Yesterday we arrived in Haiti with our small group from Hanover, including our sewing teacher, Janet, my parents, Liesel Robbins, her mother Katie, and Flora Cullen. On landing at Port Au Prince, I was excited to be back on my fourth trip to Haiti. I was amazed by how much the airport had changed since our first trip months after the earthquake. When we first arrived at an airport it had been partially destroyed with large visible cracks in the terminal and only one operating runway. We were lead to a large open hanger that served as a temporary gate and the porters mobbed us in a frightening sea of people pushing and yelling. On this trip the airport was not only air conditioned, but also had some new stores. The newly built baggage claim was much less chaotic. Already it seemed that there were signs that conditions in Haiti were beginning to return to normal. We were very happy to see John Currelly waiting for us outside of the airport. Our sixteen bags filled with materials for our project could barely fit in the open pickup trunk, and had to be strapped down for the first leg of the trip up the mountain.
As we drove through Port au Prince we also saw improvements along the way. The roads that were previously strewn with rubble had been repaired. Partially destroyed buildings had piled into the street and devastation was everywhere. On this trip, Port Au Prince looked like it was beginning to be a functioning city and we even saw some large buildings being built. We only saw one small tent city, compared to the miles and miles of tents we had seen lining the road on our first trip. Where we had previously seen groups of homeless people sitting by the side of the road and begging for money, we now saw more people selling goods.
Continuing our tradition, we stopped at a pizza place and ordered delicious vegetarian pizza. After lunch, all of the luggage had to be transferred to a single truck for the trip up to Bois d’Avril and we only had five seats for eight people. So Liesel, Flora, and I volunteered to sit precariously on top of the luggage in the back of the pickup as we drove the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. The trip was exciting and very bumpy. All the Haitians on the side of the road stared at us as we passed, most of them laughing. On the final assent up the steep hill we felt as though we were perpendicular to the road, and held on for dear life as we peered over the side of a cliff!
We were grateful when we reached the top, and were greeted by Deb and the four dogs, two turtles, twenty-eight hens and roosters, two ducks, four guinea hens, four cats, and one horse. We took n a tour of the new improvements done to the Currelly property. There was a new building where the schoolteacher Christelle lives with her mother and son. A garden and a pond were also in construction. We then went downstairs and unloaded the 9 heavy bags filled with sewing materials that we had transported from home and dumped out our piles upon piles of fabric. After a long and exciting day we all were ready to go to bed.
Early the next morning the sound of roosters crowing woke us. We got out the sewing machines and made templates for applique stitching. We then went down into the village to alert everyone of our arrival and to tell them what time we would be ready for them. In the village Christelle, the head teacher, invited us to come into the school and teach the children English. I was excited to see how the cider-block shack that we saw on our first visit had been transformed! I was also eager to see the new students, some of whom we had sponsored to attend the school in our fundraising back home. There were three small rooms with a few tables, chairs, and a blackboard. The children were separated into the rooms by their ages. We all split ourselves up into the classrooms and started teaching, having no idea how much English they knew. I was assigned the smallest classroom and started out by reading words to them from a book of colors. I would then ask them to name the color in the picture book. They were very skilled at repeating words, but it was difficult to know the extent of their comprehension. They quickly caught onto the words “pink” and “blue” and also knew the body parts well after a song of “head, shoulders, knees, and toes”. I copied down words we were learning on the blackboard and had each student come up and copy down what I had written below. We also worked on shapes, the alphabet, numbers, and simple addition and subtraction. They were so eager to learn new words and were seem as excited as us to be working together on the lessons. It was rewarding to watch them learn, and to see them become less shy as the lesson progressed. We were all sad when the lesson was over, but promised to return tomorrow.
After teaching we went back up to the house to start our sewing. Since it was the first day we didn’t have a very large turnout, but we heard that many villagers were planning on coming tomorrow. With the small group that appeared we had them working on applique stitching. One women also wanted to fix a hole in her jeans, so we spent the morning teaching her how to use the treadle machine to sew up the torn clothing. The Currelly’s three granddaughters also came up this morning, and we worked with them to make potholders. After sewing we had a lunch of avocados, pickilies, and bread. The avocados were huge, and delicious.
After lunch we decided to go for a walk with the Currelly’s granddaughters. We walked around the base of Zombie Mountain, and returned a little sunburnt from the hot rays of the Caribbean sun. We finished the day with a long walk through the countryside and say many gorgeous views, as well as abundant farm animals. We came home tired but happy, and started to get ready for another full day of sewing.