Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Story from Haiti

We slipped out of the gate and quietly made our way down the street. Following Richard, our host. Two black boys walked with us. They’d been playing at Richard’s house, but I didn’t know their names.

“We’re going to your neighborhood,” Richard said to them, in his gentle Kentucky drawl. “You gonna show us your house?”

The street narrowed to an alleyway between two high walls. Then the walls ended and we stood in an open spot the size of three or four parking spaces. Below us, the neighborhood stretched out in a ravine-like area hemmed by shrubbery and walls of larger homes on either side. The area took up half the space of a football field. The roof of the boys’ house was right in front of us, even with our feet. Several sheets of metal, held in place by half-blocks thrown on top. The house measured about 8 by 12 feet.

“They have eight people in their family,” Richard said. “Living in that house. I want to build them a new house. Right on this spot.” He tapped his foot where he stood.

The “neighborhood” was filled with similar homes.

A home in the boys' neighborhood.

“This is as far we go,” Richard went on. “This is where they live. We’re intruding on their privacy if we go down and look into their homes.”

We nodded. Silent.

“Your kay?” I pointed to the house below us, trying out some of my limited Haitian Creole on one of the boys.

“Oui,” he replied.

“They speak English,” Richard said. “We’re putting them through school. They don’t want to stay here. You ask them, they’ll tell you.”

He lifted his eyes to the houses beyond the walls bordering the boys’ neighborhood. Coral-painted block walls with flowering vines climbing over them. Gated, two-story homes, with verandas.

Another home in Port-au-Prince.

“They can see a better life,” said one of my companions. “Right there.”

“They want to get out of here.” Richard nodded.


I snapped a couple photos. I didn’t want to intrude, but I wanted to remember. Our friends back home had to see this. We all turned around and walked back to Richard’s house together. We didn’t say much. But we couldn’t feel the same as we had when we left the house. In the space of a fifteen-minute afternoon stroll, everything had changed.

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