Haiti wakes up early: people shouting, old trucks bouncing by, roosters crowing, an unhappy donkey next door braying to the sun. I’m awake at 5ish as the first grey light is starting to shine under the door. We come together at 7am for a breakfast of traditional Haitian pumpkin soup, and get ready for our first show of the day at a Doctors Without Borders hospital here in Jacmel. The pediatric ward is set up in a large white tent outside a large building which might have once been the hospital. The building still stands, but many of the remaining buildings here are vacated because they are no longer structurally sound. Plan is setting up a large number of school tents outside of school buildings right now for the same reason. Even when school buildings are structurally sound and deemed safe, some of the children who were traumatized by the earthquake will be too traumatized to enter them, another reason for the school tents. This pediatric ward tent is barely big enough for the eight or so beds lined with kids and families, and the nurses and hospital equipment. We can’t walk all the way through because of the tight space, so we pop in one side, do some gentle bedside visits, and the pop around to the other side. Heddy blows bubbles and dances to Joe’s guitar. I do a couple of magic tricks and toss juggling balls to the kids who are up and alert and wanting to catch them. Joe plays the guitar to the tiniest baby I’ve ever seen, which is wailing nonstop in its mother’s arms. It stops and looks up at him. A little crowd of mostly adults gathers outside the tent to see what we’re up to, so when we take leave of the sick kids we do a couple of small shows outside as well.
Then on to our next show of the morning. As we pull up we see that the next venue is a preschool. We have a quick huddle, making a plan to be flexible and gentle as we perform for such a young audience. Our first entrance provokes a few criers – white people! In weird outfits! – but as we take off our noses and begin the show, jockeying for position and flipping over one another as we all try to be the one to make the first announcement, the laughter prevails.
Waiting at the Plan office before our last show of the day, I get to talking to a man named Bernadel, who has been working in the office as an English/Creole translator. At first he expresses interest in Joe’s guitar: “I play the guitar too, but mine was destroyed in the earthquake.” I tell him I’m sorry his guitar was gone – I’m sure Joe would let him play his for a while. He says he lost his house as well, and his 2-year-old son, and he misses his wife who cannot stop crying and is staying with family near Les Cayes while he finds work here. He shows me pictures of his late son, his wife, the remains of his house where he wasn’t able to find his son’s body. A thirteen-year-old family friend was watching his son at home and she died as well. Bernadel was in a car at the time of the earthquake. A roof from a building fell and landed on the car. He was sitting in the passenger seat. The driver and the people in the back seat were killed, but he walked out of the car unhurt. “You are lucky,” I say. “No, not lucky,” he answers. “I am privileged.” He wants to get out of Haiti where all these bad memories are. “I hope that you and your wife will find joy together again,” I say. “Yes, I hope so,” he says. A few minutes later another Plan staff person came out to the porch where we were sitting and asked if we could add an extra show tomorrow, to perform for all of the Plan staff in the morning. “Yes!” we say. Adults need laughter along with the kids.