“Oh Marianne, another morning, another exciting day awaits, why didn’t you…”
I taught in a prestigious city school many years ago. I loved my job, but it was not an adventure. One afternoon at my favourite café just nearby my apartment changed me forever. I looked around just one last time to ensure no one was watching me, and start sipping my coffee. Just as I was to slurp the last bit, someone interrupted me. There stood a well-dressed lady, with a circular box looking at me. “Madam, I’m a volunteer and we are hoping you could donate your change to help these poor children,” she asked. So I just chucked my 35-cents just to make her go away, but something came to my mind. “I’m a teacher, why can’t I make a change,” I curiously thought to myself. It was at that moment, I decided to give these children an opportunity of a lifetime, and opportunity to learn.
I was qualified and was sent to Haiti for my first project. I was left in awe as it was my first time travelling overseas. I had mixed feelings throughout the whole journey, I could not think straight. My first glimpse of the city was traumatising. Mother Nature had left a mark to remember. I was left to my own because the village I was assigned to was overthrown by rebels in the area. I knew the risks, I knew death was staring right into my eyes, I did have a choice, but I chose this. While on my way to the village, I was confronted by angry men, I was interrogated and isolated for hours, just to make sure I was not a spy to collect intelligence. Somehow, they were convinced that I came to teach their children and they placed me in a hut with a small blackboard.
Many children came and go during the first few weeks. Timetables or lessons did not exist, I was there to give these children a stepping stone to their future, even if the children could count will make me very happy. Many would laugh at my accent, they would touch my blonde hair, as it was their first time seeing a Westerner. After months being together, the children and I have forged this special bond, their eyes of “overseas” through mine and my eyes of Haiti through theirs. After a year, some children spoke basic but understandable English, and once in a while, off duty young rebels would learn too. It was not easy seeing young boys being forced to fight in the frontlines. My family, however, had no idea where I was, all they knew was I was on a business trip to a remote location. I did not want them to be worried. My last day at Haiti was a time engraved into me. The children wrote “bye bye letters” and even gave key-chains and wooden art and crafts for me to take back.
“Oh Marianne, another morning, another exciting day awaits, why didn’t you tell me you were one of those children?” I asked my photographed mother who had passed away of a heart attack during my time in Haiti.