Saturday, May 26, 2012

Earthquake Memorials

I had the opportunity to visit two memorials to the Jan. 2010 earthquake.  The mass grave is along National Route 1, east of Titanyen (NW of Port).  Click here for the story behind it.  It is a somber place, knowing we are parked and standing on the mass graves.  There's a stone monument.  And two young women ran up the hill when they saw us, wanting to give us a tour. Knowing they probably needed money it was difficult to say no, but we wanted to just stand in quite, enjoying the view of the bay and reflecting on the moment.  We gave them a bunch of mangoes and a ride back down the hill to the highway.


The second memorial was at Quisqueya University (Kiskeya), where buildings fell, killing students and teachers.  We were there for a meeting with the Haitian Audubon Society located on campus.  It is a peaceful place up in the hills above Port.


Entrance to Quisqueya University

Memorial to students and teachers killed at Quisqueya University

Mural in the Quisqueya University memorial

Close up of mural

Monument at the mass grave near Titanyen

Crosses on the hillside

View of the Port au Prince bay from the monument

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Zoranje Housing Community

Voila Community Center
During my April trip, Rhoda and I were given a tour of the community of Zoranje by the woman who runs their shiny new community center.  I was to teach ecology there on National Agriculture Day the following week, but sadly one of their guards passed away so they canceled all events.  I did get to speak about birds and hand out bird guides to some families who showed us their homes.
Refreshing drinks.

Funky model house (complete with goats).
One area in Zoranje consists of model houses that various organizations (including Venezuelan President Caesar Chavez) built for a competion in which Haiti’s president would select one for the remainder of the community.  With the clean paved streets, brightly painted houses, and flat, treeless surrounding landscape, it felt like walking through an abandoned retirement village in Florida.  One in which the goats roam free and eat all the landscaping plants.  Most of the houses are still unoccupied – I think water and some other things need to be finished.  We did find a bar where we had some refreshing drinks (Coke bottled in Haiti is waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy better than what we get here in the US – they use real sugar).
Model houses.
The chosen house design, with goats eating the landscaping.

Zoranje is about 3.75 miles from the Port-au-Prince airport, as the crow flies.  In reality, it would take about an hour to drive there the relatively safe way on National Route 1.  The more direct route going by Cite Soleil would be shorter, but there have also been road blockades and muggings on those roads. 

The community center is sponsored by the cell phone company Viola and is the newest, spiffiest thing I’ve seen in Haiti (other than the stores in ritzy Petionville).  They have several classrooms, a computer learning center, a library, and internet café (complete with armed guard).  They also have a Viola cell phone store which seemed out of place.  The center would be the perfect place to hold art classes, ecology workshops, etc.  They are even in the process of equipping a small medical clinic.  This blog is about the center.  You can also read about Zoranje here and here.

Zoranje in the top left, airport runway at bottom right.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Taptaps of Port au Prince

Here's a sampling of the brightly colored public transportation in Haiti.  These buses are called taptaps.

Castro and Mandela, together again!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fruit ladies

Black Border 5x7 folded card
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Jacmel adventure

From Port au prince we drove though the mountains down to Jacmel and spent the night at the hotel La Florita.  It’s 2 blocks up from the beach and had great atmosphere.  It’s a gingerbread house built in 1888.  We had the top suite to ourselves.  An artist, Rose Marie Lamour, was having a reception, and there was a jazz/kompa band.  The room came with complimentary breakfast (bread, fruit, coffee) and you can also order other food.  They serve lunch and dinner too.  And did a good job rebuilding after the earthquake (see scary earthquake damage photos here).

The beach right in Jacmel has so much trash!  We saw people dumping trash near the wetland early in the morning, and concluded it was the city dump.  People let their goats and pigs run loose in it.  We came across a couple kids throwing stones to try to hit swallows, so used it as an opportunity to teach about birds and how to use the binoculars.  Attracted about 10 kids and one woman who brought a puppy in a sack to wash off in the ocean.  I gave them each a birds of Haiti laminated card.

We drove down the coast and found a beautiful rocky beach in Caye Jacmel.  We stopped along the road near a bridge and walked along the shore.  Found tiny hermit crabs.  We cut through a small banana tree field to get back to the road to walk back.  Found a talented woodworker and also give his kids some of the bird cards.  He said he was glad we didn’t humiliate him by not stopping to talk. I'll post images from this nice beach in the next blog post.

That day we drove to the north shore along the bay, and ate dinner at Samaritan’sPurse at Jax Beach, then stayed overnight with Rhoda’s friends who run the Kodep guest house and program.  They have demonstration forests up in the mountains, and will open a school this fall.  At their house is a tilapia farm.  In the morning we went snorkeling in their back yard!  Saw fish, sea urchins, star fish, coral, etc. 

Hotel La Florita


Band at the La Forita

Inside the La Forita

Debbie & Rhoda at the La Florita

My room at the La Florita

Don't throw trash here!  Scouts & UN
Trash heap on the Jacmel beach
Teaching birding on the Jacmel beach

Friday, May 4, 2012

Haitian bird art

I had the opportunity to meet Haitian bird artist Larimer Saincilus who lives in Port au Prince.  The Haitian Audubon Society at Quisqueya (Kiskeya) University sells his art.  Let me know if you would like to purchase any and I’ll put you in touch with Larimer or Audubon.  If you'd like to purchase greeting cards with his artwork to support environmental education in Haiti let me know!  I posted these pictures of the art at low resolution.  Please don't use this artwork without permission from the artist (saincilusLarimer at yahoo dot fr). 
Hispanolian Woodpecker
Palm tanager

Bay-breasted Cuckoo

Green heron (at a bad angle on my part)

Antillean Euphonia

Great Egret


Snowy Egret

Hispaniolan Trogon - National bird

Vervain Hummingbird - 2nd smallest in world

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teaching in Merger & Ag Day

Monday I taught in 10 classes at the school in Merger, kindergarten through 6th grade, ages 3 – 17.  Merger is a community about a one hour drive from Croix des Bouquets where I am staying.  There were 186 kids!  Except for 6th grade, all the classes are in one 3-sided cement brick building with only tarp hung between grades to make rooms.  I don’t know how the teachers do it, or how the kids pay attention.  Since it was my 1st time at this school, I only taught about birds: woodpecker, hummingbird, parrots and parakeets, and hawks.  As with previous schools, the kids all said hawks eat chickens, and most said they take the eggs to eat or crush.  I gave buttons to the older kids, and stickers to the kindergarteners.  Woodky was a great translator.
Swarm of kids.

Kindergarten class

Rhoda, Woodky, and me
Today is National Agriculture Day.  Kids don't have school, some businesses are closed, and at the State University and Ministry of Agriculture there is a 3 day ag fair.  Woodky and I were to teach in a nearby community center, but a guard died (in his sleep) so all events there were canceled.  But then we found out about the ag fair so Rhoda and I took the 2 kids who live here.  It's like a state fair - ag exhibits, animals, vegetables, booths from different organizations, food.  AND we saw President Martelly!  And I met some people interested in ecotourism.  Turned out to be a great day after all.  (Oh and the flamingo watching was canceled, the Haitian who was going to accompany us couldn't get here.)
Casslin, Berlinda, and Rhoda waiting for the president to walk by at the Agricultural Fair.

Martelly & Me

Waiting for the prez. from a combine.
Group promoting propane to save trees

1 million trees for 2012.