An interesting focus on the day today has gotten me thinking.

It started with my presentation on São Tomé and my assistance in the presentation on Haiti, as well as Mike Dawson and Salim Hayran’s presentation about Afghanistan. All three of these deployments have visible elements of success and all three have good advice to share.

And then, after a nice swim in the ocean and a day that was quite full of sunshine, we sat down with it: models. What model works in a deployment and why? Is it better to have a group of mentors teaching students in an extracurricular class (Haiti)? Is it better to have teachers do that (São Tomé)? Is it better to use the computers in the classroom instead, where class is being held anyway (Afghanistan)?

There are pros and cons to all, of course. I had always thought that my inability to use the laptops in the classroom was a negative aspect to our program, a failure on my part. Yet if students use the laptops outside of class, teachers are able to earn a little extra money per week, helping to stimulate a rough economy. Not only that, but the teachers are giving active attention to their computers. Rather than spending five minutes on them doing a quick activity in a lesson, they’re engaging with them for three hours straight.

But at the same time, if you don’t have a great payment setup with the Ministry of Education as São Tomé does, it can get pricey having to pay teachers for their extra hours. And how do you support that? It may be $100 per month per teacher – half the price of a laptop – but it’s still a sum that can’t be shouldered by one person, especially if multiple teachers are involved.

Which has brought me to the conclusion: If you can pay the teachers, you can do anything.

I come to this conclusion because sometimes paying the teachers is the least sustainable part of a deployment and the most necessary. Teachers around the world certainly don’t make much – a decently truthful generalization. If you can create jobs, build salaries, then people will carry the program on their own. They like the education. They want to help their students. But they simply cannot do it for free.

But if you can pay them, then they have a reason to meet every week (or twice per week, or everyday). If you can pay them, then the scary feeling of uncertainty disappears. They can take more risks in their educational initiatives and in their teaching. They can be more open to the use of the laptop, they can work to find a program that fits their school and their culture, they can shoulder more responsibility, they can take more initiative. If you can ensure a stable system of payment that will extend into the long-term, you can ensure a program that will run long-term, too. And that’s the first step to getting an educational system with the laptops that works.

Other things you need: educational content, perhaps content to last at least one year (and content that can be adjusted for use in different countries so that it’s not a cookie cutter world), a good support system (teachers email regularly and people come by the school to check up regularly too, though less frequently). Wherever you have laptops, you must have follow-up. You can’t leave a deployment alone to itself. You need constant communication and evaluation.

Many say: START SMALL! Maybe Uruguay didn’t do it…but many did, and those are the ones that are still chugging. How many small deployments are there in the world? 100? More? Fewer? How can we connect them to one another? How can we help pick them up so that they find the solutions that are potentially scalable as a project grows?

Are we going back to my thoughts yesterday about a non-profit that can take care of the small deployments?

So many things we talk about, so many notes. Tanya Kleider (OLPC-San Francisco – her mother, June, did a deployment in Madagascar) is taking some amazing pictures and I know that Jessica Curtis (New York) has been taking lots of notes. Would love to combine this all on the Realness website for an all-encompassing collection of Realness 2010!

Day two of Realness and it starts off with a bang- Bernie Innocenti of Sugar Labs/OLPC Paraguay and Christoph Derndorfer of OLPC Austria/OLPC News really set the stage for some amazing presentations over the next two days. Both of them regaled us with tales of success and tales of challenge.

There are a number of things that Bernie and Sugar Labs hope to do in order to improve sugar- getting the computers to start up faster, making the XO printer friendly, building full keyboard navigability, improving the friend view and creating an error message when you copy too many items to a USB (currently there is no such error in Sugar). The versions of Sugar work on a six-month release cycle, constantly improving upon one another but still unfinished as of late.

Christoph structured his presentation on the elements of AC/DC- or rather, Academia, Communication, Documentation, Community and- an element added later to the bunch- Sustainability. These five elements are essential to OLPC and its many deployments. They all work together to make something successful.

The last element, sustainability, is an interesting one. Its the big S word, the overarching goal of many OLPC deployments. But how can it be achieved?

I think this is the ultimate question for many. We are all trying to make ourselves as unnecessary as possible- all desperate to bring about an educational phenomenon with, perhaps, just a child and a laptop. For Waveplace, mentors are also part of this equation- but they are meant to help and not hinder the learning process, and they are, for the most part, locals.

Yet OLPC still asks- how can we help a country of children to learn, how can we expand their opportunities, how can we help them grow from within themselves, their culture, their own home country?

In the afternoon, a small group of us stayed behind in the main pavilion instead of going to class. We had a structured discussion about failure- what causes the failure of an OLPC project, what aspects of successful OLPC projects have failed, and, most importantly, how to prevent these failures.

I talked a lot about my work in São Tomé (biggest failures: lack of materials in Portuguese, no continuation after OLPCorps for the program to carry over the school year, unreliable electricity and internet) and some things about Haiti (biggest failure: not being able to find funding fast enough to continue our programs).

We made a list of things that are essential to a successful OLPC program- the ability to communicate with teachers and students (language ability), having a local person with connections in the community on the ground, making sure teachers (and potentially students) are knowledgeable about how to repair computers. The lack of languages that the Help activity is available in. The failure of setting objectives in various OLPC programs, preventing people from being able to accurately find success. Barriers and challenges such as battling customs, imperfect infrastructures that don’t support, for example, internet when there is no electricity.

Mike of Afghanistan said to me- if you’re having problems with connecting to the internet in São Tomé because electricity is so dodgy, why don’t you hook up the wireless hub to a battery that can charge when there’s electricity at the school? It was a genius solution. Of course we can do this!! That way we can be sure that there will be internet in class and we won’t have to rely on a crazy electricity connection. Amazing what happens when you put some heads together.

A couple of us (Mike, George Hunt from New York) thought of the idea of creating a small manual of how to and how not to start an OLPC deployment. It could be…a checklist of items that are absolutely necessary for a deployment to work out, even a small outline with areas that should be filled in about what the objective of the program is (and other things). We could distribute it on the OLPC website or the wiki. I know that there is a deployment guide already, but sometimes so much information is overwhelming. It might be nice to have something smaller, easy to read, and not overly detailed.

June Kleider talked a bit about her Madagascar deployment- in a town where cell phone reception only started functioning in 2008. The only internet cafe in the area had two computers in it. Most of the children in the program had never seen a computer before.

It’s amazing to think about a situation so Spartan. Not even São Tomé was that removed from the information age. I identify strongly with June’s mission to bring more computers to Madagascar, and I see her as of the same blood- not really officially affiliated with anyone, just trying to lend a hand and educate some kids, in the face of a feeling of a world fighting against you. I respect that greatly.

George thought of a genius idea that has been getting me thinking, a lot. He thought about the idea of starting a nonprofit organization that supports small OLPC deployments. That way small deployments can get tax deductible status as a 501(c)(3) organization. They can also get support in how to work a deployment, how to make it sustainable…it could be so smart. I don’t know what OLPC would think about it, but it’s something I am insanely interested in.

More to come tonight- discussion, questions, maybe even some answers if we’re lucky. Stay tuned.

It’s amazing the movement that Realness is already beginning to make, and we’re only one day into the summit.

Here are the countries represented in Realness 2010:

Haiti
Paraguay
Peru
Uruguay
Honduras
Afghanistan
São Tomé e Príncipe
USA, including the Virgin Islands; Columbus, Ohio; and Cambridge, MA
Madagascar
Austria

The global reach is outstanding- a collection of experience all in one place and time. We have representatives from OLPC, Sugar Labs, OLPC News, non-profits, government reps, computer software and programming groups, schools, even individual volunteers and interested observers. We come all representing various angles of the OLPC experience- the masterminding, the creation, the distribution and dissemination, the educational content production, the school organization and, most certainly, the teaching.

It’s an amazing situation. You have a question, and you’re almost guaranteed to get an answer from someone who was intimately involved in the process that you’re asking about.

This morning we had a long presentation by Tim about the beginning of Waveplace and its current reaches. It was great to finally be able to show the OLPC community what Waveplace has been up to. After Tim, Adam Holt of OLPC talked about OLPC’s place in the world right now, and what it hopes for in the future. As expected, there were lots of questions. People wanted to know if OLPC would eve make content (no, but it wants to work with local organizations that can produce educational content for their respective countries). People wanted to know where Adam wanted to see OLPC in three years.

It set the scene for a number of structured talks that we’ll be having over the weekend. Some of these subjects include: Failures and what always seems to go wrong in OLPC deployments- and how to avoid those mistakes in the future; content creation, who should do it, and how; and what OLPC should do with the 3,000 laptops marked to be sent to Haiti- how to develop a worthy program there. Other potential subjects: alternative energy solutions to power the XO, how to best work with local government and non-government organizations to improve a laptop deployment, and how to best publicize, recruit volunteers for and fund an education program using the XO.

So much to talk about, so little time.

This afternoon I am at the Guy Benjamin School again. I’m filled with pastries after being recruited to make some purchases at the school’s bake sale. Still trying to decide if that was ultimately a good decision. GB is pretty busy today- as school was cancelled yesterday due to a flood warning, the girls now have to cover two Etoys lessons in one day. Yet Bernie Innocenti of Sugar Labs said it correctly- our mentors are extremely well organized and really have the class working smoothly.

What a silly sort of dream that we’re running in class today. A kid has a technical problem with his computer, oh, there’s Bernie Innocenti from Sugar Labs in to fix the content on a kid’s laptop. Something’s wrong with the hardware? Oh, there’s Richard Smith of OLPC, jumping on board to unbrick the computer. It’s like if you had issues with your Windows Media Player and suddenly Bill Gates were to walk by and help you. Or if you were having trouble with the filament on your incandescent lightbulb and Thomas Edison just jumped in to help you out. What minds we have here! What resources!

Bernie walks around asking students how they like their XO and what problems they are having with the programs. Richard fixes a computer that doesn’t seem to be starting up right. They both sit down and watch the rest of class continue.

The Etoys lesson is over and now kids are using other Sugar activities and the internet.

“Does a fish sleep?” One of the mentors shouts to the students.

The kids’ fingers fly across their keyboards, searching on Google for the answer. When a student finds it, the room quiets while he reads the answer, hidden in a paragraph about the nocturnal habits of fish, in particular, bass.

“One more question,” one of the mentors, Whitney, says. “How many miles a day does a tuna fish swim?”

“Two miles!” one student yells. “Wait, 440 miles!”

“Look it up!” Whitney tells her.

At the Gifft Hill School, there are flowers all over the projector screen. They keep duplicating, one after another. “Make sixty!” One kid shouts. “Make a thousand!” Exclaims another.

Today is the most calm, disciplined day I have maybe ever seen in my whole experience with the XO laptop. It is also because the Guy Benjamin school was closed today due to flood warnings so we have double our mentors, plus a whole bunch of Realness participants that wanted to come and join in.

We have 20 students, and about 16 adults. Today, class is not One Laptop per Child but One Mentor per Child!

Got the morning off so we could all be tourists- unfortunately it’s been raining like crazy so we haven’t really benefitted much from the time, though we did have a fabulous talk with some of our Realness participants while in the pavilion. Mike Dawson of OLPC Afghanistan, Richard Smith/Adam Holt of OLPC and Christoph Derndorfer of OLPC News and I all sat down for a good old talk about the reach, content improvement and other strategies of development for OLPC deployments worldwide.

It’s amazing, really- the more we discuss, the more we have to talk about. Up ’till now, there has been little chance for people to look each other in the eye and just figure stuff out- ask questions about other deployments, seek solutions to their own deployments- and now we have that chance. We were talking about the success in Uruguay and then said out loud, oh, we should ask Carlos Rabassa about this, he’s coming from Uruguay and will be at Realness this weekend.

It’s funny, the information age. Sometimes you really feel gratitude for the good old method of sitting down with someone, getting a drink, and talking shop.

And that’s exactly what Realness is all about.

It’s 3:05pm and we’re walking down the hallway of the Julius E. Sprauve School (JESS), heading to class. Our students at the end of the hall can hear our voices and our feet- they come running out of the room, bounding into our arms. There’s a lot of yellow in this school- the walls are yellow, the students’ shirts are yellow. The air conditioner is strong but it still feels like you’re in the tropics because the school is just so colorful.

Today, Wednesday, we’re teaching the kids how to create sketches using the paintbrush tool in Etoys. At JESS we’re making our own fish ponds, showing the kids how you would need to draw your pond and each fish separately so that the fish can “move around” in the water. In Haiti, we were afraid of telling students to do one thing in particular because it made them less imaginative. But sometimes when it comes to learning I think the idea isn’t a bad one to have the students make their own versions of the same thing. By all creating a fish pond, for example (of varying shapes, colors and sizes), the skill of being able to move the fish around in the pond communicates more clearly to each student (versus if the students had each drawn something different). Students also feel more comfortable helping each other because they each understand what the other student is working on.

It’s not perfect, but as you learn with Etoys, nothing is ever truly perfect. It’s just figuring out how to learn from all aspects of your experience- the pros and the cons- that makes the difference.

At the beginning, class is a little bit loud. Kids play music on their computers (the same music that I am accustomed to hearing in Haiti and São Tomé- amazing how this music is so global). But once they get drawing, they grow quiet. They pay very close attention and they listen to their teachers. I watch the mentors interact with the students. They had divided them into five groups (one group for each mentor) around the classroom. Each group faces the projector at front, but they are physically separated so that the mentors can walk in between them and help them out.

Abraham sits in the back. He can’t focus enough to make a fish- he wants to make a big pond with polka dots and then he wants to fill the whole canvas with yellow, and then he wants to put a huge circle on top everything. But if you keep with him, if you give him a minute, you can show him the value of making a pond and then adding a fish later. If you just push him a little bit, he presses “keep” after making the pond, he draws this fish and then he’s *amazed* that you can move the two drawings separately. These are things the kids may not have figured out on their own…but now that they know them, they are all the more powerful for it.

After drawing, the kids talk about their stories in groups. They’re completely engaged with their mentors. It’s a beautiful sight.

Twenty minutes later Abraham is back in his seat (after cruising the classroom for a bit). He’s typing madly away at his computer, a beacon of focus. “The Life of Abraham Browne,” he types, “by Abraham Browne.”

Dinner after school goes quickly as the Columbus girls are prepping for a midnight cruise. Adam Holt and Richard Smith of OLPC arrive a little bit later in the evening, just as dinner is ending. Bernie will be here tomorrow…and the summit crowd is really starting to come together.

Tomorrow is a morning off. I see myself laying on the beach, shooting the breeze, working on my tan, you know the deal. It’s Realness….and it’s Maho.

Class today goes great. George Hunt and Jessica Curtis have joined on board and came with us to class today. It was great having them join up. We’re expecting some new people tomorrow evening too- can’t believe the summit is already here.

Today we worked on Etoys Lesson 2 and tried to build interest among the kids in storytelling, using the book item in the Etoys supply box (which is something students learn in Lesson 2). I was with the Guy Benjamin School today, the same school that Waveplace did a pilot with a couple of years back. We were, in fact, in the same room that Waveplace was in the first time around, so it was an interesting and slightly eerie thing to see the scene of the first Waveplace video in real life.

It’s so interesting being here after being in Haiti. The ability to teach in English is an incredible asset to teaching Etoys…the kids are just learning the material SO fast…almost too fast for us to be able to keep up with them! I see people interacting with the kids in ways that I never felt able to interact with our kids in Haiti. And they are more engaged.

I certainly don’t believe that my native language is the only language that Etoys can be effectively taught in…but it’s certainly nice to not have to deal with bad translations, things left in English, and holding back fun ways of explaining something for the sake of translation and comprehension.

Today the girls finished lesson 2 in 30 minutes. With an hour left to go, they came up to me and asked what they could do. I reminded them that we had wanted to start integrating a little bit of storytelling, and maybe they could talk to kids about elements of a good story. They agreed to do that, and worked on it for a bit before Tim and Larry came by with some new laptops (a few kids had laptops that weren’t working so we replaced them with ones that were working). Even with the craziness of getting the new laptops in the middle of class, we were still able to finish the lesson. It’s interesting to see the differences in a country that speaks English and is, to put it bluntly, wealthier.

Christoph mentioned putting more emphasis on Sugar, particularly during this short time period that we have. I think that’s a great idea. Understanding the way Sugar works (the journal, the different views, connecting to the network) is essential. I’m excited for the Realness Summit to begin, when we’ll be able to talk with even more members of the OLPC community about their ideas on how best to develop a program with these XOs. I’m always interested in hearing about other experiences, that is for sure.

Arrived in St. John late last night due to a few flight delays. Bill picked me up at the ferry. “Man, Bill,” I said to him. “It’s like I just saw you two weeks ago!”

“Funny,” he responds. “You did!”

St. John is a little bit different from Haiti, but certainly an interesting comparison. They’re both in the Caribbean and there are cultural things that seem to spill over between the two- Tap Taps (or Safari Wagons, as they call them here), the intense humidity, the mosquitoes. Headed out to Beach Bar with Bill where we filled what was my extremely empty stomach after not having eaten in 14 hours. We also indulged in a risky game of Scrabble, and then, by complete surprise, found an old friend of mine who I used to work with in D.C. and now lives in St. John and was hanging at the bar as well.

As it turns out, my friend Joel also works at the Maho Bay Camps- exactly where we’re staying for the next ten days!

After some jumping up and down and a tearful reunion, it became clear to me: this is going to be an awesome pilot.

Day one begins at the main dining pavilion at the Maho Bay Camps in St. John.

We’re equipped with: 12 high school women from the Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, OH and their advisors, a handful of dedicated volunteers, Christoph Derndorf of OLPC News and the lovely Waveplace staff.

And we’re ready for action.

We meet with the students first to talk logistics: this is how we’re going to take on each day. We talk about the founding of Waveplace and our mission as an organization. Then we break into three groups for the three different schools we’ll be working at (Gifft Hill, Guy Benjamin and Julius E. Sprauve) and plan out how each group is going to start not only an introduction to the XO laptop, but Basic Etoys Lesson 1. The Columbus girls are amazingly organized- all year long they’ve been studying methods of teaching Etoys to kids in a fun way. They come with lesson plans, big laminated visuals and lots of fabulous ideas.

In the early afternoon, Bill and I hit up each school to talk to the principals. We were really impressed with how much the principals wanted to help. We even asked the principal at Guy Benjamin if any of her students from our previous pilots wanted to be “junior mentors” and help out in class…and she sent three over!

Christine (of the Columbus school), Bill and I are designated “floaters” during our time here. Each day is spent at a different school, checking in on the students and mentors, helping with details, photographing, blogging, etc. Today I’m at the Gifft Hill School. When we arrive, there are a few minor issues. For one, I’m dumb and even though I walked deliberately to my tent to get the power strips that I wanted to bring to the schools, I still forgot them. So we had to run around getting everyone hooked up with power strips.

Secondly, some of the computers weren’t working. But again- tomorrow, we’ll either fix them or give the kids other ones.

Yet class went great. The students love their computers and were listening very intently to their mentors. And- I said this one and I’ll say it again- our mentors are AMAZING! They’re alert, they’re alive, they love the kids, they connect with them, and they keep wanting to do more for them. We couldn’t be luckier to have them with us.

Jan was with me at Gifft Hill. We created a contract for students to sign with their parents promising that they will take care of their computers. We put it on Waveplace letterhead and handed it out among Gifft Hill students (and, later, the other school students).

Driving back on the bus, the girls were talking heavily among one another. They couldn’t stop chatting and laughing about how the day went. I know they had a good time.

After dinner, we talked a lot with our “core group” (me, Bill, Tim, Paula, their friends, Larry and Robin, Dana and Christine, and Christoph) about where this program is going in the long-term. After much debate, we outlined a solid guide for how we might conduct Waveplace’s future in St. John. Right now, all of our mentors are based on the mainland, and they are all leaving on June 2nd. But if we can train local teachers here (teachers affiliated with each school) over the summer, we can effectively start a “real” school program in the fall, either during or after the school day.

This is the exciting dream that we’re going to sleep with tonight. More to come in Day Two of the Waveplace Adventures in St. John!

In Haiti, everyone greeted everyone. Throughout the day, people walked from house to house, chatting about everything and nothing, keeping connected.

Two weeks later, I’m taking the T home from Boston airport, sitting in a metal subway car filled with more people than lived in that whole Haitian village. No one talks to each other. No one looks up. No connection.

When I’m with Isabel, my four year old daughter, I’m often talking to people on the subway. She’s a great icebreaker with her antics. I’m usually saying funny things to her, which make the people around smile and pretty much every trip we’ve got at least three or four adults enjoying themselves. Isabel’s our way to be real with each other. She’s real, so we’re allowed to be real too.

So why aren’t we to begin with? Why wasn’t I chatting up a storm on that train ride home from the airport, talking to strangers about my experiences, listening to their day, telling jokes and smiling? Why instead do people find connection through Facebook and Twitter and text messaging, without seeing each other?

A simple answer is that it’s easier to ignore people through a computer. Someone speaks to you on the subway and you’re pretty much obligated to interact with the person, if only to shrug them off and reinforce your bubble.

Yesterday I was at Starbucks to get some WiFi and ran into a friend. He got some coffee and sat at a table near me. After a bit I asked if I could join him, hoping to talk about some of the things on my mind. Instead, an elderly woman joined our table. They were meeting for coffee. Would I join them?

Well, this wasn’t what I had in mind. After all, I was busy. Talking alone with my friend might have helped. Small talk with a stranger, not so much. I agreed and sat down (how could I not?). Sipping my coffee, I listened as my friend and the woman talked about the Regis show and her nephew. “We meet every day to solve the problems of the world,” said my friend. His manner with her was completely open and welcoming. She was clearly thankful for our conversation. After a while, I had completely forgotten about the things I wanted to talk to my friend about and was simply enjoying their company. Connection.

Realness isn’t so much about what’s said, but why. If my intent is to push the thoughts in my brain into your brain, without regard to what’s there already, then I’m not being real with you. If instead I’m looking for connection, if I see where you’re at first, if I have patience, then we’ve got a chance for realness, even if it’s Regis we’re talking about. Connection’s about connecting with who we are, offering up thoughts in a shared context developed through conversation.

Before dumping your thoughts into another brain, check with the owner first. Leaving a bunch of boxes in their mental foyer is not only rude, it’s pointless.

Five days until the Maho Workshop begins and I’m already exhausted. Not that I’ve had much break since the Haiti trip. Pretty much this entire year so far has been one thing after the next, an endless string of details demanding time. Everything I do is instead of something else.

This morning I’m wondering just how real I ought to get in these posts. With a name like “realness” staring back at me, my first thought is “very.” But people are many and they’ve each have their own likely reactions. The deeper you dig, the more you risk alienating or offending some.

Now of course it all depends of what you consider “real.” There’s an arrogance in describing one thing as real and others not, but my choice of terms was deliberate. I want people to think about authenticity and what it means to them.

Speaking for myself, realness means complete lack of artifice. “Be who you are, not who you’re not.” We spend our lives constructing these attitudinal constructs which we think of as “us” and they’re really not. Realness is the way you talk to that one person in the world that really gets you, the way you feel when you’re the person you’d like to be. Realness is the way we should talk to young children. Realness is children.

When I was four years old, my family got an Old English Sheep Dog, which we named Frisby. He had my same birthday and we were friends from the start. When adult friends came over, both me and Frisby got trotted out for the first round of cocktails (“He’s getting so big”, “Your puppy is so cute”) and then Frisby would abruptly get locked in the mud room where he’d sit and scratch the door. I’d usually join him in solidarity, sitting and listening to the strange talk of adults, which didn’t sound much like how my family talked to us when others weren’t around. We clearly weren’t invited.

Kids know when you’re not real. You can syrup up your voice. You can pat their head and ask questions and smile. You can tell them jokes. But until you make your arms short and stomp after them like a T-Rex, you’re just an adult and you’ll never truly reach them. They’ll stay locked in the mud room, wondering what all this talk is about, hoping you’ll include them.

After a while, they stop hoping. Some learn to do what they’re told. Others disconnect and learn limitations. “Deficiency becomes identity.”

Want to know how to improve education? Start by being real with kids.

(about Sunday)

The blue wooden sailboat rocks up and down, side to side. I desperately try to keep my stomach from flying out of my mouth. I look over at Bill and Chris and they are motionless (but I later learn that they are pretty much thinking the exact same thing as me).

We woke up at three in the morning to leave Matènwa and make it to the 6am boat ride to Port-au-Prince. Bill and I rode in the back of a big pick-up truck filled with luggage. We laid all the luggage down in a cozy arrangement and then sat right on top of everything, but the cushioning still wasn’t enough to battle La Gonave’s infamous roads (perhaps “boulder-infested climbing path” is a better way to describe it). Our bodies flung around in the truck’s bed with each dip and climb. But at this point, we’re veterans, so we don’t mind so much.

The boat ride is beautiful, albeit moderately sickening. When we arrive we soak in some rays on the beach before Chris’ friend picks us up. By this point, it’s about 10am. We drive through town and get celebratory ice creams for everyone as a congratulations for making it this far on some pretty sleepless travel. It is Bill and my last day and what a great last day it is.

At John Engle’s house, Merline greets us with pumpkin soup and fried plantains (a woman after my own heart). We listen to Merline’s brother, Alex, lead a church’s youth choir through a concert for their parents. The songs they sing are about Haiti, about their identity, about their faith. They are truly beautiful.

There are some Americans visiting John’s tonight, a church group from Michigan. They visited Darbonne a few days ago and were impressed with the students there, whose eyes had lit up when they were asked about the computer program. “We LOVE our computers!!” They had exclaimed. The visitors said that they had never seen students so enamored with a lesson while sitting outside before. It really was magic to them.

We are so proud of our mentors and everything we have been able to accomplish together in the program thus far. Thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog- you will certainly hear more from us as things develop. Tonight we are relaxing and toasting our success. After that we’re getting right back to work- trying to get some more lesson plans developed, checking in with our incredible mentors, and watching 200 of Haiti’s children from afar as they make history.