Friday, March 17, 2017

Word[s] of the Day

Cheerful. Different. Dance. Tap-Tap. Baby. Fog. Rally. Father Reiser. Overwhelming. Disciplined. Pleased. Goat. Parachute. Enthusiasm. Twerk. Refreshing.

We’re coming to the close on day four in Haiti and we’re continuing an activity we’ve come to expect during our time here – a sort of ritual – the word of the day. The above words represent, so very well, how our day went today. Each word was selected by a member of our team as a reflection of what stuck out to that individual today. A new experience, a new feeling, an individual moment of recognition.
Different. Refreshing. Pleased.
The last two days have been intense and emotional for the team – even for me, as someone who has been to Haiti once before. But today, we made the precarious journey up to Reiser Heights for a fun visit of singing, dancing and sharing. A day I was looking forward to and an experience that would be a much-needed break for hearts that have been hanging heavy.
The ride to Reiser Heights also provides another view on life in Haiti.  We see a wealthier part of Haiti, in stark contrast to the slums of Cite Soleil. We see agriculture as a livelihood as opposed to the “sellers” of the city. We saw polite and disciplined school children compared to some of the children at a previous school we visited.

Rally. Tap-Tap. Fog.

Before leaving the compound we had one team member down with a vicious cold and terrible sinus pressure, not sure if she was going to be able to make it. But with a little DayQuil, Advil and riding in the front of the Tap-Tap, she was able to rally it and make it out for the day. And we’re all glad she did! She was able to personally hand out 20 little dresses she sewed for the 1st graders of Reiser Heights.

Once we had hit the road with the whole team, the Tap-Tap experience today was one for the books. If you’ve been to Haiti before, you know the ride into the mountains to Reiser Heights is…. “terrifying” as one of us described it today. Once you’ve made it out of the city, you can expect winding roads just wide enough for two large trucks. The roads are flanked by either small buildings built into the side of the mountain, a small trail for pedestrians, or nothing at all. For the more trusting and faithful, watching the beautiful view as you climb the mountain is something to be seen. But for the risk-averse, today’s ride would push boundaries you didn’t think could be pushed. For many on the team just getting used to the driving in Haiti, I can only imagine they were saying a few Hail Marys to themselves. To add to the anxiety, today was FOGGY. Watching out the front of the Tap-Tap and not being able to see the car 100 yards in front of us, but continuing on at the same speed as in the fogless-conditions was... fun?

On the way home, our Tap-Tap got a flat tire. Then, the spare tire was flat. Then we didn’t have a jack to fix the tire. THEN, we got hit with a truck full of goats! Just kidding. But we did have to flag down another passing Tap-Tap to borrow their jack. Just 2 hours after we were supposed to arrive home, we were finally back on the road.

Cheerful. Dance. Baby. Overwhelming. Parachute. Enthusiasm. Twerk.
Our time at Reiser Heights found us sharing notepads, pencils and small suckers with the students. We heard songs from the 1st grade class and interrupted an exam in the kindergarten room! [Oops!] After school was out, the kids joined us in the yard for some music – we played guitar and some of the Haitian staff from the school joined us with bongo drums and maracas. We sang for the kids and they sang for us. We were all able to join together in singing “God is So Good!” This turned into a large group dance, and some “twerking” by a couple of the youngest girls.
We brought jump ropes, soccer balls and a parachute (think 4th grade gym class). All were a hit with the kids. Haitian mothers mingled nearby, shared their babies with us and joined in on the fun. The more introverted of us were overwhelmed by the amount of excitement from the children and activities, but still enjoyed the day.

Thanks to the countless donations of many Reiser Relief supporters, we were able to hold what I can only describe as a “Goat Giveaway.” Reiser Relief was able to purchase 10 goats and 2 pigs to give to the local families living near Reiser Heights. With ‘cabrit’ written on 10 pieces of paper and ‘cochon’ written on 2, local individuals came up one by one and drew a piece of paper out of a basket. If they drew ‘cabrit’, they selected one of the goats tied in the grass nearby. If they drew ‘cochon’, they selected one of the coveted pigs to the sound of large applause and cheers from the small crowd of us that had gathered to watch.
Our team had plenty of fun with this and many photos were taken. I can only imagine what the Haitian man who brought the goats to the yard was thinking of this group snapping many photos of the goats, and with the goats, like we had never seen a goat in our lives…

Despite the drive to and from Reiser Heights being a challenge for many, this was a day of happiness. The team was able to see another side of Haiti – the joyful, loving and structured lifestyle side. This is an important side of Haiti to see and the team was glad to have the opportunity.

Father Reiser.
It’s also important to remember our roots. And how this humble organization started. It’s amazing to hear the history of Reiser Heights and its future being discussed. To know they started with 6 students and now house 250. We all felt blessed to have this opportunity and to see how respected Father Reiser is in the community around Reiser Heights.

Some just want to know why he had to pick a community so high up in the mountains!?

Abbey Brau

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