Monday, May 02, 2011


Last night we were invited to a party at our neighbors house.  These are the neighbors that once threatened to take us to court because our generator is too loud. The same neighbors that occasionally mention that our gate is noisy too. Oh, the irony.  For the first year we lived here the lady wouldn't even greet me when I said hello. It wasn't until the earthquake that I ever really got to have a friendly exchange with her. We don't know when the switch took place, but something changed and there has been much more warmth between us this year.  They love when we bring the little girls to their bakery across the street to help buy bread.

Being invited to that party was pretty big.  Maybe that sounds dorky or dramatic, and maybe it is both.  But here is the thing, we recognize we're outsiders and there are plenty of reasons to question our presence in their hood and to be skeptical of why we are in their country.  There is some animosity at times as people wonder why we have Haitian children and make their own decisions about what that means about us. Kids are exploited frequently in this culture. Why would we automatically be given the benefit of the doubt?

When we lived out in the country village we used to be invited to go to social events much more frequently. Knowing our neighbors in the city presents the same challenge that it does in any other urban setting.  It just seems (real or imagined) easier to make friends out in the boonies where people are more relaxed. 

For the party last night, they specifically asked us to bring all the kids. We also brought a cake and a bottle of wine and hoped we were not breaking unknown cultural party rules.

The party was in the backyard underneath swooping pigeons and florescent light.  When you walked in you were seated at a table similar to if you were at a restaurant.  We tried to mingle but they told us to sit. The music was loud and included Celine Dion, The Eagles, Aaron Neville, Chris DeBurgh, Elton John, and lots of Haitian Kompa.  The Haitian Kompa made perfect sense.  Chris deBurgh, not so much.  As former peeps in "the biz" Troy and I took copious notes about the play-list* - should we ourselves ever attempt to host a culturally appropriate Par-Tay in our neighborhood.  All that to say, we can spin* some records with confidence now.

(*Well hidden fact: we were cheesy wedding DJ's when we met one another. The chicken-dance is a part of our dna.)

For us of course there was a bit of awkwardness being the entire representation of expats at the party. We people watched and speculated much the way everyone at the party was speculating about us. Geronne kept being asked what we wanted, she giggled and said it was okay to ask us directly. We speak when spoken to!

We laughed at the amount of cork in my wine and marveled at the variety and volume of deep fried meats. Our kids took full advantage of the free flowing King Cola. They're no dummies. We used Lydia as social lubricant as she enthusiastically shook her butt to the Haitian Kompa music by 'Tropicana' while everyone laughed at her inhibition and cuteness.

We stayed three hours, ate many deep fried items and waited for others to leave before us to be sure we weren't being rude. We enjoyed that the husband was dressed to the nines when we arrived but the wife wore a raggedy house dress with a missing bosom button until about 7:30, then she went inside to change and get spiffy mid-party. :)

The music rose to a deafening crescendo by 8:30. By that time we were ready to tuck kids into bed even if it was too loud to sleep.

We recognized more than a few of our neighbors in the sea of new faces. Dr. Sajous is the neighborhood family practice doc. He came in mid party with an entourage. He seems popular. They ushered him to a prime table. We've known him since before we lived in this neighborhood because back in 2006 he was the one that declared Troy "needed a hospital" when Troy was experiencing the nasty/scary combination of symptoms that Dengue Fever and a panic attack rolled together in one can bring. 

Dr Sajous said last night, "You came to our party. Now you are Haitian."

I'm thinking he doesn't have the authority to unilaterally declare that - But we'll take it as a nice compliment and prepare for numerous future invitations to hear Lady in Red blasted from loud speakers while eating deep fried everything.