This month, the youth in our family started taking English classes in Lake Charles, an hour away from Deridder. Two nights a week we have a MAD scramble to get food and a sleepy baby into the car by 430. Meanwhile the guys are trying to get showered in about 10 minutes and my husband may or may not break the speed limit when we finally get gone. I don't look at the speedometer anymore because it makes me too nervous.
The thing is though, once we get there and get established in our chosen picnic spot, it's so hard to leave. The breeze blows cool across the lake, the sun goes down, and the city lights reflect off the water.
Monday we took crabbing gear. We were planning to go down further south to Hackberry, where there's dozens of little fishing piers and the crabs are always hungry. But after we dropped the English students off, we went to hang out by the lake for a bit.
I smiled a bit because just like in Haiti, I was the only white person around. Most everyone was black except for a few people that looked Asian feeding the pigeons.
We started talking to an old fisherman with a patch over his eye. And what do you know he had half an ice chest full of crabs already, way bigger than the ones we caught on Saturday. We of course hauled out our crabbing lines and chicken legs to join in the fun. We soon realized our gear wasn't exactly suited for this tall pier with it's close iron bars. Our friend's net was much bigger and more successful. At least half of our crabs let go at the last minute and evaded our awkward attempts to haul them up with our little nets.
I asked him how he cooked his crabs. He grills them or puts them in gumbo. Navelie had made Haitian rice and beans with legume crab, a spicy veggie stew, with the crabs we caught on Saturday. We shared our supper with him and his friends and watched the sunset there instead of driving south. He said, "See you soon." and told us how to add an extension onto our nets with PVC pipe. I'd like to try some of his okra and crab gumbo.
Ava tried to pick up everything on that dirty dock and put it in her mouth of course. And when she got bored, I took her to play on the splash pad with a bunch of other little wild haired boys doing cartwheels and standing on the sprinklers to plug the water. They said, "Your baby is beautiful!"
When we finally left, we only had about 6 crabs. But they were big... And fiesty! (There was a lot drama when they were being cleaned, believe me. From the noise level I fully expected to get out of the shower and find all 6 crabs running around my kitchen.) The lake was so peaceful after the sun went down and I just love the sound of the waves. I imagined how fun it would be to hang up my hammock between two big pillars and just go to sleep there. And no I was not thinking of where my 10 month old would sleep nor of the fact that the bathroom police comes and locks them up at 8 PM.
Yesterday we decided on the sand beach with soccer goals. I packed up Ava's swim clothes and some corn on the cob and cooked chicken legs to heat up on the grill. Also Navelie carefully explained to me how to make Diri ak Krab, a beautiful dish where you cook rice and green peas together with crabs and coconut milk. I made a tiny batch of beet salad with my own garden beets and felt like a gourmet picnicer for sure.
We had many problems getting the grill started. First of all, it it had to be put together. Then I realized I forgot to bring a lighter. So I bought a cigarette lighter from a young middle eastern guy at a gas station. He tried it out and it worked really well for him and then he said a bunch of other things I couldn't really understand. I wanted to squeeze his hand and say, "It's OK. English will get easier after awhile."
Back at the lake, the lighter wouldn't work for us because of our sandy wet hands. The wind was too strong and kept putting out the fire and Ava was crawling in and out of the water and trying to eat bits of trash and sea shells. Zèzè went to get the kids from class and when he came back, I set the grill right up beside the car and soaked the charcoal with lighter fluid and finally managed to get a roaring fire.
The boys were kicking around their soccer ball when a CROWD descended on the soccer goals. About a dozen Hispanic looking guys of all ages... They started the most serious soccer game that I've seen since leaving the Caribbean and were making almost as much noise as a crowd of Haitians.
We convinced our boys to join in, and I sat and grilled the food by the car tire, which was not an ideal view. But the food was good, especially the rice. Navelie cleaned up our sandy little girl and sat her in her stroller while she peeled crabs. She's our biggest crab fan. Zèzè has a sprained ankle that's healing super slowly so had to sit and watch the game. He said he wouldn't mind just sleeping out by the lake. Navelie said what if the water rose in the night.
When the soccer guys finally left, it was after 8. Etson said they were from Nicaragua and they were here on the Biden program too!
For some reason it just struck me funny that here in the middle of southwest Louisiana we just happened upon a whole soccer team of guys that had just arrived from Nicaragua.
"Nèg Biden yo ap kontre!" said Zèzè. "Biden's boys are meeting up!"
It's a warm fuzzy feeling somehow... When you meet up with people that are walking the same road. People that feel a bit out of place. People that don't always know what's going on. People that aren't even sure if they want to fit into every part of this crazy American life. People that always speaking a strange language and turning heads in public.
The Biden boys said to come back tomorrow at 7. And I kinda wish we could.
I stole a few minutes with Ava by the lake while the others cleaned up. I thought I had earned it. We dug our toes in the wet sand and watched the flickering lights from the casino and the cars going across the tall bridge toward Westlake.
It was dark when we finally left. We had wiped out 10 chicken legs and most of the huge pot of rice. The car smelled like lighter fluid and was full of sand. Ava had only a swim diaper left to wear on the way home.
And I feel so thankful for all these days I get to spend with Biden's boys.