Kijan Fanmi-w Ye? On Repeat. - by Tara Hibbs

Jan 30, 2017

Kijan Fanmi-w Ye?  On Repeat.

Walking the streets of Haiti, one will always hear the same passing conversations:

Bonjou!  Mwen la.  Koman-w ye?  Kijan fanmi-w ye? (Good morning!  I’m here.  How are you?  How is your family?)

I remember walking from my apartment to my classroom, and I would pass the same people every morning.  They would be sweeping their front porch area, wiping sleepy eyes waiting for their figmi ak pistach (bananas and peanuts), or beginning the long trek to school or work.  Every morning we would have this same conversation.  I would often think, "I don’t even know how my family is doing since yesterday.  Honestly, today is Wednesday, and I haven’t talked to them since Sunday."

But in Haitian culture it is a common cultural courtesy to always ask how you and your family are doing and mean it.  After a few years of living there, I started to really appreciate the continual asking, and, eventually, I caught on myself and started asking.  This is also a social custom that I have brought with me to America.

Living in Haiti and working at Sonlight, I grew as an individual, and I brought many of the simple practices with me that are both silly and thoughtful.  Here are few that maybe we could start in America and bring some of the goodness of Haiti to American soil:

  1. Silly: I cross my sevens when writing.

  2. Silly: I hide my face when I have to scratch my eye or yawn for fear of offending someone.

  3. Silly: I date my toothpaste, contact solution, shampoo, and conditioner to see how long it lasts because of packing my life in two 50 lb. bags and ordering a year’s supply on the boat.

  4. Thoughtful: I listen to others.  This is a skill that I really learned from Carmen.  I cannot tell you the countless times that I visited her office just to debrief my day or talk about what God was teaching me.  I also observed her listen to others share about their personal problems.  She allows God to use her to be a listening ear, because more times than not, people want to be heard.

  5. Thoughtful: I try to rest more.  Before moving to Haiti, I never really took breaks from work, and I would often work overtime each week, and I enjoyed it.  I busied myself constantly.  I was guilty of this in Haiti, too, because there is so much work to be done.  But when we had breaks for Mardi Gras or Christmas, I rested.  God taught me so much about stopping and listening to Him and freeing myself of thinking that only I was capable of doing everything.  Really?  How silly of me to think!

  6. Silly: I stare at people in public.  If you have been fortunate to visit Sonlight, you may have noticed numerous eyes on you when walking downtown or from Jerry’s to Norma’s.  We are a walking, in-person reality TV show in Haiti.  Now, when I go to the grocery store or sitting in a meeting, I have my own walking, in-person reality TV show!  (Note: This is something I am trying to stop.  I don’t think strangers like it. :D)

  7. Thoughtful: I still have the mindset of “Si Dye Vle”.  This was probably the best thing that Haiti taught me.  Everything is in God’s hands.  He is sovereign.  He is in control.  I am here to follow and work with what He has ordained for me.  This mindset is very freeing and worship causing!

  But, “Si Dye vle,” I am bringing Haitian customs to Kentucky; you should, too, wherever God lands you!