I waited for Maestro to come pick me up and take me to the Fishing House where the women cook all the food. Maestro is one of my favorite people, he has such a gentle and peaceful presence and my goodness can he sing! He is actually the lead singer in a local choir called Abraham Association (they are working on producing a CD in the states). When we first arrived at the Fish House I felt awkward and out of place. The women were pleasant but not much was said since we couldn’t communicate very well. Maestro doesn’t know very much English either, but he has picked up some by working with Kerry. He and I started going over different objects by saying what they were called in Creole and English. I could tell that Maestro has a deep desire to learn English, and he catches on really quickly to the words.
The women became interested in participating in our English-Creole game. It helped me break the awkward silence with them, as we would laugh at each other’s pronunciation of the words. I also realized how difficult it is to teach English, even just the alphabet. Each letter has so many different possible sounds and combined with other letters has even more possible sounds, that I could tell the women were getting confused. And since I didn’t know Creole it is was even more difficult to explain the reasons why the letters could change sounds. Lets just say I completely underestimated how difficult English is to learn. But I am very excited to continue to help the women learn more and help me learn Creole in the process.
Finally one of the women, Daddet, returned from the market (in Creole the word is mache) with some green oranges (zoranj), onions (zonion), limes (sitwon) and peppers (pima). Geraldine and Necillia took me back behind the house where Gwo Madam and Jillian were cutting up the fish. I was so amazed at how much meat they are able to get off of a fish’s head! (I saw a stray dog eat the eyeballs of the fish – that was slightly disturbing). Geraldine had me cut all the sitwon and squeeze out the juice into a bowl while she peeled the zoranj (there were probably 30 sitwon and 5 zoranj). I figured out that the women use the juice as a marinade for the fish. Not only do they soak the fish in the juice but also they take the peel and rub it on each individual piece of fish before they put it in the marinade (oh and the marinade has some water and salt in it too). I could tell by the way all the women behaved that Gwo Madam is the head cook in the group – she is very intimidating at first but she began to warm up to me as I helped with the fish.
Marymat then came and got me to help with the rice. An organization donated to New Vision Ministries a bunch of packages of rice, but the rice has some powdered seasoning mixed with it. None of the Haitians like the taste of the seasoning so they open each bag and take out all the seasoning before cooking the rice. The women take out the seasoning by pouring it all into a huge tub and then two women pick up the tub and begin to strongly twist it back and forth. As they shake the rice all the seasoning rises to the top of the rice so that the women can easily scoop if out. It was a neat system to watch.
My next job was to try to help cut the zonion for a dish called Pikilys – it is made of thin sliced onions mixed with hot pepper and vinegar, it is very spicy. One thing I noticed right away is that there is no such thing as a cutting-board. All the women cut meat, vegetables, fruit, and everything else in their bare hands. They make it look so easy and they rarely cut themselves. I tried my best to cut the zonion but it is honestly a lot harder than it looks. I still don’t know how they get the pieces cut so thin and yet cut it all so fast. Lets just say that I still need some practice because eventually Francious came over and finished cutting the zonion for me.
Wesner arrived to come pick me up to take me back to the Mission. Before I left the women made me a to-go box of the rice, beans and fish. They were so sweet and each one of them came up to me to say goodbye. I am so grateful for how easily they accepted me into their lives. It was humbling to be in a place where I didn’t know how to do anything, I couldn’t communicate and I didn’t know anyone. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and God was with me the entire time. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with these women (and Maestro) and I look forward to my next cooking adventure!