Haitian Child

Haitian Child

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sounds of Haiti

Every day at least one church group visits selected children in the paediatric ward. The minister shouts and screams. He sounds angry. I think he is exorcising the illness that "devils" the child. Then the minister and his followers sing. I enjoy the songs.

Inside the hospital there are large signs in every area with a picture of a Haitian nurse with her finger over her lips. The word "Silence" is written in very large font at the bottom of the sign. The sign makes good sense but the people are not silent. How could they be with so many people crowded into so small a place? In the paediatric ward there five rooms that each hold 15 to 20 children and their families, packed cheek-to-jowl around the outside. The rooms are the size of an ordinary living room in a Canadian home. There is not enough room to walk between the children. The parents sleep on the floor or sit and rock their child. Mostly I examine a child while the mother breastfeeds. She has the child in her lap and I kneel on the ground to do the exam. Kneeling is a gesture of supplication, as with genuflecting to acknowledge the power of a God. In my case, my posture acknowledges the power of poverty and misery. I am certainly humbled.

While I am in the building where I sleep, a baby goat bleats about every hour or so and periodically the animal bleats continuously ten or so minutes. Until now I never realized how similar the bleat of a baby goat is to the cry of a human baby. Likely the bleat and the cry are for the same thing; to be fed, to be cuddled, to be loved.

Dogs race around the compound. Overnight and occasionally when I am around by day, I hear dogfights. I presume the fights are territorial. There are clearly coveted spots to rest; usually soft earth without stones and in the shade of a tree. Since the dogs are not vaccinated, I give them all a wide berth.

The other common sound is the roosters who crow mostly at dawn but over the entire day.

In the evenings there is singing in many of the homes that are close the building I sleep in. The songs have a religious cadence. One person sings a line and then there is a chorus of people who respond. Often the same line is repeated over and over again, as many a dozen times. Still, the music is pleasant.

Elections are ongoing in Haiti. There are trucks with loudspeakers that extol the virtues of one of the candidates.

One sound that is uncommon is the sound of spoken English. I have only seen five other white faces since I arrived. 

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