The students have been out of school for the entire week for teacher training and then a national holiday. I have to admit that I was dreading this vacation. There is already a lot of “hang out” time in Haiti, and no school for an entire week sounded like it might set me over the edge. But yet again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have not felt bored out of my mind – quite the opposite really.
I have made friends with residents I had barely interacted with before. Fernel and Guerrier, both blind, have decided that they are my new best friends. They practice speaking English to me and I respond in Creole. Dr. Susan Nelson left me with a deck of braille playing cards after her visit in October, and we play cards for hours nearly every night. Jean Leonard is a new resident who moved in while I was in Seattle. He is deaf and has been practicing sign with me every day.
The days have been filled with music, manicures, lots of Uno and cards. I have played cards with a blind boy and two deaf boys – at the same time! In the evenings, after the power comes back on, I have gotten the opportunity to talk to Lindseska about politics. Lindseska is 10 years old and very opinionated. She asked to see a picture of the president of the United States. She had never heard of Donald Trump – something that caught me off guard since he is so omnipresent in American news.
She asked me genuine and intelligent questions about his policies and whether or not he had his own police. When I said no, he does not have his own police, she was amazed and explained that the Haitian president has his own police that cause a lot of problems. She continued to tell me about his policies and the president before him. We even covered the fact that American presidents are limited to two four-year terms, which she agreed was a good thing. We had a similar conversation the next night about the problems with the new president’s increase in taxation and even compared the pricing of items. When a friend gave me a Gatorade, she asked if people drank Gatorade in the U.S. all the time. I said yes, and she explained to me that Gatorade is 250 Haitian dollars, an enormous fee when compared to water, which is 2 Haitian dollars. She noted that the president increased the price of water from 1 to 2 Haitian dollars when he came into power, which is one of the reasons This is just one of the explains of why Haitians have been protesting his taxation for months now.
All in all, I feel that I have hit my stride in recent weeks in terms of communication. It has allowed me to make new friends and have deeper conversations, which then further improves my communication skills. Even without school, I have felt productive and important to life at St. Vincent’s.