Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maybe That's True

If you've been reading for long, you know that some things are explained by "TIH". That is just a way of saying "that is how things roll in this culture". Today we are introducing a NEW blanket statement that also covers a multitude of things: "Maybe that's true."

We use this daily. So much of what you hear and what you see (especially if you're the foreigner) is hard to take at face value. This culture is full of rumor, stories, and much superstition. A friend who has lived here twenty years says, "Believe nothing that you hear and only half of what you see." Because we often don't know what is true and what is rumor, we'll hear a story and say to ourselves, "Maybe that's true." It might sound a little bit rude to you. It is not. It is just another way of recognizing that we are the visitors in this culture and therefore we are outsiders and we won't ever be more than that.
  • Jeronne's only daughter Jenny spent all of July with us. She left (by Jeronne's choice) in early August. On August 12 Jeronne was trying to hide tears so we asked what was going on. Jenny had called and said that the aunt taking care of her (not Jeronne's sister - but the sister of Jenny's father) had spanked her because she said she was hungry when she was not finished with her work. Troy said, "Let's go get her." They drove out to their village and picked her up. Jenny's paternal grandmother is gone for the summer and that is who usually takes care of her. Troy asked Jeronne why she does not want Jenny to live here with her/us and suggested that having her all the time might be better for Jenny. Jeronne does not agree - but we are guessing there is more to the story than we understand. It is common for kids in this culture to be raised by aunts, cousins, grandparents. Jenny's Dad lives in NY with his new girlfriend and child. According to Jeronne he got to the USA on a boat in 2007. Maybe that's true.
  • Jeronne had a bad dream last night. It caused pain in her abdomen and back. Maybe that's true. She says it is. She is leaving to go get an herbal remedy from a doctor out in the village. We told her we could have a Haitian MD here in our neighborhood look at her. She said "system American" would not work, she needs "system Ayiti". She said that the last person she knew that had this pain and ignored it, died the very next day. Maybe that's true. We asked how she could know that the person had the same thing she has. She looked at us like we are dumb and said she just knows. She is leaving today to go deal with her pain ... as near as we can tell she is getting some sort of herbal drink that will flush her out. I could easily hand her something that would do the same thing, but culture prevails.
  • A woman shows up at the orphanage. She has a new baby wrapped up in a towel. She says she wants to leave it at the Orphanage. John speaks with her and tells her she needs to think it over, she needs to go home and really think. He tells her she needs to bring papers back if she still wants to give the baby up. She says she is sure. She does not want "her" baby. (Maybe that's true.) She says she does not have papers yet. Upon further investigation and asking around, it turns out the baby was born to the 13 year old niece of the woman and was a product of a rape by her husband. The true story eventually came out, but it took time and patience.
  • Troy is often gathering prices for things. Everything from construction materials to food for a large group to auto parts. Sometimes he will go do it himself, other times he will send Tipap to do it. Troy is not the type to yell and get angry about being quoted very high prices (he does not yell unless he is in a car accident and the person lies - but even that he is remorseful about). Many times a week when sorting through what things will cost and putting together budgets we will do our best with the information gathered but blanket it with "Maybe that's true." For example, a contractor quoted a price to build a small cement structure. A contract was written. The building construction began. Six weeks into the project the Contractor comes and says "I am out of money, it is going to cost X amount more to finish." The Western response would be "You signed a contract, you gave your word, this is unacceptable!" That would not work here. If you want your building finished you shell our more cash or you stare at an unfinished structure for the rest of your life. So - the lesson is ... When quoted a price, you must recognize that "Maybe that's true."