Holiday Field Trip
Bonswa!! I hope this post finds you all loving life with great friends and grand adventures. I write to you tonight at the end of a very busy but phenomenal week in Haiti. We are as busy as ever writing grants, implementing education programs, planning for trips, building homes, conducting meetings, learning languages and many other endeavors that ensure I go to bed very tired at the end of each day!! A good feeling.
The week finished with a beautiful trip up the mountains to a historic site called Fort Jacques. Friday the 18th was a national holiday here in Haiti and many of the leaders of the deaf community coordinated a little field trip to take in the celebration of thousands of people up on the mountain. The leaders graciously invited me to come along for the day and I happily accepted.
Well, I showed up on friday morning to travel in true Haitian style, in a tap-tap bus (old and very colorful trucks now being used as public transportation). In America my guess would be that we would complain about being cramped if more than 8 people were piled in – in true Haitian fashion, (a place where I saw 5 people on a little motorcycle yesterday), we piled 20 people into the bus. At any time I believe there were at least 2 or 3 people sitting on me and another person laying across them – fun times for a more than 2 hour trip up the mountain and 2.5 hour trip back down!
We arrived at Fort Jacques to witness a pretty big party and celebration – I would liken the event to a city 4th of July party where everyone gathers together, pigs out, drinks too much, climbs on things, and then hikes around in the woods Needless to say I felt a little out of place as the only blan (white guy) in a crowd of several thousand. On many occasions I heard people say (in Kreyol), “hey look at the blan, what is he doing here?” And just as many times the guys from the deaf community clarified that I was with them and they were looking out for me – pretty cool.
I felt honored to be invited on the trip with them and to be included in all of the activities of the day. On many occasions they guys said, “now you are not American, now you are Haitian.” I take that statement as a massive compliment and a true sign that caring about one another and spending quality time together in fellowship can transcend cultural barriers. SWEET!
We spent several hours exploring the ruins of the Fort and soaking in the breathtaking views from the mountaintop. The pictures included in this post are some group photos from various locations that we hiked to and found together. I enjoyed observing many of the people on the trip and their amazement at a part of their country they had not experienced before. From the mountain we could view the sprawl of Port au Prince and the beautiful coastline. We also were able to observe a much more agricultural life that used to be a defining characteristic of life for most Haitian people.
For me, the views and the beautiful surroundings served as reminders of the new hope for the deaf community. About two months from now, 50 families will be moving into their new homes, planting gardens, playing soccer in open fields, attending good schools and setting up a new and sustainable life for themselves!!
On that note – a quick update on construction – the plots have been laid out for 16 homes for the deaf and 20 more will be finished by the end of Monday. By the end of the month we anticipate that the walls will be up on more than twenty of the homes!! Overall, right on schedule for the completion of 50 homes by the end of January. After the move, over a dozen deaf residents will begin work under a Haitian boss building the homes. Each person will make a fair wage while gaining skills in carpentry and masonry building more homes for the deaf community. Many of the Haitian bosses currently employed will continue work outside of MOH for the rest of their working lives – which means that if the members of the deaf community work hard on the crews they will have work well beyond the completion of the 500 homes at Leveque. Our repetitive mantra in the deaf community remains, “remember, deaf can do . . .” Here is a chance for the community to prove it to all of Haiti. I have no doubts that they will succeed and even surpass the expectations of everyone involved in the project. (see picture for construction site).
What a joy and grand adventure this life continues to be!
Cheers to this beautiful life!
grace and peace,