Oh where to begin.
This weekend Liz and I made up 4 versions of English placement tests for the language school at Camp Hope. Come to find out, they were probably too difficult. We had an interesting time trying to come up with culturally and situationally sensitive questions for the writing assessment portion.
MONDAY: NOVEMBER 15 (first day of language school)
Today, we went into Port-au-Prince to make copies of the tests. After waiting for a while, Liz and I went to market down the street and hung out in the air conditioning while Valentin did all the work. Here, the electricity is unpredictable, so it took longer than expected because the electricity went out and all the machines had to be restarted. Liz and I, however, had time to come up with many wise things to share about different foods and their packaging. To give you a taste (pun intended,) anything with body builders on it is good for you, but anything with chickens that look like drug dealers is not.
By the time we made it to Camp Hope, we were 45 minutes late for class. We separated all the students into different classrooms and handed out the exams. Liz and I kept watch over our pupils. It is very strange for me, especially, because I am supposed to be their teacher, but I am so much younger than almost all of them. We were able to pick out the troublemakers very quickly. After a few hours of testing, we were wiped out and hungry. We did, however, discover that the 75 students we thought we had had morphed into over 100. We also have no idea to go about teaching a beginner class with a book completely in English and without adequate Creole skills. Yikes! When we got back, we ate dinner and then fell asleep on the beds for a quick cat nap. It was an early night.
TUESDAY: NOVEMBER 16
Today, we woke up early to the live chickens in the backyard being made into lunch…they didn’t sound happy. The mosquitoes must have mated and multiplied during the night too, because the air was thick with them. I got bit on the butt a couple times at some point…just lovely! Liz and I spent the morning grading tests and in near tears every time we came across one with an actual answer on the writing assessment portion. Letters written to family and friends, words of hope for a job to be able to help their families….
I rode Kellcy’s bike around the house which, to say the least, is a little too small for me. But it made for a pretty funny camera video. The car broke down, so Valentin wasn’t able to take us to Camp Hope. So, Liz, Dessalines, and I took a Tap-Tap. That was quite the experience. Both the dust caked to my face and upper body and the feeling of a prolonged near death experience make for a good time. We did make it to Camp, however, but 45 minutes late again. Today, we did “oral exams.” We took one student at a time and asked them a few questions. Almost all of my students spoke basically no English at all, so it was very quick. A couple did okay and a couple were very proficient. When I asked one guy to explain what was in the room, he said “Well, there is a blackboard. It’s not really a blackboard, more like cement…..” Ok, you speak English. This went on for about 45 students each.
And I saw Thomas, Serge, Ritha, and Lamy today. Yes mom, Thomas asked about how you were doing.
Liz and I hung out on the roof for a little while. It is gorgeous up there at night. I gazed at the stars for a little while and then brought up my iPod and we danced like goofballs. We’re trying to come up with a way to string a sheet so we can project movies up there.
As I write, Stellcy is roaming around our room cracking up at her self in the mirror and walking around removing various items of clothing as she gets hot. I wish it was still socially acceptable for me to do that, since I am so temperature challenged!
WEDNESDAY: NOVEMBER 17
Today we woke up really late, had our usual carbo loaded breakfast, and got to work inputting results of the written and oral English tests into excel. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about how we are going to organize the classes and execute the lessons.
It took me around an hour and a half to do my laundry by hand today. Three buckets: wash, rinse, fabric softener. My hands were so cramped up by the end. Then the line was too high for me to reach to hang my clothes so it took me, Dessalines, and Marceline to complete the job. Come to find out, my hand washing skills aren’t up to par…I need lessons.
When Liz and I tried to take a quick walk down the road by ourselves, Dessalines came running up to us after about 20 paces. We weren’t scared until he startled us. So, apparently unsupervised walking is a no-no…unsupervised anything for that matter.
A “One Love” each on the roof and some fuzzy cell phone radio tunes and it was time to call it a night. Apparently, the sun here didn’t get the memo on when to rise and set. Up at 5:00am and down at 4:30-5:00pm. It makes the night hours pass a whole lot slower.
FRIDAY: NOVEMBER 19
We spent the morning in Petion-ville trying to find a way to get internet here, but that didn’t work out too well. Super expensive. So for now we will be getting online only when we can make it to the internet cafe.
I don’t usually say this kind of cheesy thing, so I think that I’ll take this opportunity to do so. When I was in the Dominican Republic, Julian said something to me that really made me think. He asked how I could be friends with Fernelis, who speaks only Spanish. He said: “you do not even understand each other. You do not speak the same language.” And then I came to Haiti, and I am living with and among more people with whom I cannot really communicate in the normal, easy way. For example, Stellcy and I are buddies and I cannot figure out a word that comes out of her mouth. But then I realized that this is the beauty of it all. Human connection doesn’t require verbal comprehension. Friends don’t require words to form bonds. We have the capacity to understand, to love one another with no more than a friendly demeanor, a smile, and a little effort. It really is an interesting and amazing thing to consider.
Until next time…