A few days ago I woke up at bonè (Creole for early) to meet my friend Judith in the kitchen so she could show me how to prepare diri jadinye. This Haitian dish consists of rice with various vegetables – the only one of which I recognized was carrots. We had sliced the vegetables the previous evening, noting that not only what we eat is different but that even the way Americans cut vegetables is different. In Haiti, slicing vegetables merely entails a knife and a receptacle into which the vegetables fall; whereas in the US, as Judith noted, we use a knife and a cutting board before we even get to a bowl or pot.
The comparisons between how things are done in the US and how things are done in Haiti continued the following morning when the real cooking started. First the oil went into the big pot, then the vegetables, some seasonings, and eventually the rice. Voila! A one pot meal that could easily feed a dozen people. I marveled at this and joked about how many pots and pans my mother uses for just one meal in the US and how that made for a lot of time cleaning up afterwards.
Judith and I discussed various chores we do around the house. She prides herself on being able to sweep, do laundry, and cook. I explained that well yes, I do all those things, too, but in the US we have machines for everything … vacuums, washing machines, dishwashers. When I make chicken, I bake it in the oven. I don’t fry it in the same gigantic pot that will then make rice to feed 40 plus people.
The best part of the experience wasn’t just learning how to cook, it was learning more about Judith. She explained that her mom had taught her how to do all of these tasks so that she would be a good wife one day. But Judith is not looking to just be a housewife – she has dreams of her own inspired by St. Vincent’s.
I’ve always known Judith to be kind, intelligent, and observant but shy. She is very talented in English, but whenever I tell visitors she speaks English, she gives a small smile and explains to me in Creole that she understands it but can’t speak it, which I know for a fact is an enormous underplaying of her skills. She goes to university each week and studies every day that she isn’t in school. This is in addition to helping out at St. Vincent’s in whatever capacity is necessary. She is 25 years old and first started living at St. Vincent’s in 2000. She grew up and graduated from St. Vincent’s, continued on to get her high school diploma while commuting from St. Vincent’s, and briefly moved back home. She explained to me that when she went home to live with her family, although she was happy to be with them, she missed the children of St. Vincent’s and moved back while she commutes to university. Her long-term goal is to start an orphanage for the disabled and eventually partner with her friend, another former student of St. Vincent’s, to found an adjoining hospital.
Not only is St. Vincent’s a phenomenal, one of a kind school for the disabled and a home for all who need it, it is also an inspiration for all those who have flourished under its guidance and provides an example of love, diligence, and devotion that they take forth into the world in order to create opportunities for others like themselves.