Thursday, February 24, 2011

I love... carrying baskets

If you have spent any time with me, you know that coordination is not my strong suit. I bump into doorways. I spill whole trays of food on the carpet. I drop stuff. I trip on nothing in particular. My husband, affectionately making a play on my maiden name, calls me "Spaz." It didn't take much observation of Haitian women to notice that I have a lot to learn from them in this arena.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Haitians women carry themselves beautifully. As one of our compatriots observed, "They're not afraid of their bodies." They walk with purpose, but only as a woman can--back slightly arched, abdomen gently pushed forward, chest proud, shoulders relaxed, hips swinging. And to top it all off, we saw many women (and a few men) carrying precarious loads balanced on their heads.

Photo above by Ron Holt

The contents of the head-top cargo varied. Many women seemed to be headed for the open air market, where most people buy their food and supplies. Some carried baskets heavy laden with fruits or vegetables. Others had 5-gallon buckets full of water, weighing about 40 sloshing pounds. One whom I observed confidently carried about 20 dozen piled-up cartons of eggs.

Photo above by Ron Holt

The men seemed to have similar technique, but slightly different contents. The one below was walking up and down the street selling bannann peze, fried plantains, to the drivers stuck in traffic and pedestrians. Others carried building supplies--wooden doors, bags of cement, bundles of rebar.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Even children were in training. Boys and girls carefully loaded small jugs of water, school books, or cardboard boxes on their heads, glancing at their near-by mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends, for verification of the technique.

Photo above by Ron Holt

Of course, carrying baskets and goods on one's head is difficult. It is a hard reality in a country where only the ultra-rich have cars, and even the wheelbarrows have a rental fee. Carrying drinking water for a family is a time-consuming and arduous task that often prevents women from having enough time and energy to take on an informal side-business for a little extra money. Even so, there's something beautiful about seeing a person use the little bit that they have--their own body--to move their life forward by a few small steps. And these steps are not stumbles. They are intentional. Poised. Strong. Balanced. Confident. Practiced.

Like I said, I have a lot to learn.

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