A March 2007 trip
to Haiti by ladyanne47
Quote: My first mission trip to Haiti introduced me to some of the most beautiful people and land I have ever seen.
Another form of transportation is by Tap Tap, a double decker bus ornately painted which can accomodate as many people as are capable of hanging on for dear life.Dirt, dust, and grime will fill the cabs and most times you have to wear a bandana over your nose and mouth inside and outside the tap tap.
The best places to stay are Les Jardins de l'Ocean, Brise de Mer, and Hotel Mont Joli. The extremely cheap places are mostly long-term for local residents, sailors, and taptap drivers. There are no phones and little security. One thing to know about though is that some of the mid-range hotels cost the same as a luxury hotel, so it is good to choose the better ones, which will cost the same in the long run. Also, sharing a room is not cheaper, as most will charge extra for that. This is good to know if you are traveling in a group.
Most of the restaurants in town serve either Haitian food or French cuisine and a few pizza joints. The best places to eat are Roi Christopher (262-0414 on Rue 24B part of the Hotel, Brise de Mer (262-0821 at 4 Carnegie), and the Feu Vert Restaurant on Bouvelard at Rue 24, open 9am to 10pm. Boros Bar is diverse and is a nightclub later on in the evening. Also, the Ozan Nan Na at 46 Rue 18A.
Cap-Haitien is a very relaxed city with a reportedly very low crime rate. The tourist market is very casual in comparison with Port-au-Prince. The traffic is lighter and calmer because of the narrow street. Remember, as with the rest of Haiti, do not drink the tap water. Always carry bottled water with you.
Around Cap-Haitien is the Henri Christophe's splendid palace, Sans Souci, and the mountaintop fortress, the Citadelle. Sans Souci is on the edge of the small town Milot. Entrance tickets are sold at the parking lot which also includes the Citadelle. You can rent horses to ride up to the Citadelle and it is a lot of fun. Some people walk and make just as good time. When we were there, they had touristy things to buy from local vendors and Haitian music was playing; a little hokey but entertaining.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 1, 2007
The everyday life of the Haitian is full of survival. Living off the land or harvesting a crop to sell in addition to that makes the countryside an interesting place to see. Animals roam freely to graze and many look so thin it is a wonder they are still alive. Pigs, donkeys, cattle, and goats are loose everywhere. Some of the smaller stock wear triangular yokes on their necks to keep them from entering the small huts and shacks where people live.
Horses are used to going back and forth to the fields carrying people or harvest or coal. Haitians harvest bananas, sugar cane, coconuts, and coffee. The coffee is now much more rare. Coal is used primarily for cooking and fuel which is made from burning the few trees that are left in Haiti. It is a loosing battle to save the trees and flora of Haiti due to the fact that they are needed to survive and yet their depletion is the cause of erosion and poor soil conditions for growing anything and polluting the water supplies of the people. It is a catch-22 for these poor people who work so hard just to get by. If you can get past the plight of the people, you will also notice how beautiful Haiti is as a country.
The mountains are so lovely and the higher altitudes have fewer mosquitoes and bugs. There are no poisonous snakes in Haiti also, but there are scorpions and tarantula spiders, so it is good to be aware of these at all times. And remember NEVER to drink any water in Haiti unless it is bottled water or canned beverages like soda.
. The huts or houses are humble and one way of making the sides of the homes are by weaving small thin branches like a basket all around the house's vertical sticks, then mud is applied to seal it. The tin rusty roofs just barely keep them from the elements and most floors are dirt or cement.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 1, 2007
We traveled to Haiti from Fort Pierce, FL on the Missionary Flights Incorporated Planes, and what a pleasant experience to actually have your pilot come out and pray with you and the rest of the passengers for a safe flight, and that is just what we had. It took about five hours in all. The views from the airplane were breathtaking and the color of the sea was a green-blue that you cannot describe. There is nothing else like it. It is a color I now dream about. Most call it Caribbean blue; it is uniquely beautiful.
Stopping on the way at Exuma in the Bahamas, we refueled and again headed for Haiti. As I could see the Tortoise Island just before Haiti, the coastline of Haiti could be seen just beyond and was edged with lacy white caps along the island's coastline. Off on the horizon of the mountains that lie just inward from the sea, you can make out the shape of the "Citadel" the castle-like fortress which has great historical richness and is one of the most visited places of interest in all of Haiti.
Arriving in Cap Haitian air port is a culture shock right from the start. You cannot make your way from the terminal door to your vehicle without being swamped with men trying to carry your bags for you, or begging for money. "Misses, misses," they shout, "gimme gimme doll-lar". Some even train their young children to beg, but at least it gets you ready to take sight of the amazing poverty that becomes so evident as soon as you start driving away from the airport and into the city.
Cap Haitian is a small city smothered in garbage everywhere you look, along the road, across the road, down every alley you look down, along every bridge or gutter of stagnant water. Goats, pigs, and donkeys grazing anywhere they can in the city streets among the many peddlers who line their tiny, make-do shops wherever they can find room along the main road. Shacks and dirt and grime covers every square inch, and the concentration of it is just overwhelming. Anger is your first reaction and, as an American, you can't understand how anyone or any country can live in such a high level of filth. There is no place to escape it. Poverty is all that you can see. The roads are in horrible condition with ruts and holes and mud if it has just rained. There is no order to anything, no rules, no regulations. Just total chaos.
Needless to say, I was anxious to get out of the city, and as we finally broke away from it, the road to Terrier Rouge was different but just as devastating. The poverty spreads out into the countryside, with shacks and huts along the road displaying a lifestyle that you cannot even imagine is really lived in. Children run naked or half clothed and shout "blan blan" as they see your white faces, and the adults wave at you as you drive by, the dust from the road seeps into the car, and dirt is everywhere, the trees and bushes along the road are even covered with the dust, and the greenness of the tropical trees can only be seen from a distance. The mountain ranges that follow the road on the right side hover high and distant and, once in awhile, you get a glimpse of the blue sea on the left. It is hard to capture the beauty because the poverty is so shocking. There are people walking along the road with large parcels and buckets balanced on their heads, or riding old mangy horses and donkeys that look half starved. Yet, everyone always waves to you. Soon, we come into a small village, and again the poverty is so concentrated. My head was spinning as I tried to believe what I was seeing. The poverty would not be so overwhelming if it wasn't for the amount of garbage strewn about, and the lack of hope that seemed to settle over everything. But one thing seemed very evident, the people who lived here were beautiful to look at, and the children had a joy about them that seemed impossible to believe while living in these conditions. We found ourselves going from small village to countryside again and again until finally our driver announced that Terrier Rouge was just up ahead. Creole is the main language here and some French is spoken but rarely.
Terrier Rouge was like the other villages, but the main street seemed wider, and the houses less crowded side by side.
Before I knew it, we took a sharp right-hand turn and into a narrow alley, two young boys opened a large double gate and we were soon inside a courtyard. This was my new home for two weeks. I will tell you more in my next story.
I know that speaking about children is not the thing that a tourist is wanting to hear, but I can assure you that if and when you visit you will feel the same way.
The most important thing that I learned by visiting Haiti, is that we have to leave all our American ways and pre-conceived ideas of how we think life should be lived behind in the states. If we do not, we will never have the gift of seeing a new life that may even be better than ours. After my first initial shock of seeing so much poverty, I opened my eyes internally and saw not poverty but a richness of life that we in America do not have. Simplicity and a slower pace that allows them to be more connected to the earth, sky, and all that is in between.
I now look back with shame on how I judged the Haitian people and the lack of the things I thought were important. I can see now those things are trivial. What is really important are people and family, basic survival, and a contentment for what little they have. I am going to post photographs of children faces, and more in the Haitian photo album in general. I hope you enjoy visiting the true Haiti.
The separate cookhouse was where our meals were prepared by local women hired by the pastor who owned the house and took care of visiting missionaries. Our beds were American style, the back of the house housed the pastor and his wife and daughters, and we shared three bedrooms in the front of the house that all were entered from the central sitting room.
A long table was situated in an eating area off the back of the house and it sat all eleven of us. We were very comfortable, and there were even times I actually felt guilty because the children we helped were so worse off. But they were use to it and we were not. High precaution was practiced when preparing our foods and even the bottled water and soda cans were washed in a chlorox solution and sanitized before putting in the cooler that was run by a generator. The electricity was turned off periodically to save money, but they put it on at night so we could sleep with the many fans on, our only relief from the intense heat.
I will never forget the hospitality of the Haitian people who worked so hard for us. They were great. The town was very poor, most did not have generators or bathrooms, only one and two rooms and a place to cook in the yards. The children did not wear clothes or just a minimum, and most were barefoot. However, when getting ready for school, their mums scrub them up and dress them in the required uniforms with shoes the sponsors usually send them. The girls hair is done in numerous bows and barrettes, and nothing is cuter.
The sponsorship helps over 1,000 children in Terrier Rouge and the villages of Danda, Paulette, Phaeton, Ouvray, Juchereau, and Roche Platte.
As soon as you leave the back gate, there are at least three children playing nearby who immediately grab your hand and intend on accompanying you wherever you go. You do not, I would like to add, have any say in the matter. Eventually you look like the Pied Piper because you will have several more children following you and your teammates, each hand is held, and you soon look like a parade of white and black bodies intertwined. We have a few families to go and see today, need to check on a sick girl and make a phone call home to America.
So come along, as we go down the Main Street towards the Telephone mini-business, we pass by a "Casket Making" shop. It is not unusual to have at least one funeral a week, so casketmaking is a viable business. Later on, you might pass some men passing the time (who do not have jobs, I might say) playing the very popular game in Haiti, dominoes. They have a custom that the loser wears clothespins attached to the skin around his face. Eventually, they look like a weird sort of lion. A little further along, we finally come to the telephone place, he charges us $3.00 for a three-minute call to America which is not bad at all. Having a group of missionaries in town has upped his business for the day. After the phone call, we stop and see a young girl who has been sick. She is paralyzed from the waist down and has had a lot of swelling all over her body. The physician's assistant that is with us has been monitoring her progress on a new medication. After that, we head back to our house through more narrow alleys past a town well, across a small gully bridge. It doesn't take too long, and then we will be off to the school down the street to process 50 more children for sponsorship. This takes the work of the whole team of eleven members, each doing a different task. Biographies are taken of each child, measurements for sizes, feet measured for shoes, height, each child is photographed twice and, of course, candy is given out when finished. That is one day. There are meals in between and time to play with the neighborhood children who are always waiting for you at the gate.
Stamford, New York