Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Visit from 815!

What a fun week I just had!  As many of you know, a few people came down from the Episcopal Church Headquarters (also fondly known as 815) to visit me in Haiti.  My visitors included Jason Stewart Sierra, officer for Young Adult Leadership and Vocation in the Episcopal Church, Rev. Bridget Coffey, the assistant rector to my home parish, and Katie Webb, an intern in the Mission Personnel Office.  

We kicked off their visit with a walk to the Diocesan Offices on Tuesday morning for a meeting with Bishop Ogé Beauvoir.  They enjoyed meeting him and learning about the different developments going on throughout the Episcopal Church in Haiti.  It was also great prep for the trip we took up north on Wednesday.  

Our trip up to northern part of Haiti to visit Cap-Haïtien was fantastic!  We flew up on Wednesday morning and were met by Pére Samuel at the airport.  In the late afternoon we met with him at the vocational school to talk about the many things that the Episcopal Church is doing in that region.  On Thursday morning we took a tour of the vocational school, Saint Espirit (Episcopal church and school in Cap-Haïtien), Saint Luke (Episcopal church and school in Trou-de-Nord), and Saint Etienne (Episcopal church and school in Limonade).  It was a busy morning, but it was a wonderful opportunity to see the different parts of Haiti and the Episcopal Church's work in these communities.    

Friday morning I had a great time showing off an awesome shop in Pétionville. The shop is called Kay Artizan and sells items handcrafted by local Haitian artists.  We enjoyed getting to see some beautiful artwork and also being able to support the local economy.

On Saturday, we headed into Port-au-Prince for the day so I could teach.  Thanks to a break in my day, I took my visitors down to the Museum of the Haitian National Pantheon.  The museum contains two sections, one explaining the history of Haiti and the other containing artwork from Haitian artists.  Not only did my visitors love the trip, I really enjoyed being able to learn more about Haitian history and see some amazing artifacts.  I was particularly impressed by the anchor from Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria!

In the afternoon, Jason, Bridget and Katie had the opportunity to sit in on an OPST rehearsal.  We began rehearsing Christmas music for our next concert on December 21.  

Sunday morning I had the special treat of hearing a sermon from Bridget!  She was invited to preach and celebrate the Eucharist at St. Jacques.  It was so exciting to see a melding of my two worlds and I was so happy to worship with new and old friends!

It was such a fantastic week!  I loved getting to show off my new home and work to Jason, Bridget and Katie.  There were so many laughs and wonderful moments of fellowship shared during the visit.  I feel so blessed to have an amazing support system through the church and was delighted to celebrate an early Christmas.  A big thank you to Jason, Bridget and Katie for the visit and to my Christ Church family for all the Christmas love!

Also, a thank you to the sponsors from the past few weeks: Robin & Conrad Koneczny, Kevin Lonabaugh, Amelia Wheeler, and Leslie & Scott Harper!  And one last thank you to Jason for the beautiful pictures in my blog this week!

Monday, November 26, 2012

So Very Much To Be Thankful For

As a little tribute to Thanksgiving this past week, I must say there is so much to be thankful for this year.  First of all a thank you to my sponsor from two weeks ago, Kay Keely.  Then, special thank you to Yvonne and Donald Bingaman, my parents who sponsored me during the holiday!  

Every time I think things cannot get any busier, they do and it's hard to believe that I've been here for almost three months already.  I'm ever grateful to God for this opportunity to serve here and slowly I'm seeing how my work is impacting the lives around me.  

I love teaching the younger primary students, since it's wonderful knowing they are the next generation of musicians.  However, I'm finding an even greater joy being able to teach the teachers of the school.  It's through these lessons that I feel I'm really helping the school in the long-term.  By helping the teachers become stronger, more intuitive musicians, I am in turn giving them new tools for their teaching.  One of the teachers put it so well to me, "In Haiti it is not easy to become a great musician, the fight is hard and the road is so long.  That is why I really appreciate you coming here and sharing your knowledge with us.  You have education in music which is so important for an instrumentalist."  

Another thing I'm thankful for is all the prayers and support that are coming from home.  This past week I received mail again, but this time from my parish office!  Loved the card, but more so I loved hearing from you all.

Although it was hard to be away from home, family, and friends for this holiday, I'm grateful for the new friends and family I've been blessed with this year.  God always provides and this year I was able to spend Thanksgiving with two wonderful missionary families.  The food was delicious and the time shared together was even better!

Now a big thank you to God for all the smiles and laughter that surround my life here in Haiti.  No day goes by without something that leaves me laughing hysterically.  As you can see one of the incidents that happened on Thanksgiving was another prime example of this...yes that is my doorknob that I'm holding.  The best part of this particular incident was when we had to "knife" into my room so I could get my instrument for rehearsal.  Never a dull moment!

And as you can see part of the reason things have been crazy is because we had our first concert of the year!  We had extra rehearsals all week to prepare and gave a really fantastic performance this evening at the Karibe Hotel in Port-au-Prince.  We performed some wonderful Tchaikovsky pieces, a Bach fugue, and two beautiful violin concertos featuring soloist Nicholas Kitchen from the United States.   

I'm thankful for getting to share music alongside all of my new friends here at my first concert in Haiti.  It was a fun evening and I'm looking forward to the next concert in December, but part of that might be because I love playing Christmas music so much!

So as I said to begin this post, there is so very much to be thankful for (and I just skimmed the surface!).  This week has another adventure in store, so stay tuned for an update next weekend!  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Celebrate Good Times!

These past few weeks have been busy!  Now that school is in full swing, I'm spending my days teaching quite a bit.  I help teaching the students at the primary school and have thirteen private students, and am loving every minute of it!  Beyond the regular school schedule, there's been a lot of different celebrations going on. 

On Sunday, October 28, Saint Jacques, the Episcopal church where I attend services, celebrated their anniversary.  The celebration included a joint English and French service with Episcopal and Anglican priests from all over Haiti in attendance.  Bishop Duracin was also there to celebrate St. Jacques in this special time.  

The service was complete with musical offerings from the Boys Choir from Holy Trinity Music School, the chamber orchestra (which I played with) and the Children's Choir from the congregation.  After the service, everyone met for a feast of Haitian treats including pumpkin soup and cake!  It was beautiful to see the community gather for this special day!

Here in Haiti we also just had two holidays on November 1 and 2, which meant no school!  On November 1st we celebrated All Saints Day and on the 2nd the Day of the Dead.  To celebrate the Day of the Day, we attended a RAM concert.  RAM is a very popular Haitian band that plays a type of music called rasin.

The music is up-beat and so much fun to listen to!  My favorite part of their music are these long hand-made horns that are played called korne which you can see in my picture.  If you'd like to hear a little bit of RAM for yourself, I've included a link to a recording of their music:

Another highlight of these past few weeks was attending my first Haitian soccer game.  Soccer in the favorite sport here and a big part of Haitian culture.  Everyone watches it and many love to play it.  Even on holidays you can find streets blocked off for a game of the local people.  The game I attended was a team from the Episcopal church (we're in the black uniforms) versus a team from the Catholic church.  

I'm very sad to say, that unfortunately the Episcopalians did not win.  Maybe next time, but it was great being able to experience a game firsthand! 

Times are about to get busier too as we prepare for our first concert.  Next week is filled with extra sectionals and rehearsals.  More to come about all of that!  And a thank you to the following people for sponsoring me these past few weeks Dino and Carolyn Morgoglione, Bill and Sue Jarvis, and Jim and Diedra Kriewald!  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

And the Rain, Rain, Rain, Came Down, Down, Down...

A lot has been going on in these past few days!  First update, I know everyone has been curious about how we faired through the hurricane.  All is well here in Pétionville, we just had a LOT of rain.  The hurricane also caused us to have a few days off from school, which I have renamed as Haitian snow days.  Thank you to everyone for the extra prayers these past few days and you are in mine as you prepare for the storm.

As you can see, the rain did not keep Kelsey and I inside!  We took a little walk around town in the rain.  The only true discovery from this adventure was that my jacket is not in fact waterproof!     

Also I now have a schedule with the school, which means my days have gotten very busy.  To give a little taste of the different things I’m doing with the school, here’s a rundown of what my schedule entails.  Everyday of the week I begin with office hours in Pétionville doing administrative work for the school.  This includes working on the satellite school plans, the newsletter, and anything else that pops up!  

Around midday, I head down to Port-au-Prince to teach.  When I first get there, I help teach the students at the primary school.  I’ve also enjoyed observing my colleagues teach; it’s a great learning opportunity for me to see teaching in Creole!  

Then after I’m finished with the primary school, I teach private woodwind lessons.  I teach most of the OPST woodwind players and a few younger flute players.  I was surprised to find out how much I enjoy teaching oboe, clarinet and bassoon...who would have ever guessed that I would teach anything other than flute!

One particularly touching moment was when one of my oboe students thanked me after his first lesson.  He explained to me that he hadn't had a private teacher since 2009 and claimed that he was anxious for more lessons.  It made me smile to know how appreciative he and so many others are to learn about music.  Their passion and drive is literally contagious! 

Other highlights from this week have included getting to have a debut performance at a local jazz club.  The guitar teacher at Holy Trinity asked if I played jazz and the next thing I know I’m performing with his group at Latin Quarter (translated from Creole).  I had a blast and it was wonderful to make connections with many of the local musicians!

Also last weekend, I made a trip to Jacmel, which is located in the southern part of Haiti.  I went with Kelsey and Pierre, who helps conduct at the music school in Jacmel.  I had a lot of fun playing with the band during the rehearsal.  Best part was getting to play a piece that I haven’t played since high school (it was quite comforting how much easier it was than when I played it ten plus years ago!).  

We also took a quick trip to the beach, so I have now officially taken a swim in the Haitian waters!  This week is another busy week of rehearsals, but I’ll write again soon!  And thank you to my sponsors from this past week, Deb and Dennis Shows!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Planning the School Year

First of all a thank you to my sponsors last week, Janine Higgins and Bill Easton.  Then of course a thank you to my sponsors this week, Dino and Carolyn Morgoglione and Frank and Barbara Rupert.  

Last week was a little lighter, but lots of planning for getting the school year started.  With the return of the Boys Choir from the United States tour and the administrative staff with them, we had a lot of catching up to do!  This included talking about travels, creating schedules, and determining our responsibilities.  

One of the things I'm currently working on is a newsletter that will be sent out to the music schools, parents, and donors.  It will be sent out quarterly and used to keep everyone connected with what is going on at Holy Trinity Music School and all the satellite schools.  Here's a little preview of the front page (as you can see I still have to finish the opening article!).  

On Thursday night I was invited to attend a dinner meeting among the administration and the wind faculty.  We discussed the different wind ensembles  and who would be directing them.  An exciting addition for this year is the creation of a marching band.  I'll be helping teach the basic marching steps - here's hoping I still remember everything from high school!

Other fun moments of the week included learning how to cook in my room with limited cooking supplies and no oven.  Kelsey and I have been trying many new no-bake recipes.  If anybody has any favorites they recommend definitely email those to me.

Saturdays here are crazy!  The days are filled with rehearsals for both the beginning students and the pre-professional orchestra, OPST.  As you can see I've already found myself right at home in the flute section of OPST!

Right now the orchestra is working on music for our December concert.  We are playing two different violin concertos, Tchaikovsky's Polonaise, and selections from the Nutcracker.  

One of my favorite days of each week is Sunday.  I love my new congregation here that I worship with each week.  After the service we have our own little coffee hour with discussions about the sermon and what we would like to do in the community.  Right now we are planning bath kits and pen pals for the women in prison in Pétionville.  We are also making an effort to help with recycling and help people learn about taking care of the environment.  I'm really excited to be a part of these plans and look forward to seeing how they unfold.

My Sunday was not complete though without a random party!  To explain, Kelsey and I were hanging out in my room in the evening and all of the sudden we could hear music.  We went running to the roof of the church to check it out.  Turns out there was a kompa party happening right on the street in front of the church!  Kompa is a music that is traditional to Haiti and tons of fun.  My next goal in Haiti is to learn how to dance to kompa!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

First Week of School

As I mentioned last week, school started here in Haiti this past Monday.  Although classes for the School of Music don’t actually begin till October 8th, I still had a week full of excitement.  

On Wednesday, I was told I would be assisting with an instrument demonstration for the third graders of Holy Trinity School.  The purpose of the demonstration was to introduce each of the instruments to help aid the students in their instrument choice.  I was in charge of showing off the woodwinds (flute, clarinet, and oboe).  Let’s just say my rendition of Hot Cross Buns was really quite moving on the clarinet and oboe.  Therefore I’m pretty sure flute is going to be the hit this year since I could actually demonstrate that one!  

After my portion of the demo, I had a wonderful time visiting with the students.  What I loved the most is that the children don’t quite understand the concept that I’m still learning to speak Creole.  They think that if you speak louder, faster and all at once in a large group that somehow I will magically understand.  I had a really good laugh and thankfully photo is the same word in both languages, so the kids had a good time taking pictures with me.

On Thursday morning, Kelsey and I picked up some of the instruments lying around the office of Holy Trinity and improvised a plethora of tunes.  This picture highlights one of the things I really love about Haiti.  As you wait for rehearsals, transportation, etc., there are many moments for spontaneous creativity and fellowship.  We truly entertained with our music and brought many a smile to the visitors of the school that morning. 

The rest of Thursday was spent getting ready for a performance that the beginning instrumental students were giving on Friday morning.  The students had been asked to give a small demonstration to Albert Ramdin, the Assistant  Secretary General of the Organization of American States, who was making a visit to Haiti.  

After the performance he gave a short speech to the students and visited with them.  Although it was a brief concert, you could tell that the students enjoyed performing and getting to share their music.     

Another highlight of this week is that I received my first piece of mail!  Thank you 815 staff for the card; it definitely brought a smile to my day! 

Today, Kelsey and I were invited to Willys and Suzette’s (fellow parishioners from St. Jacques) house for lunch.  They live up the mountains from Pétionville and the scenery was gorgeous.  Many people in area live off the food that they grow.  The hillsides were a beautiful patchwork of greens and golds with different foods for harvesting.  

After a delicious lunch, Suzette had one of the local people stop by to meet us.  His name is Louis and he is a blind musician here in the mountains.  He is often found singing along his walks up and down the country road.  Louis kindly gave us a mini-concert singing contemporary Christian songs, Haitian hymns, and even a piece that he had written himself.  His songs brought tears to my eyes as he so passionately sang to us; music is his world and his love for it was radiating.  

We eventually had to make our way back down to Pétionville, but not without a few stops for a few more pictures (the house with the red roof is where Willys and Suzette live).  It was a wonderful way to end a week of laughter, community, and new friendships.    

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gonaïves, Gros-Morne & Port-de-Paix, oh my!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here a month!  Time is really flying by here in Haiti.  This past week was no different, as Kelsey and I traveled to three different towns in northern Haiti.

The purpose of our trip this week was to look at three Episcopal schools and discuss logistics for how to establish their music programs.  The travels began Monday morning with a beautiful drive along the western coast up to Gonaïves.

Our first stop was at St. Basil.  Upon arrival we were shown the instruments the students would be using.  Kelsey and I had a good time testing the instruments to check their condition.  After playing the instruments, I sat down with Père Max and discussed a plan to establish their music program (a plan similar to the one we will be using for the schools in Cap-Haïtien).

Père Max then gave us a tour of the school and the clinic that is also on the church grounds.  It is wonderful to see the Episcopal church doing so much work for the community!

I had to include this picture of Père Max!  If you notice he had on a Diocese of Virginia shirt!!!  I was pretty excited to see a little piece of home.

On Tuesday, we were picked up by Père Jonas and traveled to Gros-Morne to visit La Résurrection.  This school had already established a music program and were looking to create a more cohesive and challenging program for the students.  In our meeting, we discussed their needs and how Holy Trinity would help.

My favorite part of our stay in Gros-Morne was an impromptu Creole lesson that I had with Père Jonas.  I was working with flash cards and he sat down to help me study.  It was a great moment because as I learned Creole, he learned English.  As the studying left me feeling a little more confident with the language, Père Jonas and I had a conversation in Creole (my first real conversation)!  I asked if he could also help me with the parts of the liturgy in French, so our evening concluded with Père Jonas helping me with pronunciation of French from the Book of Common Prayer.  

The next morning, Kelsey and I hopped in the car again to head to Port-de-Paix.  To explain this car ride, imagine riding on one of those old wooden roller coasters.  Now imagine riding that for two hours and you’ll get a feel for our experience.  You don’t know the true meaning of off-roading till you’ve traveled in Haiti; it’s quite exhilarating! (And yes that is a truck that was stuck that they were trying to push)  

After our adventuresome car ride, we arrived in Port-de-Paix and met with Père Aïs.  This school also has a preexisting music program, but this is the first year they will be adding instruments to the curriculum.  They were very excited to establish the program and were ready to embrace every aspect of it.  

Later in the evening, we had the opportunity to visit the shore as the sun was setting.  Moments of beauty are definitely not lacking here!  It was a fantastic way to end our trip as we headed back to Pétionville early the next morning.  

Thank you to my sponsors this past week, Luke White and Nancy Brown, and thank you to this coming week sponsors, June and Gene Babb!  School begins this week for students here in Haiti, so the fun will certainly be continuing!