It has been a full month of travels and experience. In the midst of the sad events of my last blog, we had some wonderful opportunities to get out for some excursions to refresh our minds and renew our perspective of life in Haiti. While Claire, Marc’s adoptive Canadian mom, was here in May along with 3 of her grandkids and 3 other friends, we were able to travel with them and Marc’s brother, Luc’s family up to Buva to see the rest of the Honorat siblings. Since Marc’s mom passed away in the fall, it has really been on his heart to take our kids to his birthplace and show them where he came from. It was a wonderful trip for them and they thoroughly enjoyed the time. We picked up many extra travelers on our way as we were a part of a caravan of 3 vehicles traveling up north to the mountains. It felt like the old wagon trains to me, as each time we stopped somewhere, we received more passengers and more stuff to go up the mountain with. We left Grand-Goave on a Friday morning at 5am Haitian time, which by the time everyone was ready, was 6:30am. The total journey up to Buva, which is north past Gonaives, took 12 hours and included an hour to change a flat tire in Leogane, another hour to repair the tire in Port Au Prince, an hour in a construction traffic jam, an hour for lunch in Monrois, and an hour to buy groceries in Gonaives. Each of these hours hold rich stories that I don’t have space for in this blog. The last 12 km is another story all on it’s own. The paved highway ends after Gonaives and we turn away from the ocean to climb the mountain, which added the last 2 hours to our trip. Cameron, Claire’s grandson, had an even wider perspective, as he held on tight on the top edge of a large canopy covering the back of the Diahatsu flatbed truck, since the inside got full of more passengers and groceries at our last stop in Gonaives. After such a long journey, we were all happy to arrive in Buva, which is not much of a tourist attraction, but a small village of stone and palm branch roofed huts. The ladies unloaded and got right to work on dinner. Our kids were free range, just like all the chickens and goats and dogs, and loving every minute of it. The only downfall for them was they had to keep their shoes on, since northern Haiti is all desert and full of cactus and thorny bushes. They got to meet all their aunties and uncles, see where Marc’s mom used to live and bathe in the creek, which was so refreshing. On the Saturday, we traveled back down the mountain to the beachfront town of Grand Savane where we swam in the ocean and did a rice distribution. Then we went on to the house where Marc spent 7 years of his childhood as a restavek. He showed the kids where he used to sleep under a table, fish in the front yard at the ocean and the fresh water spring he used to have to walk to everyday to fetch water. Ariana even got to ride a donkey that is used for hauling water. It was a great weekend of history lessons for the kids on their dad’s upbringing and good to get out and see the countryside. The landscape changes so much from the west to the north of Haiti, making me grateful again that we are in a lush area in Grand-Goave compared to other places in Haiti.
The following weekend we took another tour to the island of La Gonave. All of us were in for a treat on this voyage as it was not somewhere any of us have been, not even Marc. Again, Claire and the grandkids were with us, but this time we took our long term missionary staff too- Howard, Val, Wade, Marilyn and Joe. Diane opted to stay home... I think she had some sort of idea what the boat ride might be like. We sure didn’t! We drove to Miragoane, which is west past Petit Goave, then met our tour guides and transportation- a large Haitian transport boat used to haul charcoal from the island of La Gonave back to the mainland. The mariners guiding the boat boast that it could hold 450 bags of charcoal or up to 500 people. We all agreed we would not want to be on either of those trips, as there was not a bench to be found in the boat. All the same, we were in for the adventure, not for the comfort, and adventure we did find! There were a total of 25 of us on the boat and only 6 life jackets. We agreed if anything happened, we would share. Howard also offered himself as a life raft. That was comforting. The boat ride was a 3 hour tour and we all were having thoughts of Giligan’s Island. The sun was hot, the motor ran steady, but slow and the ocean was as crystal blue and inviting as could be. I actually preferred the gentle lull of the boat as we pushed through the waves to the bumpy roads of Buva. We did not take the kids on this trip, except for Austin, since we were not sure what we would find. Austin and I had a little nap to make the time go by a bit quicker. Others tried to do the same, as they squished their bums between the wood slats on the sides of the boat bottom, or spread out over the few sacks of charcoal that were in the bottom. When we arrived on the island, it was almost shocking to see how different and far removed the colonization there seemed to be. The place we landed was called Grand Vid, which mean “Great Nothing”, and that described in pretty well. But there was a quaint, peacefulness about the place. Each hut was hewn from organic matter available on the island- rock, clay, grass roofs and rough wood posts. Each property was neatly fenced in with stick fencing and even the goats were kept in a type of corral. The land was all sand and very little trees, save for the towering coconuts. La Gonave is known of living off of charcoal, so you can imagine how the land is getting more and more desolate. Just the same, the people were few, but friendly and very polite. We hiked to the local church, with the pastor friend of ours leading us, carrying our gallon of Culligan water and Rubbermaid bin of P&J sandwiches, mangoes and hard boiled eggs. After we ate, we shared the rest with some onlooking children, who politely and silently sat in order and ate what we gave them. Then we went in search for the “private beach” that was supposed to be clean and good swimming compared to the pier where we docked (a pile of rocks jutting out into the shallow bay). We found it, a small fenced in white sandy spot, right next to an open piece of beach where the local little boys entered into the water in their birthday suits and came to find us out in the waves. The water was so shallow for a long time, it was hotter than bath water, which was not all that refreshing. But beautiful just the same. Then it was time to head back onto the boat for our return trip, which actually ended up being 4.5 hours due to the wind being against the boat with our “little engine that could.” In all, it was another wonderful tour and good to see how different other places are right within the same country.
We are winding down now on our time here this season. We have ten more days before all of our long term missionary staff and we depart. It’s always with some bittersweetness. I look forward to going back to North America and seeing our friends, sharing in the churches who partner with us and taking some time to concentrate on our family, but I miss our Haitian family and pace of life when we go. It takes me a bit to adapt back to being on time places and having to make appointments to see people. Those are not relevant issues in Haiti. And each year as we come and go, come and go, I thank the Lord that He has given us such amazing opportunity to travel, to share His Good News and about the amazing works He has allowed us to be a part of. We will do a lot of traveling this summer too, but I think the roads will be a little smoother and not so hot.