Monday, January 23, 2012

Obama Beach Hotel: there and back again

There's a short-cut out to Route National One, a dusty paved track that cuts along the edge of Cité Soleil, past the landfill at Troutier and past Zoranj, where expensive pre-fab houses have sat empty since a farcical housing expo last year. Once a hotspot for hijackings, UN soldiers patrol here with regularity. The left turn onto the "highway" is now marked by a new, under-construction sewage treatment facility.

I find the stretch of road from here to Arcahaie endlessly fascinating. The road runs along the coast, through desert dotted with the bright blue tarps of displacement settlements. (This blue, also the hallmark color of the new telecommunications giant Natcom, is a discernible part of post-earthquake Haiti's color scheme). The road winds through Titanyan, with its sulfur springs and the area recently re-named Saint Christopher (as if re-naming a place erases its history), body-dumping grounds for presidents and gangs, and of earthquake and cholera victims. Now, Titanyan is covered with a patchwork of stones marking out plots claimed by landless people from Port-au-Prince.

Randomly, the desert contains a sports complex here, a satellite university campus or orphanage there, a few industrial parks, a village of colored houses built by Food for the Poor and the mission compounds of Samaritans Purse and Mission of Hope. Other unidentifiable and out-of-place buildings sprout up among the cactus, weird mirage-like oases surrounded by green and flowering trees. 

The next sizeable town after Titanyan is Cabaret, formerly Duvalierville, a failed development project built by Papa Doc Duvalier in 1962. Saturday is market day in Cabaret and the road is lined with market women selling used clothes and goods brought down from the mountains - vegetables, handwoven rope, mats and baskets. Ben has to squeeze our motorcycle between a stake body truck overloaded with plantains and second-hand yellow school buses, then narrowly avoids hitting an errant goat.

The community of Ti-Sous is on the Côte des Arcadins (the name of this stretch of coastline) after Archaie, after the cemetery and the watermelon stands (where you can buy watermelon almost all year-round), but before the long string of beach resorts: Kalico, Wahoo, Moulin-sou-Mer, Indigo.

You can't possibly miss the turn to get where we're headed. "Obama Beach Hotel" is emblazoned loudly on a white sign with a giant arrow pointing across the street, and then again on cement posts on either side of the gravel road leading down to the beach.  
Obama Beach Hotel is on a cove of pebbled beach with absolutely crystal-clear water and the dying remnants of a coral reef. It's cheaper and simpler than the resorts to the north (though still overpriced, as all hotels in Haiti tend to be) and even though it's Saturday, we're among the only guests. Fine by us - we get pick of the best beach chairs for reading, countless games of backgammon and to watch the sun set over La Gonâve.
On Sundays, the tranquil hotel transforms into a beach party. By 10:00 AM the place is swarming with a significant portion of the UN's Brazilian battalion, in speedos, with BBQ grills, coolers and speakers in tow. So, following breakfast and coffee overlooking the sea, we head back down the coast.

Back again through Archaie and Cabaret, into the desert past the missions, the industrial parks...


Nick said...

Ben and Lexi, I was just at the Obama Beach Hotel on 1/10/12. I was in Haiti with my school Lancaster Theological Seminary, we were there on a cross cultural trip. Prior to our trip and during our time in Haiti, we had the pleasure of meeting Kurt and Wilda, I found your blog from Kurt's blog. It was great to read about your experience at the Obama Beach Hotel. During my week in Haiti, I feel in love with the country, the people, the struggle, and the Haitian way of "being". I'm going to read some of your other posts and keep up on your blog. I want to return to the country with my wife and potential think about doing an extended stay there. Thanks for sharing your experiences, I look forward to learning more about the country and the people who choose to live and work there. - Nick

greatspirit said...

Reading this felt like coming home. Those sights, sounds, smells from that part of the coast are indelibly stamped in my memory. Thank you, Alexis.

Serviced apartments pattaya said...

That is an interesting name for a hotel. Obama Beach Hotel looks like a wonderful place to stay and enjoy the beach. Those waters look very clear!

Darius Cartmell said...

That's one advantage of being the only guests, Alexis. You'll get to pick the best rooms, best beach shores, best sceneries and more importantly, the only accommodation (so expect the best service). Oh, man, I'm so craving for some pork BBQ. LOL!

Yehudit Fitigu said...

Great Blog! I was in Haiti for just a couple of weeks in Nov 2012 for work and fell in love with the country. I'm going back 1st of May and this time I have to visit the beaches. I don't like big resort hotels much. I really like your description of Obama Hotel and plan on staying there for a couple of days. Do you have their contact info? I can't seem to find their number or email online. Thanks!! And can't wait to read what else you wrote.


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