Friday, February 10, 2012

Yo, Kids Are Still Kids

As we were unable to get plane tickets to Jeremie for the weekend, I find myself a bit at loose ends. This morning I went to meet with Dr. Jacob Bernard in his office downtown.

It was always a very 'not-American' experience to drive down here, but now it seems surreal. The split dome of the palace remains nodding, the white paint peeling off the cracked and ruined walls in great sheets. It looks as if were squeezed in a giant fist.

Tent city in front of the Presidential Palace
The lawn of the palace itself is empty, but all of the open squares and parks that once surrounded it are full curb to curb with tents and shanties built from recycled refuse. It's hard to believe this isn't a movie set, but two years later, here we are. Welcome to Haiti!

My driver, Ti Maurice, a BRESMA employee, tells me that little by little people are leaving the camps. But who knows where they are going, or how they will survive when they get there. There are no jobs here, especially for the uneducated.

Dr. Bernard's family also runs a travel agency, and the sign says Nacia travel and New Life Link. It's a good thing, or I don't know how I would have recognized the place. I walk in to the reception area and ask to speak to Dr. Bernard. There is complete and obvious confusion. I am asked repeatedly in rapid fire Kreyol what my name is, and if I have an appointment. I assure them that I do, pronounce my name carefully and with a proper Kreyol accent, and sit down to wait. I'm getting the distinct impression that the staff is not accustomed to a white woman wandering in off the streets by herself and asking to speak to their boss. I could just call Dr. Bernard on my cell phone and let him know I'm in the waiting room, but now my curiosity is piqued and I want to see what will happen next.

Of course the moment somebody goes to the back office with my name, I'm asked to come in. Now the manner of the same man who asked me my name rather rudely has become very deferential, and he even unlatches the gate for me.

Dr. Bernard and I discuss the case we're working on together, and the Creche Directors' Association meeting that occurred yesterday with two Senators. Dr. Bernard feels that they made some progress. The group will meet again next Thursday to draft a letter to be sent to all of the members of the Senate, asking for a meeting to discuss the issues of the proposed adoption law and the Hague Convention. Dr. Bernard is concerned that most of the Senate and possibly the Director of IBESR herself don't actually understand what ratifying the Hague Convention means. I intend to make sure that meeting is attended by someone who can spell all that out for them technically, eloquently, and accurately. I may tag along too, if the Creche Directors would like me to do so.

I ask Dr. Bernard for a few documents regarding the adoption case we're working on together. He invites me out to the main work area, and suddenly everyone who didn't speak a word of English is almost fluent! Magic! I wonder why they were so suspicious of me before.

We pass a very long line of cars, double parked and spilling out of the gas station, abandoned where they stopped. Traffic is lighter than it should be, as so many cars are stuck. No gas, no traffic!!

Ti Maurice and I arrive back at the guesthouse just before noon. It's been a very short day compared with what I'm used to. The guesthouse is now empty and it's oddly quiet here for several hours.

In the afternoon two of Margarette's children and two of her son Junior's buddies come over after school. The kids are completely Americanized. I tell the visiting boys, “Hey, we don't say, 'Yo' in Haiti,” but apparently we do. A lot. They act and sound exactly like my son's goofy friends, obsessed with the same gadgets and little squabbles about who is the coolest. For the luckiest top 10% of Haiti, life is much like we have it in the U.S. Kids are kids, everywhere.

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