Bonswa! Koman ou ye?
For those of you not fluent in Creole (which includes me J), that means “Good evening! How are you?”
I am writing tonight from Cap Haitien, the second-largest city in Haiti. I arrived this afternoon with Rev. Erik Marshall and six of his parishioners from Church of the Saviour (North Coast District) in Cleveland Heights.
Erik taught school in Haiti for three years between college and seminary. Since arriving at Church of the Saviour (COTS) as Pastor of Global and Community Outreach, he has made four trips back to Haiti.
In May when I was asked by Erik to be part of the team for this trip he told me the goal was “to build relationships to assist the ongoing mission of community development in the Dondon area.” Erik explained that, “We no longer work on construction, as many mission trips do, because it takes work away from the local people. Instead we will be building relationships, with tangible goals and measureables, along with programming for children.”
That is the focus of North Coast Haiti Mission, Fund EOC 9947 of the conference Advance.
In Haiti we are being hosted at the Manse, the home of District Superintendent the Rev. Jean Marie Admirable. He pastors nine churches and supervises the laity who lead the churches in his absence. He also supervises five schools and two clinics in his district, which are called circuits in the Cap Haitian Circuit of Eglise Methodiste du Haiti.
The trip here saw us fly from Hopkins International Airport to Miami, spend the night at a hotel and then fly into Cap Haitien. Once we navigated customs and our ride met us we got to see the city as we drove to the Manse.
I was one of the five fortunate people – I mean that seriously – who rode in the back of an open pickup with all of the luggage as we navigated the streets that wound along the Atlantic Ocean and through the crowded city streets.
Of course my journalism instincts took over and I had to take pictures and shoot video along the way – don’t worry, I held onto the truck to make sure I was safe.
The land is beautiful but the city is very, very dirty with trash everywhere, including in the ocean – which is sad.
The mountains and the streets along the water reminded me of areas we passed through in Sierra Leone when we were traveling from Bo to Freetown in February 2013 during my 3Cs trip with Bishop Hopkins and other EOC leaders.
Homes and businesses are built into the mountainside, which is topped with cell towers. As we drove, we noticed people of all ages picking up volleyball-size rocks and stacking them into small pyramids on the ocean side of the road.
We were told that there used to be buildings between the street and the ocean. The land is owned by the government. Over the years, people had made temporary shelter on the land and were not kicked out so eventually they replaced the shelters with buildings. To take back the land – and to create a more appealing waterfront – the government this year knocked down all of the buildings.
We aren’t sure why the rubble is being made into pyramids but the thought is it makes them more attractive to sell to someone who might want to use them in a future building project. We saw the same technique used in Liberia, where children would bring sand up from the river in buckets and form it into pyramids to make it attractive to people looking for sand from which to make bricks.
When we arrived at the Manse we were greeted warmly by Rev. Admirable, his wife Petline and their 3 year-old daughter Nehama. We had a light lunch and then walked about a mile in 86-degree heat to the market, which unlike the indoor market in Liberia, is outdoors and several blocks long and wide. In some areas – particularly in the poultry section – tarps have been strung up between the buildings to keep weather from impacting the market.
In theory this is good – keep the sun and rain off of you – but in reality the tarps make it warmer when walking through and the tarps make the space feel closer and hold in the smell from the chickens. At one point I felt I was going to get sick but thankfully that is when we turned down a different street. I found out later that Erik was feeling the same way I was, which is why he turned. Thank you Erik!
The chickens, by the way, were alive but they looked dead. The vendors clip the chicken’s wings so they can’t fly and band their feet together so they can’t run. The chickens are displayed in piles on the ground or are slung over the vendor’s arms as they try to entice market goers into purchasing them. I can describe the scene and the aroma but you really have to experience it for yourself!
We were gone for a few hours and when we returned, Madame Kami had prepared a great dinner for us of – you guessed it – chicken! The meal also included rice, plantains and sweet rolls. After a little down time we had devotions, a little more down time and now it’s off to bed.
Bonn nwit! (Good Night!)