Friday, September 14, 2012

Interesting Cultural Assumptions

These are just a few of many things I've noticed since I got here...

During my time in Haiti, I've noticed that, as we watch a movie, tv show, or even just look at pictures of famous people, all the Haitians (especially the young ones) ask if all the black people are from Haiti. Every time we see one! I was on Obama's Facebook page today, and Danaelle looked over my shoulder. She first recognized Obama, and then asked if he was Haitian. After I explained his background, she saw a photo of Michelle Obama and asked the same question. This has happened with Beyoncé, Jay Z, and a ton of others - all the time. I don't know if it comes from being sheltered and not very well educated, and thinking that if you're black you're most likely from Haiti, or if it comes from some kind of hope to see a famous, prominent Haitian somewhere out there in the world. Interesting, either way.

Religion has also been interesting. It seems like most Haitians talk about, and believe in, the Christian God, and many Haitians go to church, yet at the same time... 99% of Haitians are still involved in their voodoo religion. There are a few Haitians here that I've talked to who say that they want nothing more to do with voodoo, and are "Good Christians" now, although even they still believe that there's some kind of evil spirit thing going on with voodoo. As for all the white people here, I don't know if I've met anyone who's white and not Christian here! I had a post that mentioned that, a while back, so I won't go into it. But the effect of that fact is that Haitians all think that white people are all Christian. I was talking to Ismanie the other day, and she was asking me why I wasn't scared to walk home alone after dark. She asked if it was because I believed that God was with me, and when I said no, she asked if I believe in God. When I said no again, she was incredulous! So surprised! So... that was interesting, too.

I haven't really run into any surprising assumptions surrounding health, but that may just be because people haven't been as outspoken about that kind of thing. During our classes, we definitely get a lot of questions and conversation, and some of that stems from misinformation, but I haven't heard anything very out of the ordinary yet. There are things like "Does having sex with a pregnant woman hurt the baby?" ...but that's a common question in the States, too, so... no shocker there. (For those of you who are wondering, the answer is no, it's perfectly fine. As long as you're gentle with the baby bump, and it's a normal, healthy pregnancy, there's no risk involved. If anything, it's good for everyone involved.) If anything, the most misinformation we hear about comes less from traditional practice and more from poorly educated doctors. I recently heard about a test given to doctors when a hospital hires them: In the States, they usually score 15-ish (give or take) out of 20 questions total (if I remember correctly...). In Haiti, they usually score about 3 questions out of 20. And that's after all the translations, so it's probably not due to language barrier. How's that for a concerning statistic??

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