Posted: September 6, 2010 in Uncategorized



I’m to blame.  It doesn’t matter that I make the best icing on the planet (thanks to the French butter) I am totally to blame for the new demand among our Haitian population for bakery bought, huge, over-decorated, cakes to celebrate festive occasions around here.  It started with Amanda’s going away party.  I was too busy to make the celebratory cake so I asked John, oh so innocently, to buy a bakery cake.  He did and we are doomed.
He arrived with the giant, white bakery box.  No matter that the frosting is sticky, marshmallow goop that does not taste good and the cake is dry with some sort of prune filling.  It can feed 50 and our patients go all out for looks and love the cake!  A piece for each person and a piece to go.  I save the calories and wish for my French butter icing.  The Americans are all disappointed and bemoan the bakery cake.  All the more for us say the patients and out come the paper plates, or cups, or whatever we have.
Djenie was the first to start the birthday cake demand.  She announced that her birthday was coming up and she would like a giant, bakery cake just like Amanda.  No home made, plain, French butter yummy icing for her.  No, she was going for 3 layer, prune filled, marshmallow icing, bakery cake.  In the giant box.
Not one to disappoint I put out the cash and sent for the cake.  Djenie, the teen mom, is turning 17.  First birthday party ever and she invited her Cite Soleil brothers for the event.  They too ate giant pieces of cake with the sticky frosting.  We sang "Happy Birthday" in Creole, English and French.
All this brought about a birthday discussion.  Who would I be hitting John up to buy cake for next?  We all know that in community you can’t miss a person, forget someone, hurt feelings or leave someone out.  Better get out the calendar and write down the b-days.  I’ve lived in Haiti for 20 years – I should know this.  Birthdays aren’t a big deal and you turn your next age on January first not the date of your birthday – whatever that is.  Got it?
So what should have been simple is not.  I made the rounds.  When is your birthday so we can buy you a cake?  Rosemon said he didn’t know his birthday and he would ask Grandma. Grandma had no idea and she also didn’t know her own.  Others were in the same boat.  No one ever asked before.  No parties, every day is like this one.  No gifts.  No giant bakery cakes with sticky icing.  Just life.
Oh, plan B.  Shall we make up a celebrate Rosemon day?  Find his birth certificate and figure it out?  Have a monthly, bakery cake day in someone’s honor?  Forget birthdays and celebrate discharges?  Can’t do that – we discharge people and they still don’t go home.
This is a place where birthday parties don’t happen for the poor.  They often don’t know their birthdays.  Americans why don’t you celebrate for them and on your birthday send a gift of money to our hospital, our housing program, our maternity program or our Cite Soleil education program?  While you receive – give!  If you do we’ll have a bakery cake in your honor – our patients will love it!!!!!!!

Beth McHoul


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