Friday, December 30, 2016

Rain, Power, Thanksgiving, and Christmas

After hurricane Mathew came I was relieved and thankful it did not hit Cap Haitian, but disaster still hit. In November it started to rain and it kept raining. For days Mitch and I were stuck inside the city, unable to get out due to the mud and pools of water. When there were breaks in the rain, we would go out and walk around the city to buy groceries or just get some new scenery.  Even the outdoor market was flooded. When the rain finally stopped, a friend of ours invited us to his neighborhood on a hillside to show us the damage. We walked up the hill on a dirt road which had a new stream running through it from the rain. He showed us an empty lot where a house used to be. It had collapsed on the family living in it. It was surprising to see the damage from something as normal as rain after a hurricane missed us. When we reached the top of the hill, not far from the empty lot, there were kids playing in the stream. The view of the city was beautiful and cars and people were going about their day. The resilience of Haitians to keep moving forward in the face of such hardship is amazing.

Later on in November the power went out in our house. Now this is a daily occurrence but normally for just a few hours. This time however the hours turned to days. We cleared out all the perishables in the fridge and started to refer to it as the cabinet. With the power out, we could not run the pump in the well that gives water to the house. To bathe we had to fill a bucket of water from the well and dump it over ourselves to get clean.  We also went to local hotels and restaurants to use their Wi-Fi to get in touch with work and family so that they would know we were okay, but that it might be a while before our power was back.   It turned into 11 days.

Eleven days without power creates the perfect opportunity to try the different foods at the local restaurants. The main Haitian dish is a meat with a side of rice and beans or fried plantains with piklies. The popular meats are poulle (chicken), griot (fried pork), and kabrit (fried goat). They come either plain or in sauce. Piklies is like coleslaw but spicy. You take the piklies and put it on the fried plantains for a delicious complement to the fried meat. Natural juice is a very popular drink to go with meals. My favorite is passion fruit juice, but you can also get mango, pineapple, and many other tropical fruit juices. When the power was finally back on we instantly stocked up the fridge, took regular showers, skyped our families, and watched a lot of Netflix. Electricity is really a wonderful thing.

For Thanksgiving Mitch and I went to an expat celebration. It was a potluck and we bought mashed potatoes (although we made them too early and they were cold when we got to the party). The other food included turkey, macaroni, and all the holiday classics that made the holiday feel a little more like home.   I had so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: the hurricane missing us, the rain not flooding our home, electricity, and knowing my family was happy and healthy. It’s important to be thankful for the little things and not just one day a year but every day.

My family came down for Christmas. It was their first time in Haiti and my first time seeing a familiar face since I left the United States. (I had met Mitch in New York for YASC training but that doesn’t really count in my opinion.)  I showed them the school even though most of the faculty were gone for the holidays.   We hiked to the Citadel and spent Christmas Eve Eve at Paradis, a secluded beach where a man in a kayak caught and steamed from crab for us.  On Christmas Eve, we hiked to fortress ruins so my family could see the route I usually take to jog.  That night, we went to the midnight mass at my church and then right to sleep after because none of us were used to being up that late. However, my favorite part was cooking for them and talking around the dinner table. It was wonderful to be able to share a week of this experience with them and for them to see what a beautiful place Haiti is.