By Hilarie Rath
Many people have asked about my recent trip to Haiti. I’ve found that my short answer is, “Amazing! Simply amazing!” Given that it is challenging to put many awe-inspiring moments in a nutshell, I’ll just share a vignette.
My second trip to Haiti was grounded in the hope of developing cross-cultural understanding, especially among children. The first part of my preparation began with the children in my homeroom at Aldo Leopold Community School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We met with the author, Baptiste Paul, who wrote a poem for us in both Creole and English. Baptiste did some research to make sure there would be no confusion between the Creole of his home, San Lucia, and the Creole of Haiti. Then he came to help us learn how to speak the poem, entitled “Unity.” My students then performed this poem with drumming and dance so we could send a video to the children of Haiti. These students also made friendship bracelets for the Haitian children. Our seventh grade students wrote letters to 60 students at Monsignor Remy Augustin School. The students in Haiti also sent letters, bracelets, and pictures back to the students at Aldo Leopold. The students now have the opportunity to continue a letter writing relationship.
A troubling moment for me was when we encountered a truck that was stuck right in the middle of our path to Noyau, where the new elementary school is to be built. We knew that the children would only be in school for a short while, but there was no other way to get there in a reasonable amount of time.
We waited and waited for this truck to move. A few things were tried, such as moving a few rocks in the dip, but nothing seemed to be working. It was clear the people in Pere Leveque’s vehicle were growing restless. In turn, each person shared an idea to solve the problem. Except for Pere Leveque. He is the only one who said nothing. His face suggested tranquility. At this point, we were parked right next to Big Randy, the green truck in the front. After a while, Pere Leveque backed up and out of the way. We watched and waited some more. Finally, Big Randy fired up and lunged forward. The trucks moved out of the way with no time to spare.
I didn’t take a survey, but I’m sure that everyone in that vehicle said a prayer of thanksgiving at this point and we were on our way. We arrived considerably later than expected, but our close call made it all the sweeter.
Because of the time delay, Golds could only show the video from the children at Aldo Leopold once, but they seemed to be captivated, despite the small computer screen. I can only imagine how those teachers must be longing for classrooms of their own, where everyone can see and hear!
The children also sang a song of welcome for us in English and Creole. Then with vibrant drumming, we all enjoyed their playful round of musical chairs.
I reunited with a student from an earlier trip to Haiti, Pateau Benjeline. She gathered her friends and I taught them a folk dance in English. Golds Mithe Joseph translated so the children would understand the meaning of each movement.
I don’t think it’s possible to adequately describe what I felt in crossing challenges of language and culture. The mutual joy was evident. These were holy, graced moments, sharing the delight of learning and being together.