(from last Thursday)

Ten days in and I’ve settled into a routine. Wake with the roosters, use the latrine, try for some Internet in the library, charge my laptop while I blog and review photos, talk with Bill and Beth. Not one to wear a watch, I’ve pretty much forgotten about time. I sometimes skip lunch, so Janose brings it to the round house for me and Bill. Thank you Janose! Lunch is an important meal in Haiti, more important than dinner. The school blows a conch shell at the end of the day, which is my signal to start setting up for the kid’s class.

Before then, it’s mostly about little problem solving tasks and greeting and talking to the mentors. Seems there’s always a stream of things to do . . . some of the USB sticks don’t work in the XOs, some don’t have sound, some can’t see the other laptops. Beth has been compiling an XO troubleshooting guide which we’ll translate to Creole. It’s been great having someone else tend to the technical glitches on this trip.

Today’s morning task was making Creole screencasts with Benaja. We made our first attempt the day before outside Robert and Janose’s house. With my Snowball microphone and Mac, we switched between my English screencast and Etoys, over and over, Benaja mimicking my actions and translating my words. It was slow going, but towards the end of the ten minute screencast, we were getting into a flow. Unfortunately, my battery ran out and we lost an hour’s work. Beyond mountains there are mountains.

Yesterday we started early in the library, closing the door so people wouldn’t walk in on our recording. They did anyway, of course. “Bonjou Benaja. Bonjou Tim. Còme ou ye?” Pause recording, greet and explain, rewind, record again. Repeat as necessary. We managed to get through Lessons 8 and 9, though had a very difficult time editing in Final Cut. Each edit took five minutes instead of five seconds. More mountains.

The children’s class was led by Joseph, who was a veritable fountain of enthusiasm. Watching him teach sliders to the children, I was glad for the extra time spent the day before with the mentors. His enthusiasm spread to the children and before long the whole class was engaged and purposeful, especially the other mentors helping individual children. When we came to the end of sliders, I took over to teach the joystick, which hadn’t yet been covered for the mentors, so many of them learned it for the first time with the kids.

By the end of the joystick, our time was over, which meant the children were another lesson behind, just like the mentors. Ordinarily, I’d conclude that Lesson 7 covered too much material, but with the extra time for translation and the extra time spent on X/Y coordinates, I wasn’t yet sure whether to slim it down.

The mentors were still thirsty for more, so Lesson 8 (Tests) went very well. Tests are the third primary component of computer programming. The first two are scripts and variables. Having a solid understanding of all three are essential to using Etoys. “A test is like a question that your computer asks.” Using a rectangle instead of a sketch, we used the “overlaps” tile to make different sounds as the rectangle overlapped different objects. Everyone seemed to understand and enjoy the task, though we ran out of time before covering the other tests in the lesson, which is fine. Variations of the same theme.

Afterwards, everyone’s spirits were up as we talked outside. What a difference a day makes! Our breakdown talk was quick and I was soon having a great conversation at Robert’s with all of the team leaders: Robert, Michena, Joseph, Lionel (who was watching a movie), along with Sobner and Etienne, who translated for me. We talked for a good ninety minutes about many things, including my reasons for helping Haiti (not for God, not for money, for the children) and my trip in 1978 with my mom. The mainland mentors talked about the dirty children around Matènwa and how to encourage families to wash more. Robert explained that many of these families don’t have enough to eat, that carrying water from the well becomes more difficult when you’re too weak, that food comes first. Sobner told us that he wished to bring clothes back to these children, which given the conditions in Darbonne was quite something.

I really enjoyed the conversation, wishing that everyone could listen and talk with such a group. The only way for outsiders to help is to earn the trust of Haitians and listen to their ideas and needs. I went to sleep with a strong feeling of history. These people, this group, are the beginning of something bigger than any of us can now see. I can hear it in their passion; I can hear it in their praise.

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