Aaaaand the scenery has changed again!
I'll tell you, I'm starting to think that, if I'm lucky, I'll have the chance to crawl all over Haiti before I leave it. So far I've scratched the surface of the capital, which truth be told is not really a place I'm all that interested in digging into (labyrinthine, insanely hectic, and potentially dangerous) and started to learn the area in Leogane near HODR HQ. Now I'm sitting here in a missionary home north of Montrouis, literally steps from the Caribbean, covered in Deet (it burns!) to ward off the mosquitoes, and relaxing for the night before class begins tomorrow. It will soon be time to learn all things portable water bio-filters. In this environment, I don't need These New Boots at all. They're staying behind guarding my tent, which I'm praying will be dry when I return. No cinderblocks yet I'm afraid...
Our hosts here are Chris and Leslie, two Canadians that have been here in Haiti for quite a while now, and their adopted two and a half year old Haitian daughter Olivia, who is one mad bundle of smiles and energy. We established a game over dinner tonight in which she runs away from me, then turns around and waits for my queue (a devious laugh/growl whilst maniacally curling and uncurling my fingers) to set her into a full on sprint at me with her arms up, screaming. I of course then throw her up into the air, tickle her, maybe flip her around a few times, then put her back on the ground, only to repeat it. I love young kids. I like the purity of their emotions. They're like dogs. No masks yet.
I took my first swim in the Caribbean, and needless to say the water was welcoming. Warm, although I'd be fine with a cold ocean around these parts, but unfortunately cloudy because of river silt runoff from up-tide. Chris told us there is a reef a few hundred feet off shore. I really would love to go snorkel out there to see it, but I doubt that will be possible given the murkiness. This part of Haiti is remarkably different in terms of earthquake damage than both Leogane and Port au Prince. In both of those places you get used to seeing a completely destroyed building for every two or three still standing, many of those themselves cracked or missing large chunks of wall. Here there is almost no easily visible damage. Quite on the flipside, where I'm staying practically feels resort-like. I almost feel guilty, sitting here writing this from an actual bed with an actual mattress, with electricity, a flushing toilet, a CEILING FAN(!!!), with a cool dip in the ocean just a few steps away. Yes, these are shared men's dorms, so myself, Paddy, Will (another HODR volunteer) and three local Haitian guys are all bunking down here, so it isn't private, but screw privacy. I didn't come to Haiti to keep to myself.
And yet still, amongst the comfort, you definitely know you're still in Haiti. When we came in we were greeted by a guard carrying a shotgun. He gets a partner at night, and they patrol the barbed-wire boundary of the property together. Last year, a few guys who used to work here got fired and returned in the night to torch the family van and leave a note which threatened to kill all of them. Clearly I'm currently enjoying the lifestyle of the haves and this is a country where the vast majority are have-nots. But it isn't always about economics. Chris told us a story about how some Haitians drove up to the home of their cook, which is right on the national highway, and completely destroyed. They brought with them a tire and gasoline, which would suggest they were planning a particularly horrific execution (trap a person in a tire, arms at their sides, then fill the tire with gasoline and set it ablaze). When questioned by the police, the perpetrator said he did it because she (Chris' cook) had put a curse on his wife that killed her. Voodoo is a very real thing here.
But those ugly things aside, I'm finding myself really liking Haiti. I cannot wait to begin to have a grasp of Haitian Creole. It is very frustrating for me not to be able to communicate. I really just want to talk to the locals, get an insight into how they think. Right now I simply can't, but Haitian Creole doesn't seem particularly hard to pick up, and this week, considering it is going to be spent in a largely bi-lingual teaching environment, should be a perfect opportunity to start the process.
For now, however, I have a great book I need to get back to. Check it out, "Mountains Beyond Beyonds" by Tracy Kidder. Goodnight.