Sunday, March 20, 2011

Haiti - The Mountains

Fwd: Tom's Truck Project
On the day after we'd arrived, we headed into the mountains to deliver water filters. Tom had talked to a small group of leaders in the mountains whom he was going to distribute the filters to and they would take them back to their family groups and use them. Heading into the mountains was a wild experience. The town of Verette was full of cinder block houses. The mountains was a whole other world. It was like something out of National Geographic.
Haiti - 1716Haiti - 1721
Interesting thing about the mountains; Tom explained to me that the caste system in that area was composed of two things: skin color (the lighter the better) and where you were from (the mountains versus the village).  The poverty in the mountains was amazing, or I guess what looked like poverty to me.  The houses were made of mud and rocks between sticks with roofs made of either tin or other natural material.  The wood used in the houses were the tree branches used as supports.

Haiti - 1953The roads in the mountains aren't so much roads as they are paths without trees.  The roads would be 12 inches higher in one place over another, be straight up or straight down and washed out at the bottom where you'd have to get out and find rocks to fill in the wash-out so that you could pass.  You'd ford a river just to get on the road to the mountains and then from there you'd wind your way around up miles and miles of roads.  On the way up the road you'd see random cows, bulls and horses tied up along the side of the road grazing.

Haiti - 2011

You pass people who would yell out for a ride up or down. Tom would stop and let them in, either inside the truck or in the back.  When they wanted out they'd tap on the side of the truck to get out (hence the term "Tap Tap" for their cabs).  Everywhere we went, no matter how remote, we'd drive through and kids would hear the truck, see Tom and come out yelling "Tom! Tom!" and the adults would wave.  Tom seemed to be thought of very highly to everyone up in the mountains.

Haiti - 1940As we drove up the mountain I was in awe of what I saw.  Not just the view, but the houses, the people, the land, the differences.  Seeing women walking up the mountain carrying a giant laundry bin on their head or a 40 lb bucket of water on their head.  It was just so different and tough to take it all in.  We stopped multiple times to let people just in the cab until it was full.  We stopped for two little kids, maybe six years old and we let them sit in the back seats on our laps, so at this point we had probably 13 people in the truck.  They'd then tap on the side of the truck and we'd let them out.

We got to a guest house at the top of the mountains expecting to see 20-30 people and instead saw hundreds.  We pulled the truck in and were immediately surrounded on all sides of the truck by people who wanted water purifiers.  In America, you'd see a mob like this if someone was giving out $100 bills or iPads, but water?  One of Tom's guys tried to organize people, but it wasn't working.

Haiti - 1681

Guys had machetes and it was going to get ugly.  Tom was able to back out and we jumped in the truck and took off.  We pulled off to a distance and tried to distribute them to smaller groups, but that didn't work either.  We ended up taking down names on a list and had them come to Tom's place one by one to get the water filters.

Here's a video I filmed of some of what was going on.  I think it seemed even scarier since everything was so new to me.

On the way back down, Tom took us up to show us this beautiful view and some property where he'd eventually love to build a guest house.  As we walked into the area we heard a drum beat and walked in on this amazing worship service going on.  One of the guys with us explained that we'd walked in on a desert retreat.  We watched from a distance as the women were in this small shelter, singing beautifully, dancing and worshipping.

The following day as we drove through the mountains we saw a group of women on a porch singing and we stopped to listen.  They danced and sang, celebrating international women's day.  Echo of course joined in an danced with them.

Haiti - 2025Haiti - 2027

The same evening we saw a group of guys gathered on the side of the road shouting.  Tom explained that it was a cock fight, so we stopped.  Bill wanted nothing to do with it.  Because they knew Tom, they let us in to watch.

The cock fight was more like a boxing match than a gladiator match.  Tom explained that none of the people can afford to loose a roster, so they don't let them fight to the death.  After being woken up repeatedly by roosters at 4am, I had no problem with one of them experiencing a little pain.  The people were more fascinating to watch than the fight.

Haiti - 1956
We stopped at Ficilta's parents house in the mountains and got a chance to look around a little.  This was the food shed where they store the food and cook.  The smoke from the cooking fire keeps the bugs away from the food.  You can see in the second picture below how the corn is stored in the shed.
Haiti - 1957Haiti - 1958

On the left is a rain water catcher.  The only problem is that it's made of clay and it looks pretty appealing to play on.  Those two things don't go together.  On the right is a mortar, who they pound the corn into flour.  Seems like a lot of work. 

Haiti - 1965Haiti - 1970

As we'd headed up into the mountains, we dropped Limene off at her boyfriend's house and we all got a chance to meet him.  We tried to make it as awkward as possible for both of them.  I think the equivalent of a dad cleaning his shotgun when the boyfriend comes over is the equivalent to the Haitians cleaning their machetes.  
Haiti - 1971Haiti - 1952
One of my favorite moments was riding up into the mountains while  Echo and I were riding in the back of the truck.  We drove through town, and I'd hear people yell "Echo!" as we'd drive by and the kids would wave at me because I was the white guy.  The dust was amazing and we were both getting it everywhere - eyes, mouth and hair.  I gave Echo my sunglasses to wear and he thought he looked very cool in them.  People would jump in and out of the truck to ride with us up the mountain and we would speak the small amount that we understood of the other.

I'll go into detail about some of Tom's work that I saw in the mountains in another post.

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