marlienebastien_fc.jpgMy nose is stuffy.  My head is about to explode into a million pieces. My chest is constricted with thousands of needles, pain poking everywhere.

I’m hot and cold, sweating one minute, shivering the next.  It started the day I arrived in New York last Thursday.  After answering zillions of calls about the food crisis in Haiti, organizing a press conference, and meeting with the team taking care of Chaumala Laurent, a 25-year-old cancer patient who spent five months at Jackson Memorial Hospital and was sent home to die, my plan was to work on this article in the plane and in between meetings organized by HABNET, the Haitian-American Business Network.

But nothing worked as planned. I gathered enough energy after drinking plenty of tea to attend the network gala, mainly to receive the organization of the year award on behalf of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition.

I managed to dance to the beat of Konpa a few times. My friends’ best joke about me is that I would dance even in my coffin if I hear the beat of a drum.

I crashed upon arriving at the hotel, and my condition has worsened since arriving in Miami.

So, why am I not in my bed? Why am I sitting in front of a computer sharing this? Because “pwomes, se det”   (a promise is a debt).

In my culture, when you make a promise, you keep it or else.  What could the “else’’ be, you might ask?  It could be anything, and I just don’t want to know!

My sons converged on me last night, despite repeated efforts to keep them at a distance.  No mother wants to cause her children to be sick, but they have not seen me in days, and they missed me.

Even though they may not show it, children do experience anxiety when one or both parents go away, albeit for a short time. After several unsuccessful efforts, I told them firmly, “al nan kabann nou kounye-a!’’ (Go to bed now or else…..).

It worked.  My children and I communicate  in English, but they know that once I revert to Creole, I mean serious business.

No matter where we’re from: Cuba, Haiti, Israel, China, we tend to revert to our maternal tongue when we’re very sick, very angry, or when we’re overjoyed.

Now, am I going to see a doctor today, you wonder? Not anytime soon. To build my immune system, my dad is preparing a mixture of aloe, lemon, garlic and honey.

For the cough and chest pain, I’ll take a mélange of sour oranges and honey, with a dose of Barbancourt (famous Haitian Rhum). In between, I’ll drown myself with a kaleidoscope of herb tea. If all else fails, then I’ll seek medical help.

Intelligence or educational level has nothing to do with it. It has to do with my cultural genum.

I may have left Haiti 27 years ago, but Haiti will always be with me. It does not matter where we’re from, or how assimilated we are. We all bring this little piece of culture and rich traditions with us. And that’s what makes this country so unique!

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.

Marleine Bastien •