Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 5- Giselle

We woke up early today, really early. We were headed to mountain called Beau Michel to see the newly rediscovered Fort Durouet. We ate our standard morning fare--egg soufflĂ© with Haitian bread--and then all piled into the SUVs and headed north along the coast. To my left I could see crystal clear Caribbean waters, but to my right barren beige mountains speckled with squatter “homes” which continued for miles. I remembered this area being discussed by World Vision. We were in Corial, Port-au-Prince’s newest settlement. Although Corial has an ocean view many would pay millions to have, it was plain to see that this new settlement had nothing much to offer the 30,000+ squatters. It was far from the city and water could only be obtained by the use of trucks. We all knew that Corail’s inconvenient location was likely to assure it’s destiny as Haiti’s newest slum. We turned off the main road and headed down a dusty gravel path. I didn’t know at the time that the trip was going to be hours long.

In our dusty caravan was the well respected Pastor Wualaier. Pastor Wualaier was described by Ted as a Ghandi or Martin Luther King-type figure. The pastor recounted his story, telling us how he had been sold into slavery as a child and had lived a mistreated and tortured life. After a fateful reunion with his mother Pastor Wualaier was set on a path that would later help him organize communities. His philosophy was simple; heal people, heal communities and then create a stable environment.

The drive took us past a community that he had helped. We got out of the car and trekked up the side of a mountain where two meager structures were built. One was a school comprised of a tarp held up by sticks and a small church with cement block walls and a corrugated metal roof. In that church, Pastor Wualaier told us that Haitians were hard to organize because the Haitian tradition of voodoo makes them inherently suspicious of each other.

After another bumpy hour or so, we arrived at our destination, Fort Durouet. This was a French fort built when Haiti was still a French colony. Its remote location had kept it untouched for centuries. It was great to be able to climb among the stones and explore the ruins. The delegation climbed among leftover and cannons, even adopting a horse-- Icarus. As I gazed across the landscape I couldn’t help but try to imagine Haiti how it once was a lush tropical island, the “Jewel of the Caribbean.” I wondered how this little country could have been so mutilated. I was told that satellite views show the Dominican Republic as a green-filled spot in the middle of the sea, but that green abruptly ends into brown: the indication that you have wandered across the border and into Haiti. Tom later commented how the resources of Haiti are taken without the slightest care for its future. Haiti was sucked dry by deforestation and the greed, leaving it the barren and starving country we know today.

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