On Friday after watching two physiotherapists train Haitian therapists on cerebral palsy and soft tissue release in French and Kreyol, I hopped into a van for a winding ride up to the Kenscoff orphanage, sans air conditioning, while feeling the effects of humidity and a heavy head cold, not feeling myself quite yet.
We passed giant turtle shells of rich brown hues, bold pink bougainvillea flowers trailing over partially completed stone walls, vibrant metal work of all shapes and sizes for sale, and graffiti announcing directions to shops and publicizing candidates "Vote Dr. Senina, Depute."
Each gate to a home is a different size and color and the metal work is different on each one- some turquoise with twisted spirals atop, others burgundy with chipping paint, glass topping the wall nearby for a homemade anti-theft system.. They are first looks at a house and your personal decorations since gates and walls are important for security here. My favorite view was of a hillside with house after house painted a different color- magenta, light rose, mauve, forest green- with houses stacked 3-4 stories high, an artist's dream palate.
The horn is a crucial part of driving here as well.. No street dividers, traffic signals and signs or regulations for driving exist (besides a license as far as I know) so the horn communicates many things: (my own interpretations are bellow)
"I will run you over if you don't move!" (Drivers have right of way)
"My car is bigger and faster so move or I'll hit your car"
"I'm about to try a risky driving move and squeeze between you and the oncoming tap tap, so here goes"
Things become less important here too, I've noticed, and Matthew 6 is wonderfully put into real life application with people sharing and meeting each other's needs:
-Didn't bring extra clothes? Borrow some of mine, don't worry about wearing the same thing again, rinse it out and it'll be dry in the morning
-Who would like some salad? Some tea? Have some of my biscuits and Nutella if you like! Want some wine, I have extra!
-the kids are also generous with their time and seem to enjoy drilling me in Kreyol and teaching me sek (a game where you keep a metal circle up with a stick), NNB (a game similar to hop scotch where you stay on one foot and get one touch to get a rock into the next section, no touching the lines with the rock or your foot allowed!), and this morning as we walked back from mass hand in hand, one of the little boys pulled me to the side when the motos came speeding up the road. My hair has a new look each few hours as well as the braiding boys and girls get ahold of it.
I also find myself getting into new habits:
- greeting everyone to be respectful (Bonjour, Bonswa, Sa va, Sak pase?)
-checking my bed and clothes occasionally for big ol' bugs (yes, night two i found a stowaway cockroach in my sweatshirt sleeve)
- brushing my teeth with my water bottle water to avoid cholera and other fun things
-not throwing TP in the toilet but in a trash can always, and flushing by pouring some recycled shower water into the twalet (they flush pretty well as long as you pour at a good speed)
-using my phone less than at home, as Internet is a lovely occasional thing (when I'm in volunteer housing and the generator happens to be on or working again after lightning storm)
-munching on crusty old bread and things I wouldn't normally eat.. everything tastes so much better when you're feeling hungry and have more limited options (and we still have access to so much!)
-and being surprisingly comfortable being the only blanc around at times, or sitting down to eat while the conversation around me is totally in French or Kreyol.
I do not mind the new habits and appreciate the adventure. I think it's healthy to have your normal habits shaken up a bit- it helps me let go of focusing on myself and awakens gratitude for things that I usually take for granted. Today I'm grateful for these words of Jesus' in a new way, having seen so many here live out of enormous generosity:
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."