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At the end of the day, love and compassion will win. *

February 23, 2012

The sounds of morning—music from a neighbour’s house, roosters crowing somewhere nearby, the conversations of people beginning their day’s work, children playing happily— gently rouse me from my sleep.  The sun is not long up, slanting low through the slats of my bedroom shutters, its light still pale and tinged with all the splendor of the dawn.  As per habit, I awaken my laptop and prop myself up on pillows on my bed to check my emails; my Internet connection is fastest in the early morning.  There is nothing personal on offer, only business demanding my attention.  I take great satisfaction in finally resolving a matter that has plagued me for months.  That done, I escape for a time into the pages of the eBook I have been enjoying.

Rising finally, I scrub my face, uncaring of the cold water, and use a wet brush to bring my hair back into some semblance of order. When I’m finished, my reflection in the mirror is one that I can live with.   A shower will wait until the sun on the exposed water pipes has taken off a bit of the chill.  Filling my kettle, I open the valve on the propane tank and light my stove.  While waiting for the water to boil I busy myself with preparing my teapot.  I despair at the realization the premium loose tea I brought with me will likely not last until I can return to Canada for more.  Next trip I will be certain to bring back a much more generous supply.

Unbolting the door, I swing it wide and step out onto my gallery.  The morning air, rich with the scents of sea air, sunwarmed earth and growing things, carries happiness upon it.  The nets that had been drying on the beach last evening have been piled into the rough little boat that gently rocks on the waves as it lies at anchor.  I settle into an armchair to enjoy both my tea and the morning.

It is market day, and I set off down the road toward the village, the seemingly ever-present Molet at my side, the Kokanee backpack cooler he has more or less appropriated from me on his back.   I greet the little clutches of my neighbours as I pass, stopping to chat a bit from time to time.  I get the usual enquiries as to why I walk everywhere and don’t buy a motorcycle or a machin as cars are called here.  I laugh and tell them again I do not need one.  Knowing most of the vendors in the market will not be able to change larger bills I stop at a couple of businesses in search of ti kob, literally small money.  The proprietors cannot help me.  Molet tells me he knows someone in the market that will have change.

As I reach the market my favourite vendors beckon to me.  I tell them to be patient, following my usual routine of checking out what everyone has on offer to find who has the best quality at the lowest prices before making my purchases:  cabbage, green and red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and plantains.  I remind myself once again to look up recipes for sweet potatoes, eggplant and okra.  Moving from vendor to vendor I buy garlic and fresh herbs—parsley and thyme, as well as green onions and dill, both of which I seldom see.  Limes prove dear, so I settle for only a few.  Mangoes and pineapples are a bargain.  I find an old woman selling beautiful sour oranges at less than half the price some others are asking, four for the equivalent of about twenty-five cents.  She carefully selects some of her finest for me, and after I pay her she grins and tucks a fifth into Molet’s pack.  I choose some nice meaty chicken legs, then find  flour and sugar, hot sauce and mustard.   I search out a traditional press for making bannann fri, fried plantains.  Molet stuffs my purchases into the pack until it is full.  I have to insist on carrying what does not fit myself; despite my protestations, to him I am the patwon, the boss.  In the clothing area I find a much-needed bathing suit; having lost four inches of girth since coming to Haiti, wearing my old suit was getting dangerous.

Later Molet returns to the market for ice and eggs.  He arrives at the house with an enormous block of ice, enough to more than half fill my cooler, far more than I need.  I think he gets some pleasure out of being able to make large purchases.

Since I am on Kanaval vacation, it was a good opportunity to invite Molet and Olivier to join me for supper.  Although it is not yet noon when I return home, I begin preparations; time will allow flavours to develop and marry.  But first I squeeze a sour orange into a jug of ice water to quench my thirst.  I cut the large cabbage into four, each quarter enough to yield a quart of coleslaw; three go into my cooler and the fourth I shred and mix into a salad for our evening meal.  I fry the chicken till it is golden brown, then add vegetables and seasonings to create the sauce that I will serve over seasoned rice.  Another pot goes on to boil as I gather the ingredients for my favourite rice pudding recipe, creamy and loaded with raisins, flavoured with vanilla, cinnamon and rum.  Having my sink working makes cleaning up as I go much easier.

Supper preparations under control, I sit on my gallery and read a bit more of my book.  The afternoon is breezy and pleasant.  Lizards rustle through the dry leaves on the ground, searching for a meal.  Children laugh and squeal as they splash about, using the fishing boat as a diving platform.  Watching them enjoy the water is enticing, and I don my new bathing suit and go for a refreshing dip.  The salty water is warm as I float and paddle about, bobbing on the waves.  Afterward I shower in my yard, the afternoon water warm on my skin.

Molet finally arrives, half an hour late.  Olivier had appeared earlier, clearly in one of his piques, and when I asked if he would be back for supper, his answer was ambiguous.  He does not come.  I sigh, and tell myself to never mind, that these things happen. There is nothing to be done for it.   I invite Molet to help himself to supper, and he piles his plate with rice but takes a rather uncharacteristically small portion of sauce.  I know exactly what is going on:  he is unsure if what this blan has prepared will suit his palate.  After tasting a few mouthfuls he asks if he can go back for more, telling me it is very good.  The rice pudding is met with high approval.

The evening sky is smoky, and the obscured sunset is unspectacular, a slash of dusky coral above the water-grey horizon.  As the final dying light of day gives way to darkness, the warm lights from the houses along the beach begin to spill out through the windows and into the yards, casting ribbons of light that dance upon the water.   As darkness presses around me like a thing alive, I retire into my house to simple pursuits that require little light.  The day is done.

Or so I thought.  A few minutes later Olivier knocks at my door wearing his usual long face, pleading he did not come for supper because there were things he had to do.  He will not elaborate.  I am not sure I believe him; Molet had told me he saw Olivier playing football as he was coming for supper.  He says he is hungry, so I relent and invite him in to have the supper he missed.  As I dish it out I ask him why lately he seems depressed all the time.  Staring dejectedly at the floor, he replies he doesn’t know.

But as he eats he tells me what has been happening.  He has been working for a builder helping to build walls.  I know this to be true as I have seen him at work more than once.  The builder now says he cannot pay his workers their wages.  I ask Olivier if he knows if the builder got paid for the work.  Olivier says he thinks he has.  I tell him he must go tomorrow and speak to his boss.  He then goes into a series of “What if he says….” scenarios.  I tell him “What ifs” are pointless.

This whole conversation has been overlaid with two other conversations.  One has been Olivier going on about me thinking that he has been making a lot of money.  I tell him that is not true, but he persists.  The second is about getting his passport, a conversation that has been going on for months.  I believe Olivier getting his passport is a pointless and needlessly expensive exercise; he has no money to travel anywhere, and the chances of him qualifying for a visa are slim to none.

The whole thing is very frustrating.  Olivier can be very frustrating.  My questions have been met with answers that spin in circles and then fly off on tangents.  I don’t know how much of it is fact and how much is Olivier’s all too frequent speculations.   I finally tell him I do not want to hear any more of it until he goes to speak to his boss.  With a bit of physical urging from me he is finally out the door.  I hope the day is done.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Patience with others is Love, patience with self is Hope, patience with God is Faith.

Adel Bestavros

God grant me patience with others, with myself, and with You.

*  The title of this post is a quote from Terry Waite, the British hostage negotiator, who himself was held hostage in Lebanon from 20 January 1987 until 18 November 1991, a total of 1,763 days, the first four years of which were spent in total solitary confinement.

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