Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good Advice from Zia Nicoletta and Co.

Contracts and waivers signed, now it's officially official; I am going to AYITI!

The anticipation is growing, as is my distaste for travel preparation. It makes me anxious. I haven't been sleeping well. It's nerve-wracking. It seems no matter how much laundry I do or how many lists I make, I feel like the time is flying by without much packing progress. Only 2 weeks remain before I leave.

I have been communicating with Michael (the ESL teacher already there) about what to expect and what is actually available. Here are a few things I know:

1. HELP has a driver! It's generally unsafe to take public transportation, so if I need to go anywhere outside of the neighborhood, the driver will take me. I have NEVER had a driver. I think I will feel pretentious and ridiculous, but I intend to become his friend. Hopefully, that will ease my discomfort with the idea.

2. The open-air markets, supermarkets, and general stores have reopened in Port-au-Prince. Life goes on, even after great disasters. It's like my family in Beirut reminded me when I visited in 2008: just because there is a war going on outside, doesn't mean you stop living your life. The necessities (ie. soap, shampoo, food, etc.) are apparently readily available in the capitol. That makes things easier, I think.

3. I get a mosquito net for my bed and screens mounted on my apartment windows. That's a big deal since many frightening diseases are mosquito transmitted.

4. HELP is going to give me a cell phone. Cool?! I am a bit confused about why I'll need it, but I imagine it's for contact purposes in Haiti.

5. They tell me Skype doesn't work very well down there. I have a feeling video chat will be a rare occurrence. So expect emails, not calls! Sorry!

6. Lastly, I am coming home for Christmas! HELP will pay for 2 round trip tickets to the USA, so I requested a winter break. It will be particularly nice because my cousins from Italy will be visiting and I haven't seen them since my junior year abroad!

Now for the good advice that so earned the title of this blog entry.

Sunday evening, I had dinner with our good family friends the Merhmand/Tinozzi's. Whenever we get together we spend most of our time laughing and enjoying Nicoletta's incredible Italian cooking. It's always a convivial experience, and of course, my going to Haiti was brought up a few times. Sara thinks I am going to be crawling over rubble strewn streets, scavenging for food. My mother is afraid I will be kidnapped and raped. Not that these are not genuine concerns--truly the worst of the worst scenarios--but they are slightly exaggerated. After appeasing those worries, we started in on imagining my daily life. Most of that was uninteresting, save my future laundry habits.

Nicoletta gave me great advice, that I think should be a slogan for all people who have to wash all their laundry by hand. From here on, it will be dubbed the Tinozzi Method.

Step 1: Put a little soap in a bucket filled with water.
Step 2: Swish around your clothes.
Step 3: Let it soak, overnight.
Step 4: Go to bed.
Step 5: Wake up.
Step 6: Rinse.
Step 7: Hang, to dry.

In summation, and this is verbatim from Zia Nicoletta: "Soak, Go to bed, Rinse, Hang...And you do this everyday, so your laundry never piles up!" (Now repeat with an Italian accent).

There you have it folks; soak, go to bed, rinse, and hang. This could be the best advice I've gotten thus far.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bonjou ak byenvini!

"Hello and welcome" to my new blog for my upcoming adventure in Haiti (Ayiti). You will notice that I am trying to incorporate Haitian-Creole into this blog as much as possible. It is a central part of Haitian culture and I can't wait to learn it. Plus, I enjoy seeing the French influences when it's written out.

Now, let me begin by explaining the title of my blog. In Haitian tradition, when somebody wants to tell a story, they ask "Krik?" And when people want to hear said story, they respond "Krak!" Isn't that awesome?!!! So, here we go fellow readers...Krik? (I am going to assume you are all yelling "Krak!" enthusiastically at your computer)

Most of you reading this already know that in about 3 weeks Port-au-Prince, Haiti will become my new home for a year. Yes folks, that's right, I got a job! I will be the Assistant ESL Teacher for the organization HELP (Haitian Education and Leadership Program).

HELP awards merit-based scholarships to disadvantaged Haitian students so that they can attend university. These students would never be able to afford college if it wasn't for HELP. It's practically a miracle that they even made it this far. And the program is quite successful: 90% of students granted these scholarships graduate and 100% of those find a good job in Haiti. The key words being "in Haiti." These students are not only dedicated to improving their personal situations, but also their country. With steady work, they are able to provide for their families, often sending their relatives to school, and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty and helplessness.

In addition to their normal university schedules, the students are required to take Spanish, English, and leadership courses. Enter: me! I will be working with the head ESL instructor on revamping the ESL curriculum to include better testing components and to reinforce the leadership program. Needless to say, I am getting more and more excited everyday about working with these students!

For more information on HELP, check out their website:

Enough about the job, my biggest concern now is getting ready. How exactly does one prepare for a country which has recently been ravaged by a 7.0 earthquake and has pretty much remained in piles of rubble? Well, to be honest, I don't really know. I have no idea what to expect. Haiti has dropped off the radar in the news and I don't think the situation has much improved. When I first found out I'd be going, I immediately thought I needed to take my own backpacking camp with me. A Tent, water purifier, sleeping bag and pad, Sierra cup, knife, etc. etc. were all on my DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT list. But, thank goodness for Michael, the head ESL instructor  who is already down there. He pretty much told me that HELP has all of that kind of stuff in their emergency equipment. So I suppose I don't need to worry about it. However, I think I'll still take my water purifier and knife. They could be really handy, and won't take up that much space.

I also realized that I am going to a tropical country where diseases such as AIDS, Malaria, and Dengue Fever have been a problem even before the whole country crumbled. So yesterday I went to a doctor who specializes in tropical diseases. He was an old man spewing about how awful all these maladies are and how dangerous his patients' said Haiti is. These diseases do sound terrifying, and since most are carried by mosquitoes (who already eat me alive), I will be taking Malaria pills and dousing myself in 40% DEET. Oh, and get this, beyond the fact that mosquitoes love my blood, I am also aesthetically the prime target for those Malaria-carrying buzzers. Apparently, they love black clothing, shiny jewelry, and sweet perfumes. This is no joke; he was completely serious. Guess what I was wearing in his office? Exactly that, a black blouse, a pair of costume gold earrings, and some nice gardenia scented perfume.  I thought to myself: No black? Really?!! No big gold hoops? WHAT? No perfume? That's no good. I can't wear deodorant because of an allergic reaction. Perfume was my only French-inspired hope to covering up my stench. Oh well, I signed up for this; and despite these slight obstacles, I know I'll figure it out.