First day in Haiti

March 18, 2014. 12h43.

Luca has nausea from the boat last night. At the end we had to jump on some guys’ shoulders to get on the boat. And the same to get off in Marigot. At the beginning it seemed nice: we were comfortably laying on the bags, hugged under the stars, rocked by the sea… Then the boat filled up, there were feet and elbows everywhere, smells and talks, complaints against “le blancs” that were in the wrong position, 5 boxes full of chickens with everything that comes with them, and when the boat left it got cold and we were scared of falling off the boat when it bended against a high wave. But we arrived. At 4am the first thing I did was pee behind a boat, then we took the first gua-gua to Jacmel. I don’t know how fast it was going, but the road was all straight and there was no traffic. We were sitting on the truck behind, all open, with the cold night wind hitting our faces… And I managed to sleep, I don’t know how. It was hard, but we made it.

We arrived in Jacmel at about 6am. We immediately found the hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet. Even though there was a girl coming in and out, we didn’t get in immediately because we didn’t want to pay for an extra night just because it was early. And she told us it’s 70 dollars. Or maybe 50? I don’t know, I can’t really understand them. Anyway, while we were waiting we looked at the town waiking up. Well, it was actually well awake already, everyone asking us Port-au-Prince? Taxi? Moto? And little by little the women started coming out of their homes, the children at 6.30am were running to their buses wearing their uniform, the elderly were doing their selling tours.

At 7am we decided to go in. At Guys Hotel the room doesn’t have air conditioning, the window is tiny and up on the wall, you can’t walk around the bed and the bathroom is shared with I don’t know how many people. It feels like India, but in India you would pay 5 dollars for a room like this, not 50. We rested for a bit, then we spent one and a half hour at the bank trying to get some money. The only ATM in town was not working and to get an “advance payment” on my Visa I had to wait for the clerk to finish with a client; after one and a half hours she was not over yet, but she was kind enough to come to us, pass the card on a POS, give us the money and in 5 minutes we were out.

Jacmel has 40,000 inhabitants but seems smaller than Arzignano, my hometown.

Our heads twist, maybe because of the boat or because we are so tired. I think that the Hotel Florita is one of the few places in town with internet. There are some young locals with their notebook, they are probably students. It’s very nice, in an old building that seen from outside seems to be falling down, the restaurant-bar is a huge room with a tree in the middle that exits the roof from a hole.

Hotel de la place Jacmel

17h13 Place Toussaint de l’Ouverture. It’s hot. Luckily Jacmel is small because we went back to the hotel and we stayed there until 3pm. And we are still tired. Now we are at the Hotel de la Place drinking a banana-strawberry juice and watching people walking in the street (as the Lonely Planet suggests).

We walked by the chaos and flies of the Marché de Fer, the local market, closed on Sundays only, where people go to buy everything they need (I haven’t seen other shops around, not even the tiny shops selling sigarettes, rhum and little more; only a few art galleries: Jacmel is an artists town, so everyone is an artists, willing or not).

I think that half of the 40,000 inhabitants of Jacmel are at the market now, to sell, buy, chat, look, steal, nose around. And it looks like all the rubbish of the world is here to be resold. Old car pieces, old radios, old shoes, old iron.

Nevertheless Jacmel is pretty. It’s a bit shanty, it suffered a lot from the earthquake and you can still see a lot of debris around. But some buildings are really nice and unique.

Luca doesn’t want to go to the Ile-à-Vache (the Cow Island) because he is afraid he might have to sleep on the floor (in Ile-à-Vache there are two resorts where a room costs 200 dollars, or you can stay with a local family for about 10 dollars; of course I opted for the second choice). I feel sorry for him, you can tell he’s not feeling well and he’s looking forward to go back to the Dominican Republic. I was also happier there, the hotels were luxurious compared to the places here and cost half the price; but I am ready to spend a few difficult days, I’ll have 3-4 more weeks to relax after Haiti.

They sell water in small plastic bags that contain the amount of water that is in a glass. They drink from small holes and toss the bag to the floor. So of course there’s plastic everywhere.

8.42pm We’ve been at the hotel for about one hour already. We are really tired. There’s a mass nearby, I can hear singing. I came to Haiti to see some Voodoo and the first thing we hear is a Christian celebration.

Earlier at the beach there were some girls aged 5-7 practicing a dance. They were really good shaking their bottom and clapping their feet on the floor.