Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fèy and fatra

What are those leaves sticking up from the back of Keziah's head?

Good question.

One Sunday afternoon, we couldn't go to Jeunesse (Youth Group) so I took a bunch of the boys up to the seminary to play volleyball and basketball. The little ones ran around in the trees, hunting for zandolits, almonds, and chickens. I was sitting with Marie Maude, one of the nannies when they came up behind me. I kept talking with Maude while the boys began to play with my hair. I didn't think anything of it - all the kids are fascinated by my very non-Haitian straight brown/blond hair - until one of the older boys glanced at me and laughed.

The little boys can't keep a secret. They gleefully told me that I had leaves in my hair. "That's fine," I answered. "I've always wanted to be a tree." This cracked them up, so I decided to keep them laughing and let the leaves stay in my hair.

I walked back down the road to the orphanage with the leaves still in my hair. At every turn, people were doing double-takes and announcing, loud enough for me to hear, "Look. The white girl has "fatra" (trash) in her hair. Keziah has trash in her hair." The first few times, I turned and corrected them: "It's
"fèy" (leaves), not trash!" After a while, I gave up and just grinned at them when they commented on my trashy head.

Thinking about it later, this strange language gimmick actually makes sense. Suppose Haitians have trash and leaves backwards in their minds. That would explain why leafy trees disappear in this country and why trash is discarded in the street without a second thought. So maybe the solution to the deforestation and pollution in Haiti is simply to spend more time in 2nd grade teaching the difference between "f
èy" and "fatra".

1 comment:

ange said...

can you come and teach my kids that PLEASE? the garbage can is something of an oddity to the girls. we went through this with Trae 3 years ago too, just toss it on the floor and someone will pick it up RIGHT?
teach it girl, teach it!!!!