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
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
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
A passenger coming to The Sagesse
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.
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.
Debarking at the dock at Cayon on
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)
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