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Haiti Mission Trip Day #6
The Internet was down last night, so I couldn’t send a posting. Almost every day there’s a time when the state power goes off, and we’re either running on the inverter or the generator. Last night we didn’t have state power all night, which I assume is connected to the Internet not working.
I’m trying in these reflections to give you a sense of the entire group’s experience, not just my own personal one. One thing I’ve neglected to share is how most folks’ mornings go. I am a heavy sleeper, so I usually sleep fine through the night and get up just in time for breakfast. Some members of the group, especially the ones staying upstairs, start to hear a preacher on the street at 4 a.m. At this point, our belief is that someone has a recording, because it’s the same songs everyday, mixed in with lots of vehement preaching. So, this is how and when some of the group starts their day.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast, bananas, and pineapple. Then we were off and on our way. We were visiting the castle in the mountains that King Christophe Henry built after the independence. Once the Haitians, who had been slaves, revolted and kicked out the French, the king was worried they would come back. He had the castle built so they would have a safe spot in the mountains if they had to fight another war. Ron, Angeline, Nzunga, and I rode in the back of the truck on the way to the castle, because we are in a free country.
We turned right from the compound, which means we drove past the place we turn off for the school, past the hospital, and into the mountains. We’re starting to learn the lay of the land after being here for a few days. The road was good, and there were even some speed bumps on the road, but the driver swiveled around them!
We drove up a curvy, cobbled, mountain road until we got pretty close to the castle. A lot of people were excited to see us coming. They tried very hard to get us to ride a horse, buy a necklace, let them guide us. As we started walking up, Ron turned around and remarked, “It takes 30 people to get 10 of us up the mountain.”
Pharez and Angeline finally caved and hopped on some horses at the steepest part of the mountain, but they walked a good amount first, at least two thirds of the way.
The guides walking next to all of us offered tidbits along the hike. They pointed out the watch towers where uards used to be positioned. We would see the windows in the castle, and they would tell us there was a cannon in each one that we would see when we got inside. The fact they said the most was that 20,000 people died building the castle. We think the people who died were the Haitians, who had been slaves to the French before the War for Independence, and now were being worked to the death by King Christophe to build his castle. I asked the guides what they thought about this fact. One guide did not know what to do with my question. Another one responded, “It shows a lot of hard work went into making this place.”
We all made it to the top eventually, whether a pie (on foot) or on horseback. The hike got steep in some places, and was hard on the group’s ankles and knees, but each person ascended up the entire mountain.
Our main guide, Cesar, took us all over the castle and told us all about it. Nzunga had warned us that many of the guides don’t really know the history of the castle. They will tell you one thing, then if you come back the next day, the story will be slightly different. He didn’t feel that way about Cesar’s explanations, he felt they were actually pretty logical.
Cesar showed us how different water systems worked throughout the castle. He showed us the queen’s quarters. He showed us all the different cannons. He showed us how King Cristophe rigged up a way to cool his water. We were all very impressed.
When we came back down the mountain, a lot of people rushed up to us, hoping we would buy bracelets, necklaces, masks, something. Nzunga had two boxes someone had sent from the States who wanted them to go to the children in this village. We got to see first hand how challenging of a task this is for him.
He asked all the children to sit down in a row. He tried to hand out the boxes of candy and school supplies. People became anxious about making sure their family got some of the supplies, and started pushing forward. Once things got out of hand, Nzunga packed everything up and left. As we drove down the mountain, he would stop to hand boxes to children who were not part of the swarm, who were just standing or sitting on the side of the road. Especially to the girls, because of Kihomi’s work and mission.
We talked about this event in the evening, about how it did not seem like a good system. There were more children than we had presents to give. Some would receive, some would not. For those who did not, of course they would become resentful, angry, desperate.
We drove back to the compound, and Nzunga and I went to the eye clinic to get some candies for the group. He pretty much spoils us.
We had a late lunch of chicken sandwiches. Dinner came not too long after, meatballs, plantains, rice and beans.
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