The standard rotation at Mission of Hope is for teams to arrive and depart on Saturdays and Wednesdays. The threat of Tropical Storm Chantal threw us a curve ball, moving the Wednesday rotation to Thursday. Although we did not see any significant impact from the storm, there were some flight cancellations and travel delays for the Wednesday teams.
I bring all this up to highlight how we were sitting around on Friday morning waiting to go to the beach, while all the Wednesday teams (who had actually arrived the day before on Thursday) were loading up to head out to the work sites.
The beginning of Friday started out pretty much just like the rest of the week. Slide out from under the mosquito netting at about 4:45 am, head over to the communal facilities to brush teeth and then make my way up to the guest house roof for early morning prayers, contemplation and a little exercise. Round about 6:30, I was back down on the porch enjoying a tasty cup of Haitian coffee, eating breakfast, writing in my journal, and wishing I was going to a work site instead of our chosen destination.
No firearms but plenty of souvenir vendors!
If I was in Haiti on mission, serving God and the Haitian people through construction projects, building relationships, Bible school or whatever, what on earth was I doing on a bus to the Wahoo Bay Beach Club? Apparently it's standard practice for the Saturday mission teams to spend most of the day there. I wasn't the only one who was a little uncomfortable with this. There was no doubt that we had put in a strong week of work but did we really need a day off to recoup?
One of the first things some people did when getting off the bus at Wahoo Bay was to get after some Kenèp fruit from the trees behind where we parked. Kenèp is a summer fruit, called Mamonsillo fruit in English. The fruit comes in berries a little smaller than a golf ball, with an outer skin that splits easily. Inside, a sweet, sticky fruit wraps around a fairly large, hard pit. The fruit doesn't offer much juice, but is more of a candy snack like the ubiquitous kan (sugar cane).
We were given wristbands to ensure that we were authorized and pretty much had the run of the place. Extras (think: stuff we had to pay extra for) included fresh stone crabs or lobster if we preferred seafood for lunch, Jet Ski rides ($75 an hour? No thanks!!), boat rides, snorkeling, and a swarm of souvenir vendors that would've made the Biblical locust plague jealous.
If I could make $75 an hour with an old Jet Ski, I'd probably thank Jesus too.
Beautiful, but not a lot of beach...
It took me most of the day and a chat with Lester, the oldest souvenir vendor on the beach, to figure out that having a regular stream of missionaries coming out to Wahoo Bay every week was pretty good for the local economy. I asked Lester - while I perused his black coral necklaces - what life had been like for him thirty years before. In lilting, Caribbean English he said, "There was nothing then. Now, the missionaries are the tourists."
I closed the deal on a nice necklace for my wife, even getting some advice on how to use baby oil to clean and polish the black coral as needed. Lester wandered off in search of more missionary tourists and I headed to the open-air bar to enjoy a refreshing Diet Coke on the rocks - the first drink I'd had with ice in it for a week!
It's the simple pleasures that make life worth living, so they say.
I spent the rest of the day putzing around the club, shooting some hoops on the half-basketball court and even taking a brief but refreshing dip in the pool. Around 3:30 we all changed back into suitable clothes and climbed aboard the bus for the ride back to MoH. As we drove south on Route National #1 I was fortunate to snap the picture below...the highlight of the day:
You just can't make this stuff up...
I wish I'd had the time to explore the Obama Beach Hotel; I can't find a web site for it (like the more upscale Wahoo Bay has) but there are plenty of pictures and other articles about it in the blogosphere.
The rest of Friday was back to normal. We had a dry spaghetti dinner and spent time together as a team unpacking the week and sharing our thoughts and experiences. One thing I've learned from my three trips to Haiti: you will bond with your teammates.
Tomorrow will be my last Haiti blog in this series. But for now, I will be thinking of Lester and the people that live around Wahoo Bay who depend on short term missionaries like me to make their living.