Thursday November 1st, 2012
Louise (the doctor part of our clown & doctor commando team) and I arrived safely in Pedernales, but without time to cross the Haitian border to drop off some supplies (medecines brought by Louise from a Haitian care center in Santo Domingo) that needed to get the boat for Jacmel early the next day. Louise’s translator Milo, met us and was able to take the gear for us.
In Pedernales we’re actually staying in a nice guest house: Doña Chava’s. It’s artistic, rustic and clean. The shower, which is just a cold stream with no shower head (standard) was very welcome. So too is the fan. There is internet also, though a bit shaky.
The bus ride was like 8 hours but never a dull moment. Merengue & Bachata all the way. It was ‘t even half full for most of the way so it was nice to be able to spread out in the heat. Later the bus filled up with old & young, & sacks of provisions and items for market. Louise & I had some great conversations with locals including a couple of mothers with children, and a man going to sell cd’s and watches at the market tomorrow.
The bus conductor was quite the clown and made me LOL. He could make a squeeker from a leaf, and sounding like a Punch & Judy artist, made cat and dog noises, amongst others. And he mimed interacting with the animals. I had some conversations with him. He just would love to go to Miami but could probably never afford to go.
The view from the bus was often amazing as we went along the coast. Deep turquoise Caribbean, cliffs (some reminscent of the white ones in Dover in the UK) & palm trees (not reminiscent of Dover in the UK. Particularly striking were the places where the rivers (which are white with silt from the hurricane) enter the blue ocean with a distinct division between the two waters.
Also from the bus we saw washed-away roads, drain channels being cleared of mud, and road reconstruction.
I did a little show for an adult English class in town. They loved it and I had an absolute blast. Fantastic audience.
Dinner was conch in tomato sauce, fries & avocado. And a beer. Just gotta have a beer here.
Tomorrow a day trip to Anse a Pitres, Haiti, to the clinic where Louise is working. I’ll get a tour of town from Milo & maybe do a show at the clinic.
Sunday we’ll go by motorbike taxi to the Bahia Las Aguilas Eagles Bay, one of the most beautiful spots in the whole of the D.R.
Monday we begin a project at a clinic in Grand Gosier. The clowning will grease the wheels for people out in the sticks to come and get treated. The locals are nervous of modern medecine but there is a great need. I had reported earlier that it was a couple of hours by motor bike taxi. It’s actually 5!
We’ll be there 5 days in primitive conditions, accompanied by Milo and Jean Paulin, a community coordinator, who’s idea it was to try and have the clinic there be utiilzed more.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep this correspondance pace up but i’m grateful for such a rich experience and want to share.
Friday November 2nd, 2012
I went with Louise to Haiti today from our hotel in Pedernales, Dominican Republic. At the border we crossed a narrow footbridge passing laden people and motorcycles. They pay no mind to the foreigners.
The river below us milky with sediment.
At the clinic in Anse-a-Pitres I met the doctors and some of Louise’s friends, and brushed up my Kreyol.
A man has a spinal injury but his treatment is being delayed due to superstitions that he is cursed. Plus it’s a holiday (the Day of the dead). Louise is trying to get him to hospital in Pedernales. He is paralyzed. His family does not know he is here–or he has no family–to clean him up. Ants were crawling over him. The doctors and nurses wouldn’t touch him because it was the Day of the Dead and he could have been cursed.
I did a small show for some nurses then we went down to the shore. Fishermen were bringing in their catch (including a turtle 🙁 .Saw the huge brightly painted row-boat like vessels (with an outboard engine)that convey people and goods down the coast. We will take one to get most of the way to the remote clinic on Monday (we were going to go by motorcycle through the mountains but it’s too muddy) where clown (me) and doctor (Louise) will help draw people in, who otherwise are a bit superstitious about modern medecine.
I met Alex Derache, a french man who co-founded AyiTimoun Yo orphanage in Anse-a-Pitres. He was with a spanish woman who has been volunteering for a year. Her boyfriend is coming from Europe to do a clown workshop here. Everyone was well connected with performers in Spain and they were glad to meet a fellow.
My performing is going over well, especially the balloons, though I’m toning down the magic because it brings up fears. Small show at Louise’s translator, Milo’s mother’s house, then lunch at his own place. Fish in coconut tomato sauce, manioc and yam. This was cooked over an open charcoal fire while kids and cat ran around in the dirt.
Show this afternoon for a second class of adult english students in Pedernales. Tomorrow, shows in Anse-a-Pitres at an elementary school and the afore mentioned orphanage, and maybe a public show at a park in Pedernales.
Got to go, too many mosquitoes in the cyber cafe andI forgot my spray, and to take chloroquine).
Saturday November 3rd, 2012
Anse a Pitres, Haiti
I am supposed to do a school show. Now we are waiting at clinic for patients to arrive. A little girl with a healing burnt hand (from putting it in hot oil) waits quietly. I made her a balloon and played the drum with her father. We were all forgetting situation for a moment.
Louise paid for the fellow with the spinal injury to be stretchered by 4 people over narrow footbridge, hopefully to allowed in to the Dominican Republic and the hospital for x-rays & treatment. –> [Update some time later…Unfortunately, the poor guy did not survive his injuries: his back had been broken in 4 or 5 places, he was bleeding internally, and developed sepsis. Had he made it he would have had a challenging life in Haiti, with limited healthcare, but the superstition fueled neglect (medical personnel believed him cursed by zombies) had sealed his fate from the beginning].
<– Later we go to translator Milo’s house. Simple surroundings and warm hospitality. A clown with a bag of tricks is always in demand.
We had hoped to have a show at the school in town. No school today–Day of the Dead!
A show did happen at AyiTimoun Yo Orphanage. I jammed with the kids a bit on the drums and the children played some traditional music.
After, Voudou priest paid a visit to give a talk to the children on the ancient ways. He heard I had done some magic and wanted to see, but was suspicious and unfriendly toward me. Fortunately the group was leaving to go swimming.
The plan had been to go by motor bike from Anse-a-Pitres to Grand Gosier. But the road seemed too difficult so we ended up taking a boat. The boat was quite loaded with a huge ice block in the center and passengers on top and around the edges. The ice comes from a central freezer and is shipped to fishing communities down the coast who each buy a chunk to preserve their catches in coolers to take to market in Port-au-Prince. The ride was very enjoyable thought the sun was very hot. One couldn’t help wondering what one would do if it capsized (which they apparently do on occasion) Would there be sharks or sharp coral? Actually that was more the head-space for the boat ride back a few days later–in the dark, which was peaceful and beautiful, and a little unnerving if you though to much.
We later found out that the spinal injury guy got to Pedernales hospital, and then went on to Barahona Hospital. He did die, however. He had internal injuries too and a resulting infections or sepsis. If the Haitian clinic had acted and gotten him to hospital sooner he might have lived but would probably have been paralyzed for life. Very sad. Superstitions get in the way at times in Haiti. In the US we take it for granted that we can get treatment much more easily.