Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I’ve found a few similarities between my US of A and the Repiblik d’Ayiti. Some similarities are more comforting than others.

Girls being girls.

When I started my employment at Millennium Challenge Corporation, an arm of the US government that distributes US foreign aid, I signed some clause that said I would never use the workplace as a grounds for my own entrepreneurship, business interests, or personal profit. Not so at Fonkoze!!! Regularly, some chica in the accounting department will come into the office with a suitcase full of clothing to sell. In the case of one esteemed male colleague, well, he brought in a whole slew of pastel-colored panties to work one day to sell. Apparently it’s his wife’s business.

SO. Yet another colleague had brought in a suitcase load of clothes from Miami. One of my colleagues asks me, Kate ou pa vle gade rad? You don’t wanna check out the clothes? No, mesi, m gen suffisament de rad! No thanks, I’ve got enough clothes!

I discuss a bit further with one colleague, a beautiful woman named Vayola. When I explain that I don’t need new clothes because I already have enough, her response is Me li fo renouvele detenzanten. But you have to renew your wardrobe from time to time. I signal to the lovely pink shirt I am wearing. I bought it 6 years ago for 10 bucks. M ap pote ca juskaske li dechire! I’m going to wear this til it rips! Maybe if I had a huge whole here (I signal to the shirt) wi, I’d buy a new shirt.

That said, I’ve got some gorgeous and well put together colleagues. I, on the other hand, have worn my last four pairs of pants until they split right up the seams!! Some DC friends have been lucky (?) enough to be witness these events. :)

I just hadn’t expected to be arguing this point in Haiti. In the poorest country in the western hemisphere I’d assumed, maybe naively, that folks would treasure and keep material goods longer, as grandparents who lived through the Great Depression do. Is it so common that so many women want to buy unneeded objects, look good, and have up-to-date fashion? More so than I thought.

The other universality. Tea Parties.

I was up early this morning, and gazing out the second-story window of my apartment. I could see into the yard of my Haitian neighbors, and was observing little Lovelyn, the 4-year old, in action. Lovelyn had propped up her big white doll so it was “sitting” on the clothes rack in her family’s small yard. She carefully arranged stones around the doll to support it and make it comfortable. She chatted with the dolly in a sing-song voice, although in a tone too low for me to hear or understand. It all reminded me of many images of myself playing on the carpeted floor of my room as a 4-year old, with the low plastic table and chairs I used for similar formal tea-party occasions.

The kicker was when Lovelyn brought out what resembled the tea set: a tray with a few glasses on it, and set it down by the doll. Granted, the tea party took a bit of a different twist when Lovelyn walked a few feet away and dropped her pants to take a pee in the backyard, then promptly return to tea time.

It warmed my heart to see her enjoying the carefree pleasures of tea, and to know that plastic chairs and tables are not necessary for tea, when well-placed stones will suffice!

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