I bet you didn't know that pirates played a role in the history of Haiti. In fact, all those movies that show swashbuckling pirates wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and hiding out on the Island of Tortuga are based on fact. There really were French boucaniers (hence the word "buccaneers") living on Tortuga or Isle de la Tortue, in French, who made their living hunting on the island of Hispaniola, which was under Spanish control. As the wildlife grew scarce, the boucaniers switched to piracy, attacking and looting ships on the crossings between Europe and the New World. Eventually, their harassment of the waterways was a large factor in Spain relinquishing half of the island of Hispaniola to France, setting the stage for the creation of the nations we know as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In honor of our glorious and questionable history of piracy, this week the children at Jubilee School celebrated Pirate Day! Arrrrrrgh!
Everyone got costume pieces and pirate tattoos. The students made treasure maps, and crafted daggers and swords.
Even our Haitian teachers got into the spirit of the event! Fresnel and Wilkens had the job of giving the kids face-painted moustaches and beards. I think they got a little carried away...
Somehow moustaches and beards became Indian war paint!
The festivities culminated in an extensive treasure hunt, which took the pirates all over the school and clinic grounds, and finally to a long-lost treasure trove! The kids eagerly dug it out and returned triumphantly bearing a chest full of gold and jewels, which oddly enough turned out to be edible and quite delicious.
I have conducted this kind of fun and games for children my whole life, so it seems quite normal to wear a silly costume or be out late at night burying treasure in preparation for the next day's activities. But for kids from Jubilee and even teachers from other parts of Gonaives, something as simple as Pirate Day opens their minds to a whole new realm of creativity. I never realized how important having an imagination was until I came to Haiti where imagination is not a common thing. The lack thereof affects everything, from the way people raise their children to the way they teach, from the way they relate to God to the way they try to make money. Some creativity and some imagination could go a long way here - fathers might find an alternative to beating their children for discipline, teachers might do more than demand memorization, young people might learn to understand the scriptures themselves, and women might choose to sell something that will actually make a profit, instead of selling the same thing that all their neighbors sell.
And even if none of that happens, at least the 45 kids who tramped around Jubilee all day yesterday looking for treasure had a good time and a full belly. That's something.