7 March 2009

Pulling up to the blue painted caste iron gate, cars, trucks and tap-taps swerve around our beat-up maroon Isuzu Trooper; there are just as many people walking around the car as we wait for the gate to open. The sidewalks aren’t wide enough for the vendors, selling everything from brightly wrapped candy to plates of spaghetti and clothes, people walking and others just sitting. The walkers spill into the street holding the hand of a child or effortlessly balancing baskets on their heads. These streets are wild and full.

Haitian car signals are unique to the country, as far as I can tell, consisting of pointing in the direction you are planning to go, waving someone else on there way, honking in different rhythms to indicate your presence/change of direction and maybe yelling. It is anarchic to say the least.

Tap-taps are the primary form of most inexpensive transportation. For the Haitian equivalent of a dollar you are packed like a sardine into the bed pick-up truck, with wooden plank seating and a caste iron overhang built over the truck bed. Most that we have seen are wildly spray painted in so many bold colors, with portraits of Jesus, Bob Marley or Aristide and all with sayings like “shalom” (peace in creole), or “merci jesus”.

As soon as we pull through the gate, a calm quiet prevails in comparison to the seemingly chaos on the street. We bump along a white rock road with lush, green overgrowth past wide open church, many homes and smaller gated/walled areas. We pull up to our destination, as we are ushered into the kitchen/living room and asked to sit, twenty orphan girls between the ages of five and thirteen enter to sit with us. They each politely pick an adult of our group and give a cheek kiss-kiss greeting to introduce themselves. We sit and talk or play a little, Olivia’s hair is the biggest novelty, as we speak with the adults and hold hands.

It is the first group of many, where the children can stare for a long time.

We decide where we play the show, they carry our things and chairs for themselves; rather than let go of a hand they have found to hold.

They are all wearing dresses. I don’t know why I found this curious, until I started writing and realize they were all wearing dresses. Not a one was wearing pants or shorts. Yet, they played and danced and ran around no matter the dress or shoes they had on. After the show, we played with them, letting every child try more than once the acrobatic balance of standing on our thighs: Angel pose. Some of them began doing Angel together.  I am really impressed how aware they are of their bodies, and how easily they take to the basic partner acrobatics.

The time when we have to leave is particularly hard when we have gotten a chance to play or do a workshop with the kids. Olivia said she had seen that look before– a deadening in their eyes as they understand we have to leave, just as they have been left before. We had both seen it before, but never from every single child.

This is the hardest part. This is the part that can make it complicated and makes me wonder and think how I can do more.

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