Above all things about Haiti that made me stop and think, the one that struck me the most was my sudden ability to slow down and just be present in a single moment. It could have been the lack of cell reception or the absence of homework, but I suspect that the unobstructed views of the sun rising and setting, the welcoming smiles of the people around me, and the feeling of being wanted and appreciated is what did the trick.
Every morning, Caroline and I would climb quietly out of bed as soon as the sun shone through our window and brush our teeth in the front yard. Then, we’d grab our books, our journals, and some pens and borrow some chairs from the compound, so that we could sit together and enjoy the peaceful morning. One particular morning, our gates were open, and some children from the village wandered in. A young boy-- maybe seven or eight years old-- came in and sat about five feet away from us on a soccer ball in the lawn. He watched us with eager curiosity as we talked and wrote. I thought he was very beautiful. He embodied that childhood innocence that is so lovable. So, I pulled out my phone and took a photo of him. He noticed and came closer to me. I showed him my phone, so that he could see the picture, and he started scrolling through my camera roll. When he found pictures of things at the compound, he would open the camera and try to recreate the photograph himself. For example, I had taken a picture of Caroline writing in her journal, so he took one too. He would zoom in to look at interesting scenes, and he found a video of my friend dancing, which he found very amusing and showed to at least five other people in the yard.
As he sat on the soccer ball, looking through my photographs and playing candy crush, I pulled out my journal and began to sketch a picture of him. He noticed me doing this, and pulled my notebook towards him so he could examine it. He ran his fingers over the drawing and smiled. Then, he took my pen and drew a picture of me on the next page. He took his time, looking back and forth from the paper to me to make sure he was doing the best he could. I took the notebook back from him, so I could write my name on it, and one of the translators helped me to write the name of the young boy on the page as well. I took a picture of the drawing on my phone so I could remember it, then ripped it out and handed it to him. He took the drawing and ran off to play with the other children.
That afternoon, I was coming down the stairs of the compound, and he was going up. He tugged on my shirt, signaling to me to stop. He reached into his pocket and pulled out my piece of journal paper to show me. He had neatly folded it and kept it clean all of this time. I smiled at him, and he ran off again with the paper safely back in his pocket.
I never spoke a word to this child, other than to ask his name-- Enelson-- in what little Creole I can speak. Enelson is one of my favorite people that I met in Haiti. Despite our lack of verbal communication, we were kind to one another and took interest in each other. We were able to share artwork with each other, and that was a really wonderful experience-- a moment I will never forget, and a moment I am so glad that I was able to take the time to cherish while I was in it.