On Wednesday, March 8th, I got engaged, and I didn't even know it. I'd like to share how the proposal went down. Wednesday, was our day to meet with families living in the Village of Joy. In particular, we expected to meet ten families that had received new homes since my visit last June. We also expected to talk with five additional families that are next in line to receive new homes. Since we inaugurated the village in June, I expected a more subdued welcome this time.
|Amber and me posing with the sign for the Village of Joy. It was a little banged up because it fell over when Hurricane Matthew blew through last October.|
For the most part, the day began as I expected. We left our hotel in Cap Haitien, Haiti at 8:30am. After an hour drive, our group arrived at the Village of Joy. We stopped for a few pictures at the sign that announces the village. I wanted a picture of my niece, Amber, in front of the sign that bears her grandma's name. Then, we drove the rest of the way to our destination. To my surprise, the villagers greeted our group in a manner similar to what we experienced in June.
|Part of the crowd that greeted us when we arrived at the Village of Joy.|
A large crowd met us near the edge of the village. As Amber and I stepped out of the van, chants of thanks and shouts of jubilation rang through our ears. I could see that many of the villagers had dressed up for the occasion. Many of them had taken the day off work, or kept their children home from school, to be there.
|The proposal. Next to me, Amber wipes away a tear. She was overwhelmed by the crowd's welcome, as I had been back in June.|
One individual in the crowd approached and handed me a small object. The object was intricately woven together from palm branches, or something similar, to form a small pyramid shaped structure. I examined the object, briefly rubbing my finger tips across its surface. I did not know what to make of the gift. Nonetheless, I accepted the object with a smile and a nod. I then turned and handed it to a member of our group for safe keeping, not understanding the significance of what had just happened.
|The band led the processional.|
|My personal escort during the processional.|
The celebration continued. A small band played the Haitian national anthem, as well as the U.S. national anthem. They had practiced. This time, I was able to sing The Star Spangled Banner without having to repeat lines two and three times. Other than a few pregnant pauses at the end of each line, they nailed it. The band then led a procession down a dirt road decorated with empty soda bottles strung up from one side of the road to the other. An exuberant villager, who I recognized from my last visit, locked arms with mine, and we marched to an area the villagers set up for a more formal welcome. I could feel the joy in the air. I glanced at Amber. She was grinning ear to ear as she absorbed the scene playing out before us.
|Community members gathered to welcome us and to hear what we had to say.|
When we arrived at our destination, we saw two rectangular tables with about eight chairs set up in front of four or five rows of folding chairs. We followed our escorts and sat down in the chairs behind the tables, as villagers took their seats in the "audience." Kate, Food for the Poor's Director of Projects for Haiti, sat next to me so she could translate. As we sat, she leaned over and whispered, "They are going to want to hear from you, so you might give a little thought to what you want to say." I nodded and began thinking about what I could say that would be different from what I said last time. A leader from the village spoke to welcome us. Lesley, one of Food for the Poor's project managers said a few words, and then I spoke. (I'll share what was said in another post.)
After the "speeches," we spent the rest of the day meeting with families. It wasn't until the next day that I learned I what had happened. "How's it feel to be engaged?" Lesley asked, as he examined the object I had been given. "What?" I questioned, feeling a bit confused. Lesley, who grew up in Haiti but now lives in Florida, explained. "This is how people propose in Haiti. They give one of these to the person to whom they are proposing. It holds the ring. You are now engaged--to the whole village! You are now part of their community!"
I was speechless. It never ceases to amaze me how many creative ways a community with so little can find to express their thanks. I haven't done this alone. I am simply a representative for many other people who have helped us get this far. If you have supported this effort, you are also engaged to the village. Congratulations, and thank you for your support!
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