Most of my favorite people that I meet in Haiti are children. One night during the first week that we were here, our group went to a shop owned by a man named Mikenson. Chris became friends with Mikenson last summer so we were welcomed with open arms. This shop serves drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), some snacks, and a women fries different food items in the front. When we got there we were greeted by a swarm of children. They had no fear in grabbing our hands and becoming an instant friend. I was able to practice my Creole with them, learn some dance moves, and try to learn their favorite card game- Casino. Trying to speak Creole as a beginner is tough when you are talking to adults because you want to avoid making an idiot out of yourself, but when you try to practice your new creole with children, there is no judgment. It’s great! The day after going to Mikenson’s I went for a run where I passed the shop. His family members were outside and one of the little girls I befriended was outside and came running to say hi. I felt like I had made some friends in Haiti only after a few days- even if they were children. At Mikenson’s I was also handed a few month old baby, which I was very apprehensive about holding at first. I was the youngest child growing up and never really had much experience with babies so this was a nerve wrecking exchange for me. Luckily, the baby was adorable, smelt amazing, and very calm. I ended up holding, rocking, and playing with the baby for about an hour until she finally caught sight of her mom and wanted to return.
Some of my other favorite children I have met in Haiti are the children of Bois Jolie. When we sleepover in the mountains of Bois Jolie, we stay in a school. While we wait for meals or take a breather between hiking out for surveys, we sit in the courtyard area of the school. One day as we were all packed up and waiting to leave, the children got let out for recess. They surrounded Chris, Cal, and I. There were probably 100 children just staring at us like we were putting on a show. The funny part was that Chris, Cal, and I were able to say anything to the group of children and they wouldn’t understand what we were saying. We proclaimed “we promise we are really boring people- isn’t there something else you would want to be doing right now?” No response.
When school is out and we have finished our work in Bois Jolie for the day, the team usually sits around playing card games, reading, or talking. Sometimes the children of the farmers and cooks come and hang out with us. They vary greatly in personality. One girl that came was a bit outgoing. Chris warned us that she ate a piece of his phone last summer. This summer she made her mark by staring at Cal while he tried to shower because she was fascinated with his tattoos. Another child, a young boy, likes to hang around and watch what we do. He plays us recordings he has on his phone of strangers singing in Creole. He also enjoys taking pictures of us while we aren’t ready. This usually results in very funny and embarrassing photographs. My favorite child I have met in Bois Jolie is named “Junle” – or at least that is what he wrote in my notebook. He likes to hang around because his mother is one of the cooks. She is a very kind woman named Micholean. His father is a farmer in our program named, Jeremie Leone. One day when I was sitting outside sketching a tree in the schoolyard, he quietly came and sat down next to me. He did not say much at first- just watched my draw. Eventually he asked what I was drawing and in my badly spoken Creole I told him I was drawing that tree right there. We ended up talking about how many siblings we both had, who his parents were, how old we were, what our names were, if he goes to school, if he likes school, and eventually if he is married (he thought that was funny). Later Cal made a paper airplane and we all tossed it back and forth. When the airplane flew far away and we all thought it was a lost cause, this child did not. He would run and climb over barbed fences with ease and bring back the airplane.
My most recent experience with children of Haiti was yesterday. We got back from hiking down Bois Jolie so I decided to go for a swim at the Wozo, a hotel near our house. On the walk back a bunch of children started following me and instantly held my hand. They said “Hello, Jessica.” This was very funny because there is another young white woman that is living with us but working for a different company named Jessica. I laughed and tried to tell them I wasn’t Jessica- I am not sure they understood. They asked me a lot of questions and when I got back to my house I had to tell them goodbye. As I closed the gate they all just stood, watched, and then screamed and ran away. The children here crack me up.
Cal trying to imitate the baby’s face. Photo taken by Professor Deborah McGrath