Scattered Thoughts in Haiti!

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 01/02/2020 - 11:31

It's often a pain to travel in Haiti.

The people are often nice.

However, things often don't work.

At a fifty dollar hotel, half the electricity didn't function even when it was on at all, which was only about half the time. The toilet had to be flushed by pouring water into it. No hot water. No wifi in the room.

Beautiful geography.

Humid.

I feel safer now that I have a sense for how Haiti works.

Still, I often feel uncomfortable, just for standing out so much.

I never know which faucet to turn, or which way.

I feel sorry for people who have to deal with hunger, and other dysfunctional parts of this society.

Maybe I'll go look at a fortress that I think is near here (Cap Haitien).

Probably go to Port-au-Prince soon.

I've read that 5-10% of the Haitian population is white, but so far I don't think I've seen another white person here.

The food and drink have been consistently delicious.

Served at appropriate temperatures.

I'm aiming to do my shorter route. Probably just go to Port-au-Prince then leave the country.

The AC just went out. I think just the breaker it's on.

I can't wait to get back to Republica Dominicana!

Now the AC's out here, too, on different outlets.

$70 hotel room, no electricity or wifi.

Looks like there are mountains surrounding this city.

As such, I don't think I can bike. Probably bus.

My bike doesn't have gears.

Electricity back!

Tired, sick, sore, hot, humid, stressed out!

Making it in Haiti!

Electricity off again.

Probably not going to ride back to RD either. Looks like there are mountains there, too, and no obvious route.

So I'm planning to take buses or something from here to Port-au-Prince, then to RD.

Now the toilet in this $70 hotel, the toilet which is situated under the sink so that one can't sit straight on it, doesn't flush. Seems like a comedy.

I'm probably going to bus through the rest of the country.

Haiti has some of the spiciest food I've eaten in the Caribbean.

Also, the hot peppers here have a different (and for me, preferable) taste compared to some other Caribbean countries I've visited.

I can't believe that Republica Dominicana now seems futuristic and modern to me!

When I first arrived there (from Puerto Rico), and when I left (for Haiti), RD seemed difficult, often frustrating me with its lack of American amenities.

I guess we adjust as we go along.

In recent months I've bounced among many different levels of development!

When I started writing about these Caribbean travels, I thought of it as a blog and also a book (a sequel to Astrotripping).

Now I'm thinking of it as more of a blog. Who even reads books? I do. But they're bulky, and take years to produce. A blog is online, has media, and is just easier.

The light in the room flickered intermittently, keeping me awake. I finally took the bulb out.

I may spend a while in the capital area, if I like it and it feels safe.

Woke up to one of the more serious computer errors. Looked like it may be difficult to recover. However, it turned out to be fine!

Going on!

Cap-Haitien, Haiti!

Problems in Haiti

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 01/02/2020 - 11:29

An uncomfortable night's sleep.

The hotel person asked for my passport as a deposit. I haven't heard of that at any other hotel, here or in other countries, so I asked her just to write down the number. She said she would, but  didn't give it back, or return the five dollars in change that she owes me.

Other people have also been dishonest here.

I feel uncomfortable in this country.

There are some decent people, but there are enough troublemakers to cause consistent discomforts.

At the least, I plan to do the shorter of the routes that I've considered. I may also bus large distances, or find other methods.

I don't entirely blame the locals. In many cases I'm probably the first white person they've ever seen.

I often feel like I'm not from another country, but another planet.

Many people stare at me uncomfortably. Some beg aggressively.

I also receive considerable positive attention. Many people have been helpful.

I now have an upper respiratory tract infection, maybe from drinking some tap water.

Next, go to get my passport and change back, and hit the road again!

 

Terrier Rouge, Haiti!

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 01/02/2020 - 11:26

Whew!

What a ride!

Made it to Terrier Rouge.

If you want to see some weirded-out faces, be a white guy in Haiti, touring by bike.

Overall positive reactions.

Still, somewhat scary.

Difficult to establish safety. Different culture.

I'm thinking of doing the shorter of my two routes.

That would cover the capital and some other cities.

The hotel here, I was shown through a series of alleys.

There's a drink in Haiti that's caffeinated fruit punch.

Keep going!

 

First Ride in Haiti!

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 01/02/2020 - 11:24

Woke up early, before three am.

Getting ready to do some work.

Then ride!

Went out of the room to go down to the lobby, where the wifi signal reaches. There was a locked gate! Found a latch. Down in the lobby, the wifi connects but has no internet. So much for that plan.

Problems can push you out into better routes!

If the electricity guy is borrowing a ladder from the hotel, that would explain why the hotel doesn't have electricity.

I'm planning to leave around 10 to 12.

I'm guessing around 3-4 hours.

Probably arrive late afternoon/early evening.

Idea: shampoo for nose hair.

Ate some delicious breakfast. Not sure what it's called. A deep-fried stuffed dough, topped with vegetables, quite spicy!

So far I've been asked if I'm American, French, Spanish, Dominican.

Going!

 

More Haiti

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 01/02/2020 - 11:24

After my first full day in Haiti, I like the country so far, and want to see more of it!

On the way over, on the Dominican side of the border, I noticed that the scenery reminded me of Louisiana. Lush leaves, water, rice fields, etc. Here in Ouanaminthe, I hear tons of music, and was reminded of New Orleans.

Weak wifi. Not sure what I'll do here.

Taking in some local media. Seems like a more positive culture, which I like.

Sitting here, on the roof of a hotel in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.

Looking out at the mountains.

Over the highway traffic.

I feel like riding!

 

Ouanaminthe, Haiti

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 12/29/2019 - 20:03

Went for a walk!

Surprisingly beautiful town, Dajabon.

Nice scenery, some friendly people.

Tons of Haitians selling their wares.

I bought a phone, and some fast food.

Went for a run, first time in a while.

Bought some bike parts.

Feeling strong!

It feels like a while since I arrived in Republica Dominicana.

I now have a much better sense for the place.

Feels familiar!

Getting ready to go to Haiti!

Confusion.

I think it should be fine.

Still tons of stuff to do.

Work!

Looking back at previous times, I feel quite different now.

Running low on time.

Still tons to figure out.

Made it to Haiti!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feels great!

After a while at the border market on the Dominican side, went to the bridge.

Had to get a form at migration.

Paid $100 US. When the somewhat senile bureaucrat lady handed back the passport, at first she asked if mine was a different passport, one for an older black man.

On the Haitian side, nice smells, border food!

Tons of motorcycles.

Solar panels.

Went to the bank to exchange some money.

My French seems to work fine.

I'm still struggling somewhat to understand the Haitians. Not sure if they're speaking French with a Haitian accent, or Creole. Not sure if they're sure.

At the bank to exchange money, they didn't accept Dominican pesos. They thought I wanted to exchange dollars.

After a while, they brought someone in from elsewhere (the street?) who offered to trade money. Offered me what I think is a rip-off rate. I traded a few bills anyways.

Normal. Surprisingly normal.

Haitians aren't a crowd of murderers-thieves-etc. as some people would portray.

Walked some more. Beautiful city, Ouanaminthe.

Bought some street food. Haven't eaten it yet, about to.

Found a hotel. Affordable. Scenic. Convenient.

I'm hot, thirsty, tired, excited!

I love a new country!

I think I can see/feel that I'm going to get bored of Haiti in a few months. Lucky me to get going around then!

For now, so exciting!

My brain's still in Dominican mode. When I speak, Spanish comes out. When I pay, I think in pesos.

The bank had AC set to 27 and 26 degrees celsius!

At the border market, I tried some cool new drinks, including an energy malt beverage, and a banana soft drink, the latter of which I'd long thought should be around!

So far the most threatening things here have been the traffic (a truck bumped up into my bicycle as I was walking it, I think to pressure me onwards), and my imagination, and the scary things people say.

I'm sure bad things do happen, but I think it's a decent place.

I keep seeing sign for "pappadap," haven't figured that one out yet.

So far I'm more comfortable in Haiti than I've been in most places I've traveled!

A few general travel lessons, which I've been benefiting from lately. Be prepared. It's way better to get into a country with some cash, even if it's difficult to exchange. Things often go wrong (see: Murphy's Law). Allow leeway. Things often go wrong. Be considerate. Frequently verify that you have your stuff. Things often go wrong.

Huge relief to have made it here!

La liberte!

Long day!

Went for a lengthy walk.

Makes me appreciate a northern upbringing.

There are some sketchy places, for sure. Some of the ghettoes. Also, out in the edges of town.

Also some safe feeling places.

There are some places that make me feel like it's far riskier than other countries.

Also, tons of considerate folks.

Tasty food!

I stand out like a light.

In Latin countries, I can often blend in with the crowds. Some people can see that I'm foreign, some people can see that I'm North American, but it's not entirely obvious.

Here, most places I go, people give me funny looks. Some people call out "blanc!" (white), or "blanco" or even "gringo".

Many Haitians ask me for money. I understand that, but I think it's not the most suitable approach. Not sure what to do.

So far fewer crimes against me on my first day in Haiti than on my first day in Dominican Republic!

In some ways, I prefer Haiti to North American societies. The people are perhaps more sincere. There are more young people. The society hasn't "developed" yet to the degree that more industrialized countries have, so it still feels human. People walk and ride bikes, are out in the streets conversing, eating.

My new home!

After a weekend of catching up, I'm probably going to head for the city for the New Year!

Still figuring stuff out.

Not sure that I feel safe out of town. Considering buses, but would still prefer to bike.

Mixed feelings. Overall happy to have come!

I think that I'll have trouble learning Haitian Creole, because I speak enough French to get by but it's tough to learn another language.

At least I can read the signs (which are in a mix of French and Creole), and have basic Creole conversations.

There are different aromas than I've noticed in most other places.

Much of it from food, such as spices.

I bought some smoked herring (I think that's what it is).

Feels like what I think it would to be in Africa.

Apprehensive, yet hopeful.

The power sporadically goes out, but many places have their own supplies.

Not too many trees, plants, etc., in the town, but I like the ones that are there.

I think that Haiti is the first country I've entered without being asked for a passport, or even to talk to immigration/customs.

Looking through some of my first photos in Haiti, reminds me how different it seems from an outside perspective.

Already I'm getting somewhat used to it. The noises, the sights, etc.

Before, I think it seemed more like a dysfunctional developing society. Now, I think it seems more like a functional developing society.

I think there's something of a hidden or different logic to this place than developed world eyes would see.

There are numerous problems, but people get by.

Also, I'm handsome! :)

30 km to Terrier Rouge.

Some uphill, especially near the end of that route.

A few small towns or settlements along the way.

Another 35 km from Terrier Rouge to Cap-Haitien. Largely downhill!

After that, maybe see Port-de-Paix?

I think I can do it!

Traveling Haiti is one of the more intimidating tasks I've taken on.

A funny site: a nun riding her motorcycle at the Haitian border.

A staff person from the hotel came by, asking if I wanted the room clean. Also, if I would need electricity, to find out whether to turn the electricity in the hotel back on!

Another funny sight: a woman carrying a twelve pack of energy drinks on her head!

I think I'm the only white person in Ouanaminthe.

The more I see of this place, the more I like it.

I feel like I'm ready to go on!

Eagle Gamma in Haiti!

Thoughts in Dajabon, Republica Dominicana!

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 12/26/2019 - 10:18

Looks like the weather should be fine.

Ouanaminthe looks more spread out, shorter, compared to Dajabon.

Still scary to go to Haiti!

Looks like some rough neighborhoods in nearby Ouanaminthe.

"poul ak nwa" is a northern Haitian dish with cashew nuts ("nwa").

Haitian Voodoo looks somewhat interesting. Not sure whether I want to attend an event.

Il y'a beaucoup de regles de grammaire en haitien. Ca me parait qu'on doit l'ecouter et le parler pour les apprendre.

Ta: conditional.

A: and, at, in, of.

Looks like there are also some decent areas on the other side of the border.

Booked another night in this hotel room. Right after getting back into my room, the power went out!

The Caribbean has a complex shape.

I'm now looking at maps, planning, dreaming.

It looks like I'm at around the same latitude as various parts of Mexico that I like.

In looking at the map now, I can see various routes through the parts of the Caribbean that I've seen that may have been logistically easier than mine, but I'm not sure that they would have made for better travels overall.

Some of the scarier places I'm considering going include Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua.

I'm thinking of making a "variety pack" of Caribbean countries (Spanish, French, English, Dutch, etc.), including some in South America, before heading back to Central America.

Or, maybe leave the variety pack for later.

Some of my (complicated) considerations include: how easy it is to get places, how safe they are, how desirable they are for me to visit, whether going to a place makes it easy to get to the next place.

Looks like much of the Amazon lacks roads.

It's hard to see into the Amazon even from space!

Many of the remaining Caribbean islands seem small. Not much more than a town.

The white islands (English, American, Dutch, etc.) look boring to me. The black areas (Haiti) look dangerous to me. The Hispanic islands (Spanish, Portuguese) look just right!

29 km from Aruba to Venezuela. Tempting just to go to the mainland.

I'm still deliberating, but I'm now leaning more towards doing Venezuela and the "variety pack" coast, before returning to Mesoamerica.

Then maybe fly from French Guiana to Mexico.

Panama looks super modern.

After Potoprens (Port-au-Prince), the capital, looks like there aren't any sizable cities in Haiti.

My Haitian Creole is improving. I can now read more!

I think one could make a classic comedy movie about a freak winter storm hitting the Caribbean!

 

Making it to the Haitian-Dominican Border!

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 12/26/2019 - 10:11

Rode!

Rough start. Felt out of shape. First long ride in a while. Some digestive troubles.

Didn't make it as far as I thought I would, but had a terrific ride!

Camped in a beautiful spot.

Next day, rode on.

Gorgeous scenery. I wouldn't have thought that the area leading up to the Haitian/Dominican border would be so scenic.

Tons of people out on the streets. Pleasant atmosphere, for the most part.

Getting nearer Dajabon, decided to walk the last part. It was such a gorgeous day, and I felt somewhat tired.

Walked into town. Somewhat different feel than I expected. Numerous Haitians on this side of the border.

After refreshing, walked down to the border. There's a market there, where Haitians sell their wares.

At the border, I walked onto the bridge. Overlooking a river, where Haitians washed their clothes in tubs.

Walked back to a quieter spot. Quite quiet.

After watching part of the sunset, decided to set up camp. I had made a reservation on Airbnb for my few days in Dajabon. However, the host had to cancel. I thought I'd camp outside the town, but since I was already there, and tired, I decided to camp by the border, despite my better judgment.

As I had finished setting up, some Dominican military came by. They asked for my ID, and searched my belongings.

They asked me numerous questions about my travels.

After a while, they said I'd have to go to the immigration office, explain myself.

They said that there were numerous Haitians at the immigration office.

After a while of talking with them as I put away my stuff, trying to find a way to avoid the immigration office, I figured out that they were after a bribe!

One of them half-jokingly asked for my bicycle. "I need it to travel," I said.

I gave them a thousand pesos (twenty US dollars), and asked how that was. They wanted another thousand (twenty).

My first bribe!

I walked away, rented a hotel room. Happily!

 

The Giant and the Leaf

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 12/26/2019 - 09:45

Once upon a time, there was a giant. The giant sat down in a bed of grass. Tired, he lay down.

A leaf of grass sprung up beside the giant. The giant said to the leaf of grass, "I could crush you easily."

The leaf of grass scoffed. "You could crush me easily," said the leaf of grass. "But I am connected to other leaves of grass."

"I could crush those leaves of grass easily, too," said the giant.

"You could crush as many leaves of grass as you want," admitted the leaf. "However, we are connected to many more than you can possibly crush. And they will keep on growing, long after you have ceased to live."

"So?" said the giant, somewhat trembling.

"So," said the leaf of grass. "Go ahead and crush me if you will. I will hardly even feel it. We will keep on growing anyways. And we can crush you easily."

 

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