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English Class

August 4, 2011

I don’t think I’ve ever posted twice in a day, and it’s not important enough for me to check, but sometimes things happen that I really want to write about.

After posting about the market I decided to go for a walk on the beach.  The waves were rolling in, pushing in much higher than they usually do, and they had brought with them lots of sand that buried the rocks, so the beach was really nice and smooth.  It was very pleasant having the warm water wash over my feet.  I thought the surf might have washed up some shells, but no such luck.

As I walked I saw a young man sitting on the wall of one of the beachfront properties near us.  As I approached he yelled at me in the challenging way young men here often do.  I answered but did not respond to him, continuing on my walk down the beach.  He continued to yell until I was some distance past him.  On my return he again called out to me, but the challenge was gone, so I went over to him.  He spoke a little English and asked me if I spoke English.  Yes, I did.  Did I speak Creole?  Some.  Did I speak French?  Only a little.  Did I speak Spanish?  No.  Did I speak Latin? (What’s with that one?)  I learned a little in school.  He asked my name and told me his was Olivier.

Was I an American?  No, I’m Canadian.  Oh, Canadians are very good people.  He then spoke about his experience with the various people who have been part of Clean Water over the years.

Then he asked me what it said on my shirt.  “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  He traced the words over and over again with his finger on my chest, having me repeat them, and working very hard to get the pronunciation just right.  Some of the words were difficult for him, but I showed him how to use his mouth to get the correct sounds, and he was very quick to learn.  Whenever he felt he was not quite getting it he would say, “Wait for me!”  Then he smoothed off an area in the sand and began to write the words, having me spell them out for him.  After completing the phrase he would go over it word by word, trying to learn it.  After re-writing it several times he asked me what it said on his shirt.  It was some cycling thing that didn’t mean much, but there were a couple of words to work on.

Then he got up and asked me to come with him.  He gathered together several bits of charcoal from the beach and went into the neighbour’s yard.  He sat down on the edge of the pool and motioned for me to join him.  On the concrete he began to write again.  He repeated this over and over again until he could read it (memorized it really) without error.  I then told him to wait and went home to call up Google Translate and wrote the phrase out in Creole.  (My language skills are not up to stuff like that yet.)  I took it to Olivier and made sure he understood it and then related the Creole to the corresponding English words.  His hunger for learning was incredible.  He worked with determination and intensity.  He just wouldn’t stop until he felt he had it down pat.  As we were working two younger boys and a girl of twelve or thirteen (I’m terrible at estimating ages) came to see what we were doing.  The girl took an interest and began to say the words as Olivier worked on them.

As it was getting dark I told him that I had to go.  He pulled out his phone and told me to program his number into mine.  When I had done that he told me with much effort (he spoke quite quickly and used words I didn’t know at times) explained that he wanted me to call him tomorrow and to come to his home to help him some more.  I told him I had no idea where he lived, but he responded, “Just phone me.”  He then offered his hand and said, “Demen, zanmi m'” “Tomorrow, my friend.”

Sometimes someone says something really small that touches deep into your heart.

God does not command that we do great things, only little things with great love.

Mother Teresa

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