I can’t believe that it is finally Election Day. There is no campaigning on Saturday, so the candidates made their last ditch efforts on Friday. It was quite interesting. Celestine had a plane flying around that said, “Vote for Celestine.” (I honestly cannot remember if it was in English or kreyol.) Ceant had a helicopter drop like playing-card-sized cards that had his picture, number, and a picture of Aristide that said Bon Retour. There was definitely a feeling that this was the last push.
We had a mock election on campus on Thursday. I found it very interesting. We had 292 of 350 students vote. Madamn Manigat won our election with 120 votes. However, since that is only 41% there would be a run off election. Martelly was in second place, and Charles Baker was a distant third. Celestine is favored to win the election, however didn’t make a showing in my vote at school I’m beginning to realize how difficult it would be to win 50%+1 on the first round. But, I do think every country should give out stickers for voting. Some students only voted because they wanted a sticker. I wonder if many Americans vote simply to wear the, “I voted” sticker all day.
The vote is today so we shall see what happens.
PS I love that there is an intense debate going on right now in the kitchen among the Haitian staff. I just wish more of them were actually going to vote!
Ceant’s cards that fell from a helicopter!
No cholera…yet. LCS is really stepping up hygiene procedures. We are trying to do the best we can to prevent an outbreak of Cholera, at the school. Anyone entering the campus must wash their hands at the gate, and students must wash their hands before entering the cafeteria. We have sent up temporary wash stations in both locations. It is good to teach the students to be proactive when combating something like this. Let’s just hope that the precautions that LCS has taken will prevent the school from having issues. We have also started to add extra bleach to the water. Sometimes, we add way too much and it isn’t drinkable because it tastes like straight bleach. Oops. I just hope that this does not wreak havoc on the school year and be what determines my volunteer year. I still can’t believe that Cholera is in Haiti. It has taken the world by surprise. It will be interesting to see how this disease made it to Haiti.
I took a break from teaching my typical computer class to talk about cultural differences and body language. It is easy to misread body language when you are not in your native country. In Haiti, it is rude to look your elders in the eye. So, if a mom was scolding her child, the child should not look at her. In this situation, it would be appropriate to cross your hands and stare at the ground. Like I said, it can be difficult to read body language is a new country. I’m just glad that I finally learned about some of these differences. I was starting to get really frustrated because I thought some of these actions were being directed at me or that the students just didn’t like me. But, the more I learn the more relax I am, knowing that it is a cultural difference. The cultural conversations were fun and interesting for some classes and it was like pulling teeth in others.
I am really enjoying my time here. This school is doing so many great things and the students are wonderful. The worst part of teaching is the endless grading! I cannot believe the amount of grading that I have procrastinated for my Spanish classes. I love standing in front of the class and talking to the students outside of class, but man, the freaking grading. It is a great feeling when the class go well but, when they don’t, it kind of sucks.
Now, it is time to relax and enjoy the long weekend. ☺
My First Field Trip and My Bad Luck…
So, I think I’m over due for an update. I find it difficult to pause my life here in Haiti to write new things to post. Anyways, school has kept me very busy. I am teaching 5 different computer classes and a Spanish class to students who don’t speak English. It is definitely interesting teaching computers to students who have had very limited access to computers. Dealing with limited resources is absolutely the most frustrating part of teaching in Haiti. I only have Mavis Beacon on six of the twenty-three computers in the lab. So, I’m constantly trying to think of creative ways to make typing fun. Hopefully, I will get more copies of Mavis Beacon soon!
We took a field trip! We finally were able to leave the school campus. For many of the volunteers it was their first time seeing what Haiti really looked like. I went with the volunteers and some of the staff to the nuncios in the mountains! We had so much fun. It was nice a cool, quite the nice break from the oppressive, hot heat down here at the school. It felt like we were back in to US because we had an amazing BBQ on the lush green lawn, the grounds were amazingly beautiful. It was extremely relaxing but heartbreaking at the same time. This was the first time I saw the devastation of the January 12th earthquake. Yea, we past the many tent cities, but the rubble has been removed around my school so it’s easy not to think about it. When I’ve looked at port au prince in the past it was always from the side of a mountain, so I’d have a great view of the other mountainside and the valley. Anyways, the nuncios is also in the mountains and I was finally able to see where houses once stood. Luckily, I was with a group of incredible people who served as an amazing distraction.
Thursday was an interesting day. I had four Spanish classes in one of the makeshift classrooms on the soccer field. At the beginning of my first class, the swage tank overflowed and almost came straight into my classroom! If there was raised cement flooring it would have came in! My little students, who speak like 5 English words, were yelling “Ms. Shofner, Ms. Shofner.” They were out of their seats and I was just trying get them to copy the alphabet and forget about the swage issue. As the swage continued to creep up to the classroom I decided to look for somewhere to move the class. We ended up moving to the newest classroom on the soccer field, the one with no floor, and had the next 3 periods there. The whole no floor thing turned out to be the next huge problem. During my third class, there was an ant crisis. Ants in Haiti are vicious and ant bites hurt so bad! As I was taking role, I looked down because my feet were burning, to see my feet covered in ants. I said, “Mwen pa remen fumi!” (which means I don’t like ants) The kids start laughing, I’m trying to get them off my feet, and 2 students were using their notebooks to try to kill these ants. After that happened two more times, I decided to move class outside. Then, at the end of my fourth class my students were being bitten by these ants and anytime I got close to the ants they students were like “Ms., Ms., NO!” Days like these I realize that I really am in Haiti.
This is the first time I’ve ever been called Ms. Shofner by so many people. There are 351 students at the school, all of whom call me Ms. Shofner. Well, except for the one who has decided call me Ms. Sun because I’m always in the sun. Besides the fact that I’m not used to being called Ms. Shofner, the weirdest part is having students my own age call me Ms. Shofner. It’s just surreal.
I’m having the most incredible time here. I just so glad to be here. I’m so lucky.
Getting to Work
Wow. Time has flown by. I can’t believe that I’ve been in Haiti for almost 3 weeks now. Days have been long and hard. I get up every day at 530 with breakfast and Morning Prayer. Then, we begin work projects by 7. These work projects very from incinerator working and painting to cleaning and dusting. After lunch, we typically have either a teaching class or kreyol lessons for 3-4 hours. Then it is dinner and bed! I am so exhausted by like 9:30 that I’m in bed by like 10, or earlier!
Kreyol lessons have been going well. But, it is hard work. It’s frustrating because I don’t know how to say many things in Kreyol. Kreyol is a very simple language, but the simplicities can feel complex at times. I love learning new Haitian sayings, and the staff loves teaching it.
I have yet to cave-in and hire a laundry lady. I’m hand washing all my clothes and rubbing my hands raw in the process. I have yet to perfect hand washing clothes Haitian style. They use the heels of their hands, which have become calloused over the years, and scrub their clothes that way. It is far more difficult than it sounds. Even when I start my laundry early, I finish in the heat of the day directly under the sun.
Let’s just say Haiti is a hot country. I doubt its ever been below the high 80s on a cool night. It can be difficult to sleep sometimes because it’s so hot. It gets particularly bad when we run out of electricity and the fans turn off!
We still have a lot of work to do to get the school ready for the year. Yesterday, I “re-painted” chalkboard paint of the chalk boards and prepped for painting. So, today the classrooms are getting a fresh coat of paint. Time to get to work!
packing… or maybe not
So, I really need to work on packing because I’m leaving in like 3 days. I have one major problem… the washing machine in broken and I really have no desire to begin hand washing all my clothes before I need to. My current packing situation= half a suitcase packed and clothes all over the floor waiting to be washed. Hopefully, the washing machine gets fixed today, or I’m really going to have a problem.
These next few days will consist of packing and errands. I feel like I’m always at the store buying something! I’m so ready for the shopping to be over and for the trip to begin. Hopefully, I won’t need to spend like all day on Friday and $20 at the laundry mat just so I can pack.
Smooth trip to Haiti? Not likely. I have the absolute worst luck flying. Mother Nature absolutely hates me. I have made at least four roundtrip flights this year and for one leg of every strip I’ve been stuck somewhere over night. Just this year I’ve been stuck in Atlanta, Miami, and Providence. Okay, so on the trip through Philadelphia I luckily was not stuck there over night. But, no flights had gone out for like 3 days and people were sleeping all over the place. It was absolutely DISGUSTING! But, I will think optimistically and this trip will have no delays!
13 days and counting
Where did the summer go? I’ve been so busy that the summer flew by. I bought almost everything I need for Haiti. But, I still need to buy a few things here and there like bug stray and sunscreen. I just hope I bring everything I need. Hopefully all my years as a student will prepare me to be a successful teacher. I still have so much to do, but so little time. It still doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem like I’m actually leaving the country in 13 days!
Let’s hope for a safe and successful year in Haiti!
Haiti-Bound in 2 months!
If you know me then you know that I absolutely love to travel. I first traveled to Haiti in December 2005, as a senior in High school and fell in love. I fell in love with the Haitian culture, history, hospitality, and best of all the climate. Nothing can compare to the feeling I had when I first landed at the Toussaint L’Ouverture airport in PAP, Haiti. I felt like I was growing up, after all my parents were not with me! I went on a mission trip to an orphanage in rural Haiti; it was 4 hours or 60 miles outside Port-au-Prince. Upon returning, I delved into Haitian history and decided to research a way that would allow me to go to Haiti for an extended period of time. During senior week, May 2010, I found out that I had been accepted at a Volunteer for the Louverture Cleary School for the upcoming school year. That is when I decided that dreams really do/ can come true, but I had to work to make it happen.
When I inform friends, family, and acquaintances of my desire and utter excitement about volunteering in Haiti, I am often confronted with a plethora of questions. These questions range from “Why would you want to go there?” to “ Why after like 10 million dollars and like 10 million years is Haiti not able to sort things out? The USA was able to do so.” I wish the answers to these types of questions were simple, but it can be difficult to explain the current and past political difficulties Haiti has had to confront. After all, Haiti just is not a country that most people tend to spend their time researching. I will admit that I’d prefer to discuss Haitian history than to discuss my personal feelings. The questions regarding why I enjoying going to Haiti are the most difficult for me to answer. Yes, I love going and yes I have had difficulties being a girl traveling there; however, the good always out ways the bad. It is awe inspiring how people who have all the reason to give up and say that they can’t go to school, or that they don’t have the time to study are somehow able to dedicate the time to do the necessary work. Haitians, as a whole, value their education, while many Americans take it for granted. I love how the boys at the orphanage are able to have fun with absolutely nothing. I love that I can go a week with no phone, computer, or ac and have a fun time. I love that I can communicate with kids without speaking a common language. For example, I made a kite out of trash with one of they boys who couldn’t speak English. Yea, it definitely takes more work on both parts but that is the most gratifying part. Other times, I would play cards with the little ones who haven’t started to learn English in school yet, and somehow we are still able to play intense games of uno, go fish, and some other games that I suck at and don’t know their names.
Anyways, that was my pathetic attempt to explain my love for Haiti. It is merely something people have to experience there are no words that can explain what draws me to Haiti. I would like to reference a Haitian proverb, “Sa je pa we, ke pa tounen” it means that what the eye does not see does not move the heart. Simply put, Haiti is a country that must be experienced, not merely studied from afar.