The lilt of the women’s accents is as gentle as the pastel blooms of bougainvillea. These voices and flowers belie the rugged, harsh conditions along the trails which link villages in the central plateau of Haiti. As I reflect upon my experience as a member of our medical mission team, one of the most profound memories is that sweet greeting — bonjour!
Literally, this French greeting translates as ‘good day.’ It is offered by virtually all of the women and men traversing these mountain trails as a sweet gift of hospitality to foreigners — like me — whom they pass along the way.
I had the finest hiking shoes and socks. I was protected under the shade of a wide brimmed hat, ventilated along the sides to maximize air flow. I had the best mosquito repellent money can buy. All I had to carry was drinking water, trail mix, some crackers, and prepackaged tuna with herbs and sun dried tomatoes for lunch.
All the people who said ‘good day’ to me had none of these helpful tools of protections or snacks; and most carried much heavier loads — under their arms and on their heads. Yet, they were the ones recognizing and declaring that is was a good day. What did they see that I could not see? What did they know that I did not know?