Today we had the opportunity to be fully immersed in the Haitian culture. We spent the day in the rural mountain village of Chambone, worshipping at the church there and spending time with the locals.
Our drive on the way out to Chambone took almost an hour, and we got to drive through the streets of Port-Au-Prince on our way. There are no traffic rules, except maybe that the biggest car wins! The streets were packed with people and traffic. We were all amazed at the skill of the Haitian women who could so effortlessly carry their cargo on their heads. We saw many dressed in their Sunday best, headed to their respective places of worship. Men were in suits, ladies wore their loveliest, and the little girls–oh, can I even begin to tell you how cute they were–wore their adorable dresses. Somehow, admidst the dust of the streets and the lack of access to front-loading washing machines, those pretty dresses were bright white and perfectly pressed, the men’s shirts as well. Among the many vendors in the street selling their wares, there were piles of garbage, standing in stark contrast to the beauty of the mountains in the distance.
As we headed into Chambone, the terrain became more rugged and the ride became bumpier. We passed the home of the local witch doctor and paused briefly to survey her yard, with voodoo dolls hanging from the trees. I learned that voodoo is the most common spiritual belief/practice in Haiti. We passed goats, donkeys, and cows, none of them looking particularly well-nourished. The people waved and smiled as we passed by, friendly but also interested in the novelty of our crew.
Our team leaders, Frank and Scott, have spent quite a bit of time in Chambone and have developed relationships with the people there. We saw the pastor pumping water on the road to the church, and Frank stopped the car to say hello and tease the pastor that we would beat him to church!
The church service itself was much longer than what we are used to in North America. Most of the service was in Creole, but some of it was translated into English for us. One man got up and talked in Creole for what felt like a good 20 minutes. I thought that was the sermon, but then Scott told me that was just the community announcements! Ha! We had a long way to go. We also got to witness a baby dedication and participate in communion (P.S–no grape juice in this church, we got the real deal!). The people were very welcoming, and though we did not all speak the same language, we worshipped the same God.
The ladies made us lunch, which was delicious and beautifully gracious. My favorite part was spending time with the children of the village. At first they were attracted to us because they knew we most likely came bearing gifts. We did–bracelets, hot wheels cars, and other small trinkets, which they happily scooped up. After lunch we took them to a small river to swim, and 3 beautiful little girls fought to sit beside me in the truck. I showed the oldest how to play thumb war, and we played a few other clapping games. She was 11 years old, but I would have guessed she was around 8 from the size of her. The littlest one hugged my leg tight the entire ride, and I was grateful that she trusted me in that short car ride to keep her anchored to her seat. I missed my babies at home. The children all appeared well-nourished, which Frank and Scott told us is in part thanks to some of the local ministries that help to provide food.
The kids, very unselfconsciously, stripped down to their underpants and jumped in the river to cool off. They made their own fun with no toys, sliding on the rocks and splashing. I found myself wishing my kids could play with these little ones, to share in this simple joy, and to share the universal language of play with a child from another part of the world.
Those of you who know me well know that I am not a high-stamina person when it comes to outside stimulation. It usually doesn’t take too much before I start to shut down and need some introvert time. I was surprised today by my own curiosity. I didn’t want to miss anything, and I had so many questions. I wanted to hear everyone’s story and get to know as many as I could.
Tomorrow we get to take a visit to the museum in PAP to learn a little more about the country’s history. We will also visit one of Heartline’s properties, which includes their women’s education center and the bakery.