As the workdays continued, the rotations were very similar. A group worked on the lapidary, a group worked in Canaan, and a group worked in the clinic. However, no matter where you were working each experience was special.
The SJC team initiated the construction work at both worksites, literally breaking ground on each project.
I spent my first day of work at the lapidary site which was inside the PID compound. The fun part about working here was that throughout the day the gem cutters would come over and see the progress of their new workspace. We also had many local children and teens visit throughout the work day, always offering to lend a hand.
Edison and Jojo were two nineteen-year-olds who frequently helped with the lapidary construction. Both from the area, they loved interacting with the teams that traveled down to PID. And the teams enjoyed the company of someone their own age, who could hold a more intellectual conversation about what life in Haiti was really like. They told us about their education (JoJo knows five languages and whats to learn more), their favorite songs (apparently Haitians loves Sean Kingston and Rihanna just as much as Americans do), and the secrets of voodoo we wouldn't have learned from anyone else (such as the voodoo Halloween traditions).
Throughout the two weeks, the teams worked hard to construct the lapidary from the ground up. I watched as trenches were built, concrete was created, and walls were put up. Although we did not finish the entire building, another college group would be coming down to finish the job, and in just a few short weeks the gem cutters would go from working in a dusty, compact closet, into a building built specifically for them.
Over in Canaan, the mood was a little more tense as the teams were thrown into the poverty of the mountainside. However there was always two bright and shining faces that greeted the teams each day: Johnsly and his mom, Veronic. They were so blessed to be receiving a house from PID and they made sure you knew it.
Although I was only able to be in Canaan for a half a day, the stories I heard from the teams were extremely rewarding. Each day Veronic greeted every individual that stepped of the bus with a hug and a kiss while uttering prayers of gratitude for our presence. The SJC team also broke ground at this site, a process that is both difficult and rewarding. But with Veronic working side-by-side with the team and construction workers, they were able to complete the large foundation that would eventually become Johnsly's new home.
The third task that kept the teams busy was working and organizing the clinic while it was closed for the holiday. The clinic was the largest building on the PID compound with over 10 rooms and a large waiting space. The teams were tasked with various odd jobs in the clinic such as painting, reorganizing the rooms, and inventorying supplies. Although this may seem like a more relaxed project after days of working construction in the hot sun, working in the clinic had one major downfall: the paint was mixed with gasoline, and so eventually the fumes would get to you.
However the teams powered through and by the end of the second week the clinic was spotless and ready to reopen to the public.
The end of each work day brought tired teams back to the compound, but they always found the energy to play soccer with the local children. It was a past-time everyone could enjoy, whether they were playing or watching from the sidelines.
However for New Year's Eve, PID had something special in store.
January 1 is a national holiday for the Haitian population, because it was the day that the slaves revolted against, and defeated, their French masters. And so New Year's Eve in Haiti is basically just a 24 hour party.
To help us celebrate the holiday, PID had organized a special soccer match to be played: an international competition of sorts. They had invited all the local children, as well as teens and adults, to form "Team Haiti," while the students and chaperones represented "Team USA." Those who weren't playing in the game set up chairs all around the playing field, ready for the international match-up. Extra lights were added to make visibility easier, but the field was also illuminated by a full moon with a gorgeous halo around it.
The teams lined up as the national anthems of both countries were played, and it honestly gave me chills. I have played soccer for 18 years of my life, but this game was special. And possibly one of the roughest games I have played as well. The Haitians were not ready to back down. Although I scored Team USA's first goal of the match, the final score was not a pretty one: Team Haiti 17, Team USA 11.
An emcee was on the mic to give a play-by-play of the match, but since he was speaking fluent Creole we were at a disadvantage to understand. But the universal cry of "GOOOAAAL" always resulted in an eruption from the crowd, a feeling I will never forget.
The celebration continued for hours with traditional Kompa music, dancing, karaoke, and laughter. And as the clock struck midnight, the team watched from the roof as fireworks burst into the sky across the mountainside.
The next morning we had the traditional pumpkin soup for breakfast, a meal that slave owners forced their slaves to cook for them, but never allowed them to eat. So when the Haitians won their revolution, they began to make the soup for themselves.
The team spent the rest of their day on a private beach in the countryside, gawking at the gorgeous views while swimming in a crystal-clear, warm ocean. It was here that I jet-skied for the first time, while other students went snorkeling.
What better way to ring in the new year?
To be continued...