My last morning in Haiti. The guest house is quiet, not even the cooks are awake yet. I think it was the dogs that woke me up this time, for some reason they start barking between 3 and 4 AM every night. Stephen is sleeping on the couch across the room from where I sit at the computer. He does not like to go to bed, even in Haiti. So he falls asleep on the couch, like he has since he was a little boy.
At supper tonight we talked about our favorite things in Haiti, and our least favorite things. The group had few items under the “least favorite” category. They miss hot baths and water pressure (the shower sprays a half-hearted stream of water that is anywhere from ice cold to tepid). Andrew says his first meal in America will be a Big Mac. He says he doesn’t even like fast food, but says, “I love America, and I want a Big Mac”. This is Andrew’s first trip overseas. What a way to experience the world outside of the United States.
Most comments were about what people like. Brandy says “I like the whole trip, everything about it”. Robby says Frenel is “the sweetest kid on the planet”. Stephen liked taking pictures of everything and everybody, trying to capture the spirit of St Vincent’s and of our work here. Shruti said that working in the clinic was the best part for her, and the most frustrating. Andrew liked working with Dr Jenn in the Physical Therapy (PT) clinic. There were two PT students (see earlier post) who were excited to learn from her, and Andrew could see the huge difference she made with the children she worked with. He observed that the students “wrote down everything Dr Jenn said”.
My favorite experience in Haiti is sitting with Marie Carmelle, soaking it all in. Marie Carmelle has a particular spot where she sits in her wheelchair most of the day. It is near the kitchen, at the foot of the steps up to the dorms. If I sit with her, we will have conversations in broken english (hers) and Kreyol (mine). She teaches me new Kreyol words. I can ask her anything about the school, and she almost always knows the answer. I can point out kids who walk (or run) past us, and ask their names. I have been unpleasantly surprised at times when I inquire about one of the young deaf children, and she doesn’t know their name, nor does anyone else, not even the child himself.
Today on our last afternoon, I asked Mackenson to come and play his guitar for me, so we all sat near Marie Carmelle and listened. Adam brought his guitar and joined us. Mackenson has a sweet tenor voice and sings his ballads in Kreyol or French, including songs he wrote himself. Slowly people gathered to listen, American and Haitian. The deaf children like to put their hand on the body of the guitar and feel the vibrations. One of the girls kept putting her fingers on the guitar strings at the frets, near Mackenson’s fingers. Mackenson does not mind, he just keeps on playing and singing softly. No frown appears on his face for this pesky kid. Raphael, a boy of about 8, went over to Adam, who let him strum the guitar strings with his hand. I say his hand, because he has no fingers on his right hand. But fingers are not required for strumming.
The older girls Mariline, Clauricianne and Genie sit on the stairsteps, Genie at the top with her prosthetic leg, Clauricianne who has no legs, rests her head on Genie’s knee. Mariline (two missing legs, one with a prosthesis) rests her head on Clauricianne, her crutches propped against the stair rail. All are content, listening to the music, enjoying the mild breeze.
This is my sanctuary, sitting with the family that is St Vincent’s, that has become my family. If sanctuary is a safe place, a protected place where one can rest and restore the soul, then that is exactly what sitting at the bottom of the steps at St Vincent’s school is for me.