Entries to Win Afghan

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Interacting with Haitians - 1985

four Haitian boys

Although this picture was taken in Haiti, we knew these four boys for several months before we traveled there. They are, from left to right: Perry, Jean-Marie, Jean-Pierre, and Duvie. These boys could speak English, French (the official language of Haiti), and Creole (the popular language). With this skill, they came from Haiti to the United States on a tour with some Mission Possible staff as ambassadors for the country and the schools. They gave a program and sang at the church and school where our son Joshua was enrolled. To keep the story short... as a result another lady from Ludington and I ended up on the trip.

While we were in Haiti, the boys served as interpreters for our team most of the week. They were such engaging young men, the youngest was 9 and the oldest 11. I hope that they have grown up and been able to help their families out of the poverty they came from. Their visit to Michigan was in March, and I recall that they were cold all the time, despite being fitted with warm winter coats!

playing with Haitian children

The final day we were there we visited a TB hospital. We played with the kids who were not terribly sick. (I'll show you some of the others tomorrow.)

Haitian children

The day that I helped rake the floors in houses being built (see yesterday's post) these neighborhood children were very curious, but shy. I finally coaxed them to come over and have their picture taken with me. You can see that their clothes are much poorer than those of our four friends, and you may recognize those distended bellies on the boys as signs of malnutrition. They only spoke Creole, so we didn't communicate at all except with smiles.

Haitian marketThe last picture was taken in the Port-au-Prince "Iron Market," a famous tourist trap. All the shop owners are very savvy as to tourists. Their line is "You Christian? Me Christian. I make you good deal!" It was rather overwhelming. I brought home a small carved and stained folding chess table for only $5, and two small paintings for 50 cents each!

I don't have a single picture of the church service we attended. We all went to an English-language service in Port-au-Prince. But it was really awesome to be worshiping in a truly international congregation. I think I would have enjoyed it in French just as much.

There were a couple of interactions that were particular to me. The day that we worked in the mountain village I was sent to the local market (not the one in the picture from two days ago, but similar) to buy lunch. I went because I did speak a little French. We could order either chicken or peanut butter sandwiches, but they said to be sure to order them on "country bread," "pain de pays," because it was baked locally. That was fun, and made me feel useful. The bread was soft with a sort of smoky flavor from being cooked over the common fuel- charcoal.

My favorite interaction was mine alone. But I don't have any picture. After the day that I painted alphabets for the kindergarten and first grade rooms I was just hanging around until the van came back with the rest of the team. I'm not sure where the other lady was that had been painting. But there was a group of kids practicing a song in French after the school day had ended. I knew just enough French to talk to the teacher who was leading them after they had finished. She helped me write down the words and learn the song. Then she signed the page for me. Her name was Frantzi Charles, and her helper was Jacqueline Julat. They wanted to know my name, and we all laughed at how it sounds, because in French it is Jeanne Jeunne.

So, they were learning the song to sing for a Texas businessman who felt that God had asked him to donate enough grain to Mission Possible to feed the school kids for a year. He had simply asked that the children learn this song to sing to him. First I'll give you the words as Frantzi gave them to me:
Pour son grand amour divin
Jesus invite au festin
Tous les saints, qu'il est rachetes
Oh venez.

Sa manne vous mourrira
Et chaque jour suffira
Venez vouz tous les invites
Oh mangez.

Oh venez, quelle merveille, Oh venez.
Quelle fete sans pareille, Oh mangez.
Celui qui crea le pain
Et qui de l'eau fit du vin,
Invite tous au festin, Oh mangez.

Frantzi did tell me that the English name is "Come and Dine." I figured out the chords and used to play and sing it to myself fairly often, but over the years forgot most of the tune. However!!! I just found a midi file of the music on line (isn't the internet great?)! I had never known the English words. It's interesting to compare them with a literal translation back from the French. Anyway... if you want to hear the tune and see the original English words, it is located at the Cyberhymnal. And... you can get the music for free. You can believe that I will be printing that out and re-learning the tune. I was surprised to learn, just tonight, that it is a century-old hymn.

OK, that was plenty for today. Tomorrow, we'll go back to some of the sad parts... how poor the people were. We will take a little break for the monthly contest in a couple of days. There seems to be enough interest in the Haiti story to keep it up. It makes me really happy to be able to share it with you.

P.S. If you are looking for a reputable organization for donations to the Haitian crisis, I recommend World Vision. I blogged about their credentials in December at Two Chickens and a Goat

See Tasks on the 1985 Haiti Trip
See A Trip to Haiti in 1985


RNSANE said...

Sharkbyte, I am so looking forward to every single edition you have to post of your time in Haiti. I wish I could have gone there as a young nurse to do some work on the island. Now, I really would be of little help, with my mobility problems, midst all the rubble and ruin..here I have all the time in the world and I could certainly do crisis work.
I listened to the hymn - Come and Dine. That must have been a hard one for the Haitians to sing, with so many of them always hungry and not having enough food to eat. I was thinking of those little bellies, swollen from malnutrition.

Ratty said...

I've been reading this series with great interest. Those little boys in the first photo must have been very brave. The whole story is just compelling.

Icy BC said...

I am also following this series with anticipating. It so good to know there are great humans out there that reached out and help others!

Secondary Roads said...

Ratty found the right word, "compelling." Your accounts help us put the people into a context and that helps us understand how difficult life was for Haitians before the earthquake.

spinninglovelydays said...

Thanks for sharing this series. I've been reading back with great interest. I hope your friends remain safe at this troubled time.
I'm also learning the hymn as I'd like to teach it to my daughter.:)

Sharkbytes said...

Carmen- I bet you would have been quite a force for good there, when you were more mobile. I bet there would be supervisory things you could still do.

Ratty- I have never thought about the boys being brave, but I guess they must have been. They probably had no idea of what they really were getting into when they came to the US.

Icy- Over the years there have been lots and lots of mission trips to Haiti. It's a never-ending need.

Chuck- I am delighted that you feel that I'm giving you a context for the current events. It seemed to me that I had one, for myself, but I'm never sure that what is true for me will work for others.

Hi Ivy- Hey, thanks for coming by! How neat, that you like the song. It has a very lilting and bright melody, I think. Let me know if Marguerite likes it.

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