I can't believe it's taken me this long to figure it out.
I've now spent a total of nearly nine months in Haiti: just over seven months last year, and now another six weeks. My Creole isn't very good, but I understand a lot.
French and Creole are similar and related. In fact, on more than one occasion, Haitians have complimented me for my Creole. Except that the words I had just uttered were in French.
But it only just dawned on me, why it is that with so many of our staff we have this maddening pattern of communication.
I ask what I think is a simple question, like, "Where is Sara?" or "Where is the patient's chart?"
And I get a blank stare, and the answer, "Yes."
No, where is it? "Where" is not answered with "Yes"! Argh!
Eureka. In French, où est ("where is") sounds exactly like Creole ou wé ("you see"). So asking "where is Sara?" in French is indistinguishable phonetically from "Did you see Sara?" in Creole. It's a bilingual homonym.
Of course the answer is yes. Argh!