Just to start off with an attention-grabber!
The girls found this tarantula in their hotel room on Wednesday night. They sagely went to the open restaurant area, grabbed a coffee cup, and made a new “hotel room” for it.
I also heard that the guys had had quite a bit of pestering from lizards, both Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. I had managed to sleep through all of this excitement—even though I’m sure it didn’t happen totally in silence.
The point of our staying in Mirebalais was to be close to Lascahobas, so that we could get an early start on taking a closer look at the two schools we had all but written off two short days earlier. This time, we were planning to interview/talk with the school administrators, as well as get up on the roofs!
We went to the Catholic school: St. Gabriel, first. We had already been impressed with the sisters’ outlook regarding the laptops and the solar power, and our impression only got better as we talked with them at length this time. I would describe it as a dispassionate, matter-of-fact, “if-it’s-best-for-the-kids,-then-it’s-what-we-have-to-do” point of view. They weren’t concerned to say the right thing, or to be overly positive just because we were there. They really “got” solar—as well as how important it would be to incorporate the teaching of it into the curriculum. They already had a solar panel on the roof of the convent, providing what I would imagine was quite a limited supply of electricity to them, and they weren’t asking us if we could hook up the convent to the solar solution we were proposing…
Meanwhile, Jake was climbing up to the roof, and seeing that it would be in need of some repairs/fortifying if we were going to install solar panels up there, as well as walk around while doing so!
We next walked over to the Baptist school, Ecole Baptiste. We finally got a little taste of Lascahobas on foot! We walked past a mobile-phone charging station/store (above right), as well as a number of informal-looking shop fronts, selling candy, biscuits, and other food items, that were all closed up when we walked by again a few hours later.
The run-down first impression that one gets of the Ecole Baptiste was the main thing that had put us off on our first visit. Things weren’t helped when we didn’t have anyone to talk to from that school. Both changed on this second visit. Jake went up to the roof again, and pronounced it to be in fantastic condition.
We also got to talk with the school administrator, who assured us that there were people affiliated with the school who would be glad to help us with soldering, wiring, etc., when we would return for our install in May. They were also quite receptive to our idea of introducing the concept of solar energy into the curriculum, as well as to keeping the XOs and equipment secure, by locking it up in a room that would be as close as possible to the panels. Both schools were open to rearranging their classrooms to enable the XOs and equipment to be securely stored and charged as we were proposing.
Subsequently, we had a surprise visit to a fourth school, with the aim of increasing the number of schools we could choose from for our pilot. We again walked, this time taking a back-road shortcut, to the Ecole Mixte Fraternelle, which proved another worthy candidate.
Except for the fact that it was quite difficult to access the roof (the maintenance man had to remove the metal roofing that was attached–really the roofing over the stairway!), we found that the roof was in very good condition, and when we heard that the school itself was a sort of “second chance” school for those students who hadn’t succeeded elsewhere, this tugged on our heartstrings.
After this, we walked back over to the house of the man who is locally in charge of the OLPC program in Lascahobas, where his family had prepared a truly delicious, multiple-dish lunch for us. And the fresh citrus juice we had everywhere we went, including here, was especially refreshing!
Finally, we loaded back into our two vehicles for the trip back to Port-au-Prince. Unfortunately, on the road back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, the sedan transporting four of our party lost its ability to shift gears. The truck had to tow it, which involved first a rope, until that broke, and then one, and then two seatbelts…
We finally left the car behind in Mirebalais to be repaired (I think, I hope!), while four people piled into the back of the truck for the drive back to Port-au-Prince. They had a good time, as we heard laughing and even singing from the back, the entire drive. Yet another adventure!