Ryan and I were able to take a few days off this week, so we decided to drive way up in the mountains and stay at “The Lodge.” It is a beautiful log cabin surrounded by tall pine trees, mountains, and lots of fresh air! You can hardly believe that you are in Haiti, after living in crowded, trash-filled Port au Prince. But as a Haitian man once said to us, “Haiti is not Port au Prince!” Much of this country is absolutely gorgeous.
Taking after my dad, I love to explore new places, especially small towns, and meet the people. So I’ve pulled Ryan along on several long walks here to do just that. The roads are all very steep and rocky, so walking is a workout. We came across a Catholic church where people come from miles around (on foot, of course) to attend. We also found a rustic hotel where we shared a soda and enjoyed the view. We got to see lots of animals, such as a mama pig and about 10 little piglets on their first trip out.
Another surprise animal to mention that we saw was a bat. And we were so fortunate not to even have to leave our room for that. :-D It started flying around our room as soon as it was dark. So since we couldn’t get him out, we decided he might as well stay for the night. We’re trying to think of a good name for him, since he’ll probably be back.
Today we were out on another walk and kept seeing people pass by in suits and fancy dresses. These are people who live in tiny shacks on the side of a mountain. We finally asked where they were going, and they said to a funeral burial. So we followed them, and eventually saw a crowd of people coming at us – probably at least 200, all dressed in their best clothes! There were a group of musicians – 2 trumpets, a trombone, and a drummer. They were playing peppy hymns such as “I’ll Fly Away” and all the people were singing along and dancing. They slowly proceeded down the road and probably walked about two miles all together.
A group of men carried the casket, and kept trading it off to different people to take a turn carrying it. The craziest thing was that they were dancing with the casket, sometimes putting it above their heads, shaking it to the music, putting it on an angle. I’m thinking, “Whoever is in there is getting pretty banged up and could be upside down in there by the time the get to the cemetery!” Several times I had to hold back from bursting out in laughter because of that thought.
A line of cars and motorcycles eventually slowly followed, as they couldn’t pass all the people on the single one lane road. One driver was angry that it was taking so long, and started honking his horn at the procession. Then a man from the crowd went up to his window and started yelling at him to be respectful. I thought for sure a fight was about to break out!
I decided to head back to the Lodge at that point, as I wasn’t really dressed for a burial ceremony and might have stuck out just a little bit, you know, with my skin color and everything. What a fascinating experience and celebration of life.
All in all, it’s been a great week, and we are thankful for some time to experience and enjoy the countryside of Haiti.
** UPDATE **
We had someone give us some insight onto the dancing casket… “That was a vodou funeral. Do you know the reasoning behind their doing that? It is to ‘disorient’ the dead person. Many times they will toss and even drop the casket. They believe that this will disorient the person’s spirit in a way that it will not know where it is, and thus cannot come back and haunt them.”