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.

Regards, le pays – 01/19/14

Today began at 4:30 when we woke up to go to church in Pacasse. Pacasse is another rural location where Père Noé wants to build a bigger church building and a school.  It took us two hours to get there. I’m not trying to be a pansy, but I really thought we were going to die. We took a pick-up truck that was manufactured in 1950, and fit 6 people in the cab, and had the entire St. André’s women’s church choir (Espérance Divine) piled on benches in the bed of the truck. Also, when I looked over at the speedometer, I discovered that it was broken. I guess that’s information you don’t need to have when you’re not driving on a road and there’s no speed limit. The only times I really got scared was when the shifter got stuck on steep upgrades, when the headlights kept going out, and when we were going about 50 miles per hour around gravelly sharp curves. I have never lived so much in a moment.

On the road, we saw people walking with machetes (to cut sugar cane), and many people in their church clothes. Church is the main event of the week in Haiti. As we discovered, some people had walked four hours to get to Pacasse. The faithfulness of Haitian parishioners across the board is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I think their heavenly reward will be great.

Today’s service featured Father Roger Bowen, an Episcopal priest who has been coming to Haiti for over 30 years, and is a close friend of Père Noé. He travelled to Hinche with several staff from Trinity Episcopal School in Miami, Florida. They spent two nights in Pacasse, sleeping in the car. Our group was originally supposed to meet them on Saturday and spend the night, but Père Noé got a flat tire, and we had to go up in the morning. We consider this flat tire to be a bit of a blessing in disguise, especially after seeing the morning faces of the Miami group.

We learned about a little boy named Oginel. He is eight years old, and doesn’t live with his family. His father is a voodoo priest, and has many different wives. Oginel mother would beat him, and he never got enough to eat. So, he ran away and lived on the street. He would go to a hospital to get food when he could. Oginel is smart as a whip, and can speak some French and a little bit of English. He made it to the Saturday evening service in Pacasse, where one of the Miami team members adopted him (meaning will send money to support him – for food, clothing and school). Père Noé found a home for him to stay until March, when his American dad will come back for him and take him to the US.

Oginel really likes taking pictures. He took me and Marie to a couple of hills where we could see everything. When a perfect panorama was in sight, he told me, “Regards – le pays.” I looked around, and that’s exactly what I saw. Sometimes when people look at Haiti, all they see is poverty. While Pacasse is one of the poorest places I’ve ever seen, I can’t write it off as just another small Haitian village with hungry people and sick children.  It is breath-taking, the people are beautiful, and everything is so full of life. There is a lot of potential in Pacasse, and I see Père Noé’s work there as an investment, not a hand-out. As I was reflecting, Oginel took Marie’s and my cameras and didn’t give them back for a very long time. When I got my camera back, I had struck an ethnographic goldmine. Oginel had gotten pictures of every passer-by, what Antoinette was cooking for lunch, his friends riding a donkey, an angry cow, a baby, and a lot of adorable selfies.

There was a celebration today because it was the day of St. Peter’s confession (two Sunday’s after Epiphany). Many choral groups from various churches (even Loranette) came to perform. There was even a brass band that led us in a procession Everyone was dressed in their best. The room smelled like baby powder, incense, and hot people. The service was about 2.5 hours long.

Antoinette killed a chicken today. We ate it for lunch. She’s a professional. Marie watched her, and didn’t run away. Champ.

After lunch, we made our way back to Hinche. Marie and I sat in the back of Père Noé’s truck, and got a sunburn. All of the pictures from today have a particular glow about them.

We had told all of our students (ESL and Teacher Workshop alike) that the certificate ceremony would start at 5:30 pm, right before evening Mass as per Père Noé’s instructions. However, we soon discovered that we would be having the ceremony after the service. The sermon this evening was about the responsibility of knowledge and the empowerment of the youth. The youth are the ones that will change the country. At around 7:30, we began distributing certificates. I said some words before the distribution, and then three students came up and gave speeches to us, about what they learned and to say thank you. At one point during the ESL classes, one of my students asked me if I had a nickname. I said that my close friends call me Hales. When he thanked us, he thanked Marie, Gregory and Hales.

Gregory introduced the honorable mentions, and Marie gave a speech for the teachers. I hope I can type it up for all of you to see at some point. Then, Evens, Marc and Shester all gave speeches as well. This was originally supposed to be a time for them to present their exposé’s and for us to grade them as a kind of summative assessment. This didn’t work out at all. Afterwards, we hung out and took pictures with a lot of people.

It was raining during of all of this. Cats and dogs, it sounded like. For me, it always rains on goodbye days. Even though we’re still in Hinche until Wednesday, this ceremony marks the closing of a chapter. To prolong the closing, we went to the Baldé’s to get a Prestige. It tastes just as good in the rain.