A question I get all the time is what I do on a normal day. Members from teams commonly asked “So when we leave, what does life look like?” This is a question that’s impossible to answer. It changes day to day, teams came when we were moving into the Sant Mouvman which meant that life routines would change, and it’s hard to explain a day when just the basics are so vastly different from the point of view of life in America. But I’m here to challenge myself and try to give you guys an idea of what life looks like this week. (No promises that next week will look the same.)
- 8am: Woke up to my Natcom phone’s alarm & threw clothes on to walk past workers and grab a bucket of water from our drums to take a quick “bucket bath” in our bathroom. Walked upstairs and started boiling coffee as I poured some (Stoney Creek, thanks to a wonderful friend!) coffee into the french press. (French press was the only coffee option at Shernando, now we have electricity but I can’t have it any other way! Plus, we can’t really buy coffee filters like the US.) Hopped on Skype with an apple (imported from the US, a splurge to buy at 60 goudes) and my coffee for a meeting with our new child sponsorship coordinator who lives in Columbus.
- 11-ish am: After some e-mails and my morning reading, I drank a big cup of water and got myself out of the gate to see some people that I’ve been missing the last week while I was stuck inside. On the way out I stopped to check out Kellie as she broke into a locked latrine with the neighborhood boys to check out what’s been going on with the latrine with the missing key. Simon stopped to ask me questions about my day and I held Kiki, wearing American flag shorts, for a few minutes before making my way to Nadia’s home. Saying hi to neighbors on the way I actually ended up walking beside Nadia’s brother, who was on his way home from summer school and telling me that his mother has been asking about me. I told him that’s where I was headed and we walked as I asked questions about school (He answered a few questions on my to-do list from my morning meeting!). Jeslin, Nadia’s mother, gave me a huge hug and smile and said the phrase that replaces I miss you, “I don’t see you!” As I explained that I knew I disappeared for a week and why, she got a basket of mangoes for me, telling me that this was the second basket she had for me because she hadn’t seen me for so long she had to get another one. I thanked her (trying hard not to say “You didn’t have to!” because it does NOT translate – even though I say it every time) and sat down in a chair in her front yard as she yelled into the air for Nadia (not into the house, but the air. Nadia was somewhere else in Bercy – people yell from home to home and I’m pretty sure the mother’s voices can carry across a field) – after yelling “Stephanie vini pou we’ou”, Nadia literally ran over! My heart was full as she gave me a much warmer and emotional hug than a typical welcoming kiss on the cheek. We sat, talked about me being sick and not seeing me and what had happened the past week, and just enjoyed company for an hour or two. Nadia cleaned Westalinda’s nails while I turned and tried to swallow the fact that I have to look in the face of little toddlers covered in flies while a young boy with a fever came and laid his head on my lap – I see this all the time, but I’ve been praying for fresh eyes and God answered. Plus, being sick renews your compassion for the sick around you – especially when you can see how much better your living conditions are. I want so badly to just walk to to hospital with a single file of kids behind me, I have to fight the urge to just walk away with children at times. That’s not the best way to do things. I sigh and push back the feelings while going back to answering Nadia’s quizzing “What’s that?” (every time I visit and sit, Nadia starts to point at people and things to test if I know people or my Creole words)
- Before leaving, Nadia stuck some earrings in my ear (yes, she put them in) as a gift (they’re really shiny Mickey Mouse heads) and I thanked her while saying that I was on my way to market for the day. Then the question came: What are you getting for me? (I get this DAILY from people all over). Today I played along with my friends and asked what they’d like, Jeslin playfully reminded me of the drinks that I had last week, reminding me that she said she liked them. In Cabaret, there are people all over with cardboard boxes on their head selling ice cold soda – usually Jugoo, 7up, and Toro (Haitian Red Bull). Two weeks ago, I had Toro two different days as I was feeling exhausted and had no idea why – these drinks are full of ice to where it’s like drinking a slushie, they are SO refreshing. Anyways, I play along and promise a Robusto (some energy drink that I haven’t tried) & a Jugoo for Jeslin & Nadia. I say no so many times, I like saying yes to the little things in the right moment (I can get both for the equivalent of $1.25 American).
- 1pm: Go back to the house, get lettuce and chicken leftovers (Thank you, fridge!!) and sit with Mary Claude as I have lunch. Mary Claude informs me that if I eat oil while I have malaria, I’ll die. After failing at asking “WHY would I die?” I thank her for the concern. (“Why would I die?” “Because you have malaria.” “What about it would kill me?” “If you eat oil.” “Why would eating oil while I have malaria kill me?” “KILL you. You’d be dead*Insert re-enacting dying, as if THAT’S the part I don’t understand.*”) Mary Claude was at the house because she shows up all the time, she had been with Amanda all morning. Mary Claude and I walked to Route #1 with her to catch a tap-tap back to Cabaret, dropping off some alcohol swaps a neighbor asked for on the way. We talked about hoping to find one with room because the tap-tap’s are always full on big market days. One came and we hopped on, Mary Claude on her way back home & me going to get ready for dinner. I asked the truck to stop at Laborderie so I could visit some friends and walked down to the home with my favorite family in the community.
- Laborderie (2-ish pm): I walked up to Estefan running up to me with his great smile (saving me unknowingly as someone had caught me off guard with my open reply to “Stephanie?!” to asking me for money) and we walked hand in hand to his home, where Miguelson, Jessica, Biyonce, and Fritzlande were running to come say hi. Ermilie yelled “Stephanie’s here” to the family and a chair was ready before I was. I greeted everyone with the kiss on the cheek and sat down as three kids tried to balance on my lap and Estefan started to play with my hair. I answered the questions about my health, responded to “I don’t see you!” again, and tried to balance my attention between children and teenagers/adults talking to me. Ermilie kept asking me why I was going to market, then laughing when I told her that I was making food (and what ingredients I was buying for it). My bag started to ring and she opened it to get my phone, we called Kellie back and she asked if I was going to Cabaret. Her & Richard (the boy who lives next to us) met up with me so they could go to the pharmacy. After plenty of jokes about dinner and lots of time with energetic kids, we eventually left Laborderie (after I saw Hope SMILING and playing with Estefan!) and walked to get a tap-tap to Cabaret.
- 3pm: We piled out of the tap-tap & walked through Cabaret for carrots, onions, herb bundles, bread, a trek in big market for bananas, and chicken. I ran into Jeslin too, who was buying food for tonight because she sells coffee in the morning and meals at night from her home. This included a split from Kellie & running into “Casino lady”, a vendor that I’m friends with. Turned out she visited my home yesterday (don’t know how she knows where I live, don’t be creeped out?) while I was gone. She gave me the gift of some free kenips (which I didn’t have the heart to say ‘no’ to, even though I think they’re like eating eyeballs) and I promised to visit tomorrow and buy a pineapple. On the way to grab a moto home, I stopped a man with a cardboard box with green lids and asked if he had the new Toro Citron. (He did, I was just curious because it’s new and somehow Red Bull has sucked me in with their Haitian drinks…) I asked for a Robusto & Jugoo with lots of ice, then weaved to get a ride. I asked two drivers “Bercy?” and had Kellie & Richard hop on a moto while I hopped on one. (We can all fit on one, but why be uncomfortable? It’s the same price because you pay by person.) A random friend from Laborderie was asking me to scoot up before I knew it, and in the craziness of market we took off with an extra passenger who promised they weren’t planning on me to pick up their bill. After dropping them off, I had the moto take me to Nadia’s house so I could drop off the drinks and enjoy her surprised smile (I KNEW she thought’d I’d forget), then I walked home to get my chicken in the freezer after stopping at Richard’s house to buy some bagged water & support their family.
- 4(ish)pm: Time to start dinner as a pastor’s meeting goes on upstairs. I cut up pineapple and the mango that Jeslin gave me then get vinegar water and citrus ready to wash the chicken from market. The meeting ended and I gave Pastor Pierre a hug while picking his brain for ideas to work with teenage girls. While the chicken boiled I cut and ground and combined the veggies (be careful to clean them, my recent parasite reminded me) from raw in market to soup-ready and attempted to clean as I went since we have no sink, let alone dishwasher. Amanda came up to make the best part, garlic bread, and we were eating before 6:00.
- After dinner: I almost forgot! When I told Nadia I was cooking dinner and had to get home, she laughed too (I’m used to it). I told her everyone thought it was funny that I could cook, as if it’s impossible – I promised to bring her some back. After dishes, I remembered this and got a small bowl to take to Nadia. I walked up and her eyes got wide – she let out a huge laugh and yelled to Jeslin to come look, I was there with the food I had made. They tried it, her mother first, and told me it was good…but it was hilarious. Jeslin had no idea how to eat it because it was chicken and rice soup – she eats it all separate and called the broth sauce. After she said it was good, which I’m pretty sure was to be nice, I told her she was supposed to eat it together! Nadia’s younger sister, sixteen and feisty, comes over excitedly and then tells me it’s awful. Nadia says it’s great and throws it out into Westalinda’s bath water when she thinks I’m not looking – I pretended to not see as she thanked me again and told me how good it was. We left to go get the family goats (Didn’t even know they had three, tied up on the path to the ocean!) and when I came back, a girl that’s done my hair a few times that I nicknamed “Bo” gave me some fried things (forget the name) that she sells in market, then Nadia filled the bowl I brought back up with food that her mom had made. Nadia and Bo walked me back because “the sun was sleeping” (my way of telling people when my curfew is – when the sun goes to sleep) and I came here to eat cold pineapple & write about the day. I promised Nadia the gift of some kenips tomorrow…since I happen to have a bag I don’t plan on eating.
Man, that’s LONG when it’s written out! So there, with as many details as I can add to help you see the picture, was my Monday. Different from what you imagined? (If it was, know that every Monday looks different anyways). Just a couple of the hours were sit down “work” today, yet I’m definitely ready for bed as I listen to YouTube playlists and look for a picture from Amanda from the day. (iPhone’s back in just one month, friends!)
With the details you got in the difference in tasks today, I’ll work on shorter posts throughout the week. As I give it to HIM, we’ll see what tomorrow brings!