Sunday, February 20, 2011

that one saturday

If you struggle with prim and properness to the point of easily offended or uptight you should not read this post.  Consider yourself warned.

A few weeks ago Troy declared that his "life had become far too weird for description."  I beg to differ and am going to try to describe.  It might very well be far too weird.... But not too weird for description. ;)

Late morning on Saturday I arrived at Harbor House to pick the girls up. They'd been informed of my arrival time in advance but in true Haitian style they did not begin to shower, change, pack, get ready until they saw my face standing in their kitchen.  I walked around saying "an ale vit vit"  (go fast fast) while they proceeded to take their sweet time getting ready.

Eventually we made it to the car. At least one of us was annoyed. Five young women, three babies, and I packed into the truck.  We arrived at our house quickly, it is just a few blocks from where they live.

The girls and their three sons all came in and sat down.  No one talked. We all sat staring at one another. There were moments of awkward before I asked why the heck they were so quiet?  "We're not used to it here" replied Djenie.  I looked to Troy to do his comedy routine or lighten the mood.  He gave me a look that said, "This was your idea."

We got warm bread from the little bakery across the street. We all made sandwiches with the bread and the conversation started flowing a little more freely.  After we ate I asked the ladies if they wanted to swim or watch a movie?  Everyone squealed at the idea of swimming.  John McHoul would say I took my stupid pill that morning because it never occurred to me to qualify if they knew how to swim.  I figured if you are signing up to swim, even squealing about it, that means you know how to swim.  First world mistake.

The ladies don't own swim suits.  There has never been a reason for them to own suits. They are all size zero on bottom and something not so easily defined or described on top...  ample we'll call it.  Paige handed out running shorts to all five of them but we were a little bit stumped on the tops.  They all thought wearing their bra as a swim suit top was sufficient and since it was the only thing we had I didn't  disagree and we went with it.

We learned early in our time in Haiti that boobs (prim and proper just left the building) are not a thing here. No one cares if you see them, no one gets all worked up about them, they just don't do in this culture what they do in American culture.  Modesty or concern about what is showing is not on the radar. Showing a boob is like showing a foot - of no consequence.

In our first years here Troy regularly had female employees lifting their shirt to wipe sweat or showing him a boob rash or infection before he had a chance to run for cover.  More than once he found himself consulting on issues of the breasts. (A breast consultant as it were.)  Let's just say he saw some boobs in the early years.  One time when he was very sick a bra-less woman holding only a shirt around her front half showed up at our door asking to visit him.  Not gonna lie, my willingness to embrace the culture pretty much ended right there.  Sorry topless lady, you cannot visit my husband bedside.  All this to say, we've been totally desensitized to boobs.

So five teenage young women headed across the drive way in their shorts and bras to swim.  They climbed the gate around the pool because that is how we roll here. (One near drowning means we never unlock the gate so that we never wonder if we left it open - it is NEVER open.)  After they climb the gate, one by one they hop in.  The fourth girl into the water was Leoni.  Leoni is five months pregnant.  Leoni does not know how to swim. Leoni jumped into the deeper end.

What felt like four lifetimes (but was really five seconds) passed while I set Sergline's son Jobens down on the driveway and jumped in to pull Leoni to the shallow end.  There was nothing very heroic about it. I envision all good rescues starting with the lifeguard swimming expertly across open choppy waters, muscles glistening in the sun. This particular rescue was quite a bit less Baywatch. :(
I was instantly in contact with the drowning person. It took three seconds start to finish.  It was made much more dramatic by Geronne who was fuh-reaking out watching the whole thing.  She declared me a hero, showed me the goosebumps on her arms and wiped the tears from her eyes.

At that point we paused and called for a moment of determining who could swim.   That seemed wise what with five people already in the pool.  Enisse turned out to be the only one that knew how to swim.  Paige spent the next little while helping Djenie and Sergline hold on to the side and go around the perimeter of the pool. Once around they would victoriously declare they had done it, they had swum.  Ernege was too afraid to do that and got out quickly.  Leoni was shaken up and stood very still in the shallow end.

Troy and Geronne and Jen and I were helping with the three babies and our own small army of children and kind of chuckling about how dumb we are.  We were not surprised when two or three girls got out of the pool to check out Isaac and Hope's bikes.  Next thing you know they are riding the bikes around the driveway and what we call our yard.

It occurred to me to ask Troy when Harold (Tex) was coming over to work on his computer.  Troy shrugged and said "any time".   Harold is new to Haiti.  I asked Troy if it might be wise to give Harold a heads up about the scene upon opening our front gate. Troy thought about it and said, "Yeah. Probably."

Troy called Harold and this is what I heard him say (roughly paraphrased) - "Hi Harold. You're still coming?  Okay. Well. Uh.  Here's the thing. We've lived here a while so maybe some really odd things have become sort of normal to us.  Uh.  Ok.  I'm just calling to tell you that there are teenage girls riding bikes in their bras in my yard.  That might be sort of alarming to you. So I thought I'd tell you."

I was laughing so hard by the time Troy finished his awkward explanation.  The absurdity of it all was hilarious.  Troy made is deceleration: "My life is far too weird for description."

(Now proven untrue by the way.)

The funnier part was that when Harold arrived he walked at champion race-walker speed across the driveway straight into the house without looking left or right.  He clearly wanted no part in the bizarre happenings at kay Troy.

That is what happened that one Saturday.