Tears, Rain, Camouflage


This was our last day in Hinche. We were obliged to pack, say our goodbyes and prepare for travel. Leaving the people we’d worked with for this short amount of time was remarkably difficult. We’d become attached to so many of the key players during this project that it was actually painful and sad for all of us. On some level we initially knew this, but actually going through these moments was emotionally challenging. If I were to begin to list the names of those with whom we’ve become so attached, I fear I would drench my keyboard and never finish. I trust you get the gist.

On another note, thankfully, we had arranged to return to the Eucalyptus hotel we’d stayed at on our first night in Port au Prince. As it happened, we did lose a tire along the way and had to have it replaced. We were grateful for the spare tire as well as the fact that we got through the experience unscathed.  On our way through the mountains, we recognized a lot more than we had when we first got here. We each reflected on the beauty of the countryside and our sense of hopefulness for this place we’ve come to love. There is so much that has been done, so much to do and so much to say. We did a group, audiotaped interview with Pere Noe as we drove along. He talked of his wishes for the school

Upon arrival at the hotel, we were as welcomed as we were when we first arrived. It was nice seeing familiar faces who also recognized us. I think I can speak for the group concerning our disappointment about the fact that the pool was being repainted and we weren’t able to go for a swim. We balanced it out by sitting on the back porch, drinking eucalyptus tea, looking at the butterflies, surverying the construction that’s going on here and further reflecting on our countless experiences. To top the evening of, it rained again. YES!!!

Langue Melange


During today’s teacher training workshop, we went over the relationship between reading and listening. After explaining the pre, during and post stages of the reading process, we divided the teachers into 3 groups of 2 and had them read over the pre-printed sections of information we’d retrieved related to African American writers from the 1950’s. Each group was asked to become familiar with their section of the writings and discuss/clarify the information as a team. Next, we had them jigsaw and compare their information with that of the other teams. This brought about a lively discussion about authors and what it took during those time to get published. I gave a short review of the life and writings of Langston Hughes (poet, novelist, playwright, columnist and social activist).

Haley then followed up with a handout of Hughes’ fictional short stories, “Thank You, Ma’am.” She reiterated the pre, during, post reading technique and explained KWL (what you Know about a given topic, what you Want to know and what you Learned) We used this strategy, along with the reading, as an example of how the teachers might use it in their classrooms. We were encouraged by their engagement in the material and had to work hard not to continue the discussion further into the afternoon than we’d previously planned. Now that we know this, it might be good to have lessons like this the next time a Monterey team comes.

After the teacher workshop today we went to visit Shester’s English class. At last count, there were 83 students present, only 19 of whom were female. For the most part, the room was large enough to accommodate people. As the class progressed, more benches and chairs appeared. Shester began with general introductions. He then asked us to do an impromptu lesson. We were not sure of the language proficiency, so we started by asking all students who had at least two sisters to raise their hands. We then asked the 15 of them to come to the front of the class. Next, we asked each to tell his/her age so we could figure who was the oldest. Finally, we asked the oldest student, age 22 to talk about what it was like to have two sisters. We could tell from the response that our questions were clearly understood. We used this as a mini group language assessment.

We then divided the class into three groups to talk about how and why they were learning English and how they would use it in their lives. We circulated as they talked about it. Several students volunteered to come up to the board and write their thoughts on the board. For the most part, the students seemed willing to participate. However, when we asked for volunteers, the majority respondents were male. After having been asked, a few females came forward. The issue of the education of women and girls is one that I personally would like to further explore. It seems there is some disparity and I’d like to find out why.

The last thing we did with this class was to open up for a questions and answer period. Several students asked personal questions about marriage, love and relationships. They also wanted to know why we liked teaching English. An interesting thing happened while we were going through this process. There was a Haitian English teacher there named Supreme. He started to interpret some of the responses into Creole. After doing that a few times, he had one of this students who was training to be an interpreter come up and interpret our responses; sometimes into French, other times into Creole. It was interesting trying to find the rhythm of how much you could say before you had to stop for the interpreter. As an interpreter, I know how rough it can be, especially since most of the interpreting I’ve done is simultaneous. As the questions went on, Supreme had a few other students come up to interpret. Soon, the three of us had our own separate interpreter. Since most of the students speak at least Creole and French, an interesting future discussion might about adding English to their repertoire. This would obviously require much more intense study.

The Band – Singing the Clean Up Song


Every day the students at St. Andre’s arrive at approximately 7 a.m. For about 45 minutes, they attend classes. Then, at about 7:45, the entire school lines up for the pledge of allegiance. Before they raise the flag and sing the anthem, they sing a short song and say a short prayer in unison. Typically, the Haitian National Anthem is sung by the students. Today, however, it is played by a band which we didn’t know existed. There were a few trombones, trumpets, a cymbals and a snare drum. They played wonderfully. After the Anthem when everyone began to disassemble, they had a 5 minute marching band jam session. It was incredibly good. I couldn’t help but notice that a few if the brass instruments were missing knobs or otherwise not fully usable. The students were getting by despite the fact that their instruments were worn down. In the It might be nice to see if we can find some new or lightly used instruments for the band.

For today’s four o’clock lesson we talked about recycling. Marie and I shared a class of 52 students. We went over the meanings of the modals should, have to and must. We rehearsed and explained vocabulary related to recycling: trash, garbage, bottle, plastic paper and glass. We then came up with a dialogue and had students come up and act it out in pairs. Here it is:

“I have a plastic bottle. What do you think I should do with it?”

“You should recycle it.”

“Why not just throw it in the trash?”

“No, you could either take it to the recycling center or re-use the bottle.”

“What about the trash on my street?”

“You mustn’t burn it. Find a place to throw it away.”

“Cool. Thanks!”

The students seemed to like the idea of coming up and performing the dialogue in front of their peers. Typically when you walk the streets of Hinche, you see a pretty fair amount of garbage. It’s everywhere. It was our hope that engaging in conversation about this issue would raise consciousness. At the same time, we recognize that there is much more to be done about the issue of litter. Fortunately, two of the teachers taking the workshops have partnered with people in the community begun initiatives to clean up the streets. It is our hope that future teams that come here would be willing to continue these efforts.

I Heard That!


This morning I had the opportunity to interview Bernard Celestin, the electrician. On audio tape, he explained the electrical situation and his plan to remedy the problems; one of which was the fact that that there’d been someone who’d tried to steal some of the equipment and had done some damage in the process. I will make this tape available when we return.

Today was the third day of the teacher’s workshop. There were 7 teachers present. We began by having the teachers share written thoughts from their journals. Next we introduced listening activities as a way of enhancing fluency.

We emphasized that, during listening activities, it’s important to clearly set the expectations for the listening activity, activate prior knowledge, listen multiple times, make the material audible and understandable, and have an explicit listening purpose. Here’s what we did to exemplify the technique:

  1. Pre-activity – discussion of the meaning of parent-teacher conferences. During this discussion, we learned some interesting things about how or if this type of conference happens in the schools these teachers represent.
  2. During activity – we had the teachers listen to and watch a short video of a parent- teacher conference one time. We distributed questions about the dialogue and had them listed to the scene two more times. They then had time to ask clarifying questions and answer a multiple choice questionnaire about the video.
  3. Post activity – we asked the teachers to partner up and role play a short mock parent-teacher conference and to video record them on the XO’s.

The teachers seemed to enjoy the experience of creating the conferences and using the XO’s while they did it. We had them share their creations with one another. We ended by introducing the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and took some time to go over the sounds. We had each student phonetically spell his name and compare them with one another. We tried to do another exercise where they recorded words or dialogues on the XO’s and share them again with one another, but by this time most of the XO’s had run out of power. We ended class by asking a few teacher to review what they’d learned from the activities.

Another Busy Day


Each day, before we’re even awake, before the children arrive, several cooks begin to prepare meals for approximately 900 children who will be given the opportunity to eat. This food is prepared right downstairs outside the door from where we are rooming. From where we are, we can look down and see the work that is being put into it.  It is often these noises that awaken us from anywhere between 5-6 each morning. Because the cooks use charcoal (often carried in sacks placed on a woman’s head as she walks through town towards the school), we have to remember to close our windows so as not to be covered in the soot and ash the floats through the air. The smell, too, is inescapable. We have learned to live with it.

For many of these children, according to Pere Noe, this will be the only full meal of the day. Many of these children have traveled for over an hour to arrive at school to receive what their parents consider to be the best quality education possible. Modes of transportation in Haiti include the foot method, the tap tap (a makeshift small pickup truck which passes as a bus that is typically jam packed with people), the moped, and, for those whose parents can afford it, the car. No matter which mode of transport you use, you can expect to be somewhat covered with the dust of unpaved roads. When you look at the children, as well as the teachers, it is evident that they have done their absolute best to cover themselves during the ride. Somehow, they have found it possible to arrive at school with a sense of dignity and preparedness; dusted or not.

After breakfast this morning, Pere Noe announced that we would be going out to visit one of his other churches. It was a half hour bumpy ride through the mountains. I took photos of the emaciated cows, horses, donkeys and goats along the way. We also passed by people carrying water or other necessities on their heads. It was also not uncommon to see a chicken or a stray dog cross our path. Pere Noe talked about how he envisioned better use of the acreage where the church was located. He talked about how the inhabitants shouldn’t be given money, but should be taught the skills of irrigation, farming and carpentry so they could maintain the premises on their own.

The church, that from our perspective resembled a hut made of tree branches and covered with tarp, was where school was being held when we arrived. There were two adults teaching approximately 40 children of all ages who were seated on benches and the ground. Pere Noe did a check-in with the adults. He then showed us around and talked more about his dream for this place. Located several feet behind the church was an outhouse. This edifice was made of cement bricks. The place where business is handled was square shaped and also made of cement. I took a few pictures.

After we returned we went for a visit to a high school where Marc, one of the attendees of the workshop, teaches. It was about a fifteen minute walk from St. Andre’s. When we got to his classroom, I counted 76 students, 35 of whom were females. As it happened, this was the second day of their English class with Marc.  After talking with his students for a few moments in Creole, he began to speak to them in English. He had us introduce ourselves and gave the students some time to ask questions. He then asked us to give an impromptu English lesson. Because it came up during the question and answer period, we talk briefly about pronunciation. Next we talked about birthdays. We asked volunteer students to tell us in English what day they were born. Although most were born in the late nineties, one student proudly explained that she was born in 1982.  I found this interesting but didn’t get a chance to talk with the student more about her educational journey. Then Haley and Marie read through a short English dialogue and had a few volunteer students stand and read through it.

After lunch I was accompanied by La Croix on my hunt for a pair of shoes. It was nice having him along to see that I got them for a fair price.

While we were planning for our 4pm class today, we were informed that there would be a soccer game at a nearby stadium in the neighborhood. We were told that attendance would be down because if this. With this in mind, we decided to only teach for thirty minutes and then accompany the class to the soccer game. For class content, we chose to go over soccer game vocabulary. Luckily, Marie was totally familiar with the vernacular. During the game we had the opportunity to reinforce what we’d taught in class.

As is becoming a habit, we spent the remainder of the evening at Mr. Baldet’s laughing, talking and hanging out with members of the community. This time to wind down is much appreciated.