Today was another really long day, and my mood experienced many swings throughout the day, but ending on a very high note. I taught 6 lessons today, 1 hour in the morning, and 5 hours in the afternoon, back to back. Only one of the students in the afternoon spoke English (the amazingly talented miss Linia), so it was incredibly taxing- much like my first day of lessons on Saturday. By my fifth lesson of trying to work with broken English, French, Spanish, hand gestures, and seeking out my colleagues to do some basic translating, I couldn't see straight. I wanted to collapse. I wanted to cry. Teaching under heat and with a language barrier is absolutely exhausting! Poor Paul Auguste, my last lesson of the day, he got the short end of the stick - No Energy Neha!
I did have some wonderful lessons throughout the day though. Before I got exhausted, I realized that I am getting used to figuring out ways to communicate with the students that cannot speak English. It is definitely getting a little easier, and I also picking up some small French words important for teaching singing like high, low, loud, soft, head voice, etc. I know, really exciting words to learn in such a beautiful language, but they are necessary!
At some point during the day JD wanted to get some footage of us all playing together for his documentary. So we sight- read through the Cole Porter score of Body and Soul. It was really fun to sing behind a trio of beautiful string players! We definitely needed some rehearsal, but JD and his kids were so encouraging and it was really awesome to have them film us and be a part of their mission over this past year in some small way.
We don't usually have dinner at Mila's, but we were told that it was going to be good tonight. However, it was quite quite different from what we expected- just a sweet porridge with bread. We weren't even able to stomach two bites and just had to bolt out of there. Even Heidi, the Haitian native, couldn't stomach the dinner, so we didn't feel too bad. Here's the lady who sells bananas every day right outside Mila's home.
Side note, we are already running out of clean clothes and between the deet, sweat, sunblock, etc etc, a 'load' of laundry needs to be done ASAP. Here's our version of 'throwing in a load.'
After one failed dinner (at Mila's) and one great dinner (at chandelier's) we headed to the school to watch the band 'Friendship Jazz' rehearse. One of the members of Friendship jazz, a chubby older man with the most mischievous yet warmest smile, had invited me earlier that day to come sing with them and listen.
When I arrived, the group immediately made me feel at ease. They were just the friendliest people ever, and something about their smiles immediately make me feel like they are old friends. They ask me to sit out for a bit while they work on some instrumental pieces. They played 'I Can't Get Started With You,' 'Besame Mucho,' (and when they played this song, you knew what they were saying even though they weren't saying it), some salsa tunes, and a few other tunes. I was blown away by the potential and the talent. Haitians just have music and dance in their blood. I will probably never be able to swing as hard as they do. I was in awe of their humility, and I just wished so much they could even have a fraction of the opportunities we do- with even a little bit of guidance and proper instruction, they would really just kill it so hard.
Here are three of the woodwind/ horn players (the two on either end are brothers)
They have so much sass when they play, maybe they don't have as much educational knowledge about jazz, but I feel like they bring something to the music that just can't be taught. I hope that I can figure out a way to build a partnership between NEC and this school in Jacmel, as so many people could benefit and flourish from a bit of teaching from our peers and colleagues in Boston. Its been such a tremendous experience, and also an inspiring exchange between both of our cultures. I feel like this trip has been so expansive for me in so many ways already!
They asked if I would sing with them- so incredibly welcoming and nonjudgmental- just ever so happy to make music! So I sang Misty and Autumn Leaves. They invited me to perform with them in a concert on Thursday too, which I am really looking forward to. This is why they said the named their group 'Friendship Jazz'- because it's an open community where friends of music can come and share and play together.
Here's the whole group:
And the band leader:
Here's the most absurdly killing sax player, there is something about the way he plays and phrases - you just can't stop listening to him! He's also the man who invited me to come sing (but I forget his name!) I want to put him in my pocket and take him back to America, but he wouldn't fit.
As I was leaving the school, I happened to see the group of old men from the other day, sitting outside in the twilight Haitian sky, enjoying a game of cards. It is tough here in Haiti sometimes, but Haitians love their country and have a tremendous sense of pride for their heritage. I hope to have some of Haiti permanently rub off on me when I go back - Haitian people really really know how to make the most put of everything, and they truly seem to have a zest for life that is inspiring and fulfilling.