I feel like such a foreigner all the time in my village. Recently there was an incident that happened which made me feel better though: I saw someone alone in Ravine Seche more out of place than myself.
First let me paint the setting because it’s half the story.
It was about 10pm, I was hanging out in the shop that is right outside my door. It’s a little “canteen” that my landlord runs. I’m allowed to work in there as cashier/helper, and this evening I was.
Music was loudly blaring, but cutting in and out because the radio controller was an antiquated piece of junk. Ironce, my landlord, decided he was going to fix it once and for all and to that end borrowed a screwdriver from me and between that and a butcher knife (which was missing the handle), began “fixing” the stereo.
On top of the blaring music was the sound of their tiny, aging generator whining away in the background. It sounds like a weedwhacker engine, and for no apparent reason I can tell revs up and down. In cadence to the revving, the single lightbulb in our shop-shack was shining dimmer and brighter.
Outside the window where people come up to buy things a drunken Haitian man was loitering. One of the boys explained to me how this man was loco with alcohol, and how he had earlier publicly beat his wife (li battery madam) while she was holding their baby no less. The story was told me in Creole, but the confrontation pantomined as well, with gusto, so I was sure to understand. The man didn’t deny the boys accusations or pantomimed story, though did take a halfhearted swing at him too, which the boy easily ducked out of the way laughing. The drunk then addressed me in a slurred English-Creole mix, “She’s my wife… I can #$!@ $%!# her if I want… The money ran out and so did the love…” Though apparently there was still enough money for one last alcohol binge.
As if things couldn’t get more bizarre, outside in the dirt street in front of our store, a young man who has Down Syndrome and a burly beard was performing a thoughtful jig to the blasting music. One foot out, other foot out, arms in a robot-dance now…
Into this melee an athletic looking, obviously uncomfortable, tall Hispanic man in slacks and a white tanktop appeared at our window. He wasn’t given much notice.
Ironce, who was working in the window inches away, ignored him, intent on his work, applying the broken butcher knife to the innards of his stereo, twisting the blade this way and that.
The boys standing nearby informed me this was a Dominican. Darline, the wife of Ironce, concurred with his assessment, telling me loudly over the sound, “He’s a Dominican!” What was he doing in Ravine Seche? Who knows.
“Does he speak Creole?” I asked idly, as I watched him jump back from the window because a moth had landed on his arm. Now the moth was on his face and he was swatting wildly.
Apparently the Dominican didn’t speak Creole because what I eventually picked up over the bombastic din was, “…dos…..nochas…” Darline understood (or thought she did) and pulled a mosquito candle from the back shelf and handed it to him through the window around her working husband on the inside and the drunk on the outside, neither of whom had yet acknowledged the Dominican.
Money was passed for the candle. No change was given. He looked perplexed. He shifted on his feet uneasily. I think he wanted two candles. Or change. Darline gave neither. He started to argue, but couldn’t be heard, and that was assuming someone was even paying attention, and nobody was. Eventually he began backing up, then hastily turned and disappeared into the night.
Ironce bumped the wrong wire and the music quit. Just the cycling whine of the generator could be heard. In the sudden quiet the drunk said the obvious, without ever having even turned his head to see who had been standing next to him, “The Dominican left” (in Creole).
I felt sorry for the poor Dominican, he was obviously a foreigner in this environment, and in a way I was the insider. “What an unusual twist,” I thought.
As Christians we are called to be foreigners on earth. I think if we ever get too comfortable with where we are it might be time to move on to do something different.
Uh-oh, Ironce “fixed” the music. Back to not being able to hear myself think. What to do? I guess if I can’t beat them, join them. So a group of us went into the street and joined our mentally challenged friend in dancing to the music.