picture 15 people jammed in the back of a late model Toyota pick-up bouncing down the road) with Sony and headed to 91 Delmas, Penchonville. Adventures never end here, and nether do my "traveling in a developing nation" experiences. This was an experience similar to riding the chicken buses in Guatemala but with much better ventilation! Unfortunately, as we unloaded from the tap-tap, I was groped rather roughly by a guy. I so busy feeling offended, that I didn't notice he'd grabbed the baggie - with my driver's licence, debit card and a bit of cash - that I'd buried in my front jeans pocket. No great loss, the card was canceled easily (and I learned a long time ago never to keep all of my cash in one place). I'll just be more aware of covering my pockets rather than my breasts next time I'm in that situation. Given all of the traveling I've done over the years, I feel pretty blessed that this is only the second time anything unpleasant has happened.
Once at St. Joe's, we hung out with with the guys before their performance. It's been good to reconnect with them, especially the drummer, Lele. We spent the evening dancing during the performance and after the performance, Esthepahnia, Melika, Sarah and I continued or adventures together dancing with some of the older guys from St. Joe's that work with us each day at Wings. Over and over again we find ourselves appreciating our shared spirit of living each moment to the fullest.
I've been spending my weekday afternoons working with Lazar and Teddy, two teenage boys with CP. A guest from Boston brought an adapted key board and laptop and they've been learning to type by writing letters to pen pals in the states. I've really enjoyed working with them one-on-one. I'm also apreciating the fact my PhD research included "computer supported cooperative work" and that's exactly what I'm doing here - but in a way I never would have imagined!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've been very contemplative today. All the Cotting folks leave in the morning and Melika and Esthephania are headed out on Monday. I think watching their good bye process has me thinking about mine - even thought it's more than 3 weeks away. The fact that there are many, many things up in the air at Galloway, and I'm feeling more than a little disconnected, if not guilty, about leaving Peter & Co. in the midst of it all.

Seems like on days like this, everything becomes a message from the universe. One of the first songs that played on my ipod during my run this morning was one I would have sworn I'd never heard before - doubtful since *I* put everything on it. So it's 5:45m, the sun has been up over an hour, and I'm hitting the first hard part of my route. Thinking about how I want to continuing doing things like I'm doing here for the rest of my life. Wondering what that means. How will a life like this effect/reduce/eliminate other things I'd also like to have in my life? Also wishing I wasn't thinking about the future and able to just live fully in the now, as Melissa Ethridge belts out:

Don't be afraid
Close your eyes
Lay it all down
Don't you cry
Cant you see I'm going
Where I can see the sun rise
I've been talking to my angel
And he said that it's alright
I've always had to run
I don't know just why
Desire slowly smoking...
There's something waiting out there
That says I've got to try...
I can feel the thunder
Underneath my feet
I sold my soul for freedom
Its lonely but its sweet
Don't be afraid...

This song was followed directly by "Moondance" - my all time favorite song for its lyrics but mostly for all the many beautiful people and experiences I've associated with it.

More conversations with angels are definitely in order. Luckily, I am blessed to have a life overflowing with them!