For the past two weeks, a thought has been plaguing my mind… Jill, you gotta do your blog… I KNOW! I just… don’t have anything to say… it’s been Groundhog Day for awhile… then write a blog saying that… but that’s weird… you said you would write once a month, don’t give up now… hmm… grrrr… OKAY FINE! I—I’ll write okay? You win, happy? Just—just don’t expect it to be good…
Welcome to the first addition of GwoMòn Grumblings: A collection of random stories, hosted by yours truly.
My Groundhog Day experience is going to Grepen to work, returning, having lunch, making masks or doing other tasks before having dinner, showering and going to bed. That routine is interspersed with some days of exercising, studying, visiting my tutor, or watching a movie or show. On the weekends, I tend to sleep in and relax with a trip to a nearby river for some relaxing and socialization as well as an online mass. Other than wearing masks in the street, people giving us comments, the closure of schools and churches, a limited number of people allowed in banks wish masks, and an increase of hand-washing stations around town, there hasn’t been a lot of change to life. Well, those are some big changes, especially for teachers and students, but most people believe that COVID-19 isn’t in Haiti. The bank is starting to take people’s temperatures now and GwoMòn just got its first official case. And according to some, more people are going to be dying of “magic” now, in the voodoo tradition, as people take advantage of the Corona situation to curse people they don’t like. Even though they don’t believe in Corona. So… it’s life as usual I guess?
One of my co-workers, Jacques, still can’t get my name right. It’s not entirely his fault I guess. He had asked me again one day what my name was, but I misunderstood what he was saying at the time… which is weird because asking about someone’s name and answering is one of the first things you learn… so that’s on me. Anyways, I interpreted it as “How do you say girl?” We sometimes do the thing where I ask him what something is called and then he asks me what it is in English. So I said “girl”. Then Jacques started calling me “Girl”. Since then, Rosemond and Abby and I have been working to correct him again… he doesn’t try to say my name much anymore…
Rosemond was out of commission for a whole week once. I was worried that he had Corona. It turns out that on a Sunday, he took his moto down to Gonaives. When he left it was hot and when he returned it was cold and rainy… well, as cold as “cold” can be here. I’m not a medical professional, but when he came back the following Monday, he said he had (directly translated) “weak lungs”. That isn’t to say that Rosemond has weak lungs but that was what Haitians call that condition… whatever it was. His voice still sounded rough so he was obviously sick with something. I’m happy to say he is feeling much better. He also celebrated his birthday the Sunday before returning to work. He is 25 now… I THOUGHT HE WAS 25 GOING ON 26!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE WERE 24 AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE IS MARRIED WITH A KID WHO’S LIKE, TWO OR SOMETHING!!!!!!!! That really surprised me.
In this past month, we’ve said goodbye to 8,000-9,000 trees. They grew from tiny little seeds and we painstakingly raised them from babies, to wobbly toddlers, to dramatic teenagers. The kasia were the biggest drama queens, as any time we would move them two feet, they’d suddenly they started wilting like they were dying. Tèt chaje is the Haitian phrase, what a headache. They’re still really young but are able to leave the nest. I hope they grow up big and strong!
I made Japanese style curry for my house and caught a towel on fire. Abby was in the room but she had started tuning out all my kitchen mishaps. When something is dropped I yelp, when I open the fridge I grunt. What was a little panicked breathing by the time the stove decided to mess with the towel? I put it out quickly though. Just like the time when I was celebrating Lamaj’s birthday at a bar! For the first time in months, the Electricity Company of Haiti (EDH) or whatever gave us power! The poor electrical system at the bar didn’t know what to do so it sparked and caught fire. TWICE! Lamaj caught the first flame, I got the second. It was quite exciting.
Abby asked me to make my curry again the next week, I guess I did well :).
A few weeks ago, I went to my first funeral. It wasn’t someone I knew but I know one of her children who works at the same place I work. She had done a lot of good, running 3 clinics and delivering many babies during her life. She was a good woman from what I heard. The service was nice too. It was Abby’s first Catholic funeral here and she said she liked it a lot. People waited to start wailing until after the eulogy and the eulogy was really sweet. The whole service was probably about an hour too. When it finished, we walked, following the casket to the cemetery behind a brass band. We left soon after and went to get a drink on the way home which turned into lunch as well. At one point, a number of Haitians came into the space to have a drink or just hang out. At that point, Abby and Geri had gone to get another drink or use the bathroom and I was on my own. In true Haitian fashion, a heated debate started up. It was nearly impossible to follow and when Abby returned, she found me wide-eyed and lost. I could get an idea or topic of the debate, like education or something, but I had no idea what about education they were discussing. Anyways, Abby helped me a bit and soon we headed on home. It felt really discouraging to know I had been in the country for almost 5 months and feel like I still don’t know the language. Granted, arguments are hard to follow. It’s easier to understand if people are directly speaking to you versus trying to listen in on a conversation… at least for me.
So… traditionally after the afternoon meal here, Haitians will have fresh juice. They squeeze it and add the sugar themselves. There’s grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon, soursop, tamarin, cherry, mango, orange, etc. These are all juices that I drank during language school. Maybe a month or so after arriving here, my stomach started hurting, a story I believe I shared in my last blog. We figured it was from the tamarin juice that we had been drinking a lot recently as the other fruits weren’t growing well at the time. I stopped drinking it and I was fine. We switched to cherry juice and that was fine as well and then we had soursop juice, where upon my stomach started hurting the second day of having it. Going back to cherry juice, my stomach started up again… then a bit with passion fruit. So far the lemon grapefruit haven’t given me any noticeable aches, but I am so sad! One of the best parts about Haitian cuisine is having this fresh juice!!! GAH! So juice, salad rous, and hot chocolate are no goes… all the joy of consuming sweet things is being taken away… at least Abby got me some Casino cookies (they’re kind of like Oreos) the last time she was in Gonaives…
All that aside, I am doing well. It’s been hard to meet people especially with churches and schools being closed and it’s hard to practice Kreyòl with how the situation is currently, but life continues. There’re ups and downs, rights and lefts. There’s laughter and silence and joy and frustration. But that is life, and everyone experiences that. Everyone, especially now in this time, is experiencing the frustration of life. Our spirit of adventure is not being satiated due to travel restrictions and precautions. But hope is a part of life to and the willingness to continue. Who knows what the future holds? All we can do is keep the faith and face one day at a time, together.
Every week, Maryknoll sends out a bulletin via email for all its members, I just was to share a little reflection I wrote for it:
A moment of silence, a moment of grace, is what allows us as humans connect with each other and with God. We can find them in the beauty of Mother Nature, a spontaneous gift from a small child, and a moment of joy shared between friends. Those moments can be hard to unveil in the pounding chaos of life. The constant distractions of work, the need to be productive, hobbies we want to cultivate, and the desire to catch up on a good book or show. Faced with this 2020 pandemic of COVID-19, the horror of systemic racism, and whatever will happen in July, perhaps other distractions are revealing themselves as a need to escape the current situations. Perhaps you yourself do not find yourself with this problem. I, however, have always struggled to find time to enjoy the moments of grace the God has blessed me with. At work, when finished for the day, I find myself eager to be on the move and back at home.
In recent days, I haven’t been picking up my things and leaving as soon as possible. Finding myself in the company of my Haitian co-workers, I watch them knock mangos out of trees, and walk around the grounds, and wait for them to finish. Then we return together. Because of that extra time, we engage in more conversation and get to know each other better. It’s been a kind reminder for me to slow down and look at the people around me. The people I’m serving. My brothers and sisters. Christ. So when and where in your day do you rush? Why? What’s the hurry? Take a deep breath and waste time.
God bless all of you!