Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fear of the Beard

Pa pe'm.  Don't be afraid of me.  This is the phrase I had to say to almost any Haitian child under the age of 8 up until a week and a half ago.  Why?  Because my beard was huge.  Children in the streets would stare in morbid fascination wondering what it was that was living on that blan's face.  Older siblings who were more courageous would bring babies up to me... who would promptly start crying.  Everyone in town (and in neighboring towns) had an opinion on my facial hair.  Complete strangers would pass me in the street and tell me to shave.  Others (usually with some facial hair of their own) would compliment it... though they would usually ask why I colored it red.  My response was always, "I didn't do this, God did" which always got a laugh and some disbelief.  The biggest benefit from my beard was that it repelled girls like nothing you've ever seen.  Benefit? you might ask; Benefit, I respond.  I am committed to upholding page 89 of the HNGR manual.  The indecision on several girls faces was a nice bonus too.  "Well, if I say I like his beard, he might marry me and take me to the US forever.  But is it really worth it if he never shaves?"  Even my host mom would mutter under her breath about how much she disliked it... and then when asked said, "Oh no, no, you look... fine."  The group of teenage boys that I affectionately refer to in my head as "the neighborhood punks" though my beard made me look like Jesus, and loved to call me that.  This only added to everyone's previous confusion due to the fact that "Kris" (pronounced the same way that Haitians pronounce Chris) in Creole means "Christ."  Once I was introduced to a family friend who replied (in Creole) with, "Christ?  He looks like Christ."  Even when I went to visit Abbie in St. Louis du Nord, people there picked up on the resemblance.  In fact, I was monikered based off of three different men of Middle Eastern descent: Jesus, Moses... and Osama bin Laden.  I had to laugh at this last one... I think he would have taken much more offense at the comparison than I did.

Alas, despite all of the fun we were having, the beard just got too hot.  Two Saturdays ago, I went into Limbé, found a barbershop, and had both my hair and my beard trimmed significantly.  (As an aside, let me tell you, the barbers here in Haiti don't mess around.  Of all the people who have cut my hair (Ms. Ruth King, my mom, Sarah Grace, Helen Herrle, Jon Kim, Daniel Shaffer, Rob Toy, Cecelia Miles, Carly Allen, Shannon Pringle) none of them put more time, energy and effort into making me look my best.  He trimmed the entire perimeter of my hairline with a straight razor... twice.  He even shaved my forehead and the edge of my ears.  And for all that he only charged me $1.50... but he got a nice tip.)  Upon my arrival back in Haut-Limbé, there was singing and dancing in the streets.  My host sister said I looked like a new person.  My host mom said I resembled a good looking man.  For the next three days, everyone I passed on the street (whether I knew them or not) commented on the change.  Ah... community.  Unfortunately... I still scare small children.

My beard a few days before it was last seen.
Other updates:
Classes at UCNH start next week!  I'm very excited.  Students will be back on campus, I will have an actual internship and routine is sure to follow (right?).  Actually, I found out yesterday that the English department might delay their classes until September 19 or even later.  Turns out that the English department building will be undergoing some major renovations.  The good news: we'll have a new classroom so we can have two classes going on at one.  The bad news: I very well might have another month of no real internship.  However, I've finally figured out that I will be teaching around 110 students (divided into 3 or 4 different classes, hopefully) intermediate English.  These students are actually on a different track than other UCNH students because they are part of the group that transferred here after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince.  I'm very excited about meeting them next week.

This past Thursday I got the opportunity to work with a group from Philadelphia that does arts and healing camps in post-disaster settings.  They're called Indigenous Pitch and you can check them out here.  They were running a very brief mini camp at ACRAL in Limbé.  ACRAL is a kids music group in Limbé that was started by some UCNH students to give kids an extra social environment and teach them the wonders of music.  I helped with translating and crowd control and had a blast doing it.  Also, because I got reconnected with ACRAL (I visited them while I was here for spring break but for various reasons had yet to get reconnected) I'm now hanging out with them on Saturday afternoons for their meetings.  This could be a great place to do my independent study project... but that's still very much up in the air.

Obviously, more has happened in the past few weeks, but these are some highlights.  For the record, my intentions on updating are very good... my follow through usually isn't.  Thanks for sticking with me.  Prayer requests for this week: I would very much appreciate prayers that I would learn to admit my dependence on God and the people around me.  The longer I've been here, the more self-sufficient I've become, and while I certainly enjoy my independence, it causes me to forget my limitations and frailties. One way that has been manifesting itself is through my relationship with God... namely that I feel like since I'm so self-sufficient, I needn't bother asking Him for things.  Pray that I will "walk humbly with my God" despite the fact that I'm headstrong and think I can do everything on my own.  Y'all are great.


  1. "Benefit? you might ask; Benefit, I respond. I am committed to upholding page 89 of the HNGR manual. The indecision on several girls faces was a nice bonus too. "Well, if I say I like his beard, he might marry me and take me to the US forever. But is it really worth it if he never shaves?""

    Yes! Page 89!! Way to go Chris. Integrity.

  2. I'm pretty sure my haircuts were better. Still waiting on a tip...