Sunday, November 1, 2009
Halloween – Machetes at the Nuncio’s
The night before Halloween we celebrated Samantha’s birthday with a costume party, cake and adult beverages. I wasn’t sure how the whole costume thing would work, since they don’t do costumes on Halloween here at all. But I was delighted to see how everyone rose to the occasion! I was a tap tap – one of those Haitian pick up truck / buses that’s always painted absurdly bright colors and usually has a bible quote written in English. Mr. Hubert, the principal and philosophy teacher for the oldest students, was Nietzsche – hence the serious face, white moustache and “God is Dead” quote. Jon was Route National 3 – so he’s covered in trash and a nice sign that says “don’t throw trash here.” We had a crazed surgeon, a bunny rabbit, an LCS student, a few rappers, a cocktail waitress, and oh yeah … Peter was a square. He wore a square around his neck and pulled his socks and shorts way up, and just generally acted like a big nerd all night. Very clever. We had a great time!
On Saturday we spent the day working at the Papal Nuncio’s residence. The Papal Nuncio is like the Vatican’s ambassador to a country. The Nuncio is responsible for representing the interests of the Vatican to the government, as well as recommending Bishops for appointment and lots of other bureaucratic things. The Nuncio in Haiti right now is a Philippino Bishop who speaks like 7 languages. Of course Patrick Moynihan – who knows everyone – knows him well, so he volunteered the services of about 15 staff members (and of course his own family) to come help with a pretty significant work project at the Nuncio’s residence.
I must first describe this place. It’s in the hills south of Port au Prince and the house has an absolutely stunning view of the plain below – including the city, the airport, the bay and the mountains to the north. It’s strange to see Haiti from above. It’s so quiet and beautiful. You can still hear the muffled sounds of real life below though – horns honking, tap tap’s music blasting, the cheers from a soccer game, children crying, bells ringing to announce the approach of a shoe shiner … but it’s just so peaceful from a distance. The house itself is beautiful. It has this strange mix of European décor with classic art work from Haiti. The chapel reminded me of Italy – full of silver and dark wood – but with angels made of metal on the walls that are clearly made in Haiti.
Our work project involved clearing small trees from a back hill slope as well as trees on the front of the property. With the help of some of the staff from the house, we cut down trees, chopped them into manageable sized pieces, and fed what we could through a chipper to create mulch to spread on the newly cleared areas. It was hard work – but so satisfying to watch this enormous pile of tree parts that was taller than any of us get smaller and smaller as the wood chipper did its thing. My machete wielding muscles are quite sore today however. There are few activities so demanding on the muscles in one’s forearms as chopping with a machete.
Now it’s Sunday and I have exams to grade. 100 of them, to be exact. And grading Spanish exams requires an attention to detail that I’m not really accustomed to – because it sort of matters if you spell something with an e or an a … that’s kind of the whole point. Off I go!