Okay, I put the Guest Map back on. I lost it when I did my last template edits and for some silly reason didn’t realize that I could just cut and past everything back in. For those of you that signed previously, you’re still on there. For those of you that haven’t signed yet, please do. I would love to know where you’re reading from.
If you would still like to sign the Comment section and tell me a bit about yourself and how you found me I would love that. We put the link to my blog on the mission website as an interest thing so I’m curious about how many people linked through that, how many were linked through other blogs and how many just stumbled upon it. Chris and I are still amazed at how many people have checked it out in two days. Sometimes it’s easy to feel isolated here and we’re finding the longer we’re away from North America the less we’re in touch with people, sort of that out of sight out of mind thing. Knowing that there are a lot of people out there following our journey is fun and a blessing to us. Thanks!
On a totally different note I had a sweet and touching experience on Friday afternoon. I was painting the window sills on the beach side of the house and a group of kids came along to try and knock down some tamarinds from the tamarind tree just on the other side of our beach wall. Kids love the tamarinds because when they’re ripe they’re sweet and tart at the same time. They have a shell that you break away and inside have seeds covered in a gooey pulp. The kids will throw rocks at the branches to try and knock down the fruit. They weren’t being obnoxious about it so I didn’t say anything.
Eventually one of the boys said, “Leslie! Leslie!” I looked up from my painting to see a bunch of eyes peeking through the fence and a bunch of giggles. I don’t know most of the kids but they were soooo excited that they knew my name and that I answered them. They were there for about half an hour and slowly trickled away. When the last two kids were getting ready to leave one little girl called my name again and when I answered she said, “M’ale!” which means I’m going. I said, “Okay, have a good day!” and waved good-bye.
The thing that got me about the whole situation is that the kids were very polite, when I asked them to not come over the wall they listened in the same way they would when one of their parents or an elder person asked them to do or not do something, and most of all, it was important for them to let me know they were leaving. It was so cute. Our area is a bit hard because we live right off the main highway. People have more access to foreign aid in our part of the country so there is often an attitude of “Hey white, what will you give me??” and we’ve encountered plenty of obnoxious people. It can be disheartening because we want to build relationships with people not because of the things we might be able to give them, but because of the fact that we’re all people. Like any other culture, attitudes get passed on to kids through example, so to see kids that were sweet and polite was encouraging. It made me realize that there are plenty of families in our area that are trying to raise their kids to be good people. We just often don’t know who they are because they get overshadowed by the people that are really vocal and obnoxious.
I shared that most (there are many that are the exception) Haitian families are not your traditional family unit. In most cases a couple will get together and after a while just start calling each other husband and wife, even though they have not been married traditionally. As I’ve also shared before, there is a lot of pride in this country and you see it come out in appearances, like weddings, funerals, doing things that are socially acceptable. Most people will not go through a traditional wedding ceremony unless they can pull out all the stops and host two or three hundred people. These are people that are living in poverty every other day of their lives.
There is also a cultural understanding that men should have the freedom to do what they please. Having many children is a sign of wealth, even if you can’t afford to keep them fed. Again, there is so much more that could be said about that, but it too needs it’s own post. Many women never know that sense of security that comes from a committed husband. They will live in uncertainty over whether he will stay around long enough to see his children grow up. Many times there is that feeling of “If I have one more child, that will be enough to keep him here” so families are large, and often then children are from two or three different fathers. Men may stick around for the long haul, but many times they don’t so women are left to fend for themselves and raise their children. Because of this the values that both parents can teach their children are left up to one person who in most cases is more concerned about surviving and keeping a little bit of food on the table. There’s a great book called Walking On Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories that talks about this quite a bit.
The kids also made me realize something else, and that’s that Chris and I are being more accepted into the community picture here. I’ve seen little signs of that recently, like the fact that about a year ago people would stop in front of our house on the beach and just stand and stare at us. Now, most people just keep walking, many will actually wave when they walk by, but most of all they’re starting to realize that we’re just here and not that interesting after all so they just keep going. The kids were funny because they just wanted me to know they were there