As soon as I heard it, I knew I’d arrived.
It wasn’t the sound I thought it would be. In fact, I didn’t even know I thought it would be a sound at all, or that I knew that I wasn’t “there” yet.
But, this afternoon, I heard a domino get slammed down on a playing table. And I knew. I knew that I had arrived in the Haiti of the Haitians.
Last year when I was in the Dominican Republic with my family, I learned how passionate the Dominicans are for their dominos. They slam each piece down on the board as they play them, and when I heard the same thing in a Haitian village, I knew I was there.
Trips like this one involve a lot of being driven from project to project, meeting to meeting, compound to compound. For the most part, the inhabitants of the villages we pass through are faces staring curiously at the convoy of vehicles bumping along the road, or are people I am asking questions of and taking photos of as I prepare stories about our work.
Rarely do we get to climb down from the vehicles and walk through a village. But it happened today.
We had to walk in about 15 minutes up some very steep hills in the community of Rivier Froid, a part of Carrefour, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. So, we got out of the car and crossed a footbridge over the cold river, hearing the sounds of laughter from below.
Curious, I glanced down to see dozens of children playing in the water as they washed themselves, throwing water at each other, and generally having a good time in (what we were told) was cold water. Of course, *my* kids played in Lake Huron at Thanksgiving, so I know how oblivious they can be to the temperature!
After we crossed the river, we walked through a village comprised of small buildings, huts, emergency shelters- pretty much anything that would put a roof over someone’s head. We saw people shelling peas, playing dominos, drinking rum, washing clothes, laughing with friends.
Because we were traveling with Father Cole, the local priest, there were calls of “Mon pere!” following him through the village, and he stopped regularly to talk with people who had been at church that morning and those who hadn’t, with children, men, and women, with anyone who wanted to pass the time of day for a few moments. It’s one of the things I appreciate about traveling with partners is that they KNOW the people they serve.
And for me, walking through the village was a fantastic experience. I didn’t have to stop and take pictures or interview people, I could just move along, enjoying the ambiance, enjoying the first real exercise I’ve had all week.