Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dress Code Issues

It is hard to fit in in this country. I've given up on trying. As if the skin color wasn't enough, it is also very hard to wear the right clothes here. Culturally, only young men and children wear shorts. I'm sorry, but it's WAY too hot here to wear pants all the time. I've adjusted to the heat fairly well, but I can't give up the shorts.

The men, especially in Port Au Prince, usually wear dress pants and dress shoes (with socks - can you imagine?) while they conduct business and travel to and fro. Even our employees will change clothes before we head in to Port so they look presentable. Not me. I figure I'm going to stick out like a sore thumb anyway, so why kid myself and try to dress alike?

My rebellious streak finally caught up with me, though. Last week I had an appointment in a government office in Port Au Prince. I entered the security line in the Department of Finances building. Things were going along well... I was chatting with Eddy about the pros and cons of a market economy (just kidding, he was probably still talking about Toro), and then we reached the front of the line. A large, uniformed Haitian man wearing sunglasses indoors pointed at my white shiny legs and shook his head no. Eddy looked at me and laughed. I protested, but I knew I didn't have a covered leg to stand on. I asked Eddy why this hasn't been a problem in the past, and he said "Look, man, we have a new president now. You can't just do whatever you want in my country, man. This is seewious." He offered to help me find a pair of pants from a vendor on the street to make myself presentable, but I was too proud to submit. Plus I looked ridiculous enough without standing on the street next to the National Palace in my underwear while I changed clothes.

Long story short, I have to go back to Port soon to try again. With pants on.

I'm sure I'll fit right in.

Don't worry, though, I haven't totally sold out...there's no way I'm wearing any dress shoes. I haven't worn anything but sandals since January 18th. Hopefully I don't have to meet with President Preval with my toes sticking out.