Sometimes we’ll go for a swim at a nearby pool or get take out from Epidor, a Haitian-American style fast food place close to our home. We always joke that it’s not a place to eat if you’ve recently been to Canada or the US, but the longer you’re in Haiti, the better the food tastes.
Other days, life more resembles an article out of an adventure magazine and last Saturday was one of those days. It happened like this:
Jason was scheduled to have Saturday off. MAF flies Saturdays so the pilots take turns taking that day off.
Friday morning my phone rings; it’s Jason. “Will, Bernard asked if I could fly him to Mole St. Nicolas on Saturday with two business associates. He realizes it’s my day off, but said that you and Jayden could come with as well. What do you think?”
“That would be awesome! I would love to come! It’s one of the three airstrips in Haiti that I haven’t visited yet!”
“Great! I hate to tell him no and I think it would be fun too!”
See, Haiti is a warm climate culture, meaning relationships are very important. Bernard has become a good friend in these last three years and helped us out in numerous ways, not the least, getting Jason released from a Haitian prison two years ago after a serious accident involving a pedestrian. Although we can never repay him for all he has done, we like to take any opportunity that does arise and this is one of those opportunities.
The next morning when I wake up it’s still dark. Baby K is kicking up a storm in my stomach and I smile as I put my hand on my belly. I love the feeling of new life and at six months now, I feel him/her kicking constantly.
With no alarm clocks, I’m unsure of the time, but I guess it must be around 5:00 a.m. That’s when Baby K usually wakes up.
Since there is a lot to do, I decide to get up and start prepping. I fill our backpack with sunscreen, towels, swimsuits, extra clothes, granola bars, water bottles and my camera. Then when most things are packed I get out my Bible verse memory note book and study the words as the sun slowly peeks her head over the mountains.
At 6:00 a.m. Jason and Jayden get up and after a quick breakfast of cheese on raisin toast we head to the car. With school out and few tap taps on the road we get to the airport in record timing. Since Bernard and his associates haven’t arrived yet, we wait in the office and Jayden gets to work emptying the backpack he packed all by himself. Out comes 40 plastic animals a T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
“Wow Jayden! You really did come prepared,” I joke as he gets to work arranging his animals on the desk.
Not long after, Bernard arrives with Sebastian and Lionel. We head out to the tarmac to Jason, who had meanwhile been prepping the airplane for takeoff. Just then Christine walks over to say an emergency flight has come up and if Jason could do a pick-up in Cap Haitian for a man in a coma.
“Sure. Why don’t I drop everyone off at Mole St. Nicolas and then head down, pick up the patient in Cap Haitian and fly him back to Port au Prince. After I’ve unloaded the patient I’ll head back to Mole.”
“Sounds good. I’ll let the doctors and medical staff in Cap Haitian know that you are coming.”
Ten minutes later with all safety and pre-flight checks completed we are air bound. I love flying and keep my eyes glued to the window as the landscape changes beneath us.
55 minutes later the Mole airstrip comes in sight. A narrow gravel road? Really?
We deplane and Jason makes quick work of unloading our backpacks. Before readying the aircraft for takeoff once again we take a quick family shot on the wing.
Several minutes later we wave goodbye to him and then watch as a police car pulls up.
“Hmm, this should be interesting.”
Two police officers greet us with friendly handshakes and “Bonjou’s.” Then noticing I’m pregnant they insist I sit up front. Bernard helps Jayden into the back as I get comfortable in the front passenger seat. As we are about to leave police officer number two makes motions to sit up front as well.
“I can sit in the back, if you would like to sit here,” I say in Creole motioning to the empty spots on the benches in the back.
“Oh no.” The officer replies. “There’s plenty of room here!” I shake my head and move over towards the gearshift. Not the most comfortable position but it will have to do. Personal space boundaries don’t really exist here either.
We bump over a rough gravel road until we reach a mountain of saab.
Lionel and Sebastian own a brick making company in Port au Prince and are here to look at re-opening a limestone mine in Mole St. Nicolas. If they can re-open this mine, it would create hundreds of jobs for the people of Mole, something that’s sadly lacking here, and I’m excited to be part of this.
Looking through the window I watch as the two men now get to work filling bags with samples of saab.
“Where are you going?” the officer on the right questions the one on my left. The car comes to a fast halt.
“The two men haven’t come back!”
Embarrassed the officer driving wipes his brow. Then the two of them burst out laughing. I can’t help but laugh too as the officer driving now sheepishly waits for the two men to return.
A few minutes later Lionel and Sebastian return and we make our way over to the town of Mole. It’s very picturesque and from the hilltop we are on, I take photos as best as I can while leaning over the police officer on my right.
Once in the town we stop at the old mayor’s house. Since Lionel and Sebastian’s meeting is with him, we leave them at the house and then pile into a gator.
We pass the town center, remnants of forts,
and cross narrow wooden bridges.
Several minutes later we arrive at Columbus beach. The bright turquoise water beckons through the trees and in no time at all we dig our toes into the powdery white sand.
This two mile stretch of beach is called Columbus beach because apparently this is the beach where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492.
Although Mole St. Nicolas has no functioning hotels, there is a small restaurant with bathrooms located right off the beach. Jayden and I make fast work of changing into our swimsuits and then dip our toes into the pristine ocean.
The water is perfect. After a quick dip I lay out my towel as Bernard plays with Jayden in the gentle waves.
With no tourism the only others on the beach are Haitian children. The older kids wear shorts or underwear as the younger kids run around totally naked.
Keeping my eyes on Jayden, I lay back and simply relax. Soft yellow butterflies flit around me as the waves gently lap near my feet. It’s so peaceful here.
After an hour of playing and jumping in the waves, Jayden makes friends with several Haitian boys. Together they make sand cakes on the beach and I watch amused as Jayden then teaches them to sing ‘Happy Birthday'.
At noon, I hear the hum of an airplane overhead and watch as Jason circles and lands. 15 minutes later he joins us and we swim and play in the water.
An hour later it’s time for lunch and we head back to the Mayor’s house for a delicious meal of fish, rice and beans and plantains.
Jayden is a little worried when he sees the eye still in the fish and keeps cautioning the others not to eat the eye.
After lunch we explore the mayor’s house and sit on the balcony overlooking the town. Bright flowering trees hang over the railing offering both shade and beauty. When Lionel and Sebastian have finished their meetings we head back to the gator for a ride to the airport.
On the way we stop to chat with a friend of Bernard. As he waits Jayden makes himself comfortable behind the wheel.
Ten minutes later we’re on our way again. Tall gorgeous cacti loom all around us as we zip over narrow gravel roads. Back in the airplane we fasten our seat belts and get ready for takeoff. As the airplane taxis on the narrow runway a donkey charges out of a nearby stand of cacti. Jason veers to miss it and we pull up safely. Closing my eyes, I silently pray for a safe flight home.
Not long into the flight Jayden falls asleep beside me. Nearing Port au Prince I watch as the sun slowly descends.