Yesterday, as you’re probably aware of, was Valentine’s Day. Last year our guys kept telling us that this day was a holiday and that day was a holiday so we finally got a Haitian business calendar and all agreed that paid holidays were the ones marked in red. Valentine’s is a red day here, so all of our staff had the day off, which meant we did too :) Sorry to all of you who were just stuck with the flowers and candy and cute little cards. See, just another reason why you should pick up and move here.
Chris and I started the day off by sleeping in until 9 am! For the record, he’s usually the one that is awake on every day that we can sleep in by about 6:30. When I say awake I really mean laying in bed chatting and harassing me while I’m being normal and continuing to sleep until a reasonable hour. Sigh.
We watched an episode of the Office and then decided that we should probably take advantage of our day off and “do something really fun”. Hiking up the river bed by Kaliko resort was the final decision.
Kaliko is about a 30 minute drive towards Port from where we live. It’s right on what they call “Cote des Arcadens” or the Arcaden Coast. There are a few little islands about a mile out that apparently still have some good reefs and make for interesting snorkeling. Chris took me down into Kaliko resort so I could see the place and I have to say it was a bit of a surprise for me. It’s really nice! And apparently pretty expensive. There were Asian UN soldiers staying there, which is not uncommon around where we live. There are a lot of resorts and the UN is taking advantage of them to give soldiers respite days.
After a bit of a walk around we headed out but didn’t get much further than the entrance because I saw sheep. Sheep are not common in Haiti, but they are here, and we want one. If you’re a vegetarian for humane purposes skip ahead. We have friends that are starting to work with agriculture and animal husbandry which is something that’s so needed here. They’ve told us that if we ever want an animal for food to buy it and take it there to have de-wormed and then butchered. Enter the sheep. It’s that or goat right now and goat is very much an aquired taste. We’ve discovered with talking to American missionary friends here that lamb and mutton isn’t something that gets consumed much south of the Canadian border. I guess it’s our British connections.
We asked around a bit, which actually meant driving up and down the road in Kaliko, to find the Met Muton, or Sheep Guy. Eventually we had him in our truck and headed back up to the herd. After some chat about which sheep were which age we finally just told him to show us which one he would buy. An attempt to grab the little sucker resulted in renegade sheep running like crazy animals back down the road, and waaaay around the corner. I had to laugh becuase it was pretty funny watching three barefoot Haitian men with arms flapping trying to calm down and catch these sheep. Unfortunately the camera that I had with me had dead batteries, so no pictures. When the guys came back with said sheep in tow we asked how much they wanted for it. The price of $850 Haitian, which is over $100 US got a choke and a laugh out of us, and then we told them to give us a real price or there was no negotiation. This went on for a while and resulted in them holding onto their sheep while we drove away because they didn’t seem to understand that we weren’t just stupid white people who were being ridiculous. We know that you can buy a goat of the same size, which is a pretty darn big goat, for about $300, if you’re white. If you’re Haitian it’s about $200.
We headed out on our hike after that and as tiring as it was, it’s still one of my favorite places to go in Haiti so far. You start by hiking down a trail, trying to cross a gap in the path about 4-5 feet wide while not sliding down the mountain, then walking up a dry river bed for about 30 minutes while the sun beats down on you and random goats and cows watch you, probably thinking you’re crazy. When the river bed gets narrow the fun starts and you hike and climb up rocks and boulders that actually make up the river bed. Someone has ran water pipes all along that go to a cistern to water animals and people by where you drive in. The further up you get the more ferns and trees there are. At one point there must have been a good tree canopy there, and some of it still remains, but not as much as should be existing. Eventually the water starts flowing and you spend the rest of the hike criss crossing the stream. The water is really clear and cold. You can tell that other than the foot path that you see for a while, the area is hardly ever visited. There isn’t the same abuse to the environment that you would normally see. We ate lunch at the top where the trail ends at a rock face. There’s a spring that comes out of one side of it, and a trickle of water that falls from a worn away place at the top of the rock where there must have been a good waterfall coming down at one point. There would have been a big pool at the bottom, but now it’s a puddle.
The hike back down is much quicker, but by the end of it my legs were shaking. Muscles tend to scream at you when after a climb up you ask them to support your weight as you jump down from rocks. I dug out a few ferns and jasmine plants that were growing wild and planted them when we got home. We’re slowly trying to get things going around here so I figured some more free plants won’t hurt. When we got down to the place where the climb really starts there were four horses hanging out by a broken water pipe, which I thought was pretty intelligent of them. We scared them and they went running down to the river bed. I don’t think they’re used to seeing white people emerge from the river :) We must have been more interesting than scary because they would run just far enough ahead where they could stop and watch us very intently. Once they realized that we didn’t really care they were there they found some shade and watched us wander by.
When we got home and got showered Chris made dinner which was a nice little treat and we spent the evening watching movies. All in all it was a good day. There were no cards or candy or flowers, which was just fine with me. There are a lot of things we don’t have access to here but I think that makes other things that much better. Where most people in North America had acess to all of the red and pink stuff yesterday, they probably also had to spend the day like most others, working and being caught up in the stuff of life. Chris and I were able to take a day away just for us and enjoy each others company. That’s more important to me than any box of chocolates or bundle of flowers. Besides, last year I got the best Valentine’s Day gift ever…my best friend asked me if I would spend the rest of my life with him. How can you top that?