Haiti, the (underwater) wrap-up

A lot has been going on in North Carolina, so it’s taken me a week to get up these photos of Haiti. Jordan and I had smooth travels on the way back, smoother than on the way there, and in Miami, we had an enjoyable five-hour layover in the Admiral’s Club. Since we were flying internationally and had first class tickets from MIA to RDU, we got to enjoy the benefits of the sophisticate’s hang-out: free wireless, free drink tickets (which all the drinks I could drink were free anyhow, so Jordan enjoyed two $8 beers at the price of zero), light snacks (COOKIES!—though these were not as good as the cookies we would enjoy in our first class seats at 10 p.m.), etc. One of the best things about the Admiral’s Club was just the fact that you could leave your bags unattended while you walked around…those bathroom breaks when you’re rolling all your luggage in your tiny stall are never fun…

The end of our trip in Haiti, was terrific. By Saturday night, we had only done one of the things I wanted to do while back in Haiti, but by Sunday morning, we had done all three things.

#1) Feel the Haiti sun on my shoulders while riding in the back of a tap-tap. Check. My burnt shoulders are proof of this.

#2) Go to the beach. Check. The photos at the end of this post are proof of this. Even though there was no time in our schedule for any trips to the beach, we made time in our schedule to visit the super clear, turquoise Caribbean Sea. Our departure day was Sunday and we had to leave the All Hands house at 9:20 a.m. to make it to the Port-au-Prince airport by 11 a.m. so that we’d have ample amount of time for our departing flight at 1:20 p.m. But being ready to leave by 9 a.m. would give us PLENTY of time to go to the beach, that is, if we woke up at 4:45 a.m. So that we did! We woke up before the sun and pulled on our bathing suits. Jordan and I met sleepy-eyed Quinn in the kitchen at 5 a.m. (Quinn’s the biosand water filter project coordinator at All Hands, a friend I immediately connected with in Haiti the first go-around who has also seen my life in North Carolina to the point of riding my horse!). Quinn skipped out on an awesome sailboat island tour with his new Haiti friends to hang out with Jordan and me before our departing flight. He served as our very own chauffeur and snorkel instructor for our early morning beach excursion.

“We’ll just need to make a quick stop by Starbucks so I can get my mocha latte and wake up,” Quinn kidded. There are barely paved roads in Leogane, definitely no coffee shops. I assumed there would be at least one Starbucks in country, perhaps in the elite Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétion-Ville, but after doing a Starbucks.com store locator search just now, this was the response— There are no stores matching your search parameters, please try a different search. We searched for stores within “Haiti” and found nothing. Not a single Starbucks in Haiti. But that really doesn’t surprise me.

#3) Have a cup of Haitian coffee. Oooh, I enjoyed it so much during my three-month stay. I enjoyed walking in the sun down the dirt road to the street vendor lady who had a two big pots filled and steaming despite not having any form of electricity in her street shack. One scoop of strongly sugared coffee, two scoops of spiced milk. Sit and drink the coffee, as you have to return the campfire tin mug she serves it in. Check— I made it to that same vendor, selling the coffee outside our old All Hands base at Belval Plaza, and it was just as good as it was when I was there more than a year ago. You never know how these things are going to taste when you’re only there for such a short time. In three months, your taste buds are much easier to please when you’ve been only eating goat stew and super dry fried chicken for two meals a day, seven days a week, three months straight. But this coffee was terrific. Much better than any other coffee I’ve tasted in the world. Since the coffee/milk ratio is 1:2, I can drink it without getting tummy pains or the caffeine shakes, and that’s even on an empty stomach. It was only 9 a.m., but we had done so much. “We made it to Starbucks afterall,” I told Quinn while pointing. A Haitian man had just walked up to the coffee lady to get his morning fix; he was wearing a Starbucks shirt.

What a terrific ending to our Haiti escape. While gnawing on a 4-foot-long stalk of sugarcane in the back of a pickup truck, I caught my last glimpses of Leogane. Our damp bathing suits were quickly drying in the sun as we rode back to the All Hands house for our Haitian driver to take us to the airport. Our crystal clear snorkel day was perfect. We swam in the warm water over a reef at Jacksonville Beach. We swam out so far and took underwater pictures. In the water, we met a fisherman in a small turquoise paddle boat called “Christ Capable” who was wearing a tattered suit and straw hat. It was such a great day and I’m glad I have these pictures to remember it.

This is me and my tank top suntan.

This is Jordan snorkeling.

This is Quinn with the morning light on his face.

This is the man wearing the suit while fishing, from far away.

Wooden fishing boat’s name: Christ Capable. Christ is capable, that’s for sure.

This is me taking pictures while still swimming out to meet the fisherman. The colors of the boat, water and morning sunlight drew me closer….
This is the man wearing the suit while fishing, up close and more personal.

 

—BELOW SEA LEVEL—

—BACK IN LEOGANE—

Yes, that’s a man riding a moto with a tuba.