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! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Visit to Cange

What an amazing past few days I’ve had!  This week our site visit brought Kelsey and me into the Haitian mountains to Cange to work with one of the satellite schools of Holy Trinity.  

After a car ride up and down a long and winding road (cue Beatles song) you arrive in Cange.  We stayed and worked at the Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health) campus.  As you can see the view from the guest house was absolutely breathtaking!

After getting settled into our room we walked up the hill to meet the students we would be helping.  We were given a warm welcome overflowing with gratitude for our presence in Cange.  

The next morning we got up bright and early to start our day filled with music.  My morning consisted of woodwind sectionals, brass sectionals, group flute lessons, and a sectional with the beginning clarinet students.  I even had the opportunity to meet Père Lafontant, the Episcopal priest who is the founding director of Zanmi Lasante.

In the afternoon, we had full ensemble rehearsal (after a quick jaunt into the church since there’s an early evening thunderstorm almost everyday).  It was a great feeling getting to direct a band again, especially one filled with such eager and enthusiastic students.  

The next day was filled again with morning rehearsals, but my favorite moment was the flute lesson that I taught to one of the older students.  He sought me out the day before to ask for a flute lesson (which he was willing to do even if it meant having it at 7am!).  We sat together and worked on scales and music.  I didn’t teach him anything different than what I used to work on with my students at home, but to him that lesson was a priceless opportunity.  These students have a passion for music and thirst for knowledge that is truly inspirational.  Afterwards, he kindly thanked me for my time in Cange; to these students it meant so much to have us there, even for just a few days. 

Again in the afternoon we had full ensemble rehearsal and it was amazing to hear the improvement the students accomplished in just two days.  In the evening, we were invited to a thank you concert from the students.  It was a fantastic performance filled with the spirit that exudes from these young musicians.  

Today we took a moment to walk up to the top of the campus and the view (as you can see again) was spectacular.  Cange really is a must see if one ever visits Haiti; it’s a beautiful place.

On our walk back down the mountain, we ran into the students getting ready for a funeral performance.  It was sad to say goodbye to these new friends because I will definitely miss them.  But as the students taught me in one of my impromptu Creole lessons, “Byenvini pa mi nou.”  It means welcome among us, which I feel they genuinely did and always will.   

If you would like to learn more about Zamni Lasante, you can visit their site 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Trip to Cap-Haïtien

This past week was full of adventure as I had the opportunity to travel to northern Haiti.  

On Tuesday morning, Kelsey and I were flown up to Cap-Haïtien.

The flight was great chance to see more of Haiti as we flew over the beautiful mountains!

Upon arrival in Cap-Haïtien, we met with Père Noe and visited his parish, Saint Esprit.  The parish has a school that serves close to eight hundred children in the community.

The purpose of our meeting was to help lay the groundwork for creating the satellite music schools in the area.  We had a great meeting in the sanctuary discussing curriculum ideas and brainstorming what resources we had at hand.

After a fruitful meeting, Père Noe gave us a quick driving tour around Cap-Haïtien.  The area is really beautiful with it’s French influence, green mountains, and blue ocean shores.

In the afternoon we were warmly welcomed to Bishop Ogé Beauvoir’s house for lunch.  He and his wife, Serette were extremely generous to open their home to us for our stay in Cap-Haïtien.  

After a nice little siesta (I’m not sure what the Creole word is for this...put that on the list of things to learn), we paid a visit to one of the hospitals to spend time with one of the patients.  It was a nice evening spending time with the Bishop as he tended to his duties and seeing more of Cap-Haïtien.

The next morning began with an early meeting with Bishop Ogé and a few of the priests from the region.  Again we discussed the logistics of starting the music programs in these Episcopal schools.  Then we left with Père Samuel to visit his parish, Saint Etienne in Limonade.  

One of the best parts of the visit was learning how excited and enthusiastic the students, parents, and congregations are to have a music program.  There was such an overwhelming desire to get the programs started, which is really encouraging as we work out the plans!

It was a wonderful visit and I look forward to our trip to Cange this week!  The rest of my week ended with my first pizza (Christ Church family you do not need to worry about sending me pizza!), rehearsals in Port-au-Prince, and another fantastic Sunday in church.  Thank you to this week’s sponsor, Sandy White.  Stay tuned as the Haitian adventures continue! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Fun Begins!

Hard to believe a second week has flown by already.  First of all, thank you to this past week’s sponsors Sally and Joyce and to this week’s sponsors Bill and Kay!  This week has been filled with all sorts of excitement, from learning Creole to my first rehearsal with the beginning band students.  

The week began with sending off the Holy Trinity’s Boys Choir on their tour.  The choir along with several members of the orchestra will be performing all over the United States during the month of September.  I personally was blessed with their voices filling my room as they rehearsed one last time on Monday night in the room across from my apartment.

On Tuesday, Kelsey and I began to explore Pétionville a little more to learn the lay of the land.  Our walk was complete with a trip to the two main parks in Pétionville!  I must say though, so far one my favorite things about living here is we are blessed with an amazing sunset almost every evening.  

Perpetua, my Creole tutor, paid me a visit a few times this week to begin my lessons.  She is a great tutor and I’m extremely thankful for her patience with me.  I think I’m slowly beginning to learn this language (though it does help hearing it all around you)! 

Friday morning, I had the opportunity to visit the Diocesan office thanks to Sikhumbuzo Vundla, the Chief of Operation for the Diocese of Haiti.  He showed me all around the office and was a really wonderful person to meet.

Later in the afternoon we headed to Port-au-Prince for rehearsals.  I was put by myself in a room with six beginning band students.  My initial reaction was, “how in the world am I going to do this, I don’t speak enough Creole yet!!!”  Somehow (mainly thanks to the grace of God) I was able to get through the rehearsal and we actually played some music together.  One of the biggest advantages I had in this situation is the Haitian children are very well behaved and patient with me!

To say the least, I made a long list of Creole terms I wished I knew for the next day.  I am happy to report that after some rest and studying, I would consider the second rehearsal to be a success!  I was up to ten students, we got through a good portion of the music, and I even got a compliment on my Creole from one of the students (I think they were just trying to get on my good side!). After rehearsal I talked to some of the girls from my class while they ate lunch.  It was so much fun learning about their lives and sharing about mine!

Today was another beautiful Sunday; I love the new family I am creating here!  The morning began with the English service, where I was able to help by doing the first reading.  My favorite part of the service was a portion of the second reading from James 2, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  What a great reminder as I begin my mission work here in Haiti!  

After the service I had several great chats with members of the congregation and was invited to join one of the couples, Randall and Anita, on their Sunday morning shopping trip.  They have been missionaries in Haiti for many years and were so generous to show me around Pétionville.  They pointed out all the great spots to go for bites to eat, shopping and other places of importance.  I was then invited back to their home for brunch where we spent the afternoon enjoying a wonderful meal and fantastic conversation.  Today was a truly blessed day and I must say I think I’m falling in love with Haiti (minus the mosquitos - I could definitely do without them)!

Monday, September 3, 2012

My First Sunday in Haiti

My first Sunday in Haiti has to be my favorite day here yet!  The morning began with the 8:15 English service (which really began at 8:30 because we're on island time) at St. Jacques Episcopal Church.  The compound I live at in Pétionville is connected to the church, so it is a very easy commute on Sunday mornings.  In between services we had coffee hour and were able to meet and talk with members of the congregation.  Then at 9:30 I attended the French service.  

Both services were wonderful; I love that an Episcopal service is the same basic structure no matter where you are in the world.  I was introduced to the congregation both times and was warmly welcomed into my new church.  My favorite part of the service is the exchanging of the peace, or la paix.  Everyone tries to meet everyone in the sanctuary, including the children.  It’s a beautiful example of the sense of community that you find here in Haiti.  

After church I met with Angela and my Creole tutor, Perpetua.  She was very kind and was happy to help me with learning the language.  I cannot wait to start working with her, but in the meantime I will be reviewing my books.  I am excited to be able to say more than the basics!

In the afternoon, Père César picked Kelsey and me up for a concert.  The concert was held in a town outside of Port-au-Prince.  The children performing had just participated in a music camp and the concert was the culmination of their hard work and practice.  

Before the orchestra went on to perform, I was asked to assist the woodwinds and brass get tuned.  It was awesome getting to work with the students, even briefly.  That moment was a small taste of what the year will bring and I couldn’t be more excited!  

We were able to hear one song from the orchestra before we had to load up in the car to head to our next engagement.  

Riding on the roads in Haiti is tons of fun; lots of traffic and sometimes bumpy rides, but it adds to the excitement of traveling!

Our next stop was at the Palais Municipal de Delmas for Holy Trinity’s graduation for their trade school students.  Myself and nine other musicians from Holy Trinity played in a small chamber group for the celebration.

While we were waiting back stage we had a good time warming up; it felt like home.

I even had the wonderful opportunity to meet Bishop Duracin before ceremony.  

The graduation began with Eucharist and then transitioned into the presentation of the graduates.

The ceremony was very nice, but I must say my favorite part was the music!  It was great experience to perform with my new Haitian friends and I also enjoyed listening to the Haitian gospel choir from Holy Trinity.  

My favorite piece to play at the graduation was called Choucoune.  The piece is a traditional song from Haiti.  It was first a poem about a beautiful Haitian woman, that was then turned into a song.  It had such a fun vibe to it!

After graduation, we had a fun car ride back to Pétionville.  It was filled with laughter, singing and learning more Creole.  It was a wonderful way to end the day and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to work here!

First Week Adventures

It's hard to believe that I arrived here just a week ago!  A whirlwind of things have happened, but that's to be expected when establishing yourself in a new place.  The past week has consisted of meeting tons of wonderful new people, starting some projects for the school (working on a new curriculum for the woodwinds!), figuring out how things work in Haiti, and learning Creole of course! 

Some of the highlights took place on Saturday; Bernadette (an administrator of the school) took Kelsey (a volunteer at the school) and I out to do some grocery shopping.  We went to the Big Star Market, one of the many grocery stores here in Pétionville.  

Nothing too exciting about shopping Haiti since it's pretty much just like shopping at home.  Only big difference is that you pay in gourdes and you speak in Creole! (By the way, you may notice there's a pizza in the cart - I was delighted to find out you can find pizza at all sorts of places in Haiti!)

One of the things I love about going out in Pétionville is all of the sights to see. The mountain sides are an especially beautiful backdrop to the everyday busy bustle and hustle of the streets.

Later in the evening, Père César and Bernadette took myself and Kelsey out to dinner.

The restaurant is called the Artist's Corner and is Père's favorite place.  It served amazing fresh grilled fish and was the perfect spot to talk about what Kelsey and I will be doing during the month of September.  We will be traveling to the different satellite schools of Holy Trinity School of Music and working with the programs.  I'm really excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the other schools and to see different parts of the country!

I have great stories from Sunday too, so check back later for another post!  And a big thank you to my first sponsor this past Saturday, Mary Beth!