For the past three weeks we have been taking an “intensive” Creole language class. I say class but it is really more like tutoring sessions. Martha and I are the only students. There were supposed to be as many of six of us in the class but the others dropped out last minute, so thanks to that we get individual time with the teacher! Not bad at all.
We meet with our teacher four days a week for two hours each day. Prior to taking this class Martha and I were teaching ourselves Creole (I know, scary) which was going okay but we felt like having some instruction from a Haitian teacher would help us excel faster, and we were right. Also, it is just nice having someone who speaks English explain the idiosyncrasies of the Haitian language that are hard to gather from a phrase book. The more Creole I learn, the more I discover how much I still have yet to learn. Of course it is impossible to learn everything in three weeks but this course is a great start.
Today we will take a quiz about common Creole verbs. Dun..dun…dun. We are definitely adjusting to being back in “school” and having to study and everything. Although we have only been in Haiti two months, it is easy to see why these verbs made it on the “common” list. I thought I would share with you some of these common verbs and how I have seen them in action in Haiti.
Netwaye – to clean
Haitians are clean people and keep other things clean as well. If this is surprising to you then perfect! This means we’re changing your perception of Haiti. Yes, Haiti is poor and dusty in some ways, but it is clean in others.
It is almost guaranteed that any of my co-workers, on any given day, will be wearing a shirt that is more clean, more white, and more crisp than mine. I’m not sure how they do it, but they do. This can be translated to any piece of clothing really. Recently I was sitting in the reception area of our office and a colleague came up and told me that my shoes were too dirty. Looking down, I agreed with her. They didn’t look the best but I thought the “kicking off of the dust” I had down that morning was sufficient. Oh no. She immediately told me to get 5 goudes (local currency) and follow her. At this point I had little choice! She took me outside our office, across the street, and sat me down in front on a shoe shiner. A couple minutes later, my shoes were WAY cleaner and we all had a laugh at the difference.
Pote – to bring or to carry
A non-exhaustive list of things I have seen Haitians carry: tires, propane gas tanks, children, rice bags, water, produce, chickens, goats. Wheel barrows are often used to transport cider blocks, concrete, dirt, etc. Also, many of the women who are part of the “informal” economy carry their products each day to the marketplace or throughout their neighborhood. These women have some serious stamina. While balancing heaps of bananas, mangoes, charcoal, cosmetics, clothing, and anything else of marketable value on their heads, they scramble up steep inclines and dodge traffic. Although tap taps (public buses) are a common form of transportation, many people rely on their own two legs to get around and bring or carry whatever they need to wherever they are going.
Ranje – to arrange, to fix, or to repair
Haitians are very resourceful! I can definitely learn from this resourcefulness since I come from a country where we are taught to simply “throw it out and buy a new one.” There are men here who sharpen knives. They walk around carrying their tools in a small box and ring a bell to let everyone know they are nearby. Another example are the cars in Haiti. Many cars here look tired and worn out, but they keep running! Last week a car was broken down near our apartment and a couple guys were crowded around the engine. Martha and I were walking home from the market and as we were passing they were revving the engine and piles of black smoke came out of the exhaust. It didn’t sound good. We continued walking past and as we turned to go up the hill towards our home the car caught and kept running. Soon they were off again.
Lapriyè – to pray
From my short time in Haiti, I can already see how Haitian Christians are fervent prayers. Each morning, the staff in the World Concern office gather together for prayer. We always sing a song and then one person is asked to pray. Everyone gets in a circle and holds hands. The person praying prays for what seems to me like half an hour! In reality it is more like a few minutes, but still much longer than Westerners tend to pray. Everything is covered during the prayer; nothing is left out. In addition to the length, another observation is that the words spoken seem to have authority. The power of prayer is not taken lightly, and it feels very genuine. I like the authenticity.
So you can see we are learning a lot about the language but also we are learning more and more about Haiti and its’ people. Although some days I want to pull my hair out because of one thing or another, we are content; and that is a nice place to be.