Today is the day! The Minister and I head out for Haiti this afternoon. This will be our third trip together. In many ways, we feel like veterans, but I keep reminding myself that we’re not going to our familiar Mole St. Nicholas; this is a new experience, with new goals and new people. The only thing that transfer from our prior experiences is what we’ve learned of the culture.
Yesterday Patti asked me what I like best about Haiti, and it’s a wonderful question. I can’t really pick just one, so here are five of my favorite things about Haiti:
1. Meeting zomies
“Zomie”is Creole for friend. In the Mole, we learned that when the Haitians call us “blancs” (white; not PC; a mild slur) we should smile and say “”No blanc—zomie!” The effect is marvelous, particularly with children, who might be, at the moment of your conversation, having their very first interaction with a while person. Typically their faces light up in enormous smiles when they hear that “blancs” are really friends who cared enough to explain it in Creole.
Another plus when it comes to making zomies: Haitians do not believe in the concept of coincidence. So if you show up on their stoop or knock on their door, they believe it was destined; it carries a lot of weight. Extra impact if you say that God sent you.
My best Haitian zomies live at the orphanage in Mole St. Nicholas. My heart hurts a bit knowing I will be in the same country as Niederson, Sondley, and Majislow and I won’t see them—but I understand that we will meet different orphans who I am sure I will love, too. It’s sobering to realize just how many orphans live in such a small country.
2. The colors
Everything in Haiti is so bright and colorful, and I don’t know how they do it. There isn’t a Sherwin Williams or a Home Depot in the whole of the nation, but everywhere you go there’s a bright color that just makes me want to smile.
3. The sea
Some of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life are in that sea. The entire island is covered in coral. So you just know the sea is teeming with life—what I didn’t realize until last summer’s snorkeling adventures that all you have to do is put on the mask, go underwater and open your eyes for the marine life viewing of a lifetime.
The Haitians depend on the sea for food. Everyday boys from The Mole pull an enormous net from the water. It takes a dozen or more men over an hour, probably more to pull in the afternoon catch. One afternoon, The Minister jumped in and began pulling—his blanc arms pulling alongside dark Haitian hands, earning their respect, making zomies. I wish I could have taken a picture, but I slammed into some coral and cut up my back while that was happening, so that image exists only in my mind.
4. The simplicity
Transport via donkey, a rooster for an alarm clock, coconuts straight from the tree: yes, please.
5. The no-red-tape-get-'er-done ethos
And here I am, doing chemical hair straightening without a license. No one asked or cared that I quit beauty school before The Minister was born. We set up shop in a patch of dirt with no running water to be seen. I was a pretty good stylist if I do say so myself!
I am gone for a week, but please drop by here in my absence, as I have scheduled a series of short posts—one story or fact about Haitian life each day; things I have learned that have touched my heart. The next one will be up tomorrow morning. (If you follow from Facebook or G+ you'll have to skip that step and come here directly, as I won't be posting links) Please feel free to leave comments. I would love to come back to some. I will return on the 19th with fresh stories from this current adventure!
Bonjour (if you are reading this before noon) or bonsoir (if it’s afternoon)