Housekeeping lessons in Haitian Creole – Part II

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 9, 2013
poubelle, wheelie bin

The grand poubell

The week’s tutorial, courtesy Mme Josette, began (where else) but with the dustbin, homemaker’s pride and joy – and my despair. Each day, she would start with her equivalent of the dustbin ceremony, gracefully removing the binliner, neatly tying it up and depositing it in the grand poubel (big wastebin) outside.

With my scant kreyol, it was difficult to interrupt the stately sequence of the ceremony and convey what I considered to be the right order.

Eugene Poubelle

Eugene Poubelle, lawyer, administrator and diplomat enjoys the glorious distinction of having his surname denote the trashcan

Oh, the poubel. It became something of an obsession for me all week long. Eugène-René Poubelle, who introduced the dustbin to Paris and upon whom the French conferred the glorious distinction of having his surname denote the trashcan, could never have imagined the torment his eponymous container would cause.

But by week’s end, I had hit upon the possible words and their likely order. “Non, non,” I told Mme Josette in my awkward approximation of kreyol, “tanpri, mete sac nan poubel apre travay fin.” (Please, put the binliner in the dustbin after finishing your work.) “Pa anvan (not before),” I finished with a flourish.

Okay, I admit I left out some of the pronouns and it probably didn’t sound as good in kreyol but Mme Josette seemed finally to get it. She was meant to change the binliner after finishing the day’s work rather than right at the very start.

So week  two of housekeeping in kreyol ended as it began – in the dustbin of mangled grammar. But now, at least the sequence was right.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac