I am going to go to Haiti in a few weeks, on a trip with some people from my nursing program. We are visiting a clinic a few hours north of Port-au-Prince; we are also bringing boxes of school supplies to an orphanage.
After a quick phone call, during which I engaged in some hard-core begging, an AIDS organization here gave me a box of "rapid" HIV testing kits to bring along. These testing kits are self-contained and give results in appx. 15 minutes. Perhaps some people will want to get tested, perhaps not; Haitians are a very conservative people, and many practice voudou and therefore have all sorts of beliefs about what AIDS is. So we'll see how it works out. At least I have something I am certified to contribute to this trip, as I am not a licensed nurse yet.
Today I spent the afternoon talking to several Haitian people who live here in Florida about how to say some basic phrases in Creole, which we will need. "My name is ..." (Yo relen ...) "How are you?" (Kijan ou ye?) "Are you pregnant?" (Eske ou ansent?) I think Creole is easier to learn than French--everything is spelled how it sounds. However, it is difficult to find two people who agree exactly on what the words are or what that proper spelling actually is.
The origin of the language (from what I learned) was from Haitian slaves wanting to communicate without the slave owners understanding them, so they changed the words enough to be unrecognizable when spoken. This is also why there isn't much of a standardized written form of Creole.
I asked my Haitian friends how to say numbers--and these people, who lived all their lives in Haiti, are now in medical school here in the U.S. and so they are obviously intelligent--but they could not agree how the numbers would be spelled. They had to phonetically sound them out and take their best guesses. Is the number "1" spelled "yon" or "youn"? Maybe there is an official spelling somewhere, perhaps in a book written by someone nominated by a government official of some sort, but it doesn't mean much if people don't use that standard or are taught anything about it.
It doesn't really matter. I'm not going to teach anyone language lessons. I'm going to pass out backpacks to kids and maybe do some HIV tests, perhaps read blood pressure for someone in the town.
I also wasted much time Googling photos of what Haiti looks like. Lots of mountains, lots of rocks. Lots and lots of sprawling slums. We won't be at the beaches but they look beautiful. This will be a wild ride emotionally, between feeling exhilirated from seeing the country to hugging orphans and being sad.