Marilyn Bayonet, Revisited
On Tuesday, I spent six hours interviewing Marilyn Bayonet, the hard-luck, “grimly determined” Fonkoze client I met in June and blogged about. During the first three hours, and with the assistance of Linda Boucard, I basically got her life history – from birth up to the present day. After a midday break to allow her to prepare for going to the market to cook and sell, during which I had an illuminating interview over lunch with Linda herself, we went to the market and interviewed/observed Marilyn in action – cooking fried foods, selling drinks, and selling other products like toilet paper and condensed milk (some on consignment from other vendors).
I saw an entirely different side of her this trip. She seemed much more animated and, frankly, happy. When we arrived she was just back from the market where she had bought fish to fry up later that day, and she had her earpiece in both ears and connected to her new, $11 (!) cell phone. Earlier that morning she had pre-cooked some chicken and beef that she would fry up quickly when ordered by individual customers later that afternoon.
Some of the change in my experience of her was probably from doing deeper in the interview with a translator she knew and trusted. Probably another aspect was that we did not ask her the question that seemed to upset her the most last time – “Do you feel you will be able to rebuild your house anytime soon?” For sure, getting her new Fonkoze loan two weeks earlier had given a jump-start to her business and made her more optimistic. Finally, she said she felt that a hex that had been put on her by another vendor who was jealous of her success had been lifted and she was earning more money as a result.
In the photo below on the left, she is proudly showing off her pre-cooked beef.
And in the one on the right, she was happily posing in front of her just-purchased dresser (her first piece of real furniture since she moved into this tent 14 months ago) in which she stores (among other things) some of her stock of soft drinks. She did not invite me into her tent last time, but did on Tuesday.
As with most real-life phenomena, the cause of her apparent transformation eludes simple explanation. Perhaps in another blog posting, and certainly in my book, I will go in-depth about Marilyn’s life history, with an emphasis on how she got started in business originally (by following around her grandmother), her horrible yet somehow inspiring journey in the hours and weeks after the 2010 earthquake, and the daily ebbs and flows of her business and cash flow.
The things that stick in my mind most after spending so much time with her are:
- How poverty prevented her from pursuing education.
- How early she got started learning to run micro-businesses.
- How dependent she was on loansharks before learning about Fonkoze.
- How her relationships with the two men who fathered her five children defy easy categorization (though one – who happened to walk by and briefly talk with us yesterday morning – was clearly abusive when they were together)
- How much women micro-entrepreneurs in Haiti, or at least the ones I was with yesterday, help each other through a complex web of relationships.
When I get back to Port-au-Prince where I think I can upload videos, are I going to upload some short clips, “sights and sounds of the market” where Marilyn works each day, 4pm-10pm (and longer hours during peak periods).