My afternoon English class is something that I look forward to everyday. My students are the main reason I look forward to class. They make teaching so enjoyable and gratifying. They all inspire me more than they will ever know and the lessons that I have learned from them are unforgettable. I have two students in particular, Mardoché and Roody, 18-year-old young men who walk an hour and a half down the mountain everyday to come to my class and then another hour and a half back up the mountain to go home at night, often after it is dark. Keep in mind too, that they are Haitians and are insanely fit. So for a moderately normal human like myself, it would probably take me closer to two hours or more. Roody goes to high school an hour or more from his house too, so after walking all the way home after school, he stops quickly to eat, and then walks all the way to English class. I want to write about them today because they deserve so much praise. I know that my words are not sufficient, but I want to at least share their story to hopefully bring inspiration to you all too. I think about these boys when I don’t want to wake up in the morning out of pure laziness, or when I even think about complaining when I have to walk home. For over a year, they have been doing this every day of the week and sometimes on the weekend and they would never think about complaining. The word “lazy” is not a part of their vocabulary. They look at it as a pleasure and an opportunity that they are so grateful for. It just amazes me how they are so young yet have more motivation than most people will ever have in their lives. They make it known too that Jesus is the reason for their passions and their energy to continue this difficult life style. Walking these mountains, actually hiking these mountains, is no easy task. I can’t walk 10 minutes without starting to sweat profusely and without getting red-faced, just to give you some perspective.
Yesterday was among some of my favorite days in Haiti. My host mom, host brother, and my friend Randi (another intern here), and I drove up to a church high on the mountain, where the car couldn’t go any further. We wanted to pay a visit to Roody and Mardoché and just tell their families how proud we are of them for their dedication to learning English. We got out of the car and began walking through a kind of forest area. We walked past a big group of adorable little piglets and some not so adorable big hogs. As we were walking, we heard someone making noises behind us and looked back to see a Haitian man pointing us in the right direction to find Roody’s house. We found out later that this man’s name is Alex (he wrote it in the dirt with a rock). He is deaf, the only person I have met in Haiti with hearing loss. When he found out that my host brother’s name is Alex too, he got super excited and gave him a huge hug, because Alex is not a very common name here. Anyways, he was such a knowledgable man. Just about every leaf and plant that we walked by, he would point at and act out what that leaf is used for in remedies. I don’t think he knew sign language, but the way that he was able to express what he wanted to say with gestures, facial expressions, and noises was nothing short of amazing. We knew exactly what he was trying to say. He inspired me too because I can’t imagine how difficult his life has been trying to express himself without knowing how to speak or sign, yet he seemed so joyous and full of life.
So once we found Roody’s house, we were welcomed in with open arms, but decided to just stand outside and mingle a bit because we didn’t want to overextend our welcome. They were the sweetest family, finding all sorts of plants to give my host mom so she could go home and plant them. We asked where Mardoché was, and Roody’s mom just yelled down the mountainside, “MARDOCHÉ!! Vini!” Which means “Come!”. It was so funny to see how he was decently far down the mountain but still heard her and came running. He met us at Roody’s house a few minutes later. They had a guitar there, so he gave us a little sample of his music that he is so passionate about. We stood there listening to him play guitar and my host brother singing. It was a very sweet moment.
Then we descended to visit Mardoché’s house and family. We walked on this tiny little path on the side of the mountain. Looking to our right, there was a steep slope down and the most beautiful view ever. You could see the whole other mountain right next to us, with the fog rolling in between the two of them. There were so many gardens and people out there working to make their gardens look perfect. Not a row wasn’t straight nor a plant out of place. We passed a young man sitting on a huge pile of rocks with all of his papers and books splayed out around him. It was Mardoché’s brother studying for his huge exams coming up, in his last year of high school. Obviously, the studiousness and dedication runs in the family. Then we arrived at Mardoché’s house and met some cousins, his other brother, and his father, again making sure that they all know how amazing their son is.
It was a very fulfilling visit to be able to give these young men the praise that they deserve, just take a bit of time to see where they come so far from everyday, and to meet the families that have raised them to be who they are. I am so grateful to know the two of them and be able to call them my friends. The beauty of God’s creation was so incredible and apparent yesterday too, with the fog, the many flowers, and the view in general.