PEYI BLAN AN PA POU MWEN
Peyi Blan an pa pou mwen, men se la mwen ye
Peyi blan an pa pou mwen, map tounen nan peyim. This mantra was pronounced regularly by my mother ever since we first moved (or should I say ever since we came and did not go back like it was originally planned) from Haiti to the states. She say it to us, my brother and I, when she had to wake up early to go to a job that she hated (she worked s a CNA). She would repeat it when she got home late because the bus was late and she had to stand in the cold, especially since, as she put it, “nan peyi m mwen gen 3 machinn kap manje pousye ap tann mwen”. She would even mutter it at night right before dozing off on one of her prayer lines, or after reading some news about police brutality.
So, my mom lived in the states, but she never accepted that fact. To her this was not the end game. Several times, my Ti kokot (one of the many nicknames I've given her) has sat us down with a well thought out plan of how, when, and why she would move back to Haiti. Over the years, our responses have ranged from strong opposition to reluctance to acceptance to carelessness. To me, this is because she often said it but never actually moved, and so we never had to take it seriously. The initial opposition was due to the fact that we had so recently lost our father. My brother and I could not fathom the idea of her being so far. We started to reluctantly agree when we realized how miserable the states really made her and how happy she always seemed be after a stay in the mother land. My mom would return from a business trip in Haiti chipper than a bird; singing, glowing, skipping to and from everywhere. Haiti made her happy. By forcing her to stay, we were making her miserable. So the next time she came, with a plan of moving back and running her businesses herself, we agreed, we supported. In my eyes, this was a win win for me for other reasons too: less parental supervision here, and a place to stay when I visit Haiti. Also, she insisted we visit every three to six months, which meant, free plane tickets. What a great proposal for the Haiti loving girl that I was. In her defense, she did go back. She stayed for a whole month, but then returned claiming she missed us too much. Things were too different, and life in Haiti without my dad was too hard to handle.
As I mentioned earlier, the move here was not our original plan. My parents and I came for what we believed would be a couple of weeks at most. My father was sick and needed medical care that his doctor suggested he got abroad. Being the typical daddy’s girl, I refused to stay home without my folks, so middle of the school year, my mom spoke to soeur Marie-Rose, the then-principal at College Saint-Louis de Bourdon and agreed on a school plan, a syllabus of some sort of what I was to study to stay on track and not be left behind when we came back. But we never truly did. The first issue was the lack of health insurance. We could either dish out thousands, paying out of pocket for everything, or get proper support papers that would enable him to get Medicare. The longer, cheaper route was taken. So what was expected to be a month task dragged along and next thing I know, I was attending school in America. The culture shock was very overwhelming but I tried to take it like a champ. My mom and dad had enough to worry about. The extrovert that I once was gave place to the worst type of introvert ever. I became the type that hid behind books, and I refused to make any new friends because, after all, this was only temporary. I already had my friends that I would IM with practically every day after school. My dad’s illness became somewhat dormant, and the doctors did not find any reason to have the operation. So we decided, ok, time to go back home. I was ecstatic! Finally! See, growing up, I was a princess in Haiti. Big house, lots of pets, cars and everything. We did use to come to New York for vacation but, it was never a moving destination for me. Trading what I call a mansion for a small apartment was never ever what I wanted. My mom used to threaten to exile me to New York when my grades weren't up to par. Yea, weird, I know! Anyway, the same night we decided to finally go back, my dad got a nose bleed and was rushed to the hospital. The same type of nosebleed he was getting so many of in Haiti. The same alarming nose bleed that lead to the discovery of a tumor in his brain. The same nosebleed that had stopped as soon as we got to New York. Yes, that nosebleed was back. THAT nose bleed made us cancel our trip back home. That nosebleed got my father operated on at Kings County hospital, the same hospital where he died less than a week after what the doctor’s called a “successful operation”.
These are all the things I lay in bed thinking of, six years after our so called move to America, after finishing high school, getting a college diploma and gathering years of professional experience of all kinds. Thinking about what I had accomplished despite my forced move and my dislike of “peyi blan an” I finally took the decision that was lurking in the back on my mind for years. I finally admitted it to myself, and unlike my mom, I really meant it: Peyi blan an pa pou mwen, map tounen nan peyi m!