Of all the requests that the American soldiers made of me during our time in Jacmel, one of them ranks a step above all the rest in its oddness. On the very first day, before anyone even knew my name, SFC Ross marched up to me and asked, "Can you find me some golf balls?"
The answer is no, I cannot find golf balls. Perhaps in Port-au-Prince, but not in Jacmel and definitely not when there are pressing matters such as seizing children and hanging fingers to be dealt with. What I can find, however, is zamand, an almond-like nut that grows on trees in Haiti. One afternoon, when we had finished work early, Ross arrived on the beach with his clubs, wanting to just practice his swing. There were a few zamand lying about on the beach and he hit them, with some success. So he asked me to recruit the local kids to go find him more zamand. The children, thrilled at the prospect of earning a dollar, took to the trees and returned with shirts brimming with zamand. Ross and LT Harer spent the rest of the afternoon hitting zamand at their fellow soldiers who were swimming peacefully, unaware that they were under attack.
Zamand are not the greatest replacement for golf balls, but we discovered that citron, the little limes that Haitians use in almost all their seasonings, are perfect. On our last day in Cayes-Jacmel, I walked down to the market and bought a whole bag of citron. Harer and Ross were ecstatic. I didn't tell the little old ladies that I bought them from what purpose they were going to serve. I think they would have cried.