Wi, I now speak (a little) Creole. Not nearly enough though.
My Creole teacher during my first week has been Junior, my soon-to-be co-worker and roommate. [I have also been acting as his English teacher.] Junior and his mom have stayed at the house with us this week to discuss the details of him joining staff with FHH. They returned home yesterday morning, but he will be joining us again in 2 weeks to help with finances and administration. He is 27, a super nice guy, and likely my future best friend down here.
Junior speaks the perfect amount of English - enough that he can communicate the important things and give me some instruction on my Creole, but little enough that I would rather speak my broken Creole than slow, enunciated English so that he can understand me. So it has forced me to practice my Creole, and I think I have made significant progress in one week.
Still, I am quite lost when I am on the construction site with Creole-speaking engineers & construction crew. My translator, Alix, has been with me at all times on the site, and he speaks great English, having lived in the States for 27 years. Despite his best efforts, I’m pretty sure much of the loud, animated conversation I hear is slipping through the cracks, lost in translation. It’s like those movies with subtitles [I’m thinking of Kung Pao] where someone is speaking in Japanese for a good 2 minutes, and the English translation is one sentence long. I know that Alix is communicating the important details to me, but I still miss the nuances of the conversations, which I think are equally important. Needless to say, I am eager to be semi-fluent in Creole.
What Lonely Planet has to say about Jeremie, my place de residence for the next year:
“Jeremie is the most isolated town in Haiti. The city is overgrown and derelict, its streets lined with abandoned coffee warehouses and crumbling mansions. The decline is mostly due to the closure of its port on the orders of Papa Doc Duvalier in 1964. In its heyday, Jeremie was known as the ‘City of Poets,’ due to the literary and artistic aspirations of its prosperous mulatto class, which included Alexandre Dumas’ father. All that remains now is a mournful elegaic memory of the past.
“However, the town is remarkable for its sense of isolation and history, and the arduous journey from Les Cayes passes through some stunning scenery. It is also very pretty, nestled in a bay with blinding white beaches and lush green foliage.”
Despite Jeremie being “derelict”, I must admit that I have perhaps the best view in town, as proven by the above photo.
As much as I would love (and do love) to sit on my verandah and stare at the Atlantic to the north, most of my first week in the Jeremie area has been spent in Gatineau, a 10-mile/1-hour drive up the mountain from Jeremie. It is in Gatineau where “Dokta Katie” and “Miss Cherlie” of Friends for Health in Haiti provide outpatient healthcare for rural Haitians, some who live in Gatineau, and some who walk from their homes 2 hours away, leaving at 4 AM to secure their spots in line. It is also where I have begun to help manage construction for a new health clinic, which will allow FHH to expand and meet (a fraction of) the high demand for healthcare in the isolated mountains of western Haiti.
I arrived in Port-au-Prince a few hours ago and am lounging at the Matthew 25 house, my guest house for the night. I could’ve sworn that Haiti’s infamously oppressive heat was a dry heat, but I was dead wrong. My hands are quite sweaty as I type this. The first thing I did upon arrival was watch an epic soccer match between two local clubs from my rooftop, with about 500 kids from the neighborhood spectating. Currently, the post-match party on the field is blasting “Teach Me How to Dougie” right outside my window. It’s good to be in Haiti.
I leave for Haiti in 6 days. I figured it’s about time I start a blog, and one not named “Nick’s India Blog”.
All I want to say at this point is: this is my blog, a space where I hope to share with you the joys and struggles of living and working in Haiti. I have no doubt there will be many of each.