Wednesday, 12 July 2006
After getting a ride to Fond Verrettes with Genïot (the Forest Service guy) last evening, Moïse and I walked to Opio and beyond (Grand Savanne?). I enjoyed the hike a lot. It is onion harvesting season so the mountains are full of people picking and transporting onions to market. Onions are one of the biggest cash-generating crops. People are generally in a joyous harvest mood. The onions are carried to Fond Verrettes in sacks on donkeys or on people’s heads. Going home we met a girl whose stubborn donkey had shed her load of onions. Moïse helped her put the load back on the donkey.
Many of the points I needed were near the path, which made it easier for me. Also, once we left the galet (dry riverbed) and climbed up a ways, the air became cool and fresh and there were pines every once in a while. Quite beautiful country. Though it is also evident that the west branch of Gros Cheval Ravine became wider during the 2004 flood (not just in Fond Verrettes). Several people I met used to live next to the river but their homes were destroyed by the flood waters and now they live with relatives on the mountain or in a “field house.”
People generally were quite kind—offering me coffee, fresh cow’s milk, onions. A lot of people knew Moïse (and many were related to him).
We returned to Bois Neuf around 4 pm after hiking about 10 km and ate lunch. I went back to collect a few more points in Ravine Ti Bourik (“Little Goat”). I met a woman living in Kornèy named Mona S. Her house was destroyed when Ti Bourik leaped out of its usual path and cut thorugh an area of houses and trees taking everything with it and leaving a small sliver of an island about 7 meters high from the surrounding galet with some houses where people still live. Mona, her husband (who has been sick for two months), and her 2 children moved to a house in Kornèy that had been evacuated after the 2004 flood. (The family had left their house and moved up the mountain to a safer area.)
Some boys who’d seen me with Moïse earlier and who are friends of his joined me. About five of them stayed with me and helped me navigate to points in the Ti Bourik riverbed. It was very enjoyable. The boys caught on very quickly. Julere asked me some insightful questions about what I was doing, including whether the research would be useful to people living there. Another man who joined us for a time asked if I thought a structure could be built to retain future flood waters and agreed with me that it wasn’t possible. The boys helped me pick out points on the orthophotos and then use our current GPS reading to figure out how many meters we needed to go south and east. They asked me if we’d do another point and I said they could decide. They looked at the maps and asked how far things on it were and I showed them how long a kilometer was. They decided we had time to reach the next point before it got dark. I told them they were very smart and they said, “If we could go to school, we’d really do well.” They asked how much money it takes to get to the US and I said that even harder than finding the $350 plane ticket was getting a visa.
Then we turned to go home. The boys said, “We don’t even know your name!” so we exchanged names. Then all but Julere took off running down the galet to where they’d tied their goats to the sides of the ravine that morning. It was such a lovely sight—five boys running over the rocks, the light getting dim, the goats calling, eager to get home for the night. I’d hardly seen the goats as we walked up the galet (the boys say they don’t generally put the goats to pasture on the mountains anymore, not since the 2004 flood), but now there were 10 goats runnings down the ravine towards home, their ropes trailing behind. (They know the way home, the boys told me.) Onzi was pulling one goat that didn’t want to budge—the goat was bigger than he was. When we reached the sliver of land in the middle of the riverbed, all the boys (but Julere) and goats turned—that’s where they live. Julere walked back to Bois Neuf with me; he was good company.
Monday, July 10
I was at the RNDDH office all day. We were hoping to go to Fond Verrettes today, but our ride fell through. We'll go tomorrow evening with Geniot instead, but we loose 1.5 days in the field once again. I was hoping to get to the Service de Geodesie et Cartographie and/or a library today, but insecurity was high in many areas of Port-au-Prince and people cautioned me against going downtown and using public transportation today.
Sunday, July 9
I stayed at home today. Serge and his family came for lunch and the World Cup final. I did go out once to meet Samy at the MCC guesthouse.
Saturday, July 8
I stayed home all day, slept in and did the boring work of naming photographs and data entry. But it's a welcome change after the past few days. I am all bruised and scratched up from many hours on a motorcycle and hiking through the "rak" (brush) and fields.