"Not far" in English means "10-20 minutes," perhaps "down the road," "Only a few blocks," generally a distance short enough that you won't think it's far.
In Creole "Pa lwen" is a straight-up lie.
It should mean, "You're about to climb up a mountain, back down, go through a few rivers, then back up another mountain. And I literally mean 'mountain,' not that one Centennial Hill you have back in your town - we'll be traveling on donkey paths that provide a 5-inch margin between your foot and the edge of the cliff. I hope you have enough water - oh, you shared it all with the group already? -because it will be two hours with no shade (remember how Haiti has lost over 80% of its tree cover). We're in a very rural part, so don't get your hopes up when you finally see signs of life, for we will still have to travel one mountain over.
And as a general rule of thumb, when there is a fork in the road, we are taking the road that looks the scariest and is the most vertical."
That's what "pa lwen" meant Saturday as I traveled with Darline, the coordinator of Mercy Beyond Borders, to visit the families of 4 scholars.
1. Having to push our moto up a river bank
|Obviously I was doing a lot of pushing.|
|Turning the donkey around|
|Can you spot the people?|
|A very joyful mother of 12|
|No really, I don't see a single house.|
To the left, to the right, or just...over... that way... generally...
|The chicken got shotgun in the basket.|
|Silly Jen, why would you think we're going to that house?|
At that moment Darline said, "You have to understand that for them, it isn't far." They walk the two hours to the water source, or to school, or to the market to set up their stall, or to the clinic in town. She said, "you can't ask them how far it is, because they do it every day and forget about the time it takes."
And so even after 9 months living here I have these striking moments that make me embarrassed of my privilege, in awe of these people, and grateful for the days that I can peak into their lives and, quite literally, walk with them.