It started out as only an idea; a “wouldn’t that be fun” kind of thought. But, over a couple days the idea began to take shape into an actual plan. We battled problems of communication, a place to stay, and transportation up until the very last minute and we won. At 5:30 am 8 of us left the walls of our school riding in the trusty Jin Bei van and began the 3.5 hour trek to Jacmel. Although we were all a little blurry eyed and tired, the decision to leave early to avoid traffic was a wise one. We made it through the streets with ease and were met with minimal traffic in the downtown area. I had not seen downtown Port au Prince until now and what I saw shocked me a bit. I hope I will never become dull or immune to the poverty I see around me, but the urban-povertiness (I sometimes just have to make up words) startled me a bit. More wet, muddy trash lined the streets, more yelling, more holes in the road, urine smells so strong they seep into the vents in the car and assault your senses. This was what we left that morning.
Not an hour later we are cruising along a smooth road at high speeds and all of us are pressing our faces at the windows like children when they pull into Disneyland. Green everywhere. Vibrant green palms, clear, lush farmland, fruit trees and other tropical plants adorned the large mountains we were climbing. In the span of many minutes we had left urban chaos and entered tropical paradise. As we meandered the switchbacks that crawled up and down mountains the quiet in the car was interrupted only by the occasional camera click or gasp at the beauty seen around the bend (or a gasp at the near miss of a taptap bus on the opposite side of the road getting a bit too close for comfort).
Around 9:00 am we pulled into Jacmel. This smaller town was bustling for a Saturday morning with locals and tourists going about their business. We found the hotel we would be staying at, Hotel Ozana. A friend had told us about this hotel and we received an amazing deal. We dumped out bags in the room and hopped back in the van to explore the town.
Our first stop was the Jacmel arts district. We roamed around the beautiful Hotel Florita and were awed at the beautiful brick walls adorned with paper mache masks, a traditional element of the annual festival of Carnival that is held in the spring. After leaving Hotel Florita we browsed through several galleries where we saw more large paper mache masks as well as other local items like coasters and place settings hand painted to look like various fruits and vegetables.
After we had our fill of the galleries we walked down the street to a local beach and dipped our toes in the water. Once there we were greeted by several children shouting to us “you, you!” and holding out their hands. We talked with them and played for a while but eventually made our way back to the car. We spent a couple of hours at the hotel eating, relaxing, and playing a mean game of Phase 10.
After a while though, it was time to hit the beach! We changed and drove out to a public beach to play. After finding a secure spot for our belongings we ran into the water with the gusto of children being let out of the school building for summer break. For the next few hours we flipped and dove in the water. We threw the Frisbee to each other and dove into the waves to catch it. We were kids at the beach and it was joyous.
When the sun was getting low, we got to witness an incredible sunset. Amidst the trash on the beach we watched the beautiful display of yellow, orange, and red dance across the sky as the sun sank behind distant, silhouetted mountains. I sometimes forget that I live on an island in the Caribbean, but this day reminded me of it. I was surrounded by natural, God-made beauty and we all drank it in. This was only the first day of a weekend in paradise.
P.S. I lost my camera so these pics are all borrowed from my friends Josiah, Katie, and Robbie who took great pictures and then posted them on Facebook :)