Centenary to Haiti

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Boarding Time

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Today is the last day we spent in Haiti. We didn’t really do much we just finished packing and most of us were trying to finish up our journals. Some of us however went on a small tour of Port-au-Prince and went to the top of a mountain to get a great view.

Being in Haiti I have learned a bunch of different things. Zamni Lasante does a bunch for this country to try to help better itself. By trying to be self-sufficient and not relying on foreigners to run the programs. It helps the push the people to be able to do things on there own instead of having people come in and do all the work for them. It was great to see, and it proves the point that the news exaggerates the truth.

This was by far one of the greatest trips I have taken. I was very skeptical at first, but after being here 2 weeks I feel very comfortable in Haiti. I definitely see myself coming back sometime in the future. Hopefully I can speak kreyol a little bit better by then.

There are a few tips I want to let y’all in on, if you ever plan to go to Haiti:
1. When in Haiti you are on island time. So if you are supposed to go do something at 8:30 am, you will probably be leaving closer to 9am.
2. Driving in Haiti is a lot different from the states. There are no rules to driving, just suggestions. But a person could still get pulled over and get a ticket for wreckless driving.
3. Whatever plans you make, they are alway subject to change.
4. Get a lot of hiking practice in before you come. Go take a couple 4 to 5 hour hike in the Arkansas mountains, since Haiti is know for the mountains it has.
5. It’s always nice to keep a Haitian with you. For us, having Marie Flore and Victoria around it made things easier and people don’t try to overcharge too much for things. Also they know all the great places to go.
6. Be expecting to be swarmed by people trying to sell you things. They are just trying to make a living and they do understand what no means if you don’t want to buy anything.
7. Try to manage your time well, so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery Haiti has.
8. Lastly the best advice is something that Mrs.Jackie told us. You have to have a high-tolerance for frustration, a good sense of humor, and have a strong stomach.

For the last update on everyone,
We all made it back to the states safely.

Lauren and Joanna have become inseperateable.
Angie is a shapeshifting animal that could be a seal,mermaid,goat, and probably a few other ones.
Ninja, Chantel, and Star have really emersed themselves in the culture here to the point of being confused for Haitians.
Ryan and Jordan have almost finished all the books they brought with them.
Heather got her exercise in most days.
Ericka is now fluent in 4 languages.
Eli brought the sexy back
Ashley is still being super chill with the mermaid she is bringing back.

Jordan

Closing Time

These past few days have been filled with crazy adventures, hence our absence lately. Moms no need to worry we are all alive safe and sound! In fact we are all doing really well, we might just stay in Haiti a few extra weeks.

The past few days have been nonstop busy!! We traveled from Cange (Zanmi Lasante) which has been our wonderful home for the past two weeks to Port-au-Prince, where we are staying in a beautiful guest home. As we were driving two hours to Port-au-Prince yesterday many emotions were going through my mind. Are we really ready to leave? Can we do any else? Have we all benefited from the trip? We’ll no need to worry about that lat question because we have all had an experience of a lifetime.

Passing through many areas over these past two weeks we have seen both the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, and we have bonded both as a group, but also with the Haitian culture (we even want to bring Haitian cooks so y’all can experience the incredible food!!)

Yesterday touring Port-au-Prince we went to a very interesting Haitian historical museum, which helped all of us understand the culture we have lived in the past two weeks. Did you know they even had a female president for almost a full year?! Haiti truly is a revolutionary country.

We also were able to drive past one of the largest cathedrals within Haiti. Earthquake damage took a huge toll on this once beautiful building so we were unable to go inside. Despite the major earthquake in 2010 the area has definitely built up. What was once a large tent city there are now streets full of vendors and monuments. It seems interesting that a city can bounce back from such an incredible disaster as well as Port-au-Prince.

One of our final Haitian explorations involved going to a RAM concert. RAM’s music is much like the southern Louisiana bluegrass style, but with some added Haitian twang. The concert began at 11pm, way past any of our bedtimes and we were told to bring our “sexy”… So khakis it was! Before the concert began I had the awesome pleasure of speaking with a Haitian man and his wife about the cooking culture in Haiti. He is currently a private chef and she worked at the Olofosen Hotel which hosted the concert. It is incredible to me how important they found coming back to Haiti to share what they had learned from American colleges. Education seems like such a small thing in our society, everyone is given the opportunity to go through high school and potentially college if they play their cards right. However for Haitians things are not that simple. Extra steps are taken in order to achieve the best education and most of the time that means sending children, who are lucky enough, to the states for college.

Realizing that we are going to be home in under 48 hours definitely makes a person realize how blessed they are. Things such as education, hot showers, air conditioning, stop signs, and so much more, that seemed so trivial before this trip, now seem incredible. The mountains beyond mountains will greatly be missed, but the flat swampy Red River is calling us home.

Updates for Parents and friends:
Chantel found the best earrings ever yesterday
Eli had Airheads for the first time since the ’90′s
Angie is staying super energized with lots of water and rest
Castaralla danced the night away at RAM
Ryan learned the proper way of opening a starburst
Ericka is awesome for bringing playing cards everywhere
Jordan doesn’t always enjoy staying awake past 10:30pm
Ashley is still wishing to stay longer and enjoy the Haitian mountains
Ninjia was rocking an awesome fro
Joanna didn’t have to sit in the back of the van for once
Lauren received an exclusive back of the van spa treatment
And I (Heather) am thankful for the ability to fall asleep anywhere, including a really loud concert

As a group, we promise to travel safely these next two days as we head back home. If we can make it through the streets of Haiti we can make it through anything!! This chapter of our lives has made a greater impact than imaginable but it’s time to see all your lovely faces again.
Sent with much love, from the Mountains,
Heather Wilson

Battle at the Citadel!

Yesterday we went spend the day out in the bustling city of Cap Haitian! We had a wonderful breakfast at our hotel, the Roi Christophe, where we had Haitian delicacies and fresh fruit from the trees in the courtyard of the hotel. Next we went to the Citadel Laferriere, which was was atop of the Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain. Our guide and translator Victoria haggled with the Haitians at the foot of the mountain to get us a good deal on horses to ride to the citadel! Yes, everyone rode horses to the top of a 3,000ft tall mountain! It was a scary ride for a lot of people because they had never rode a horse before.
When we reached the citadel, it was even more astonishing than I would have ever imagined! It’s 130 feet high and 108,000 square feet and was built by over 20,000 men, using cows blood and quicklime for mortar.
The ride down the mountain was a bit scary because the trail was so steep, and relying on a tired horse is a bit of a daunting task.
After visiting the citadel we went to the San Souci Palace. It was the place of residence for Christophe during his reign.
Exploring all the 18th century remains made us hungry so we visited La Kay ( house in Haitian Creole) restaurant that was across the street from the Caribbean ocean. Majority of the group ordered Pizza (we really miss American cuisine).
Souvenirs are a must so we went to flea market type souvenir shop where we haggled and bargained to get the best deals on Haitian memorabilia.
I have to say that the best part of the day was walking the streets of Cap Haitian and getting to see the grand cathedral that’s located there. The streets reminded many of us of Jackson Square in New Orleans.
Around 8:00 we went back to La Kay to socialize and dance to Haitian music!

Ninjia- danced the night away at La Kay
Castaralla- was queen of the dance floor
Ryan- enjoyed his first time riding a horse
Jordan- walked 7km down from the citadel because his horse gave up
Eli- managed to make it to the top of the citadel despite his fear of heights
Joanna and Lauren – made good souvenir purchases and cut up on the dance floor
Ashley- was a bit sore from the horse ride, but still managed to have a good time at the Kay
Angie- took beautifull pictures in the citadel
Ericka- enjoyed the food at the Kay and haggled her way to 9 bracelets for $4
Heather- rode her horse without any assistance and did a few dance moves
Chantel- was forced to dance at the Kay and enjoyed walking the streets of Cap Haitian

Ridin’ 19 deep Haitian style

When the alarm began going off around 5am, Angie and I burrowed deeper in our beds until Heather started knocking on our door to inform us we had five minutes. For a few seconds I contemplated foregoing the sunrise hike for an extra hour of sleep. Then I remembered our Haiti adventure is more than halfway over and we were leaving for Cap Haitian today. When would I get this chance again?!
We stumbled around, tripping over shoes and clothes on the way to the bathroom to run a toothbrush over our teeth, and joined Chris, his wife, Jennifer, Ryan, Heather, Ericka and Taylor in the dining area before heading out. I was still half asleep as we reached the street and headed left down an incline. Even though it was still dark outside, we passed a few people who were already up and about for the day. We turned off the paved road onto a rock path slick with mud and running between a line of cinder block and tin houses. The trail was slippery and the damp humid air soon had as all drenched. We were all happy when we made it to the top of the ridge and were able to look out over the valley and lake as fog and mist danced and rolled across the mountains. The sun only peeked out at us through the fog for a few minutes before wrapping herself away for the day. The hike was still worth every second.
After our daily dose of cold showers, a yummy wheat pancake breakfast (and the panicked, last minute packing that went on in my room) we were ready for our questionable time-length road trip to Cap Haitian. When Victoria pointed out the teeny tiny white van parked at the front steps as our ride, I’m not sure any of us believed her…I certainly didn’t. Even as we began the process of stuffing ourselves and our bags into impossible small places, I kept waiting for another car to pull up and for the professors to start laughing and telling us it was a joke. First of all, this was a 15 person van. But even 15 people was stretching it because the seats are small and leg room is nearly nonexistent. Somehow we fit 19 people and all of our bags into this van. Let’s just say if there had been any boundaries left between us…they were now gone.
After 30 minutes of sitting like packed sardines in the van, scared to unpack it, we finally began our close and personal road trip across Haiti (did you know most Haitians LOVE Celine Dion??) The ride was actually beautiful, if you were able to catch a glimpse outside the windows between the mass of bobbing heads.
A shout out to the back row (Joanna, Angie, Lauren, and Jordan): I hope the the back of our heads (row 4: Heather, me, Taylor, and Ericka) were as nice as row 3 (Eli, Ryan, Amy, and Jennifer) and row 2 (Ninja, Castaralla, and Chantel).
The winding roads laid themselves out before us, tucking themselves tight against mountain sides with sheer drop offs on one side. As we road up into the mountains, fog surrounded us (I think it was a cloud) lending the scene an ethereal quality. We supposedly took the smoother route….which was extremely bumpy (this makes me a little scared of what the rough route looked like). It began raining and the tin roof effect throughout the van was successful in coaxing a few people asleep despite the close quarters.
I think we all became a little unsettled when we rounded a corner and headed directly into a mass of people. We had descended right in the middle of a funeral. There are no sidewalks in Haiti, nor any places to pull onto the side of the road. We came to an abrupt stop as the funeral procession parted and enveloped us on each side. The men and women were dressed in their Sunday best as they loped across the rocky ground. When the casket came into view between people I noticed it move up and down as the pall bearers danced and cried. It was both unnerving and powerful to watch such blatant displays of emotion and suffering. I felt in that moment connected to these people as a fellow human being, yet separate as a blan (white/foreigner).
At a halfway point, we stopped at a GAS STATION! All of were taken by surprise, none of us believing they existed in Haiti. We were spoiled by AC and junk food for 30 minutes before folding ourselves back into the van.
Six and half hours after beginning our (4 hour) journey, we arrived!! Many of us haven’t gotten a good look yet due to the continued mass of bobbing heads, but from what we could see, Cap Haitian is very different from our experience with Cange. It seemed industrial and a lot more crowded. Our surprise continued when we pulled into the Roi-Christoph hotel! Like something out of a movie, palm trees fanned and shaded every. corner with tucked away nooks outfitted with quaint tables and chairs. Miniature jungles hid old wooden staircases and terraced patios. We were all completely awestruck. Especially upon seeing the swimming pool and hearing whispers of hot water. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the rain and watching Lauren take Joanna down in a chicken fight.
The abrupt change from an environment of poverty to a luxurious hotel has us all a bit culture-shocked. Doesn’t mean we appreciate any of the luxuries any less, we are just all enjoying them immensely at the moment!
I think we deserve a fun day tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed the rain holds back and allows us a beach day!

Updates:
Eli loaded up on travel sickness meds today
Lauren gave into her desire to play with Taylor’s hair
Joanna shared Lauren with Angie for the day (and then dunked in the pool)
Ninja looked like she got a cushy seat close to the front
Ryan was able to hold his book steady in spite of bumps almost the entire ride
Star avoided the wind blown look with her pretty head scarves
Jordan sat in a corner all day and was NOT able to hold his book steady
Chantel looked like she had to play footsie with Chris the whole trip
Angie gave her roomie a free back massage over the seat (thanks!)
Heather accidentally hung her buttocks out the van window
Ericka scored sleep on our row…I don’t know how she ended up with all that extra room

Be home soon guys!
Ashley

Bònn fèt Drapo! (Happy Flag Day!)

We began our day like we usually do, with a shower and a good breakfast. Since it’s Sunday, we once again attended the Episcopalian Haitian Church. The service was very similar to last Sunday’s; however, it was a bit shorter. After singing, shaking hands, and listening to the sermon the service was over. Before we moved to our next destination the final member of our group made it to Haiti! Jennifer, Chris’ wife, arrived today to spend the last week in Haiti with us (Can you believe we’ve been here for over a week?). Time is flying.

May 18 is Haiti’s flag day, as such our group took a trip to Hinche, a city nearby, to celebrate the holiday. We arrived to a plaza and like usual, our group drew the attention of the local people. In the middle of the place a group of teenagers performed a routine to the bit of the music. Blue and red ribbons and flags decorated the place. After the teenagers performance was over, a group of children took the stage and acted the creation of the flag. According to the story, after a battle the revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines took the French flag, removed the white center and rotated the stripes leaving the blue and red to represent the former slaves and the mulatto population, creating the Haitian flag. The children’s performance was truly adorable! After being in the plaza for an hour or so we determined that we were hungry and overheated so we decided to come back to the Zanmi Lasante campus.

Once in campus we had lunch. Typically on Sundays they give fried chicken and today was not the exception! The pasta, chicken, salad, and cake were absolutely delicious, believe me when I say that these Haitians know how to cook! After lunch some of us were going to go for a two hour walk around Cange, however the rain cancelled our plans. As a result we ended up with a chunk of free time that some of us used for napping, resting, or playing cards.

Dinner time arrived. We had a simple dinner. After dinner Jennifer distributed candy that she had brought from America! We were all very excited. It was like Christmas in May. I didn’t realize how much we missed candy until she showed the bags and we all excitedly distributed it among us. We relaxed and talked while we ate our candy.

An hour later we were asked to go to the dinner place because they had prepared a show for us. We did not know what to expect but once we got there we found a band of twoubadou musicians. They performed for about an hour. Their vivid music put us all in a good mood. Ninjia and Castaralla ventured to dance with some of the musicians, we all enjoyed it a lot. That concluded our day. All we have to do is pack some cloths and get ready for Cap-Haitian tomorrow.

Check in:
Jordan has picked up the book again.
Joanna and Lauren have kept the giggles and talks.
Castaralla and Ninjia have shown their dancing abilities.
Chantel pulled a Chantel by graciously declining a dance offer by one of the locals.
Heather deciding to go for a run, sadly it started to rain in the middle of her run.
Ryan is desperately trying to catch up with his journals.
Ashley is the best roomie (and she is still super chill).
Ericka keeps improving her Creole making new friends everywhere.
Eli saved the day by warning us about a bat in the balcony.

Angie Adame

Zombies, Waterfalls, and The Virgin Mary, Oh my!!!

Our reading for today was about zombies. No, not the walking dead that eat brains but zombies from voodoo practices. A ‘zombie’ is someone who is a slave forever. It is believed in voodoo practices that someone who commits suicide can become a ‘zombie’ and not be carried to the promised land. They have no control over their actions. Only their masters can control them. People who do not practice voodoo cannot tell zombies from everyone else.

After a relaxing morning of resting after breakfast, we left for Saut D’eau around 10:30am. Friends from George Mason and Clemson joined us in piling up into the bus and praying that we made it up and down the mountains. After surviving the stick shift bus zig-zagging up and down mountains without anyone vomiting, we arrived to the white and blue gates of Saut D’eau.

Outside the gates is where Lauren gave us a very informative presentation about the history of the waterfall and the spotting of a wild Voodoo spirit. It is said that if you dip your head under the water and make a wish, the wish will come true. It is also said that if you visit the wild spirit and she grants your wish, you must perform a sacrifice or you will be killed… It is also believed that if a person wishes to go to the United States and does not come back to the waterfall, the wild spirit will kill them. Another story that is told is that the Virgin Mary was spotted on a palm tree near the waterfall, but a Catholic priest cut the tree down because he did not want Catholicism associated with Voodoo.

Many Haitians come and visit the waterfall as a religious and leisure activity. During June and July, they have many festivities and celebrations around the waterfall.

Well, we didn’t see the wild spirit, nor did we see the Virgin Mary. We did see a beautiful waterfall that flowed over slippery, mossy rocks. The rocks were carved out by the rushing white water and the moss was a welcoming bright green.
We first hiked up to the top of the waterfall, where we took many group photos and selfies. Everyone got into the water, except Amy and I. We stayed ashore and laughed at everyone slipping and falling. (No Centenary students were harmed in the making of this blog post, but Chris’s knee did bleed, so he was the sacrifice to the voodoo goddess.)

Many Haitians bathed naked in the water. This is because they believe that leaving your clothes behind is symbolic of leaving baggage behind, and the water rinses away your past troubles. Luckily, everyone in our group kept their clothes on.

While folks enjoyed splashing in the water, I observed weaver birds building elaborate nests. Their bright yellow, black, and green colors matched the white waters elegantly.

When we got back to campus we were given some free time. Some students went to Jackie’s art shop on campus and some rested. Ryan found the holy grail at Jackie’s shop and I found a really cool Kreyol CD. Ericka, Heather, Ashley, and Angie went back down the steps to Ba Cange. They confirmed that there are 536 steps.

After dinner, we were promised ‘cultural experiences,’ but a rainstorm but a damper on our plans. Alas, our cultural experiences are to be continued.

Updates:
Heather is loving the French toast.
Lauren’s evil twin isn’t around anymore (or at least, that’s what she wants us to think.)
Jordan is almost done with reading his second Game of Thrones book.
Ryan found the holy grail.
Ninjia was the best dressed.
Star & Chantel tried to find a Haitian husband for Ninjia.
Ashley is hoping her wish comes true.
Ericka is remains the blog master.
Angie’s mango got dragged and eaten under her bed by something other than a rat.
Joanna wished for her blisters to get better, and her wish came true.
Chris learned that slippery rocks be slippery.
Amy might steal Thomas the cat.

Bonswa Zamni (good night friend),
Eli

Market Day

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After a late start and a quick lesson in Haitian money and bargaining, we headed to the mache, or market, in Domon. Joanna, Ryan, Ashley and I were in a group together and had 250 goude, or 50 Haitian dollars (OR about 6 American dollars) to get limes, tomatoes, and a wash basin to do our clothes in. Victoria, our translator, and Zekle, our “body guard,” led the way through the mache. This is not your downtown Shreveport Saturday morning farmers’ market. We dodged wheel barrels and ducked under makeshift tents and avoided stepping on the displays of fruits and grains laid on the ground and passed a multitude of goats and pigs squealing with their feet tied. First stop, wash basins.
The first woman we went to wanted 15 Haitian dollars for a medium sized basin, 30 for a large. We went to another woman who wanted 20 for a small basin, and because they were the only two people selling what we needed, we went back to the first woman. She looked at Victoria. “Are these beautiful blan (foreign) people going to buy something from me?” We tried to talk her down from 15 to 12 Haitian dollars, but she wasn’t having it. We moved on to the tomatoes. One woman offered three tomatoes for 5. The woman next to her offered five for 5. Neither wanted to negotiate. 5 for 25 it is.
Victoria stopped us on our way to buy limes. “You have to use your body to talk. Don’t look like you want it that bad.” She put her hand on her hip and did a full body eye roll to demonstrate. Sassy, and done with a micro-smile. A playful but serious game.
We found someone selling limes asking for 35. Victoria loudly and dramatically haggled for lower and got it to 25. “If they’re dry, I know your face,” she said. “I’ll come back for you.”
We had the tomatoes and the limes, but we still needed something to wash our clothes in. Victoria said we should buy a chicken, but I’m sure she just wanted to see us try to carry it around. A crowd started forming around us consisting of men and women with live chickens strapped to their bodies. They wanted 50 Haitian dollars for one chicken. They were too much, so we moved along.
Third round with the basin lady. She was sitting under her tent, mango in hand with a bite taken out of it. She didn’t look up. “If you’re not going to buy something, go away. I’m eating lunch.” Victoria tried to sweet talk her, but she’s not budging. We paid her 15 for the black wash basin and rolled out.

After lunch we headed down to where the women do laundry at ZL. They had several large wash basins filled with water set out for us (the one we bought at the market was embarrassingly small). Ericka had a space open next to her so I dumped my clothes in with hers. Most of us finished the first wash (however poorly), but then it was time for the second wash. The Haitian women kind of took over, and I didn’t want to just watch them, so I told one woman I want to help, “Mwen vle ede ou.”
She gave me the okay, so I picked up a white shirt and watched how she does it. She’s using her left hand like a washboard and her right palm to scrub. I made my first attempt under the observation of the women…they found this all too hilarious. After a minute the woman took the shirt out of my hand, and gave me a sock instead. Before I put the sock in the rinse pile, she said, “Non, mal.” Not good enough. Keep scrubbing.
I guess I looked uncomfortable, so she showed me how to position myself. Sit on the curb, hike up your skirt a little, rest your knees against the sides of the basin and your elbow on your knee. Then scrub.
Right when I started wishing for the half-broken laundry machines in the James Annex basement, the woman got my attention. She pointed at the sock I was about to put in the rinse pile. “Bèl,” she said. Beautiful. I’ve never described a sock that way, but then again, I’ve never rubbed my knuckles raw trying to get one clean until today.
I asked the woman next to me how she was, and she asked me my name. The women tried to talk to me but I really had no idea what they were saying. Near the end of scrubbing all my friends’ and professors’ sweat- and Haiti-covered socks, the woman said “you’re talented, my child.” I wasn’t expecting that term of endearment. I told her she was a good teacher.
We finished with that, and again, tired of standing around, I asked if I could take a bucket of finished clothes back to our dorm. At first she said yes, then she said it was too heavy. I suppose because I’m stubborn, I picked it up anyway. It was hella heavy. But I was not about to let those women know that, nor was I going to drop it in front of all the other women who do every bit of background work and heavy lifting around here. Ashley helped me carry it around the corner and out of sight to put it down and readjust. We carried it together a little while longer, but once we got to the stairs, I took my wet pajama pants out, rolled them into a circle, and used it to balance the basin on my head (as most Haitian women do). Let me tell you, it was exponentially easier to carry that way. I get the appeal.

Updates:
Eli loves the mangos here.
Joanna’s blisters still hurt.
Ryan kept up with the change.
Jordan found the shortcut.
Chantel and Angie are loved by Haitian women.
Heather did not get run over by a horse.
Ninjia and Star are still practicing their Creole.
Ashley is best friends with Zekle
Ericka got her shoe fixed for 50 cents.

With love from Ayiti,
Lauren

Riding a Haitian Wave

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Today’s blog is brought it you by Joanna and Ericka, at the View, having a traditional Haitian beverage.

Ericka: I woke up this morning to go and watch the sunrise and get trekked through the mountains by Taylor. I woke up at 5:05 am and was down in the dining room at 5:25 am. Ryan and Jordan were already there, and we all took off (Ryan, Jordan, Chris, Taylor, and me). The walk was about 15 minutes because we took off and only stopped when I was huffing and puffing a little too much for comfort! We sat/stood up there for about 15 minutes, then bam! The sun rose quickly once it began at 6:18 am. I do believe it was worth waking up early, hiking, running out of breath, waiting, and making the sweaty hike back. Breakfast was a beautiful reward. :)

Joanna: I tried to wake up this morning to go watch the sunrise. I slept in instead. By slept in I mean I woke up a 7:30, which I guess is Haitian sleeping in.

Ericka: Yeah, I probably should have banged on your door, DJ J Dubs. Oh, some people went to Cange with Alan and took in the sights that the marketplace and the homes of Cange-Ian Haitians. Angie was very welcome in the community (her mystical curls could definitely get her in to trouble). Ashley said that it was her favorite thing we’ve done so far. I wish I had gone. Getting up at 5 am really makes a difference.

Joanna: I’m glad you didn’t, Big E. I needed to sleep in and recuperate. I wish I had gone into Cange too but I wanted to save energy for today’s activity. We went down the stairs, on stairs, on stairs, to Ba Cange which literally translates into “below Cange.” Ba Cange is home to multiple villages of people who have reaped fewer benefits from the various aid programs around Cange. Our path to the village was interrupted by a river. I anticipated walking a cross the river but the Haitians traveling with us had a different plan. Almost all of us, including Dr. Hammond and Dr. Ciocchetti, we’re piggybacked across the river (see picture).

Ericka: It was a truly funny thing to see all the blan being carried across the river. I’m glad Ryan and Jordan and Eli and Lauren walked across and made us look less pathetic. Those stairs were not so bad going down today, at least for me… Once we got to the village, we split in to three groups with one interpreter in each. Eli took charge and immediately gave assignments to himself, Heather, Jordan, and me. Eli was the fact documenter. Heather was the dictionary word finder. Jordan was the physical appearance note taker and photographer. I was the speaker. Our interview process went pretty well. It was sad to see that the family of many of the older matriarchs had left. Their children knew the opportunities in Ba Cange were nearly nothing (based on what they’d seen their parents do). I could never imagine being so limited in opportunity (the USA is full of it) that I felt the only thing I could do was leave and accept that I may never see my mom and sister again. What a downer… Sorry, J Dubs. Can you pick us back up?

Joanna: Well… I’m not sure I can. Ba Cange was a very overwhelming experience. Our group, Lauren, Ryan, Angie, and myself, talked to an older man in the village who had a lot to say about how Ba Cange has been ignored or forgotten by any programs happening just up the mountain. The villages don’t have clean water, electricity, or the healthcare programs we’ve seen throughout Cange. They wondered why we couldn’t bring these things to Ba Cange. It was really hard to be there and not have an answer for them. Sorry Big E, I didn’t lighten the mood.

This is your captain (Angie) speaking, things were not as bad. People were excited to see us, we were probably the most interesting thing happening to that town in the day (maybe even in the whole week). We got to meet interesting people and learn about their families. After being there for a while we decided to leave because it seemed like it was gonna rain. Before leaving, people from Zanmi Lasante distributed Tom’s shoes (yay! Tom’s actually get distributed to people like they claim they do). We left because people got a little too excited about the shoes. We walked back and sadly we skipped the carrying people through the river because we took a different “easier route.” Sadly, we couldn’t take a picture of Dr. Ciocchetti being carried again. We took this route who took us to the middle of the stairs and (Sweet Jesus Christ) we had to climb those stairs again. We finally made it to the top and there was an unexpected bus waiting for us to take us back to the Zanmi Lasante campus (yay!). We came back and had delicious dinner (potatoes and goat).

Big E signing off.

An Adventure a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

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So today was a bit more laid back than the last few days have been. We took the morning off, though most of us spent the “time off” by catching up on all the journals that we have been putting off. Even though we had the morning off, the day was still filled with activity. One of the main food for thought topics has been the role of foreigners in Haitian development, and today was filled with circumstances that fed this topic.

We started our activities by going to the art shop on campus, which is run by a fantastic, older woman named Jackie. There we met some Haitian artists (who thankfully knew some English). We saw beautiful metal art, textiles, and pottery, all made by Haitian artists in a workshop above Jackie’s art shop.

Afterwards, we visited CFFL, which is a school for agriculture, construction, and woodworking. The school had about 66 students, but had plenty of room for expansion. It had computers running AutoCAD for drafting, a workshop with new tools for woodworking, and had lab equipment that many of our biology majors said was newer than Centenary’s. The school was taught by Haitians, and the director was Haitian.

Finally, we visited the hospital in Mirebalais, a town near Cange. The hospital is partnered with The Haitian Government and Zamni Lasanti, and opened about two years ago. It is now one of the largest hospitals in Haiti, and people come from all over the region to have the modern care this facility offers. While we were given the tour by an American woman, all but three of the doctors where Haitians.

I think it is a wonderful thing that so many of these projects are managed by Haitians. Both CFFL and the hospital were funded by millions of dollars in donations, and often these donations were primarily from international companies. I am somewhat surprised that the international aid groups did not insist that a well known figure manage each of these institutions. With Haitians in charge, the entire program feels much more sustainable. Even though they may not have had extensive international education, the Haitians are able to run these programs effectively and efficiently.

The “save the Haitians” mentality that so many groups seem to focus on was successfully avoided by these three projects. The Haitians are easily capable of running their own development projects; they only need money and a bit of training to be succesful. I feel this is often the pitfall that missionary groups stumble into. Haitians don’t need help building houses, or learning more about religion. What they really need is foreign investment, especially into education, and maybe a few people who can teach stay a while, learn he culture, and teach a bit of English.

People update!
Congratulations to Lauren and Joanna.
Too bad for Jordan, but maybe he can meet someone while he is in Haiti.
I was able to walk through a peanut butter factory without passing out, which was pretty cool.
Eli is continuing to be inquisitive about all things biology related.
Ericka is always able to help translate our attempts at creole into something the natives can actually understand.
Angie has still continued to be the energizer bunny of the group.
Heather has avoided needing to step back into her well-used boot.
Finally, props to Ashley, Castaralla, Ninjia, and Chantel for always being willing to meet new peoples and have long conversations with them.

I Kannot Even.

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I’m going to go ahead and speak for everyone when I say we’re hurting from yesterday’s adventure. American muscles are not conditioned for Haitian mountains.

Today was much less physically strenuous. We took a bus down the road from campus to the Peligre Lake’s shore. The bus dropped us off right next to the Peligre dam, an American built energy source of Cange, Port Au Prince, and various villages throughout Haiti. At face value, the dam has improved the lives of many throughout Haiti by bringing them electricity. However, face value, as we are seeing a lot during this module, only goes so far. Jordan gave a presentation about the history of the dam. The picture he gave us is not the standard depiction of American aid programs. At least from what I have seen, Americans generally only hear of the good our money brings to impoverished communities around the world, but we almost never hear the full story. From what Jordan described, it seemed like the Cange and Blanchard communities did not ask for or even want this dam, knowing that the energy benefits were intended for the middle and upper class of Port Au Prince and that there needs were just secondary concerns. I think this was really brought to light when we saw abandoned equipment left in the middle of the village. According to our translator, the cranes and huge machinery had been left after the dam was constructed a few decades ago because they were too expensive to transport out. So now, the locals are stuck with massive, useless junk in the middle of their community. Seeing that really pissed me off. I felt like these people were being exploited and disregarded. I can’t say for certain, but I think the sentiments of the community were about the same. We saw a lot of graffiti around the dam that said things like “we need jobs!” From what I gaged, this dam-adjacent community held particular animosities towards us “blan,” foreigners.

Five of us, Angie, Ashley, Heather, Lauren, and myself, volunteered to take a kannot, a kind of Haitian canoe, trip across the lake to the village. Calling it a canoe is being nice. Imagine a hollowed out tree trunk with a paddle. That’s pretty much what this little boat was. It was fun though! And it was really nice not to hike today and to take in the beauty of the Haitian scenery.

In Blanchard, we visited the village’s school and a community gardens that grow cocoa and coffee beans. I think we all really love interacting with Haitian children. This school had been around for about 30 years, so this community is probably one of the more educated villages in Haiti. Eli gave a presentation on the Haitian education system earlier that day.The schools here are very different than they are in the State. There is no standard grade system. I’ve met 16 year olds who are in the third grade and 10 year olds who are in the sixth grade. When we meet the older students, nearly all of them are boys. Eli told us that girls generally stop going to school at about the fifth grade so the majority of well educated people in Haiti are male. It’s hard to think about growing up with unequal standards like that. Everyone was brave enough to take the canoe trip back and somehow, the tree trunk managed to carry everyone safely.

When we got back, we took an official tour of the Zamni Lasantè campus. Being a weekday, there were a lot more people around. It was nice to see the campus but I didn’t particularly enjoy this tour. Our guide took us into the emergency, maternity, and pediatric wards of the hospital. It was really uncomfortable just busting up in there. It felt like we were at a zoo, just staring at and observing these people, which felt pretty messed up. The ZL people told us that there was nothing wrong with what we were doing, but it definitely felt wrong. The hardest part was the pediatric ward. There weren’t many children there but most of them had been abandoned by their parents. I hadn’t really had an emotional reaction to Haiti yet, but seeing these children was really heartbreaking. They told us many of these kids will be put in group or foster homes. We went to one just down the street from campus. I think there were about ten kids that we met, but they were all really healthy and seemed like they were in some of the best conditions we’ve seen so far. I immediately fell for this one little boy who just looked so grumpy. Baby looked like he had to pay taxes. But they were all awesome kids. It was good to see healthy, happy children after seeing such sick ones.

Updates:
The Haitian boys love Castarella. Apparently she looks like a Haitian celebrity.
Ryan is dodging the peanut butter really well.
Eli is our resident photographer.
Angie is still so full of energy.
Ericka’s speaking creole so well.
Heather found her soulmate: the grumpy kid at the group home.
Ninja made friends with one of the older girls at the home, which was super cool to see
Ashley’s staying chill.
Jordan lost his girlfriend to Lauren.
Lauren has a new girlfriend.
Chantel manages to be fabulous everyday.

So far, every day has been kind of like this: packed full of stuff. I feel like we’ve already been here for at least a week. I’m still not quite used to everything yet. Like as I was writing this a tree frog came out of nowhere, jumped across the room, and hopped right into a bathroom. I think it’s still in there… Someone will find it.

With love from Haiti,
Joanna Warren

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