Ok. Sorry folks. I’ve had a writing block this week, so I could not make myself write for a good laugh. So yesterday I asked my humor friend to help me paint something funny. Then I realized I didn’t have to rock my brain to hard when Gando came to mind.
Yes, Gando’s real name was Idovia, and she was my maternal grand-mother. She is the old lady with the large wood spoon, about to slap the crap out of her husband. Well, from what I recalled, she did not beat him, but she sure had not problem slapping others who played with her money. That old lady was a business woman, shipping plaintans and coffee all over Haiti. But, for as long as I can remember, she was always grinding coffee beans, which although she sold, but I think she probably drunk most of it. I’m not talking about the American coffee either. My grandmother coffee was like the Cuban expresso which she drunk probably six LARGE WHITE FULL cup per day. I had no problem helping her out, and I think I was five.
The tall young/old man in the painting is her husband. Yes, my grand-father was like a giant. He always held a machete, and for the life of me, he must have lived inside the banana plantation. I don’t recalled seeing him anywhere else. The first time I saw her, I thought he had just arrived from Africa.
And the river in the back, do I need to say more? It was like a paradise!!!
Yes, the little girl with the light blue dress standing by the river, way in the back of Gando’s house, is ME!
Enjoy – Waiting for your feedback!
It was the custom of the old folks in my family to leave a cup of coffee on the side for our ancestors. They believed if they continued to feed our ancestors, they would remained strengthened, since the chief family members were somehow ordained to protect those who were still alive. Looking back, I was about two years old, when I started drinking their coffee. In fact, I also thought they would need help with the large plate of food reserved for them as well. Eventually both, my grandmother and my aunt found out about my innocent venture, so they thought they needed to teach me a valuable lesson. But from what I heard, they were the one who were left intrigued.
I’m told I was four years old when this incident happened. Apparently, for three consecutive days, I was enjoying myself while feasting on the ancestor’s food. Afterward, I would walk outside to yell to the old folks: “Mm-Mm! Gran Do, the spirit said the food was good!” “Gran Do, who was my grandmother thought something was strange. “This is strange!” She said. “The ancestors sure ate that food fast – They usually would send a visitor, or a beggar to ask for some food, or the food would remain till completely dried out.”
Of course, I was too young to understand my grandmother’s concern, so I just kept on eating. But after three consecutive day, my grandmother cooked a dish named “Chaka,” which was a blend of corns, beans, squash, coconut, you name it – it had it! On that day however, while I was eating the bowl of Chaka, I fell asleep, with the bowl right on top of my chubby stomach. So Gran Do who happened to walk inside the house, saw me snoring my heart out. The bowl of Chaka spilled all over my body, my whole face, and my hands were bathed in Chaka. Now Gran Do who didn’t know what to think, decided to call her older sister.
“Now, don’t know what to think of this Sis – You think the child has been eating the spirits food?” She asked auntie.
“Don’t know Sis – Don’t know! But she’s been telling me she ain’t hungry for dinner. I was going to give her a laxative on Saturday!”
We need to find out, before those spirits get angry at the child.” Gran Do said.
“Well! She is family, sure they won’t hurt her, but we can still test her to see if she’s the one eating them food. She loves fish you know, so let’s make some fish tomorrow and place it on the ancestors table again.”
But Gran Do answered: “I will make some fish all right, but will teach her a lesson. Will put all the pepper and the salt I can put my finger on, in that fish – “Have to teach her a hard lesson, or this child is doomed to be too much for us to handle later on.”
“Well, what do you expect Sis. Both on her mamma and Papa side are Moses – Didn’t you hear what the priest said in church? That Moses man from the Big book opened the ocean with his little finger, and killed all the Gyptians? That’s a lot of power for one man. For all we know, he’s probably the one eating all the food through that poor child – The child is unusual, must say!”
“Well – don’t care sis. After I’m done with her, some of that power should leak through her tongue, nose, even her ears, because she’ll be screaming “HOT through her butthole!”
So Gran Do and her sister did as they had planned. In fact, the fish was seasoned with so much hot pepper, that tears dropped from their eyes as they were cooking. Finally, after they served the ancestors the large fish, which they placed on their special table, the old folks sit outside waiting. About half an hour later, I ran out of the house, with the plate of fish, screaming my heart out: “Gan Do, THE SPIRIT SAID THE FISH IS TOOOOOOO HOT – HOT – HOT – HOT!!!”
Both Ma Do and auntie dropped themselves on the floor, as they could not stop laughing. However, since they had already prepared some cold lemonade, they decided to show me some mercy, so they both rushed toward the lake, the direction they saw me take off. But when they arrived there, they were shocked to see my whole body lying flat on the ground, with my head toward the lake, under the water, while the plate of fish was still next to me. When I eventually lifted up my head, it was just to grab another bite, then to dip my whole head under the water again. I continued the same process, till I ate the whole fish. After I was completely done, I sunked my whole body under the water while I rinsed the wood plate which held the fish. The old folks stood at a distance while watching me in action. I finally walked toward them, and when I noticed them, I handed the plate back to then, and said:
“Mm-Mm! Gran Do and auntie, the spirit love the fish, but was a bit too spicy. The spirit said, you can make some more tomorrow!”
“Auntie shook her head in disbelief, then turned to Gran Do to say: “Sis, is she an angel, or a demon? I think we need to place her in a box, send her back to her papa, and have Jonas write a note: “Return to Papa!”
“Ma Do answered, “Are you crazy? The child has enough fire in her to destroy Satan and hell three times over. Besides, whether she’s an angel or demon, with her on our side, should guarantee us a good post in heaven, or hell. “So I say she ain’t going nowhere!!!”
Auntie answered: “You sure right Sis. – You sure right! In this case, let’s make her some more fish tomorrow, she sure liked it!”
“She sure did – But with just a little pepper!”
But tomorrow after I ate the fish, I said “Did you old folks forgot how to cook? The spirit said “Not enough pepper!”
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
When my grandson claimed he was hungry and was asked: “I thought you just ate dinner?”
He answered me, “Gamma, you know I had some wacaroti!”
“Wacaroti – you mean macaroni? But, your mom made spaghetti, not macaroni.”
“No gamma, Not tageti – We hat wa-ca-ro-ti I taid!”
“My apology dear! I was under the impression the long skinny flour mud you were pulling in your mouth earlier, was called spaghetti. And the little stars which you love to eat, with lots and lots of cheese, were called macaroni.”
“Tat totay gamma, tyou don’t need to wawoloti (to apology). Text time just task me how to tay tit. I will tit tyou – Ok gamma. Tyou know “I’m a smard, smard boy!”
Translation: “It’s ok Granma, you don’t need to apologize. Next time just ask me how to say it, and I will teach you – Ok gamma. You know I’m a smart, smart boy!”
“Yes you are. In fact, Japan should tikle your brain for the name of their new car. Better yet, perhaps they should ask you permission to use “wacaroti or wawoloti” for their 2016 model.”
“Yes gamma! You are a tenuis! I twant a wacaroti car; a dlue one, your faaavorite tolor!”
Tranlation: “Yes grandma, you are a genius. I want a spaghetti car. A blue one. Your faaavorite color!”
So here you have it! If you happen to see “wacaroti or wawoloti” new car driving around, it’s my grandson invention. Watch out for the driver of the sky blue model!