In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Stupid Cupid?

GLA's volunteers, romantics and cynics alike, celebrated Saint Valentine's yesterday. There was lots of food, there was a movie and there were games. Most of the party-goers were still partying until past mid-night.

Haitians really don't buy into commercialized celebrations and so it comes as no surprise to me that February the 14th is not a significant date on their calenders. What does surprise me, in light of several conversations I have had with the nurses and nannies lately, is the faith they put in romantic love.


'Miss Susan...' the tone in Miss Magalie's voice suggested she needed my help with something. I looked at her expectantly. '...Do you have a boyfriend?' she asked.
What? The answer was easy enough (I do not have a boyfriend) but the question caught me off guard. Miss Magalie smiled knowlingly. 'You need one. You can't live without one.'
'Why do you say that?'
'Cherie, you are too old to be without a man,' she replied with a warm, joking authority. 'I'm going to start looking for a boyfriend for you.'
'Miss Magalie, you don't have a lot of time,' I joked back, 'I'm leaving soon.'
'When are you leaving?'
'February the 26th. '
'Oh...' Miss Magalie was thoughtful for a moment. '.....Then I'm going to pray for you.'


My mouth was wide open. A baby I am particularly close to, a beautiful 16 month old boy, had just pinched Vivianne, a 20-something year old Haitian orphanage worker, on the behind.
'Infidel!' I declared, 'You are obviously chasing all the ladies, not just me!' This sent my tiny boyfriend and all of the nannies into a fit of giggles.

'But Susan,' Marie began, 'All Haitian boys are like that.'
'Yes,' she said. 'Maybe they have a wife, but they will have girlfriends too. And children with the wife and children with the girlfriends' Rose was smiling but she was also absolutely serious. I frowned. 'That's not good.' It was of those moments when you hear a hint of sorrow in another's voice. You read their story in their eyes, and you sense, just for a moment, the weight of a burden you have never had to bear.

'No, it is not good,' someone agreed. 'Do you get men like that in Scotland?'
'Yes, we have some men like that.'
'Well, in Haiti we have many,' Rose observed.
'And if the men all have children with many different women, the men can't possibly support them all.'
'Exactly!' Rose exclaimed. 'The men come and they go.' I didn't ask why Haitian women put up with that. I think I get it - before there are children, there is male attention, and male attention flatters women everywhere. And afterwards, so long as the errant husband or boyfriend returns to you with some money to feed your hungry children, you probably are not going to ask questions.

One of the senior nannies was sitting quietly in a chair. She looked drawn and she was regarding me with an expression that came close to resentment. 'You don't like our conversation?'
'No, ' she answered, and her face softened, 'but that is because what you are saying is true. All of them,' she said, indicating the babies in the room, and beyond the door,' have been affected by infidelity. They are here because their Mothers can't provide for them. 'And,' she added, 'many of us are here [working at the orphanage] because our children need to eat, and their father's do not take care of that.' She sighed, looking resigned but determined. 'We wouldn't leave our babies if there were another way.'


When the women spoke, I got the feeling that they coveted my ears. It is as though once in a while, they have to give voice to their struggle, so that the rest of the time, they can endure it. Oh my goodness, I have so much to learn and so little time left for the learning.

Despite all that they have told me about how relationships work, I know of at least two ladies here who are praying that I will find my Mr right. I also know of two young Haitian ladies who are in new relationships. They are soul deep in the newness and excitement of it all, and their friends and workmates, even the older women, who, given all they have seen and experienced. might be justified in cynicism and resentment, are rejoicing with them.

I find myself thanking God, for all our little boys here who will go to stable families, and learn to love by the example their Fathers set.

But more than anything, I pray that the children of Haiti, those who stay and those who go, will always remember and be inspired by the sacrifices their birth families have made for them, their labours and that phenomenal endurance. If their lives have been touched by poverty and infidelity, they are all ready marked with great love.


Anonymous said...

i will be sorry not to have your posts to read once you has been a joy to listen to your i read your words about these women i wonder what it is i have resigned myself to thinking......what truth in my life makes me live a certain way.....i am sure for that moment the sharing of their pain was eased by you listening.....what a gift listening is!!!


Kristen said...

I am so sorry to see you leave soon. I will be arriving at GLA on 3/3, and I promise to continue the hugs where you left off. I feel like I know the children and what God has in store for me in Haiti!

JM said...

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. For me, feeling the "pull" of my heart to a little boy in Haiti, your blog helps me better understand what they are going through. God bless you and please continue to post.

Anonymous said...

I know it will tear at your heartstrings to leave the children,however I will pray for the children of Haiti.


Catherine said...

Dear Susan,
I will never thank you enough for what you did for Nadège and all the kids at GLA... You will be in my heart and Nadège's heart forever.
You have my email address, fell free to write when you are back home.

LPG_Caracas said...

Saludos desde venezuela. He visitado tu blog. Muy bueno. saludos desde Caracas. No olvide visitar el mio
Regards from Venezuela. I visit your bolg. Very Good. Regards. Visit my blog

Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Natalie said...

I came here from BlogCatalog. Great post, and wonderful site. Your writing is excellent, and the content is very moving. Best wishes with your work in Haiti.