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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Madarines and mangoes, lobsters and crabs, and a krewel "bonswa" to all

It is now Friday am. We leave for home on Sunday. We have settled into pretty much of a daily routine , Loring up before sunrise, me two or three hours later. Today, though,I have awakened for the sunrise for the first time. Today is also the first time I've lost track of which day it is. Surprising that I have kept track, since I often lose track at home, at times between semesters, when my routine is more open ended.

 I like the slow pace of the days, when the biggest decision may be which way to walk, or which fruit to have for breakfast. We have our choice of bananas, mangoes, mandarines, grapefruits, oranges. It took a few days to realize what the grapefruits were - they look like giant lemons. And the oranges are green I skinned, not so sweet, and my least favorite.

Our breakfasts, along with the fruit and coffee, have been pb and j and crackers, which we bought our first day in Jacmel, on our way from the airport, and then again in Jacmel, the day we spent there, three days later. We also have cheese and salami, which we've added some mornings to the mix, or for lunches if we are hungry before we head out to the beach.

Ti Mouillage has become our default destination. It is really the only sandy beach in the area. It is about a 15 or 20 minute walk from our house. There's a restaurant/ bar and some lounge chairs. We have generally picked up a tap tap ride somewhere between our house and there, and then walked back in the early evening around Sunset.

Yesterday, as we arrived, the burly, friendly manager, and probably owner, invited us into the kitchen and showed us two enormous crabs, as well as lobsters. He asked us which we wanted, and if we wanted to eat about 4pm, which has become our routine. Shortly before 4, we moved from the beach chairs to the tables and chairs in the sand. We noticed people congregating behind us, a bit toward the road. More and more arrived as we awaited our crabs. It was some kind of community meeting. And our restauranteur was clearly one of the organizers. We ogled them a bit, and they us. Our chanting student shell seller from the day before was in a hammock between us and the group, swinging and singsonging his lessons like on the day before.

Our crabs arrived, the legs overflowing the plates. On a separate plate were the ubiquitous spicy cole slaw and fried plantains. The coleslaw is great, the plantains I am tiring of. The waiter showed us how to crack the claws with the handle of our knives, and then, realizing we were somewhat stymied, proceeded to help us with it.  We didn't quite have the technique, and whacked at the shells hard to crack them, which was quite noisy and drew the notice of all of the people at the meeting who were trying to listen to the speaker. They were all facing us, which made me feel quite conspicuous. I am sure they were as curious about us as we were about them.

There was another group of "blans", two couples, who'd arrived to the beach quite after us. They had drinks and took the beach chairs when we had moved to the tables.  Aside from the two chairs we were sitting in, every chair, many more than I realized were on the premises, was occupied by someone attending the meeting. They'd kept arriving, until there were probably about 50 0f them. Most were older, not the young men and women we've seen on motorcyles and just hanging about on various points along the road. But there were a few younger people there, including one young woman who sat next to the restaurant guy and seemed to be one of the leaders. I wish I could have understood even a little of what they were discussing. But the speakers had their backs to us, the waves were loud, and they were no doubt speaking in Creole.

What must they think of us, beside that we are rich? Does being on a beach watching the waves have any appeal or soothing effect, or is it just a part of their environment that they take for granted. For some, it is a livelihood, we see the fisherman in boats from our deck and from the beach, but very few, actually, just three or four boats that we've observed. And they must be aware of the appeal of the ocean, not just to us blans but to well off Haitians who at least begin to build their grandiose houses here.

I wonder how many of these homes, including the one we are living in, will ever be completed. To us, this house doesn't feel complete. It is livable, for people like us, who regard living without much electricity (just a couple of hours at night) as somewhat of an adventure. (I'd mentioned missing refrigeration much more than electric light, but as Loring points out, we also rely on the electricity to keep our cameras and kindles and computer charged.  I've read at least 5 books in the last few days, and neither of us brought any paper books, so we'd have been lost without our kindles. We also are okay with the sparse furnishings (a few more cups and utensils would be nice, especially if we wanted to do any amount of cooking aside from making coffee.)

And it would of course be a palace for most Haitians. Each room of this house is bigger than many of their homes. 

But there are probably not very many foreigners, or blans,  unless they are aid workers, or young adventurers, who would be ok with the level of accomodation. If Lionel, the owner, wants to rent to more blans, he will probably need to up the comfort level. I discovered a whole folder of color fliers advertising the place, with phrases like "our ultra-modern 3 story waterfront villa"  and "ideal for a film location", the descriptions somewhat of an overreach, although not really untrue. It is modern in that there are stove, fridge, microwave, blender, etc, but not of much use without electricity, or, for that matter, pots and pans.

And yet, the couple of times that Lionel called to see how we are doing,, and once when Jeancene called him because he wasn’t sure what I was asking, I answer fine. And in fact we are fine, with the beautiful ocean, palms and fruit trees, and the friendly people to whom we say bonswa, the Creole greeting  no matter the time of day, and them returning the greeting.


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