One of the things I've enjoyed most about my time so far in Haiti is the traditional Haitian cuisine. About two weeks after I arrived in PAP my fellow missioner and on-the-ground orienter, Kyle Evans, had to return to the States for a week unexpectedly. Before she left she agreed to let me house sit so that I could escape from the dilapidated, depressing Guesthouse where I lived for my first two months here, and she very generously employed a young woman, Jeanine, to prepare meals for me twice a day.
Jeanine was such a delight to be around for the week! Her bouyant spirit and child-like laughter were welcome gifts in a moment of really tough transition. The meals she prepared were tasty, fresh and nutritious: usually chicken in a sauce, creole rice and beans, tomatos and avocado, and fresh juice of some kind.
Since Kyle left two months ago, Mallory and Lauren have regularly employed Jeanine's services in cleaning and cooking to help her pay for her education. She has had a tough life, like virtually everyone here, having already lost two sisters, and having been unfairly terminated from a previous employement. Still, she persists in a joy that clearly has its source in her God.
I remember when I first arrived here I thought it was strange that missionaries would have other people cook and clean for them. I thought that it may be sending the wrong message, that we should live simply and be self-supporting, not as privileged white people who could afford someone to look after their needs. But after a few weeks I began to realize that there is virtually no prospect for employment here apart from these sorts of service occupations. So being here as missionaries, employing people, can be a life-saving activity for the people we encounter. We could easily prepare meals for ourselves, and at breakfeast and dinner we do, but allowing someone else to cook lunch for us is a way to give someone here a future, and the dignity of money earned through legitimate work.
It's also a wonderful way to experience the culinary dimensions of a culture that is so often characterized as one in want, not as one that has something truly lovely to contribute to our own. Haitian cuisine is definitely something worth experiencing and celebrating!