Um, well…. I stuttered – where to start? Not a question I was expecting first thing in the morning as I headed out onto a field visit, but my Haitian colleague was clearly curious about the inner workings of the British Monarchy.
So, sharing what little expertise and insight I have on the Royal Family I gave the best rendition of Princess Diana’s life and work in broken Creole and French that I possibly could. Of course, being English, it is immediately assumed that I am best friends with the Queen and often attend her garden parties, therefore I must be a fountain of all knowledge related to the monarchy.
There was a pause whilst my colleague reflected a little while on the story and then a new question. ‘Can you tell me about the Titanic?’ I suddenly wished that I could get Wikipedia access on my phone but we were already out into the remote countryside and there was no signal. I racked my brains furiously and tried to draw up the few historical facts I knew on the story without mentioning Celine Dion singing or that scene with Kate Winslet….
So, having vaguely quelled my colleague’s curiosity about obscure events in British history we continued our way up the mountainside to the project site. I often wonder what my colleague’s perception is of us as expats working in their country. Sometimes cultural clashes and misunderstandings create tension in the team, but most of the time it is a real pleasure working with such dedicated and conscientious staff who are committed to working towards making a difference for their fellow Haitians.
I’m not sure what they think of English people, nor do I think my explanations of Princess Diana and the Titanic will have enlightened them much. However, I hope that the relationships I have built up over the past months will be a positive legacy that I can leave behind, and encourage those I have worked with to remain committed to building back a betterHaiti.