Tuesday, July 26, 2016 - Day Four - Visit to Croix Des Bouquets, Back to Sakala, and Walkabout in Cité Soleil
Katie Dennison reports:
To start our fourth day in Haiti, we chowed down to a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit. Shortly after eating, our van pulled up and we all piled in excited to visit an area within Port-au-Prince called Croix Des Bouquets. Croix Des Bouquets is famous for its metalwork made of steel oil drums that are burned to remove paint then hand stamped and shaped into art pieces. Beautiful and unique wall art, bracelets, and figures representing different aspects of Haitian culture are a few examples.
Before touring the different metal artisans stores, we visited a voodoo artist named Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph who creates voodoo flags which are essentially beaded tapestries depicting voodoo spirits. Each voodoo flag takes up to three months to create and are sold for hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars. Each piece was authentic and depicted a distinct aspect of Haitian voodoo culture, which challenged many mainstream US ideas about voodoo. Some of us bought smaller items like key chains and coin purses while others splurged on larger tapestries and paintings. We said goodbye and mesi (thank you in Creole) and decided to continue exploring the metalwork the area is known for. After observing artisans at work we toured shops and purchased merchandise. After an hour of roaming around the area we sought respite on a bench where local children greeted us with smiles and Quenepe (a local fruit that is similar to a Lychee).
Once we parted ways with the locals we returned to the van and made our way to Sakala. We arrived at Sakala and the kids quickly recognized us. We naturally broke off into different groups, playing sports like soccer and volleyball while others played singing and hand games. The language barrier did not stop us from communicating and playing games in the blistering heat. To say the least, our second day at Sakala was full of laughter, smiles, and sweat. Before leaving Sakala, the volleyball coach, Davidson, gave us a tour of Cite Solei during which we were exposed to the living conditions of the city residents. We waded through streets filled with trash and filthy water that paralleled a canal full of putrid smelling rotting garbage. We were disgusted, shocked, and overwhelmed with the living conditions in Cite Soleil. Davidson also introduced us to some of the local families who lived in tiny cement houses that surrounded the canal. The families were shy but thankful for our visit as, we hope, our presence reminds them of our solidarity.
We returned to Sakala for one last volleyball game before leaving for the guesthouse. At the Wall’s we ate dinner and had a group discussion reflecting upon the themes that we had recognized during our time in Haiti so far. We also discussed the most important interaction or moment we had during the day. We all agreed that throughout the day we were challenged to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with regards to heat and humidity, as well as understanding some of the complex ideas that Haitians have about their country.
But perhaps, Peter best summarized Haitian progress as being equal parts big and small.