Follow Maine Music Outreach participants as they experience Haiti through the universal language of music.
We started our long last day in Haiti with a walk and a swim. The river that flows through Cange makes for a great and refreshing swim, but also gives you a work out. 535 steps down and up the side of the mountain that kicks your butt. The final concert was after lunch. We all had fun learning and playing throughout the week but it came to an end yesterday. We said our final goodbyes to our new friends last night at the final week banquet and set off on the bus this morning.
You know what America needs? More goats! In Haiti, goats are everywhere, which I think is great. Around the camp the goats began to look familar, we decided to name one Tom Brady, because Liz and Nick are Patriots fans. We woke up the last full day to five goats around the place where we were sleeping. They all looked so happy walking up and down stairs. Most of time the goats just pass through the camp but on the last day they were playing and relaxing all over.
We woke up this morning at a crisp 5:30am and began boarding the bus for our journey back to Port-au-Prince. This morning was particularly hard to get out of bed because yesterday we had a busy day of hiking, swimming, performing, and attending the huge banquet held on the last day of camp. Sunday was an amazing day, but the exhaustion definitely caught up with most of us. The bus ride to the airport was much different than the one to Cange. Previously, we had the entire bus to ourselves but today some of us were sitting four to a seat as the bus was transporting both volunteers and departing camp members. After a bumpy ride down the mountain we made it safely to the airport. It has been such a wonderful and inspiring trip, and it will be hard to leave such a beautiful country, but I couldn’t be more happy with the moments we created these past 10 days. I can not wait for my next trip to Haiti!
Sunday was our last day in Haiti and was the day of the concert. Throughout the week, the choir, two orchestras and the band had been rehearsing and every student was genuinely excited to perform in front of a packed audience. Even when the power went out in the middle of the POS’s orchestra performance the group continued to play. In fact, our group and some audience members got up with flashlights and helped the performers see their sheet music. The concert brought all the students together and made us appreciate what we worked towards for the entire week. I am excited to return home, but it will be hard to leave an environment as unique as that of the camp.
So this is it, our journey in Haiti has come to an end. We all woke up around 5:30 AM to gather together on the bus and venture off to the airport. After sitting in a cramped, chaotic bus ride for a few hours, it feels good to sit down together and relax in the jetBlue terminal. It’s unbelievable how fast the trip flew by, it seems like only a couple of days ago when we took our first steps in Haiti. There’s so much that I’ve learned and taken in from this trip that will certainly change my perspective on life and the lives of those around me, whether they be in the same country or not. Haiti proved that you don’t need internet or electronics to be happy or have fun. Just make the best of what you have, and everything will work out.
Yesterday was our last full day in Haiti. It was full of goodbyes and pictures. I was sad to go but I was excited to get back home. It was suprising how easily I adjusted to my new routine. By Monday, the week felt like it would be shorter. I adjusted to having cold showers and it always being hot outside. I got used to falling asleep to loud music and waking up to soccer games right outside our door. This morning we left at 7:00 AM on the same bus that first brought us to Cange. It was only supposed to hold about 25 people but we had at least 40 and all of their luggage. There were five people per row (3 on one side and 2 on the other) and some people had to stand. It lasted about 3 1/2 hours. We finally arrived at the airport and are waiting to board our flight home.
Yesterday we had our last normal day of rehersals. We practiced with kazoos in the clarinet sectionals because it was our last day, but rehersal wasn’t much different. I’m looking forward to having the concert. The pieces are starting to sound good. I’m also looking forward to going home. It’s sad to leave, but I’m excited to have my creature comforts back.
I cant believe it’s only a couple days now until we leave Haiti. What an unbelievable trip it’s been with people that I can now easily call all my friends. Although days upon days of rigorous rehersals was tiring, almost 5 hours of playing per day, it couldn’t break the spirit we all have and all shared. Our departure from Haiti is bittersweet, while we get to finally go home to our friends and family, we also leave knowing that not everyone has it as easy as we so in the United States. The Haiti Trip was a lifechanging experience, and one that I will always remember.
Following a day of rehearsals, lessons and another dinner of cornflakes, we decided to walk across the street to a little outdoor café called Michelins. Most of us got an order of plaintains, spicy slaw, and marinade, which are little balls of fried dough. This meal, including a soda, cost us less than $2. It was delicous! After eating, we went back to our room which is situated right next to the soccer field. We watched a group of local kids play ball, all while trying to avoid getting hit. Tomorrow is our last day of the normal schedule, as the weekend is busy with a dress rehearsal, recital, concert, and hopefully a sunrise atop the mountain.
Over the past couple of days, a few trumpet players, Erin and I have started rehearsing a short piece that we will play in Saturday’s camp recital. We brought this piece of music from Maine hoping to play it here. In full band rehearsals, the trumpets, (there’s 22 of them), can be overly loud, but it is great to see that when put in smaller groups, the trumpets are capable of playing with different tempos and levels of sound. I am looking forward to my continued work with this smaller group and the American teacher, Stephanie, as we help the students master a piece that takes gentle skill and far less volume.
It rained last night which I think most people liked since there hasn’t been much rain for the past week. This morning a lot of people were sweeping away any leaves and branches which had blown into the paths. Many of the students here were practicing under a tarp last night even after there was a recital last night; all I had the energy to do was to fall asleep.
Yesterday we continued to fix clarinets for Haitian students. Many of the problems were something we couldn’t fix because we don’t have spare parts with us. In the states, only professional repair people have those things. It was hard to tell the kids that we couldn’t really help them. Luckily, we found a possible fix for Kofi’s flute. I took a bobby pin and cut it to size with nail clippers. I will put it in after breakfast before sectionals.
Yesterday we had two rehearsals, one of which was shortened due to some threatening thunderstorms. Since all rehearsals are outdoors, rehearsals stop when it’s raining. We are working on an arrangement of Pirates of the Carribean, and I asked the girl next to me if she has ever seen the movie. She replied no, but said she really liked this song. It is so interesting to see the growth and progression of the band in our few days here. Today, Abe and I are bringing a trio to the sectional to hopefully have prepared for Saturday’s recital.
Every morning at around 8 we all split up for sectionals and play for a specific teacher in our section. It just so happens though, that the percussion section doesn’t have a teacher this week. So Abi and I stepped up to the plate to take over, and its been going better than I thought. I thought the language barrier would make everything harder, but it’s the exact opposite. For the most part, it’s been fairly easy. I fixed a chair a couple of days ago with duct tape, so I feel pretty great. Rehersals have been interesting since most of the conductors will only speak in Creole when they know English. It’d be nice if they spoke a little English for the students who don’t speak Creole. It’s frustrating, but it’s all part of the learning experience.
Today before our second rehearsal, Emily and I broke out the Valentino repair kit for clarinet, sax, and brass instrument repair. We were hoping to help one Haitian flute player, (Cofi?). His flute was missing a screw and some of his pads needed to be replaced. Unfortunatly, we couldn’t help him because the kit didn’t have anything for flutes. However, within minutes, clarinet players began to show up and asked us to replace their corks. Emily and I began working. (Cofi?) stood watching us. After a few corks had been replaced, he started helping us by stripping the old corks and handing us the tools we needed, even saying “careful”, in a thick Haitian accent, when he handed us the knife. He translated for us as well. After evening prayer we fixed a few more. Cofi(?) was helping, and after a while, we had a crowd of people in the beginning stages of learning how to fix their own instruments. This made it much more rewarding knowing we not only left them with working instruments but we provided them with the knowledge to carry out repairs in the future. Tomorrow, we plan to finish corks and start removing pads after our sectionals.
It is the end of our third day of the 2017 trip. The travel was uneventful, as we would hope.
Yesterday (Sunday) we attended church and the concert. We visited the Art shop run by the incomparable, Jackie Williams. Her husband was the environmental engineer who built the clean water project which Clemson University and its engineering students now up keep. I’m not sure of the year it was built, but I am sure it’s only a Google search away. Ms. Jackie has been here ever since, running an artists’ co-op. The co-op supplies a space and supplies for art work. The co-op splits the proceeds of what is made 50/50 with the artists themselves.
We spoke with Jackie at length and then she offered to bring us to Paul Farmer’s house. You can read about this house in Tracy Kidder’s “Mountain’s Beyond Mountains”. In fact, you could read lots of information about where we are. It’s a VERY worthwhile read.
Today (Monday) was the first playing day for us. 7AM morning meeting and breakfast. 8AM sectionals of like instruments was followed by the sorting of music. We had band rehearsal, 10:30-12:00. “Dinner” is the big meal here during what is known as our lunchtime. Following dinner there is a siesta-like time during which are private music lessons, shower time, nap time…it’s an opportunity to rest or rejuvinate. Abi taught viola lessons and I taught saxophone lessons.
Emily and Chris brought the repair kit and began to re-cork clarinets. The cork is what holds the pieces of the instrument together and there were many that needed replaced. We had another rehearsal, 4:00-5:30 followed by the evening meeting, supper and more rehearsals. Abi is currently playing viola with the adult orchestra.
It’s been great to connect with friends from previous years: Haitians, students and adult volunteers. It’s been a joy to watch as our students reach out and connect with students and adults, alike.
FYI – I haven’t been able to get pictures to load on this blog nor our Facebook page. I’ve been taking lots of them and will upload when I can…which may have to be when we get home. Rest assured, we are all well and absorbing everything around us. “The kids are doing just fine.”
~ Liz, Program Director of MMO
So here we are, after a long day of traveling, in Cange, Haiti. A 3:30am leaving from Maine gave us a quiet ride to the airport, A LOT of coffee when we got there, plenty of bathroom trips on the plane and then a bumpy ride in the mountains once we reached Haiti. It’s really exciting to be back. Even though these last two days haven’t been too eventful, we are all excited to be taking in the beauty and chaos of the country.
~ Emily – second trip
Today was our second day in Haiti and everyone was recovering from the previous day of travel. While there were some minor bug-net setup issues, most of us enjoyed a good night of sleep snuggled with our fans. It was a chill day for us as the camp was wrapping up its second week and holding a concert. Before the concert, we attended the church service. The music, service, and setting was so inspiring and had us all looking forward to our week ahead. Later in the afternoon we were fortunate enough to visit Paul Farmer’s house in Cange, which is directly across from the Partners In Health facilities. His home was beautiful, and the surrounding mountains and towering bamboo made it even more magical. It was so fascinating to see his home in real life after reading about it in Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. The rest of the of the evening concluded with a corn flake dinner and visiting the camp’s weekly dance party. Tomorrow we begin rehearsals and could not be more excited to start playing our instruments!
Today we started on the musical part of our trip. Directly after breakfast- a yummy combo of avocado and corn grits- we headed down to run the band sectionals. We all paired off into our instruments and worked with the students on their new music for the week. In spite of the language barrier, it was surprisingly easy to teach the students as they already had a high skill level and were very eager to learn.
~ Erin – first year
So far the day’s been great, filled with non-stop music and many smiling faces just waiting to greet you. Today’s sectionals started off on an interesting note, having no percussion section teacher while every other sectional had some kind of teacher. So, I had to step up to the plate and take over. Not speaking the same language as the multiple percussion students was definitely hard and challenging at first, but we made it work and had a successful sectional. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the day has in store.
~ Nick – first year
After sectionals, we organized music in preparation for the very first band rehearsal!! It feels so good to start playing music again and do what we came here to do.
~ Abi – first year Assistant Teacher
Haiti has been interesting. The ride up was amazing. We took mountain roads to Cange in an old white school bus. When we arrived to the camp, we were greeted by smiling faces. We met those in charge and were taken to our rooms. We have a small building to ourselves. On Sunday we went to the church service. It was wonderful. Despite not understanding a word, I felt the sense of community. Can’t wait for what Haiti throws at me next.
~ Chris – first year
Haiti has been full of beautiful and unique suprises. Monday was the first day we played music with Haitians. It feels like I am still in high school in Maine because the humor and energy among the students is conveyed regardless of the language barrier. All of the students do their best to play every note, and many students play long after rehearsals have ended. I am excited to continue playing in the company of peers who put so much energy into playing music.
~ Abe – first year
Our first day of actual camp in Haiti has been intresting so far. Most of us don’t speak French or Creole which has made band rehersals a little confusing, but the instructors are willing to repeat instructions in English. It’s good to be playing music, though sometimes it’s hard to see the music. Everyone here is working really hard, and a lot of people practice any time they can. Everything here is really great!
~ Maya – first year
Student participants, family members, and dedicated friends of Maine Music Outreach met at the Lincoln Academy Dining Commons for a bon voyage gathering on the evening of July 20th. Six students and MMO educators leave on the 22nd for Cange, Haiti. Food was provided by Lincoln Academy dining services and MMO travelers introduced themselves and played both the Haitian and United States national anthems. Program Director Liz Matta showed the group the sturdy folding music stands that MMO is donating to the camp and spoke about the instrument repair kit that the group is also delivering. MMO founder and board president Hugh Riddleberger spoke briefly about the mission of Maine Music Outreach and thanked those attending. Internet can be spotty in Cange, but please keep an eye on the MMO blog for updates from the group.