Monday, October 25, 2010

Haiti Mission Recap - Friday

Friday, July 16, 2010
Jacmel, Haiti - Loving Light Hotel roof deck

I woke up at 3am when the air conditioner shut off and slept fitfully after that.  I couldn't help thinking about the hotel in Miami - clean sheets, a shower, clean clothes, American food!

As a reminder, my roommate (who I got along well with but didn't know prior to this trip) and I were sharing a double bed in a room that was probably about 12X12. Because I feared diseased water, I didn't shower/bathe for the duration of the time I was in Haiti (8 days). Thank goodness for camping wipes.

It will be fun to go through my things tonight and sort out all of the stuff I get to leave here for the Haitians and missionaries. 

Today is supposed to be the day of the celebration so some of the church people are taking us to the beach.  We are apparently staying at the beach pretty much all day.  I'm not really looking forward to it that much since I'm not really a "beach person".  There is also supposed to be a market there to buy things.  I'm going to bring my book and camera.  Later we are going to see all the projects from the week and then go to our send off party at the church.

We ended up waiting out on the street for almost an hour for our tap taps to come get us for our beach trip. Our regular driver was on time, but the second driver they needed for this longer trip didn't show up.  A large group of white people standing out on a busy street in Jacmel can certainly get a lot of attention! There was an older lady walking by us slowly at one point who just stopped and stared at us (from about 5 feet away - hardly disguised!). And then she saw me and was staring at me and got closer and closer to me.  She was mumbling something in Kreyol. Apparently she thought that I was a witch or suffering from a voodoo curse because of the light color of my eyes and hair.  I think she was scared of me.  Well, she definitely freaked me out. So I spent the rest of the waiting time behind the metal gate "inside" the hotel entry area. 

the beach! Carribean Sea, Jacmel, Haiti

Caribbean Sea! We took a tap tap about 30 minutes to the beach.  It was a beautiful drive.  The coast is mountainous and very green and the beach looks like a little resort area.

There are tables set up under the palm trees.  You have to be very careful where you sit because the tables are owned by the food vendors, so wherever you sit, you have to buy something from that vendor.  There were also men who tried to stop our tap tap on the way in to the (free) beach) to make us pay.  Our Haitian guides (including Fedony) got out and they argued Haitian style - loudly and insistently and then all of the sudden hugs and handshakes. Then they let us pass.

Thank goodness we had Haitians with us on this trip to the beach.  Before we left, we had been told that the area where we were going is a resort area and it is quite common for people at the beach to try to take advantage of all the "rich, tourist Americans".  They gave us specific instructions about buying at the market - bartering is common practice, but there is an accepted way to do it. We were told that if we wanted to buy something, we should bring one of our 3 translators or one of the 2 long term missionaries with us to barter for us.  We were also asked not to move along the beach alone, especially the women, but instead to stay in at least pairs. 

View of the beach and (very close together) tables

Another view of the beach and tables
I went into the water for a few minutes.  My face has had some kind of reaction to the salt water. I'm blaming it on the lack of shower and use of face wipes instead of soap for a week.  Apparently I look very sunburned, but it is stinging like CRAZY! I just rinsed it off with some fresh water from my water bottle and am going to stay out of the water from now on. Ouch!

Post facial skin reaction photo with David, one of our translators and a "preacher" at the church. This one was taken after I had time to rinse my face off and give it some time to feel better.
Apparently Reggie and David are on facebook, so they gave me their email address to "friend" them.  Fun!

Taking cover at the beach

It is really raining hard! We did some shopping from the Haitian vendors, but since it started raining, I didn't get everything I was planning to buy.  Mono and David helped me barter.  I got a painting for our house.  I picked one of the women cooking since that's what I did a lot of while I was here.

Sample of some of the canvas paintings

Bartering for my painting! David(center) has the painting I want and is working out a price with the artist (in the black shirt with white stripes).
For the kids, I bought some of the cookies that are pretty common here as snacks and some bracelets.  Necklaces for my mom and Sharon.  Still need to get a few more things.  If it stops raining, I might get myself a necklace too. 

I cannot believe that I didn't write more about the bartering for paintings drama while we were at the beach! Here's the story.  So there were actually 2 painters who were friends or related or something that set up their paintings together.  One of the two painters actually spoke fairly good English and was quite a salesman: chatting us up when we came over, being super friendly and interested in us, etc.  I initially went over to look at the paintings on my own, but then 2 or 3 of the other women came to look with me.  We were initially told the paintings we were interested in were $50US. (Not phased, especially since we had been warned that the initially quoted cost would be quite high.)  I spent a good deal of time looking at each painting and then sort of wrestled with myself about 3 of them. Which did I like best? Did I want to get more than 1? Would anyone on my gift list like one? Etc... After the hand wringing, I returned to safety conscious mode and obediently found one of our translators (David) to help me buy the painting I wanted.  I told him the painter had quoted me $50 and that I was going to buy the painting but I wanted to get whatever price would be fair and seem appropriate to him, knowing more about the cost of this kind of thing.  I basically told him to try to get me the best price he could and I would pay whatever he could get for it.  During that conversation, the 2 other women looking at the paintings with me, decided they were going to go in together to make an offer on the paintings they wanted because maybe they could get a better deal.  Totally skipped the "make sure you take a Haitian with you so that you follow local customs" advice. Apparently, the painter they approached wasn't willing to give them much of a deal.  So Caleb (in the orange shirt in the picture above, Caleb dropped everything and left for Haiti within a month after the earthquake last January and had been living in tent cities ever since trying to help people) stepped in to see what the problem was.  Voices started escalating.  Selfish me, my first thought was to look at David, doing an awesome job of bartering in a calm way, and think "Crap! I'm going to lose my great price on this painting!"  as it seemed that all sorts of craziness was about to happen.  Of course, this is also the moment that the wind picked up and it started to rain... So the next thing we know, David has gotten me a price of $30 for my painting, and the other painter starts yelling at Caleb, in English, "F--- you! I didn't ask for you G-- d--- help! Get the f---- out of here!" etc etc in a totally insane, "there is going to be a brawl" type way.  And then our Haitian guides actually had to come over and hold back the angry painter from Caleb because he was trying to hit him! The guy totally went crazy! And then, he jumped on his little motorbike and sped off and was gone! It was pure craziness. We were joking with Caleb that the guy probably left to go get his machete (because it was pretty common to see people walking around the streets with machetes in Jacmel).

We had a nice grilled snapper and plaintain lunch, but the snapper was too spicy for me.  I ended up giving it to a local girl that was under the same shelter as us with her family.  Since it was raining we were all crowded in and some of the local beggar kids kept coming around asking for food and offering to sell us shells (found walking on the beach) for $1US/shell.

beach party food!

Hillary in the lunch shelter

Each week, some of the Haitians who spent the most time with the team would be invited to come to the beach for the celebration.  On the left is our main tap tap driver, then one of our cooks, then Pastor's wife, another cook, Pastor Roderick and David
Back at the hotel

I had about a 30 minute talk with David at the beach while we watched some of the men playing soccer.  He did a great job speaking English.  We talked about his family, the government in Haiti, soccer, what they do if there is a hurricane, and lots of other things.  It was fun.

On the wet tap tap ride back to the hotel. Look at that gross "I haven't been washed in a week" hair!

Caleb relived the moment where the crazy painting guy freaked out and started swearing at him, a few times.  Then when we got back to the hotel (on wet tap-taps) and the crazy painter rode by and shouted "F--- you!" again at him!

We are on break now and have been packing.  Leaving at 6:30am tomorrow (assuming our rides come) to drive to PaP. Sorting things to be left behind.  I am leaving almost all of the clothes I brought with me, bras, food, towel, bug spray, rain gear, medicines, flip flops. Maybe the Bob the Builder blanket (which I bought at goodwill as my bed blanket), though if I can fit it in my bag I will bring it home with me - that was my promise to Little Man, who wanted to have it. It is looking good for my plan to only carry on... no checked bags for me!

Still upset that I didn't get my dad a painting because of the rain.  Ugh. Gary said there may be vendors at the airport tomorrow where I can buy things if we get there in time.  We'll see about traffic and what time our ride actually comes.  I really thought there would be more vendors - in general, but also at the beach specifically. Oh well.

I've been thinking a little about what I'd like to say tonight at the celebration dinner.  There will be an interpreter.  I know I won't be as eloquent when it happens as I have been so far in my head.  Basically I want to thank the ladies for welcoming me into the kitchen and being SO kind to me.  I want to thank them for their patience and willingness to show me how I could help, and for teaching me some of their language and culture.  I want to share with them that I came to be of service to their community and to build relationships because God loves all of us.  I have really enjoyed learning about their lives and getting to know them a little even though we struggled to communicate at times.

Almost time for Moto... agh!

5 minutes later

Gary just came and said we aren't taking the Motos because of the rain. Hooray! Dodged that bullet twice! Apparently it will be tap taps in the rain instead.

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