5.30.2010

Ile a Vache/Haiti




Felix left, Jerry right

It is time to remember how to be child like, how to find those feelings of excitement over the simple things in life, I remember as a young child how exciting it was to find empty Coke bottles on the side of the road and to turn them in for a nickel. Do you remember the feeling of eagerness when you heard the sound of an ice cream truck a few blocks away? Can you recall being clueless & carefree on a hot summer day lying in the cool grass staring at the big puffy clouds flo ating by with no concern of the bug bites that would ultimately result? How about those summer days when you were gracious a new kid moved on the block so the neighborhood baseball team would have even number of players with no concern to color or nationality, free of all prejudice. This is my story of remembering how to let go and fly so I could welcome this simple culture into my heart forever.


We have all heard the stories about Haiti, mostly flawed and incorrect perspectives. I myself am guilty of embracing some of these erroneous beliefs. In the beginning of our transit to Haiti I found some of these invalid beliefs emerge to the surface of my thoughts. I had persuaded myself that all would be well but I found my apprehensions mount as we drew near to the isle of Ile a Vache. These suppressed judgments that I carried in the back of my mind were awakening against my will. I hadn’t overcome my prejudices yet.





As we arrived to the entrance to the cove of this beautiful island there were many Bois-Fouyes (the local native sail powered fishing boats) throughout the bay fishing. Fishing buoys made of old plastic bottles were scattered throughout the entrance and we were forced to squirm our way through the maze. As we wiggled our way through the channel I found myself unable to refrain from taking a few pictures of these beautiful Bois-Fouyes sailing vessels even though I was aware that some Haitians do not like their pictures taken due to a belief that when their picture is taken a part of their soul is taken with the picture. I must confess my lack of respect was my first mistake. Being selfish and not respecting a belief system and taking pictures without their permission. My disregard for this culture resulted in unnecessary stress inflicted on myself by myself.

One of the ancient sailing vessels intersected a few feet in front of us. One of the men on board began shouting at us in Creole French; we were clueless as to what he was trying to tell us, another mistake, not learning the language of the country. This is where my concern began to escalate as this person continued to frantically wave his arms in the air and scream at us while another male on board had his head in his hands shaking his head as if nothing would ever be the same again. We didn’t understand what was wrong at the time but the last thing I wanted to do was make anyone mad at us in Haiti. As our transit continued so did my concern. I literally became sick with worry at the thought of what these people were going to do to us; they do practice Voodoo you know!! I began imagining pieces of my hair on a stick doll with pins stuck through it! I punished myself with my vivid imagination for the hour long journey to anchor. As we found out later all my worry was in vain because these men were just concerned that we had ran over their fishing line and we were going to drag it on our rudder. My silliness and ignorance resulted in my own minor freak out and who knows how many grey hairs. When we entered the bay we were greeted by people both young and old in dugout canoes. They were all smiling and appeared very peaceful some spoke broken English some not. Some had services to offer such as laundry, boat cleaning, guides for translation, homemade gifts to sell and some brought us gifts of fresh, fire roasted cashews, shells, fruit, drawings they had made and some just wanted to say hello. When we went to shore the children surrounded us with beautiful smiles, harmonious laughter and warm hugs, all competing to hold our hands. The children are blissful as they play in the bay to keep cool, they laugh, and they use their imagination to find ways to entertain themselves and each other. There is no running water or electricity on the island therefore there are no sprinklers to play in, no slip and slides, no TVs, Gameboys, X-Boxes and all the other items that consume most children’s time. The kids are in need of various items such as balls, Frisbees, books, school and art supplies and most important money for school. The Capt and I observed these children at play and we began our journey to learning how to remember to play. It is such a simple concept yet so easily forgotten. One way we found to play with the kids was when we would see a canoe of youngsters paddling around the bay we came up next to them in our dinghy, the Capt would capture the canoe and we would pull them around the bay, they loved it. One incident while at play the Captain let go of the canoe too quickly and it filled with water. We had 3 young boys paddling around in the water trying to reach their canoe. Of course we returned and assisted in empting the canoe so it could be turned up right. We are giving and receiving great times and tons of laughter, that is priceless!
The children of Haiti do not have the privilege of attending school there is a cost attached to this indulgence and if the parents cannot pay there are no options or handouts. This I find very disconcerting because these children are all hungry for education and eager to learn. When word got out that we were going to sponsor a couple of children for a year of schooling it wasn’t long before we had a line of children in dugout canoes alongside Mary Rose’s beam each requesting the opportunity to put their name on a piece of paper so we wouldn’t forget them. Each having a story to tell, a dream to share regarding what they would do if they had the opportunity to learn a trade, learn to read and write.. Simple things but so out of reach for many. We have started a list with names of those children wanting to attend school next year. The cost to send one child to school is $50 for 6 months this may not sound unattainable to most of us but when you take into consideration that the average monthly salary is $20-30 per month this is substantial. We met one boy that has captured a section of my heart. His name is Jerry and he is an inspiring and talented artist. I gifted him a sketch pad and a how to sketch book that I have held on to for several years and for whatever reason I could never part with it. Isn’t it funny how that works?! I never understood why I couldn’t let this book go until I met Jerry…now I understand. He carries the book and the sketch pad around with him and has done many wonderful sketches since I gifted him with it. Now he is going to sketch boats and sell them. Now we have given him a method to be some what self sufficient. Self sufficiency is the key to decreasing the issue of survival on this island. We meant a young man by the name of Jonathon McDonald who is heading an organization by the name of Friends of Ile a Vache. http://www.friendsofileavachehaiti.com/ .

The Friends of Ile a Vache is doing just that, giving these people a way to be self sufficient. Please review the website and see for yourself all the good deeds that are coming out of this organization. A sample of the bigheartedness and entertaining fun they also provide is they sponsored a canoe race during our visit to Ile a Vache and the first place prize was $25 US dollars = to 100 goudes (Haiti exchange), the humorous part of the event was that the last place canoe also won $25 which was not announced until after the race, what a nice surprise it was to the gentleman who came in last. We are in the process of joining Soles For Little Souls with Friends of Ile a Vache so that tax deductable donations can be made to Soles For Little Souls and the money will be routed to us for purchase of supplies and sponsorship of education of the children in return we will be helping to transport supplies to the island. This organization is highly commendable and doing a lot of good for these people. This island is in desperate need of many things I will place a list at the end of this blog post.
We visited a market place in a near by town which is held every Monday and Thursday. This was an amazing experience. It was as if we stepped back in time a few hundred years or on to the pages of National Geographic.
Please enjoy the pics in the photo section they are broke down by categories.

I will leave this island with much more compassion and a lot less tolerance for people feeling entitled. These people live day after day, year after year with a heat index that is less than tolerable, no air conditioning not even a fan, the bugs are relentless and have developed a liking to bug repellant, they cook meals on open fires, no corner stores to pick up dinner, no fast food drive through, they live a very simple life and do without many things we consider the basics yet they continue day after day with positive outlooks and a multitude of smiles. The people of Ile a Vache were gracious, warm and very welcoming.

It is time that we close our eyes and remember how to spread our arms to our side and run through the grass pretending to fly. It is time that we drag our children away from the video games, cell phones, TVs and show them how simple life can be and should be.

Elizabeth Cunningham stated it best when she wrote: “We leave people and places and times behind. We encounter new ones. Sometimes we can’t see the patterns or connections. But they are there, between one breath and the next, in the ebb and flow of tides, in the rhythm of the dance.

Special thanks to Felix (Pix @ top of page) for being our guide and translator and friend, to Fritznel (1st pic)and Nixon for doing such a great job cleaning Mary Rose and for your companionship and friendship and a very special thanks to the people of Ile a Vache for sharing a piece of your island and culture with us.

Needs:


Batteries all sizes



Dive Masks



Snorkels



Flashlights



School supplies



Art Supplies



Medical and first aid supplies



Games



Balls



Anti itch creams

Fishing items nets and lines



This is a short list, the list goes on

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