Yesterday started a bit earlier than usual due to the fact that church started at 7 and we were riding with the Pastor. The sun was just started to inch over the hills at Cambry Guesthouse when I made my rounds through the hall knocking on doors, “Good morning, ladies!” The locals start Sunday School at six so that their walks to and from the 7am service aren’t in the hottest part of the day. So we scurried about in our long skirts and non-blow-dried hair towards the back of the truck that would take us downtown.
There are always seats towards the front of the church for visitors of the Pastors. And as much as we try to disperse into the crowd, we are usually pointed back to that spot in the church. It would feel uncomfortable if all eyes were on us in these cushioned places of honor, but the locals are not concerned with our presence in this moment. They have come to worship God.
A string bean of an elderly woman in a white cotton dress stood across the congregation from us. Her hands straight up and exactly half a beat behind the music the entire time. She’s there every Sunday, standing beside the man who looks about in his 60s, shifting his hips back and forth to the chants and rhythms of the Island’s hymns. The church usually holds around 1,700 on Sunday. And they are dressed to the nines.
The music and the prayers last for a very long time and consist of full participation for the large, committed crowd. They cry out in Creole about God and His goodness. About God and His provision. About God and His power. The Centenary girls pointed out later in debriefing that you didn’t need to know all the words to hear the passion and conviction in what was being agreed with.
Two and a half hours later, we loaded back up into the off-roader and headed back home to eat breakfast, nap, and email our mothers for Mothers Day.
Naps lasted for a while, as you would expect on day 6. And then it was back up again to load up for the soccer game!
It seems something(s) unexpected always finds its way into our well thought out (and hardly stuck to) itinerary while in Haiti. One of those things for the first of this trip was getting to see the national final game between the North and the South to see how gets to go play in the Caribbean game! We were rooting for the Americas, a Les Cayes team dressed in slick orange and white uniforms.
The Pastor pushed his way to the entrance with our cover money, then went to point to who he was paying for, quickly realizing it wasn’t necessary. We’re the only white people in line. In the street. And soon enough, we would find out we were 15 of maybe 20 white people in a stadium of thousands.
The very few stands that were there were packed and had been for three hours, said Sean (another American who has been living in Cayes for three months teaching English). But that was ok, because the entire field then became lined with a crowd of people at least three levels deep, shoulder to shoulder. And then of course that moved people to standing on top of the walls, hanging on to the trees, and climbing on top of the roofs. The latter is where we ended up.
If you want an idea of yesterday’s atmosphere…mix the thought of a national soccer game, with a Caribbean flare, and add in Mardi Gras. The Haitians moved in as close as possible on the long, wide roof, as we searched for chairs to stand on. After every goal, the band (directly behind us) would grab their old worn instruments and have at it while the crowd went wild, drank their Prestiges, and danced away a couple of minutes of victory.
After about two hours of play, Les Cayes team took the National Championship and the thousands of people rushed onto the field as the music cranked up and (what appeared to be) a second line started, grabbing anyone with any need to dance and sweeping them into the street.
We stayed on the roof, watching and dancing, until the majority of the happy crowd bounced its way out the tin door. And then we climbed down and back into the truck to head home.
It was so very cool to witness something so collective and entertaining with the people in their world. Something so universally unifying as music and completive sports. Makes people feel like people. And makes the world a bit smaller.
We came home for a supper of rice and turkey (Phil, the one we shared a truck bed home with from the Market the day before). And then a good night’s rest with the AC’s rhythm of shutting on and off on the wave of unpredictable electricity.
This morning, I waved the team off for a day of botanical garden seeing and down-town Les Cayes walking, as I stay at Cambry to sort supplies and await the young adult team’s arrival from Port au Prince!
Tomorrow, we begin our teaching/learning exchange at Bighouse Children’s Home.
A beautiful world we get to be in together,
“…out of the dust…”