Our driver stopped in front of small, wooden structure set between the narrow road and what appeared to be the edge of a deep valley. Down the sloping road in front of us was the rest of this small, poor community. We stepped out – myself, my friend who is originally from Haiti, and our Dominican friend, Lourdes- and were greeted with shouts of joy by a skinny, very pregnant young lady who was standing in the yard, fixing the hair of another young lady who was holding a baby. We had met the pregnant lady, Daphy, at Lourdes’ home and in church on a previous visit and my Haitian friend wanted to check in or her while we were in the area. Soon Daphy and my friend were talking animatedly in Haitian Creole while neighbors started arriving and greeting us – some speaking Creole, some Spanish, but all smiling and welcoming us, many of them already knew Lourdes. Lourdes took me over to the neighbor to explain how they used some ovens on their patio to cook a local bread from yucca, very cheap, but very labor intensive process. Other neighbors came over to exchange greetings and urge us to visit them.
While talking, Daphy went back to fixing the hair of the lady holding the child. The hairdo was soon completed and Daphy invited my friend into see her home. Actually it was not just the home for her and her husband, but also for the other lady, her husband and their two children. Daphy showed my friend the front room – maybe 4 feet by 10- where the children would sleep, and the back room for the adults. We could see other rough buildings hanging onto the edge of the mountain and some chickens, etc. running around the area. My friend looked very serious – no windows, gaps in boards forming walls, old thatch roof, rough wooden floor, no running water inside, one chair…. It was sad, but Daphy was smiling and so excited to see us. Outside there was the one chair Daphy had used when doing the hairwork. As it became apparent that we were going to visit for a while, the neighbors started bringing chairs from their homes saying “Please, sit down”.
After more visiting, we decided it was time to go. Our plan was to walk back to Lourdes – about a 45 minute walk along the mountain ridges. But, no, we were not going to walk alone. Daphy insisted on accompanying us. But first, she had to change clothes (into her best outfit- a bright yellow top and clean jeans), brush her teeth (at an outdoor faucet), and find her sandals. We took off, and soon met up with Daphy’s husband who joined us. At one point Daphy went running up a hill to exchange greetings with another family before rejoining us. When we passed a grove of mango trees, we had to stop while Daphy’s husband climbed up a tree and shook some ripe mangoes off the branches into waiting arms. Once we arrived at Lourdes’ home, Daphy and husband started back across the mountain to their home, but not before Lourdes had slipped them a bag of food from her kitchen.
My friend was on a very serious, thoughtful mood the next day. She noted that Daphy had asked her to be Godmother to the baby (who was born several days after we left). Finally she said she thought Daphy and family were better off where they were than if they returned to Haiti. They had access to some food such as the mangos, they had some shelter, and they had a loving supportive community.