In many ways, life and people in Haiti are similar to life and people in America. However, I daily learn that in no way have I completely learned or understood Haitian people and its culture. Case in point:
- Money: Last week I had another doctor visit with Estaline. While waiting for about five hours for her to be seen by a pediatrician, I gave her a five goude (Haitian coin) to play with. I know, give a small child money? Please hold your judgement. I had no other toy to give her and I watched her like a hawk. At no point did she try to put it in her mouth. If she'd tried even once, I was going to take it away. To her, it was just a toy and I think she knew it was not food. This girl knows her food! I'd throw the coin on the ground- ALL Haitian children I know play on the ground (maybe the bougouis children don't?) and she'd hold onto the chair or me with one hand and bend down to pick it up. If I threw it farther than her ability to reach it, she'd sit down and reach for it. She'd clasp it in her hand and smile up at me proudly and I'd clap for her. For Estaline, this is nothing short of a miracle. This was therapy for her, but she was completely clueless and actually delighted in the activity, which she rarely does when moving. As we were playing, I heard some mumbling and grumbling coming from the lady sitting next to me who works at the clinic, something to do with money. I continued with our play. Suddenly, the lady reached out and snatched the coin from Estaline's hand. I looked at her, probably with anger, and said in Creole, "Why did you do that? She wasn't bothering you." She proceeded to tell me that I shouldn't let a child play with a coin. I explained that she wasn't putting it in her mouth, she was exercising her legs and trunk which she really needs to do, and asked her "Are you her mother?" Somehow, it was like my Creole self took over and I was able to express all my anger and frustration that I would certainly have not been able to do in English. The woman responded that she has her own kids. Another woman nearby entered the conversation to say that Estaline could put her dirty hands in her mouth. I explained that she hadn't tried once and I showed her the bottle of Purell that I had packed in my purse. I asked the first woman not to pay attention to Estaline and looked away from her and gave the coin back to Estaline and she played happily once again. Willy B, along for the fun of a doctor's appointment, explained that Haitians don't let children play with money. Did I disrespect the Haitian culture? Maybe. Not intentionally, though. I just wanted Estaline to work, for once with joy. Maybe I disrespected American culture too or all mothers.
- Driving: About a month ago I went on a visit to see if I could help Fritz's ill sister. I had asked Fritz if I could practice driving in Haiti on the way to his sister's house. Generous guy that he is (and trusting), he readily agreed. Fritz has the only automatic car in our ministry, and I am not proficient at driving a manual (next skill to learn, as many of our boys are learning and I feel some healthy competition against them), so his car is my only option to drive here so far. Well, that afternoon, he pulled up in his car with his brother, two nieces, daughter, and then myself and two nurses jumped in as well. Uh, drive for the first time with seven gawking passengers? No, I drove from the boys home to around the corner and stopped at a church. Yes, they laughed at me, but whatever. Last Thursday I was talking to Marlval about whether he thought Fritz would let me use his car to take a few kids to get blood work at a nearby hospital and if he could drive us. Marlval said I should just drive us in Fritz's car. "You have to do it sometime, so just do it tomorrow." Everyone (at least the adults) seemed to trust me enough to drive the car, so off we went the next am. Erta was in the passenger seat, with Katrina, Christella, Oline, and Chedline in the back. The whole way to the hospital, Katrina repeatedly said, "I didn't know you could drive!" The difficult part for me wasn't navigating through the crazy drivers, but making sure I didn't fly over a pothole. In Haiti, many people drive all over the road instead of in a lane, there are very few stop lights, and people may step out in front of you at any time. Who cares, as it was exhilarating to experience such freedom! After our hospital visit I returned back home, too afraid to make the market run I needed done, as its a bit farther than the hospital. Two fun visitors, John and Michelle, and my lovely new roommate, Kaitlyn, were excited to ride in the car with me, so they, along with Markenson and Erta, drove off later to the market with me, after some encouragement from our cook, Jinette, to do it. Everyone was very encouraging and clapped for me when we arrived home. Today, I made the hospital and market run again in Fritz's car. Poor guy...I'll try not to borrow it too too much. Reimbursed gas is a plus for him though, right?