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Notes from November 2006:
A trip to LaTortue

Every trip here is interesting . . ..usually in unexpected ways.

I had been trying to visit the island of LaTortue for a few weeks, and finally the opportunity arrived.  Pere Ronel was planning to go for a training session of the catechists, and he said I would be welcome to join him.   I am not quite brave enough to make the trip alone, because I am never sure where the boats are leaving from or going to.

The Sagesse anchored peacefully in the Harbor at Cayon on LaTortue--with a storm approaching.

Pere Ronel said that we would probably leave from St. Louis du Nord--about a 45 minute ride from PdP--because that boat would arrive closer to our final destination of Aux Palmiste.  Pere Ronel has a discarded Toyota pickup that he is trying to put back in working order, but he had loaned it to a priest who was visiting PdPaix for a funeral.  So, yesterday, he told me not to worry, he had found a ride for us to get to St. Louis--be ready at 9AM.
So this morning, about 8:30, he came to tell me the ride had arrived.  The vehicle was an older dark blue Toyota Land Cruiser with the steering wheel on the right hand side;  the driver was a young Haitien man.  He drove fairly slowly, which was fine with me.  After about 10. minutes, we pulled over and parked in front of a little house.  With no explanation, everyone got out of the car and went in.  Pere Ronel sat down to talk to an older man who was blind---for about 15 minutes.  Then there was a flurry of activity on the balcony above us as a very large, young Haitien woman finished her preparations and came down the steps.  She greeted al of us, and Pere Ronel said-OK let's go.
Off we went in the same car, but this time the young woman was driving---fairly quickly, and honking at everyone.  When I asked Pere Ronel what her name was, he said he thought it was Roseline.  In about 5 minutes, she slowed down and pulled into a gated area.  Again, with no explanation, everyone got out--and Roseline proceeded to talk to the man sitting on the porch of a fairly nice building.  It was then that I noticed that the other vehicle parked there said   Morgue and Funerals..  Pere Ronel confirmed that this was indeed the PdPaix branch of the L'Homme Compose Funeral Home.

After a few minutes, Roseline kissed the man goodby, and we got back into the car.  Chatting and honking as we drove along, Roseline started explaining the difficulties of the enterrment business.  In about 30 minutes, as we were almost arriving in St. Louis, Roseline pulled into another gated area.  This time it was the main office of the L'Homme Compose Funeral Home.  Again, we got out of the car.  Roseline took me by the arm and asked if I would like a tour.  What could I say-she had been kind emough to give us a ride, and she was at least twice as big as I am.
First we visited the waiting room area--very nice;  then we visited the casket room--with about 15 very nice caskets-when I asked the price of one, she said about $5000--but that included the artificial flowers, the music, and the hearse.  She explained that they had a freezer for keeping the bodies from deteriorating if there was a long delay waiting for relatives to arrive from other places (like the US) before the funeral.  We didn't visit the freezer. Then she took me behind the building to see where the workers were actually constructing the wooden coffins that would go inside the metal ones.


A passenger coming to The Sagesse boat.

After the tour, we waited on the front porch for  about 5 minutes until another driver arrived.   We said our thank yous and goodbys, and the driver took us to the boat landing in St. Louis--about 5 minutes away.

The wait was very short, because the Sagesse (Wisdom) boat was already loading.  However, there is no dock in St. Louis.  The boats anchor about 20 yards off shore.  The passengers are obliged to ride on the shoulders of local men to reach the boat.  I had done this before, so I wasn't surprised--but I was happy to have Pere Ronel to do the negotiating--picking the carrier and paying the charge.

After a few minutes, the captain ordered the boat boys to pull up the anchor--but within 3 minutes, he was grabbing a long pole to turn us around back to shore--seems that a passenger had arrived late and needed a ride.  Finally, about 11AM, we set sail for LaTortue.   This time the sail was made from a billboard ad for men's cologne.   

 A picture of the "dock" area at St. Louis.

 Setting sail for LaTortue...Pere Ronel is in the
white T-shirt sitting on the front of the boat.

About noon, we reached LaTortue.  The boat dropped anchor about 30 yards from the small dock.  But this time, we didn't have to walk.  A little rowboat came out to take us to the dock    As we waited for our backpacks,  the father of Hans came up to me and said that he was happy to have the opportunity to meet me in person and to thank me for helping with his son's operation.  And then he was gone.

 Fre. Joe had come to meet us, so we got into his little pickup and started up the mountain to Aux Palmiste. After about 40 minutes, there was the sad sound of the back tire going flat.   But no problem; after much discussion about the bad jack, we changed the tire and went on our way.  About 1:30 we reached the church.
We are resting now waiting to begin the catechist sessions.   Just another day in Haiti.   Just another set of lives intertwining.   Just another way God brings us unexpected blessings.                    Joan

Debarking at the dock at Cayon on LaTortue

 This is how all the sand for building arrives:  A small boat brings it from some other beach on the island;  it is unloaded on the dock;  people put the sand into 5 gallon buckets which they carry on their heads and deposit into a pick-up;  the pick-up drives up the mountain and unloads the sand at the building site--in this case, the priest's house that Fr. Jocelyn is trying to build. (below)