After spending the weekend traveling and getting adjusted to the environment, on Monday the harder work began. We traveled to the neighboring town of Leveque where they are building homes for 500 families who either have never owned their own home before or whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake. When we were there, thirty-two of the homes had been completed.
The organization we were working for is passionate about educating and employing Haitians and not just offering handouts, and so they have hired Haitians to build the homes and the visiting teams simply provide the finishing touches. On this day, our task was to paint two of the homes that had been recently completed.
One thing that I struggled with during the whole trip was balancing the task at hand with building relationships with the children gathering around. We were asked to paint houses and the organization was counting on us to complete the task.
But how would it be if a group of Americans worked busily painting the walls of the homes while ignoring the children gathered around desperate for attention. How do you prioritize your responsibilities? It was a question that I grappled with throughout the trip.
Last year when I returned from Haiti, I bought one of the few workbooks available to teach myself Creole (no Rosetta Stone available). Life got in the way and I didn’t spend as much time on it as I should have. I wished I would have taken the time so I that I would have had an easier time communicating with the boy that joined me for most of the day.
Trying to stay in the shade provided by the neighboring house, I was painting one of the external walls of the house when Clayson walked up and joined me. He helped me paint for a little while as we tried to communicate with each other. Thankfully I knew the phrase for “How do you say ____ in Creole? (kijan ou di ___an kreyol?.” I’m sure the same circumstance has played out with just about any language barrier, but Clayson ended up pointing at something and telling me the word in Creole. I would practice it. I would tell him the word in English. He would practice it.
Clayson is thirteen and while he doesn’t go to school right now, he is optimistic that he will able to return once they finish building the school in his new community. He is living in one of the temporary structures and will hopefully be able to move into one of the newly constructed homes as they continue to finish them. I felt especially guilty about not spending more time studying when one of my translators stopped by to talk to us, and Clayson told him that he was surprised about how much I wanted to learn Creole.
In a surprisingly display of popular culture, Clayson asked me a unexpected question toward the end of our day – “Do you know Justin Beiber?” I started laughing and questioned “Justin Beiber?” while mimicking his bangs with my fingers. He said yeah and began to sing “baby, baby, baby” This is what came next.
Please explain to me how Beiber fever has reached even here?!