Thursday, February 15, 2007

Landed on Ile a Vache - by Dick

We landed on Ile a Vache, south of Haiti. The Netherlands are really far away. I just received an e-mail of a good friend Jan Roelofs. He is working on an initiative for a Dutch 'spiritual political party' in Holland. He trusts his country is heading in the right direction as it has a new government ‘guarding Christian values’ in ‘our world'. A world that’s far away from here.

This is an oasis; we are moored in a lagoon with little beaches, palm trees and huts where people live with their family, chickens and pigs. Fisherman are repairing their nets by hand and sailing vessels are being build the same way as they are for hundreds of years. Sailors are sailing up and down to the main island to transport people and food. Children are even going to school in uniforms and after returning home they try to sell us papayas and melons as they peddle to the Sea Scout in a ‘dug out’ canoe. They and all the other people here are very friendly; and curious as well.
There is a sign on the beach that the EU donated money to maintain their way of living. People seem to live relaxed. That is quite different from Port au Prince.

I am a week on my way now and it is incredible what I experience. I just swam to the shore (because David and Patrick took the dinghy for spearing lobsters) with my glasses, a towel and shirt in a plastic bag. There is an almost very nice, but not really very busy hotel run by French people.

After leaving the American civilization/culture in Miami in Port au Prince I landed in another world. I called Port au Prince a 'bustling city'. It may have been ‘the understatement of the day’. Of course we did not go into the really dangerous places as Cite Soleil. But it is anyhow considered to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world; moreover it was very busy, warm, full of people, full of trade and it smelled really bad because there is no service to clean the garbage from the streets. A ‘blanc’ is easily spotted. And, is as I felt, considered to be a ‘walking money tree’. But I also met people concerned with matters such as: where and how will I find food today? How to spend the rest of the day with no job to go (over 80 ! % has no work they are being paid for). Voodoo is serious business here. As is Catholicism, Baptism, and Jehovah’s witnesses. So, this is what’s on peoples minds.
There are also quite a number of American and European (and local) people making money by giving aid via professional NGO's and driving around is SUV’s. And there are people convinced that they are sent by God and thus have the power to start up an orphanage for at least twenty children with their own hands. There is no shortage of children who’s parents cannot take care of... All these tings are possible because ‘de facto’ there is no government. No structure. Of course there are also people working with a more balanced mind and heart. But in the end, it’s up to the strongest.

Jacmel compared to Porte au Prince was a provincial town. The fact that the waves were rolling from the sea into the harbor made Sea Scout rolling up and down. But the unrest that results in, is nothing compared to all the stories you hear about smuggling narcotics, relations, embargos, changes in who rules the country, very nice initiatives, big plans; about suspects who are three years in jail before they are brought to the court and then fall asleep in front of the judge, because they do not understand a word (the process is in French; a Haitian speaks Kreol). Haiti is more than any country a world of stories. Geert met in Jacmel the widow of a Dutch ex politician, who lives there: she created her own world.
You may have his report on carnival: read it, combine it with what I tell you now and you will know what I mean.

It took about twenty hours to sail from Jacmel to Ile a Vache. So we sailed on all night with a wind force three to five (and more or less the same speed) and a sometimes ‘bumpy’ sea. During watch there was nothing but stars and waves. The island was dark. Electricity is a scarce good here. But it was very much worth it. On board were also Patrick and Kate who initiate cultural projects in Jacmel. It all went well. Patrick and Kate just left with a motorboat to catch a plane back home. We are going to stay for a couple of days.
Here in this paradise. So that I can make up my mind again.