Day 14: Graduation and Goodbyes

I can’t seem to figure out why I’ve never changed my phone alarm tone. It is still set on the default telltale iphone “din-ditdi-din-din din-ditdi-din-din din…din…din-din” (I know you totally re-read that super slowly to see if you knew it). I cracked an eyelid, rolled my eye around in its socket and closed it back up. Definitely not time to get up. Nor do I want this day to begin, or end. The longer I stay pretending to be asleep, the longer I prolong the inevitable. Sigh.

We had a later start this morning, as we knew we would be staying significantly later in the day. Early on in our trip we got the chance to accompany the nanny and our translator on the 20-25 minute walk down the road to the kids’ school to pick up all of the children. It was an amazing experience! 

   
   
The school is for the local Haitian children in the neighborhood – most walk to school – and the kids are taught in Creole but also taught more and more English as they get older. By the time they hit the older grades, middle school and above, their white boards are entirely in English. It is pretty cool! The school has a large heavy metal gate like most businesses and homes. During the school day it is closed (to ward off any unwanted visitors) but at the end of the day they prop it open a couple feet for parents to come in/out. When we walked in, there are two sides. Each side is two-(short)-stories tall and probably about 4 classrooms long. all of them are open-air, windows and doorways and all tile/concrete flooring. They have a big open courtyard between the left and right sides, and a “stage” towards the back of the courtyard.

  
We were ushered with our nanny and translator into the “office” which was a room on the ground floor. The other teachers and secretaries looked at us a bit funny, but the nanny and translator were obviously very comfortable with our presence so that made it easier. However the next few moments caught us completely off-guard! A young Haitian man probably 30 or so came out to greet us and broke into a huge smile! As he stuck out his hand in a greeting he proceeded to welcome us to the school and he was so excited to meet us and very glad we came out, and that our son was a fantastic child, and was at the top of his class….all in perfect American English. 🙂 Turns out he was the principal of the school and had been born in Haiti, and moved to New York as a baby and grew up in the states. When the earthquake hit in 2010, he came back to Haiti to help his dad work with this school, and while originally planning to be here only 6 months, he decided to stay and he’s been here ever since! The school has doubled in size and reaches so many more children. He also let us know that Sunday the 19th of June was Graduation Day, and that our son would be graduating at the top of his class that day and he wanted to personally invite us to attend! We were honored and double checked with the orphanage director and nanny and translator to make sure it was okay before deciding to go! 😉

At any rate, we had big plans for today – making the most of our limited time with W at the orphanage (as they had to primp and prep for Graduation beginning about 2pm) and then attend the Graduation ceremony. So, apparently in the states, we do Kindergarten graduation AAAAALLLLLL WRONG….more about that later!:)

Let’s backtrack.

Later morning, grocery stop, arrived at orphanage about 11:30am and was met with huge hugs and a “hi mommy! I am hungry!” nose-to-nose conversation. 🙂 After he told us that they had only eaten one ear of corn for breakfast, we okayed the trip to the car to sit in the AC and eat pate. He ate an entire 6″ x 3″ 1inch thick chicken pate, a small jug of strawberry milk, and a smaller beef pate. What is this kid going to eat when we’re not here!!?? We then went outside and played catch with the baseball and gloves, and when we were thoroughly tired and hot, took dominos and cars up to the patio with a few friends to play. 

    
 At about 2pm the call came up to W that it was time to go get ready for graduation! He broke out into a huge grin and popped up off the floor like someone lit a firecracker under his buns, grabbed my hand and said “come on!” and started dragging me down the hall. I swooped him up and carried him, walking at first until he laughed and said “vit! vit! vit! Mommy!! Hurry!” lol and then we hurried 🙂 When we got down to the main floor the place was in an uproar! kids running around in underwear were literally everywhere! I finally figured out the nannies were trying to get everyone dressed at once. That’s when I figured out, Graduation ceremonies here are like church – if you don’t get dressed up, you aren’t allowed in. That meant everyone had to be in their best outfits, and all the older kids, even if they weren’t graduating, were attending the graduation, as well as all of the nannies of the school age kids and up. There was an actual “assembly line” for the kids, where they got dusted with a talc powder of some sort, and then got creme on their arms and legs, and then some kind of oil on the boys bald heads (they got haircuts yesterday in preparation for Graduation Day!) then they got in line for clean underwear and then waited their turn for their outfits. The graduating kindergarteners had actual FORMAL WEAR. And it was TOO STINKING CUTE. W’s nanny handed me his clothes and shoes with the assumption that I’m the mommy, therefore I get my child dressed.

(interjection, I LOVE his nanny. I want to take her home with me too so she can live with us at my house. She is the kind of older woman who gives wonderful hugs and you just feel like you want to bury your face in her shoulder and tell her all your troubles! She also loves my son very much and I know that he is in good hands with her)

She handed me his outfit for the night – a brand new pressed white button down shirt, white dress pants, a yellow bow tie, yellow cummerbund, new-in-package white dress socks, and W’s favorite part – brand new white dress shoes with pointy toes and a single buckle. I probably don’t even have to tell you – he was the most handsome one in the bunch! The girls had matching yellow and white fancy froofy dresses (reminded me of flower-girl dresses) complete with yellow flower petals floating in the tulle layers. Their hair was all done up in braids and buns and fancy twists with a matching yellow flower hair piece. The effect was incredible. This was the beginning of the most incredible kinder-grad ceremony ever!

  

But first, they had to get out the door! LOL It was a loud, crazy chaotic ordeal – there were two cars running from the creche to the school (it was about a 5 minute drive on the bumpy back roads) so they made multiple trips to pick up all the kids and nannies. We rode out on the last truckload and walked in with the other parents and were ushered to the second row, (LOL in front of all the other parents…on display I guess…) We felt a little better when we realized that the orphanage staff seemed to have the first three rows all to ourselves, so we weren’t alone. W’s nanny sat right next to us and we were able to share the special moments together! Then began the longest, sweatiest, 3.5 hours of the trip! LOL however it was definitely the cutest!

So in the US, the kindergarten class sings a little song, or two, the teachers say how wonderful the class is, and they read their names and get a little surprise and maybe sing one more song before we head to classrooms for cookies and juice.

Not so in Haiti!

There were two emcees (school staff I think?) who proceeded to introduce act after act of a “variety show” of sorts with each age class doing special choreographed dance numbers, songs, recorder instrumentals, poetry, etc. etc. – We got lots of video and photos! It was insanely adorable!!! 3.5 hours later (yes. That is not an exaggeration Oh, and this all took place outside in the school’s courtyard area with the stage!) We were dripping and quite literally sitting in puddles of sweat (and most likely some leftover kid-pee from whoever sat there before us!) but we were SO proud! Our little boy graduated with 20 of his classmates, and earned “honors” (this is a big deal here, even at this young age) by being one of 3 children at the top of his class. To add to the special recognition, those top three students were given a special gift. When he brought the bag down to where we were sitting after the kids were dismissed, he opened it up and his eyes got huge – it was an Avengers backpack – brand new – just for him. I don’t know if it was a random gift assignment or if they somehow knew – but Avengers is one of his absolute favorite things and it was PERFECT! 🙂

What wasn’t perfect was that we had already extended our translator/driver’s stay by 3 hours, and we had to leave right after the ceremony. So we had to say our goodbyes to him there. They were short and sweet goodbyes, I did just fine until I turned to his nanny to give her a hug and she greeted me with teary eyes, and we were both crying together as we hugged goodbye. What a sweet, sweet woman. Kris and I have prayed for W ever since we knew we were matched that someone would care for him and watch over him, and keep him safe. This nanny is the answer to that prayer, and she has been there since the beginning when he was first brought to the creche 3 years ago. We said brave, watery goodbyes to W, gave him big hugs and kisses and told him we would see him soon. I said “I love you!” and he said “I love you!” and gave me a kiss smack on the lips 🙂

We have grown a lot these last two weeks – we have fallen in love with a new people, a new country, and a new little man who stole our hearts and the hearts of our other kids as well from facetime and photos and videos! We cannot wait to see him again, and will travel back as soon as we are given permission to travel again.

We’re doing okay now – it is sad, and hard to leave but we know we have to leave in order to be able to finish this process, and prolonging the exiting here just means prolonging the completion of the next steps. Now we look forward to months to come of trying to move this forward and bring him home. We finally get to plan bedroom and decor and finding things we now know he will love – because we know so much more about this Little Man who captured our hearts.

Blessings to all of you – we’ll keep this blog updated with any further movement, and the time will come soon when we will be able to share “real” photos and his name with you 🙂

Thank you for your continued love and support,

Laura & Kris

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