It’s our last night in Haiti which is said with happiness and sadness. Many of us are excited to return to our families and our warm beds, but we are sad to leave our new friends and this special place. Some of us have started packing while others of us still have our belongings scattered all over the floor.
Unanimously, it has been one of the best days we’ve had while in Haiti. While we didn’t work directly with the kids at the Cange school, we went on some of the most amazing trips. One group visited Luke’s, who is one of the translators, school. The other group visited a village which is connected during the rainy season only by a swinging bridge.
In the morning, we really didn’t have any set plans but everyone still got up bright and early. The sun rise helped most of us wake up and we even felt cold this morning! Breakfast was what we’ve become used to: cornflakes without milk, raisin bread, Laughing Cow cheese, and something that resembled oatmeal.
After breakfast, we had some free time to do what we wanted. Some people visited the gift shop at the hospital to pick up some souvenirs and others stayed at the house. Around lunchtime, we set out on our adventures.
Part of the group went to a school which was created by our translators. We rode in the back of a truck down the hill to the lake. From there, we got on a motor boat which took us across the lake. Then there was an approximate two mile hike into the depths of the jungle. Apparently the lake drops significantly when it’s not the rainy season and we walked in the riverbed on super smooth rocks.
This school serves a village of approximately 5000 people and has almost 250 students. Luke, the translator, chose this village to build his school because it was the village in which his mother grew up. The supplies are virtually non-existent and the tent in which they have class has holes in it. I’d sincerely like to at least send pencils and notebooks to the school.
After we had a rest and a visit with the teachers, we were given fresh coconut. These coconuts were the small kind and exactly what you imagine when you think of a coconut. They put a hole in them and allowed us to drink from them. Then they hacked them open with a machete and we got to eat the coconut meat.
We walked back down the mountain and took the boat back to our starting place. Then it was a race back to the house before the storm hit. We made a quick stop at the other translator, Ezekiel’s, house and he climbed a tree with just his hands and his feet. He grabbed the other kind of coconut that is native to Haiti and threw them down to us. We took them back to house to share with the other group.
Meanwhile, simultaneously in another village…
Another group of us started out from Jane’s house with Jane, Dee, and some of our other Haitian hosts. We climbed the monster hill again, and all piled into the large van in which we had previously rode in from Port Au Prince. We left Cange and journeyed deeper into the surrounding countryside.
After a short time on the paved road, we made a turn onto a gravel road. I should mention that Haitian gravel is a little different from American gravel. It is about 8 times the size, for one thing, and placed in a much more haphazard way. Our driver took every slightly flat spot as an opportunity to put the pedal to the metal, and we made pretty good time. Our heads were rather scrambled though.
Presently, we came to Tierra Muscady, where we toured a truly beautiful church and school building. It had been built with support from the Epsicopal Diocese in Upstate South Carolina, and the Bishop would be visiting the next day; so preparations were underway in earnest.
We returned to the van and bounced along. The road we were on had been built by the US in the 20s and the bridges were very old. One of them had been burned, causing us to detour through a small creek. Still, we soldiered on in the van until the road became impassable for anything other than the plethora of people on foot, donkey, and motorcycle.
At the bottom of the valley, we reached the engineering marvel of the area. Built by students from Virginia Tech, there was a swinging bridge across the river. Think Grandfather mountain at a much lower altitude.
The village of Tipeligre, where we were headed lay across a large river. Today, it was shallow, and people were bathing and doing laundry in the water. During the rainy season, however, the river swelled in size, completely isolating the village. Children were unable to attend school, and those who got sick went without medical care. The bridge changed all that.
We walked across the bridge and into a completely different Haiti than we had seen. Cange is a rural area, but it is fairly well connected thanks to the Zanmi Lasante hospital and school as well as the Digicel School. Tipeligre was much different. We walked uphill about thirty minutes until we reached the church and school.
The church was still under construction. It has been funded through the cooperation of a Methodist and Baptist church in Blacksburg Virginia. Every cinderblock, bag of concrete, and even the metal eaves for the ceiling had to be carried across the swinging bridge and up the mountain by hand. At this time, the 305 children that the school serves have class on the dirt floor of the future sanctuary.
Leneus and the other leaders at Tipeligre had a coconut ceremony for us, which we shared with the children. If you have never had fresh coconut, let me tell you, it is way better than what you get in the grocery store in the states.
Leneus shared with us that the Tipeligre church will be dedicated on May 29th, 2012. When finished, it will be just as beautiful as the church in Tierra Muscady. The children were very friendly and wished us farewell as we raced the rain back to Jane’s house. We met back with the other group, weary but grateful that we had made the trip to Tipeligre.
Both groups arrived back at the house around the same time. Most of us hurried to take a shower because we were hot and tired from all the hiking we’d done. Then we sat around, sharing stories and laughing until it was time for dinner. They served us goat meat!
After dinner, we had a concert performed by some of the most talented people in Cange. They played music and sang for us and we even sang a little for them. Some people played spoons and we all sang if we knew the songs!
We were given strict orders this evening to have our stuff packed for tomorrow. The preacher from one of the churches invited us to join them tomorrow morning, which is something we’d planned not to do. They pastors on the trip had planned worship, but they worked together to change the plans. We will be singing tomorrow and one of our pastors is lucky enough to be preaching to Cange. They told the preacher that we’d be involved but that he’d have to make the service short so that we’d get to Port Au Prince on time – we’ll still be giving him almost three hours (and we complain about services in the US).
This may be my last post from Haitian soil, depending on how crazy tomorrow is. If I don’t get the chance before, I’ll definitely update in Miami!