By Sarah Robertson, VI Form
Remembering Through the Kids’ Toothy Smiles
There are few places in the world that astound me. Places where I look around and am suddenly filled with every emotion, yet I am incapable of mustering words to describe them. My heart pounds with joy, my mind is ablaze, and my entire world is suddenly filled with life. I first felt this feeling peering out the towering glass windows of the CN tower, my mother tracing a map of her life for me along the panes. I felt it as I stepped onto the streets of New York City for the first time, breathing in the passion, life, and movement all around me, contrary to the aura of my sleepy town. Most recently, these inexpressible emotions were blazing on my trip to Haiti.I had expected the mountain wind to be cool and crisp, but it was heat-soaked and floating restlessly, rustling through the palms and grasses. With each weighty step, I climbed, my faded sneakers kicking up dust. I gritted my teeth as the path became steadily steeper. The Haitians didn’t understand why we wanted to go by foot. It was hard to explain how necessary this journey was for us. We drove in cars and busses to get where we needed to go too often. It was our turn to bear the journey on our own. I continued upward, until suddenly, the ground was level. Immediately, I saw a house, painted blue and orange, perched atop this little plateau. The mountain continued further in front of me, but this was our destination. I turned to glance back at the journey, but all I saw was the cerulean sky, wisps of cloud streaking across like Renaissance art. The sky was no longer just above me, but surrounding me like being submerged in the ocean. To my right was a valley tumbling into a cascading river that had over centuries cut its way through the forge. To my left were mountains fading into the ocean lining the horizon. I could see the curve of the country if I craned my neck enough. There were no skyscrapers here, no towers to obscure the view of the natural world. There were only earthy browns, luscious greens, and the silver sparkle of the sea that glowed and shined as if celestial. We weren’t just on an island or a mountain, but among the stars.
However, this world was not solely sublime. Little houses leaned precariously against the mountainside, clinging on for dear life. Constructed of metal, wood, or stone, these ramshackle huts were what the families here called home. Below my feet were pieces of rubble and stone, the bones of the church that had once stood here but had fallen in the most recent earthquake. I sat on a wobbly bench next to my companions, utterly overwhelmed. My mind was aswirl, tangled in a web of blazing emotions.
Suddenly I heard a noise, a voice murmur the word “blan!” (meaning white person), and a few others eagerly chime in. I turned to see a group of kids gathering around us. They were small, but their eyes were full of life. My teacher knew exactly what to do, dumping the contents of a small pack onto the ground. Out tumbled three decks of cards, a tangle of friendship bracelet string, and a camera. We all got to work: braiding rainbows around tiny wrists, attempting to teach Creole-speakers “Go Fish” and running a photoshoot, little hands grabbing the sunglasses perched on our heads and modelling next to a rusty pickup truck, poses indistinguishable from those that grace the cover of Vogue.
The feeling was unlike anything I had ever known, but to experience it, to feel it, was something I will never forget. So, I remember through the kids’ toothy smiles, the way the sunset painted the horizon, and the way hands clasped mine, tentative, but warm with excitement.