I am sure you are wondering how the rara evening turned out!
It was last Sunday, just HAPPENED to be Easter Sunday. Actually, it is always a big rara weekend on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. The FSRL students and I were invited to join FSIL nursing students on a reviewing stand right at the beginning of the parade route, where the bands started off on their musical march. We were there at dusk, but the parades were destined to go all night and into the morning light.
One of the Americans staying in the Guest House during Holy Week said that having all the families outside in the streets, and flags, and glow sticks, made her feel just like on the Fourth of July back home, and that is a good way to express the mood!
Here is a photo of the staging area in the street as night fell:
As you can see in the earlier photo, the prime viewing spots at the rail were taken! I climbed on a chair behind this row and could see a lot. But after an hour or so, I was invited (by gestures, since the sound was overwhelming and conversation was nil) to squeeze right into the middle and get the best-ever view. Here’s a short video clip (1 seconds) of the announcement for a band, and the start up of the bluesy rhythm. I have been told that Haitian music is a prominent part of the background for New Orleans music, and it certainly did have that sound.
But still, after four hours of this (by 10:30 or 11 pm), I was flagging and started wondering how on earth to get across town in all the crush of humanity. There was a van available, and there was a driver (a wonderful nursing student, Jephté, who also drives ambulances), but it was just going to be impossible to move that van even an inch in the crowd.
So, as I was thinking this and wishing for a helicopter, one of the nursing faculty spoke to one of the guys, and almost immediately four young men, three of them our rehab students, came up to me and (over the music and crowd noise) told me they would walk me home.
I was to stay in the middle, and the four guys on the four corners, and we would just go right through the crowd all the way back to campus, about one mile away.
It was great! With two in front and two behind, striding purposefully, hands on shoulders when needed so not to be separated, we struck out through the crowd. As we were SO close (inches away) to all the other partiers, I did get some surprised double-takes – but by the time someone could wonder why an American was there in the crowd, we were already gone. When the crowd began to open up a little, we hit a good walking stride and covered the distance back to campus in good time. It was cool. It was like being a Jet, in West Side Story. Me and the guys, cool and confident, walking fast, safe and sound, all the way home. They were talking and joking and making sure I didn’t fall into any potholes in the dark – all good.
I hope you can feel that too, that sense of being valued and protected. In spite of any ambiguities about how our two countries get along, the people with whom we share this audacious project to bring rehabilitation professional education to Haiti are on our side! We have allies, from the patients to the students to the faculty to the university administrators to the Episcopal clergy in the Diocese. It is good to see, concretely, that this is working! We DO have a team!
Happy Easter (all seven weeks of Easter) to you all!