Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It all started so innocently

Before the pencil wars

Haiti Chronicles Part 6

I sit on concrete steps leading to a little one-room school building in Desab, surrounded by a dozen Haitian kids quietly coloring and sketching.

I brought the supplies, through a non-profit called Stone by Stone. The children provide the enthusiasm, digging deep into my pink and green backpack for the crayons, pencils, drawing pads and coloring books they know are there. For them.

I don't know why, but the yellow No. 2 pencils are hot. All the older kids want one. I pass out what I have. And there aren't enough to go around. That means war.

The pencils transform into swords and bludgeons. The pencil-less hurl stones at the penciled. They run around me, use me as a shield. Kick dirt in each other's faces.

These kids don't have toys or a playground, so they play with nature and discarded items. Sticks and rocks, empty soda bottles, plastic lids. 

Pencils. Sharpened pencils.

They're having great fun, but I don't like being a weapons dealer. So I yell "Pa Bon! Pa Bon!" Bad! Bad! I hold my hands out, palms up and wave my fingers. They instinctively know it means "GIVE ME THE PENCILS." They obey.

One little boy, Dinor, is still being hunted by one of the older kids, a girl, wearing a black skirt. He ducks when she comes near him. He scurries away. He looks up to me for help. I shrug. What can I do?

He slides his hand down his thigh. Charades? I don't know.

He dances away as the teen in black swoops down on him again. His eyes plead with me to help. He slides his hand repeatedly down his thigh. Slide slide slide. I should understand.

He points at the now giggling teen in black. Ducks her advance, slides his hand, looks at me and points at her.

She screams like she's been found out (A clue!), then runs after him.

I start putting the pieces together. Pencils. Ducking. Gesturing. Pocket perhaps?  Pencil?  I turn to the girl in black (who's standing right behind me now)  and do my wavy finger thing. Bingo. She grimaces and pulls the pencil/sword from her pocket and surrenders it to me.

He's giddy; she scrunches her nose and struts away.

He helps collect the rest of the art supplies and skips circles around me as we head back up the hill. Minutes later, he's off, scooting back down toward the little village square to play.

He's gone so fast I have no time to warn him. That I see the teen in black down there. Behind a tree.  Watching him. With a stick.

Haiti Chronicles Part 7: Smacking into the cultural divide

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