I learned a new kreyol phrase today. Ann Koze.
A beautiful post, thank you Leslie.
I like that you have called me Ann… I had signed off “Ann Koze”, kreyòl for “Let’s talk” and you have done just this, you have opened a new path of conversation. You have given us a true gift with the honesty of this post. I thank you. My name is Ezekiel, but I am happy to be call Ann Koze!
You have given the strangers in the “blogosphere” not just background, but foreground as well… You have shown us what is behind you, but you also show us many things that lie ahead.
Thank you for your patience with the parts of your stories that I misunderstand and I hope you are open to your blog being, in part, a chance for a community of friends to ask, encourage and challenge each other. I have been reading you posts for a long time now, and have wanted to reply on many occasions.
So if we approach this dialogue with respect, and with the overall agreement that in MANY cases we will misunderstand each other, then there will not be any surprises!
Look again at your post. Every single sentence could be a first sentence to a whole page of thoughts and reflections! I know blogs serve many different purposes, and this blog is not just for you to talk about your experience getting to know Haiti, but about lots of other things too, but this one post is full of pebbles of stories that can lead to other stories. Personally, and selfishly, I’d love to hear more about these in future posts!
Tell us more about how your culture and Haitian culture have scraped over each other and sanded each other down, how have you changed since coming to Haiti? How did you keep from being overwhelmed. I am from Haiti living in Canada, and my culture certainly scrapes of the rough surface of Canadian culture and I am often at a loss, unsure of how to be in this culture.
Tell us more about your adventures in kreyòl… what are the words and expressions that make you laugh and confuse you? I have been very interested in how non-haitian’s interpret Haitian proverbs, as you suggest, language soaks itself in it’s context. And “deye mon…” is a sad proverb to some, and a hopeful one to others…tell us more.
Tell us about Yonese, Jean, the girl washing laundry, the shish machan, your boujwa neighbours, your Haitian collegues, Ansy, Garnelle. What have you learned from them? What do you see of Christ in them? What are their struggles, and what do they tell you about your own struggles?
And please, continue to tell us of your frustration and confusions, no one asks you to be perfect here. Please continue to be honest about the horrible violence and injustice of my country. Be honest about the desperation that pushes people into crime, and be honest about the terrible spiral of violence. Be honest about the culture of dependency perpetuated by well-meaning blan, who go to Haiti with little respect and only pity for Haitians and who have created a culture of “ba’m yon dola”. Be honest about the links between over-consumption and wealth in the North and poverty and desperation in countries like Haiti. Your honesty is all we can expect.
I’ll be honest with you. I care about this in part because you are going to raise a Haitian child, one of cousins. For too many terrible reasons Haitians are too sick, too poor or too dead to raise their own children. And so many children with whom I share the same ancestors have been welcomed into the homes and hearts of people like yourself. To this m ba w anpil respe … but I carry a deep desire that my little cousins are raised with opportunities to learn where they are from…. Not as a place on a map, but as a culture and a community. It is my hope that Haitian children that are adopted know that they were wanted, despite the hideous situations that force parents to put children up for adoption. This is important to me. I don’t know you, but I have no doubt that you will offer the world to this baby, and that he/she will be blessed with your unconditional love.
You have clearly been blessed by my country and my people and I am proud of this. I am being blessed by yours, and of this you too should be proud.
Ezekiel, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your kindness and desire to understand. This was a true gift to me today. Thank you for your willingness to communicate. Thank you for sharing part of yourself with me because you want to help me. Thank you for encouraging and blessing me today. I hope you don’t mind me posting the comment as an actual post. I didn’t think you would because you had posted it where it would be public anyway. It was just too beautiful not to.
You taught me some kreyol today. I mistakenly called you Ann. It wasn’t because I was super smart. I now have a new phrase under my belt :)
There’s so many things that I think about writing about, so much that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all. How can I not, Haiti is always giving me good material! I often find my thoughts racing around and wonder how I can try explaining things in a way that helps people understand. Then I realize that I probably won’t ever be able to do that completely. Sometimes I feel like the longer I’m here and the more experiences I have the more distance there is between my “now” life and my “before” life. People that we’re such a huge part of my life before, don’t know how to connect with my life now.
When I think about adopting a Haitian child sometimes it moves me to tears because I know the circumstances around that child coming into our family are going to be heartbreaking. We see it and hear about it. I do want our child to know so much love, to know that despite the things that brought them into our family, the reasons why, that we will love them beyond words. I want them to know that the decision that their birth mother makes is probably one of the hardest she will ever make, but also one made from so much love. I want my child to know their cultures, all of them. I want them to have a strong understanding of their Haitian culture, to know who they are and where they come from. I feel blessed that, si Bondye vle, we will get to live here so they can do that firsthand. I also want them to know the cultures they will inherit by becoming part of our family – Canadian and American. I know that at times doing that will be difficult, but I believe we can do it. I actually want this for all of our children – to love the places that are part of us and that we love. Canada, the US and Haiti. They are all ‘home’ for us now.
I do worry about things like how our children, all of them, will be received by the community. How will the Haitian child with the white parents be treated? How with the white child with the adopted Haitian sibling be treated? People here have a very different idea about adoption and Chris and I are looking forward to challenging people’s belief systems and *hopefully* giving them an example of what it means to adopt someone in the true biblical sense – love without strings or conditions and love that is equal.
I worry about things like doing hair. Hair is very important. At the same time, I’m looking forward to learning something new from some of the ladies in the neighborhood that will be so pleased that I’m trying and who will love the opportunity to teach me. Oops, I think I just let something slip there… There you go, the cat’s out of the bag – we want a little girl.
I see women walking around with growing bellies and I wonder if one of them is carrying the little baby that will become part of our family. I wonder what she’ll be like and who she will become. Mmmm, so many thoughts.
You wanted to know about some of the people I mentioned. I want to tell you about Yonese. Yonese lives across the highway and down about a block. She started working here several years ago on weekends. Now she comes in on Thursdays and will cook for classes. We LOVE Yonese. I respect her so much. She’s raised 4 children pretty much on her own. Jean is one of them and he’s our project manager/foreman/guy that does everything around here. Evens is another and he works here as a technician. Most of our staff are related to each other. Either brothers, cousins etc. I respect Yonese because of how she’s raised her children. There are genuinely wonderful people. All of them. Yonese is a wonderful person so it makes sense. The rest of the community also sees this and convinced her to take in a little 3 year old girl recently who has lost both her parents. Yonese also looks after Stephi and Jean Frantz. Stephi is the daughter of Jean and very sweet and cute. She’s 6 now I think. Jean Frantz is about 13 or 14 and Chris and I think his voice is starting to change. He’s gotten a lot taller recently. He’s a sweet boy and often helps Yonese bring things in from the market, or he’ll come wash some of his clothes here.
Yonese has received a good education and we like talking to her because, as I said, she’s one of the few people that will give us straight answers. She will tell us why something is offensive. We can agree to disagree. We can teach each other things. Today I asked her to get two pumpkins from the market because I wanted to “prepare” them and put it in the freezer so I could make cake/muffins when I wanted to. She said, “Gateau avek joumu?” Cake with pumpkin? I told her it was delicious when you put cinnamon and other spices in it and that when I made it I would make sure to let her taste it. She said, “I don’t just want to taste it I want to come when you make it so I can learn!” So someday soon we’ll make cake. Often when Yonese is working we’ll have her make juice from the fresh fruit. Sometimes it’s grenadia (passionfruit), sometimes orange, sometimes chadek (grapefruit). When she makes the chadek juice we give her the peelings because she makes confiture – jam. I also give her the jars I don’t need so she can sell it and make some extra money.
Yonese was very happy when she found out we were adopting. We need someone that will be able to go into Port au Prince from time to time to get papers for us and we asked if she would be willing to do this for us because we know we can trust her. She said she was very happy to help us that way. I love Yonese because I can just tell her the things that need to be done and I have full confidence that she’ll do them. Most days we have to tell her to go home because she’s working over time! Yonese is a woman. Yonese understands why I get frustrated when the dog, or my sweet husband, walk through the house with muddy feet. She’s got my back, she’s in my corner. Working in a place with mostly men, I need a woman who understands! :) When we have training class Yonese and I plan the menu together because she knows what’s in season and how to feed Haitians. I don’t, and I’ll gladly let her take that.
It’s all quiet around her now. The guys are all gone home for the day and Chris is still in St. Marc helping Barb fix whatever problem she has with her inverter and batteries. I think I’m going to go finish the last chapter of my book and figure out what to make for dinner.
PS – Ezekiel, I would love to hear more about your life in my country. What took you there? How long ago? What experiences have you had? Do you have a family? What challenges do you have there? I think we have a great opportunity to learn from each other :) I have my email address on the side bar if you’d like to use that, or you can comment too. I think others would be interested in hearing from you.