June 2004- End of school year in Haiti

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June 23
Just once it would be nice to be on a plane that is leaving Haiti on time. I’m at the airport, all ready to fly to Miami, and the plane that was to take us to Miami hasn’t even arrived yet. I guess maybe it’s actually the Miami plane that is late, that then causes my Haiti plane to be late. All I know is I’m starving and thirsty and of course there is no such thing as public water fountains in this country. What I really want is a nice Diet Coke, on a plane bound for the states. Oh, things get even better. The electricity just went out for the entire airport. That means no air conditioning, no scanners, no computers. They are scanning us one by one with the hand-held metal detectors. It’s taking forever.

On a better note, the past two weeks have passed by very quickly. We finished the last week of school and had a monster party at our house. Everyone had a great time and we finally kicked the last few people out at 4:30 am and went to bed. We had a very odd mix, ranging from people our age from around the world, to our bosses from work, and even some of our students’ parents that we are good friends with! The Marines showed up around midnight and brought the enormous sound system with five feet tall speakers from the Marine House. That was pretty cool.

The next week we spent packing up our classrooms and getting signed out at school. We briefly discussed the possibility of us all moving out of our house and into some apartments, but when we went and looked at them we all said no. Our house is pretty cool, with the exception of not having a pool and having to live with four strangers. But the apartments, while we would each have our own, were just not in a good area and not very nice. Besdies, after our party, everyone knows where our house is now and we won’t have to give directions next time.

On Thursday most of the city shut down for a holiday. All you Catholics out there reading this, did you know that June 10 is God’s Birthday? I kid you not. It’s celebrated all over Haiti and some other Latin American countries. The banks and stores and restaurants were closed. There were processions out in front of the churches and chalk drawings and flowers on the streets. Bizarre, though. I mean, seriously, how can God have a birthday? We all really questioned our Haitian friends on this one but they all looked at us like we were crazy for not knowing about God’s birthday.

Once we were all done with our classrooms, we headed out to the beach, all the roommates and Malushka and Eduardo, to whom she got engaged this week. They are going to get married next summer. Anyway, we all headed out to Wahoo Beach Resort and stayed there for the weekend. I didn’t really get to see my friends much, as I was busy getting Open Water Dive Certified. That kept me busy Saturday and Sunday, and they all left Sunday evening for town and I stayed out at the beach on Monday and Tuesday and finished my class. I really enjoyed the class and the dives and can’t wait to go on my first “real” dive. Maybe I’ll have time in Florida this week, or else when we return to Haiti I can go back out to Isle la Arcadins, where I did my practice dives. They have this amazing coral reef out there and it’s only 6-10 feet underwater. It’s beautiful. Good place for snorkelers too.

Christy left on Monday to head back to Texas. We had dinner with Monica and Andy on Wednesday night to thank them for all they’ve done for us this year. They’ve been so great to all of us this whole year. We can’t wait to spend more weekends and dinners with them next year. Then on Thursday Sue left for Miami and then Philadelphia. She’s going with Marie to the Recruiting Conference to hopefully recruit four new-hires for next year. We need an upper level English to take Kurt’s place, a computer technologist, a learning center specialist, and a half English and half Social Studies person to free me up to do curriculum part-time next year.

Thursday night Tom and I went out and said goodbye to some friends, I had dinner with Micah and then met up with Tom and Jonathan and some other Marines at a new bar and we hung out until everyone had had too much to drink and it was time for sleep. Before I knew it, it was time to get up, finish packing, and head to the airport. Where I got to wait for an extra hour.

Now I’m on my way to Miami, where I’m renting a car and driving up to Fort Myers Beach Island where I’ll spend a couple of days with my dad and step-mom. My two step-sisters are coming in for Father’s Day, so I’ll get to see them too. I haven’t seen Erika since she got married in March. And Jacob, who was born my senior year of high school, is already ten years old!

June 1
Ahhhhhh, the final week is at last here. Our seniors graduated Friday night and now this week our other grades are taking their finals and will finish by Friday. The graduation ceremony was really nice. The Ambassador was there and spoke, and presented some awards. I got to present an award to one of my English students. We had 24 seniors graduating, and they played this really nice slide show showing each of the kids growing up, and talking about their years at Union School, and where they are going to college. Alot of our seniors are going to school in Canada and Europe, and a few Latin America. Of course, some of them are going to school in the States, but not as many as I would have thought. For the ones who don’t have American passports, it’s difficult to get all the paperwork completed, especially since 9/11. And alot of them aren’t convinced that the US has the best colleges to offer.

I’ve been getting alot of emails about the flooding here- we’re fine in our area of the country. We’ve had rain, normal per the rainy season, but not as bad as in the fall. In the fall we really had alot of debris washed down from the mountains and I remember the huge wall that piled up in front of our school that one day actually had a dead dog in it. That was gross. This spring hasn’t had as much stuff washed down. But it’s been very bad in the south part of Haiti and the part that is near the Dominican Republic. They are thinking the death toll is up to 2,000 and they haven’t counted all the bodies. I saw on the news the other day that they are spraying chemicals from helicopters to counteract the decomposing bodies. Gross. The road was washed out so there is no way to get in or out of that area except by air. I guess they will have to rebuild the road soon.In addition, we’ve had a couple of small earthquakes in the area. I don’t know how bad they were in surrounding areas, but they didn’t seem to cause any damage in the capital. I felt the first one at school; we thought at first it was kids running across the third floor. But it turned out to be a minor quake.

On Saturday our boys basketball team played in the National Finals. It was in downtown Port-Au-Prince (pretty scary area) and it was televised on national tv. Our boys came in second place and got a trophy. The Prime Minister’s wife was there and handed out the trophies. We had a good turnout, several teachers and parents and other students came to the game (with our requisite number of bodyguards and security, of course). The only bad thing was that it was amazingly hot. This had to be the hottest weekend I’ve had in Haiti so far. We thought we were just going to die sitting at that game. I was really glad I brought my hat and wore sunscreen (spf 30).

In the past month, everyone at the house and Malushka (cause she hangs out with us so much) has been sick. I think it started with Tom or Sue, went to Malushka, then me, and now Christy. I was sick last week but just waited it out. Christy went to the doctor today and he said she has amoebas in her stomach. So I imagine that’s what we all had over the past month. Hopefully we’ll all get rid of whatever it is.

The political situation seems to be improving lately. In the past couple of weeks they’ve indicted and arrested some big time ex-leaders. Aristide has left Jamaica and gone to South Africa, but the opposition party there is questioning why South Africa is granting him asylum and who is paying for it. In fact, there is a pool going around the city right now about when he will be indicted and arrested. You can pick a date for twenty five gourdes. You just can’t sign your last name. We’ve also been getting more electricity lately. We all noticed that we had city power going on at various times throughout the weekend, and I heard it switch over this morning. The fan in my bedroom sounds different when we’re on city power. Everyone at work says “Oh, isn’t it great, they’re giving us more power”, but as Sue pointed out, they don’t really give us power. We actually pay the same bill every month, whether we have electricity or not. Can you imagine in the United States if TXU sent you out a bill every month whether they were supplying your house or not? And here, of course, there’s only one company, and you keep paying every month in the hopes that you’ll get five, six, ten hours a month to help out with your diesel generator and your inverter batteries. It’s so bizarre.

This Friday night we are having a HUGE party at our place. We invited over 50 Hashers and other International friends, plus the entire staff of the school. Luckily we have a big house and a great front yard and balconies. I can’t wait to have everyone over, drink some drinks, and say goodbye. Some of our friends will be here when we come back in August, some will have moved on.

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