Friday, October 14, 2011

When the abnormal becomes normal

I finished reading Kathie Klarreich's Madame Dread last week. A very interesting read that I can relate to a lot. Kathie came to Haiti in the late 80s and ended up staying to work as a journalist for American media. At one point in the book, after she has lived in Haiti for awhile and visits home in U.S., she reflects on how some things about her life in Haiti used to be abnormal all of the sudden seem normal and she only realizes it when its placed in contrast with her American life.

There are many times that I forget how "abnormal" life is here for me and it is only when I go back to Canada or when we have visitors here to point things out that I remember what my "normal" life is like. I read a funny comment by another missionary in Haiti the other day. He said "I looked out the window and thought I saw someone walking a dog with a leash and I though it was strange. But then I realized it was a goat, and it seemed normal."

Here are some examples of things that now are "normal" to me:

  • Eating spaghetti for breakfast (I don't do it often, but it doesn't weird me out)
  • Putting toilet paper in a waste basket rather than flushing it down the toilet.
  • The smell of Klorox.
  • Goats, chickens, dogs roaming the streets with no apparent owner.
  • A stray dog running down the aisle of the church during the service.
  • Drinking Coke from a glass bottle.
  • Waiting in line at the bank for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Carrying any purchase or item in a black plastic bag.
  • Leaving parboiled meat in a pot on the counter for 3 days, and then eating it.
  • Buying processed meats like salami or hotdogs from vendors that have no refrigeration and the meat has been sitting in the sun all day.
  • Storing eggs on the counter, rather than the refrigerator.
  • Drinking water out of a little, plastic bag.
  • Seeing 4 or more people on a motorcycle
  • Hearing a radio ad for a bus station who's biggest selling point is their washroom.
  • People sitting on the streets, hanging out, all the time.
  • Piling 7 people in the extended cab of a small truck.
  • Planning my workday based on the availability of electricity.
  • Changing money on the street.
  • Greeting people with a kiss on the cheek.
  • Driving one hour to eat ice cream.
  • No traffic rules.
  • Unfinished buildings, everywhere.
  • Carrying my own supply of toilet paper for any outing.
  • Eating oranges, Haitian style.
  • Bringing my own chair to church.
  • Bucket showers.
  • Making supper by kerosene lantern.
  • Never standing under a mango tree from May to July.
  • Listening to Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys or Michael Bolton almost everyday.
  • Finding ants in your oatmeal and eating it anyway.
  • Saying "amen" after the choir sings in church.
The list could go on and on.


The Amazing Mr Rae said...

Listening to Celine Dion and Backstreet Boys everyday? It's like you're living in a bizarro world! Clearly, I would not survive down there.

gavin said...

I think I might be haitian....

Janelle said...

You listen to Backstreet Boys everyday too, Gavin??