While mother lived in New York, I lived with my father in Haïti, who was truly family oriented. Probably why I have twenty-seven siblings, although I’m yet to meet all of them. So, the dinner table was always the time for our family history, from his side of the family. But during my summer vacation, my father always made sure I would spend at least one day with my grandmother. He would drive to the countryside, to a City by the name of Duvalier-Ville, which was the nearest to the village where my mother’s family lived. The drive was about an hour from Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haïti, where we lived.
Driving to Duvalier Ville was not as challenging, compared to the walking distance to my grandmother’s house; which is referred as “Dodo’s plantation.” No matter how many times we’ve been there, we could never remember the direction to her plantation. It’s not like she had a specific address. And, asking for a street name in that area, was like speaking a foreign language to those country folks. A typical direction from one of them will probably sound like the following:
“Walk straight, till you see the woman with the pink dress after the big white rock – You will see a skinny donkey to your left – The dry muddy river to your right, or the malnourished girl with a fat stomach running around… or “You may also run to “Tifédé” who stole a basket of plantains just last week!” Imagine this? So any wise person would ask for direction, wouldn’t you think so?
If you think following the country folk’s direction was strange, wait until you try to understand their indirect warnings. Imagine after you were told, “Dodo’s plantation? Oh – not far at all! It’s right down there!” And after thirty minutes walking through mud, river and mountain, you still have not seen the skinny red donkey, in order to make the right turn. Finally you feel the need to reconfirm the direction. That’s when you see an old man on a donkey, so overloaded with merchandise, it can hardly walk. Although the guy is wearing a wide hot, you can still hear the sweats dropping off his face like hail storms. He pulls a red handkerchief to wipe his face. When he answers your greeting, you noticed he only had two teeth left, but he loves to smile. Then it behooves you to understand exactly what he is trying to tell you. Trust me, it’s a matter of life or death. :Lets say you asked:
“Can you please tell me how far along the way is Dodo’s plantation?”
Note the following chart
|“Oh, Dodo’s house is right down there, not far at all!’||About one or two hours walk.|
|“Oh, you are almost there!||Still have between forty-five minutes, to an hour walk. (If you didn’t have to cross a river first).|
|Oh, you are here, this is her house!”||Meaning you are standing on one of her acres, among her twenty acres of land. For sure, her house is somewhere in between.|
|“You want to WALK to Dodo’s plantation?”
“Now better don’t ride any type of donkey with your girls sir!”
|“It’s a long way- Over 3-4 hours walk. So best to borrow a dog, cow, donkey or horse to ride on.
And if you do borrow one of the above, make sure it is from the right owner. If not, you might be surprised how well you look with for legs, and some fur all over your body. So be warned!
|“Now if I were you, would wait for tomorrow mornin’ –kinda late don’t you think?”||The road is too dangerous to walk there so late.
Chances are, you will run to some zombies, or a cow with a gold teeth, a cat who can speak, or a river, you must ask permission before you cross it.
So you better pray that God will send you some good angels to watch over you. Otherwise you may be the next peace of steak sold at the grocery store the following morning.
So when do you know for sure, you have reached your destination? At one point, between the one to four hours walk, you may see a face you don’t even recognize, but who happened to be one of your family member by the name of “Justlikefoufoune.” She will stop eating from the three dozens mango pile in front of her. She will get up to walk toward you. As she stares at you, with both her hands and face full of mango residue, she will smile then say:
“Now this pretty girl looks just like antie’s Shewasborn daughter? “Is this you Foufouououne?”
Bingo! You are there!
And YES, You heard correctly! That was the nickname my grandmother gave me. And it’s pronounced as “Foofoone!”
If you want to find out what my nickname means? Read part two of Walking To Dodo’s Plantation!
To be continued