After nearly a week here, I feel like we are really settling in. We are getting used to many of the things that are so different here than in the States. We almost never forget to throw our toilet paper away instead of putting it in the toilet. We are used to the quick, cold showers and only having AC at night. We are used to having rice and beans for lunch every day. We are used to all 4 sharing a bedroom and 1 bathroom. We are used to wifi not working regularly.
One thing that I am NOT used to, is being called “blan” – it means white, or foreigner. It isn’t meant to be rude, but I don’t like it. On Friday, a few of the girls kept calling Gracie, Clover & I “hey Blan!” When one of them said “grande blan” to me (big white) I stopped and this was our exchange:
Me – “Do you know my name?”
Her – “Rhiana”
Me – “So you DO know my name! How about them?” (pointing to Gracie & Clover)
Her – “Gracie … Clover”
Me – “Do you think you could call us by our names please? Since we know each other, I you don’t need to call us ‘blan’ … and I don’t like being called that!”
Her – “Ok Rhiana”
We’ll see tomorrow if that sticks. See, in Haiti, is isn’t considered rude to stare or call us “blan” – whether we like it or not. Staring is another thing that I am getting used to. We are stared at everywhere we go. Even at the O, we get stared at by visitors or sometimes nannies. However, a quick “bonjou” and a smile eases the weirdness of being stared at, and I think they appreciate a Kreyol greeting from the blan.
The girls and I began learning Kreyol a few months back. We weren’t as studious as we probably should have been, but we learned bits and pieces and some conversational phrases. A few adults at the O and the house speak English, which is helpful, and there is a translator at the O a few days a week. Some of the older kids speak English, as well. But overall, I don’t feel that the language barrier is so great that we cannot communicate. I know enough French that about half of the time, when I use the French word for something, it is the same as the Kreyol word.
One thing that I am SO used to now, that I am certain I will miss back in the States is constant song. At the guest house, there is a small church across the street where people worship multiple times a day. The sounds of all the voices worshiping The Lord is so beautiful. The cooks and washers sing all day. The kids at the O sing all afternoon. The nannies at the O sing all day, too. There is constant song and I love it!
I may not miss the food, though. Ha! Ok, so everyone has asked what we are eating here. Right now, there is a team of 14 people staying in the house with us, so the food is more American than it has been, but still … not what we’re used to. Here’s an idea of foods:
Breakfast – fresh juice and bananas every morning (LOVE this!), oatmeal, toast, pancakes (not like ours at all), eggs with either ham or peppers and onions in them
Lunch – Monday through Friday we eat lunch at the O, which is always rice and beans. Sometimes it is served with fish or vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onion) in a broth.
Dinner – Haitian people do not eat lunch, they eat breakfast and a mid-day meal. So, the cooks usually have dinner on the table by 3:30pm and you eat when you are ready. We aren’t even back from the O by then, so we just eat when we get home. Dinner has varied from night to night. We’ve had spaghetti, hamburgers, pasta salad, beet salad, fish, chicken, beef, rice and peas, etc. None of it is like what we are used to when we talk about having these things at home.
The food isn’t bad, by any means, it is just so different than how we eat at home. After the Daniel Fast I did in February, I decreased the amount of meat I eat to maybe once a week (if any). We had meat a few days before coming here, until finally I couldn’t eat it anymore. I haven’t had meat the entire time we’ve been here. I am glad we brought some things along – nuts and granola has been a nice snack. Another thing I am grateful that we brought – Spirulina! Having a spoonful in my juice each morning has kept me feeling better about all the starches that we’ve been eating.
It is Winter here now, so the temps are mild and there is often a nice breeze that flows. I thought that we would be hot all the time, and honestly we are warm, but it isn’t a sweltering heat. Drinking lots of [bottled] water is important and helpful.
The first week, I observed and tutored the older kids during school. I will start teaching tomorrow. I will be teaching English to the older kids classroom. I am going to start by trying to teach small groups of 3-5 kids at a time and see how it goes. I’ll try to post soon!