When people think of Haiti, they think of Port-Au-Prince during the earthquake. Port-Au-Prince is one giant mess. The traffic is indescribable, it smells horrific, and there is a lot of poverty everywhere. The good news is that Port is one city in the whole, entire country. We already blogged about the magical city of Cap-Haitien, but there is another city that is just as magical. Way back in 2010, we first laid eyes on Haiti. It was only three months after the earthquake and things were still crazy sad. Even then, however, Jacmel felt special. Fast forward four years and up the special level by at least a hundred and you’ve got Jacmel today. Side note: If you don’t want my whole “why Jacmel is magical” thing then skip to the summary at the end.
Port-Au-Prince can get you down for sure. Then you go to Jacmel and you swell with hope for what Haiti could be. There’s a lot of development going on, including this artsy little boardwalk.
Jacmel is an extremely artsy town. If Haiti had hipsters, they’d live in Jacmel. It’s is famous for it’s paper mache art. Our good friends Josh & Chandler run an artisan coop called Haiti Design Coop. They work with a paper mache artisan from Jacmel who makes cow skulls. There’s a lot of talent going on in this town.
It’d definitely a town where you can spend the afternoon walking the streets, visiting artisans, and hanging on the beach. The downtown beach is what you would expect. The boardwalk is lovely, but it’s a little trashy. If you want a good, clean beach – head east about 15 minutes. There are some hotels and public beaches down that direction that are excellent. We used the beach just past Hotel L’Amitie where there are a few bungalows and some tables. The bungalows are available for rent. We were told $50/night for 4 people. They are simple, but clean and have fans. The restaurant and beach there is great so I’d recommend it as a hang out spot for sure.
The one thing you absolutely have to do, hands down, is Bassin Bleu.
I mean, this is real life, ya’ll. Getting there is a big adventure. These are – honest to God – the best directions I can give you. Head west from downtown any way you can toward the river bed. Cross said riverbed. If you aren’t sure about crossing puddles/the ACTUAL river just wait and watch motos go through or ask if your car will make it. People are helpful. Once you get through the river, ask where Bassin Bleu is. There are a million small roadways through the river bed. People will have to just point you in the right direction. Once you reach the tree line there is a sign. Follow the road up and there are signs the whole way! There is a little building once you get there and you’ll have to pay 100 gourdes per person to visit. You’ll also have to pick out a guide that you’ll need to tip at the end.
You pass a few small pools and waterfalls on the way. The guides are helpful and informative and will point everything out and help you get across.
The final trek requires half climbing down a boulder with assistance from a rope and the guides. Once you get down, though, you get some breathtaking views of the basin.
The water is freezing and suuuuuper deep. Haitains will tell you all about the zombies and mermaids that live at the bottom. It’s deep enough to do some serious cliff jumping.
Funny story – in 2010 I tried jump from the top. I got up there and froze. NOTHING could have made me jump off that cliff and the more I waited the worse it got. Finally, Josh climbed up and shoved me off the cliff rescued me.
Summary: Here’s a brief overview of what we loved about Jacmel. I’m only including what I’ve experienced, where I’ve stayed, etc. but there is plenty more!
Where to Stay:
Hotel L’Amitie – We stayed here for $57/night including breakfast. It’s right on the beach. The rooms are super simple but clean. There wasn’t a working phone at the time so we had to stop by and ask about rooms and pricing.
Hotel Cyvadier – This place rocked. We stayed here for $67/night including breakfast. It’s back in a cool little cove with a small beach area. The grounds are fantastic and the rooms were nice.
Hotel Florita – We didn’t stay here but we did hang out a bit. It’s amazing. You have to stop by just to grab a drink. It’s in an old historic building downtown and it feels like the sort of place Hemmingway would get drunk at and write.
Hotel Kabic Beach Club – We tried to stay here for $110/night but our reservation got mixed up. It’s nice, right across from the beach, and the owner is super sweet.
Where to Eat:
Jacmel Pizzeria – This place is downtown within walking distance of Florita and the boardwalk. They have pizza, Mexican, and a good breakfast.
Madame Barbeque – this place is very Haitian. Right at the entrance to Hotel Cyvadier there is a small building that says “Cyvadier Market”. Madame BBQ is there. It is delicious! Don’t be intimidated or nervous. She grills barbeque chicken and a plate comes with fries and a salad for $5. You can run in the little market and grab a drink.
Hotel Florita – The food here was fine. Limited menu though. Go for the atmosphere.
Bungalows on the Beach – These bungalows are right down the beach from Hotel L’Amitie. DELICIOUS food and drinks. This is the place to go for fresh seafood.
The Vatican – This is hands down one of the coolest bars I have ever been to ANYWHERE. Here is the problem. I don’t know how to tell you to find it. Maybe that adds to the awesomeness. It’s downtown near a park and close to the Jacmel market. It’s stuck between two buildings so have fun trying to locate it.
Recently, we did something we’ve been wanting to do for a good long while. We spent two days hiking up and down a 6500 foot mountain in a third world country (and with two teenagers in tow to boot). After perusing the internet and blog-o-sphere for information, Josh and I (along with the Salvants and their two oldest) decided to go for it – the somewhat-famous-among-expats hike from Furcy to Jacmel.
The 27 mile trail is one of the most breathtaking hikes in the Caribbean. The hike starts at an elevation of 3,000ft and over the next few miles reaches a peak of 6,500 ft. While Haiti is not normally seen as a tourist destination, the opportunity to walk the remote ridge-lines of some of the tallest mountains in the Caribbean make the journey well worth it. The hike is strenuous enough that even well versed hikers will feel quite a bit of pain in their feet, but not so hard that one needs to be sponsored by Redbull to have a chance of finishing.
To reach the hike you basically drive up the mountains over Port-au-Prince past the Baptist Mission up to Kenscoff where you’ll continue onto Furcy. You’ll come to a T in the road with two Digicel signs. One sign on the right points to Furcy, the other on the left points to Seguin. Here, you’ll bear left towards Seguin until you come to a place where there is cliff on one side and a huge drop off on the other. The hike starts either when you are too scared to drive any further on the road, or when the Haitians start yelling at you to stop because the road is not good. We opted for the latter. From the start of day one, it is nine miles to the village of Seguin and Kay Winnie (creole for Winnie’s house) where you will stay the night.
It felt a little anti-climactic when we just hopped out of the car and started walking, but at 8am that’s just what we did.
There is an old Haitian proverb “Dye mon, gen mon”. It means, “Beyond the mountains, more mountains.”
And mountains past the mountains are exactly what we found.
One of the most difficult parts of the hike is how rocky the roads are. The rocks are larger than normal gravel and it is easy to roll your ankle. If you are prone to knee or ankle problems I would bring a brace or wrap along. There were a lot of motos on this stretch and Haitians walking. It’s very up and down and just when we’d get to a big up section, a barefoot lady with a huge basket of chickens on her head would barrel past us. Hard to stop and take a break knowing that she does this weekly while I do it for fun. However, calling it a big up section feels like an understatement. You’re climbing a massive mountain. Looking back, we could have taken a few more breaks even but we weren’t sure how we were doing with timing so we pushed ourselves a bit.
We were all sitting at the bottom of the biggest climb yet and thought about taking a break for lunch. “Let’s just make it to the top of this,” someone suggested. Once we made it to the top (which took a good long while) we realized we were to the edge of La Visite National Park or what most people call The Pine Forest or we we called “Thank God The Worst Is Behind Us Today”. From here on, the trail has topped out so you’re done with climbing and there are side trails in the woods you can take to avoid the rocky roads and have a better cushioned walk. We stopped and ate right at the entrance to the park around 12:30.
This place was other worldly. We kept saying that we felt as if we were in a Dr.Seuss book. Probably titled something like Hiking Haiti With Packs and Ladies.
Huge agave plants grow in the pine forest. I mean HUGE! They were as tall as me.
That “sinkhole” is called Marassa (creole for twins). It’s a massive hole separated by a natural bridge complete with stalactites. Keep a lookout for it on your left. You’ll be able to see it from the path.
Since the terrain had flattened out, we were moving along at a good pace. We saw some hikers coming from the opposite direction taking a break at a small stone bridge that crosses a creek. Josh talked to them for awhile and they said they stayed at Winnie’s the night before which was about 5 miles away. We were all trying to put on a brave face but found it hard to believe we had five miles left! As we walked, the forest became less dense and we had clearly made our way out of the national park. Just about that time (maybe 45 minutes from seeing the other hikers) an older man working in his garden shouted, “Kay Winnie?” We looked up and sure enough there was the tattered sign we knew to be looking for telling us we’d made it to Seguin. There’s also a large sign that says something about a project being aided by Taiwan. I didn’t get a picture but it’s large, on the right, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only sign that says “Taiwan” on it nearby. If I’m wrong and you end up lost in the backwoods of Seguin….sorry. Thank goodness (for us) that the other hikers were really bad at judging distances. We were here by 2:30.
You couldn’t possibly miss this sign…
We veered to the right at this sign and followed the road around to the left. We started noticing gorgeous Calalilies everywhere.
Once we saw a neat row of three tents we knew we were at the right place. Upon arriving, we were given several rounds of hot mint tea and an absolutely delicious meal. Our super fresh salad was straight from a 5star restaurant topped with edible flowers. Most if not all of the food was grown either grown in his garden or one of the neighbors. It really wouldn’t be a bad place to spend the apocalypse.
After that, we all crashed! For $55 a person you get 3 meals and a tent. The tents are nice and come with a mattress and sleeping bag. We all kept using the word magical to describe this place. You’re literally in a cloud, in a lily garden, on the top of a mountain.
It was such a nice place to sit and read. We drank copious amounts of hot tea which was much needed because it was COLD on the top of that mountain. Around 8pm everyone was done napping and cleaning up and we were given some amazing hot chocolate and homemade bread for dinner.
The next morning, we again had another great meal – omelettes drenched in fresh herbs and cheese with more homemade bread – along with tea and coffee before heading out. We got started at 8am again.
One of the workers showed us the shortcut to the market and we headed out. We had moved from feeling as if we were in a Dr.Seuss novel, to feeling like we were in The Shire.
There were these crazy rocks sticking out of the ground everywhere. Goes to show what deforestation and erosion can do.
Once you pass through the market in Seguin you really start to trek downhill. This is where I started wishing I had a knee brace. We were still at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, so when they clouds rolled in they seemed to swallow us up.
It didn’t take too long for us to have our first real view of the ocean, and our first moment of Oh My Gosh That Is Really Far Away.
That’s the ocean waaaaay in the background.
At this point, the kids with their awesome, child-like knees kept finding “shortcuts” for us to take and avoid the winding switchbacks.
These were no joke. We were all walking like Grandma’s at this point because our knees were aching and blisters popping. Around noon we stopped for lunch and kept pushing forward.
Around this point a few of us started getting delirious and Josh’s knee basically gave out. We could see the small town of Perado, our destination, below but it never felt like it was getting closer. Suffice it to say this is the hardest part. You’re tired, you’re achy, and mentally it’s difficult. If you think you can’t go on there were plenty of motos going by and PLENTY of Haitians encouraging you to take one (lot’s of “you look bad” and “you’re red” and “you’re crazy”). I’m really proud that we powered on.
We finally crossed the riverbed around 5:00 and were ready to hop on a moto to Jacmel by 5:30. We had made it! For 500 gourdes per moto we took the short drive over to Jacmel. Be sure to learn enough creole to tell your driver to drive slowly (DOUSMAN!). Ours did not and actually veered too close to the edge of the road and hit a guy. We were fine, but he didn’t stop and it infuriated Josh.
After that 500 gourdes moto ride from H-E-double hockey sticks we made it safe and sound to the oh so gorgeous Jacmel.
Honestly, this hike is really hard over crazy terrain in a third world country. We hike a lot and exercise regularly and we were definitely struggling. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. However, it is absolutely the best hiking I’ve ever experienced. We’ve hiked all over the Southeast, in Costa Rica, Malawi, and Utah to name a few and this blew it all out of the park. At one point an elderly Haitian lady sang us a hymn to encourage us (after she chastised me for not speaking enough creole). Another lady invited us to her house for coffee and gave us directions. On this hike, you truly get a glimpse of all that Haiti has to offer and all the hope for tourism that lies within this tattered country. Plane tickets are inexpensive and flights are short. If you already live here are will be here (even short term) I highly recommend trying to do it. You can always message us if you have any questions. While most people only ever come to this country for mission work, you should certainly consider coming to truly experience it in a different way. Help change it’s image into one that’s more truthful.
Here’s a short snippet of what we took and our timeline…
8am: Headed out from a small market area after Haitains were yelling at us to stop
12noon: Reached the pine forest and broke for lunch
2pm: Made it to Kay Winnie
8am: Headed down the shortcut from Kay Winnie
12noon: Broke for lunch. While walking you’ll see a small lake in the distance, we broke for lunch at about the level of this lake. For reference, we took this picture around 11:00am
5pm: Made it to Perado
The only real information you need for the actual hike is Winnie’s email – email@example.com. Email a few days ahead and let them know if you want a tent or a room. If you wanted to stay up in the mountains pre-hike you could check out The Lodge or Rustik. We’ll post some information about Jacmel in a later blog and link to it here.
The trail is also great for experienced mountain bikers. We are friends with some people who did it several months ago. They did the entire trail in a day and they said “Make sure you have good breaks, and extra inner tubes!”
What we Brought
Water: At least 3 liters of water per person (you can refill at Winnies)
Food: at least 2 lunches and snacks. I’ll post my granola and granola bar recipe soon.
Toiletries: Deodorant (a must) and any other toiletries you will want for an overnight hike/ your stay in Jacmel
Bandanna: To keep the sun of your neck
First Aid Kit: We used wrap bandages, ibuprofen (a lot), waterproof bandages, gauze, medical tape, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, toenail clippers, and tweezers. Of course there are other things you’ll want too. Keep in mind there isn’t readily available medical help in the middle of nowhere Haiti. Take anything you might need to get you out of a serious bind (cipro, good pain meds, splints, etc.)
Extra pair of sandals: I wore my tennis shoes, but ended up switching back and forth with my hiking sandals. The ankle support was lax of course but I took it easy and gave my blisters some breathing room occasionally.
Clothes: warm ones for the mountains and whatever you need for Jacmel
Rain jacket or poncho
Tarp: we didn’t use it but Scott brought one in case it rained or to sit on
Money: Winnie’s is $55/night for a tent and $85/night for a room in the house. You’ll want small bills for the moto ride in Perado and any treats you might want along the way from vendors.
I’ll be very honest. The first time I came to Haiti I knew very little about its history. I knew there was a slave revolt and voodoo and that’s about it. When we came back for an extended period of time, I really did try to learn about the history and about the historical sites here. It turns out that Haiti is a gold mine for nerdy and somewhat adventurous travelers. The slave revolt is fascinating and the system of forts here is a historical-site-loving person’s dream.
In late January, Josh’s parents and sister, Casey, came for a visit. They decided to treat us to a trip to Cap Haitien. This town is up in the North near Labadee (where Royal Caribbean stops). It’s about a 5 and a half hour drive from where we live in Port-Au-Prince. The roads were great up to Gonaives and after that they were a bit pot-holey, but nothing too bad. The drive was gorgeous so we didn’t mind bumping our way along. One of the cool things about Haiti is how quickly the terrain changes. We passed the beach, dessert-like land with cacti, rice fields, and green mountains.
Rice fields in Haiti
Cap Haitien is a really cool town. It’s a lot cleaner and calmer than Port-au-Prince (duh) and the roads are laid out in nice grids. There’s a little boulevard that runs next to the ocean downtown that has several nice looking restaurants. We drove up a hill that overlooks the town to our hotel. We stayed at a nice little boutique place called Habitation Jouissant. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the manager, Florence. She’s a delight. The staff was great and the rooms were nice – small – but nice. We had breath-taking views of Cap Haitien and the ocean.
View of Cap-Haitien
More of the view
We spent the afternoon reading and just enjoying hot water showers and air conditioners. The next morning, we headed to the Citadelle around 9:00am. When you get to the parking lot, there’s a booth to your right where you buy your tickets for $5 per person. If you want a guide you can hire one for $10 per person there as well. We immediately were overwhelmed with ladies wanting to sell us hats and a guy who REALLY wanted us to by a flute…which he played for us quite a bit. Who wants a used flute? Not this girl.
Right past the parking lot is San Souci palace. It was built by a guy named Henri Christophe. Haiti’s slave revolt was the world’s only successful slave army revolution. The first leader was Dessalines, who declared himself Emperor for Life. That didn’t go so well and that life was cut kinda short. After that, Haiti was divided into the North and South. Henri Christophe took over the North and established a sort of feudal system. Though Napoleon had given up on establishing France in the New World, Henri didn’t want to take chances so he built a really impressive system of forts with the Citadelle being the crown jewel. At the base of the mountain that hosts the Citadelle he built San Souci Palace. It was one of NINE palaces built by the guy! After Henri Christophe suffered from a stroke and committed suicide (supposedly with a silver bullet), the place fell into ruin.
We toured these ruins first where we picked up a few uninvited guides. I may not speak a ton of Creole, but they got the point that they weren’t wanted.
Ruins of San Souci
Statue at San Souci
More of the ruins…
After walking around San Souci for awhile, we started up the mountain. Most people drive up to the second parking lot and hike from there. We are not most people. We are Tinii. One of our uninvited guides couldn’t believe we were walking and left us alone. The second guide hiked along with us…and a half dozen horses who WOULD NOT GET OUT OF OUR GRILLS. I mean, really. When you’re hiking straight up a mountain in the heat of a tropical country, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by janky looking horses. Our unofficial guide kept telling them to leave and finally they listened to him. From that moment on, I didn’t care how much money he weaseled out of us…it was worth it.
The hike that wouldn’t end
The guide ended up being helpful actually. I got a chance to practice Creole and he was pretty encouraging (he kept telling us we were strong people). He pointed out different fruit trees and was really shocked when I told him the price of avocados in America. I mean…he was flabbergasted.
Once we got to the second parking lot, the guide helped out again. We didn’t have our tickets with us and he talked the ticket booth into letting it slide. There are restrooms again, people selling drinks and souvenirs, and a little cafe at this parking lot. Our guide told us, “Soon you’ll see the Citadelle.” We asked him if that meant we were close. The answer was no.
At this point we were all pretty exhausted. All of us are strong hikers but that trek was legit. My butt and calves were on fire. Unless you are in good shape, drive up to the second parking lot FOR SURE and hike from there. This last part was the hardest but had some amazing views.
This felt surreal.
Once we finally made it to the Citadelle I was shocked by just how large it is. It’s over 100,000 square feet!
Because Haiti was never attacked all of the cannonballs are still lying in wait for Napoleon.
Just waiting for Napoleon.
Our guide told us a lot of stories including one about the tomb on site. It’s apparently Henri Christophe’s brother-in-law who made the mistake of smoking in the gunpowder room. What was left of him ended up in the tomb. We also learned that Christophe is buried somewhere on the property but no one knows where and that Wyclef filmed a music video here.
Wyclef Wuz Here. We begged the guide not to take this picture.
Words can’t really do this place justice. It’s incredible and even if you don’t happen to find yourself in Haiti, it’s worth going to see. Cap-Haitien would be a really great vacation spot if you like this kind of thing and are a bit adventurous! One of the things I love about traveling in Haiti is that it really feels like a travel adventure! You have to be flexible and fly by the seat of your pants a lot. Plus, contributing to tourism here really does make a difference.
After the trip back down the mountain via moto (Which cost $10 and was totally worth it), we headed back to the hotel to recover. In fact, we spent the next day recovering at Cormier Plage – a hotel on a really pretty beach about 10 minutes from out hotel. The beach was in a little cove and we could see people para-sailing from the cruise ship at Labadee around the corner.
All in all, Cap Haitien was a breath of fresh air. Being there certainly makes you have a lot of hope for Haiti.
Let me start by saying the last story about the passports has a few fallacies but I won’t go there…
Josh and I really do enjoy being in Haiti.
We feel like the country has a lot more to offer than making Americans feel good about themselves by helping Haitians. When we came in 2010, we got to visit Jacmel. This time around, we’ve done a few trips around the Port-Au-Prince area. Even so, there’s so much more to see and do than we’ve seen or done. We decided to be proactive and create a Haiti Bucket List to keep us from being lazy and never experiencing all this place has to offer. So, we got together with our friend Kelsey and our friends Josh and Chandler, sat down with a few drinks, a notepad, and a guidebook, and got to work.
And let me just tell you – our bucket list is amazing. It involves owning a donkey, camping on beaches, and sailing to Tortuga to look for pirate treasure. Yes. Pirate treasure. You are all welcome to be jealous and/or come join us.
Right after we wrote the bucket list, Josh and I had a day off. Kelsey had a free day as well – lucky for us because she also has a car named Stuart and a complete mastery of the Creole language. So Kelsey, Josh, Joseus (her boyfriend), and myself hopped in Stuart the not-so-trusty truck. I say not-so-trusty because he has a bad habit of catching on fire and his starter is going bad, but that’s neither here nor there.
We’d decided to check out a place which had been growing in infamy since living with the Salvants – Boobie Falls. Now, the real name for this place is not – afterall – Boobie Falls. It’s actually called Saut d-eau (pronounced Sodo) – a hotspot for Voodoo activities and bathing. The Salvant kids have not-so-affectionately nicknamed it, however, because the bathing leads to seeing “lots of big Haitian boobies.” Yes, that’s a direct quote. And if you google Saut d’eau you will, in fact see lots of big Haitian boobies.
After praying over Stuart multiple times and making sure we had a butcher knife to use in lieu of a starter and a few gallons of water to put out fires – we set out. Along the way we gained another adventurer. Kelsey and Joseus’ friend, Serita, who is a very sassy lady around 50 years old. I can only hope that I am such a great adventurer in my 50’s that if I was standing in the market in a nice dress on a Monday and saw some 20-somethings I knew, I would also hop in the car without much thought.
On the way up the mountain, Stuart struggled. We were being passed by semi’s while all praying out loud. Not being passed by semi’s in a dangerous way, but in more of an embarrassing way. The best part of the whole trip might have been the drive.
Where we live down in Santo, all the houses are surrounded by walls. It’s extremely dusty and usually hot. For a bunch of people who love the outdoors – it’s not an ideal situation. As you go up in the mountains, walls disappear and you start to see gardens, fields, and green GRASS! It’s utterly refreshing.
Once we got to the town of Saut d’eau we were all enamored. The roads were not only free of potholes but they were painted with yellow lines AND HAD REFLECTORS. There were even signs to let you know there was a dip in the road. We were ready to move.
Once we got to the entrance of the falls we did a little haggling on the entrance fee (non-Haitians were 200 gourdes which we talked down to 100) and headed down. The whole place was surprisingly park like. There are steps that lead right down to the little pools at the base of the falls. Before you reach the falls, there are little changing rooms and benches. We spent the afternoon freezing in the water and having a picnic.
Josh was clearly excited about the waterfall – thus all the pictures of him looking excited.
Craziest of all…there were no boobies. We must have gone on a slow day. There’s a lot of superstition and religious activity surrounding the falls. There’s a yearly pilgrimage laced with Catholic and Voodoo themes because the Virgin Mary appeared in a long-ago cut down palm tree. The waters supposedly have healing powers as well, though I didn’t feel anything but cold when I was there.
After Serita hired someone to give her a massage, cut her tea leaves, and bring her water (girl supported the Saut d’eau economy for sure) we took a lovely group picture and headed back.
Of course we said even more for prayers for Stuart though we felt pretty confident in his abilities by now. Although we took one small wrong turn, we coasted down the mountain right as the sun was setting.
I feel pretty good about crossing Boobie Falls off the list. If you come to Haiti I’d definitely recommend the trip as long as you don’t mind an hour and a half drive out of PaP and the possibility of the falls living up to their name.
Allison and I had a great time visiting friends and family in the States over Christmas. Since my family lives in Nashville and Allison’s in Alabama we split time between the two states. I actually flew back a week earlier than Allison to replace the main drain line on our house in Nashville. My first day back it snowed. It was quite a contrast to the heat of Haiti and Living on a boat. I sat outside in the snow in some gym shorts and a t-shirt for about 30 minutes. It literally felt like the heat was steaming off my body. I like to imagine that I looked something like Hans Solo being brought out of his frozen carbonite chamber.
After a few weeks of catching up with friends and family it was time to pack up and head back to Haiti. We were in South Alabama flying out of Talahassee Florida. Our flight was supposed to leave at 7:00am which meant leaving Alabama by 3:00am.
We started packing our bags about 8:30pm. Around 9:00pm Allison’s Dad says “Don’t forget your passports”. We looked everywhere.At 9:08 we call my parents in Nashville and asked him to check in the suitcase that we left stored in their garage. At 9:10 my dad calls back and informs us that he has found our passports 400 miles away in Nashville. Thankfully my sister and brother were at my parents house and offered to meet us halfway. We arrived in Birmingham at midnight and booked it back to Allison’s parents house to arrive at 2:58am. Since we were planning on leaving her parents house at 3:00am there was just enough time to take a pee break and load the car with our stuff. We arrived at the Talahassee airport just in time for our flight to be delayed 4 hours.
Just in time!!
It still isn’t quite agreed upon who was responsible for the lost passports. I think that it was more of a joint effort and Allison blames it completely on me. We had two suitcases while we were in the states. One had our winter clothes in it, and the other had Christmas presents and other random things. When we were in Tennessee someone set our passports on the nightstand. I had a horrible vision of us driving to Alabama and leaving them there. So I thought “I’ll set them in the suitcase, that way we know for absolute certain that they will get to Alabama.” Before leaving we decided that we didn’t really need to bring a whole suitcase of winter clothes. Allison went through the suitcase and got everything we needed to take to Alabama out of the suitcase and packed it in the one we were taking with us. I knew there was something important in the suitcase, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was. I probably asked Allison three or four times “You went through the suitcase and got everything we need??” After a few times she got annoyed that I was asking the same question repeatedly and I shut up and forgot about it. I guess you can take that information and place blame where you feel most appropriate. Feel free to leave a comment letting us know what you think. I’m sure Allison will have some interesting words that she will be writing in the comments as well.
Here in Haiti, we live way down in the valley in a neighborhood called Santo. The house looks out over a pretty awesome Mountain Range. My first thought when we arrived was, “I have to mountain bike that”( even though I’ve never really mountain biked).
I planned on just buying a bike off the street, but our Haitian friend, Robinson, said he knew of a good place to buy a bike. So, he took me to the “bike store” where I could get a mountain bike. This place is downtown in a big market.
The number of bikes in this picture really does not do justice to the experience. There must have been ten times that many bicycles at that place! I actually found a newer one for only $80. It’s nothing fancy, but I was glad to have found it in that awesome mess.
My friend, Brian (who actually mountain bikes), wanted to join in so we looked up a few places and took some suggestions. We woke up before sunrise to beat the heat. Not really knowing where to go, my friend Brian and I took the suggestion of a friend who described this road near Titanyen as “rolling hills” that have some really great views. I figured rolling hills = beginner mountain biking. So, we loaded up and came to these “rolling hills”…
Clearly this was more than rolling hills.
We mostly were riding on the gravel road. But once we got to the top we found some goat trails that also made great single track riding.
The ride back down was filled with obstacles.
And more obstacles.
All in all it was a great time. But luckily I met somebody the other day who knows where there are some trails much more conducive for riding. I know there is a 30 something mile trail that goes from PaP to Jacmel on the south coast. Once I master “rolling hills” and dodging goats, maybe I’ll give it a shot.
We finally sold Willy! We definitely have mixed emotions about it selling. It is really disappointing that the guy who delivered our boat from TN was a month later than he said he would be. It also sucks that our rudder broke and pushed us back another three weeks. It also sucks that we cant afford to keep it stored over the winter while we are in Haiti and keep going next summer. At the same time, I am really glad that we don’t have to worry anymore about trying to sell the boat from another country. Its nice to have money in our account and to know that it is no longer going to be slowly disappearing in slip fees. Thanks to Jaqui and Captain Crunch (see earlier blog post) and Allison’s parents it all went down without a hitch.
We have been living in Haiti for about a month now. We came here a few years ago right after the earth quake so we knew already that we really like it here. We have been getting along great with the family that we are living with/ working for. We really dodged a bullet with that one…
View of Haiti from the roof.
Last week we took a trip down to the Irish Embassy for Scott’s birthday. I was really confused at first, the way they talked about it, I thought that we were going to an Irish restaurant in the Irish Embassy in Haiti… Turns out they just call the local Irish pub the embassy as a joke.
After enjoying our delicious fish and chips, and bangers and mash (we actually ate burgers) we were approached buy this German guy named Stefan. “Hello” he said “I have a proposal. If none of you have any moral, ethical, religious, or political objections I would like very much to buy you a drink.” None of us had any objections, but we did have to go pick up Scott and Aprils kids from work (the kids work for some friends at their pizza restaurant) so we really didn’t have time. However, before we could even respond the waitress brought out 6 beers and 6 gin and tonics… My first inclination was that he had slipped something in the drinks and was was planning on taking advantage of us all monetarily (and lets be honest probably sexually too).
He said that he just wanted to have a conversation about economics. When we asked him what he did for a living he slapped himself in the face repeatedly and then sniffed his armpits. When we asked him how long he has been in Haiti, he slapped himself in the face and sniffed his armpits. We decided pretty quickly that unless we wanted to wake up on the side of the road in Port Au Prince we should probably head out quickly.
So, here are more details on our upcoming adventure since Josh’s description was … uh…lacking pretty much any description.
Our last day at work is April 19th. So sad! It’s going to be super hard to say goodbye, but it’s time. Everyone and their mother is asking us about a going away party – because word has gotten around that the Tinii are pretty awesome party throwers. Makes me wonder if people are going to miss us or our parties. A coworker and friend suggested a night where we eat tons of sambusa and host some Somali dance crews made up of the kids from our afterschool program. That seems like quite possibly the best idea I’ve ever heard. Does anyone know if Haiti has something similar to sambusa? If not, I’m going to need to learn how to make it because I refuse to live an entire year of my live without it.
So after work ends, our amazing friends from church will be moving into our house by May 1st. Which means that we should be feverishly packing up our belongings. Eh.
As soon as things are lined up, the plan is to have our sailboat shipped to Savannah so we can take a few months to just chill. We have stressful jobs where we work with kids and will then be moving to a stressful country to work with more kids. We need an extended vacay between the two. Hopefully during that time we’ll also be learning Creole!
Once we are fluent in Creole, we’ll be moving to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to come alongside The Salvants at New Hope Haiti Mission. We’ll be homeschooling the Salvants’ kids, living in their backyard (in a house not like just crashing in their yard…which probably still wouldn’t surprise anyone, haha), and helping out however we can at the orphanage. That will probably mean teaching English and helping with teams and who knows what else! One of the things that really makes us excited about working with the Salvants is the “flexibility” of what we’ll be doing outside of the school day. For those of ya’ll who know us, you know we’re pretty much up for anything all of the time. It seems like the Salvants recognized that and are ready to put that attitude to use! I am thoroughly excited about homeschooling. I love teaching and planning and all that goes along with it. I had a great experience homeschooling as did Josh and we hope we can give the Salvants’ kids just as good of an experience with school. They may even come out of the year with a few new hobbies if Josh has anything to say…building potato guns is science, right?
Because I like making lists, I’m going to subject you to the little things I am most excited about right now besides the obvious big things:
Friends moving into our house who will love and enjoy our neighbors and neighborhood, and continue the tradition of awesomeness in that home.
Learning a language
Not having to experience winter for a WHOLE YEAR
Eating pikliz and plantains
Being near a beach again
Working really closely with a family who has been through international adoption because Josh and I will hopefully start that process before our friends are all having grand kids and leaving us in the dust.
Living next door to a family WHO PRETTY MUCH ALL PLAY THE UKELELE. Yeah, that’s right. We bought a banjolele and that day we found out the Salvants are a musical fam and a lot of them play the ukelele. We might become Haiti’s first ukelele band.
Eating fresh conch more than I get to here which is never.
Having access to chickens. I am more excited about this than anyone ever should be. The orphanage has chickens and April mentioned that they might get some too. Ya’ll, I have wanted chickens my whole life. My parents wouldn’t get them when we were little (along with not letting me have a horse or a snake, lame) and my husband won’t let me get them now. But God CLEARLY wants this girl to have chickens even if He has to move me to Haiti to get them.
Hopefully getting to see our friend Caleb who lives in Jacmel!
Getting my craft on with April who I just found out likes to get her craft on.
I’m realizing a lot of my feelings are revolving around food.
On a side note, all of you should plan your vacations this summer to wherever we are on the East Coast and if your vacation time is going to be after August…COME TO HAITI.