Young girls from the school at Frères campus
It has been almost five days into my trip and I'm starting to feel more settled and accustomed to the time difference (London is five hours ahead). Yesterday was more of a quieter day for me as there was little on my agenda, and so I spent the morning sitting out on the balcony attending to the various emails and "to-dos" that had been mounting since my arrival. The weather, by and large, has been absolutely beautiful; May is Haiti's rainy season and so my first two nights were spent struggling to sleep with the sounds of heavy rainfall and some thunder! Yesterday was rain-free (thankfully) and very hot, and so I thought it would be a shame to spend the entire day in the house. Handbag and camera in tow, I took a walk around the school campus, stopping young children and older students on the way to ask for directions in the best French that I could muster up.
As I eventually recognised the way back to the house, I was stopped by three schoolgirls aged between 10 and 11. What stood out to me upon meeting them was the way in which they wanted me to greet them - each leaning toward my cheek to air kiss, tugging at my arms to wrap around them and stroking my hair. Some of you will know that I am not the most naturally affectionate person, even with people that I know well, and so feeling somewhat obliged to embrace these children initially came as a bit of a shock to me. In England, there is a certain way in which adults are expected to handle children that aren't immediately known to us: don't address them, don't embrace them, don't do anything that might look suspicious.
Being around these girls forced me to forget all of these preconceived ideas on how to act around children, and allowed me to just be. They plaited my hair and locked their fingers into mine as I asked them about themselves. They asked me if they could refer to me as "maman" (mummy) or "tante" (auntie). They squealed and high-fived each other in excitement as I explained to them that I would be helping to give classes in the coming weeks, and proceeded to write down the name of their class and teacher so that I could come back and teach their class. Three schoolgirls turned into about ten, and soon I was surrounded by a swarm of yellow and grey who followed me all the way to my doorstep until they were eventually shooed away (politely) by the house staff. These children absolutely made my day, and I think I made theirs, too.