Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ou Kompran?... Mwen Pa Kompran

Do you understand? And no I don't understand. The two phrases are the cornerstone of my Creole arsenal. Sometimes I get to use my big boy phrases such as, “I like ...”, “My name is ...”, “I want ...”, and lastly but not least “I have to poop.” Even though I've only been learning Creole for 3 weeks and I haven't really had anyone tutor me, it pains me every time I have to say, “Mwen Pa Kompran.”

You may be asking yourself, "why hasn't Eric had a real tutor?" Well there are a few reasons. First, in Port Au Prince I had the masterful interpretation skills of Monica. Who by the way was kind enough to interpret during a 2 hour meeting... This meeting was chaired by the most Italian woman I've ever met. I thought she was speaking Italian but alas it was just her accent. Monica is good, but apparently not Italian accent in French while talking about technical solutions to building earthquake resistant houses in Haiti good.

Second, the nun's have no interest in tutoring me to speak Creole... For some reason they think I should learn french. Quite frankly I don't like the french enough to use a capitol f. Yet, the stigma in Haiti is that you are more intelligent if you speak french. Well that's only because they teach french in the schools. If they were really smart they'd start teaching Chinese, Spanish, or English.

Thirdly, they keep moving me around. of my 3 weeks in Haiti I've spend at least 7 days going places in a car... (that's a story for another day) However, even among all this chaos, I have been able to find people willing to teach me Creole. In Port Au Prince that person was T Jack (a worker who lives on the grounds).

I freaking love T Jack. He does everything for the sisters in Port Au Prince and with a smile on his face. Everything includes killing poisonous centipedes for Monica. He has never asked me to give him anything but I would if he asked. I want to give him something more valuable than money. I want to teach him to speak English. So T Jack and I began studying together every night for about 2 hours.

We would take turns writing phrases on the board and trying to learn. 2 days after our first lesson Sr. Monique tells me I'm leaving for Cap Haitian. I managed to break the news to T Jack in my very broken Creole. While studying together before I left for Cap Haitian he wrote “Mwen vle Eric Pou Zanmi Mwen.” I want Eric for my friend. I told you all I freaking love this guy. I can tell he's got a great heart!

So jump ahead to new residence in Cap Hatian (where I'll be for 3 weeks). I have 20-30 pint sized tutors who fight to teaching me Creole. The best part is they love to play games like lets get Eric to say Kaka... I'm begin taught Creole by kids what do you expect? The nice thing about really young kids is that they love to ramble only stopping to make sure I haven't caught on to what they are saying. I thought the blank look would give it away. Luckily for me there are the best trait in my tutors is there patience for repetitions. They don't mind asking me to say things over, and over, and over, and over, and over. You get the picture? But it's fun. They laugh and even without being able to communicate I still make them laugh (To Laugh = Blag).

At least here I have a job. I'm supervising the work that they are doing to restore the school (HA!). I can't explain that I'm an aerospace engineer and I have no clue how to build houses, so I just said, “land a 767 here and teach school in that.” Yes, I do like to mix English in a little just to show them how it feels. I know the answer but I can't help but ask, “Ou Kompran?”

P.S. I'll add some pics of the kids and T Jack Later.

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