6:40 a.m.
I am very, very excited and early. I step in the classroom. I get shivers from my toes to the very roots of my hair. The small classroom is already amazingly full of children. However, I was soon to discover that, by Haitian standards, the classroom was empty. Upon seeing me, the children freeze like in a black and white school picture or a sepia toned movie still. The children with their charcoal brown pipe cleaner arms and balloon like bellies, are eerily quiet, their protruding eyes fixed on me. I knew they were waiting for me to say something, but the translator hadn't arrived and I don't speak an inkling of Creole. I nodded. They nodded. I nodded again. Again they solemnly nodded back at me…me…their “Teechuh” from America.

6:45 a.m.
A huge crowd of children burst into the room, hustling, with volcano like explosiveness as if they were late. Seeing me, they slapped, nudged and poked one another into silence, then they tiptoed their energy into their learning spaces. 6:45. Class was still not scheduled to start for an hour and 15 minutes. The children sat, motionless, poised and ready. There was no way in America that this many children would ever be this quiet or well behaved. I watched them carefully watching me. I smiled. They smiled even bigger. I winked. They winked and those who had never winked before cascaded into giggles as they tried to make their eyes cooperate. They began testing their new winking skill on one another and the room became full of the carnival sounds of universal laughter. They began to talk amongst themselves. Children sounds, like in America, that I'm familiar with. Joy abruptly shut herself down. All eyes guiltily turned toward the entry into the classroom. In swooned Francois Filogene, the School Administrator, my translator and my dear, dear friend. He arrived roughly ushering in 2 little ones. “We mustn't be late,” he announced for the whole classes benefit. He majestically surveyed the children. His slow encompassing gaze landscaped them into perfect obedience.

“Good morning.” He said to me officially. He pointed to the children he had escorted into the room. “Dey are brudder and sistuh. He cannot speak.” I eye the two as they squeezed into a spot where there was no spot. The brother was small, seeming to be about 6, and the sister looked to be 3 or 4. With all of the poverty in the mountains, I knew the boy could easily have been 12 and the girl 8. It is like that in Haiti.

I began giving each child a snack bag full of Honey Nut Cheerios. There are now 54 students in attendance in a room where if it had been America, would have been meant to accommodate 25...thirty at the max.
“Crunch, crunch, crunch!” The only sound in the room. If only…

General Mills or Nabisco or even a generic company could drop boxes of cereal onto the mountains
If only…
I could get a plane and a pilot
When supplies are mailed or shipped they very rarely make it this far up the mountain.
They end up being confiscated in Port-au-Prince, that is if they don't disappear first in Miami. The cruel reality is that the children get only the supplies that I am able to physically carry on my back. Unfortunately this is not only dictated by the airline weight restrictions but also dictated by the status of my 55 plus year old body.
If only…

The air smelled sweet with the smell of the hungry children crunch-crunch-crunching.

Time to teach.
“English. Only English. You will only speak in English today with Miss Yolantha,” sternly announced Francois.

The non-speaking brother watched me with such intensity that I deduced that he ccould at least hear me. His eyes followed intently every move that I made. He shifted his hands around his little sister's waist who, for lack of space, sat on his lap. His hands caught my attention. To my astonishment on the side of each of his pinky fingers protruded another tiny finger about the size of my baby toe. The child had six fingers on each hand.

I introduced myself.
“I am Mrs. Pace. I live in Kentucky. I have 2 dau--
“Wait for me, wait for me,” interrupts Francois. He translated into Creole for the children,
“2 daughters named Erin and Diamond. I love them and miss them very, very much.”
Francois translated. I passed out to each child a really simple alphabet book made by my Sunday School class in America. This was the first time the children had ever possessed their very own book in order to follow along with the teacher. I began the lesson. The children were instructed to repeat after me. Their faces shone with delight as they chuckled at the pictures in their book. Even the speechless boy's little sister participated with delight.

“On page one we have one apple. A is for apple.” I announced holding up 1 finger.
“Repeat!” commanded Francois.
“Un payege won weh ha wun appoo. A is fuh appoo” they grinned.
“Apple.” I said.
“Appoo” they said.
“Ah-puuuuulllllll” said Francois.
“Ahhhhhhh-puuuuulllllllllllllllllllllll.” imitated the children.
I pointed at the picture. They pointed at the picture in their bookds. Their eyes glistened. I cannot tell if it is with hunger at the pretty red apple or just with delight for having their own book.
“On page 2 we have 2 birds. B is for birds” I held up 2 fingers.
“Repeat!” commanded Francois.
“Un payege two weh ha two budz. B is fuh budz”. The children held up 2 fingers.
“Birds”, I corrected.
“Budz” they said.
“burr-burr-burrr” I corrected.
“buh-buh-buh” they said.
This is going to take a while. “On page three we have 3 cars. C is for cars”
“On payege three we ha-”
“Have” I interrupted
“vuh, vuh, vuh. Hav-vuh” I tried harder.
“HAVE!” I frowned.
“Hah-VUH-VUH-VUH!” they frowned.
“HAVE!” I frowned deeper.
“Hah-vuh” they scowled, more determined, as they mimicked and tried to please me.
I surrendered and moved on. They repeated after me all morning trying to duplicate my English. Only the translator spoke in Creole. We made it to page 5 with 5 elephants and the letter E, the 5th letter of the alphabet. I showed them the picture on the next page and I told them all that tomorrow we will start on page 6 with the 6th letter of the alphabet.

7:45 a.m.
The next morning.
I had decided not to arrive as early as yesterday. I approached the class room door. It swung open and a huge wave of children splashed me with , “Welcome teechuh!!!” I entered into a cloud of toilet paper, the gorgeous brown hues of their bodies sparkled in the snow white contrast.

In America the room would have been decorated with crepe paper and streamers, but here I was greeted with drape after drape after drape of toilet tissue. My heart leaped with joy at the pristine sight. My memory blazed back to the very first and only other time I'd been "t-peeed". It was for Halloween. I was 11 years old.

We had just moved to Champaign, Illinois that summer and were living in an all white neighborhood. In 1966 my family and I were the first “Negroes” to integrate our block. There was a family across the street and two houses down who hated us, absolutely detested us. All of the other kids learned to love us because draped over our entire front yard was a gigantic weeping willow tree. A huge billowing tree better known to our new friends as--the fort, the playhouse, the palace, Piggly Wiggly's, the dungeon or what ever imaginary world suited us that day.

That first Halloween of 1966, some time in the middle of the night, our neighbors--the ones who hated us, who lived across the street and two houses down had toilet papered our tree. Not just a toss here or there, but a painstaking, meticulous, complete covering of our tree. It was a glorious work of art. They had transformed our huge weeping willow tree into a gigantic Alaskan igloo. I stood at our front door awestruck. What a magnificent welcoming gesture of status for all of the neighborhood to see. It was absolutely beautiful. I couldn't wait to get home from school and let our imaginations run wild in an imaginary game of “the north pole”.

Imagine how dumbfounded I was to hear the whispers later on at school. Finally my oldest brother, Raphael, slapped the secret grin off of my face when he explained to me that the message intended by the alleged “disgracing” of our tree, was “Niggers go home.” From 1966 to this very day. I've lived in denial. Because I refuse to believe that anything so heavenly beautiful could ever be intended for something so ugly.

My memories were interrupted by the angelic avalanche of young voices, jam packed into a room meant to hold only 25, thirty at the most, singing.

“We're so hahpy, so very hahpy, so very hahpy to see you to daaaaay”
Ah the power of toilet paper to bring me supreme joy. The children from yesterday had multiplied. They were now standing sideways in order to fit. Francois and I counted 152 bodies. What would the fire marshals in America say? But this is Haiti.

At a signal from Francois they all sat with their faces torpedoed toward me, with huge expectant smiles, anxious for another day of learning. Quickly I passed out baggies of cereal. There were so many children, I had to return to my bedroom in the compound "plantation house" to get more. As they were crunching I asked in English, “what page are we on today?” the smiles evaporated. The whole class stared at me with the same eyes of children in America when they haven't remembered their lesson from the day before.

“Who remembers?” I ask. “Nobody? Nobody remembers???” Angrily, I placed my hands on my African American hips. Francois, his brows furrowed in disappointment placed his hands on his African Haitian hips and translated my frustration to the children in Creole.

“Aaaaaaach!” I growled, and turned my back.

“Aaaaaaach!” imitated Francois and tureds his back.

“Teechuh we will start on payeege six,” says a raspy quiet voice. I looked over my shoulder, it was the little speechless boy holding his sister protectively in his lap.

“Very good.” I encouraged, pretending that the little boy always spoke. “Let's go back to page one. What is on page one?”

“One apoo and on beige two, two birds, “ announced the young lad. “beige three, three cats, beige foh, foh dogs, page five, five eleephuhtz,.”
“And on page 6?” I asked.
The little boy smiled sharing every tooth that he owned. He held up one of his hands, then proclaimed with confidence, “and on payeege six we have six finguhs.”

I could smell the sweet smell of hope in the room. I knew then that I was in this to the point of no return.

Der Druck dieses Buches wurde vom Autor nicht gestattet.
Setzen Sie sich bitte mit dem Autor Yolantha Harrison-Pace in Verbindung, um das Buch zu erwerben.

It is not allowed to print this book.
Please contact the author Yolantha Harrison-Pace to buy the book.