Thursday, June 10, 2010
Snapshots of the last weeks
Back in March I was a little bored … not anymore! May has been busy and hectic and at times stressful and irritating, but also fun and joyful. A few snapshots of LCS in May …
Construction: The maintenance guys have been busy. They’ve rebuilt the front wall surrounding the school that came down in the earthquake, and have almost completed three other damaged walls. It’s amazing to watch them work. They had to break the old foundation to pour a new one, and there are no jack hammers for that. They did it with sledgehammers and pick axes. Then they had to pour the concrete, and there are no cement mixers. They do it by hand – mixing the sand, gravel, cement and water, stirring it on the ground, then shoveling it into wheelbarrows to transport it to the site. And did I mention that in the middle of the day it’s been in the high nineties for the past few weeks? In all of these projects, students have been working too. This whole place was constructed by this community, so students have always been involved in construction projects here. They’re so proud when they see the wall that they helped to build.
Schedules … again: Apparently it is my calling in life to coordinate school schedules. This has often been part of my job at PHA, and post-earthquake it has been one of my major responsibilities at LCS. This past week required coordinating the final exam schedules for the oldest students whose school year is over, while maintaining the normal schedule for the rest of the kids. Now I’m working on the schedule for the extended school year through June – though I won’t be here to see it happen. The graduates will come back in June to work with their professors to prepare for the national exams that they must pass later in the summer. I was working on their schedule today and then one of the kids tonight just said, “wait … we have to be here at 8? They told us 9 …” I really am the last to know anything around here. Back to the drawing board.
Liz’s visit: When I decided to come to Haiti last year, Liz Murray, my long time PHA colleague and most recent roommate, proposed coming to visit. She and I both know that chances to visit Haiti are few and far between, and April vacation seemed like the perfect time. Then … plans had to change. It looked like she wouldn’t be able to come at all since flights were not easy to book, and were not cheap, but then she figured it out somehow and spent five days at LCS last week. Not surprisingly – to anyone who knows Liz – she was hanging out with the 11 year olds in about ten minutes and was doing crowd control for the kids waiting in line outside the “store” within her first four hours in Haiti. She came with all kinds of supplies and goodies for kids (and some for the grown-ups too … if you’re ever wondering, frozen Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough will survive a flight to Haiti!) Mostly it was just so wonderful to have someone who knows me so well in my normal life witness my Haiti life.
A fresh coat of paint: Classes ended Wednesday and the younger students went home, and then the graduates returned to campus to do all the prep to make the school look beautiful for their families to see it on Saturday. It’s amazing what motivated kids can accomplish in a few hours! With only a little supervision from adults, they painted every flat surface they could get a paintbrush on, and the school buildings, benches, and walls look beautiful. They’re also painting their class mural, on the new front wall whose plaster was barely dry this morning. Their mural includes the names of the 41 graduates and their class name “Odyssey” with an incredible image of a ship at sea. Again, talent combined with motivation and a deadline yields some incredible results. And what were the adults doing while he kids painted? We made 20 cakes and 24 lasagnas for the graduation lunch. The cooks are making the “real” food, but we decided to pitch in where we could!
Goodbyes: The kids here see volunteers come and go every year, and to be honest, I expected them to be a little guarded in their relationships with us as a result of these annual goodbyes. But they’re not guarded at all, and their farewells were so sweet and their thank you’s so sincere. I’m so happy that five of the ten volunteers will be returning next fall, and two will stay until the end of the extended school year in early July. I think it will be so good for these kids to have some consistency, and as the years go on, to still have people around who shared the earthquake experience with them. When they ask why I’m not staying, I tell them that I promised some other kids I’d come back after a year, and that answer seems to satisfy them. But I’m dropping some pretty strong hints that I intend to visit in the not so distant future … maybe with some of those other kids I know.
Tet anba – upside down: We love to do things a little backwards at LCS – turning conventional things on their head. On the last day of class, that meant the staff showing up at the morning meeting wearing kids’ uniforms. We each conspired with a student to borrow their uniforms, then marched out in a line to stand in front of the kids at their daily 8 am meeting. It was pretty hilarious. Some of the staff members literally WERE LCS students a year ago, so they looked pretty normal in their green plaid skirts, but some of us looked pretty fabulously ridiculous. This uniform just does not look good on most white people. It was a wonderful moment of levity in a busy week full of exams and grading.