I keep saying this, but it really feels like life has resumed its ‘normal’ status. Though, part of me thinks that the new routine has just become the new normal. Either way, things have slowed down. Guests are still swarming the Guest House and we are so busy that I am looking to turn the back apartment into an overflow area. This is a good thing.
While the initial drama from the quake is over and the media has moved on to more important things, like Octomom’s new bikini, there are still things going on daily that indeed remind us of January 12. Before January 12, there wasn’t, according to some ladies I was talking to at the hospital the other day, a number that was considered more or less ‘lucky’ than the other but they informed me that 12 is now considered an unlucky number by many Haitians. I can’t believe its been over two months since the trenbelman de te a. (“the earth quake”).
I continue to visit the hospital most every day. I didn’t go today because I didn’t feel well. I’ve had a headache all day and my body was just exhausted. Its not from lack of sleep because I am sleeping fine. I don’t know what it is. I’ve just felt really sluggish the last couple weeks. Maybe its a change in weather. Its getting hot here. We skipped spring and went right to summer. Or maybe its because the rain was coming. It started raining around 6pm and almost immediately my head was relieved of some of the pressure. Or maybe my body is just finally letting down from so much non-stop activity over the past few months.
The hospital feels like a little community, a little village, if you will. There is always laundry hanging around on bushes and trees outside (a common practice you see all over Haiti), people are often sitting together outside talking, making juice, or just taking in some fresh air or down below cooking food. Patients and family members of patients that have come and gone often return to visit with the friends they made during their stay. Every evening between 5 and 7 seems to be prime bathing time. Patients and family members alike stream in and out of the bathroom (which has two toilets and one shower) showering and coming out in fresh clothes. It seems a little backwards to me, to get all clean and dressed up at the end of the day, but it works for them so it works for me. Most everyday someone asks me what I brought for them. A few are serious but most of them laugh when I place a kiss on their cheek and say “this”. For those who are serious, I cannot be angry with them. They live in a world full of needs and many of them lost what few things they did actually have.
Since Migline, Ginitte and Jertrude left the hospital there has only been one other person that I was close to that has left. Last Wednesday when I arrived, Gina was gone. She was dismissed earlier that day. I called Migline’s mom the other day and talked to Migline for a minute. She said she was doing well. I asked her what she had been doing all day and she told me she had been reading. I cant imagine that she’d been reading ALL day but I suppose its possible. I also talked to Jertrude for a moment. She actually called me. I had tried her earlier in the day on the number she had given me and then later that same day she called me from a different number. We got cut off and…I didn’t have enough minutes on my phone to call her back…but it was good to talk to her.
Even though many of the friends I’ve made are still considered “malad”, or sick, its hard to imagine them that way. Many of the amputees are up and around, the kids are ‘running’ around in wheelchairs or on crutches, and everyone is in what seems to be great spirits. Frenel continues to be a ham, and a wise crack. Once when I was talking to someone I said the phrase “M panse sa (m pahn-say sah) I think so, and another kid, Jonathan overheard me, so now every time I see him (and sometimes multiple times during a conversation), the first words out of his mouth are “m panse sa”. Now, others also do the same. They’ll walk behind and I’ll just hear, “M panse sa”. Oliver, one of the older (and by older I mean probably in his early to mid 20s) amputees has been practicing putting his stump behind his head. Yesterday he told me he loved the Physical Therapist (she been here for two weeks working with the patients) and he wanted me to tell her he loved her with all of his heart…He was joking but I don’t think he’d mind if she was in love with him. He wants to learn English and he has a copy of a lesson book for people learning Creole but because it has Creole and English he wants to try and use it to learn Creole. The other day I sat outside with him and some of his friends and we had an English lesson. It was amusing because I had no idea how to teach him English with a book intended to teach Creole. But we tried.
Another friend I’ve made, Roudy also wants to learn English so I gave him a book in English so he could try and read it. We’ve tried a few times to sit down and read it together so I can help him with pronunciation and translation. It usually ends up being a crowd-drawer and everyone wants to take a turn reading and I think it frustrates him because a lot of them are actually better at it than he is so I think he is embarrassed so he just lets them do it instead of taking his own turn. The other day, we were finally able to sit down and have a ‘ti lekti angle’, a little English lecture, without a big crowd. There is a row of tall bushes outside in the hospital yard that people often sit under because it provides shade so we sat out under the bushes and were finally able to get a few paragraphs done. There are always people scattered through out the yard but for some reason this day, they only trickled by instead of pouring by. Sometimes I feel like I’m starting to blend in, and other missionaries and ‘blans’ walk by and don’t even notice me at the hospital. I like that. There were even a couple missionaries who walked by who didn’t even notice this day, until I said hi to them. And even though being under a bush sounds like an obscure location, its not at all.
I’ve made friends with a group of girls, mostly daughters of Rita and Rose Marie and a few others, along with a couple girls who are in the hospital for themselves. Every day I am asked by someone if I have a boyfriend. When I tell them no, they want to know why not. The answer to that question is complex and not easily understood from a cultural standpoint so I usually just respond that I am waiting on God. They don’t really buy it and press me. Its quite cultural to believe that its my responsibility to find a good man and hold on to him. Waiting on God, even in some Christian circles, seems almost secondary to that. But I do the best I can to explain to them, I’m waiting on God. Somehow its become kind of a joke between the ladies, their daughters, and myself and when someone new asks me that question, I’ll ask my girls to explain it for me and in unison they’ll say, ‘she’s waiting on God’. Some how the conversation turned in a big joke one day and I asked all of the girls if they had boyfriends…NO. Well why not? You’re asking me, but you don’t have one yourself??? So we formed an association. I suggested calling it “N’ap tann Bondye”, “We’re waiting on God”. They prefer to call it, “Chache gason yo”, “Searching For Men”. Don’t judge, we’re just having a little fun! In the course of a conversation, and I have no idea, where it came from, they decided that we needed to have a party. So last night, we actually had a party at the hospital, in the middle of the ladies ward. The original party was supposed to happen day before yesterday. I wasn’t sure exactly how serious they were so for fun, I bought some cookies and hard candies and when I arrived at the hospital, they asked me if I brought stuff for the party. They were thrilled when I pulled that out of my bag. And, yes, they were serious about having a party. But they told me we would have to do it the next day because they were still searching for the food. Sandra and her brother, Yves, had actually gone to town that day to search for chicken and other things to make for the party. So the first night, we decided we would have the sweet foods and the next night, the salty foods. So, we shared the cookies and candy with all of the other patients, our group sang a song (the only song I completely know in Creole), “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” and then and we followed that up with the only logical thing, we ‘danced’, which mostly consisted of us standing in the middle of the room and dancing awkwardly for a few seconds and everyone breaking out in laughter and then we’d all scatter and sit down until we gathered the courage to stand back up and do it over again. People from the other ‘rooms’ in the hospital came to see what the fuss was all about and stood around and laughed at the hysterics as well.
For the party last night, I was asked to bring a case of Tampico, (fruit punch) and they would provide the rest. I was still unsure if it was really going to happen but just for fun, I brought the Tampico and sure enough they had the other fixins. They had each put $10 into the pot to buy the food and then the girls cooked everything. The party was supposed to start around 4 and in true Haitian style, it commenced right on time, around 6:30. They put two small bedside tables together between Regine and Rita’s bed, covered it with a couple pillow cases and set the food out. All the girls showered and changed into their cute party clothes and Valenteen and Regine, both who normally wear gowns all day, got dressed up, put on cute clothes, and did their hair and make up. Regine’s cousin even came out all dressed up, and took pictures for the event. Again, people from other rooms in the hospital, streamed in and out, checking out all the commotion. They wanted to know why they weren’t invited and I ask them if they were searching for men…the guys especially appreciated the question. I did tell them, if they wanted to coordinate a party in their ‘room’, I’d be happy to bring Tampico. We shared the food with the ‘malad’ in the room and as many others as we could. We danced and laughed and ate; and laughed some more. Rita told me it was a good moment for her, that it helped distract her and keep her mind off what she had lost. It was fun to hear all the laughter through out the hospital.
After the party, I went over to the guys wing and spent a little time with the guys and their families. Valson, one of my teenage buddies (he’s 14) is always telling me that all Haitians are mean; every single one of them, including himself. And he tells me that all blans are shish; or stingy. He’s kidding but he tries to be tough when he says it. Last night, he told me I was shish; and then he asked me if I would give him a radio. I asked him what he was going to give me and he said he was just a kid and he didn’t have a job. Ok, good point. But then he told me he’d give me a boyfriend. (See? It comes up everyday…) I asked him about all Haitians being mean and was he going to give me a mean boyfriend. So then he told me he’d give me an African boyfriend. I asked him who he knew that was African and he told me the rapper, 50Cent. I told him no thanks. Then he told me that God had told him that he was supposed to do this so if I didn’t accept his gift God would punish him for not doing what he was supposed to do. And then he told me that he'd find me a Haitian who wasn’t mean. One that was too young to have become mean yet. Really? A kid? For a boyfriend? Then he told me he really wanted an IPOD. But he’d be OK with any MP3 player. And that he’d give me his baby sister. Sounds fair, right?
Each day, my hope and prayer is that I can be of some encouragement to the sick, to my friends, and others I meet in the hospital. And they often tell me that they appreciate me and miss me when I’m not there. Regine’s mother even told me once, that when I didn’t come for two days, she was afraid that I had left them and had gone back to the states and that she would never see me again. But truly, they have also done so much for me. The days I can’t make it for whatever reason, I miss them all. I think about them and hope and pray for their healing. What they’ve given me is something special. Without even meaning to, they helped me improve my Creole. Immensely. And while I still can’t understand everything, and sometimes I have to ask them to repeat themselves two of three times, I can almost always get the jist of what they’re telling me. And they seem to understand me as well. But what they’ve also given me is friendship, they’ve given me a community. Something I was so desperately missing for so long. Today I had sent Roudy a text message telling him I couldn’t make it, because he had wanted to do another English lesson. I has asked him to greet the others for me and a little while later Regine called me just to check on me. Sandra just sent me a text message saying she hadn’t seen me today. I know they are all ready to go home. Most of them have been there for so long. Rita, for example, has been here (or at Bonnefin) since only a few days after the earth quake. But selfishly, I’m not ready for them to go home. They’ve become my family, too. And while its possible to keep in touch, its not the same as going everyday and seeing them, all at once, all in one place. But for now, I’ll enjoy the moments as I can. And I’ll attend as many parties to which I am invited.