Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nothing "Typical" About A Typical Day In Haiti

It's Friday, and the day begins like any other...There's really no need for alarm clocks in Haiti. If the roosters aren't exhausted from "cock-a-doodle-doo-ing" all hours of the night, they are up with the sun and determined not to be alone. Baby goats, the neighbor cow, and the workers digging out the cistern on the compound join in the cacophony. 

First things first: Babies, then coffee! I usually head to the nursery between 6:30-7am, about the time the day shift nannies arrive to relieve the night shift.  The babies are just beginning to stir, and they are HUNGRY! Especially little Jeziman, who is determined to catch up with the "sumo-wrestler" status of the rest of his nursery mates, just as soon as he can get those long fingers out of his mouth and figure out how to drink from the crazy looking bottle we brought for him! (the haberman feeder is specially designed for babies with cleft palate) Once the babies are changed, fed, and dressed in cute, preferrably matching, outfits, I head back to the main house for a much needed caffeine boost.  Haitian coffee is the best!!

After breakfast, Kerby (who is deaf) and Sabrina are gathered up and put in the truck to head down the street to the special school for children with disabilities, where they attend 3 days a week.  On this day, however, they return only a half an hour later because there is no school...It is strangely reminiscent of the mile long walk I used to take with my brother to get to school in China, only to find out on arrival that it was a "very important holiday" (but not important enough to tell us beforehand) and therefore school was cancelled for that day. Rule #1 in a foreign country: be flexible!  Diane asked Amy and I if we could work with Kerby 1:1 for part of the morning, so he wasn't totally thrown off by not being at school.  So, after I got Jeziman securely tucked in the moby wrap, we caught up with Kerby and headed up to the "tutoring room", armed with sign coloring book, preschool computer games, and plastic sorting/lacing frogs. Kerby was a model student for almost 30 minutes! He imitated color signs and was putting 2 signs together to request the frogs.  Then came the inevitable meltdown when he didn't get his way. I must say, though, that given the fact he had probably never even been in that classroom before and certainly had never worked at "home" with the sort of expectations Amy and I put on him, he did exceptionally well! Once we got through the tantrum, we went back downstairs with the intention of returning him to the oversight of his nanny.  We didn't make it all the way back to his house because 2 of the toddlers, Marie Denise and Jessica, wanted in on all the learning fun. Amy sat on the steps with the three of them and modeled color signs, simple songs, and sharing. :)  They absolutely ate it up!!

Next on the agenda: back to the nursery for another round of feedings and a little "baby circle time" in the bumbo and bouncy seats. They were mesmerized by my overly-dramatic rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider".  It always does a teacher's heart good when there is full engagement by the audience, no matter the age. The attention didn't last long, given that all of the babies are 7 months old and younger.  :)  I tried in vain to regain the attention of one of the boys by calling his name repeatedly.  Finally, I was resigned to use one of the few Kreyol phrases I've learned in the past 2 months.  "Gade Mwen!" (look at me!) Instantly 3 babies' heads turned as if on a swivel and I momentarily had full eye contact and undivided attention! Rule #2 in a foreign country: any attempt to speak the native language is highly encouraged and usually met with a favorable response. 

Before lunch, Josue (the spiritual director for the kids at HAF), walked us over to the school where all the children 3 yrs and older attend.  Amy and I observed the 3 yr old class for about an hour until their dismissal at noon.  50 kids all seated quietly around 3 large tables...Amazing! And cute as can be in their little uniforms. They all got up to sing a funny little song, then joined hands and repeated after the teachers in a prayer, thanking Jesus for the day and blessing their moms and dads.  We were absolutely mobbed in the school yard and tried unsuccessfully to distingush "our kids" from the others.  Three adults trying to keep tabs on 18 preschools while walking down a busy Haitian street gives a whole new meaning to "herding cats". Once we all got safely back to the compound, everyone scattered for lunch and play time. 

The afternoon was relatively uneventful until 2 of the older boys were rough-housing and Junior fell down and ended up with a nasty little gash on his forehead.  This is the point at which it comes in very handy that the field director at HAF happens to be an ER doctor.  One of the two dining room tables in the main house is quickly covered with towels and transformed into a triage unit.  Dr. Ken injects a local anesthetic after setting up a sterile environment and stitches up the cut while Cameron and Emi stand by to comfort Junior.  And just like that, the procedure is finished and the "ER" morphs back into the dining room. 

Amy and I were included in the newly adopted Friday night tradition of dinner out at a local hotel restaurant on the beach...for pizza! Not exactly Papa John's, but nonetheless it was delicious! The weather was delightful, as was the company. Dr. Ken and Diane are such incredible people. I feel truly honored at the prospect of working alongside them in the coming months!

The rest of the evening was chronicled in my note "Facebook and the Power of Prayer".  After all the drama and struggles of the day, which didn't end until well after midnight, all I can say is the hand of God is clearly at work in Haiti and in the lives of each of the beautiful children I spent my spring break with.  I miss the typical day in Haiti already!

Wow!! Two hours later, and I just realized and left out a major chunk of the afternoon.  That's pretty much how the day went any ways. Amy and I kept looking at each other, saying,"Did that really all just happen in one day??"

Somewhere between the dining room/ER and dinner, Dr. Kyle arrived from up in the mountains with little Jameson and his grandmother.  At first we thought he was a girl, because of his absolutely beautiful features, long braids, and pink onesie. Jameson is 13 months old and weighs only 13 lbs, the same as Martiline, who is only 7 months old.  His mother died shortly after giving birth and the father is nowhere to be found, so the grandmother has been caring for him all this time. Except now her husband is sick, too. So she had to make a choice. I sat at the table as Diane did the in-take questions and I could see the sadness in the grandmother's eyes. She didn't know what else to do, so she came to HAF. She was embarrassed that she didn't know how to sign her name, so with gentle reassurance she simply made an "X" on the paper.  She reluctantly admitted that she was hungry from the long drive down the mountain, so while she ate, we took Jameson to the nursery, bathed him and changed his clothes.  When we came back out, she was gone.  Jameson reminds me of a baby monkey, the way he wraps his legs around and clings to whoever happens to be holding him.  He had some serious transition and separation anxiety that first night, but I'm happy to report that the older girls have taken him under their wing and he has been reported to smile often now.  He's a good eater, so I'm sure he'll be just as chunky as the rest of the little ones in no time at all. :)

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