At that point I’d already spent five hours on a bus, traveling back to my site from my New Year’s Eve vacation. I was on the guagua headed to Bananas. I was tired. And hot. We weren’t moving yet. Waiting for the guagua to fill up. I tried to stick my head as far out of the window as I could. Street vendors, mostly Haitians, understandably took this to mean that I was interested in buying. After politely refusing for a couple minutes I just stopped responding.

One woman was kind of persistent in that she wasn’t moving on from my window. I gave her a quick smile and then looked away. She was waiting. I heard Americana and something else but I was listening to music and didn’t take it out. When I heard her again I pulled out my headphones and turned to her, “Are you French or American?” she asked me carefully in Spanish. “American…And you?” “Haitian,” she responded, almost apologetically. I thought about how both of us were new to this country and struggling with the language, yet our situations were extremely different, embodied perfectly in our interaction as I sat on a bus with my iPod, returning from a vacation at the beach, and she balanced a tray of apples on her head and walked along the busy highway all day.

She was wearing headphones around her neck. She told me she listens to music to make her day less boring. She was about my age.

 “How long have you been here?” She held up three fingers.

“Three years?” I asked, impressed.

She shook her head, “Three months.” Less than me.

“Your Spanish is really good.”

“Sometimes.” I laughed. Sometimes is my go to response to that.

 “I want to learn Kreyol,” I told her.

“Really?” She was wide-eyed.

Mwen rele Laura.” She smiled hugely. Unfortunately that’s about all the Kreyol I know.

The bus started moving.

“It was a pleasure,” I told her.


It’s funny how languages dictate your opportunities in life. And when I say it’s funny I mean it’s not really very funny.