So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.
Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.
The loss of life here in Jacmel is far less than in Port-au-Prince but the burden is still heavy. There are of course the ordinary deaths that come with age, and the losses of younger people cut down by accident, sudden illness, or murder. And in the background for everyone in this coastal city, and all the surrounding communities, as well as in Port-au-Prince, is the tide of losses that came with the January 2010 earthquake. The deaths of children seem the hardest to bear.
The view from Soeurs Salesiennes school where we are doing our training opens out to the sea of Haiti’s south coast. Nuns glide quietly over the grounds and little girls in white blouses and blue jumpers with beribboned hair skip hand in hand.
We are working in a school because no hotel in Jacmel can accommodate our crew-120 trainees plus 40 international faculty, interns, interpreters and staff. We need separate rooms for each of a dozen small groups as well as the grande salle for all 160. Many of the students are on vacation for Carnival and the Sisters who run the school have generously made it available to us.
We wound over the mountains from Port-au-Prince and arrived in Jacmel in time for lunch. Spills of fruit, vegetables, brightly painted metal butterflies, ceramic vases pouring out of stands onto the edge of the narrow roadway. Agriculture—hoes not tractors–struggling up steep slopes.
At the community center cum chuch in Jacmel we gather—faculty with our twelve Haitian Interns, some of the brightest and most committed of the first group of 120 whom we trained. We have brought interpreters from Port-au-Prince who have helped us before–absolutely essential to be understood in Kreyol, absolutely essential for us and our new group of 120 trainees to understand one another.
I never miss watching Jim Gordon, Center Founder & Director, lead the fishbowl exercise at our Advanced Mind-Body Medicine training program. In a fishbowl, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, chairs are arranged in concentric circles, with those seated in the large outer circles acting as witnesses to the activity in the smaller circle within.
In this case, Dr. Gordon invites trainees to volunteer to be part of a Mind-Body Skills Group– something that is usually quite private, among a group of 10 to 12 people including the facilitator– but in this instance is quite public. It takes a great deal of courage for volunteers to raise their hands. One physician said during the process last week when asked why she wanted to participate, “Well, 3 minutes ago I didn’t even know I did!” She felt moved, in the moment, to join in the experiment.