Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Haitian pleasantries?

So you know how difficult it is to remember somebodies name sometimes? Apparently Haitians have absolutely NO TROUBLE at all remembering the name of that one “blan” (white person) they met one time. Let me tell a story:

A couple weeks back, Andrea was sick so Anouse (the rectory’s house keeper) and I went to Trou du Nord to do some shopping. We had to get eggs, meat, limes, etc. I was pumped to see what their market was like and to get away from the normal 200 feet that I walk between our house and the computer classroom. The first thing we bought was meat. Meat is found in a little hut where you go to a walk-up window. As you approach, flies fill the air like something out of the book of Exodus. Then a woman appears behind the window with a pleasant smile and a cleaver. You buy meat by the cost so I got 100 gourdes (about $2). She proceeded to walk over to a large cow leg suspended from the ceiling and very deftly cut me some choice meat. With this secured in a black plastic bag, Anouse and I continued on our way.

Down that street I was shocked to see someone I knew. He had a very familiar face and came over to shake hands with me. “Bonjou, Jack!” All I could think was, “Oh my goodness, how in the world do I know this guy!?” Two weeks later I still don’t know. However this didn’t bother him at all. He asked how I was, how my wife was and if I liked Haiti. He then went in search of a slip of paper to write down his phone number and told me to call him. I thanked him and went on my way, convinced that I certainly would do no such thing.

Last Saturday, I heard somebody shouting my name and went outside to see what was going on. One of the kids at the rectory said a man was here to see me. Sure enough, my “buddy” from Trou du Nord had showed up again with HIS buddy. They cornered me and asked how I was, and how my wife was, and how I liked Haiti. His friend spoke English quite well. After the pleasantries were over (about 15 minutes of them), his friend (named Jovenal) asked if I could help him get a scholarship to study in the US… Recall, I still have no clue how on earth I know guy #1 (Marcellin). I said I’d be happy to help, but kept things at an email distance. However, the Haitian concept of boundaries is not quite as distinct as the US’s. Here is an excerpt from Jovenal’s first email to me:

“This is your friend Jovenel Durosier who has came to see you on 7 saturday november 09 with my friend Maslin at holysuzan.Are you doing,brother?your whole family?You know since the day i met you,i never stop thinking about you”


It’s funny thinking that behaviour we would consider wierd (guys hold hands all the time) or downright stalking at home is merely polite in Haiti.

So I sign this as Jovenal signed his letter to me:

May God bless you and recieve a shakenhand from me,



  1. hahahaha! reminds me of sergo! i guess jack has a face that is so memorable!