Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eliza Comes to Haiti (And Why We Haven't Updated Our Blog in So Long)

Eliza and I have been friends since 5th grade and her week-long visit was a GREAT way for me to see and re-appreciate Haiti through fresh eyes. Here are a few highlights of our time together:

1. Desarmes
Eliza arrived on Monday. On Tuesday, we
whisked her off to the Artibonite Valley for a few days. On our way we stopped at the Public Beach on the Cote des Arcadins to dip our feet in the ocean and eat coconuts.
In Desarmes, Eliza met Bryan and Sharon and the MCC reforestation team. We took walks, went to the market where I stocked up on the produce that is waaay cheaper here than in Port-au-Prince, and visited with lots more friendly folks.

2. Saut d'Eau

This waterfall between Mirebalais and Desarmes is the site of Haiti's largest Catholic and Vodou pilgrimmages (June-July). We had to pay a few slightly aggressive locals to let us get down to the water, but HOW worth it! Unfortunately, we didn't get a good picture of the tree where supplicants tie their undies for good luck. I got the impression that while I was swimming, our unwanted tour guides were anxious to see if I would add mine to the growing collection.

3. Hiking up the river gorge near Valere

4. Croix-des-Bouquets the village on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince that produces my favorite Haitian art form: metal work. Pieces like this are made from steel shipping drums sawed in half, flattened and cut out with chisels.

5. Cooler air
In the mountains above Port-Au-Prince, we stopped at Boutilliers for a view of the city,
visited Fort Jacques (built after Haiti's independence in 1804) and had lunch at the Baptist Mission in Fermanthe. Up here it's breezy, cool and green even in the dry season.

6. Petionville the suburb up the mountain from Port-Au-Prince. Here we visited Nader art gallery, the open air "art gallery" along Place Saint-Pierre, restaurants and MCC friends.

8. RAM and the Hotel Oloffson
The crumbling Hotel Oloffson is an institution in Port-Au-Prince. It's one of the best examples of Haiti's gingerbread architecture (lacy wooden latticework, high ceilings, balconies) and is immortalized as the Hotel Trianon in Graham Greene's book The Comedians. The Oloffson's house band, RAM plays every Thursday night from about 11:30 PM. RAM plays racines ("roots") music that is a blend of African rhythms, rara horns, and political lyrics with a decidedly punkrock influence.

6. Champs Mars
A Sunday tour of Champs Mars (a series of parks that make up the largest public space in the Caribbean) to see the National Palace and memorial statues to the heroes of the revolution culminated with our first chance to join a rara. Raras are street bands that roam the city by way of song and dance on the Sundays between Christmas and Karnival. This rara drew more and more of a crowd until we were dancing in a throng of several hundred people.

Pre-kanaval festivities in Petion-Ville


Karen said...

That is no excuse!

(Because I missed you.)

Nanci Erkert said...

I missed you, too, but am glad that you had such a great time with 'Liza. Can't wait for my turn to be with you!

Jan E. said...

Hi Lexie,
I know you haven't heard from us but we've been checking your blog and following your journey. It looks like you've enjoyed some well-deserved time off. We think maybe you're on Skype? If so, what's your contact info?

Karen and Nan, what's yours?

John and Liza said...

I was reading your latest post on Flag Day and your terrible night of incarceration...and at the bottom, your lovely blog suggested that I read the "Eliza Comes to Haiti" post. So I did. And it made me miss you. Can't wait till our next visit! Love you!!


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