On arrival, a woman’s day teaching session is in full swing. We are thrown in at the deep end –
“Je m’appel Melissa. I mean mwen rele Melissa. Jais 34 ans” – my basic grasp of the Creole language escapes me when confronted with 80 beaming faces.
“Are you married?” one voice shouts.
“Yes,” I reply.
“How many children do you have?”
“None,” I respond, awaiting the next question.
No further questions follow and I learn that it is because they don’t understand how I can have “yon mari”, but not have any offspring. I will leave that explanation for another day I tell myself, as I continue to smile and nod.
It has been agreed that this weeks’ Woman’s Day will revolve around hygiene and a contraception lesson. Whilst we were not here to change a culture or inflict our views, if there is any way that we might help to reduce the incidence of HIV and STDs, then we had to at least give it a try. With Jade translating in French and with the guidance of trained nurses, we set out the embarrassing condom on a banana scenario. After the initial blushing and discomfort, the woman seemed to understand the concept and how this could prevent them from getting sick. Things appeared to be going well and each woman took a handful of condoms for later use. As time was just about up and we were quite satisfied with our efforts, one by one, hands started to be raised in the air. They all had the same question – where could they get the bananas from? Although amusing at first, that’s when we realised that we had failed and we had to explain that if you put the condom on a banana, it’s not really going to have the same effect…
I had been assigned 2 of the English classes to teach. Actually, given the numbers of volunteers, those who were able to teach, had to do as much as possible. The boys (Jake and Jeff) weren’t really interested at first and they had more important tasks, such a building a roof, to keep them busy. Jake did volunteer later on to teach a male group as we soon realised that they responded well to a young man, somebody they could relate to. My intermediate ladies class today. looks at items of clothing, vetements, and putting them into a sentence. After the 1 ½ hour class, I feel rather deflated as the ladies don’t have the same focus that the boys have. The boys have a definite course, a final goal. Learn English, get a girlfriend, get sex, get a wife, get a job, and get out of Haiti. However, the boys and girls are all very sweet and shout out my name over and over wherever they may see me, not just at their class.
We have set up home better than I had expected and Georgia and I have agreed to stick together and share a tent. Essentials are kept in our tent for quick access(especially in the dark) head torches, bug spray, antihistamine, chlorine tablets and water, hand sanitizer, shower items (also known as baby wipes) more bug spray and super strength “take that” bug spray. There’s not much room, but we have made it as comfy as we can and are quite settled.