Tuesday the 21st was our only morning free, though rather than take a needed break, I of course decided to do the hard thing: boxes.  Planning to leave at 8:00 for AMURT, I got some Mac laptop time in while drinking coffee on the hotel porch, waiting for people.  The plan was to go with the three college girls, since they wanted to see AMURT’s “child friendly zone” (aka school) in the Sineas camp.  I also asked Evens and Elisabeth to go, since they didn’t have to prepare for lessons later in the day.  By the time the girls came down and negotiated with their driver (an ongoing theme), we were running an hour late.

Evens,  Elisabeth, and I headed across town in our truck. I was kind of glad that Adam stayed at the hotel, since it allowed us to speak without a translator.  “I’ll teach you English and you teach me French.”  We spoke about many things, particularly my criteria for choosing “level 4” trainers:

  • projection — can teach a full room in an engaging, inspiring way
  • helpfulness — watches everyone, helping constantly
  • initiative — rolls up their sleeves and works without being asked

During the previous night’s breakdown, I had mentioned these, noting that Evens and Elisabeth were very strong with “helpfulness” and “initiative”.  Pretty much every time I checked, they were both helping someone.  During the laptop prep day, they were the last to take breaks, the last to leave.  The area they needed help was “projection”, since they both seemed to prefer working with people one-on-one.  I had to often remind them to be louder.

During our drive to AMURT, Evens made it clear that he not only wanted to be a Level 4 mentor, but he wanted more: to be an area coordinator.   He told me that he’s been traveling to Port-au-Prince every week to take management classes at a local college.  Of all the trainers, he seemed to want it the most.

At AMURT, we unboxed another 115 laptops while I spoke with the Dada.  The college girls had gotten a bit lost in the camp, so showed pretty much when we were leaving.  They went off to see the school, while Evens, Elisabeth and I raced back to the hotel with the laptops.

I then started carrying laptops to the hotel room, with pretty much only Zo helping me.  “We’re late and no one’s helping.”   Carrying large stacks of laptops up three long flights of stairs, over and over, sweating up a storm, I pushed myself beyond my limits, but got it done. When we finally drive up the mountain and got to Mercy Corps, it was exactly 1:00, the time for class to start. Unfortunately, lunch was late & more extra people had come.  Before we’d all eaten and we negotiated who would stay and who would go, another hour had passed, so we started at 2:00.

After introducing things, Zo led the first lesson while I acted as helper to my group of seven.  Evens later asked, “If you can’t speak French or Creole, how did you help them?”  The answer is “showing them.”  It’s  amazing how far you can get, with both adults and children, by wordlessly showing the steps and pantomiming the rest.  Leading a lesson is all but impossible without translation, but assisting is easy.

Zo did a great job leading, as I expected.  He’s great at the first criteria, “projection.”  He’s a naturally charismatic and engaging teacher.  The pacing of the lesson was hurried though, no doubt because of the late start.  I later said in the breakdown that fun is more important than thoroughness, that skipping material is perfectly fine.  People need some room to try things comfortably.

College girls

Michena’s lesson was slower, though it was missing Zo’s friendly charisma.  In person, Michena’s a funny, warm woman, but when she gets up to teach, she becomes much stricter, no doubt modeling the teachers she’s seen in the past.  One of the Waveplace touchstones is “If you’re not having fun, then they’re not really learning.”  Encouraging people in Haiti to “teach with love”, as they called it in Nicaragua, has always been difficult.  The widespread teaching paradigm is that of strict, rote, disciplined memorization, something we’re essentially the opposite of.

PRODEV partners

Driving home, we again passed through a police roadblock on the road through Canape Verde. The day before, the other car got stopped by the police, who were asking for papers, and money.  I had heard about this practice, which seems to be reserved for Haitians, not whites.  In response to the injustice, Zo started writing down the officers badge number and the cops got very angry.  Things could have turned worse, but their driver, formerly of the national security force, asserted himself dramatically and things calmed down.  By the time my car stopped to see what was happening, all was well.

Later that night, the group talked about our lateness that day.  The girls had told me that many of the mentors had shown up at 11:00, which meant they were essentially waiting for three hours before class started.  I felt awful that my team showed up at 1:00, but rather than make a decision for the group, I asked everyone what they wanted to do.  Should we show up an hour early?   The conversation went around and around.  People clearly didn’t want to lose that extra hour in the morning.  Finally it was Elisabeth who said, “We should be there before the mentors.”  Everyone agreed.

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