July 2011

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Plan, packed, and away. The three volunteer ESL teachers did just that in July when they headed for Limbé where they taught English at the HHN Center to both children and adults. (see blog) This was Nicole’s third trip to Limbé  with HHN where she worked on her film making in between times. For Dave and Jen it was a first and an experience they have each said was worthwhile. Our volunteers bring energy, new ideas, and a different perspective to the people of Limbe’, and it is an enriching experience for all.

The demonstration Permaculture garden at the center, tended by Lunise and Merlin, is a source of pride and inspiration for all who see it. Merlin has plans to develop a larger plot to which he has access. Sending the two to the Permaculture course in Cap Haitien was a good investment which is literally bearing fruit.

Orcas Island supporters, and one young man from Olympia, provided us with three laptop computers which the travelers took to Limbé. These will be used at the center for both education and communication. Another step forward.

In August we’ll host Limbé Public Health Doctor Richemond Jean-Baptiste. More about that then.

The graduates of the kids class, "Timoun Klas Angle, Kay Noramise", July 2011

Following post is from Dave Parrish:

We’re almost at the end of the first week. I’m getting to know my students whom I like a lot. One thing I’ve noticed is that they aren’t used to group work. Today I was having them write a dialog in pairs where one person would write one line and the next person would write the next. That was a totally foreign concept. Even after my instructions they persisted in writing their own. Finally they relented and tried my way.

I’m guarding in my memory an image of Irose as an image of Haiti. She was sitting at her treadle sewing machine looking at her cell phone.

The heat is unbelievable. I’m thankful for this house and the shade in the back yard.

Two of my favorite parts are the beginnings and endings of class. Singing. They harmonize right away. Full voices.
All for now. Dave

Kids hard at work!

Students tell us about their families with basic drawings

Girls cutting out pictures to describe people’s features

English-Kreyol Hour

Blog post by Nicole Vulcan:

Just finished the second day of teaching English at the Noramise house, and it’s been so much more revealing into the culture than the cordialities can ever be.

Jen and I are teaching the kids class, a sweet group of about 20. In Haiti, 7 year olds are the size of American four year olds, so I look with wonder at the little nymph who is the same age as my own child. With their diminutive frames, ten of them fit on one bench of the Noramise outdoor classroom – which measures about seven feet long. But the differences are more than physical. First off, it’s obvious the kids have very little exposure to visual arts. They can sing in harmony from a very young age, but visually, they know so little.

This morning Jen and I did a unit on families, showing them crude drawings of our own families that we’d colored by candlelight the night before. Then we brought out a box of crayons (lifted from my daughter’s ample art supply shelf) and asked the kids to draw their own families. Never have I seen a group so unwilling or unable to engage with their own creativity. The kids wanted to copy my paper, yellow-colored, blue-eyed figures of my own family; several kids used yellow crayon to draw their figures, wanted to look at my drawing for help knowing how to make a person. Only one boy, the oldest in the class at 14, displayed any sense of creativity on his paper, drawing a Caribbean sunset and palm trees in lieu of the evergreens I’d put on my drawing. The seven year old’s figures were mere blobs of color with no head, arms, legs or other distinguishing features.

It is clear from this group (which I know to be an unrepresentative sample that errs on the more affluent side among denizens of Limbe) that kids here are lacking in creative play. It was also evidenced by the unenthusiastic way they engaged in hopscotch to practice numbers; kids I’ve taught in other countries like this exercise because they get to see their classmates look silly…but in this group half the kids took to sitting down or listlessly looking on. Perhaps the most interesting exercise was watching them play Letter Bingo. Three girls won the first three rounds, making the boys sound off that the “garcons” were losing out in this game of chance. Some of the boys ended up getting the gimmies and expected to be given winner’s prizes, simply because they demanded it be so. When I told them no, they mumbled in Kreyol that they didn’t like the game, though fortunate for me my Kreyol is steadily improving!

I know I should not be upset over the way those boys demanded things… “Nicole give me a chocolate,” since this a symptom of limited English and not necessarily rudeness. Still, I take issue with this child’s sense of entitlement, as if he is somehow exempt from the rules of the game. I naturally extrapolate this into an overall view of the Haitian economy — the majority of its citizens playing by the rules while a few think they deserve more without merit.

Thus the missive of all missives, which comes into play whether it’s in Bingo or world economics: to foster the idea of earning bread through hard work, while all around them men languish with astronomical unemployment, women toil in charcoal-fired kitchens and raise babies, and the country crumbles under officials who seize power and hold on to it absolutely…

I humble myself and admit I don’t know where to begin or even if I’m helping; not the first in a line of blans informing Haitians how to live and be.

Taking a break for ball during the kids’ English class. See the Team Noramise “jardin” in the foreground, new outdoor classroom to the left!

Here are Lunise Joseph and Merlin St. Fleur with the seed packets donated by Sow True Seed of Asheville NC.  Lunise and Merlin attended the permaculture design course in PaP in May.

Blog post by Nicole Vulcan…

“I feel like I keep saying O my god,” David says as we round another bend in the Limbe marketplace. True, there is lots to lament upon in this place where soiled discarded shoes mix with old animal horns and a gooey black muck, all very near thin mats where young and old sell beans, rice, used clothing and little bags of Dominican chips.

We’ve been in Limbe now a few days, and have rarely left the Noramise compound. Inside its gates lies a mini Haitian paradise, in the form of clean, dirt free floors (thanks to Rosedanie’s no shoes policy), a tidy yard with fruit trees, shady places for sitting and Lunise’s vegetable beds (one of the caretakers of the house, who recently attended the first-ever Haitian permaculture training in Port-au-Prince), as well as good fresh food and comfortable beds. Yes, showers are by and large taken with a bowl of water flung over the body, and the toilet flushed with buckets, but there ARE toilets and a clean bathroom, which is a far cry from the amenities available in the huts we passed on the road to Limbe.

And, a far cry from the church where we stayed on the team’s first trip, which lacked the basic amenities named above and stood just outside the marketplace. Back then heaps of trash, worse than now, burned in fetid piles. That’s why I had to smile a little when David made his comment, since now, thanks in part to the efforts of Team Noramise, there are no longer piles of burning trash, but instead only smears of trash here and there. Overall, I see improvements in the situation here — in the marketplace, in the accommodations for Noramise volunteers, in the general feeling of hope that pervades the house and the people who are part of the organization. I am heartened by progress as the journey continues, though we all know there is so far to go…

The following post is from Nicole Vulcan, (Vulcan Media Inc.) who is a member of the volunteer team now on the ground in Limbe:

In the film world, one way to move from one distinct scene to another is with a cross dissolve, where one scene slowly blends in to the next. Traveling from the U.S to the Dominican Republic and then on to Haiti is like a cross dissolve. We leave our pretty paved comforts and travel to a place where cracks start to show; things are not as organized or “straight” here, but there is still beauty and order among the raw life of the DR. We stayed in Santo Domingo’s colonial zone, where old meets new, and we were afforded comforts like aircon, cold beer and water flowing freely from the taps.

Then it was on to the other side of the cross dissolve, in the cool cocoon of a Caribe Tours bus, taking us in insulated comfort into Haiti’s northern region. We know this from history books to be the first place colonized in the Americas, once the Pearl of the Caribbean, and upon my third entry into this country I’m still intrigued, shocked and hopeful enough to keep believing the pearl is here…somewhere…

As we pass into Cap Haitien, I see the awe in my companions faces, the same I had, that this city, with its brownblack bay choked with garbage and the carcasses of boats, its streets teeming with sooty burning trashpiles and lotto stands, could possibly ever have been “The Paris of the Antilles.” My own pained awe is lessened somewhat from the last two times, but it’s still there…

As we make our way off the cool bus and into the wash of humid heat, the reality of our arrival hits. This is the part of the film where the dissolve has stopped, and the new scene begins in full; in this case, it begins with the mad thump of four drummers, greeting the arrivals at the bus station.

to be continued….

The team will be working on several projects from July-August, but the principal focus will be ESL training for the Haiti Committee. Visit our website often to see ongoing updates and images posted by the team!