Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The New Normal

Over the weekend, I told my parents a story over Skype and my mom goes “I really hope that you are writing all of this stuff down, it is crazy!” But to me, it has stopped seeming so crazy. Let’s see a few examples:

1. Punctuality. I went to a wedding over the weekend that was supposed to start at 9:30 am. It started at 11:10. If people mean for you to actually be on time, they are known to say “6:30 American,” or my favorite “6:30 Obama.” Sometimes, this whole time thing is still a struggle for me, especially because it is inconsistent: when I start counting on something being late, it starts on time!

Oh yeah, I was a bridesmaid :) 
2. I almost never eat raw vegetables. Whether this is a cultural thing or a “kill all of the germs” thing, I am not sure, but this queen of the baby carrots has yet to see them here.

3. We walk slowly. After four years in New York/thinking I could make it to my class across campus in 6 minutes every day, this also took some adjustment. But when the sun is high, it is just much cooler to stroll along.

4. That being said, it is very rare to go out in the sun. You leave all errands to the non-sunny hours and Haitians will do things like cross the street or huddle in the corner to get in a little bit of shade. People were shocked by how pale I was when I came back for med school interviews… that’s why!

5. Wild things. Once I woke up to a cow mooing right outside of my window. Usually, however, it is to the sounds of chickens or turkeys. Lizards roam the ceiling and if I am a slob who leaves food/wrappers out, my mouse friend comes and reminds me not to do that.
My collection of turkeys. 

6. Being blan. I was in Haiti for three weeks before I saw another white person. If I walk down the street, children yell out “blan” (creole for “white”) or, their favorite English “Hey you.” It is slightly disconcerting at times because all eyes are always on me, but for those of us that love attention, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the most disconcerting parts about it is that it is sort of an all-access pass. I can enter offices, buildings, airports without a problem while my Haitian friends will be stopped and questions. It is a difficult mark of privilege.

7. We don’t so much have rainy season and wet season here, so much as “it pours in the afternoon” season or “oh crap it is dusty” season. We are definitively in the dust season, which means, though I sweep regularly, (I promise, Mom!) don’t even think about walking barefoot around my room!

8. Being wrong. I am a teacher whose French gets corrected by her students. Shop keepers lecture me on problems with my Creole… in Creole of course. It took me an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out how to flush a toilet with a bucket when visiting people’s houses. Or, my personal favorite, the time I was so excited that I had seen a shooting star that I told some friends about it. They informed me that this is actually an omen of death. Oops.

9. If I call you in America, if I am calling you for a specific reason, the call usually goes “Hey it’s me could you…” Here, this does not fly. We need to go through hello, how are you, how is your family, how was your weekend, it is a beautiful day. Ok now why did you call. And we all know how much I love talking on the phone, especially in a foreign language J

10. People touch a lot. It is not unusual for someone of either sex to grab your hand while you are talking or walking or to have someone’s arm around your shoulder. That being said, a woman’s handshake in Haiti tends to be half a shake… you kind of clutch the other person’s fingers.  

11. It is incredibly loud, all of the time. There are no noise restrictions, so it isn't unusual to hear music blasting from clubs, houses, and churches at any hour of the day or night. Now, with RaRa bands starting to practice for Carnival, it is getting more interesting!

Hmmm I am going 2 for 2 on top X lists as blog posts this year… how long can I keep this up???

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