Last week took me to Gonaives for a 4 day visit. I did the usual translating, playing with half-naked children, and medical work, but I had time for some unusual, unusually fun outings.
Every time I have gone to Gonaives, I have looked at the mountain that towers over the city and wished that I could climb it. Time and temperature have always been against me but this time, my friend Ben and I decided to make it happen regardless. We scrambled and sweated our way up the mountain, through the low prickle bushes and the little rock terrace walls that are supposed to prevent mudslides. At the top, we circumnavigated the peak, going out on little crests and adjacent hills looking for the best views. We were not disappointed!
I got to be there for an artisan festival where the women of Jubilee, the dump ghetto where my friends work, sold their wares to American visitors. It was the first time that the women did their own sales, which required them to speak some basic English. They were very nervous, but when it was all over, many of them told me that they were proud of themselves and they had felt alez (confident) with the foreigners.
On each visit, I get to know a few more of the Jubilee kids and adults. It can be embarassing because I forget names swiftly while they tend to remember me very easily - how many white women come through Jubilee speaking perfect Creole? But I still try to focus on a few each time in hopes that eventually, I will really know them. This trip gave me Claudine, a little firecracker who I often want to hug and spank in the same breath.
In the evenings, my friends and I would walk across the dump and sand flats, through the salt harvesting pools out to the ocean with a group of kids. They would swim while we watched the sunset. All around us is poverty and trash and dusty barrenness. And yet below us are cheerful children and above us are the most magnificent skies I've ever seen. I sometimes wonder if God purposely puts the greatest beauty in the places of greatest ugliness.