Sunday, February 24, 2013

For Joy and Beauty (Leah Penniman)

At 3:30 AM Neshima and I woke to the sounds of jubilant brass instruments and joyful shouts. She said, "I wish I was at that party." So, we threw on some clothes and went to the hotel gate to watch the procession. Dancing, singing, candles on trays balanced on woman's heads, big band melodies, street filled! I assume the street party was related to the religious season, as this is a primarily Catholic country, but will ask someone when the sun comes up.

Yesterday was a day of rest and exploration for the group. Only Kiki and I had the energy for the 6 AM mountain run. (We got lost and were about to follow the stream to the familiar river when a kind farmer with a cow and calf located the trail for us.) For the others, the day began with breakfast and went on to waiting. Yes, waiting, This is Haiti. So each day I tell the students the plan with times and tell them that we will not be following that plan and to be relaxed about it. After waiting, we piled into the van for our Jacmel adventure. We stopped on the way so each person could get a straw hat, handmade and for the equivalent of US $1.80. Then, the van traversed the steep and windy mountain roads to the Southern Coast. The vistas from those heights are absolutely stunning and even a panoramic shot cheapens the magnificence. It is the vastness that defines the beauty.

Out first stop was the Basin Bleu waterfall. The hike was short but rugged, involving a 15 foot sheer descent with a rope at one point. Parents, fear not. Our expert and dedicated guides held hands, supported backs, and were as attentive to safety as anyone could be. There were shouts of delight upon arriving at the powerful falls. Students jumped from rocks into the water and even our youngest, Emet, managed the swim from the shore to the cavern behind the falls. Hunter may never forgive me for forbidding the students to do any cliff jumping. However, we watched the guides and our Haitian friends make the daring leap from the stones above the falls to the seemingly bottomless blue pool below.

After a brief time of warming and drying in the sun, we walked back to the van. A snack of breadfruit and sauce awaited in the back of Fritz's pickup truck. Students purchased souvenirs and we descended the rough road to Jacmel public beach. This route involved the deepest river crossing we had made to date, and Fritz, always the joker, stopped in the middle pretending to be stuck and told us all to get out and push. Ha ha.

By now the afternoon was fading, so the beach sun was gentle to us. The students did some shallow wave jumping. We ate fish, lobster, and conch. A few of us engaged some of the local boys in contests of gymnastics and leaping, with lots of laughter and a few wipe outs. There was several children selling shells quite persistently and while students found this "annoying" we had a talk about the severity of the poverty and asked them to consider what they might do if they were hungry, parent-less. It is a blessing that they have not made the (understandable) choice that others have made in desperation - to steal or to kidnap.