Thursday, April 4, 2013

Haitian Sun

We strategically planned last night-- to the class sizes, age ranges, interests and physical space available to us and girded our loins for a blown Plan A as we rose. The rain was pouring. Plan A was to take 68 kids into the flat cement and dirt "playground" to paint their quilt square. Our idea for a prompt had evolved. Rabbi Henry, the rabbi in the group, suggested that we use the Jewish prayers for daily miracles as a starting place. She was to discuss this with the children and ask them about things they are grateful for every day-- then ask them to paint these things. There is no room in the classrooms to paint, so no bueno on Play A. Can't paint in the rain.

At the guest house, we swung our legs over the back of the truck and envied the ones who got to sit on the wheel cover. Much comfier than the bed of the pickup. We sloshed back and forth down the steepest incline imaginable, over a road that was a road only in name. More like a collection of different sized boulders, truthfully, sliced through with deep groves that sent one side of the truck jerking down at an alarming angle. There are no atheists in the back of a truck in Haiti. To say my life flashed before my eyes would be excessive, but I did imagine my skull smashed like a pumpkin if the truck flipped over. I hoped it wouldn't. Clutching each other, with one woman on my knee and another using my other knee as a safety bar, we made it to the school.

And the sun came out. In all kinds of ways. We found a tarp to place in a hall on a veranda. We took twenty-five sixth graders onto the veranda and left the others in the classroom, who now had greatly increased elbow room. Each group of ten or twelve kids got seven colors of paint-- the rainbow-- and a brown, white and black. They got a Dixie cup of plastic jewels that sparkled, paint brushes, water and glue. Rabbi talked to them about our idea for what they might paint. We held our breath. Would it interest them? Would it be relevant? Were the translators able to get it across?

The silence once the groups were in their painting spots was our answer. Our children, boys and girls, sat in engrossed, brilliant, happy silence. The painted, they drew, they bejeweled. They didn't have to be told to use all of the space or to be neat or do their best work. Orange houses grew beneath their hands, and palm trees and pictures of families. Many flowers, huge and glorious, bloomed on the quilt squares. Maps of Haiti and the Haitian flag. Jesus' name, like painted valentines.

We couldn't get them to stop. Our finis time came and went. We canceled our next group and let them stay with it. It was wonderful.

I went to a first grade (a preschool) and these tiny ones painted tap-tap buses. Their teacher sang the Haitian anthem and the Kreyol alphabet song. I sang America the Beautiful and A-B-C. We smiled at each other a lot. Barbara Broff Goldman, the artist of the trip, was downstairs sewing rouge, jaune, orange, vert et viollette ribbons on quilt squares with fifth grade. I found that although I felt (and sounded) ridiculous, my 8th grade French helped a lot. Thank you, Reizenstein et Madame (my French teacher-- can't remember the dear lady's name. But thank you anyway!)

We came home after school and showered and rested.Marie Estelle is grinding spices in a huge wooden pestle in the kitchen. Something smells delicious.

I went out on the veranda and took a long breath. I watched the rooster and his huge poulle family hop around a field. An emaciated cow chewed patiently, slowly, nowhere to go, the sun warm on her back. I watched the waving banana leaves and the bouganvilla bobbing in the breeze. I'm turning from blanche to rouge. I'm breathing again, soaking in the Haitian sun. It feels great.

No comments:

Post a Comment