I was in the back of a pick up truck the other day on my way from Jarabacoa to Constanza. It was late in the afternoon and I had been waiting for about 2 hours for the guagua to leave. For a majority of the trip I was stuck on the side of the truck bed hanging on for dear life while the old lady next to me kept adjusting a box of vegetables and raw meat against my leg. I was uncomfortable and tired. I decided to put on my new (ancient 5 year old) ipod that Jeremy gave me when he came down last month. I was enjoying the music and the scenery along one of the country’s most beautiful (and poorly maintained) highways when the majority of the passengers in the bed of the pick up got out and left only myself and a Haitian guy who had just hopped on a few miles back. He sat next to me against the cab of the truck and I noticed his 2pac shirt that was quite gangster. I said “2 Pac, el es bueno!” The Haitian guy responded politely with a “Si, 2pac bueno.” We sat in the back for a while and I kept listening to my ipod. I was listening to something not very gangster, like Iron & Wine, and the picture of 2pac’s face on the Haitian’s shirt was staring right at me. I asked myself, is this whole Peace Corps gig turning me into a softy?
As I contemplated, the Haitian tapped me and asked if the ipod was a radio. I told him si, más o menos. Then he asked me if it was a phone too. I told him no, this one just played music. After a moment it became clear that he had not seen an ipod up close before so I thought I would give him one of the earpieces to listen also. Before I passed it over I realized that The Old Crow Medicine Show was probably not the music he wanted to be hearing. “Te gusta 2pac?” I asked him again. He told me yeah, but really I don’t think he had ever heard the music before. Lucky for the Haitian and me, Jeremy had a copy of All Eyes on Me on the ipod and so I put on 2pac. As the Gangster beats were dropped my new friend started nodding his head and smiling. He looked so content that after one song I offered him the other earpiece so he could have the stereo experience. I wanted to explain to him that he almost had the whole Gangsta look down but he had to stop smiling. We sat in the back of the truck for the next hour with him listening to the ipod and I was beside myself the whole way. I laughed at myself for feeling so good about doing something as silly as introducing Gangsta rap to a Haitian who probably had no idea who the guy on his T-shirt was in the first place. I had worked so hard the week before to run the summer camp for the poor kids of the barrio but this little experience left me feeling warmer and fuzzier. A lot of the rewarding things that we do down here can’t really be put on a resume, I guess “keeping it real” would be a good example of this.