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90 CMU March–April 2012 The centeredness I felt last trip returns as soon as I land in PAP. I turn off my cell phone, settle into the passenger seat, and watch the world pass as Cherybin navigates us home. We arrive in Grand Goave where I’m pleased with the progress at both sites. I want to stretch my legs after the flight, so ask Lex and Renee if I can walk the two miles between MoHI and Mirlitone. Missionaries are not allowed to venture alone for safety reasons, but I’m so familiar with Grand Goave they grant me permission. Although I’m accustomed to walking the hill between BLB and MoHI, it’s an adventure to turn right outside the school and head over the river on my own. I pass along the market section of Route 2. A few vendors set up booths every day, but on Wednesdays and Saturdays, market days, merchandise runs deep into the flats and spills onto the pavement itself. Retail geography governs here just as it does in America; the charcoal sellers squat next to one another, ditto the mango sellers and the chicken sellers. Although blan are less of a curiosity since the earthquake, everyone looks at me stone-faced until I say bonswa; then their mouths relax, and they respond in kind. I am not naïve to Haiti’s dangers; I put my wallet in my front pocket and keep my shoulder bag slung across my chest. If I sense someone shadowing me I cross the street. Still, nothing the least bit frightening occurs. I am now accustomed to the market crowds that overwhelmed me on my first trip; I give a passing nod to Grand Goave’s pill man when he approaches in his pharmaceutical head- 91 CMU dress. Still I am startled to hear someone call out “Bonswa, Paul!” and not see anyone I recognize. It’s unnerving. I begin walking home every afternoon, and it soon becomes a cherished habit of my Haitian life. If it hasn’t rained I take the shortcut across the riverbed, past the women sweeping dirt from in front of their houses and the young guys washing their motorcycles in an empty lot. I pass the above-ground tombs in the cemetery , and the names spray-painted on buildings, remembering those who never made it to that final resting place. A dieu Edith. A dieu Dion. A dieu Phillipe. Names fixed to the walls that killed them. Locals dump garbage where the street ends at the riverbank, which attracts goats and pigs. Spring births have swollen the animal population; one mama pig has eight piglets scurrying after her, each a different color. When the rains come, the rising river will wash this garbage to the sea, turning the bay murky. But on dry days the distant bay is a crystalline blue. On the opposite bank the pace is slower, people are poorer, and few people know me. Still, friendly adults stop to chat, and brazen children try for a dollar. When the river is running I have to stay on Route 2 and cross over the bridge where young guys with motos seek customers to drive to Leogone. They heckle me, but they’re not dangerous, simply disgusted by the blan who doesn’t want a ride. At the first bend in the road, a footpath descends to a drainage channel—remnant of some long-abandoned aid project—and leads into the jungle. I leave the city and enter a shady realm thick with banana plants and palm trees. Bony cattle gaze at me with hungry eyes. Lattice huts are stitched together with palm fronds. The cooking fires are small, the children are naked, their bellies distended, yet I am never out of earshot of laughter. I pass by a clearing where a gaggle of skinny boys kicks around a soccer ball. Sometimes they’re so engrossed in their game they forget their ritual begging. Regardless of which route I take, I pass hundreds of people on my way home. When I make eye contact with someone I exchange a pleasantry; sometimes I even listen to a tale of woe, but mostly I am alone with my thoughts in the crowd. I’ve finished a worthy day of work and have no expectations for the evening. I roam the 92 Architecture by Moonlight twilight paths and let the setting sun determine my pace to arrive at Mirlitone just before dark...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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