Thursday March 20, 2014
8.15am. We are having breakfast: a great coffee (the island produces it), two eggs and two slices of bread where we can spread the soft cheese. We are having breakfast in the garden with three roosters, two hens and a cockerel, three goats, two dogs of which one female super cuddly and super hungry, one hummingbird and many beautiful fuchsia flowers. All roaming freely around us. Under the canopy where we are eating they are drying some tobacco leaves. The owner speaks great French, not so his wife that speaks Creole and smiles. I don’t know if she thinks I can speak Creole or if she thinks she is speaking French. Today we are trying to go to the Ile-a-Vache.
2pm The girl sitting next to me on the tap-tap put on some lip gloss and now is combing her hair with a brush you use to clean the floor. She has a small bag with a plastic flower that she seems to care about a lot. What I like about spending time on the road is that you notice interesting things. For example we passed by many walls with a name of a hotel painted on them, and behind the walls nothing, just some bricks, as if they were advertising a hotel that they will build in a year or two. You can tell people here work; there’s the one that fixes cars, the one carving a piece of wood, working the iron, mending a dress; inside the houses it’s too hot, so they stay by the road doing any work, from cooking to preparing charcoal. Sometimes near the houses there are some tombs in nice pastel colors. Almost all the houses, even the poorest, have the wall painted. Singular, because it is only the wall facing the street that is painted, the others are grey. The most unfortunate are the buildings at crossroads, they have to paint two walls.
A goat is complaining and another one is throwing stones to our heads, while we wait for the driver and his helpers to fix the tap-tap, on the road back to Port Salut from Les Cayes. We are in the shade of some coconut trees, I hope they won’t fall! The UNICEF, UN, UN Police trucks that drive by are starting to annoy me.
Our Les Cayes expedition wasn’t successful. As soon as we arrived we tried to get some money. The first bank didn’t have an ATM nor a cash advance. We took a moto-taxi to go to another bank. Second bank had an ATM, not working, and no cash advance. Third bank didn’t have an ATM, but we got the money advance if few minutes. The mess of the market scared me a bit and it got too late to go to Ile-a-Vache, so we went back to Port Salut.
16.30 We are in a luxurious auberge, drinking something and taking advantage of the wifi to say hello at home and let them know we are alive. The owner, a French citizen that lived in France only the first 17 years of his life and the rest between islands (he must be about 65 now), has been living here for 18 years, 14 without moving. He was about to move to Chile, and told his wife “Let’s do the last trip”. They came here and never left. Port Salut, he likes to specify, not anywhere in Haiti. He likes to live here, it’s quiet, peaceful, safe, he doesn’t have guards at the hotel nor at the warehouse where he stores the building materials he trades.He owns 8.000 sqm around the hotel and 20,000 more a bit up the hill, where he built two houses, the storehouse and two apartments. He has 46 employees and they are all like his children. Auberge du Rayon Vert, it’s called. Apparently rich Haitians like to enjoy life and spend their money. And he makes a lot of money with them. He also has many Canadian, American and Swiss clients. Plus he works with embassies, etc. He invested quite some money here, while in the Dominican Republic he wouldn’t invest one cent. Yes, it’s not easy (the continuous power cuts, the difficulty to pitch clean water, for example), but it’s easier than in Europe. Now he enjoys his life. He spends the morning reading the newspapers at the restaurant of his hotel, with marble foor, but he must have worked hard for this. There are sunbeds at the beach of the hotel, never seen before in Rep Dom/Haiti. He locks the gate that goes directly to the entrance of the bar, but the gate of the parking is open. He asked me to moderate. I translated to Luca (that doesn’t speak French) that here you can do anything you want. You can drink, in moderation, and drive; if the police check on you, and see the bottle of rum in the front seat, they check that you are ok, and tell you to pay attention, nothing more. Luca told me that while I was looking somewhere else and a beautiful black woman arrived with a white man, he did a gesture of appreciation. Maybe he wasn’t thinking only about alcohol when he said you can do anything.
9pm. With the PRESTIGE at the beach. In Dominican Republic the national beer was the Presidente, here it’s the Prestige. Good. Nice to meet you Prestige. It’s us and another couple. I like it. Dim light, because there is no power. And it’s starting to rain. There’s this tiny restaurant at the beach that sells chicken, fried fish and lambi, with three rickety tables and four plastic chairs. The beer is not chilly (the freezer, that was probably bought second-hand and not working, is not used to refrigerate things, but to keep them away from the outside heat), but the relaxed and chilled atmosphere makes up for everything.