The other day there was a snake behind my tent. It was curling itself through the barbed wire fence, which is covered on top by laundry the family members have laid out to dry in the unforgiving sunlight. Some of the local boys started poking me as I left my tent and tried to walk along the small path to the pharmacy/ER tent. "Look! Look! Snake!" I looked and smiled. "Nice!"
They laughed, thinking I didn't understand them or else I would have jumped. "No! SNAKE!"
I stopped and smiled again. "I know," I told them in Creole, "it's ok. I like it."
"You LIKE snake?" This stopped them.
In broken Creole I tried to explain that when I was a teacher we had a pet snake in the classroom.
They were astonished.
A few minutes later, I had returned to my tent with the supplies I had needed and was organizing my tiny nursing station. The tent was loud, but all the patients were stable. I had time to regroup. Then a group of young people approached me with a translator. They wanted to know more about the snake.
Except they didn't know the word "snake." They tried to ask about "serpants," but kept saying "supper," prompting me to mime eating which made them crazy. "In America you eat supper?" I kept hearing them ask and I kept saying saying "yes, yes!" They were howling and clutching their stomachs.
Finally one drew me a picture.
"Oh! A snake!" I said, and did my best snake impression.
Forget it. After that I couldn't talk to them for two seconds without them asking me for another snake impression. We spent the rest of the afternoon dancing and doing snake impressions.
The boy from outside had said to me, "All Haitians are afraid of snakes. Why aren't you?"
I answered that little snakes are fine but I am worried by big snakes.
And I couldn't find the words in french or creole to explain that for an anaconda I'd be a great appetizer. I should work on that before I leave.