Saturday, June 03, 2006

Conversations from the Hike

We left at 8:55 this morning for our hike to Petit Bwa. The teacher (Rodson) we took with us to translate congratulated us our Haitian-ness ... we had told him 8:30. We assured him that being late is a part of this culture that we truly, enthusiastically embrace. ;-)

We used the time it takes to climb up to Petit Bwa to educate our teacher a bit about American culture and to pick his brain about Haitian culture.

We shared specifically that Rodson had offended Paige with something he said last week. This is how the story goes ... not very offensive to me or Troy but Paige was ticked off...

Rodson is standing talking with Paige while the other teachers are seated and ready to begin English class.

R- "Paige, hold old is your mom?"
P- "33"
R- He writes on the chalk board this equation 33-16=17
R-"Explain that Paige."
P- (hear her tone ... angry and voice raised) NO RODSON!!! Stomps out.

So, apparently no one here really believes that Britt (16) is my daughter. They think we are just lying to them or joking or something. So they decided to use Paige to get the information on my age and figure out how old I would have been when I had Britt. That ticked Paige off a whole lot.

I assured Paige that mainly, there are two issues ... one, they don't think Americans have babies at that young of an age (and Americans shouldn't and normally don't) and two, they were attempting to see if the math made it possible for Britt to be my kid. They don't really buy into Britt being 16 in the first place. Such an interesting place.

So, I told Rodson that in America, you don't really put an 11 year old on the spot about her mother and you don't really point out uncomfortable things like that and if you are going to do it, then don't do it in front of a group of people. I explained that I was happy to share the information and all he needed to do was ask me. He said "Oh, I don't understand the American system." I said "No, I know this, that is why I am telling you this to help you keep Paige from being angry with you."

Whenever we don't understand something and we ask Tipap or Rony or any employee, they just say "Haitian system." These are code words for: OUR CULTURE IS DIFFERENT THAN YOUR CULTURE YOU SILLY WHITE MAN!!!!!

The other discussions along the way brought some interesting things to light.

Rodson thinks lighter black skin is better, or as he put it "more beautiful." He does not think that discrimination against darker skin people or preferential treatment of lighter skinned people is a big deal. (Haitian system) We spent a large amount of time pointing out that God sees us all the same and that the color of skin has nothing to do with our value.

We talked about racism and described what we thought that meant. It was a new word to him but we shared that Haitians do the same thing to each other as their former French slave owners did 200 years ago. We used restaveks as an example. He did not seem to buy it. Not only did he not seem to buy it, he said his family had a boy that lived with them and was their servant in exchange for food and schooling and clothing. He said it was okay because his "mother is a Christian"

Later, we taught him the meaning of the word sterotype. He totally got that.

The hike up and down provided great opportunity to try and understand one another better. The fact is, culture is culture, and we can no more convince him that restaveks are not a good thing than he can convince us that Americans should not own one or two or however many vehicles per family. It just is the way it is. If it is accepted, there is no chance of change.

The fact is, we are visitors here, foreigners ... we need to remember that!

Whether or not we accomplished greater understanding of one another, remains to be seen.

Blogger is being jerky again -- photos are not loading. I will wait to do the post about Sophia's brothers and sisters and her birthplace until later ... the photos tell the story better than my words.

Until later, much love to you and yours!