“Bon jou” from our first full day in Jérémie, Haiti! We began our day with a tasty breakfast prepared for us by Dr. Wolf and Cherlie. Almost all of us had spent the night sleeping on the second story balcony under mosquito nets. Not only is it practical to sleep where the air is cooler, but it is a treat to fall asleep under the stars and wake up to the sounds of Caribbean waves breaking on the coast.
We then headed into town of Jérémie to Sisters of Charity, which includes a children’s home and a hospice. Half of us went over to the children’s side to share coloring books, beads and pipe cleaners we brought. Though there was a language barrier we worked out a system to make requested pipe cleaner shapes. The most popular were glasses, a cross, and flowers. The children were overjoyed to have visitors, and we appreciated spending time with them. The other half of our group visited the women’s section of the hospice (across the street from the men’s), which included women and young girls. Hospices and orphanages aren’t quite the same in Haiti as in the U.S.; residents at both can include people whose families simply don’t have the resources to take care of them and sometimes they just stay for a short period of time. The students asked how they could help, and the sister brought nail polish! We painted nails, gave massages and made colorful pipe cleaner and bead jewelry. In both sites, the Haitians warmed up to us, joking around and acting more comfortable. The older women began showing their sense of humor and the children played with our hair and held our hands. We were only there a couple of hours but it was a worthwhile stop and hopefully a welcome distraction to the people we met.
After leaving Sisters of Charity, we ventured into the town square and market. We were able to journey through the market and see all manner of items for sale. There were live chickens being carried upside down by people, grains, clothing and ice-cold treats for the hot noonday sun. It was quite the experience to maneuver through narrow stall aisles with people moving through on foot and motorbikes squeezing in between. In the town square people were setting up a large stage– we hope to find out what it’s for!
When we came back to Dr. Wolf’s house we met with Gemy, the community organizer for the clinic where we will be doing our teaching. We were able to spend time going over the rough drafts of the lessons plans we wrote to see how appropriate they will be for teaching local community health workers. It was a long process, but we were all invigorated to see our teaching plans come one step closer to implementation.
We had another lovely dinner prepared for us by Cherlie and Gertrude. Our traditional Haitian meal included beans and rice, fried goat, fried plantains, okra (a fried root), and for dessert, sour sop—a new favorite fruit for some of us! We all left the table with full bellies and fueled minds. After we recovered from dinner, we moved back up the balcony to work on the logic model for our water and sanitation meeting. As the evening wears down, we kick back with cold drinks and friends.