Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Haiti Road Trip

So this weekend was Easter weekend. Haiti, being a Catholic country, has a huge ordeal for Easter celebration. Tzu Chi decided to take a long road trip to visit the Hope Village that is sponsored by the Taiwanese Government this weekend. It was chosen for this weekend, mainly because the U.S. volunteers are only going to be here for a week and it was the best time to go, also traffic is a lot less, since everyone has church activities this weekend. So it was decided and everyone was super excited, especially me. I love road trips and road trips in Haiti means that we are going to see so many exciting things! I couldn't wait at all! Everyone wasn't so kean on the whole 5 hour road trip to St. Michel de L'Atalaye, but I was super stoked! The long road trip meant that we would be driving along the National Highway and seeing all different viewpoints. We were going to drive along the coastal lines of Haiti and also pass by many different major cities. The last time that I visited major cities in Haiti was mostly during 2010 when Tzu Chi was doing immediate earthquake relief work. We visited mostly the southern cities and this time we were going up north! 

We will be visiting the Artibonite area, which is the largest department in Haiti. This was also where the Cholera outbreak took place since late October 2010. It was believe that the source of the outbreak started from the rural Artibonite department of Haiti. The major cities within this department are: Cabaret (big fishing area and home to Dictators Francois Duvailer and Jean-Claude Duvalier), Arcahaie (creation of the Haitian National Flag took place), Saint-Marc (prefered port of entry for consumer goods, huge merchant port, tons of bananas are harvested here), Marchand Dessalines (Haiti's First Capital City), Gonaives (City of Independence where General Dessalines proclaimed victory in 1804), and finally St. Michel de L'Atalaye/Marmelade (home town to President Rene Preval and where the Taiwanese Hope Village will be located). 
Getting ready to take off for the road trip! I was sooooooo excited! Oh by the way, we had to squeeze four people in the back of the pick-up, so that is why you see we were trying to get into position. 
We saw so many different tap-taps along the road. They always try to pack on as many people and things as they can for each ride! This is a normal looking load! 
So many different mud houses along the way! The walls are all build with a mud and water mixture with small wooden stick support! 
Because of Easter, all along the roads people were celebrating. It is called "Ra Ra," which is a type of folk lore dancing with deep roots in voodooism. Haitians use these dances for all celebrations, especially during Carnival season. So everyone gets dressed up in bright colors and start dancing and singing on the road. It is like a parade almost, except if you want to pass them, you have to pay. They will literally stop your car with the big flags and dance all around until you pay up. They won't use violence, but if you don't pay, everyone will just have to sit there and endure the loud music and forceful smiles. 
Stopped to take a bathroom break along the river. We were about 3/4 of the way (in Annivert and Ennery areas)! It was a great place to stretch our legs. Look how beautiful it is???
Haitians are always carrying things on their heads. It is actually true, it is a lot lighter on your head . This is  the reason why they are always so straight and up-right in their postures. They have impeccable balance, but at the same time, they do always complain of neck and back pains. 
Two women dressed up in Ra Ra gear. They were so colorful and fierce! 
Saturday Market Place with Chicken Fighting on the agenda. 
We finally made it to Saint-Michel de l'Attalaye! Yay! 
These were the children that were from the Hope Village zone! We bonded instantly. They were as sweet as can be! 
We visited one of the Hope Village's resident. It was a family of 11, with 9 children total. They were all so sweet and cute. The smaller children didn't have clothes on and just ran around naked. They were so happy to see us. The mother was braiding all the girl's hair. It was a wonderful family. 
This was one of the Hope Village resident's kitchen area. They built this little house with palm tree leaves and wooden sticks. I love how it looks. Isn't it just so awesome? I find it absolutely beautiful. Couldn't help myself, had to take a photo with it. 
Patrick SB, Chia-Ying SG, Lesly, and I posing in front of a store front in downtown St. Michel.  It is Brazilian colors! Awesome! 
This was the ICDF (Technical Mission of Taiwan) office in St. Michel. It was a massive office with  hosting quarters and everything. 
Chatting up a storm with all the children in the field. I was practicing my Creole. Not bad. 
More children from the Hope Village. 
The progress on the 200 Hope Village houses was super fast. OECC is planning on it finishing before the end of June. It is blue and white now, but the final product will be brown and yellow.  All the little houses looked awesome. Even though this is just the base color, but I think it looks beautiful this way. I love blue and white! We got to walk around the work site and see all the houses from the inside. It is a two bedroom, one living room, one bath, and one kitchen area house. It is going to be an amazing village!
Great big thanks to Mr. Peng and Mr. Ju and his lovely family for showing us around. Thanks for housing us for the night. It was a great trip to get to see the Taiwanese Hope Village and see all the people's happy faces. It is also great to see other Taiwanese people in Haiti. It has been a while!
More people dressed up in Ra Ra gear! Look how festive they are????

On Sunday, on our way back to Port-au-Prince, we stopped by the Taiwanese ICDF office in St. Marc.  It was a great time eating fruit and chatting up with the people there. 
We even got to eat Liang Woo!!!! Oh my goodness, I literally had tears in my eyes. I only get Liang Woo in Taiwan. It has been too long. Apparently someone in ICDF planted the tree here and has nurtured its growth successfully. I am soooooo grateful. It was sooooo good! Yummy! 
We also stopped by Pierre Payen (where Tzu Chi started planting their first Moringa seedlings) on our way back to OECC. There was a travelling group from the zone doing Ra Ra celebrations. They were chanting and dancing all along the zone. 
Huge truck carrying Bananas! Would you look at that??? Talk about a great harvest!
When we got into Port-au-Prince, we also stopped at Route Neuve, where Tzu Chi's temporary shelters are located. The situation is getting worse, because the shelters are falling apart now. They are not meant to be permanent, so after raining and hurricane seasons, it has been hugely damaged. I don't think it can withstand another hurricane season. 
Taking photos with all the familiar faces. I have watched these children grow for the past two years, it really is a true blessing to witness this miracle in the making. Also, my favorite grandma was at home. She always has the biggest smile on her face when she sees me. She always updates me on everything that has happened and who has moved away and who had a baby. I love her so much!
One of the children at the Route Neuve Tent Camp who has been sick and can't go to school. I hope she gets better soon! 
When I look back at the photos from two years ago, these children were only up to my shoulder level and now look how much they have grown! I love how innocent and joyful these children are. I love their smiles! The pure happiness that comes from a hug and a greeting. My dear little ones, you have come a long way, continue to fight for life and what you believe in. I will be with you spiritually, every step of the way.

In total, we drove through over 25 different cities and towns on this road trip. Sunday night we made it safely back to OECC and everyone was exhausted from the trip. I was still so stoked and just glimmered with pure happiness. It was definitely an adventure and one that I will never forget! Thank you to everyone involved for making this trip happen. What a great weekend!

1 comment:

  1. what a wonderful road trip! I love your smaile, it is as happy and beautiful as kid's smile in the pix. love ya!