We take our Bibles, journals, other books, whatever we can fit in our bags when we go to church in Haiti, because often it is very early, and often it goes for 3 hours, and often it is all in Creole. This morning's difference was that we were joined by a team that flew in last night from Los Vegas, Chicago, and Florida. With 30 of us "blancs" in church, much of the service was translated, including the message which was done by one of the other team members. I have never been to a church service in Haiti that was not as enthusiastic as it was packed with people. My naivety may be showing through, but it seems that many of the worship styles are fairly similar across denominations. I suppose that goes for the U.S. as well. We're just not as different from that church down the street than we like to think we are:)
They wave their hands in the air and turn around in prayer by using their folding chairs as altars, and the small children stare and smile at the foreigners. Today's sermon was on the woman at the well, one of my favorite stories. And Dr. Kress and I were asked to come say a word. This being probably the 5th time this has happened, I tried to be prepared. At least this time I wasn't wearing a skull and cross bones tshirt and size 3x skirt because I had forgotten my Sunday best and "could borrow from one of the neighbors." There I was, with death itself on my shirt thanking the people of God in Haiti for the love they have shown us. Amen, amen.
But this morning was lovely, and the music was beautiful. I wanted to bottle up the soloist's voice and bring it back for all to hear. He is from Canada, and you will be hearing from him someday.
We didn't have anything scheduled necessarily for the afternoon, and the other team was going back to take naps and sort their medical supplies, so, we thought, "Why not?!"
And that's when we headed towards downtown to catch Kanaval Natinonale ( Mardi Gras)! Unfortunately, we had gotten our time frame for the day's festivities from the gate guard, who said, "after noon." Which we took to mean after twelve, after church. We knew that after we got a ride down their, there would be no ride back to Cambri. But we had an El Shaddai employee, David, our walking shoes and our water, so we'd be set for the 5 mile trek home. Little did we know, as we meandered around the faux walls and halls of temporary displays, that after noon meant "afternoon." Time: unspecified. So we asked and we looked and we asked someone who looked like they would know. "The parade starts at 4," he said. Good, it was 1:30. This mishap gave us a wonderful afternoon though, filled with seeing and experience something none of us may ever get to do again: Carnival in Haiti.
The risers look much like the ones in South LA, except they are coved in Digicel phone service signs and were still being painted right up to the moment of the parade. The streets were filled with many people of many different statuses, and the masks were huge and goofy and intricate. Except for that one kid wearing the scream mask. That's not homemade , sir. Nor is it quite in the correct Holliday. But who am I to say. One man motioned for me to walk up to his booth of wooden necklaces. "Bonjou," I say. "You are welcome," he says. Now that's a confident salesman.
We mingled and took pictures and made friends for a bit. Dr. Kress and Kaiti got interviewed on Haitian News. We watched a caravan of ambulances and what looked like a younger, bluer Shriners pass on scooters. And then about3 hours of walking and waiting later, we decided to walk back and hopefully catch the floats in the float yard on our way out of town. Which we did. Haitian Mardi Gras floats are a bit different than Louisiana as they look like big trucks with cages, many huge speakers, and a few advertisement signs on them. I suppose more than anything, the actual parade is more about the music and the necklaces they throw than the decorations. Some of the trucks were so loaded down with speakers that they are having to pull generators on smaller trailers behind them.
We are now 6 miles away on top of a mountain and I can still hear them.
It's really an amazing thing to see our culture traced so richly back. It makes me more and more aware of the shoulders we are always standing on. It makes me more and more humbled to remember that we can credit nothing to ourselves. We are made of the spirit of God that is within us, the fibers of choices and risks that have gone before us, and the love and friendship that surrounds us.
My feet look tanned, but are actually covered in dirt...so I do believe that a shower (also known as our June-Bug graveyard) is calling my name. Along with another long sleep.
Oh! But first! I bought a mask today from Kanaval to commemorate the day. It's pink and kind of looks like a possessed house cat. Yay!