So there we are, sitting on rocks on the path waiting to see if there is anyone over on the other ridge. Ronel looks around and tells me it seems very familiar and that he recognizes the red dirt in the area. YAY!
We look down to the valley and realize that’s where we started. The google map photo shows where we came off the highway at Verrettes. The blue market is the center of Terrenet area. We went further than that dot. See all those mountain peaks? Oy!
Next thing we know the English speaking security is back and he has my phone! Their moto broke down (which of course no-one told us – they had simply disappeared) so they had to get a chain. They told the locals in the area that a Blanc (white person) lost a phone, described it and told them there was a Kado (gift/reward). As they were getting back with the replacement moto chain two little boys told them they saw who has the phone, and led him to the person. They person had no intention of giving it back and the security had to use a lot of persuasion! Eventually they got it back. As we went down the mountain we gave money to the two boys and the adult who had the phone.
We now have the phone and I see that Bell has texted me welcoming me to Vietnam. WOW! I knew we had travelled far although didn’t realize it was that far!!
|Welcome to Vietnam|
After about 20 mins resting, the driver that walked over to the ridge came back. Following a ways behind him was a 40ish lady with a baby on her hip followed by a man with a toddler on his hip. We thought they happened to be random people out walking until she walked up to Ronel and started speaking in rapid Creole (which he doesn’t speak anymore). She was his Aunt and the gentleman who arrived a few mins later his uncle. His Aunt was the one who found him after the attack, packed his wounds and got him part way down the mountain, then paid people to get him down to the hospital. They took a door off a home and strapped him to it and carried him that way to the hospital. WOW. It took us 3.5 hrs to get to the location WITH Moto’s most of the way, the trip to get Ronel to the hospital would have been a whole day, it’s amazing that he didn’t bleed out!
|Ronel with Aunt and Uncle|
She filled in much of the holes in his memory, explained more of the family circumstance and siblings. Memory as a 5yo who has undergone trauma is pretty sketchy. Sometimes he mentioned a sister, even sitting on the mountain he didn’t remember having one or telling me that he had one. The story his Aunt told us: Ronel’s dad died when he was very young. His mom had a new boyfriend they considered his step dad. Someone was looking for his step dad who owed them and they were very angry. The dad spent time between two homes and had just left. The men looking for him were so angry they killed the mother, older brother and thought they had killed Ronel. They then came back in the morning and took all the families animals. Ronel’s family would have been considered a well-off mountain family as they had kochon (pigs), bef, cheval (horse) & ‘ampil ampil’ (lots and lots) of chickens. Many families are doing well if they have an animal or two and a garden. His aunt asked about his various body parts that had been injured and he showed her willingly. He did in fact have a ½ sister as well as a little ½ brother. Both were spared. The sister was 9mos, the brother a toddler. She talked for about 20mins, the English guy tried translating although we were missing much of it, so I grabbed my phone, put it on record and put it on Ronel’s lap. When mom has time we’ll have her translate it for us. We then asked to go to the house, the message got messed up and we pass right by the house (although I saw nothing enroute, I was told later we’d passed it) and we got to the graves which were at his Aunt and Uncles house. Ronel had a chance to be at his mom’s grave for a bit. Because it’s Haiti everyone stands around and watches….
We had a time crunch, Daniel was supposed to have been at work already, so after 10mins at his Aunt and Uncles we leave and start the trek back, led by the uncle. We head back a different route and pass by the market. Well what a tourist attraction we are! His uncle grabs his cousin and then we’re surrounded by 60+ people. Some are exclaiming that he’s alive, other are gaping at his arm. It’s a universal Haitian reaction to grab at someone else beside you when you see something shocking. We saw that reaction a lot.
Another thing that happens is that the babies/toddlers scream when they see white people, since they’ve never seen one before. That was fun. Love being the reason babies cry! The young kids loved seeing me, they’d look with a blank expression at the group passing by and when they saw me their eyes would get wide and they’d start smiling. When I waved at them they’d squeal with laughter and start grinning & waving. I’m sure for many of these kids in the far reaches of the mountain I was the first Blanc they’ve seen.
As Ronel was surrounded by everyone at the market trying to see him he commented that since he was a tourist attraction he should charge a fee. After about 5 mins we left, I was overwhelmed by the body odor or dozens of people who’d walked hours and hours in the hot sun to get to the market. Thankfully the repaired moto was parked at the market (which I figured out later is how come we’d gone back that way) and I hopped on while the rest walked. By this time it was the heat of the day, I was melted and super tired from picking my way up and down hillsides and I was slowing our progress, I think they were all happy to get me on the Moto. Each time the moto was on a relatively flat spot I’d hop on and when he got to a sketchy hill I’d get off and walk down. I’d be picking my way down thinking I’m doing a pretty good job of it and a Haitian woman would pass me, in bare feet, on sharp nasty rocks, with a giant bucket or animal or something balanced on her head. I hope I’m not their only example of how white people fare on the mountain. My apologies to the rest of you!
|my handsome boy|
If you’ve ever read Roots the book describes scenes of kids from each area or village that will follow along with the visitors as they pass by. It was just like that. We had about 20 people follow our procession, they’d walk with us or even race behind the moto with me on it. At one point I had 5 little school girls following me. I stopped and ask them if they wanted to touch my skin – I could just tell that was what they wanted. They nodded yes and then were too afraid. I’d hold my arm out and they’d reach out to touch me and then pull their hand back with a squeal. Finally one brave girl touched my arm with her fist and the others goggled at her that she’d done it. Within a few mins we were all fist bumping and then I showed them to break off the fist bump with a wiggle of fingers and a whoosh sound. They were doubled over with giggles and did it with each other the whole rest of the way they followed us. At one point during my long walk down a sketchy trail I said Canada and they tried it too. Kinada, kirada and all sorts of other variations could be heard.
HURRAY, we’re finally back at the other moto’s and the atv. I hop on the ATV and that guy is an ANIMAL!! What a talented driver on those crazy roads. He roared off at top speed and I hung on for dear life, thanking my lucky stars I wasn’t on the moto, they’d have had to go ½ the speed. I asked Ronel about it later and he said he felt like he was at the end of life a few times, never because of dangerous people, only because of being on a moto on those ‘roads’. And to be fair, often they were roads. They were stretches of lovely white, brown or red dirt (I loved how it changes depending on the region) and at one point at the very top of a mountain ridge there were even two concrete sections for truck tires to run on. About 1/4 of the trip was on relatively flat ground, the rest was on insanely steep hillsides with chunks of rock. The rocks are put into the hillside paths on purpose so they don’t wash away in the rainy season. The varying type of road/ground kept it fresh and interesting and with each glimpse of flat ground you’d have a little internal happy dance! At 1:55, with only another 1/2hr of riding left my ATV driver pulled over, said in his broken English he needed to be with his teachers at the school and thanked me for allowing him to assist in our quest and said if I knew how to drive the ATV he’d let me use it to get down the mountain. Ronel laughed his head off when I told him this. He said no way that he’d EVER drive an ATV on those trails! So the ATV guy is about to go and hasn’t asked for money. I’m SOOO impressed by this, he came along of his own accord, using hours of gas! WOW. I ask him to wait for the others to catch up so we can give him a Kado and he was very happy.
|Safely back at the mission|
Oh, and yes, at one point I did have to pee despite the sweat pouring off my body, the only 3 Tbsp of water I partook of at breakfast and my small sips throughout the trek. Ronel, of course, has a camel bladder! They found a house and asked if I could use their twalet. I’m quite sure those people wonder what’s wrong with white people and are probably frustrated that the big blanc lady didn’t pee very well at the two boards with a squat hole cut in. I tried… although my legs were very tired and my squat wasn’t as low or steady as their squats would be…. I planned to thank them for their twalet myself although I was led out of the bush a different way by those who were rushing to get us down the hill. I still feel bad about that. Pee all over someone’s boards and then not even thank them. Sigh
|Hours of dust can age one quickly|
It was an amazing experience. My son and I saw some stunningly beautiful countryside. Clean fresh air (no burning garbage smell), no garbage anywhere, LUSH gardens & hills as far as the eye can see, rich amazing soil, nice homes (not the lean-to teeny places you find in the populated areas) with courtyards, animals and fields to work. This is how his life started out, he was very very lucky to have this as his start! We learned more about his family and met extended family. A huge success!
|My back needs this right now|
Ronel will be the talk of the mountains for the next few weeks and my mom is sure the tale of this boy and what he’s endured to survive and then that he went to find his family will be told all over Haiti in the months to come!