Every mission team has it’s own particular personality. This trip I was delighted to have along one of my best friends in the world, Sherye Fairbanks. Sherye is fluent in American Sign Language, and was an instant celebrity with the deaf kids and staff at St Vincents. I don’t think she believed me all these years when I told her how much good she could do at the school.
Sherye also has the ability to see humor in almost anything, and she kept us laughing all week. At the end of our trip, she helped me make a list of some funny sayings that commemorate our experience. Some of these may not make sense to anyone outside the mission team, but I offer them here for the team members as a humorous remembrance of our week together in Haiti.
Flushing the toilet in Haiti is an act of faith.
There are 3 trash cans in Haiti.
Have you met our friend in the sink?
In a Haitian restaurant we greet the owner, “Hello!” He responds, “Shalom!”
In this same restaurant we try to order off the Kreyol menu, with Jean Robert’s help. He explains one menu item this way: “You know, when you cook your goat with bananas…and then you add piclise (hot Haitian relish)”. We decided to have the chicken and rice. (Of course despite our earnest efforts to order off the menu, we were all served the same thing anyway).
Amazing things said by Bev, our guest house manager, include: “Back when I got my pilot’s license…”. and “Back when I was searching for babies in abandoned ravines…”
Working with Sherye in the clinic one day, I commented on one of the children I recognized, who was wearing a name tag that said “Samuel”, I said “I could have sworn this kid’s name used to be Peter” . IT WAS. I never have been able to figure out Haitian names!
After talking to a kid for 5 minutes in her earnest Kreyol, Sienna is told by JoJo, “He is deaf!”
Blind kids put their hands on Tim’s stomach and exclaim, “Teem!”
Kiesha, our pharmacist, says to Tim, her assistant, in the chaotic rush of trying to fill prescriptions, “Hold on, I’m trying not to kill anybody!”
Kiesha was known for her calm demeanor and serene expression throughout the week. At the end of a 2hour ride in the back of a pick up truck over Port au Prince pothole crazy roads, she gets up and pulls out a rolled towel from underneath her. “Kiesha, you’re brilliant!” everyone exclaims. 10 people riding for 3 days couldn’t figure that out.
Also in the back of the truck, we have frequent visitors asking for money or food. “Pa gen lajan” or “Pa gen manje” says Sienna, about 50 times. “Pa gen lanje” says Tim. (there is no such Kreyol word). Then when the crowd starts to disperse and leave us alone, Tim tries English. ” We’re not traveling in the back of this truck because we have MONEY!” Of course the only word they understand is MONEY so they all crowd around the truck again. This makes for very long rides in heavy traffic.
The kids name for John Mutin is “gwo gason”. (big boy)
Kiesha had a LARGE bag she carried back and forth with her every day. One day she said “You all make fun of me because of my bag, but everyone asks me to put stuff in it”
Another Kiesha story. There was a local bar some of us would go to in the evenings after dinner. it was basically a small store which sold beer and juice and set up chairs outside for its customers, since the store itself was about 10 by 10 feet. It also had a boom box playing ?Haitian ?Dominican music at jet engine decibels. Our first night there, when I mentioned I thought it was time to go, Kiesha who had not said more than 2 words all day responded “OH THANK GOD”
And the last memory which will truly be understood only by team members:
“I too was attacked by two men with machetes, when I was in Tanzania”