Yesterday we had house church at the Herseys' with another missionary couple. We sang hymns and listened to a podcast from Mars Hill. Then another couple came over for lunch- they are Salvation Army officers that run a clinic 75 miles out from Haiti. He is Nigerian, she's American, they have an adopted Haitian son. They both had on African kaftans. The Nigerian man told us about Igbo politics, his mother's funeral, and surviving the Biafran War. A heated debate followed about whether Paul Farmer's Zanmi Lasante rural clinic/public health program is good or bad for Haitian health, and whether Haitians fear death more than other cultures. We ate Indian food for lunch. Everything is homemade, down to the salad dressing and the baguettes.
Last night was our first night in our new house! It rained cats and dogs (or, as I've just learned they say in the French idiom, "raining ropes") last night. We went to the grocery store to get a shower curtain, bucket, clothesline, bleach, towels, and some groceries (peanut butter, Campbell's soup, rice.....). I know now why Haitian missionaries' budgets I've seen are so large for groceries- Campbell's soup cans were about $3 each. We bought 3 plain white towels- the cheapest, thinnest towels you've ever seen- and they were over $10 each. Once we learn even the littlest bit of Kreyol, we'll be able to buy things on the street for less.
Here are some fun facts I've learned about Haiti in my first week:
Haitian Recycling consists of putting your aluminum or glass items in a bag and setting them outside your gate. They'll be gone in less than one hour. Paper is given to another missionary couple who leads a women's empowerment project where the ladies make beads and jewelry out of colored paper.
Every missionary has dogs as a security alarm. Big dogs.
I have been shocked at how nicely dressed the Haitians on the street are, but I've been told that no matter how crushing one's poverty, no Haitian will go out on the street without a pressed shirt. They iron using non-electric irons - you heat charcoal in the fire and then put it in the iron to heat the plate. The only people around here who look unkempt (especially those with filthy hair, a sin in Haitian culture) are the mentally ill.
Everybody I meet has had malaria and dengue fever. Nbd, right?
40 Haitian Gourdes are worth one US dollar. Gourde coins go down to 5 Gourde denominations, and below that the amounts are so tiny that they don't make change for them, they'll just include a few matches or a piece of candy when they make change for that amount.
A giant water tanker truck drives around selling potable water. It plays music, like the ice cream trucks in Texas, and you just run out and buy some gallons. Funniest part - the song is plays is "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic!
In Swahili-speaking places, you refer to a woman by her oldest son's name (ie, my mother would be called Mama Matthew). In Haiti, you all her by her husband's first name, so I'm known as Madame Ben:)
PS - Have I mentioned I love my small group? Miss them.