Jacmel is different than any other city I’ve been to in Haiti so far. I was amazed at how clean it was. Seriously, there wasn’t garbage sitting in all of the ditches and stuff like that. There was garbage in some places, but not like what I’m used to seeing. I was also surprised at how few people there were compared to St. Marc, which would be the closest comparison that I could think of. St. Marc feels like everyone is living on top of each other. People go through the streets seeming aggressive and annoyed. Not so in Jacmel. Density really is a big deal here I guess.
The drive into Jacmel takes you through the mountains from one coast to the next. It was beautiful. There are no potholes and there are guardrails. The whole way. There are more trees and people just seem more at peace than what I’m used to seeing. There are fruit trees dripping with fruit like grapefruit and mandarins.
We went and checked out one hotel, the Florita, then went to check out Cyvadier Beach Hotel to decide where we wanted to stay. We decided on the Florita, but ate lunch at Cyvadier. Since we were already out in the area we continued on to the public beach. It was SO fun. It’s not very often that you can go to a place here in Haiti and sort of feel like you’re just another person there. At the beach there were a bunch of Haitians, and a bunch of foreigners. We paid 100 Goudes to park our van and enjoyed hanging out in the water for the rest of the afternoon. We now have a new family rule – no passing the baby around to random UN people, no matter how nice they are. It just feels weird to me that so many people that can’t even hardly say hello want pictures of my kid. She’s not an animal at a petting zoo.
After some good frolicking at the beach and many comments of “It actually feels like we’re on vacation!” we headed back to our hotel to check in and get settled. The Florita is this old, old building from colonial times that is said to have been a warehouse on the bottom level, and the families living quarters on the top. The room that Chris and I stayed in was built in 1888. Is anything in Haiti that old? They’ve kept much of the building as it was and just repaired it and upgraded where needed. It was very cool, though Chris said he could see that it was more run down since he was last there about 4-5 years ago.
We decided to walk around and see what we could find for dinner. Here’s another reason why Jacmel is different – you can walk around at night and not feel like you’re always looking over your shoulder. It’s just SO different. We asked a few people where to go. One guy had just gotten off a taxi (scooter) and walked us right to this little place that was really just one room and a few tables. He didn’t act like it was an inconvenience to him at all. We ate by candle light. It was really a nice way to end the day.
Sunday morning Matt, Bobi, Elsie and I went on a little (big) adventure up to Basins Bleu – these natural pools that are an amazing shade of blue because of the minerals in the water. The trip involved agreeing on a price with the hotel chauffeur and hiring some motorcycles to take us up the mountain. Once we got up the mountain, which was crazy in itself, we found that there was a new tourism “booth” at the top that was charging people 100 Gdes/person to go to the pools. The last time Chris was up there he just hired a guy from the community to take him and his friends for that same price so I hadn’t brought more money than I needed. The result was me talking to two of the head guys in the office for about 15 minutes and explaining that I understood their principles and that I was all in favor of seeing tourism develop here but that I REALLY didn’t have more than 100 Gdes in my pocket for ALL of us. There was talk of liability and what would happen if we fell etc. I was thinking of a blog post I read recently about “posturing” here in Haiti and how it’s so much about the process. After some Haitian hand slapping and people pretending to be all put out (on both sides) the guys finally said they would let us go up, BUT they would not put our names in the book. Because that’s important and I guess I was supposed to be upset about that. Our guide took us up and we had fun swimming in the pools. There were more comments from all of us about feeling like we were really on vacation. It was really cool. We took a different road on our ride back down and it was beautiful.
When we got back to the hotel our chauffeur didn’t want to accept the money we gave him, saying it was only enough for the trip up. We had told the hotel management that we didn’t want to deal with this, and told the chauffeur this when we were making arrangements and he agreed on a price, saying that it was for the WHOLE trip. We figure that he had miss-calculated and when he got back realized that he hadn’t asked for enough, so was trying to get that out of us. We didn’t budge and when he persisted Chris went to talk to the manager. These things are frustrating because it feels like you get winded after a really great time.
We went for lunch at this little shack on the beach with a thatched roof. It was so cool and the food was really good. Chris and I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and napping. Unfortunately Olivia didn’t have the same idea… Dinner that night was hotdogs and chicken bought off the street and eaten at our hotel.
After breakfast on Monday we headed out, drove around a bit and then hit the road. On the way home we stopped to by about 3 dozen mandarins (YUM!) and a bunch of ti filo bananas – a variety that are really small and really yummy.
Chris and I did a rough calculations and we realized we did the whole weekend for under $150 US. It was so fun to be able to just get out and do random things. We don’t get to do that normally.