21 August 2012

Le Faux Pas (Deuxième Partie)

Click here to read Part 1.

We had the majority of the work yet to be done: Jasmine on dinghy cleaning, Harold on beer delivery, Colby on carpet runners, Pepe and Keke on boat cleaning, Edisson for a walk through his village to the other resort hotel and Makendy on dinner to go. It was going to be a long day.

As before, everyone showed up bright and early and everyone asked how we'd slept. Jasmine took the dinghy off a few yards so he could clean it in the shade of the mangrove trees by the shore of the harbour, Pepe had, the prior evening, delivered the rags, cleaned and folded but before he and Keke could get started, they needed to get fresh water, so we sent them off in Keke's mango wood boat with our water jugs and 300 gourde. Makendy had also paddled out the night before to take our dinner order, and to ask if we wanted music with dinner. I wasn't sure how he intended to accomplish that, include a flash drive with the baggies of food? Too exhausted to makes sense of it though, I just told him it wouldn't be necessary, we had lots of music on the boat.

With our dinghy gone and Pepe and Keke moving all over the deck, we were feeling as trapped as we had been in Marathon when the SALT technicians were working everywhere at once. Only this time without a handy tiki hut under which to escape. Needless to say we'd never been more happy in both of our lives put together than we were to see Edisson when he came to rescue us at noon.
The village of Caille Coq is poor and is lush. Modest homes of a few hundred square feet sit randomly among coconut palms. Just as we entered the village and set apart from the other houses, we passed one of the most charming cottages either of us had ever seen. It was resplendent and joyful in its pink and green exterior made even more whimsical by the multi-colored foliage of its carefully landscaped front yard. It screamed "photo op", but aware of Haitians' animosity toward unapproved picture-taking, we first asked Edisson if he thought the owner would mind. He said it would be all right. Our cruising guide stated that there was usually not a problem with taking pictures of buildings and public places. In any event, we didn't see anyone around the property to object, so Jane took the camera and stepped a little closer to the garden gate to get the shot.

Snapped in the nick of time
She was just raising the camera to her face when from around a corner of the house, a tall, elderly lady with a stately bearing started yelling at us. We couldn't understand a word she was saying, but we didn't need to to know we were being scolded. Jane told Edisson to ask her if it would be acceptable to take a picture of her house (which unbeknownst to us, she already had). "Tell her we think it's beautiful and we'd like a picture to remember it by" she said to him. He didn't move at first, I'm not sure why, whether it was because he didn't understand what Jane was saying or because he didn't want to face the woman. Reluctantly, it seemed, he went into her yard to speak with her after a few additional words of prodding from us. Several minutes of not-too friendly-sounding conversation later, he came out of the yard and turning to Jane, shook his head saying "no."  We both waved in her direction as we walked away, hoping she understood that we'd meant no offense.

My bald pate was quite a hit among the children of the village. That is the lovely thing about children; they have no compunction about rendering their honest assessment of anything they encounter. At the time, I thought they were worried that my pink skin would char in the sun, so I took my equally pink bandanna out of my pocket and tied it pirate-style around my head. In retrospect, I think it more likely that they were merely remarking upon the alien life form that was trudging along behind one of their neighbors and a white lady.

Our hopes of "borrowing" an Internet signal from the Port Morgan had been dashed shortly after arriving on the island. Consequently, except for the few minutes Jane was able to spend at Didier's (the very generous and accommodating proprietor) computer to get a weather update, we were still off the cyber grid. So it was that when Edisson paddled out to offer his services as our guide to Abaka Bay Resort, the other hotel on the island, he described it using the one word guaranteed to close the sale: "American."

Abaka Bay Resort
Caille Coq hill
"American, did you say?" He probably thought we would be eager to go because of our nationality, but in truth, all that mattered to us was Internet access and we knew "American" was synonymous with "wi-fi-offering."

Over the hill, across the burning sands by the beach chairs in the shade of thatched shelters, past the brightly colored bungalows we plodded. Finally, a full hour later, we reached our destination, parched and tired. The hostess didn't seem to want to seat us because, she said, they wouldn't be open for another 15 minutes. We asked if we could get a drink while we waited, but she didn't seem to want to do that either, claiming that the bar also wasn't open. When we asked if we could wait at a nearby bench, she relented realizing that we had no intention of being turned away unserved. Why she was trying to turn away business especially when, as we shortly found out, the hotel had only eight guests, I can't imagine but I'm sure it had nothing to do with my fabulous ensemble.

"Weeeee..I mean...yar, I'm on the Web!
Within a flat 23 seconds after being seated, Jane confirmed our suspicions--free wi-fi in the bar. Poor Edisson, once the World Wide Web was streaming to both of our iPads, he was left to entertain himself. In reality, wherever that was, he had done all right: lunch and 10 bucks to take us on what was for him a brief stroll.

On the way back through the village, we ran into Makendy again. His sister, our chef du jour was with him. Introductions, were made, all around and Makendy asked again if we wanted music with dinner. At that moment, all we wanted was to escape, to stare silently into space, to never see another human being as long as we lived. We reassured him it wouldn't be necessary, that we had music. It was very considerate of him to want to set a mood for the meal, I thought, but clearly, he didn't grasp the ad hoc nature of dining underway.

Jane and Edisson
The small, dugout boats carved from the wood of the mango tree that almost everyone uses are impressive, or would be were it not for the fact that to a greater or lesser extent, they all leak. Edisson's boat was a more prodigious leaker than most. By the time we returned to JOY where he'd tied it up, it was half under water. It took a good twenty minutes of bailing before he could paddle it back home. We bid him adieu, admired the excellent work our cleaners had done, buried ourselves inside the boat and this time, began laughing hysterically, a sure sign of emotional exhaustion. All hope of getting to take a look at the starboard engine was gone. Our revised plan was to leave at the crack of dawn the next morning before anyone could offer to do or sell or ask us for anything. We had yet to retrieve our carpet runners from Colby and get our dinner from Makendy. After which, we'd be free.

Click here to read Part 3.

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