Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Suddenly gone away

No time for saying goodbye

Only memories

The neck of a fried chicken sits on a white plastic platter inches from my face. I sit on a brown, plushly upholstered chair with a lumpy seat on the cement porch my colleague’s house the day after his funeral. His family and friends fill every available seat- the men on the porch and in the women in the dirt yard cooking a meal for all the mourners. There’s no wailing or music as there was yesterday. Today all is quiet conversation and contemplation.

I and two other colleagues came to offer condolences and monetary assistance from our employer. We sip Cokes and wait to be served food- food that I don’t necessarily want to eat. My stomach has been doing flip-flops for the last day partly with the sudden and unexpected loss of an employee and partly with the stress of now trying to find someone to implement the project that is scheduled to start next Monday.

We had met with the family and wife a few minutes before gathered in a circle in plastic chairs at the back of the house. She was assisted to her seat by two women, apparently too aggrieved to walk on her own. The representative of the family had gathered us around, introduced the brothers of the deceased, the wife, her sister, step-mother and father. Everyone was quiet, staring into space or studying the cement floor.

Our office administrator said a few words of condolence then shared what we would be doing for the family, emphasizing that the wife was to be the main beneficiary. (It’s said that when a man dies in this tribe, the wife is often left to her own devices.) I felt somewhat like the executor of a will enforcing who would get what. I told the wife I would pay for her kids to go to school for the year.

That was met with a particular thank you from the sister, but when the administrator asked the children’s ages to verify the information we have at the office, the three oldest children actually live in another city with other mothers. The two children with this wife are 3 years and 9 months-- not exactly school age. So, when the wife comes to our office to pick up a check, we will ask her what she actually needs and if she is willing to pass school fees along to the other children.

Back at the office, another consultant sits at JP’s desk inputting data from a recent post-project survey. That’s the hardest part- knowing that he won’t be back at his desk with his smile, staring out the door into the parking lot when he had nothing to do. I won’t have to dream up ways to keep him busy in between field assessments, but he won’t be around to be my right hand and offer up ways to do something better.

Who knew Friday would be the last day he’d sit at his desk? He left early from the staff meeting where the new head of office was introduced. After the meeting another employee said JP was sick and he was taking him to the hospital. It wasn’t until hours later that we knew he had vomited blood and fainted. Five of us visited him in the hospital Friday night and all seemed well; JP was talking and said he was feeling better and would be back to work. There’d been a similar episode in December and all had turned out. But not this time. JP was gone by the next afternoon and buried by Monday.

No time for goodbye.

So, goodbye, JP. Goodbye.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Prom Again

Today I went prom dress shopping with two girlfriends, R and H.

I found a gold, lace spaghetti strap mini dress at the second-hand clothes market.

For $5.

There were lots of other dresses to choose from as well. The green lace, the hot pink satin, the white ruffles. Some were size 22. Some were size 2. But, the gold lace dress fit perfectly.

I'll be wearing it to our '80s prom this coming Saturday along with my gold 3-inch heels and a strand of pearls.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Simba, the Kitten

We've had a rat roaming around in our ceiling for a couple weeks now. Obviously, the rat we killed a while ago had family who decided to continue sharing our home.

I've been oscillating between going the poison route or the cat route. Poison route means its a one time deal- no long- term care of a cat, but it isn't a long term solution if rats keep moving in. The cat route means no dead rat smell in the ceiling and a furry friend to come home to that keeps those pesky rodents away.

I was leaning toward the poison option mostly because I've been hesitant to up my level of domestic responsibility. I was quite comfortable with level 1- house plants (which we don't have yet.....and the gardner takes care of the yard....). Getting a cat is the next rung on the ladder towards level 3- dog, level 4- significant other then kids at level 5.

After expressing my hesitancy over a lunch of rice and beans at the office cantine, my fine co-workers pushed me to take the leap to more responsibility. And so, this afternoon I went to a colleag
ues house and came home with a kitten. In keeping with the fine (recently established) tradition in my family of naming pets after beer brands, we now have Simba (a Congolese brew) which also means lion in Swahili. A fitting name for a cat, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What's a girl to do? Part 2

April 17

Text from stalker man:
"Honey...I'm sorry, just understand my emotion and see how you can manage me. Don't play with my feelings 'your grace is sufficient for me'. You occupy my thoughts, please do something before I fall sick, even Hello! When I look at you, I feel good and I remember when I was in the United States."

He was in the US? Okay, so maybe he doesn't need me for a visa. Still, I find the text to be creepy. I asked Coach B if he'd given out my number, and he said he didn't. But, he did know who the guy was and said he was a good tennis player and had played in tournaments in Europe. Interesting, but still creepy.

This time I actually tried to text him back, but as fate or chance would have it, the text wouldn't go through. I took that as a sign.

April 21
"Charity, good afternoon, I know that you are well! In fact, I don't know what to say....but, I count on you because I love you. Be happy."

Again I tried to text back, this time to say, please stop texting, since my avoidance maneuver was obviously not working. The text wouldn't go through again. My dear friends suggest I inform our security officer about these texts. I didn't feel threatened enough, yet.

April 22
"Hello, sweet heart, 'My husband doesn't like that...' (What I said to him when joined me on my walk home after tennis one day pre-texting drama). Give me the chance to be this man. 'Be my guest'. Kiss.

Getting creepier....

April 23
"Honey I know that you receive my messages and I'm confident in a favorable response because you said "Hello" this morning. You know, one must live the caprice of love to know how many times one can suffer. You are beautiful and I love your style, your way of dressing is fantastic. Give me your hand. My father says silence is gold. Peace.

There was someone who said hello to me in the street that morning and I automatically responded with hello, but didn't even look at him.....ugh. This is getting to be uncomfortable.

April 27
I received two texts, but the second one was the tipping point. "My love, I am in bed alone and I know that you are also alone in a pretty bed at the same time (it was 6:30 pm, and I most certainly was not in my bed, not even near it!). I am thinking of you...one day if GOD wants. Night."

Okay, enough. The next day I told the security officer at work who called the guy up and told him to never contact me again or else my agency would write a complaint letter to his agency. He seemed to accept this and I have not heard from him since.

I think he was at the tennis court this weekend when I came to play, but he left without saying anything. Hopefully, this is the end of the story!

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's a girl to do?

Text out of the blue #1 Apr 9

Honey, bonjour. quelque fois quand la realite depasse la fixion on manque comment s’exprimer. C’est comme un coup de foudre....tu es trop belle, tu occupe mes pense et tu m’a fait trop rever. Mon pere me disait que dans la vie on peut toujour rever, car on ne sais jamais sur quelle genre de personne on tomberras sur. Bizard, mais, realite je besoin de vous dans ma vie “donnez moi la chance” svp. Dimanche je vais passe chez vous apres culte pour un bonjour. Peace. BW

(My translation: Honey, hi. Sometimes reality surpasses fiction and one doesn’t know how to express oneself. I saw you, realized you are from the US and am really hoping to persuade you to help me get a visa. You are too beautiful. It was meant to be. My dad even said so. Please give me a chance. I’ll come by and see you after church on Sunday. Peace BW)

I did not respond. First of all because I didn’t know who it was writing me this amorous message, and second, because my general strategy in these situations is to not say anything. An answer is an encouragement to try again-- at least in Haiti.

Text #2 Apr 10

Bonne nuit, mon amour. Je pense a toi et surtout a notre avenir. “I have a dream” une belle femme....il n’ y a rien que plus bon que la famille. “Il y a confidence”. A demain. Love BW.

(My translation: Good night, my love. I’m thinking of you and our future together- you know, the one where you help me get a visa.... I have a dream of a beautiful woman and our family together in the United States. Until tomorrow. Love BW)

So, ignoring didn’t quite work, but I still didn’t respond. Who was this guy and how did he get my number? Maybe my tennis coach was playing match maker??

Text #3 Apr 11

Suis desole, mais quand meme il falait me dire de ne pas passer. Tu es libre! thank you.

(My translation: I’m sorry, but all the same you must tell me not to come. You are free! Thank you.)

I received this text after J, my wonderful, heroic, rat-killing housemate agreed to shoo the guy away when he actually showed up at our gate on Sunday afternoon. However, I deduct from this message that, D, as I now knew his name thanks to J, is aware that I really am single despite my best attempts to have J pass for my husband.

Text #4 Apr 16

Juste bonjour et savoir si vous etes ici. Je voulais vous voir “tu me manque aux yeux”, please. Take care.

(My translation: Just checking in to let you know I haven’t gone away and am not giving up! I want to see you! I miss seeing you! Dammit, would you give me a chance??)

Ugh. Despite the lull in texts and absolutely no response from me, Mr. D is still trying his chances. I keep forgetting to ask Coach B if he gave out my number.....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Many Uses of a Flag Stick

A flag stick, unlike a flag pole, is a piece of wood about 4 feet long used to hoist and attach an organization’s flag to said organization’s vehicle. I find flags of this type to be extremely ostentatious. So when I returned from my recent vacation to find flags affixed to several of our organization’s vehicles, I set about scheming on how to remove them.

Luckily, my housemate, J, agrees with me that neither of us want to drive a vehicle with a logo-ed flag flapping to announce us. On Friday, we took home one of these flagged vehicles and immediately cut the black rubber strip tying the flag stick to the truck.

We went about our business, which for J, was to burn the trash. Looking around for something to poke and stoke the fire, the flag stick was the most appropriate tool to be found. With flag still attached, the bottom end of the flag stick took on its new purpose. (Of course, we had a laugh over burning the flag, but the stick, except for a bit of char, and the flag remain intact.)

Around 5 am Sunday morning, the flag stick took on its 2nd new use. At this blessed hour of the morning, I was awoken by a noise in my room. I tried to tell myself it was part of a dream. It wasn’t. A minute or two later I heard a bit of a scuffle near the window and saw my curtain move. In the darkness I tried to discern what this thing could possibly be and how in the world it had entered my room in the first place. Was it the snake that allegedly entered our house a month ago and was still hanging around or was it a a different creature? Bat? Bird? Rat?

I worked up my courage to leap out of bed, bound for the door, and turn on the light. Keeping my eye on my room, I knocked on J’s door across the hall, “There’s something in my room!”

Without hesitation, J did a bit of poking around and rat (a rat!) ran out from behind my bed. After chasing the stupid thing around the room, into the bathroom and back again the rat ran up the curtain and into a cubby at the top of the window.

“What could we stab him with?”, J asked.

“The flag stick!” I answered from outside the bedroom door.

I monitored the mouse in the cubby while J grabbed the flag stick off the front porch. Thus threatened, the rat took a flying leap onto my bed at which point I screamed and ran for the living room. I let our night guard in to assist with the rat hunt. He and J chased it into the living room, and I ran for my rat-free room and shut the door.

I could hear movement round and round the living room and down the hall then whack! whack! whack!

“Is it dead?” I called.

“Yes, but don’t come out now, there’s blood dripping from the rat on the flag stick.”

(The first time a peace promoting NGO’s flag has been used for violent purposes??)

The guard disposed of the rat, J cleaned the floor with bleach and I changed the sheets on my bed.

The stick will be used again to burn the trash and burn the rat germs off the stick. In the meantime, I’m sure we’ll find other purposes for our well-used and useful flag stick.

a HAIKU for you

travel, work, retreat
time escaped me once again
back to writing more