water / shelter / food : dlo / abri / manje

Posted on 02/22/2011


Although I acknowledge fully that I have only been in Haiti a few weeks, my subconscious nags at me that it must be longer. Months, at the least. Years, even. I’ve begun to greet my surroundings with familiarity. I know how to fulfill my basic needs. Water, shelter, food. I have my own little space where I put the sparse belongings I brought with me. The room is mostly enveloped by a large mosquito net. My bed is swallowed up by a gauze canopy befitting a six-year-old girl fascinated by princesses, kittens and unicorns – while although it isn’t the most masculine option, it does keep the mosquitos at bay. The gauze net is equal parts necessity, precaution and whimsy.  

A few times a day someone mistakes me for Haitian and plunges into enthusiastic Creole. So far, I have a firm grip on a very limited vocabulary.



“Excuse me.”

“Yes, please.”

“My name is.”

“I’m good, and you?”


“Thanks. Alot.”

As frequently as I am required to bust out in my five-finger knowledge of Haitian Creole, I do so as convincingly as possible. So far I have myself convinced.

This week I realized I was able to comprehend what had formerly been known to me as mangled gibberish. I would see the lips forming and mouth moving, the sounds proceeding, but no recognition lit in my brain.  But on this day, I stood very still as I understood the Creole addressed to me, yet still, the only answer required of me was either “Yes” or “No”, and in this moment of clarity I somehow fumbled and still responded in English. “Yes.” versus “Wi.”

Food, also, has transitioned into recognition. I rarely remember The Name or The Title of any individual dish; it is simply “Sunday” food or “Tuesday” food, but I recognize what has been served previously and know how to react to it. Not everything I’ve consumed in the last few weeks warranted repeating whether in the form of another meal or through the occasional burp, but at least Time has granted understanding of what I recognize as Food and what I recognize as A Challenge.  I have come to understand perfectly what Dr. Paul Farmer means when he refers to some Haitian food as “the 5th food group.”

(1) meats, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, and nuts;

(2) dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt;

(3) grains; and

(4) fruits and vegetables

(5) Haitian Soup jomou.

Posted in: Food, Haiti, Sleep