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Day 12: Back to the Artibonite

March 10, 2011

At 6 AM I was on the highway with the installation crew heading for the Artibonite Valley again.  With me in the cab of the truck were Israel and Julie, both of whom speak some English.  The others were riding on the load, standard practice in Haiti.  As we passed through the chaos and dirt that is Saint-Marc, people were tossing their garbage into the gutters and setting it on fire.  A motorcycle approached us, its rider wearing a black toque.  I though, “How can he stand to wear that thing in this heat?”

The radio stations kept cutting out and Israel, who was driving, kept hitting the Search button to find a live one.  As we turned east on the south side of the Artibonite River, the sun was directly in front of us.  Of course the visor on the passenger’s side was broken.  Julie, sitting next the passenger door with her iPod plugged into her ears, was singing along, unaware she was doing so.  “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.”  I decided that would be a most appropriate prayer for my day.

We came to the little town of Lyancon and turned off onto a dusty side street.  Julie and Fritzner set out to find the promoter who was supposed to arrange for deliveries in the area.  It turned out he had not done his job.  While we were waiting Israel got me breakfast, a stack of half a dozen tortilla-like things each slathered with spiced peanut butter and then the whole pile folded in half.  It was really good; the spices warming my mouth made a very interesting contrast to the peanut butter.  I washed this down with something called Fruit Champagne, a carbonated drink that is popular here.  The taste was familiar, but I couldn’t identify it.  It was really syrupy sweet and not really to my liking.

Artibonite River

We then headed back to the highway to the bridge that crosses the river.  Then we turned east again on the north bank.  The Ecuadorians were still busy dredging irrigation ditches with an excavator with the longest arm I’ve ever seen.  Today there were a number of large dump trucks involved as well.  When we met the promoter in that area I recognized him as the same one that had been with us on my previous trip.  As Julie conferred with him, Israel was singing along with the radio and repeating, “God is good.”  I was beginning to recognize the spiritual depth of the Haitians with whom I am working.

A delightful girl with her friends

When we finally got organized I found myself in exactly the spot we had started out on a very long hike last week.  Today however, the deliveries were all easily accessible.  On our first I encountered a delightful little girl of about 10 years old.  She was charming, confident, assertive and very pretty.  At first she just watched me from behind the cactus hedge of her home as her mother washed clothes in basins on the ground.  When I smiled at her she beamed back and immediately approached me, spoke to me and asked my name.  She then informed the others who had assembled.  As usual I was asked to take pictures and the results produced squeals and laughter.

We moved on to make another delivery nearby and, as per usual, a small crowd of children and adults gathered to engage in “blan watching.”  A short time later the girl from our first stop appeared and informed the other children of my name.  Again the requests for “photo.”  By the time we left the area, my approach was greeted not with “Blan!  Blan!”  but with “Ba-wee!  Ba-wee!”

Almost as an afterthought, before leaving the yard this morning, I had jumped out of the truck and run to get my Creole Made Easy, thinking it might help me communicate with some of those I met.  While we were stopped at one point, Julie saw the book and asked to see it.  After a lengthy perusal she said she thought it was very good and would like to have a copy herself.  From that point on was that we both used the book to find words we did not know, resulting in much deeper level of communication.  I realized that  her reticence to speak to me a lot was due to the fact that she found it almost as difficult to find words as I did.

Edmond

As I talked with the workers they asked me if I was going to come to live in Haiti.  Chris had told them, but somehow it didn’t register.  When I told them I was, they wanted to know if I was going to learn speak Kreyol.  I answered with a very emphatic “Yes.”  [There are missionaries who have been here for years and cannot speak the language.]  Israel then told me I should speak to Edmond, whom he called pwofesè, “the teacher.”  Some of the others agreed.  I did not know Edmond and thought they were teasing, but went over to speak to him.  He offered that he did speak English quite well and would help me learn Kreyol.  We quickly agreed upon a reciprocal arrangement whereby he will teach me Kreyol in exchange for me helping him to improve his English.  God provides!  He told me that he would act as my interpreter for the day, but with a twist.  If I had something I wanted to say to someone for which I didn’t have the words he would tell me how to say it and then I would be able to speak for myself.

Edmond had a lot of questions about Canada and I tried to answer them as best I could.  He would tell me when he didn’t understand and I would rephrase to clarify.  But when I told him that in Canada cats are pets and not food, no matter what I tried I couldn’t get the concept of “pet” across.  Suddenly I thought of my book.  With it the idea became immediately clear to him.  It also helped with our discussion about goats.  Haitians do not milk their goats, but keep them exclusively as a meat source.

We stopped for lunch at a local “restaurant,” really just a cook shack beside someone’s house.  The children set out chairs for us in the shade on their porch and we ordered.   The reality was we got what they were cooking.  Israel was delighted that I was willing to try Haitian food.  We had a very hearty lunch of rice with a thin sauce smothered in a mixture of vegetables, crayfish and, wouldn’t you know it, goat meat.  It was great.

Installing filter in new home in Artibonite

The area we moved to after lunch was somewhat more prosperous.  Among the rough shacks were some new homes, well built and painted in bright pastels.  At one installation the house was just being completed.  Inside was a new electrical transformer of the type one sees on hydro poles; obviously these people were going to have electricity, a luxury that very few in the area can afford.  Haitians often connect themselves up to the grid if lines happen to be available.  I saw a young man using a kite to accomplish this on our previous trip.

We were home before 6 PM, very early for a delivery run and we brought back only 5 filters.  All in all a very good day.  I told Chris and Leslie that in my opinion Israel is a very careful driver and that he shuttled crew members back and forth so that no one was standing around too much waiting for the others.

After supper Chris and I were checking out our area on Google Earth.  I’d better hope we don’t get any big waves; my house is only 7 feet above sea level.

Time to pack for my flight back to Canada.

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