Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Haiti 2021 - still a hiatus!

My assistant continues my Bio101 class that was interrupted by the COVID shutdown.

I left Haiti in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic caused the world to hunker down. But in fall 2020 I resumed teaching my Bio101 class via prerecorded videos from which my assistant taught. Knowing the students in the class helped maintain somewhat of a connection with them. We wrapped up that class then proceeded into the actual fall semester, beginning in Dec. 2020, with Bio102. Not even halfway through the semester, in Feb. 2021 more political upheaval in Haiti shut down the country and classes. So we all wait to see what happens next.

Update - The spring 2021 semester started in mid-April 2021. They are slowly catching up. May update - starting another round of Bio101 and Bio102!

A new set of Bio101 students exploring the outdoors in Apr. 2021.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

How to make a Haitian meal

 My friend Lydie showed me how to make beans and rice, onion sauce, legume (vegetables), and bannann peze (fried plantains).

Start beans in lots of water, with salt (I missed the bean preparation).

Clean rice (pick out rocks, blow out chaff) and rinse twice.

Put rice in cooking beans, turn up gas high to boil, when water evaporates stir and put on lid. Turn down heat and cook about 10 minutes, stir, turn down heat even more.

Meanwhile cook veggies in oil: lettuce leaves cut up, chayote cut in half and peeled (remove heart) peeled carrot chunks. Stir and cook about 5 minutes then add chopped onion, pepper, tomato, garlic, and some magi. Cover and cook. Add a little water later and stir.

While everything is cooking, peel and cut up plantains. Wash the pieces. Heat a lot of oil in frying pan, stand back and add plantain. Fry about 5 minutes until yellower then turn them and cook more. Turn some more and it gets yellower.

For onion sauce cut up tomato into a sauce pan then add some oil and cook. Add a tablespoon of butter or margarine, cook more, then add 2 cups of water and ‘a little’ (a spoonful) of rock salt. When sauce is almost done, add sliced onion.

Remove the plantains, fry cooked meat in the oil, then remove.

Meanwhile crush each plantain between two plates. Dip each piece in a bowl of salt water, then fry in the meat oil. Turn once and fry around 5 minutes.

Put everything on plates and bowls, garnish with tomato slices, and eat!

First frying of the plantains.

Onion sauce and squashed plantains frying.

The legume - vegetables

Friday, February 21, 2020

Citadelle 2020 Part 2 - The views

Here are some photos from the excursion to the Citadelle! It was overcast with low clouds at the Citadelle, but full sun at the Palace.

Palace San Souci, from the road above.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Citadelle 2020 part 1 - the road there and payment

Too many people trying to help!
On a Monday in February 2020 I took a visitor to the Citadelle! Rather my Haitian friend took us and helped us navigate not only the road there but payment. Let your Haitian friend take charge of all payments! (I didn’t and overpaid the horse guides). Here is what we did. Hope it saves others from confusion! And you need a really good truck with good motor and clutch to go up and down the mountain.

The drive: 7 hour round trip! Left UCNH in Haute-Limbe at 6:45a. Go earlier if you want to go birding. From Rt 1 we turned south onto the nice road through Akul, then went south through Bois Rouge and popped out on the main paved road that goes south to Milot. 8am arrive at the tourist payment building at Palace San Souci, after we picked up a guide who was standing on the street outside a nice gate/walled area. He had a badge and rode with us in the truck bed. FYI he spoke Creole, French, and Spanish, but very little English. My friend ended up translating. 9 am arrive at Citadelle parking lot. 9:40a arrive at Citadelle whether you rode a horse or walked. 10:30a left Citadelle. Noon back in truck at tourism building and left. We returned on the road that runs along the south edge of the Cap airport. 1pm arrive at Rt1 out of Cap. 2pm pull into UCNH.

At the tourism building: They give you the list of prices (see photo below). We only paid the entrance fee of 2300 gds for 2 foreigners and 3 Haitians. They couldn’t make change! The guide exchanged smaller bills with us. Supposedly you can pay for all services there and not be charged later in the main parking lot right below the Citadelle. At the tourism booth they charge $15US (1500 gds) for a horse (then you tip your 2 horse guides). But it’s cheaper to hire a horse on your own at the parking lot above. Which I didn’t know, and paid 2000 gds and told the 2 guides to split the extra 500. Didn’t know my friend had negotiated 1000 gds for a horse. At the end we gave the guide 3000gd. And I paid for gas and use of my friend’s truck.

Souvenir sellers: Be prepared for all the art and souvenir sellers in both parking lots. I put a predetermined amount of cash in my pocket, small US bills. And spent only that. They will ask $10US for a wood bowl. Then when you get in your car to leave, they will say you can have 2 bowls for $5US! I had to roll up the window and close the door, they are very assertive.

The horse ride up: Choose only horses that have the hibiscus logo branded into the horse. My vet friend trains the horse owners to care for the horses and gives the brand to those who passed. I took a horse (Tako) so I wouldn’t be so tired at the top, but it’s not a bad walk. Steep but smooth stones. The horse is too bumpy for bird watching and they didn’t stop much.

The building where you pay the entrance fee for Palace San Souci and Citadelle.

The hibiscus brand on horses managed by people who received training in horse care.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Belly Beach bird hike

Fort Belly

The real reason I wanted to stay overnight at Belly Beach was to go birding. Get up early and head up the stairs to a rocky road that sits above the bay. There are unique rock formations, a nice view of the bay, and a little fort my guide called Labadee Fort, and google maps labeled Fort Belly. There are typical birds – kingbirds, Antillean mangos, warblers. And also white-crowned pigeons which I have only seen once in Haiti, in the south.

Walk up the stairs from the hotel

Rocky road

Spanish moss

Cruise ship at Labadee

Belly Beach near Labadee Haiti

Belly Beach is a small beach and hotel on the bay between the Royal Caribbean Cruise resort of Labadee and the Haitian village of Labadee. It has fewer foreigners than Cormier Plage, and better swimming in the calm bay and blue water (somewhat cloudy from all the boat activity). It's a nice place to spend the evening. We arrived around 5p on a Sunday, loud music was playing, people were enjoying the beach, but it wasn't too rowdy. They turned off music around 7p and most of the day-use people had left by then, so we enjoyed our meal in peace. 

We didn't make reservations, and seemed to be the only people staying overnight. There were around 10 rooms, $60/night. Each has a mini-fridge, TV, air conditioner, and indoor plumbing. There are no windows so we couldn't enjoy the view or sounds of the waves whiles we slept. Electricity was on until around 11pm. The main water pipe to the compound had broken, so there wasn't water that evening to the rooms (because they didn't know we were coming they hadn't filled the reservoir), but we could shower in the day-use facilities. The rooms had water by morning. The stay came with a hearty breakfast of eggs, bread, coffee. The manager speaks English and was pleasant, along with the woman who manages the rooms. Dinner and drinks for 5 was $30. They take only cash! Check out is 11am.

The morning was the best part for me - I came there to bird and explore. Go up the stairs and to the left to follow the road seen on google maps. There is a small fort, and lots of birds (see next blog). Go up the stairs to the right to get to the next beach over where people sell souvenirs to the cruise ship tourists. Tell them you are not from the cruise ship! The sellers are pleasant and not too pushy, but did try to charge 3x as much as they finally seemed happy taking.

Next time I would like to get there before noon, leave my belongings (and give time for water to the rooms), then take a boat to Labadee village to eat lunch and explore.

How to get there - Though google shows a road that looks like it goes directly to Belly Beach - it's really just a very rocky path that I don't think any truck could manage, and it stops at stairs that lead down to the hotel. On google maps Belly Beach is called Dhaloo, while a place within the resort compound is labeled as Belly Beach. To get to Belly, follow the road past the resort and park near the water taxis. Royal Caribbean had a ship in port the day I went, and when we arrived at 4 pm the area was very busy with employees who work in the resort. Hire a water taxi to take you to Belly. Pay 100 gd for the trip there, and arrange for pick up the next day for 1000 gd. 

water taxi