I just learned that some of my old students check my blog frequently for updates and I feel bad for not providing more, so I wanted to share a quick story until I can get my longer post about the start of the school year up on the blog.
In Haiti, people speak Haitian creole, a French/African dialect, and while not an extremely difficult language, it is a bit tricky to learn. I have slowly been getting better but still have about 10 moments a day in which I either say the wrong thing and am laughed at, or completely misunderstand the other person. Yesterday one of the Haitian missionaries told me "I haven't seen you all day" and I responded with "I am happy to hear that!" clearly not understanding what she had said to me. It is humbling to make mistakes and not understand and just part of living in a new country with a new culture and people.
I have been praying and praying that I can learn the language quickly. I so badly want to be able to understand people when I am talking with them, and want to share life with them through language. I would love to be able to more clearly communicate with the parents of my students, with the ladies who cook at our school, with the people I live in community with. I want to understand the songs we sing at mass and be able to follow along during the 45 minute long homily! I also would really love to not have to depend on someone else to translate for me and to have to ask for help when I want to communicate something. I desire so much to know Creole right NOW and to speak it well.
There is beauty in learning a language. It allows you to understand jokes, make someone laugh, pray with someone, and carry on a conversation to build friendship. However, I recently learned the difficult part of learning a new language... it also means that you then are able to enter into and understand the others struggle and suffering. In Haiti, there is a lot of that. When you begin to learn the language you can no longer just smile, apologize, and say "M pa pale keryol! (I don't speak kreyol)" when someone needs something. You can no longer be ignorant whens someone tells you that they have not eaten food, or that they are sick and in pain and have no way of getting medicine. When you can understand what someone is saying to you, you are no longer blind to their pain... and while that is beautiful it is really very hard.
The other night I was spending time with a friend of mine and we were able to have a nearly hour long conversation entirely in Creole (largely due to his patience in explaining words to me that I did not know and in grace from the Lord that allowed me to understand him). During our conversation he shared part of his life story with me. It was full of suffering. Hearing and understanding what he was saying broke my heart, and made me not enjoy my dinner, and made me struggle to fall asleep that night. I was so thankful to be able to understand and talk with him, but it was difficult to hear and process. At the end of our conversation, he was still smiling even after sharing everything he has been through. He was still holding on to hope. He was still praising the Lord.
Please pray for me as I learn Creole, please pray for those who share their stories with me. God is so present in the suffering of these people. I pray that every word I learn can be used to help me enter in to their poverty and respond with love.
Mesi Bondye Mesi.