18 March 2010

Things Learned Along the Road

This morning, we walked into town to get a phone card…David felt it was time for us to be brave and try to use our Creole. (And by ‘us,’ he meant me.) I do seem to be getting a handle on it more quickly, so I finally agree to do the talking. We grab our goude and start down the dusty dirt road, along with lots of children in uniforms on their way to school. Each school has their own, but these children are all white tops and blue bottoms, so they must be going to the same place.

Motorcycles are honking, people passing us stare…we smile and say “bonjou.” Some echo back, some look away. I hear the familiar “Blan! Blan!” which is akin to “Hey, Whitey! Gringo!”, and I’ve learned not to turn and look or else get hassled for money. They seem content to let me go by, but I’m so busy ignoring people that we almost walk right by a man we met the first day we arrived…he says he wants to help us with our Creole, and we agree. I try to tell him that we’re walking into the village, and he laughs and tells David he has some catching up to do. (Poor guy.) I’m struggling to remember his name, and he gives me a hard time. Haitians like to laugh, so I just laugh, too. He tells me his name again (Widlann? Would you remember that?) and we agree to meet him after lunch at the airport. As we walk away, David’s wondering if this is going to cost us, but we figure that even language help that costs something is worth it at this point.

We cross the bridge where people are washing in the river below. Their clothes, their kids, themselves. On this side of the river, houses line the street, forming a narrow channel for cars, motorcycles and pedestrians—and pedestrians never have the right of way, in case you’re wondering. Rocks jut up out of the hard-packed dirt, and I wonder how they don’t bust their tires all the time. At the top of the hill, I see two Digicel guys, and we pick the guy without a crowd around him. But I forgot we were white, and therefore interesting, so the moment we stop, there’s a crowd around us. In broken Creole, I tell him that we need a phone card, and he asks me for the number. David was smart and had written it down (way to go, babe)…he’s reading it to me, but he doesn’t read each number, saying “twenty” instead of “two-zero” and it takes me a minute to understand him. We get it worked out, and as we start to leave, a man starts calling to us from across the street. He’s gesturing with his hands between David and I, and he comes over to talk to us.

In the jumble of words that fall out of his mouth, I hear one I recognize: “mari”…but in the state of stress I’m in, my brain refuses to share its meaning. His tone becomes patronizing and he asks slowly, “Do you speak Creole?” “A little,” I reply. I can tell he wants to know if we’re together, but I can’t think of how to say it…He starts talking again, and this time, the word “mennaj” registers: “boyfriend.” “Oh, no,” I say in Creole, “not my boyfriend…” but I realize I don’t know the word for “husband,” so I resort to English. “Aw, I don’t speak English,” he tells me in Creole, waving me off. So I joke back with him, “Hey, you don’t speak English? I don’t speak Creole!” Everyone laughs, and it’s the best moment since we got here.

We get back to our guest house, and I assess: today, I don’t feel assaulted…and I can make outgoing calls. Good day.


  1. So glad you had some encouragement today, and can now make outgoing calls :) Laughing is a great stress reliever and spirit lifter at the same time. Better learn the word for husband tomorrow! Love you guys <3

  2. husband / mari
    According to the Creole/English dictionary I found on line.

  3. Wi, Papa, mari! David (Da-VEED) se mari mwe. :)

  4. Sounds like a good day indeed. :-)

    Did you ever reconnect with the guy who offered to help you with Creole?

    I wonder how long it will be until someone teaches you that Creole for "You are smart" is (translated) "You are a pig." ;-)

  5. Da-VEED and Christine - Thoroughly enjoyed your blog! :) Laughter is so good - love you!