Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Karnaval! A Demain

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It is Karnaval weekend in Haiti. The flash of Rio with the beat of a Jamaican street party. That means we are heading to Cap Hatian and the Mont Joli Hotel with a few diversionary pitstops along the way.

After a short water taxi (read small fishing boat not suitable for fishing) from Labadie to Coco Beach and we all piled into a Toyota Land Cruiser. You can in fact put 15 people in such a rig. I now want one. First stop the Croissant D’Or for the best (maybe the only) baked goods in Cap. It is a hangout for the UN guys and Cuban doctors. Owned by a French guy it has the best saucissse d’pain, pain chocolate, croissant et al. Provisions for the trip to the Sacre Cour Hospital in Milo. Run by a group of nuns it is staffed regularly with surgeons from the famed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The head nun was very pleased to host us and Pat and I tried a brewed under license from Guiness Haitian Guiness beer. Tasted like molasses. Not recommended. Dan in his quest for the ultimate machete asked an elderly lady who was walking by with a large well worn example and a bunch of bananas on her head if a photo would be OK. She said no and let me tell you a no is never as much a no as when it is delivered by an elderly woman with bananas on her head holding a 2 foot machete.

Off in the Cruiser again from La Citadelle. Considered by many as the 8th wonder of the world. It is a UNESCO site and is a stone fortress constructed over 13 years but never finished in the early part of the 18th cent. Incidently, UNESCO has been renovating the place for almost as long as it took to non-finish the construction in the first place. Ahh Haiti. A beautiful example of one man’s juxtaposition of awe and paranoia, read George Bush. It was commissioned by a French guy from Grenada who landed in northern Haiti after the revolution and declared himself king. Unfortunately there was another guy in Port au Prince claiming the same thing and as things often go they fought. Fearing for his “kingdom” he enslaved the newly freed slaves to build this fortress on top of a mountain so high that he could see all of northern Haiti. Yet when constructed he could not see Port au Prince. He ordered it built taller so he could. It could not. He became paralyzed in an accident and vowed no one would ever kill him so he went into his well stocked powder room and lit up a Cuban. His various remaining parts are now entombed in a crypt at the fortress. Oh yeah and Big Poppo picked the most imposing and well armed Chilean UN soldier to ask for a photo. He of course obliged and his commander from the background joking remarked that it would cost 50 Haitian Gourds! Had a fun chat with the contingent members, took some photos for them and off they went G3 assault rifles and all. Ask anyone about the horses.
Back into the Cruiser and return to Mont Joli for a swim, dinner and Karnaval. We all set out in our best bib and tucker to the central square. Anne even wore makeup. Ready to party with the locals on the first night of Karnaval which would be …….tomorrow night! So we sat down outside a bar, ordered beers (there is only one available so you really can just order a beer) and listened to a local band play. I went over to watch the maraca player put a lit cigarette in his mouth, blow smoke out his nose and then bring the cigarette out again. Great party trick. John came over to give the guy another just to see the trick and in response he gave John and I the maracas wo to the entertainment of the locals we danced and shook. John shook more than me. Then a deluge hit and we went singing in the rain and the muddy streets back up the hill to our hotel with locals laughing at us and referring to us not as the usual “blanc” but “vole kabrit” which means stolen goat. A whole other story.

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