Monday, July 27, 2009

the best juice so far

While I was in Haiti, I was introduced to a yellowish round fruit that I'd never seen before. I hunted in my dictionary; no grenadia listed. No one I asked seemed to know, even the sisters. I wanted to find out because this was (and still is) at the top of my juice list. Well, I've finally found someone who knows: it's passionfruit. And based on a Google search, the yellow variety (there seem to be quite a few).

Here's how you make grenadia/passionfruit juice:

After washing the grenadia, you take the end of it off with a knife and scoop the inside into a strainer. It's a deep yellow-orange covering dark seeds, rather like a pomegranate, except that you don't eat the seed part. Add some sugar, which I am told helps detach the fruit from the seeds. Add water and sugar to taste. In Haiti, this usually means a lot of sugar, as it is a tart fruit, but I prefer it with just the sugar from the straining.

Fried Plaintain

Choose a plaintain. The riper it is, the sweeter it is; green ones taste more like potatoes, whereas the riper ones are a little more like bananas. I'd like to see if this works with bananas as we know them in the US, too.

Next, cut it up and squash each piece, top down so that the little brown bits are still in the center. My host family uses two wooden paddles. I wonder if a flat spatula on a cutting board would work.

Dip each piece in salt water before putting in the frying pan with plenty of olive oil. When they are crunchy on the outside, they are ready! Drain them. Paper towels would probably work well here.

Serve hot.

how to eat a mango

1. Learn to identify the sound of a falling mango: rustle-rustle-thump. Go collect it. Alternatively, wait for the winds before a big storm, stand beneath the mango trees, and make sure not to get hit by falling fruit.

2. Method one, learned at the Port-au-Prince convent: Slice end to end, starting at the wider end, off center (along the side of the flat center seed). Using a fruit knife, go around the edge of the fruit inside the skin, then cross-hatch. Eat with a grapefruit spoon, if available. Do the same to the other side. Then lose all sense of neatness by peeling the middle third by hand and just having at it with your teeth. Go wash your hands and face. Don't even begin to think that a cloth napkin will suffice for cleanup.
3. Method two, learned in Darbonne: without making a cut in the mango, bang it on all sides till it becomes mushy inside. Make a small hole in the skin at the top, and drink the mango pulp from it.

4. Method three: Peel it with your teeth - or for those of us who are a little fussier, with a knife - and just eat. Over a sink, if possible.

5. Have a hose ready. Perhaps you should have eaten that mango while wearing a bathing suit...

6. Bliss!

7. Start listening for that rustle, rustle, thump! Surely there must be another mango around here somewhere!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dancing Down the Aisle

As I got online just now, I found the following video on the Yahoo homepage:

It's of a wedding procession in which the wedding party, men and women alike, dance down the aisle, mostly in couples. And it's spreading quickly on the Internet.

Well, Haiti thought of it first.

I've been meaning to write a blog entry on wedding traditions here, and this has motivated me to do so.

The wedding at which I preached had the most beautiful set of dancers - eight couples doing a sort of half-dance, half rhythmic march to recorded music. They stopped when they were all in and danced in the aisle. It reminded me of a minuet or a stately Virginia reel. This is a traditional part of the service.

Next there was a couple with the woman dressed as a bride (but not as fancily); this couple did a more complicated dance with turns. Right before or after them (I've forgotten) was a little flower girl dressed as a bride, with two more women up front similarly dressed (known as annonceuses or premieres mariees preceding the bride herself). Then there were a couple of little ringbearers, a boy and a girl (again, dressed as a little bride). It is my understanding that these annonceuses are a newer tradition, but one that has become typical here.

Finally, after all the dancing couples and children were in, they formed a line on either side of the aisle, where they had stayed after dancing. They made an arch overhead, rather like the Virginia reel, with the bridesmaids' flowers held above.

The bride and her godmother came through the arch to greet the groom and the godfather, who had processed in with the clergy from the sacristy and were waiting up front. The four of them sat facing each other in chairs set on a large square white quilted pad, two on one side, two on the other, while the rest of the wedding party sat in the front pews. I never did figure out who the parents were, assuming any were there.

There were a couple of special kneeling rugs for the couple, as I recall, but I no longer remember if it was for the blessing or for some other part of the service.

An interesting note:

It is the tradition in Haiti to have godparents for more events than your baptism. Even graduating classes are given nominal godparents. However, godparents for a couple getting married are not only witnesses, but people to whom the couple should be able to turn for advice down the road. They are expected to attend at least one of the premarital counseling appointments as well. In this case, one of them had to come in from far away and was given a waiver, but Margarette and I did the premarital counseling session (a first for both of us seminarians) with the couple and the godfather beforehand.

There was the usual exchange of rings and vows according to the Book of Common Prayer (French translation).

One tradition I had never seen before and which I really liked was at communion: the bride gave the groom communion, and the groom gave it to the bride. As the sacrament of unity, it seemed very appropriate on some level, though I will confess I haven't spent the time to think through the theology of it in any depth. Communion in Haiti is done by intinction: the priest or other person distributing communion dips the wafer in the wine and places it on the tongue of the recipient. (It felt odd to me at first, but since my hands get dusty unbelievably quickly here, I was soon grateful.) As a result, it looked a little bit like an American bride and groom feeding each other wedding cake, but with so much more significance and reverence.

All in all, it was a lovely wedding. I wish Thania and Jhonson (no, that is not a typo) much happiness. Keep this young couple in your prayers as they grow together.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

views from the hills above Port-au-Prince

In the first photo, you get a good idea of downtown Port-au-Prince and its harbor. You can see the Palais National, the big white building to the left. Moving to the right about half way across is a huge pyramidal (almost conical) monument whose significance is unclear to those I've asked. On the right is the pink and white Roman Catholic cathedral.

Now, for those of you who have been wondering where we are, you have to look a little harder. In between the monument and the RC cathedral is the Episcopal Cathedral, Sainte Trinite. Look for a rust-colored roof. It's below the last harbor crane and just above a large office building.
The second photo gives you a view of the ships going and coming from the port.

heavy laden

People are carrying heavy burdens.

What can we do to share the load?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

it was a dark and stormy night... Darbonne a week ago Monday. I was in Port-au-Prince, where it was less stormy, so I missed the excitement when the tree came down right next to the rectory.

Yes, he is cutting up those logs and branches with a machete. No chainsaw. Hard, hot work.

out for a Sunday drive on a summer day

A heat wave, idling cars in a traffic jam on a long drive, asphalt, few trees...

And finally we find a roadside vendor with cold Coke - in this weather, it's the real thing!

Monday, July 13, 2009

vertical farming

According to Sr. Marjorie Raphael, it is said that this is the only country where people can die falling out of their cornfields.

I've seen fields steeper than this.

chasing down the truck

When I was little, I used to chase down ice cream trucks. Not very often, it's true: it was much too expensive, and my mother preferred to make healthier frozen snacks with orange juice. In Roxbury, MA, where I live most of the time, the ice cream truck has the unfortunate habit of parking on the corner below the convent right when we're trying to chant the psalms for Evening Prayer, so it becomes a real challenge for the cantor to stay on pitch. Still, it brings back fond childhood memories, and I will admit to having last chased one down while in graduate school.

Well, I've been hearing similar music in the street near the Port-au-Prince convent. It goes by very regularly. There are several different melodies, including a medley of Christmas tunes, but I hear the same ones over and over, so I was fairly certain the vehicles were on a regular route, whatever they were. Still, I had never seen an ice cream truck here, nor does it quite seem to fit the context (though there are times I'd be thrilled for an orange sherbet push-up!). I've seen a lot of old trucks and school buses, still labeled "Smith County Schools" or "Jenny's Produce," so I wondered if it might be old ice cream trucks used for something else. Not so.

Yesterday, while coming back to Port-au-Prince from Darbonne, we passed a truck playing this music. Clearly it was not an ice cream truck, new or old. I inquired. Elange told me that it was a water truck. Water trucks play music for the same reason ice cream trucks in the U.S. play music: so people can chase them down and buy safe, treated drinking water.

Just stop and think about that for a moment. Hold those two images in your mind: children chasing down an ice cream truck and adults coming out to buy clean water.

Not much more to say, is there?

a little humor

We don't have this particular sheet at home at the convent...

more off-roading for the Lord

This Sunday we set off early for Chateau Gaillard, a mission church in the mountains. The first stage, as before, was by pick-up truck down a riverbed and then on up the mountain as far as possible. Eventually we could go no further, and it was there that a horse awaited. However, as there was only one horse, and he was in a very bad mood and kicking, we all elected to hike. "Sure, I can go on foot!" I said. So off we went, first downhill to the creek below, then back up again, Willy, M. Berthony with the thurible, me with my backpack, and Pere Samuel with his things as well, striding on ahead of us. This middle-aged city dweller may be used to climbing the hill in Roxbury, but hiking up a mountain in habit is rather another thing. I had to take a few rest breaks (along with one photo stop for the curly-horned sheep), and by the time I got to the top, I was thoroughly winded to the point that Pere Samuel informed me he'd be borrowing a horse for me for the way down. I was pretty sure I could walk downhill, after all, but I didn't object, either. I was infinitely grateful that the coffee we were offered there was made with treated water so that I could have some. It was just the pick-me-up I needed, even in the heat.

I preached my first homily in Haitian Creole there at St. Timothy's. I was a little unsure how it would go, given that not only was there the issue of language, but also the assigned gospel reading was the beheading of John the Baptist. Such a lovely story. Furthermore, Pere Samuel had been out very, very late Saturday night because the car broke down again, so he had not had a chance to look it over before breakfast that morning, which didn't leave time for revision. Fortunately, Guerling, the rector's wife, was kind enough to fix my grammar for me, and I checked the pronunciation of a few words on the way there. I think it went reasonably well, as I got vocal feedback during the preaching that let me know they were with me. I found that quite heartening! People here are so patient with foreign accents and grammatical mistakes. I can't tell you how much I have appreciated that generosity of spirit.
Two groups of children sang during the service. I enjoyed their music.

St. Timothy's also has a school with a couple of classrooms and another class which meets in the nave. The photo here is of the outside of the classrooms - they were locked, so I couldn't go in. I would have taken photos of the church, but I was too tired to remember.

Following the service, we were served a
snack (no coffee hours here, but they knew we were coming from a distance). I helped myself to some fried plaintains before getting on the borrowed horse and heading back down the mountain, led by the man whose horse we had borrowed. Absolutely stunning views.

Once down the mountain (and back up the other side of the creek), we piled back into the pick-up and jounced along to the next stop, Christ Roi, Corail. Or nearly - once we'd parked the truck, there was another hike, this one mercifully shorter and less steep. Which didn't stop me from slipping, falling, and thus arriving dirty as well as sweat-soaked. A sight to behold, I'm sure. But it didn't matter much: God showed up and we worshipped, which is what counts! Pere Samuel tells me that there are some parish priests who have six hour trips (on foot) to their mission churches. Fortunately, his parish only has eight missions, and none are further than three hours away. I suggested that maybe required PE should be a part of seminary here. Good thing most seminarians are young so they can get used to it if they are currently city dwellers.

Once again, I preached and Pere Samuel celebrated. We were joined by those who had come along from the home parish, Annonciation, and by several from Chateau Gaillard who came along as well. Corail is a smaller church with maybe 100 members, much tinier. However, the corrugated metal roof is in better condition than that of the previous church, which they are raising money to replace.

Christ the King also has a small school, and this time I was able to get in to see the classrooms, which were decorated with the children's illustrations of vocabulary words and so on. The preschool weekly schedule was posted. I don't remember my nursery school being so organized! You can see in the photo of the inside of the church that there are also classes held there: there are brown chalkboards along the sides and back of the nave. This is one of the four schools which may have to close in the fall, as sufficient funds have not yet been raised to pay for the teachers' salaries. They are short $4000 for six schools: teachers make approximately $60 per month. Not much to run six schools for a year, but it's $4000 more than they have.

When the service was over, the weary travellers were fed once again. The rice and beans were very good, but I can tell you that I have never enjoyed a cool Coke so much in my life!

When I got home Sunday afternoon, I was beat. That cold shower was just what I needed. It was a long day, but I am grateful to have had the experience of the two mission parishes, and I continue to grow in respect for the work of Haitian Episcopal priests. It's no small job here.

weather report

That's 43 degrees Celsius. Anyone care to calculate what that is in Fahrenheit?