Tuesday, April 27, 2010
My beginning in Jean-Rabel
I arrived Sunday afternoon to Port-de-Paix in a plane that fits about 11 passangers. Sr. Rose was waiting there for me with a lovely small and warm hug. We sat in the frontseat of a car with Wissman, the driver, and journeyed through the dirt roads dancing through the crevaces of Earth. We bumped along and shared stories as we passed by women and their donkeys and laughing children. After about an hours drive we dropped Wissman off and Rose drove through the town to our home. On the way she explained that over 16,000 refugees have come to Jean-Rabel since the earthquake. Since many are not used to rural life some went back to Port-au-Prince and little by little have all been returning to Jean-Rabel, because living in the country is safer than camping in tents.
Following a marevolous welcome and lunch I was off to a women's meeting with Zaloa, a 31 year-old volunteer from Bilbao, Spain. This is Zaloa's second time volunteering with Nazareth and Rose, and has been here for a week now. Her passion is for women's rights and began working with a woman in the community, Antoni, to organize a place where women can gather and share safely and openly and learn more about our rights. We walked over to the school where the gathering was to take place and were recieved by blasting music that did not allow you to hear the person right next to you. A rumor also went around town saying that women had to pay to come to the meeting. (One obsticale, met by another.) Zaloa and I left to start gathering others, especially the prostitutes, so they could feel equally invited as women to the gathering, because we all have gifts to share and lessons to learn.
Although the music drove us out to another location and the rumors dismotivated others, women came from all the region and packed the room, there were at least 50 women gathered at the meeting. The women's gathering was ment to be lead by women obviously, but 4/5ths of the meeting was lead by Antoni's husband instead. He was telling the women about their rights and they quietly and respectfully listened, once the women wanted to voice their opinion he excused himself and allowed Antoni to listen. The meeting itself exemplifies the chavanistic reality and the oppression lived by Haitian women. We sang and ate and laughed and shared with the women. I mixed my French with the 10 words I know in Kreyol and laughed as we tried to communicate, one woman to another. We arrived before 8pm because since there is no electricity in the town it is hard to get around in the dark.
Nazareth, Rose, Zaloa and I ate and went to the little chapel here in the house for reflection. the song sung to welcome me was "Pescador de Hombres/Mujeres" or "Lord, You Have Come." A song close to my heart since I was about 4 years old. Papi was part of the choir in Christ Our Redeemer and would occasionally let Norely and I sit with him. I remember this song in particular because Papi would sing it with such strength and in the language I was used to him speaking to me in. What a perfect welcome, for I have seeked other shores.
So that was my first day in Jean-Rabel.