Monday, April 19, 2010

Almost a vacation!

This weekend, I left Port-au-Prince on a 2-day trip to a village near Port-de-Paix, on the north coast of Haiti. A pair of brothers from the village want to donate land to Angel Missions so that we can build a school or clinic or community center. Sorelle, one of the brothers, drove me, Vanessa, and Bill (who is a member of the Angel Missions board) across the country to visit the area and evaluate the needs.

After a 6 hour, neck-breaking, back-thumping, butt-aching drive, we arrived in the tiny village of Haut Moustinque, about an hour and a half outside Port-de-Paix. We only had to ford the river 3 times and drive over 10 miles of terrain that cars only drive in SUV commercials. Maybe that's where Haiti's economic salvation will come from: off-road vehicle advertisements!

We'd hoped that our visit would be subtle, a quiet mission so that we wouldn't get anybody's hopes up if it turned out that we couldn't do anything. No such luck. There were over 500 people sitting in a newly built community center, waiting to greet us.

After our welcome speeches, Vanessa asked for any children who were not in school to step forward. Our tour of town showed us two schools, a national school with about 500 students from several nearby villages, and a small community school with 200 students. Despite that, close to 100 children stepped forward to get their names recorded that they were not in school.

The committee members and Sorelle led us from the community center all around the village and surrounding countryside, showing us different properties that they want to simply give to us. Dozens of villagers followed us around as we hiked up and down beautiful Haitian mountains. We climbed through thorns and banana trees and past voodoo priest houses and goats and sheep and donkeys and lots and lots of congo beans. My favorite piece of land was one that crested the hill and flattened out into a little valley adorned by a grove of sour orange trees and mango trees (second photo).

Bad knees and asthma do not make the experience of climbing up and down Haitian hills particularly pleasant. Vanessa was a real trooper and Sorelle and Bill were also real troopers, helping her out on the steeper parts. Good times, good times.

For the past 3 months, I have been surrounded by rubble from dawn to dusk. My home is constantly coated in gray dust from the demolition and my clothes and hair are stiff with dust by the end of the day. It was such a treat to be outside Port-au-Prince, to just see green again.

Even better than the beautiful mountains and all the trees was the river that runs through Haut-Moustique. The villagers took us to the spring where the river is born and they showed us the little bathing spot just below the house where we stayed. Growing up in Boston, my family's favorite pasttime was going to the woods where we hiked and we played in the streams and rivers. It was deeply therapeutic to spend an hour that evening splashing around, throwing rocks, bathing my feet, and chasing the goats and Bill. And in the morning, I woke up before everyone else to just sit in the stream and think and pray. It felt so incredibly good.

I think it was the best weekend I've had since the quake. It was almost, almost a vacation.

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