(Also written a bit ago, but the basic thoughts still hold, though I still have ups and downs out here regularly)
I’ve turned a corner out here in my remote corner of Haiti. Instead of an outsider, I’m beginning to feel like an insider.
There were a number of consecutive weeks I didn’t smile or laugh much. But good ol’ Nick is returning. The way Darline put it, “Ou komanse kòmic,” that is, “You’re becoming funny.” She has said that more than once.
I’ve reached the point in the language I can sometimes communicate a joke. It’s nice to make a wisecrack and have people laugh, or tell a story about something that happened funny in my day and have others track along and think it’s funny too.
Another thing that helped my sanity was coming down pretty stern on a few of the teenage boys always hanging around for things they did which annoyed me. In one instance, one of the boys mothers heard I’d got her son in trouble and she beat him, for good measure, telling him he needed to always give me respect and obey anything I said. He’s greatly mollified now, which helps me.
I’m also feeling more comfortable just sitting around outside in the evenings with people here. Where it was nothing but pain originally (I suppose because I didn’t know them, I didn’t really like them, and I could only barely communicate with them), now I rather enjoy it, and don’t feel as uncomfortable. While I don’t sit out every evening, one night recently I sat out for several hours and enjoyed hearing stories, like one of the fishermen here, Antwan, telling me about trying to take a boat to Miami back in the 90’s. After six miserable days packed into the small wooden boat with many others, they were picked up by the US coast guard. He spent three months in prison in Miami, where he told me the conditions were excellent, the food was good (rice and beans), and they got to play football. His return flight to Haiti was the only time he had flown in an airplane. People were poking fun at Antwan for getting to see and enjoy America from inside a prison cell, and the conversation was pretty comical, but then I told him seriously I was sorry my country didn’t let him immigrate into my country, for all his trouble, (we are a nation of immigrants, afterall). I think I’ve even read Clinton regrets his forced-deportion policy for the “boat people” fleeing Haiti during the oppressive regime of “Baby Doc” here in Haiti.
I’ve also made several friends. Nöe, the 20-year old orphaned fisherman I’ve mentioned before, has become a close friend. His life has gone from bad to worse, even while I’ve been here. He and his young wife split in the last several months over marital conflicts. So he moved in with some friends, taking a few things from his home. But then his wife took those things back while he was out working one day, even shredding all his clothes. Then his friends kicked him out of the other house, I don’t know why, but guess I might find out soon, because he is now my new temporary roommate. For now, I’m happy with the arrangement, he seems nice enough and is a hard worker too. Of his own initiative he cleaned up my “backyard” and hauled about 10 loads of fresh gravel by wheelbarrow from the ocean to behind my house to regrade it all.
Another thing that is helping me feel more at home is learning how people are related to each other. Who is who’s cousin, brother, half sibling, aunt, grandma, etc? Turns out nearly everyone is related. In the houses surrounding me for instance, lo and behold, it’s all one big extended family. I think that has helped my immediate surroundings feel more “homey.” Now, instead of, “That old guy I find kinda intimidating,” I think, “That is Darlene’s Father – Darlene being his only child by his first wife, who is the gentle, kind older lady yonder who also happens to be a stalwart in the local church, and one of only six going on the Church’s annual weeklong evangelistic trip later this month, not to be confused with his second wife, who is more domineering, and lives in St. Marc.”
Perhaps “time” is helping too. I’ve been here almost three months, which is quite awhile. Nothing can be miserable forever, humans being so adaptable.
(Written from my cell phone)