Monday, May 30, 2011

Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are????

Yes, I am currently on a Jean Knight kick, but rest assured that the song and title of this blog post couldn't be more perfect. Just keep reading!

The other night I decided to stay at the office through the rain to get some extra work done and putz around on the internet while I had the chance. A student, Richard, was willing to stay and escort me home.

We left the office around 8:15 at night. Once it's dark out, I usually take the "safer" route home, which is slightly out of the way, but has street lights. This time, though, there was a police car stationed along the quicker route, so we decided it was equally safe and headed that way. What we failed to evaluate was how this might appear to police, who aren't accustomed to seeing blan (white people), let alone a white woman, walking at night down vacant streets with a young Haitian male.

So the chef (Creole for policeman) called us over. "Bonswa, ti blan. Sa w ap fè avek ti neg sa?" (Good evening little whitey. What are you doing with this little Haitian?) I'm thinking: okay, that's reasonable. I guess this does appear to be a little out of the ordinary. So I explain to him in my best Creole that we are on our way home, and that Richard is accompanying me there. There is no problem. I'm fine. I'm not afraid. I know him; he is my student.

He responds (in Creole, but I've translated it), "Why are you walking? Where is your car? Blan don't walk in Haiti, especially not at night."  Ah, yes chef! You are right. I am the only blan in Haiti without a car, so that is why I walk. I also live very close to where I work, so I don't need a car. 

Chef: Where are you from? Let me see your passport.
Me: I'm American and my passport is at my house.
Chef: "Si ou pa gen piyes didantite, n'ap arete w." This means, "If you don't have an ID with you, we're going to arrest you."

All this time, the student I am with isn't saying anything. He was obviously afraid of the police, and whether or not they were serious, he didn't want to mess around.

Me: "Tann, tann, tann." (Wait, wait, wait). "Ou pa ka fè sa. Mwen pat konnen. Sel bagay mwen genyen se yon kart dasirans." (You can't do that. I didn't know. The only thing I have is my insurance card).

Until then, I thought it wasn't too serious, but they kept threatening arrest, so I started to get concerned. I turned to Richard. Still nothing. He just reiterated what the policeman said, saying that I needed to carry an ID, otherwise I could be arrested. Grreeeeaaaaaat! Garry (my big boss, HELP's country director) was out of town, so who was I going to call if I ended up in Haitian jail? It would be an experience, that I knew for sure. How many blan ever get arrested in Haiti, let alone an attractive, young lady blan?

After accepting my insurance card as a form of ID, I figured it out. They just wanted to talk to me, and keep me there as long as they could. So I indulged them a bit in conversation. Told them a little about myself, blah blah blah. Which of course led to, "Eske ou gen menaj?" (Do you have a boyfriend?)

The correct thing to say would have been, "Wi, m geyen menaj. Ayisyen memn!" (Yes, I have a boyfriend. A Haitian one even!) But I am seriously bad at dealing with these men, and said, "Mwen pa bezwen menaj" (I don't need a boyfriend). This only invited them to continue.

Oh bel famn (pretty lady) I'll be the best boyfriend. I want to take you to Petit Goave, the most beautiful beach in the South. You can be my queen, and we'll start an empire together. Let's join our names, and have children. Obama's mom is white. We can be like Obama. Please, give me your number. I have to have you. Insert any other pick-up lines or come-on's you want. This chef was intense, and it went on for about 20 minutes.

I finally appealed to them to let me go home because it was late and not safe for a lady to be out on the streets at this hour with a big backpack. It was around 9 pm by then. Oh, but that just got me into more trouble.

Chef: "Wi, se twop ta. N ap menen ou lakay la." (Yes, it is too late. We'll take you to your house)
Me: "OK. An ale. N ap mache ansemn? Se tou pre" (OK, let's go. We'll walk together. It's very close)
Chef: "Ahh no, cheri! N ap menen ou nan machine la" (Oh no, sweetie! We'll take you in our car)
Me: "Se vre?" (Really?)...." ale." (OK, let's go)

And off we went, literally down the street 200 yeards and around the corner, me in the back seat with the lights flashing and everything. Escorted home by the police. What a riot! At least I didn't go to jail, nor was I fined, AND, the kicker, I got away without giving them a real ID or my number. SUCCESS!

Mr. Big Stuff! Who do you think you are? Mr. Big Stuff! You're never gonna get my love!

Come on, really? You're going to use your "authority" to holler at me? Uh-uh buddy. Not gonna happen...

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