15 things I’ve learned about Haiti:
1. The chicken you hear crowing in the morning may just be your lunch. 2. Trash is thrown on the ground and when enough of it builds up, you burn it – sorry ozone 3. Students are educated in French, not Creole, and as you can imagine being taught in another language can make learning difficult. 4. “Sharing is caring”. It is the Haitian culture to share what you have with those who don’t. For example, one bottle of water may reach 15 or 20 mouths before the contents are finished. I’ve come to the conclusion
that this “sharing of consumables” is one of the primary modes of transmission of germs and illnesses. Unfortunately, water wasn’t the only thing shared that day. 5. You will find some of the most compassionate and hospitable people in Haiti. 6. Many sicknesses that I’ve seen in the children stem from dehydration and malnutrition. 7. “Going to the market” is not a Target run. There is music, yelling, shoving of fruits in your face, thousands of flies, sweaty people pushing other sweaty people, bargaining, raw meat laid out on blankets, live (and dead) chickens being sold, laughing, eating and so much more. The first time I went it was a complete sensory overload and I was quite overwhelmed. Now I look forward to the three and a half mile bike ride and bustle of the market. I think it’s an acquired taste. 8. There are no stop signs, traffic lights, sides of the road, or speed limits. You drive on whatever side of the road is less bumpy and sometimes this is right down the middle. Walking and motorcycles are the main modes of transportation. 9. Many Haitians eat one large meal a day. This consists of rice (or cornmeal), beans, stewed vegetables, and maybe some fruit. For many of the students at St. Gabriel’s, the meal they receive at lunch is their only guaranteed meal. This makes coming to St. Gabriel’s so important because they’re not only getting educated but also being fed. 10. Haitians are very clothing conscious. They want to look their best despite the dirty and dusty conditions. They will wipe their shoes off before entering the school campus. 11. By law, every student must take the same 16 classes for the whole school year. 12. Kids are “free range” and tough as nails. As soon as a child can walk, they fend for themselves and will go wherever they want whenever they want. 13. Individuals are sexually active at an astonishingly young age, sometimes as young as 14 or 15. STDs run rampant but are on the decline due to an increase in health ed in secondary schools. 14. Many of the influential community leaders speak three to four languages; French, Creole, English, and Spanish. 15. When a family must choose between medical care or feeding their family, they chose the latter.