Monday, March 9, 2009
Beans and Rice and Singing
The Ravine, outside Port au Prince, Haiti is a 40-acre ravine over a small river. Both sides of the steep ravine have been built up with concrete and cinder block and tin roofs, one on top of another, to house an estimated 70,000 people. There is no power and no clean water supply except what is carried in. My group of 7 health care providers stood at the edge of the Ravine on Friday night, my first night in Haiti, as dusk was falling. Adults and children filtered up and down the narrow winding path, to and from their homes, carrying water in jugs, small plastic bags of bread, rice, and charcoal. Candles flickered and charcoal fires were lit. As dusk fell and my brain and heart tried to grasp the reality of this many people subsisting in a space with this few resources, the smell of sewage mixed with the smell of beans and rice and smoke from cook fires. A church choir began singing a loud song of worship, a flute tune drifted up from a tiny concrete dwelling, and I had my first lesson on Haiti: the poverty in material things is profound; they survive on less "things" than I could have ever imagined. And their hearts are deeply spiritual. Most education is done through churches, and most events are begun and ended with prayer. And in the midst of this intense need, they sing.