Sunday, May 20, 2012

Be the Parade

Friday, the 18th of May, was Flag Day here in Haiti.  Usually it's a day when kids dress up in uniform with fake swords and guns and march in formation and sing songs in the streets.  We were told that we shouldn't go out much this year, because the ex-military had warned that they would "show their strength" on Friday.  From what I hear, their 'strength' was broken up by some UN rubber bullets and tear gas in Port.  We didn't see any of that kind of thing in our neck of the woods.

I did hear a parade, though, and thought the kids would love to see it.  Eleanor wasn't in the mood to go outside, so I took Titus and we went down the road to where the kids were lined up, marching with their fake weapons.  A tiny band was playing, and a group of about 20 or 30 people were standing on the side of the road, watching.  Titus and I walked up to join the crowd.  After 10 years in Haiti, I should have known that I can't "join a crowd", especially with a white baby in my arms.  But I had a mental lapse and tried it.  After being there for a few seconds, the majority of the crowd and some of the members of the parade had turned around to look at Titus and me.  All of a sudden, we were the parade.  Ryan told me later that I should have started marching and just gone with the flow.  But I didn't.

I stood there, holding Titus tight as people touched us and asked if I would give him to them.  That's a pretty common thing we hear here in Haiti.  "Give me your baby!", someone will shout from across the road.  I'm not sure what response they are looking for.  "Here you go!", or "You bet, take him!".  I'm not sure.  On a bad day, I ignore them or say "No" grumpily.  On a good day, I remember that it's a bit of an African (and Haitian) tradition to say something off the wall to someone, just to see what funny quip they will come back with.  So, on good days, I usually respond, "I can't, he's my only boy."  That gets them laughing.  Not sure why, but they usually stop asking me to give them the baby, and they start talking among themselves, repeating me and laughing their heads off.  Humor in other cultures is a weird thing.  Sometimes I'm funny to Haitians because I try, but most of the time I"m funny for reasons unknown to me!

At any rate, that was our Flag Day.  We walked along with the parade, trying to 'blend in' and not cause so much of a distraction that the marching kids would trip or lose their step.  I think the people in the parade were happy when we went back home... they got their audience back.

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