Music in Haiti

January 2nd through 7th I traveled with my sister Elizabeth and friend and colleague John Wineglass to help Haiti.  We joined a team of doctors from NYC on a trip to combine medicine with music!

Friday January 6th, John and I returned with the medical team to the tent city – a man carrying a Casio keyboard on Wednesday had returned as he’d promised to let John play on his instrument.  We set up just outside the tent, serenading patients and the long line of people patiently waiting their turn for treatment.  We were set up right outside the tent beside Dr. Stanton’s work station.  Dr. was seated in a plastic lawn chair, hunched over his patients who lay on a long rickety bench. People helped bringing a chord over the main dirt road to feed electricity to the keyboard through their generator.  After nearly 30 minutes of diligent but unsuccessful attempts, the owner of the instrument found fresh batteries and got the piano to play, albeit very softly.  The cover for the batteries under the keyboard was broken off so occasionally they would fall out and briefly interrupt our program. Most of the Haitians I played for had never heard a violin live.  All of this made for a truly unique experience!

Being in Haiti was a tough adventure.  I admire the good deeds going on there through the work of a faithful few.  But there is so much more to do… During these few days since I have departed Haiti, I have pondered the possible things I could write about.  I could write about the poverty, the chaos, the crime, the corruption, the filth, the dust as thick as a San Francisco foggy morning, the great needs; but more than anything else, my memories are consumed by my encounters with the Haitian children.  There were the fascinated looks coming from the children of the tent city as John and I played our instruments; in particular, the nine year old girl with the green shirt that said “I don’t do Saturday’s”.  She lingered around our tent, lighting up at every opportunity to be near us.  Then there was the “Gerber baby” I cradled in my arms who curiously touched my face and giggled so often.   There was the beautiful child in a turquoise sweatshirt who came to pick up rice for his family. There were the five children at the orphanage who learned how to write my sister’s name in English and decided to practice writing it over and over all over her arms.  I experienced utter joy dancing with a group of children to a Haitain song – it ended with them each grasping me around the neck showering me with kisses. The stories of these children are full of heartache.  Some of them live with aids, one lost her mother to AIDS just a few weeks ago, another lost her father to a senseless operation.  As a baby, one child was only 10 lbs and he still recovers from the results of being starved and malnourished.  It’s difficult for me not to come away feeling despair and sadness.  And yet… the smiles these children possess are bright enough to light up our dark word.  I take their brightness with me and hope to live more fully, appreciating each day.

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