Wednesday, August 25, 2010

the crumbling chapel, the steadfast people

The clouds hovered over Akadyen altering the color of the ocean who usually wears turquoise. A lady smeared oil on a young teenager´s freshly braided weave, while children ran stomping their bare feet in the dirt under the single tree, a woman paced by balancing a basin of fish covered with a banana leaf to protect it from the sun as she walked to the market to sell them. Past the weave, the tree, the children, the woman, and the fish stood the crumbling chapel.

“We´re missing Jesus, the girl who represents the people who come from the west and the lady who represents the people from the south,” Vincent explained, with a hint of disappointment, “There´s a Madame in the South who is sick, they went to visit her.” “Do you think you can remember Jesus´ lines?” I asked filled with tenderness witnessing his concern. “Bat pou nou antre nan pót ki jis la, paske m ap di nou, gen anpil moun k ap chéche pou yo antre, men yo p pap kapab.” He memorized all the lines.

Mondays I travel about an hour with a doctor, Geralda (whom you already know), to Akadyen. She tends to the sick and I head to the chapel to tend to the hungry of spirit with theater. They come, from all ages to listen to the stories of the gospel of the following Sunday. None can read, and all ask me to reread the story at least three times. After the numerous reading I ask them what sense the story made to them, what they got out of it. Some stare back with blank faces, others smile, and suddenly one breaks the ice. “I don´t understand Jesus, he says the last shall be first, but I don´t see that.” The discussion starts. The blank faces come to life, the smiles open up to express what lies beneath them. I sit elated in the utter presence of the Divine.

Following the discussion we begin to bring the story to life with our bodies. One decides to be Jesus, the other the questioner, the other the one who knocks at the door, the other who eats at the table. I reread the story and we go acting it out, their reality as a people isolated and forgotten by most three hours away by foot from the market where they make their living shines through their portrayal of the stories. Jesus´ parables come to life in Kreyol, in the Haitian people in 2010.

Vincent must have been repeating the gospel story in his head all week in order to remember the gospel, “Luke 13: 22-30” he remembered. We walked into the chapel and with the children, women, and men who already gathered for the service, we read the gospel and practiced acting out the gospel with new people. Slowly the humble chapel filled with life, the uneven, cracked benches wobbled as people smushed to sit.

The winds took the clouds, the people sang and listened. At the time of the gospel reading, their eyes opened with curiosity, they leaned in and became part of the story. The homily was a discussion between us; what we understood, what Jesus´ told us with the story. A man asked a question and a woman would answer, even a young girl added her thoughts. “And you Se Luisely, what do you think?” they asked.

The crumbling chapel, the exhausted lady carrying the fish, the barefoot children- the illiterate, the hungry, the “last”- looking slightly beyond the surface of that picture richness exists-the cultured with their songs, those full of faith, the “first.”

With you,


Friday, August 20, 2010

a doctor's visit

Flavio has sundown syndrome, Fabio rheumatism, Adaniel malaria, and according to Walter only Bondye, God, can tell him what he has.

Yesterday a doctor went to Kay Pov. God knows the last time our loved ones saw a doctor.

Tuesday I told them that the doctor would be coming at 9am in the morning on Wednesday, market day. Never ceasing to amaze me, at 9 o´clock I found all of the mentally stable ones waiting for their date, minus Walter who refused to be seen. Tyler, Flavio, Adaniel and Alex, the market frequenters, all opted out of their biweekly outing for the grand event. Flavio finished buttoning his inside out red Hawaiian shirt over his other, coincidentally, red shirt and fixing his hat. While waiting his turn to see the doctor I caught him stretching out his shirt, attempting to iron out the wrinkles. Tyler shaved, put on his best attire: navy blue corduroy pants, a long sleeve shirt, thick soccer socks, and tennis shoes, as I passed by admiring his apparel for the occasion I observed as he struggled to tie his laces with his one useful hand. By the time he finished sweat spotted his freshly shaven face as he sat with dignity and patience.

Geralda, the doctor who agreed to visit Kay Pov, arrived at nine. I asked one of the gentlemen for a chair and immediately was offered four; it is one of their few possessions, a small wooden chair to shita, or sit.

I wanted to see how Geralda interacted with them and how she dealt with the environment. She noticed that the consultations would be held outside sitting on a chair, asking questions to some who aren’t necessarily completely cognizant. I wanted to see if she looked into their eyes, if she understood the murmurs that stream through their toothless mouths, if she touched their skin without disgust. At first I could tell she was a bit taken aback. Her first patient, Alex went on to tell her everything he could imagine could be going wrong with him and what the cause of everything was. “Can you tell me your age Alex?” “Yes, October 12th.” She looked at me and smiled. Little by little she went understanding them more and more. She tried to give Tiffany a check up in vain. Tiffany kept on running out of her chair, laughing and sticking her hands in her mouth. I walked over and caressed her hair, she would look at me calmly grab my hand with her drooly one and turn her back to the doctor. Alex came with boiled green bananas as an offering for Tiffany. Geralda continued her attempts to consult Tiffany, but in return would be offered chunks of the boiled bananas from Tiffany’s wet hand. Tiffany’s cough continues.

I visited Analise’s and Adaniel´s room to see if they were ready for their consultations. Excrement plastered Analise’s bed and the floor around her. She must have suffered a long night. Geralda walked in, surely smelling the evidence of Analise’s lack of health. Without making a scene she walked over to Adaniel at the other side of the room and started his check up, while we cleaned Analise and her belongings. By the time Adaniel’s consultation ended we decided it would be best for Analise to be seen outside under a tree, the same tree we bathe them under. Analise seemed to have no interest in leaving the room and sensed where I planned to guide her, “I don’t want a shower!” she started yelling as I held her in my hands walking her towards the tree. “A doctor is here to see you.” “A doctor? I don’t have any money, a doctor won’t see me,” she said through a dry laugh. All the while she pulled all her weight, maybe 60 pounds, back towards the filthy room. “I want to lay down.”

I’m sure slightly intimidated, Geralda sat patiently under the tree watching the spectacle. I leaned my forehead on Analise’s and began humming a Bobby McFarrin song she likes to hear and held her in my arms. After numerous kisses on her cheekbones she began to stammer with me towards the tree. As she sat down she started undressing, while patting around the dirt around her in search for her pillowcase which carries all her belongings. Geralda looked at me in shock, I lead her eyes towards Analise’s cloudy ones and she began to talk to her. The consultation began with Geralda touching Analise with her pen to let her know where she sat; by the end Geralda was placing her hand on Analise’s.

Each one handed their prescription to me as they finished. By the end of the morning the collection of prescriptions filled my pocket. As Geralda and I walked down the hill towards a mini-medical dispensary Jara and Pharmaceutics without Borders set up, I thanked her for her gentleness with them, for her patience, and her sense of humor, for going and seeing them. She looked straight into me and said, “This is a pleasure for me, thank you.”

AAAA! God is outstandingly wonderful! I wanted to find a doctor to visit Kay Pov once a month, a doctor to care for them delicately and with dignity. I wanted to find a sustainable way for their prescriptions to be paid for and God with Geralda, Jara, those in Kay Pov, fulfilled my desires. Prescribing medicine to those in Kay Pov comes with more complications than usual. Many medications require food intake alongside them, if they have one meal a day, then the doctor can’t prescribe those medications. None have clocks and some are not aware of the time of day or have the memory to remember when to take their medications. Two madams offered to assist in giving Adaniel, Analise, and Alex their medications. We’ll see how it goes. After Geralda explained how to take each pill, syrup, or vitamin the gratitude expressed to her from all of the conscious ones moved her, and me.

How blessed am I to love these people and see them be loved by others. Thank you God, thank you.

With you,


P.D.: The lady who used to wash their clothes and sheets no longer follows through, so we’re in search of someone else. I have a plan. Pray, that God illuminate us and that God’s will be done through us.

Friday, August 13, 2010

anything asked in faith

I saw them again! On my way to find a motorcycle to give me a ride to Kolet for Theater of the Gospel a lady balancing her merchandise on her head passed by me, “They left.” I turned without fully hearing what she said, “Excuse me Madame?” “They tore down the club because they’re going to build a hotel there.” I never remember seeing the lady, “Do you know where they are?” “Port-de-Paix.” My eyes filled with joy as I smiled.

Today Jara needed to go to Port-de-Paix, I went along. I asked Wilmar, a dear friend and the one driving us to Port-de-Paix, if he could take me to Kay Raul to look for the ladies there. The new place for the ladies must be known because he said we could find them. After Jara´s visit to the bank we took the car, stopped it in the mists of the donkeys, wooden, portable kiosks and walked down a crowded alley full of women selling dried fish, kineps, garlic, shampoo and more. We turned into an even smaller alley and walked into what seemed to work as the alley sewer canal and out of a flimsy door came a figure of pure beauty, Ingrid. Her hair was wrapped with a scarf; one of her sleeves was under her armpit while the other barely clung to her arm. I couldn´t believe it. Neither could she. Ingrid, one who tries to hide all emotion, couldn´t hide the flush of her smile, “Luisely,” she affirmed, as if helping herself believe. She searched for chairs and went to find the others.

My skin filled with goosebumps as I looked into their eyes, laughing and sharing our stories of the past few weeks and the odyssey of finding them after thinking they were lost. I asked them about the change of quarters and of owner, “There’s less respect. The breeze doesn’t flow through, there’s no current of air, the owner charges 20 Haitian dollars per day, 30 on Sundays, when in Jean Rabel we paid 50 for the whole week. All the waste of the alley flows in front of the door. It’s filthy.” They plan on moving to a place closer to the airport until the hotel is built in Jean Rabel, hopefully in June. There, they say, their conditions will be better.

As I listened to them it seemed surreal. Anything asked in faith can and will happen, we were reunited. The conversation ended with hope of a sequel to the encounter. They walked us out into the alley. Ingrid with her eyes locked in mine allowed all her love to flow into me and thanked me. I continued with my eyes in hers as I walked through the kiosks until the chaos of the streets blocked the gaze.

I saw them again! Zaloa’s candy is now in the right hands.

With you,


Friday, August 6, 2010

bearing gifts

Zaloa wrote me. She sent me a novel, mixed nuts (my slight addiction), and a bag of candy. The book and the nuts were for my devouring, but the sweets were to be distributed to our loved ones in Kay Pov and the Disco. I counted the candies and made sure the sizes and the flavors varied equally and head off to Kay Pov. After a few hours of laughing and talking in Kay Pov I was on my way to the disco. An emptied container of Planters NUT-rition carried the goods sent from Spain. The edges of my mouth drew closer to the sky and the haste of my step augmented as I approached the green iron gates of the club. Two weeks had passed since I last saw the women. When I passed the last kiosk to my left before turning into the discotheque, my feet stopped. The thick chain hung heavily on the opened gate and from wall to wall of the property concrete floors and debris were all that remained. The rooms I shared moments of laughter, anger, fear, and hope could not be found. They were gone.

I turned to three women behind me who seemed slightly shocked at my motionlessness, “Do you know where they have gone, the women who worked here? Do you know when they left?” They voiced my observations, the disco closed, nothing and no one remained. I thanked them with grief, turned once more to what used to be my friends’ abode and hell and left, still carrying the container full of bonbons with both hands in front of me.

I’ve collected little bits of information and have returned since. According to a man who sat underneath the mango tree on a broken chair in the empty lot, Ingrid left to Port-au-Prince and Magali and Mauza went to work for a man named Raul in Port-de-Paix. I’m not sure how accurate this information is, if I will see these women again, or if they continue working in the same profession. All I know is my love for them and how much I pray for them and all women in situations of oppression.

With you,


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

in the same sea


I am back from Puerto Rico. I met up with my family about two weeks ago and have not had access to the internet since the last entry, when I ran into a Starbucks in San Juan to write to you. The time with the family fed my soul. My time in the lush island filled my lungs with fresh moist air and my spirit with peace.

The encounter with a more commercial world startled me a bit. My family and I set a few hours apart to buy the materials Rose and Nazareth had asked me to buy to take back to Haiti. While we were there my family took advantage and did some shopping of their own. The lack of congruency with the world lived in Haiti and the whole scene seemed unnatural to me. I must admit, I’m not and haven’t been a lover of the world of commerce or of malls; I tend to avoid them at all costs. Already having confessed that, I felt I needed air and to escape Plaza de Las Americas (the mall we were in). By the time we arrived to the car, my brothers, one with a new hat, the other with a new shirt advocating for mother Earth, were confused. They asked me why I seemed so out of place. I explained to them that in my mind, with the realties I have skimmed, there needs to be a union between the two worlds. We, and all beings, have the right to enjoy beauty in all forms, fashion included, beauty is divine and I see it as a way to find union with God. I also see that we have responsibility in our actions. Where was your hat made? Where was your shirt made? Most probably what were the conditions of those workers and the impact of the environment in making it? You are blessed with the ability and the power to purchase these articles of beauty and with that you have a responsibility. Are we buying simply to consume? Is the item fair trade?

I looked at them through the rear view mirror as we drove out of the parking lot and allowed the air to awaken our senses. Luis’ eyes were full of sadness. “Papito, guilt doesn’t give fruit, nor does shame. I expressed what I was feeling and feel a need to find peace and congruency while living in both realities. We can use this opportunity to decide to change for the times to come.” His eyes filled with hope and determination. Samuel, who wasn’t burdened by any sense of guilt simply said, “I’ll check the tag and ask if it’s fair trade next time.” The wind continued in our faces as we continued on our journey.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Luke 12: 48).

I am back in Jean Rabel, and to my surprise have my head and heart where my feet are. Before leaving Puerto Rico I confessed to the family that I felt so much serenity with them in Puerto Rico that I wasn’t sure how I would feel upon arriving here again. Mami calmly stated, “Have faith, your head will be where your feet are.” She was right. Thank God I feel that I am, once again, exactly where I am supposed to be.

With you,


P.S.: I haven’t forgotten that I haven’t written about Theater of the Oppressed yet.