(in Kyoto, Japan, four months after his Haitian adventure)
Recieved from Jamie Miyazaki via email on March 23, 10:43 pm...
Hey all. hope life is fine wherever you may be; would have mailed sooner but electricity is pretty scarce let alone a reliable cybercafe in Haiti rite now.
After a mammoth 20 hour journey last Sunday I got to the Haitian Dom-Rep border at a town called Dajabon last Sun nite feeling pretty wiped. Quickly found a hotel but decided against staying in the somewhat inappropriatley named Hotel Massacre opting for the more mundane Hotel Juan Calvo. (Did this hotel propreitor have no business sense - on my return I am gonna track him down and propose a joint venture for a spa in Auschwitz called Cyclon B).
Anyway, next day walked the six blocks to the border which was madness. It was market day and what was meant to be a roaring cross border tradepoint was fairly subdued as the new rebel leader across the border had threatened to whack some Dominicans. So lots of twitchy dominican soldiers and on the other side of the river/bridge hordes (and by that I mean probably a few thousand) Haitians looking desperate and this was meant to be a quiet market day. A few very nasty looking Haitian 'cops' who looked like the Tie-fighter pilots out of star wars would club a few unlucky Haitians now and then.
Anyway, managed to cross the border with some missionaries. The difference between the Dom Rep and Haiti strikes you as soon as you cross over - this is one poor country. Hard surface road immediately stops once you get onto Haitian soil, any trees have been cut down and the check point was strewn with rubbish and hungry kids. Border formalities were also fairly relaxed on this side of the border - all the border gaurds had fled.
So stayed a few nites with these missionaries in a small village who were doing commendably good things for these people - altering my perspective on the Catholic Church. Unfortunatley it was still a bit choppy in terms of security at nite - some guy disappeared in the middle of the nite and his body was found a few days later, although one could also hear some pretty mad Voudou ceremony being conducted up in the moutains well into the early hours. But otherwise during the day it was cool.
Took some local transport to Cap Haitian thereafter - rebels seemed cool, very little problems with them, it was the Aristide thugs that most people were scared of. Most people are happy that all this shit has blown over up in the north.
Cap Haitian was the weirdest place I have been - the bus dumps one off in the biggest slum I have ever seen. There was a big French naval frigate laying down the law in the harbour surrounded by burnt out rusting oil tankers and cargo ships, the French Legionnaire's base camp was like a zoo with white men with guns as the prime exhibit and impoverished black peasants as the spectators.
As I then drove into town in a taxi a naked woman throws herself under a car in front of us to beg for money - you can imagine the spectacle, 32'c baking hot tarmac, dust and this lady screaming for cash, anyway guys who almost run her over get out kick her a few times and she runs off. Welcome to Cap Haitian - pearl of the Carribean. this place was once on the carribean cruise circuit and really was the pearl of the Antilles - these days it looks like New Orelans after a nuclear missile strike.
I check in to my hotel go for a stroll and this guy comes down the street with a dog he has impaled with a steel girder through its mouth and is dragging this scabies covered mongrel down the potholed to oblivion road. The screams this dog made - it was the least pleasant thing I have seen, then this guy started screaming at me and so it was time to get outta dodge. So beat a hasty retreat and who do I bump into the naked beggar, except this time she has wrapped a pair of tights round her face and starts following me throwing cardboard at me. This place was like a bad David Lynch movie.
Anyway, took the opportunity to wind down at the beach for a few days which was the caribbean proper and then came down to Port au Prince which is another stunning example of urban dysfunctionality. Except here one can eat escargots and steak tartare up in a mountain side villa for $50 whilst the people below fight for a living. Anyway, gotta go and grab some food, will be seeing all of you london based folks soon.
|c. 2005 Christopher Gunson|