Haiti - Days 6 & 7

Île de la Gonâve

Days 6 & 7, June 30 - July1, Île de la Gonâve Haiti

Received July 3 due to lack of internet access on Île de la Gonâve

Dear Friends and Family,
http://www.warnermemorial.org/uploads/Girl_pink_shirt.jpgAs we drove through the mountains to see seedlings and the agricultural work, we passed houses and families or people walking, leading or riding burros.  Usually they would scrutinize us a bit, sometimes with a frown, stopping and staring at the two vehicles.  But then, when they saw Peter, they smiled, laughed, and shouted, "Peter, Peter."  And everywhere people knew him.  He had a special way with them, clasping handhttp://www.warnermemorial.org/uploads/Girl_with_Red_Greens.jpgs, a kiss on a cheek, and Creole greetings, news, and retold stories.

Peter told us their names and the history of their work in the communities.  We often stopped and visited.  Roads were rocky and uncertain, often washed out during hard rains.  We saw more burros and goats than motorcycles and trucks, and no working cars.

Large beach limestone boulders have to be hand cleared from the land.  Corn grows in small patches of soil between rocks.  Banana trees, manioc, papaya, cashew nut, and other trees and crops grow in small cleared patches of reddish-brown coarse soil.  Children of all ages help their families with the crops, watering, and animals.

http://www.warnermemorial.org/uploads/Girl_at_communal_water.jpgWater is available in communal areas at springs or wells but has to be carried in containers to homes.  Usually, women and children carry the water, often on their heads in containers.  Plants have to be watered individually by hand.  At the agricultural project, seedlings are cared for until they grow larger.  When rains are coming, larger seedlings are given to area families.

The only sign of mechanization that we saw was a treadle sewing machine at a family's home and a pump at one large cistern powered by solar panels.  But, in general, our impression was that the more rural communities seemed to have more food and stronger community connections than on average in Port au Prince even though http://www.warnermemorial.org/uploads/family_sewing_machine.jpgthey did not have electricity, toilets, or running water, as some have in town.
br /> Small towns, like Palma, each have different market days.  Whatever people have to sell is set out helter-skelter on rough wood tables or on blankets - unscented handmade soap, limes, meat, live chickens, homemade nut candies, rubber balls.
br /> As we descended, the rocks and dust again became whiter, dustier and drier. Crops, trees, and houses were few and far between.  Organic content had either been washed away because of clear-cutting to sell mahogany and charcoal, http://www.warnermemorial.org/uploads/Littered_shore.jpgor it had been nearly non-existent in the first place because of the lower-altitude heat and lack of rain.

As we neared the town where Peter lives, litter increased alarmingly along the roadside and even along the shoreline.  Peter lives very simply, a single room, his clothes on hooks, a wash basin and large water container, a small chest of drawers.

http://www.warnermemorial.org/uploads/Peters_house.jpgPeter eats his meals at Fifi's guesthouse when he can.  Fifi seems to be one of the "saints" of La Gonâve.  She feeds a community of people.  Every year after Christmas, she provides a meal for as many as 400 poor people, her Fête Pauvre.  She made a special cake for our group on our last night that said "I love you very much" in pink icing.  While some of us were already asleep, she was still washing dishes, perhaps in the dark as the electricity shuts off every night.

Warner Team