On Wednesday morning we got up early and headed out with Jan Filip, our night guard, to go visit his family at their home in the hills of Pierre Payen. Chris had been there once when Jan Filip had just started working for us and had been wanting to take me to visit for a while.
Normally you would be able to drive a good part of the way up, but as we headed up Corridor 2, the road that takes you to the turn off to Jan Filips house, we found we could only go so far. A big rain last Saturday had pushed a bunch of water down the valley and caused a lot of damage, and the river was too high to drive across. So, from that point we walked, which was fine because the corridor is flat.
When we got to Jan Filip’s turn off I tried to keep my spirits up. I hate hiking straight up, but that’s what the “road” did. It was pretty steep, and nice and muddy from the rain the night before. I’m always amazed at what Haitians are willing to walk up and down. Usually it’s nothing more than a donkey trial. I even saw several people carrying their shoes because it was better than sliding around. I was starting to think they had the right idea. I eventually got my second wind and the road eventually flattened out and we found ourselves walking along banana and papaya fields. I love getting into the mountains of Haiti because it’s so beautiful. The people are different too, they seem more friendly and cordial.
As we walked we dodged mud pits and walked through blown over banana fields. Jan Filip told us that Saturday, before the rain came, the wind blew through and knocked over many of the destroyed plants that we saw. The wind was so strong it even blew down a giant Royal Palm, and when it fell it almost killed Jan Filips donkey that was tied up nearby. It missed the poor thing by about one foot.
When we arrived at Jan Filips home we were warmly greeted by his family. He’s brought his sons to work with him before so I had met them, but I had never met his two daughters. His whole family are wonderful, kind people.
*The wee one is ours.
As we sat on their gallery (porch) we enjoyed the shade and the company. Madame Jan had fun cuddling Olivia, and the boys went off the fetch a bunch of sweet coconuts for us. In Haiti there are two kinds of coconuts – yellow and green. The yellow ones are sweet and used for drinking, and the green ones aren’t sweet, and the meat is often used for cooking (making coconut milk). We were each given two coconuts to drink. They were young and FULL of coconut water. It was just what I needed to quench my thirst. After we were done they cut the coconuts open so we could eat the jelly inside (The coconuts you see in the store are old and dried inside. Young coconuts have lots of water and the meat is like jelly). I felt so blessed by their hospitality.
When we were getting our shoes on to leave Madame Jan brought out a HUGE sack of fruit that she had bought for us as a gift. I was so humbled. I know that every penny in a Haitian home counts and this family had used some of their resources to bless us with a cadeaux (gift). I asked Matt if he could carry the bag, but Madame Jan refused to let him do that and told me that she was going to walk back down to the truck with us and carry the bag. As we set out she hoisted it up on her head and started down the road.
While we walked I asked Madame Jan how many times she walked down to the market each week, about an hours walk in each direction, at least. She told me she goes every day, except that day. That day she was just walking with us because she wanted to.
As we said our good-byes at the truck I was so thankful that we had gone to visit. Jan Filip has been such a blessing to us at the mission because of how he takes his job seriously, and just his whole disposition. It’s so easy to get discouraged with relationships here because we often end up feeling like we’re always looking for what people are trying to get from us, or that people feel uncomfortable around us because of the deeply ingrained class issues. It was so refreshing to visit Jan Filips family and enjoy our time with them. Their hospitality was truly humbling to me and was such an encouragement.