Pipe Cleaners, Rocks & Globalization

Often, I associate the term ‘Globalization’ with grand, sweeping gestures of domination and upstaging, and rightly so; the deprivation and disposal of culture that can accompany globalization are devastating, but benefits are reaped as well.

Globalization makes it easier for us to travel, to experience an array of cultures and colors, and because of this convenience, we should be striving to share in this experience together. However, in order to think big, we must think small. Simple things like rocks & pipe cleaners…

Who knew that one bag of pipe cleaners could generate a creative, inspiration-filled afternoon? This summer, at children’s camps nudged in the hillsides of Haiti, little Haitian hands molded pipe cleaners for hours on end crafting bracelets, glasses, and endless inventive designs; they twisted gorgeous fake bouquets until their hands were sore.

 The older Haitian male teachers were just as enthralled with pipe cleaners, and it was heart warming to see the teacher’s enthusiasm and curiosity equaling that of the children’s. I loved seeing one of the Haitian teachers, Maurice, wear a pair of lime-green pipe cleaner glasses all day, and I couldn’t help but laugh as he started to have a serious conversation with me about our lesson plans for tomorrow, still wearing them.

About a week later, we passed by a town meeting being held by some of the women, and I noted that an old, Haitian woman was wearing a fancy pair of blue pipe cleaner earrings.

To this day, pipe cleaners never cease to amaze me. What universal, useful items!

Outside the aura of the children’s creative spirits, the Morne a Brule schoolhouse was a devastating wreck, still in bad shape from the earthquake. Had this school been in the U.S., caution tape would have sealed off the premises, and kids would have been scolded for going near the dangerous mounds of dirt and rubble. The main concrete schoolhouse on top of the hill was falling apart, and chunks of concrete and rocks were scattered all over the uneven landscape.

On the last day of the children’s camp in Haiti, we used this to our advantage. We had the kids collect their favorite rocks and falling-apart-school-bits from the piles. The students then wrote words and painted pictures on the rocks, and all of them ended up going to get second pieces of rock to decorate. The energy when doing this project was explosive; it was so moving to see these children personalize and be able to take part in renewing something that had been so devastating in their lives. I realized that they weren’t just painting, but they were reclaiming their land, their school, their hearts. After the rocks had dried, the children were able to go set them in their own special place outside. This was such a simple, yet inspiring activity, and this can be done almost anywhere in the world. A small, universal activity, which leaves a big impact on the souls involved.

An old, happy, Haitian man, Gerard, who had always looked out for the children during the day, gestured for me to paint him a rock. I took my time and made it very sparkly, and his face lit up when I gave it to him. Every time we crossed paths for the rest of the day, he would give me a bright smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up.

It’s the little things like this that count. He got a present, a rock. But I got a flame ignited in the pit of my stomach that urges me to do more, to see more, to meet more people like this man. It was a lively push to keep exchanging with people, to partake in the little experiences, like this, which make the world a little smaller, and a little friendlier. Maybe globalization doesn’t have to mean showy Coca-Cola advertisements… it can mean painting a rock for a new friend whose smile will be dearly missed.

Globalization is funny, fickle thing.

And just when I thought globalization couldn’t get any fickli-er, up in the rolling hills of Haiti in La Vallee, four hours outside Port Au Prince, I saw a kid eating a starburst, and I sang Akon songs with my Haitian friends. How is it that Haiti is so far behind in infrastructure and common sanitation practices yet I can still hear the infamous, irritating Nokia ring tone wherever I walk? If you’re cooking over a fire, while texting are you new wave, or old school?

Because of globalization, Haiti is an inexplicable, explosive combination of old and new; it’s fashionable & acceptable for everyone to wear second hand clothes that have been shipped from U.S. thrift stores in large quantities. I have never laughed harder than when I saw a scrawny Haitian man wearing a shirt that said, “Don’t let my big tits scare you, I’m really a nice lady.”

Globalization can also makes things hilarious.

Some of the most dazzlingly hilarious moments of my life included participating with the Haitian children in the insanely intense, enthusiastic game of duck-duck-goose and other nonsense American games. And I will never, EVER forget the whole group belting out the call and repeat joy song A TOOTIE TOT; its repeated motions had all of us sticking out our tongues, and butts, spinning around in circles, and simply acting silly together… everyday. For me, these moments make globalization worth it.

Globalization: it’s happening, & the fight against it is not worth it. However, we can preserve the integrity and character of every location by cherishing our connections with those around us, and of course, savoring the little things.

Vote pipe cleaners and rocks for globalization.


  1. Jillian | 2nd Jan 12

    I love you. I love this. So many memories and you help me everyday to remember our time in Haiti.

    I can’t wait for our next adventure and all the things we can bring to the new places and people that are waiting for us. 🙂

    • Words of a Wanderer | 14th Jan 12

      Jill, thanks for reading 🙂 Cant wait to go on our next adventure together!

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