I want to share some pictures with you of what spring has been like in Haiti. Or can you call it spring on a tropical island where seasons are almost nonexistent? Breezy days with blue skies, and now we're entering the rainy season. Almost every afternoon it clouds over and we have a downpour in the evening.
Which means it's the perfect garden planting time. Our neighbor is great at gardening. Last year I got really discouraged with my "American garden" of green beans that got eaten by bugs and cantaloupe and cucumber vines that bore one or two tiny fruits.
In the rockiest part of our yard, Andris planted corn and manyok, a huge starchy tuber in the yuca/cassava family. His garden thrived, and I never watered it once. The manyok were ready to harvest in March, and we took them all to church one Sunday evening and passed them out. It was so much fun! He planted a bigger part of the yard this year. They're coming up well, and our plantains from Jay and Briana are spreading. I just harvested a pumpkin from the vine that has taken over our trash pile, and I'm also getting a few eggplants a week from some plants left over from last year and cherries from Andris's tree that hangs over into our yard. They have huge seeds but make yummy juice or jelly if you throw them in the blender and strain them.
The week before Easter, the skies in Haiti are full of homemade kites. Children make them from coconut fronds and colored tissue paper. Sometimes they even tie on a razor blade and fight to cut each other's kites down out of the sky. Zèzè made two kites last year, and this year he finally bought string for them and every afternoon he flew them from our roof. It was perfect kite flying weather.
On Good Friday, the meal is fish, usually served with "viv" or boiled root vegetables. Mom-in-law sent some over. On Easter Sunday, we ate at their house. I made a pineapple cake, and mom-in-law and Eliezer's sisters cooked a feast. We had white rice with sos pwa blan, bean sauce made from white beans instead of the usual black beans or pintos. It was so beautiful with the bright pink beet salad, also an Easter tradition, and we had fried chicken, plantains, and a macaroni salad too. Hot chocolate is the traditional breakfast for Easter morning.
Last weekend, we headed out of Port au Prince to Montrouis, a little beach town only two hours away where we had splurged and booked two nights at a resort. I can't say what the best part of the weekend was, the peace and quiet of it all, the sound of the ocean, the fun morning pool workouts led by an instructor, or the all-you-can-eat buffet that was always serving SOMEthing, it seemed. For snacks at 11:00 when the nightly show was over, you could get hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries. There was also a poolside bar that never closed and I drank so many tiny cups of pina colada and red fruit punch and fresh pear juice. Zèzè and I will be spending both our birthdays and our anniversary apart if all goes as planned with the baby, so it was a special time and also bittersweet in a way.
It's so cool to see a big crowd of Haitians enjoying life, or what would be considered normal life for much of the world - the chubby toddlers with nice shiny hair, fighting with their siblings in the pool and eating three meals a day. But then my mind always goes to our friends and family here who have never had a chance to experience a place like that. Even to be in a place where you can walk by the ocean at 11:00 PM and not feel remotely afraid, or leave your towel on a beach chair and find it just where you left it an hour later is such a shock when you're used to Port au Prince life.
We came back Sunday afternoon to harsh reality - we almost ran out of diesel and there is none in the pumps to buy. They were selling it in little jugs for about $6 USD a gallon. Our family and friends were calling to warn us that Port au Prince was having yet another large problem.
It seems that April is quite literally going out with a bang. Two gangs, the 400 Mawozo who have recently taken over Kwa de Bouke, and the Chen Mechan, whose base is in Kwa de Misyon, very close to our house, are fighting. The 400 Mawozo seems to be the worst gang, and we'd really rather they didn't gain control of our part of town. They do a lot of kidnapping and are more ruthless as far as killing people and making trouble with the police. The Chen Mechan do not really disrupt this neighborhood, and just make their money taxing businesses and are on ok terms with the police.
The last three days there has been steady machine gun fire in the distance, and tonight I piece of a bullet bounced off our gate and rolled in while I was hanging up laundry. Today was the first day since Sunday that we could get out of our neighborhood to the main road, and there is still a big truck blocking the road right down from us where our local gang boss lived. He was killed the first day. Some of the Mennonites who are a bit closer to the action or who live very close to a gang member's house have left the area. We're staying and praying it's all over soon.
There's a lot we don't really know, as far as how many people have died, and where exactly the gunfire is coming from - if they're shooting in the air to make a show or if people are dying. Please pray for the situation. It's very dangerous.
Also remember that these people can't stay in their houses for days on end. They are living from day to day. Some are taxi drivers and market vendors and depend on each bit of money they bring in to buy food for the day. Today we went to the pharmacy to get some medicine we needed and there were many little businesses open and selling as usual. I think that's why the casualties are usually higher among the innocent than the actual gangsters. Many people have metal roofs and very low walls around their house, so they're actually still in danger even if they stay inside. It's all extremely unsettling at best and I'm having a really hard time just concentrating on daily activities.
We pray that God will heal this country because there seem to be no answers.
I hope that you have all had a happy spring! I have. I am so thankful for my husband, for the little one we are dreaming and planning for, and for our family and friends that make our lives so much richer!