“Bòn Fèt” means “Happy Birthday” in Creole. Yesterday, Monise, one of our workers at the guesthouse, had a birthday. So we decided to throw a party for her. It was a lot of fun, but I had no idea how complicated it was going to be. As I’ve said before, everything in Haiti just seems to be about five steps more difficult 😀
First I wanted to make her a cake. Luckily we had a box mix, so that part was easy. Baking it was a bit more difficult, however, as our oven only has one temperature, and you can’t change it. Then comes the frosting. Well, I’ve looked all over at different grocery stores, and I only found frosting one time. And unfortunately it was six months expired. So that meant I had to make it from scratch. Well, I finally found a recipe with ingredients that we actually had or could buy in Haiti. So I made it, but the problem there was that we have no electric hand mixer. It turned out a bit lumpy, but I did my best.
We then decorated and had everything all ready. We lit the candles and called her and all of our Haitian staff into the room. Who knew that it was going to take five minutes to decide what language to sing “Happy Birthday” in. The candles were almost burned down completely before we went with French – “Joyeux Anniversaire!”
Next we played a game called “Who knows the birthday girl the best?” We had 10 questions about Monise that everyone had to answer on their own, and the person with the most correct answers would win. Simple enough, right? Well, several of our employees don’t really write too well, so we didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable by giving them paper/pencil to write their answers down. That really struck me – as these are grown adults and in America we could probably do that by 1st or 2nd Grade. So I just went around and had them whisper their answers in my ear.
A further complication is that I am not fluent in Creole yet, so this whole time I’m asking questions, someone had to translate for me. We got to the question –“ How many brothers and sisters does Monise have?” Again, I thought this was a fairly black and white answer. But a fight nearly broke out as one of the Haitians were arguing that in Haiti, there is no real way to know how many brothers/sisters you have since the father may have many – how should I say – children that he doesn’t know about. Wow, never saw that one coming.
The prize for the winner was a bag of soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and other bathroom toiletries. One of our Haitian staff told me that giving them toiletries would be better and more useful than say some candy. In America, I’m pretty sure the winner would be very disappointed if that was their prize.
We finished by giving her a small gift, which was also difficult to know culturally if it would look bad that the “white person” was giving away gifts. And what would this mean for future expectations on Ryan and I? Overall, it was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. We are so thankful for our Haitian staff, and it has been a joy getting to know them!