Remembering Funny Mistakes Made in Haiti

Being here without Jess and Sophie, no matter how many other people are here, can be pretty lonely. If you are lucky enough to be married to someone that you both love and like (especially when they are your best friend) you know what I am talking about.  When you get finished with a long day, they are the one that you want to talk to and share with but it is difficult when you are in a different country and when you have a young baby.  I say that to say I have been using my time here to write a few blogs.  There is a lot to do here, but when I have a little down time, it is kind of “therapeutic” to write a blog about things that happened or things I remember.  So now I am just sitting around thinking about funny things I have done wrong here in Haiti.  This is not me second guessing anything, I am simply talking about the funny things that have happened because we did not really understand our new culture or just because I am me and I do dumb things sometimes.  I was thinking about these things after what I blogged about in the last blog which you can read by clicking here.  I am just going to list some of them here and connect them to a blog if one was written.

  • When I went to get my Driver’s License picture and I was wearing shorts.  I found out they would not let me in and I had to go buy a pair of pants off the street.  (Click here to learn more)
  • Getting mad at how important hairstyles are in school and that you could get sent home for not having the correct number of braids or barrettes.  We had to get used to this one.
  • Going to a Haitian Dentist for a cleaning.  (click here)
  • This was not really a mistake, but when I got chikungunya and every Haitian thought it was the funniest thing ever.  They saw me limping around and immediately just laughed.  (click here)
  • Having a question/answer time at a meeting with Haitians.  Nobody ever asks a question they all just stand up and say whatever they want to regardless if it has anything to do with the meeting or not.
  • Trying to play soccer against the Haitians in the reserve.  I was that guy that nobody wanted to pass the ball to because I was the worst player on the field.  (click here)
  • Actually trying to follow the school calendar and then getting upset when the kids had days off from school that were not listed.  This happens more often than I can tell you and we generally find out the day before when the kids arrive at home.
  • Trying to use my sense of humor to make people laugh here.  I may or may not be funny in the states (that is up for debate), but in Haiti, for the majority of the first 2 years I was here, I was decidedly not funny…I’m getting better.
  • Trying to cram 37 people in one truck about the size of Ford Ranger.
  • Thinking it was a good idea to pass out pieces of candy to random groups of children from the back of a truck.  We did this on the first trip and have not let any of our teams do it since.  It causes this “panic” for kids to come and receive something, and what are we really giving them?  A Tootsie Roll (the reality is I used the example of a tootsie roll because I am eating one right now)?  The reason this is a “funny mistake” is because would anyone ever ride in the back of a truck in America passing out candy to children?  But it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

In all honesty, I could go on and on about funny things I have done or said here.  In fact, for probably the first 4 months I tried to speak Creole to people, I told everyone either I was Jessica’s wife or I am a woman (depending on how you want to translate the context).  I used to constantly make the mistake of nodding my head when people were talking to me even though I had no idea what they were saying and I am sure I promised people money, houses, cars, jobs, etc. for a long time before I realized I was saying yes to everything people asked me.  I’ve gotten mad at our kids on numerous occasions because I thought I was telling them one thing but I was actually saying something entirely different.  They would do what I actually said and I would get mad at them for not doing what I meant.

The point of this blog is that it is really important to be able to laugh at yourself here.  I am sometimes really good at this and sometimes absolutely awful at it.  Sometimes I get so frustrated that I cannot understand what people are saying, when I make simple “funny” mistakes, or when I want to communicate something and I just cannot pick the right words.  Other times, I do the same things and I realize that these mistakes are inevitable and funny.

The point is that our witness here is established just as much by what we do as how we do it.

That does not seem right, I know.  Our witness truly should be on what we are trying to accomplish and how we are trying to help, but perception is key.  If we come across as harsh, mean, unwilling to bend, or as thinking we are “above” the people we are serving then our witness goes down.  If we get mad at mistakes and do not at least try to conform to the culture in which we live, our witness is hurt.  But if we can live together, join the community, speak nicely to each other and to the community, laugh at ourselves, and if people can see who we truly are then our witness continues to grow.  We no longer have to convince people that we are here to serve GOD, they see it.  

One of the things I hope people here see about All Things New is that we are more than just an orphanage/children’s home.  I hope that people see we are here for more than just the children that we serve.  I hope people notice that we are here for our employees and their family, the community and their families, and that we do not believe ourselves (as Americans) to be better than the people around us because we honestly do not feel that way.  We try, at every step in the process, to ask trusted Haitian friends to make sure we are not making “cultural mistakes.”  We understand that every culture has things to which we should not conform, but there are other things that we need to embrace and learn from.  We will continue to make mistakes (especially me) as we live here, but we will also continue to grow in our relationships, our understanding of Haiti, and in our love for the people that we have been called to serve.  

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