Household Surveys and Ghosts in Town
Trip Start Jan 29, 2009
11Trip End Feb 08, 2009
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All of the kids starting coming over before school so I quickly got dressed and went to watch them arrive in their cute uniforms. I thought that I was going to watch them but it turned out to be the opposite. Within minutes, I had easily 30 kids around me staring at me. They would gather about 2 feet from me and then just file in the gaps all around me. This quickly became a recurrent theme. If you were sitting around, everyone would gather around you and just stare. I could sit there for 45 minutes and they would sit there for 45 minutes staring. You can see some of the pictures of the kids looking at me in crowds.
After the staring contest, we set out for our first round of household surveys in one of the more poor (its all relative) areas of town called the Lagoon. It is always interesting to me when you travel in developing countries that the poorer people live on the beach which is opposite from the US. This whole community was just rebuilt after the hurricanes last summer. We went to the first house after our randomization methodology and the family agreed to be interviewed. They quickly brought out chairs for all of us to sit on while most of them had to stand up. Everyone showed us amazing hospitality and it was like this at every house the rest of the week. The first interview was very long but in short there were 12 people living in a two bedroom house. This was not uncommon to see. Our biggest challenge was not asking the questions but it was actually trying to figure out how many people lived in a house and what their ages were. I think they have it right...after about 18, people really didn't know or care what their ages were. I think we could learn a thing or two about that.
We did several more interviews and after the third one, we quickly had a following. We probably had about 20 people going to each house with us then when the kids got out of school, we had even more. It made it a bit challenging to do the interviews at that point. Many of the people had not eaten anything all day. The most amazing thing was that we walked by some food baking in the sun and we asked what it was...the woman quickly replied that it was Y\yucca. They explained in Creole that they add water to it and make flat bread. Seeing how curious we were, she began to cut us off a slice after they were just telling us that they hadn't eaten all day and food was scarce. I couldn't believe it. We kindly said thank you but no thank you. I will never forget that moment. Here we are with more than enough food to feed an army and she was offering us a piece of what little food she had~amazing!
Overall, the surveys went well and everyone was very hospitable. I was really impressed by their level of knowledge around health and hygiene issues. We learned that the health agents had visited this community and educated them about many different health topics. They were knowledgeable but didn't have the resources to buy soap.
After we completed our goal of 10 surveys from this area, I wanted to go meet up with the engineers on the hill side so Etienne took me on his dirt bike up the hills. We drove for about 15 minutes to a local market. He spoke in Creole to two younger guys who agreed to lead me up the trail to meet the Engineers. I was a little hesitant but trusted Etienne so I went with them. The country side was beautiful and I really enjoyed the hike. I shared some bubble gum with the two boys and made motions not to swallow it. They spoke no English and all I knew in Creole was hello, what's your name, and how are you? They started chewing the gum and seemed to really like it. After about 25 minutes hiking I suddenly heard my name down below. I looked down and saw people from our team doing GPS of the water system so I joined them.
As we were walking in the bushes and through the fields collecting GPS points, one of our translators informed us that a local woman started running and screaming on the trail that she saw ghosts in the hills--yes, that would be us. Shortly after that, we started to accumulate a following of kids from various houses. They were walking behind us for five minutes so I thought it would be fun to say good afternoon in Creole. I turned around and said it, boy did their eyes get big and they turned around and started running away from me...I didn't know I was so scary looking. Anyway, we walked some more and they quickly caught up to us again. This time I thought it would be fun to turn around and say BOO! BAD IDEA....the kids screamed and really started running from me. I started running toward them to say I was just having fun with them and was laughing and smiling. They slowly, turned around and were hesitant toward me. They stopped and we had another staring contest. I was smiling at them and saying it was OK so they slowly caught back up with us again. After a few more minutes of walking, I thought it was time to break out the bubbles. The first set of bubbles was not that exciting. They just stood there and didn't know what to do. I blew another set and they smiled. I blew another set and then I popped it with my finger, they started laughing. I did it a few more times and they watched. I finally knelt down and blew another bubble. This little boy who was probably four ran after it and jumped up and popped it. After that, everyone started running and popping them! We had a blast! I have a few pictures attached.
That night we ate a light dinner and sat outside enjoying the stars before going to bed. I was exhausted but it was an amazing day!!