(from Tuesday)

Here’s the sleep count from last night:

Benaja: 6 hours (1:30am-7:30am)
Beth: 4 hours (4:00am-8am)
Bill: 3 hours (4:30am-7:30am, but, according to Bill, did not actually start moving until about 8:45am).

And here’s what we pulled from triage:

Computers that are totally screwed up and perhaps helpless: 8
Computers that won’t turn on (thinking it’s a clock problem): 44
Computers that are happy and ready to be used: 56

Putting us at a total of 108 computers that we’ll be taking to Darbonne and Petite Riviere des Nippes these next two weeks.

Let’s just say that Bill and I had some great “getting to know you” time yesterday. The three of us left with John to pick up laptops in the morning, among other errands, and didn’t get back until later that afternoon.

In the time between, we picked up a cell phone for Bill, exchanged money, bought a bunch of paper supplies so that we can give each teacher a notebook and pen with their handouts, and even stopped at an awesome fast food restaurant that made me feel like I was in the USA all over again.

To continue the USA feel, we stopped into Radio Shack for Bill to get a battery charger. Inside, there were a number of US soldiers picking up things. As the girlfriend of a Marine, I know should feel comfortable around members of our military, but I still get anxious like maybe when you walk into a store guarded by people with guns. I certainly wasn’t ashamed of their presence, but I still avoided them. Perhaps I felt, in some ways, an “outed” American. And here I was trying so hard to blend in, despite my skin color.

But skin color is unavoidable sometimes. My new word of the day is “preferans”, or preference. It pertains to the fact that there were maybe 30 people waiting in a line going outside the cell phone store when Bill and John were ushered in front of everyone. I asked Benaja how long the people outside had been waiting; how long they would wait. He said “Oh, maybe two hours…or three hours, four, five hours.” I watched as people stood outside the cell phone store with towels on their heads, trying to block the hot sun, as John and Bill walked in. I literally almost burst into tears.

This isn’t a judgment on John and Bill’s part as much as it is a judgment on the reality that Haitians have to go through on a regular basis. They didn’t flinch as Bill and John walked by. They knew what “preferans” was and were used to it. I found it funny, that a country famous for its successful slave revolts, a country of people of color that are trying to build their country into what it was once destined to be…that they still put the white people before them, almost knocking themselves back for every step forward that they make.

I asked Benaja, with angry eyes, why people stood for this. It’s not like the white people in this situation had more money than the blacks. Everyone was at the store to buy something, and money was money. But Benaja brought up the point that even though money was the same for everyone, everyone also needed contacts. They needed to network so they could get themselves better jobs and situations for their families. And white people were the most likely to have these contacts and these jobs. So on a person-to-person basis, the white person always came first.

On the street, an old woman yelled at me for not speaking Kreyòl. “You’re here in Haiti!” she yelled. “If you’re here in Haiti you need to speak Kreyòl!”

I tried not to be hurt. I, in fact, am trying as fast as I can to speak Kreyòl and have been working hard for the two weeks I’ve been here. I know that she is just talking and that her remarks are unreasonable anyway- you can’t possibly learn all the languages of all the countries that you ever visit in your life.

I mentioned it to Alex, John’s brother-in-law, who is becoming a friend of mine. “That’s great,” he said to me, setting me into a slight confusion. He saw my look of question and rephrased his thoughts. “I’m so glad that people are referring to Kreyòl as a language now.”

A step back, a step forward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *