Jacmel, Haiti – We awoke this morning to the incredible view of Jacmel from the sea.
I'd read so much in preparation for getting here that I had a storybook view of the city in my mind, with its French Colonial buildings, winding streets and friendly chaos.
After breakfast (a perk to be noted about traveling with the Navy is the hot breakfast – eggs cooked however you want'em!) we trundled up on deck with our gear for the day – a mass of notepads, pens, digital recorders and so much camera gear I could hardly keep track – to be outfitted with life jackets.
We were pleased to find that Halifax has actual stairs from its deck down to the Zodiacs (salt water makes them slippery though). So down and off we went.
The sun coming up on Jacmel is a gorgeous site – its buildings are built into the mountainside and gleamed like bright rows of teeth.
Unlike in Leogane, no one met us when we hit the shore. But as we made our way into town, the calmness of the docks gave way to a chaotic, buzzing city where roosters play chicken with speeding cars and motorbikes share the streets with the goats, dogs and the occasional pig; big, black sows that know enough to keep to the side of the roads while plundering the gutter.
When we made our way to the airport we met Bob Davisson, an Alberta native who runs a number of Jacmel-based schools and orphanages, and Sarah Wallace, a young midwife from Alberta who is one of the city's best authorities. We got lucky again – Sarah, who speaks English and Creole, was planning to lay low for the day, so we talked her into being our tour guide and translator.
In her cherry red pickup truck, we bounced back and forth through Jacmel's confusing streets, taking in the long lineups at Digicel, the country's ubiquitious cell phone provider, the banks and the clusters of red and grey Coleman tents. Donated after the earthquake by an NGO, the tents have become home for many families across the city who are afraid to sleep inside their buildings for fear of another earthquake.
We found City Hall, which has been branded with a large red, encircled dot. Here, that means the building is so unsafe it must be destroyed.
Across the town square, which was packed with the Coleman tents, we went to the library, which is the temporary government office. We also made our way through the market, which isn't as busy as usual, Sarah told us. To Deb and me, it felt packed.
By late afternoon, we were headed back to the docks to meet our Zodiac back to the ship.
Tomorrow we'd be bringing more supplies ashore. While the Halifax treks back to Jamaica for a resupply mission, we're intending to get fully acquainted with Jacmel.