TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
November 3, 2004
For those of you in the states, today is the day after the national elections. In Haiti, everyone is talking about who is to be President in the United States. Those who have televisions here watched all during the evening with anticipation, as if the election was actually taking place right here in Haiti. I found it interesting how much stake the Haitians place on whom our President will be and what effect it will have on this small country.
Since my last communiqué, I have concentrated on learning Creole and learning about Haitian culture. One cannot take anything for granted. I found that I need to ask lots of questions and not to assume that the Haitian people think like I do.
I have discovered some interesting differences and some interesting similarities.
Some differences that I learned of …
● People here who are too poor to buy meat may chose to eat cat
● A typical hot Haitian day is a “three shower” day
● When you call the plumber and he says he will come today, it will probably be 2 weeks before he arrives!
● When it rains, you have no satellite service for internet or cell phones
Some similarities that I learned of …
● Haitians love BBQ cookouts (But here, it is not typically the men who doing the BBQing…we women hope to change that!)
● When electricity is restored, even the little children shout “hallelujah!”
● Haiti has some beautiful butterflies
A fact that I did not know …
● I was surprised to learn that a banana tree only produces one flower that will bear one branch of bananas. When the fruit is ready to be harvested, the whole tree is cut down and the branch with the bananas on is cut off. New banana trees sprout from the base of this first tree.
I learn more and more each day how inventive the Haitian people can be. They accomplish many things in spite of the lack of the proper equipment. The children have this same gift of “inventiveness”. When they wish to bail water out of a deep hole and they only have a bucket, a long reed is looped through the bucket handle to lower the bucket into the hole. When a bucket of water is too heavy for one child to carry alone, he recruits a friend to share the load. Together they place a durable stick on the handle of the bucket and each holds onto one end of the stick and then they balance the load between them. If the sole of one’s shoe has separated from the shoe, a shoe string works well, tied around the entire shoe to keep the shoe in “useable” condition.
I too have had to learn to be resourceful and draw on my past experiences to make something work. A five gallon pail, turned upside down, makes a great footstool. Maybe it was from watching my father do his “handyman” work around our home, maybe it was from my camping days or my days in the apartment maintenance business … but I have learned to diagnosis why my toilet is leaking water all over the floor and how to keep it flushing with regular insertions of pails full of water. A simple purchase of a water supply line is not a simple purchase in Haiti. As of today, I have been using the “bucket method” for many, many days awaiting that precious part! I have learned that a bucket fills (by way of the “drip method”) if I place it under the faucet when I go to bed … I will find the bucket is almost full by morning!
I really relish learning about the culture here. It is an important part of making this my home. At times, I am frustrated that I cannot learn it all NOW and be able to get on with my job. But then I am reminded that this IS my job!
Language skills too come very slowly for me. If I look back over the last weeks, I realize I know much more Creole than when I first came, but it still doesn’t help me not want to know it all TODAY! I have learned many vocabulary words and have been reminded of the importance of remembering my grammar and pronunciation training from grade school. The challenge now is to actually properly place them in a sentence … a correct sentence. The children are patient teachers, even though my Creole brings them many a good laugh! They help me syllable-by- syllable. They show me how to form my words … using tongue positions I never would have dreamed of. This too is a comic event. My only consolation is that I too can have a hearty laugh when they try to say the th in the word TEETH or try to pronounce words that have an r in it. These sounds and word formations are just as strange to them as some of their Creole words are to me.
Use my experiences to remind yourself to thank God for the LITTLE things!
God bless you and keep you in His care!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic
Until next time ………….