Pots and Pans and Knives, Oh My!

Today is Day 1 of Week 2 of training. If I said I was excited I would be lying. The novelty wears off really fast. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great week last week with the class (that’s them in the picture). They really were fun and enthusiastic and did a great job. I feel like we accomplished a lot with them. I don’t know how this week will go. Hopefully well. You never really know until you’re a few days into it and personalities start to emerge. We’ve already witnessed a spirited discussion about food and other things I couldn’t understand. I was starting to get a little anxious when one of the women in the class started raising her voice and was out of her chair. I think there was arm flailing and one man kept saying, “Madam, madam, madam, madam, madam, madam…” I lost count after 12. It was like listening to a parrot while wondering if you should be running for cover. Turns out she wasn’t mad. I figured that out when she went back to her chair and was bending over in laughter. Haitians have a very different way of communicating with each other. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it.

I’ve decided that my goal for this week is not to teach a class well, but rather to stay out of my kitchen. Teaching the class will happen, and I will do my best with it. Going in the kitchen is detrimental to my health right now. It’s just too stressful. My once organized and clean-to-the-best-of-my-abilities kitchen is now chaos. Yesterday I was rummaging through things and kept finding one thing after another that didn’t belong where I found it. Things that we’re in the right cupboards were a mess. Two of the better knives were broken the weekend before last while Yonese was cutting fish for us. It was a big Wahoo with big bones. It was an accident. That’s fine. One of my good paring knives lost it’s tip after a tumble on the cement tiles. Not just a little nick off the tip, we’re talking almost an inch. The other good paring knife is MIA. When I asked about it the response I got was, “Oh! Did you check with the forks and knives (it doesn’t normally live there just for the record)? Maybe it got thrown out?!?” Um, yeah, maybe. But I wasn’t the one that threw it out. Accidentally of course.

The thing that is grating on me right now, and thus the reason for needing to stay out of the kitchen, is that sense that our space is not our own. Haitians have a VERY different sense of privacy and regard to belongings. If Chris and I need some time to ourselves at home, on the weekend, we generally have to stay inside and close the doors and windows. Then we hear, “Oh, I didn’t know you were home, the doors and windows were closed.” Yes, they were. In the kitchen, the fact that I’ve organized it so that things are in the place that WE want them, means nothing. When the ladies are cooking for a class, things get put where they want them, or where it’s convenient for them. This means that there really is no system to where they put them, which equals chaos. No regard for where we may have put them since it’s our kitchen and we use it every other day of the year. There is also this unspoken idea that we have an endless supply of resources. A knife gets thrown away accidentally, oh well. The dish towels get thrashed and/or left in the yard. No problem. Oil gets splashed all over the wall. No worries, it’ll dry.


I have been raised with the mentality that if I am in someone else’s home, I respect their things and where they put them. I clean up and leave things cleaner than when I found them. If something breaks or I can’t find it, I tell that person. Haitian culture is very communal. This means that whatever you have is usable by me, and vice versa. And it’s an expectation, not a hope or a question.

There are many things about Haitian culture that I don’t understand. There are a few things that I don’t know how to deal with. Having someone make chaos in my kitchen is one thing that bothers me because it’s more of an issue of personal space. I know everyone reading this would feel the same if someone was to come into their home and do the same thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out how to deal with it. Maybe just resigning myself to the fact that it will happen several times a year and that I will have some work to do, several times a year, is the best approach. I could keep asking and asking for things to be the way I left them, but the response will be, “Okay,” and another knife will accidentally get left in the compost bucket because that was the closest place to put it down.

This entry was posted in this is haiti, this is life by Leslie. Bookmark the permalink.

About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

2 thoughts on “Pots and Pans and Knives, Oh My!

  1. Hi Leslie-
    I feel your pain. We actually had given a job to someone who needed one. She is supposed to come clean and help out on Saturday. But we realized early on that we were sick of people in our house by Saturday … Monday through Friday is enough for us. Now we pay her to not come. It is very silly.

    Good Luck with this week’s class. Britt leaves Sunday and Paige leaves the day before Thanksgiving, them my mom and dad come on 11-25 —- so things will be exciting here. Love you guys, we finally switched to beta … the only difference I have found is that there are DIFFERENT annoyances than there where with regular blogger. Oh well.

  2. Hey Leslie! Hang in there girl! We know what you mean about the whole thing with personal space. Finding a way to communicate that without hurting relationships is touhg, but it can be done. We’ll be praying for you for sure! Isn’t cross-cultural life fun? 8-)

    There is much about life here in Albania that we still do not fully understand or appreciate, but the process continues, and God’s Grace is fresh every day. And don’t worry – it is okay to feel frustrated – it is all a part of the process.

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