Letters from the week of 27 August - 2 September 2018
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Haiti and Créole
In regards to the report -in Créole- (News Centre 23 August 2018) about the episcopal election in Haiti. I was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when roughly 12,500 Haitian people fled via the sea after President Aristide was overthrown. They were housed in something like concentration camps (although fed well and provided with medical treatment). And families weren't separated as has been a recent immigration policy in the U.S. I also was in Haiti during the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission there in 1995 (12 months). I already speak French so it wasn't too difficult to pick up Haitian Créole over a year (spelled "Kreyol" in Haiti).
Also, I had a few Haitian Créole study resources available (before the deployment). If I didn't know a particular Créole word, I would use a French word (and they usually understood what I was trying to say). Although the spelling is different, some phrases in Créole do sound like French. As is usually the case, when a foreigner tries to speak a local language, the people are delighted that you are, at least, making an effort to have a conversation. Periodically, we would break up fights between youngsters and admonish the combatants: "Aimez vous les uns les autres." This usually made them laugh, but they would stop fighting. The written form of Créole wasn't standardized until around 1957 and there is still a certain amount of variation with spelling.
Créole is a very descriptive language. "Gwo Chalé" (literally "the big hot") means malaria ("big hot" being a reference to the very high temperatures accompanying the illness). A homeless (orphan) is known as a "sans maman" ("without a mother"). Unfortunately, I got Dengue Fever in Haiti from a mosquito bite. Dengue Fever, was known as "kraze zo lafyèv" ("break bone fever") due to the severe pain in joints and bones sometimes requiring narcotic pain medication. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide founded the "Lavalas" party. Haitians are chronically the victims of hurricanes which are accompanied by severe flooding and mudslides. "Lavalas" means "flood" and was used in the sense of the Lavalas Party washing away the corruption and oppression in Haiti. Given the continuing corruption in Haiti in the government, I can understand why many Haitian Episcopalians are outraged by corruption and injustice in their church.
French and Créole are the official languages of Haiti. When speaking with a Haitian I would remove my sunglasses and my kevlar helmet. This was important, especially when speaking with an older adult. Many Haitians had been terrorized under Papa and Baby Doc by the Tontons Macoute. The Tontons Macoute always wore reflective sunglasses, so showing your eyes was important during conversations. The American Bible Society sells Haitian Créole New Testaments reasonably priced. You'll find the Créole fascinating (although it helps to speak and read some French). I was pleased to hear that the recent General Convention of the U.S. Episcopal Church passed a resolution calling for a BCP translation in Créole. My name, Mark, is written as "Mak" in Creole and is pronounced "Mahk."
Oborishte Street Anglican Fellowship
2 September 2018
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