Haitian Home
A Haitian home

    I wanted to see the inside of a Haitian house, but was not willing to ask.  Partly I felt that a request to see inside of someone's house was like asking for a free ticket to the zoo.  I didn't want to be the gawking, well-fed American.  Nor did I want to embarrass anybody.  Just as unemployed Americans preserve their dignity by referring to themselves as "between jobs," a Haitian is entitled to privacy until he gets back into a real home. Of course, the owner of this home was not between jobs and was in his real home.  My guide, however, knew the mother who lived in this house well enough to request a tour.  The word "tour" misleads because it suggests movement. 

Haitian Home
Inside a Haitian home

    From the foyer of this house I could see into every room.  Doors, including the front door, were draped cloth.  Walls were boulders and concrete, which in Minnesota would not pass code.  No windows were necessary because the roof did not join the walls.  Air, light, and insects entered at the eaves.  The tenuously attached roofs work well in the annual hurricanes: lose the roof, keep the house.  (A counterintuitive tip on how to nail corrugated steel onto your roof: Sink your nail at the crest, not the trough, of your sheet.  Starting a nail at the crest is harder and much noisier, but a nail punched through the trough will create a hole through which the rain will enter.)  The floor was the earth itself, no element of construction was a right angle or even a straight line, no surface was painted, there was no running water, bathroom, electricity, vacuum cleaner, telephone, or washer-dryer, and yet this Haitian home was tidy, inviting, and apparently enough for the owner.  The sense of domestic sanctuary was enhanced, perhaps even created by, being out of the pummeling Haitian sun.  I have been in American homes, more expensive than whole Haitian villages, that felt less comfortable, safe, and gratifying to the owner.