A Couple of Hundred Word Stories About Haiti
Night Ride through Port au Prince
Colorful tap taps, painted all over with cheerful slogans and designs, crammed with people, display their heartening messages in English, Kreyòl and French. I catch some English in the flash of headlights—“Redemption,” “Swim to Get Out,” “I Love You Baby,” and the one I always imagine is written especially for me, “Don’t Worry.” People sit along the road cooking food on homemade hibachis, or selling candy on the tops of crates. Children clump under the rare streetlight with books and pencils. The US Embassy is a well-lit fortress, cows grazing in the ditch in front of the high wall.
I am a fat white North American hired to give a writing workshop for Haitian teachers to learn how to help children write and publish stories in kreyòl so they can learn in their native tongue instead of in French, which few understand. Books in kreyòl are scarce. We are discussing vivid writing, specifically the use of onomatopoeia. I define it. I am being culturally sensitive when I ask, What are the sounds an empty belly makes when a person is trying to sleep? Hands shoot up. People call out. I struggle to spell the sounds on the broken chalkboard.