I thought people might be interested to hear a little about one of the Haitians currently working with Grace Children’s Hospital and Containers to Clinics. As a volunteer, I had the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the convivial doctors and hospital management who oversee the clinic’s future home. I also spent some mornings with the Grace Children’s Hospital’s land preparation team over the last couple of days. The hospital is independently expanding its infrastructure to replace buildings and offices lost in the earthquake and it is exciting to see the new projects that will work in conjunction with the C2C clinics.
In the many moments I spent escaping the sun, I met Alex, one of the land-prep workers shoveling next to me. He smiled a big smile and started rattling off some questions that I had a hard time keeping up with as I used my hard hat as a bench and chased my breath. I think he could tell that I was lost, so he started over, we shook hands, and the conversation began in earnest. His cadence was quick and it was clear that he knew English very well. His energy eclipsed mine. This was not any sort of surprise; this city is rugged but effervescent. Most of the Haitians I have met are vivacious and expressive. It’s a city where when Brazil scores in a World Cup match the cheers of their supporters rise across the city to a cacophony that surmounts the walls and windows wherever you are; then lingers. Alex seems to be one of Port-au-Prince’s own, without a doubt.
We bantered over the usual opening subjects in Haiti: soccer, the possibility of rain, how long I would be in town. He asks where I am from and when I mention my mother’s Japanese descent, he is quick to ask for phrases. We try a few out and he is a quick study, smiling all the while. He throws some Creole back I try my hand at the amalgamation of streamlined French and some words that seem to lack European etymology. He jabs with a quick phrase and I fail to see the connection. Arabic? Yes, he speaks Arabic, oh, and Spanish. You don’t? No, I laugh, I don’t.
As we spend some time talking over his background, I learn about his upbringing with an adoptive Canadian father and supplemental education with various non-profit programs. At one point, he worked in the office for the UN. He was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, but educated by people from all over the world. Alex has a propensity for languages, for sure. Right now, he seems content to have a well-paying job that also puts his hands into rebuilding the city and country where he grew up. So we talk some more (he likes to talk), and prepare the land.