March 17 2014, 11.05 in the morning
Brunch with mashed potatoes, meat stew and spaghetti with tomato and cream. Not bad. I hope we will get coffee too.
We went to Anse-à-Pitre, on the other side of the border, to check things out. So, it looks like to take the boat you don’t need o book, you just have to go there in the afternoon with 500 HTG (one euro is about 60 Haitian gourde, so the trip is about 4 euro each) and we can go. We have already changed some money. I haven’t seen any boat at the little harbor, it probably isn’t here yet. I wonder what will happen.
Luca is nervous. He’s probably worried about the trip.
The mercado international takes place on Mondays and Fridays. The boat arrives the day before, with goods and people, and leaves again in the evening of the market day, with more goods and people. During market days the border is open, we crossed it without anyone saying anything or checking our passport. I wonder how many Haitians cross the border this way. But tonight we will need to have our passports stamped, or we will be in trouble when coming back to the Dominican Republic.
They say that at the border you can feel the tension between the two countries. I didn’t notice it here, maybe because the border is small and the two towns are at one kilometer one from the other, they continuously exchange what they have and some Haitians go to work in Pedernales daily. When we crossed the border it was all bonjour here and bonjour there, and kids were very happy to see us. I guess they don’t see many white faces there.
At the market there’s a section for shoes and clothes, one for vegetables and fruit (there were bags full of chickpeas, beans, rice, sugar, coffee…), kitchen utensils on the other side. Many people go there for shopping, because in small towns like Pedernales and Anse-à-Pitre there are no stores. Some people buy bags full of rice and go around Pedernales to sell it to the small restaurants and shops.
12.20 pm. We are at the Malecon, to get some shade and air. I would love one of those delicious banana smoothies, but the coffee shop that has no coffee is still closed. Here there are people sleeping on trunks used as benches, others dealing (earlier there was a shady exchange of money from hand to hand), three guys are making a concrete pillar, a weird guy threw a stone on the pavement in front of a girl as a joke, but he almost caught her; a boy with new rapper headphones arrived on his bike and from the back pocket you could see the butt of a firearm. What does a boy do with a handgun? Nothing good I guess.
4pm Last lunch in Pedernales. MORO CON POLLO. Moro is rice with beans or chickpeas cooked together. It’s really hot today. Everything is ready, they just have to warm it up a bit (if we are lucky) and put it into the plates. When I went to pay the waitress showed me the picture of a kid with blue eyes she saw on facebook. Is he your son? I asked, without thinking he was white. “No, but I would like to have a baby like this”. So you would like to meet a foreigner with blue eyes? Yes. I wonder how much she would pay to rent Luca for some time.
I was able to call mom on Skype, finally. It felt like the last goodbye. I don’t know what will happen next. Luca is still nervous and tired.
5.26 pm. Anse-à-Pitre. We are at the harbor. They are loading our boat. On foot, they put bags or super heavy buckets on their heads, walk in the water, with the waves hitting them in the face, and deposit the goods on the boats. I hope they will get closer or they will arrange some smaller boats to get on the large boats, because I don’t think I can do it. Of course, if I must I can, but I’d rather not to. And how? Should I also walk in the water and get on the boat completely wet? Or will they carry me on their heads? Our boat is the first one on the right. First they load the merchandise, then the people, and we will sit on top of the bags.
The Haitian border asked for 20 dollars each. So expensive! When we arrived in Santo Domingo we only paid 10 dollars (and it’s better to have dollars because otherwise it’s 10 or 20 euro, more than 10 dollars). To go out of the Republic nothing, I thought they asked us money here too, because the manager of the Hotelito told us everybody asks for money and the Lonely Planet mentions money too.
There’s a very smelly guy, wearing two different shoes, with crazy eyes and bottle in his pocket, that keeps walking around us. We saw little of Haiti so far, but we can tell they are much poorer and desperate. It’s hard to believe there was a time when this country was rich and they produced sugar cane and cigars and Americans came here on holiday.
If we really get there, I bet it will be an adventure we’ll tell for years.
We are under a porch. They told us to wait here. A boy is helping undo a net: he passes the thred through his fingers and when he feels a hook he attaches it to the border of a basket. Women keep cooking, for travelers and carriers. It’s almost 6pm. We leave in 3 hours. A bell is ringing: is dinner ready? There’s a guy that must be the owner of the boats: he’s wearing a brand new t-shirt, two identical shoes, and if that wasn’t enough, two rings and a necklace.
“Let it be tomorrow”, says Luca. A guy told us that to get on the boat one of the guys will carry us on his shoulders. I hope I misunderstood or that he was joking (no, it was no misunderstood nor joke).