Being woken up at 6:45 by roosters on consecutive days means having a lot of idle time in the mornings. It’s been said that one becomes accustomed enough to sleep though their seemingly especially loud calls. While we wait patiently for that morning of reconciliation we are finding new ways to make good use of the time and have begun hiking as a means to explore our mountainous neighborhood – Le Plateau Tessere.
Plateau Tessere strikes one as being broken into three distinct sections that are divided by proximity to the beach. The lowest geographically is the busiest commercially. This section is popular because of the access to the coastal road that leads to Jacmel, is where all food and fish markets take place, and is the easiest area to maneuver by motorcycle or by car. People head here for their nourishment needs and to perform a range of transactions whether it is renewing an 18 year land lease, buying a $12 cell phone, or negotiating for better fish prices. Being fifteen feet from the beach is as nice a place as any to spend a day walking around and haggling the merchants, and the accessibility of these opportunities is most likely (besides being able to drive here) why hotels and restaurants are frequent down by the road. We have eaten lunch with sandy toes and a Prestige (Haitian beer) twice now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever want to do it any other way again. These restaurant joints provide other merchants and artisans with chances to make sales to weekend visitors both Haitian and international. We were lucky to be serenaded by a local troubadour band who were happy to have someone to play for and were even happier to accept a few hundred gourdes after the performance.
Those who are fortunate and rich enough to afford property on the beach benefit from the beauty of the water and palm trees arching their long spines out of their yards, and for some, even through the center of their homes. We have already had moments where we feel that the area is really living up to its potential. Yet living below the mountain is not all lobster tails, Prestige, and sunsets. There is a serious concern about pollution both from noise and trash that’s dropped on the road and by the beach. Hundreds of motorcycles rip down the road each day generating the majority of noise, which would otherwise be from the sea, and without a speed limit, the only real form of safety is a few honks to signal anyone or thing that might be around the next bend. The garbage on the ground comes from everyone. No systematic removal exists yet so there is no accountability or even apparent concern about this problem. Every so often trash gets burned in strips or piles after and during which time the areas reeks of ash, but otherwise the trash remains. One of the saddest things I have seen is a beautifully sited soccer field overlooking the water being surrounded and littered by garbage, broken glass, manure and other junk. Lyd and I are hoping to set up a sort of “clean up” day that wipes away the trash on this field and the nearby beaches. Potentially kids who play there would help to pick it up and bring it to booths where people who make art from trash display how to reuse certain objects.
Up the mountain a ways is the area I like to think of as the suburbs of Plateau Tessere. It’s not quite too high to feel far from the road, yet the motorcycles are hardly audible so you know you are in a different area. This zone is still reachable by car or bike, but cautiously as the bulk of the road is rock. The mid Tessere is residential along with some farmers, yet home to a few artisans and their workshops too; one being the bamboo guys mentioned in the last post. Peaceful views of the sea come at every angle through, around and over the palm, coconut and calabash trees, and only a distant whistle or rooster call break the silent moments up here. The mix of artisans, residents and farmers generated a culture best described as cool and collected, as such is apparent in the treatment of the land. There is significantly less grounded trash in this area as the neighbors have created their own incinerating system that is rudimentary but effective. All trash is collected once a week and dropped into a pit where it is burned at an extremely high temperature to account for any plastics, and then it is covered with dirt. It is a system that works only because the community has agreed to it and believes that a clean environment is a healthier one to live, work and create in.
Above this in upper Tessere is where the real hiking begins as the mountain becomes steeper. Residents are broken up into mini villages that are dotted around the mountainside. Some farming still occurs in this zone of the mountain, but the soil is not the best quality after years of erosion and slash & burning techniques. An idea is to really study what type of trees and plants can survive here to restabilize the soil over time and reforest the dismally calvous mountains. Terra Fantastica, the locally invented soil amendment, will assist in speeding up the growth and regeneration of life in the soil, meaning the community will have the opportunity to pull gold from the sides of their hills for generations to come.
Hiking higher up is more challenging and gratifying with each lunge as the views become more dramatic at every next flat reached. The summit is a real jungle, and it is amazing to see ti kays dug in even at such heights. Apparently some women make the climb three times a day for food and other necessities, which is a testament to the strength and perseverance rooted in the Haitian people who choose to live in this way. If only more people who head to Port au Prince seeking riches could discern the value and window of opportunity available living in this country style next to the water and in the mountains. Unlike that overpopulated sprawling metropolis, Kabik is fresh aired and full of chances to really make a life out of the land to the best of one’s ability, whether through commerce, suburb or jungle.