Monday, March 14, 2011


Fanisse looks swell this summer!

The dumpy adolescent was now an attractive young woman! It was startling.

Before, she’d been stocky, dumpy, a solid if not stolid teen promising to be a hefty woman. Always sullen, dark and glowering. Now, you might say she was "statuesque." In previous summers, the term “Plump” would be, like Fanisse herself, generous.

Now, she is a stunner! Haughty, still. And the familiar sullen scorn. Climbing – no, almost, gliding, sailing - just ahead of me on the path up from the Oauche Ouache (yes, the "Wash-Wash"!) where the water flows, worn out flip flops, strong legs, then a tight skirt with a slit to just there, she was much more attractive. Even with a large bokit of water on her head, sweating from the load, she was stunning. Fanisse sported a purple blouse gleaming against ebony skin and seemed to glide by on the steep rocks while I minced along and stumbled.

“Bonjou! Kouman ou ye!” I call down and step it up a bit, cautiously faster, careful on the rocky slope, so’s to catch up with her.

Kompliman, Fanisse, dapre mwen, ete sa-a ou pi bel, pi mins pase ete pase! Ou bel anpil!” Compliments, Fanisse, this summer I find you prettier, much thinner, than last year. You are very pretty!”

There was no smile. Instead, the usual ugly expression contorted her face. She turned away, g and strides way ahead on the bend in the path, ignoring me.

So, now, what?! Is there no way I can connect with Fanisse? What more can I say? I'm stumped.

Turns out, it was my compliment, my remark, “pi mins” (thinner), that damned me. here's why. I tell you this so's you don't make the same mistake when you are come to Haiti.

I told Toma what happend. Ever the "culture-broker" -Toma is able to leap across language and cultural distances in a single conversation - he laughed.

Says, “Madame Randy, here in Haiti, when you say to someone they are thin, they don’t like that. To be thin means you don’t have food to eat. It means you are miserable.

Translation: Miserables doesn't mean miserable, in Haitian Kreyol, miserable means “wretched,” wretchedly poor, as in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

So, I had just announced to Fanisse, in the midst of her entourage, her friends, that she looked as if she hadn't eaten all year!

Think you can't be too thin or too rich? Well, think again..."Thin" ain't in, in rural Haiti.

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