Monday, October 31, 2011

images of jacmel

kerry lives in the back room of the wesleyan church in jacmel. the building was relatively unscathed by the earthquake, however the high concrete and stone fence which ran along one side was demolished, and now the local pigs have easy access to the yard (we were entrusted with the task of throwing rocks at them when this happened - i was never entirely sure why it was so terrible that they ate what appeared to be weeds, but i still dutifully collected handfuls of rocks and took aim...)

hermanie and migeline live in the other back room, and they often have visitors... this little girl spent the day at the church one day... she was a mischievous imp who chattered to me non stop in creole... far too rapidly for comprehension... she sat still long enough for her sister to very precisely arrange her hair.

on sunday the street outside the front gate turns into an immense, bustling market, teeming with people. i desperately wanted to take photos of this, however i suspect this would be a good way to start a riot... it's much like any market, with piles of fruit (mostly stacked on the street), live chooks and fish, jumbled heaps of clothes (second hand clothes from the states, which i think destroyed haiti's clothing industry) and shoes. but what was particularly striking were the charcoal sellers. clothed in black, hair tied back in black stocking cap, arms muscled from hauling charcoal; they were formidable looking women.

another distinctive feature of the market and indeed of jacmel in general is the number of wheelbarrows. i think this is by far the highest wheelbarrow to human ratio i have experienced anywhere in the world. in the market this requires tricky negotiation skills and some crazy human traffic jams. it seems you can transport almost anything in a wheelbarrow, however the best thing is hot bread or some kind of pastry, nestled in under folds of cloth, and steaming gently when the cloth is lifted for a sale.

out the back of the church is a narrow cinder block long drop (which the girls refuse to use at night because of the huge cockroaches), with the leaves of a banana plant gently rustling at the door that is always left open to admit light. from my perch on this toilet there is an excellent view of the lizards which leap in a strange bouncing fashion amongst the pile of cinder block rubble. one day while i was watching them one inflated his throat like a huge balloon. it was like david attenborough from the toilet...

one night, as i sat in the church liberally coating my body with my dwindling supply of DEET in an attempt to thwart the most insidious, skulking, dastardly mosquitoes i've ever experienced (they attack silently, frequently, and without a sting), men and women began gathering at the far end of the church for a prayer meeting. there was something hauntingly beautiful about their voices, rising unaccompanied in the dim hall, sorrowful harmonies like the spirituals of the slaves; a sound so beautiful it stopped me mid-DEET and made me very still. (that DEET was given to me by a most generous and excellent fellow way back in southern oregon.)

the streets of jacmel are lined with gracious old buildings which bear the scars of the earthquake and the toll of years... moto drivers run the gauntlet, dodging piles of rubble and refuse, negotiating the cavernous drains, and broken stormwater grilles, ambling pedestrians, donkeys, dogs, pigs and 4wds. baskets and basins perched casually on heads glide by serenely, the women (and sometimes men), swaying gently as the make their way down the streets.


  1. I love the commentary! You have a gift with words...

  2. Your description brought Jacmel to life. I'll probably never visit Jacmel but feel as if I've been there.

  3. Amazing photos, and I agree with Kellyanne and your folks-great descriptions, makes my life here seem rather dull....thanks for sharing. xo

  4. Smiled much whilst reading this one. Twas like you were right here telling me your tales. Love your insight. Do you want some repellent FedEx'd over?