Thursday, May 6, 2010

Clapping palms, baby's breath, a flame

Thursday the bells rang at the usual times: 5:15, 5:30, and 5:45am. For some unusual reason they seemed endless on Thursday. During one of the chimes I decided to start counting the clangs, I reached thirty something and then my slightly delirious imagination started wandering. I thought, “Either someone died or a foreigner is filming the man who rings the bells and hasn’t captured the image she or he wants so continues asking the bell ringer to pull the rope.” I know, quite vivid and wildish thoughts for a half-asleep brain. Zaloa, who as the days go by I am more and more certain is a saint, heated up the left over soup for me. We bushed our teeth, cleaned up and were off to a new adventure... the lake.
Zaloa and I passed the market and the magnificent trunk of a tree that guards the lone bridge in town. Passing the banana, coconut, and papaya trees we laughed and played hide and go seek with the sun, the sun had the upper hand. With the sweat rinsing off our sun block we realized we needed a better sense of direction and a gentleman, Jean, decided to accompany us the rest of the journey to the lake. On our way there we met with Violet, her grandmother, her pregnant mother (with the 11th on her/his way), her 6 year old brother on their donkey, and one of her sisters. The women on their way to sell pumpkins and mangos in the market, while the boy and the donkey made their way to the well to fetch water. Violet decided to join us and welcome us to their home since it is the only abode on the lake.
Upon arriving we saw the three dusty faces of Violet’s youngest siblings outside of their house, which is no bigger than my room, in the entrance simply sitting. Jesufran (7), Annette (5), and Mistrel (2) watched us come near and hid behind the door. Violet offered us their two chairs; we sat under the shade and began to sing with the children. In the beginning it was mostly Zaloa and I foolishly clapping our hands and patting them on our legs while singing a sort of patty-cake song from the Basque country, but suddenly the shyest of the three, Mistrel, began to pat with us. Ooo, the exquisiteness of seeing his dusty hands clapping on cue and his back rolling like a snake with the rhythm of the song.
We decided to take a stroll around the lake with the children, Violet and Jean. We raced, danced, and played hopscotch accompanied by the gaunt cows, the tied up goats, and the ducks responsible for the only ripples on the lake. I asked Annette the word for tree in Kreyol and instead was told the name of the specific tree, when I pointed to a hill with a variety of trees, so she could see I wanted the general name, she started naming each type of tree by name. I laughed and listened in awe seeing the wisdom she offered me. Since I had courageously offered to cook lunch at home, we parted with the children, once again leaving them sitting in front of their house alone. Violet, Zaloa, and I filled our journey home with song and laughter. Zaloa and I placed our feet in a stream of water that beckoned us to refresh ourselves, as I stepped out my shoe headed downstream without me. I got up and ran like a bullet and caught it. The people bathing themselves at the stream laughed and screamed as such a sight, “Le Blon,” “the white one” running after her shoe.
After a scrumptious lunch (Zaloa helped more than a little), we headed to Kay Pob, where we shared some left over cake from the priest’s celebration. Lisanne, after devouring her cake decided she was ready for bed again. As I walked her back and saw her lifting her head to feel the sun on her eyelids and cheeks I began to sing to her, which lead to a slow dance with a turn. The joy Lisanne radiated caused Tiffany, who was serious until that point, to run up and down laughing. I put Lisanne, listening to Samara’s (Sylvani in precious entries) groans. I walked towards her humming and began caressing her frail body, Zaloa entered and told me to smell her breath, “It’s the smell of death,” she told me. We stayed there accompanying her for a while.
A young lady from the neighborhood appeared while we were saying our goodbyes for the day. She walked towards me nudging a 4 year-old girl in a watermelon shirt in front of her. She murmured something to me. I did not hear and asked her to repeat; when I leaned closer I understood her request. She was asking me to take her daughter. Zaloa, looked at the young woman and sternly said, “Non, pas bon.” The little girl shyly looked up at us and then at her mother. “Les blons,” “the white ones,” are generally seen here as people with money and good intentions, so for a mother who does not see opportunities for her children, leaving her child with a “blon” could be a desperate act of love. The young lady invited us to her house. We were welcomed by her two blind parents, her two sisters, and her newborn baby. The encounter with the newborn’s breath, fresh of breast milk, the evening breeze, the interaction of the sisters as one groomed the other, enriched me with hope.
Following our visit, Zaloa and I went by the region’s hospital to pick up condoms. We planned an exercise session with our friends in Kay Pob and wanted to fill balloons up with sand so the people at Kay Pob could work their fine motor muscles by squeezing the balloons. Lack of supplies allows creativity to blossom, so there we were picking up condoms for our exercise date the following day. While leaving the hospital with 200 condoms we saw two foreigners, we were curious and went to introduce ourselves. They were doctors who had come, one from Ecuador, and the other from Chile. They arrived last week and take shifts at the hospital. From there we passed by the club to visit the prostitutes. The ladies live and work there and never leave the club. They do not socialize with the outside world, they are the marginalized. Zaloa is determined to have the women interact with other women. In that attempt, she asked if they liked to dance. After the affirmation, Zaloa told them about the salsa classes, their faces lit up. They started smiling and said they were willing to come to learn. Zaloa told them she would be passing by daily to invite them until they came. We will see. We left the condoms for their use and left with high spirits of the possibility of dancing in communion with them.
Before eating Rose, Zaloa, and I exercised, each to her level and each with perseverance and determination. During the reflection Thursday night, Nazareth pointed out how the perseverance and determination used during the exercises an hour earlier exemplify the perseverance and determination we have and must have in the work we do.
The wind picked up, lifting up leaves and threatening the candles flame, and I felt you. I felt how connected we are.

With you,