Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Five Senses of Haiti

In Haiti…..

I touched: A whole goats’ head wrapped in cold plastic in the refrigerated meat section of a grocery store; a tattered deck of cards; a farmer’s worn machete; a handful of tiny planting seeds; conch shells lining the top of a wall; banana leaves slick with rain; rain drops sneaking through a tin roof onto my bed; rough wooden carvings; calloused hands and leathery cheeks of countless Haitians; a non-electric iron that grows hot by inserting pieces of charcoal inside.

I smelled: Small charcoal fires in cinderblock houses; pigs wallowing in mud; grilled chicken at a street stall; trash rotting in the streets; shared chunks of watermelon in a crowded van; Caribbean ganja; propane stoves; homemade meat turnovers being cooked at a street stall; incense; trucks sputtering exhaust; sulfur flats where President Duvalier used to dump the bodies of his enemies; freshly woven shopping bags.

I saw: mangroves lining the coast; a Benedictine monastery nestled atop a hill; cars and trucks crushed by earthquake debris; chartreuse lizards clinging to walls; trees heavy with fruit; armed men piled in the back of United Nations Land Rovers; piles of sticks prepared to make charcoal; flying fish skimming the sea like skipped stones;fridges turned horizontally to be re-purposed as ice chests from which to sell cold drinks; children bathing in rain puddles; scraggly dogs searching for scraps; children dancing; cock-fighting rings; the sun setting over Florida; men and women donning cheap shower caps to walk in the rain; coffee and manioc plants, street art on public walls.

I tasted: Madam Antoine’s delicious homemade donuts; dried breadfruit chips; fresh mango; Haitian rice and beans; hot coffee from beans hand-ground by the neighbor next door; homemade peanut butter; tangy lime juice sweetened with sugar cane; Prestige Haitian beer;
manioc dumplings; fresh passionfruit juice; conch meat with hot sauce; goat meat; spaghetti for breakfast; spicy hot tea with ginger and anise; sugar cane peanut brittle; hot chocolate with spices; chaka stew (beans, veggies, milled corn).

I heard: impassioned preaching and singing from outdoor tent churches; children singing and playing drums and wind instruments at school; gentle rain on a tin roof; roosters who start in at 4am; children chanting “blan! blan! blan!” (white!) whenever we went by; the soothing waterfall next to Carla’s house; goats bleating for food; a dot-matrix printer spitting out receipts; cats meowing in the night.
Mesi, Haiti. Pita. (Thank you, Haiti. See you later. )

For other Five Senses posts, click on any of these:
The Five Senses of Tanzania
The Five Senses of San Francisco's Chinatown
The Five Senses of San Francisco's Presidio

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