Monday, April 28, 2014

Les Cayes--Yet Another Haiti

This past weekend, I traveled with Pere Milor (priest in charge in Cange) to his home town of Torbeck near Les Cayes on the southwestern coast of Haiti. He graciously invited me to go along with him to visit his family, the town where he grew up, and the beautiful southern countryside and coast. We then finished the trip at the parish party of the Episcopal Church in Les Cayes.

The Les Cayes area proves to be yet another unique region of Haiti that speaks so much to the diversity in this country. My trip was full of local cuisine, Prestige, great conversation with new friends, and a wonderful selection of beautiful beaches.

Les Cayes is about a six hour drive from Cange--a drive we made in Pere Milor's red Chevy pick-up. Along the way, the road passes along a section of the southern "inner" coast before crossing the southern peninsula to the "outer" coast.

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I stayed with Pere Milor's cousin, Ronald, and his family in a house just down the street from where Milor's parents and various other relatives live. It's a beautiful street with houses that have well-groomed front yards full of flowers and various edible plants and trees.

The entire weekend, I had delicious food and new treats to try. The region is very big on local food. I had local fish, conch, fruits, Haitian rice, Haitian chicken and other delicacies. I even had a glass of warm, fresh cow milk! It was the first milk I've had in Haiti since arriving in August! The culinary tour of Haiti ended with the potluck style meal following the church party in Les Cayes on Sunday. Delicious!

Friday morning, I visited Ronald's school, College Saint-Paul de Torbeck. He is the director of this secondary school located on the same street as all of the family. It's a secondary school only, and I enjoyed visiting the each classroom and engaging in fun conversation with the students. Students were studying calculus, chemistry, Spanish, English, biology and physics.

Haitian students are required to study four languages while in school. In primary school they begin with Haitian Creole before studying French. Eventually all classes are taught in French, while Creole remains the common language spoke at home. Students are also required to take national exams in English, French and Spanish.

Ronald is looking for more financial support for his school to pay the teachers and improve the school building. School fees from parents are not enough to provide sufficient salaries for professors and cover other operational and maintenance expenses.

Friday afternoon, we traveled to Port Salut, about 45 minutes west of Torbeck. It's a breathtaking white sand beach with a nice selection of beach front restaurants and ample seating under shady trees. The tall mountains of the southern peninsula provide a dramatic backdrop down the shoreline. Terrific place for a plate of lambi creole (conch) and a cold Prestige or two.

On Saturday, I got a tour of Les Cayes and some of the surrounding countryside before going to two weddings! The first was a protestant wedding, the second Catholic. Both were for former students of Ronald. The first wedding featured the Backstreet Boys as a processional song (with many singing along) and a flower girl throwing out candy instead of flowers.
Home of the first ever Haitian cardinal of the Catholic Church, Mgr. Chibly Langlois

After a brief stop at a dance club Saturday night, we got up Sunday morning to head back to Cange--but not until going to the service and parish party of Saint Sauveur Parish in Les Cayes. Terrific music, dancing and sermon with a Holy Eucharist done by about 8 Haitian Episcopal priests.

Also of note on the trip back Sunday was a hilarious radio news show that airs 2-4pm every Sunday. Two people review local political news from the past week by engaging in informative, good-humored discussion. Topics covered this week included efforts to enact a tourist tax on visitors to Haiti, programs to encourage small business growth, and details about the partnership between Haiti and Taiwan.

A big thanks to Pere Milor, Ronald and his family, Saint Sauveur parish and Pere Colbert for a wonderful time in Les Cayes. A la pwochen.

rethink HAITI.

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