When we woke up bright and early this morning, we immediately spotted a little wooden rowboat rocking precariously in the deep waters of the ocean. “We must be near land!” we cried out to each other, clinging to the rails and watching the tiny speck of a rowboat in the distance.
Soon the island of Haiti loomed into view, green and mountainous. Heavy rain clouds cloaked the top of the mountains.
We arrived in Labadee, Haiti around 8:00 this morning. We got off the ship around 8:30 and walked down a pristine white dock towards the island, surrounded by crystal-clear water. When we looked down, we could see coral and rocks, but I'm pretty sure the water was much, much deeper than it looked.
Nawnie was given a funny-looking wheelchair for the long walk.
We were immediately taken onto a water taxi with about ten or twelve other people. We rode the waves of the ocean for about fifteen minutes while we were taken to another part of the island with a private beach only for us and a little Haitian village.
A sweet woman named Rosie took us on a tour of the village, showing us how to make Haitian peanut butter, bread, and chocolate and how they make their houses. She even showed us a tree with a cure for insomnia, saying, “Ninety-five percent of Haitians have insomnia. The parents lay awake at night wondering how they will feed their children and send them to school since we have no public schools. The children lay awake at night because of hunger.” It put my thoughts into perspective when I realized that while I had been given the opportunity to relax on the beach with my family, there were people on that same island who were going to bed hungry.
I went to buy some trinkets from the islanders. This is the only way many of these people make their livings, so I spent two or three times more than I would normally be willing to pay. I bought a little bead bracelet, a small statue of Haitian people, two metal painted lizards, a t-shirt, and a stone heart.
Our little private island was absolutely beautiful. Amy and Luke enjoyed scampering through the waves and finding several hermit crabs and clams. I was able to sunbathe a little and even got a bit of a tan, I think.
We returned to the main beach in a couple of hours. We ate a lunch of fruit, bread, and pound cake, and then Nawnie and I sat out on the beach and waited while the others prepared to go on a zip line that was 500 feet above the beach.
It became cloudy and rainy through the afternoon, so it wasn't quite as nice as the morning, but I still liked it. At times, I hid under my umbrella as I poked in the sand with my toes. I love the feel of grainy sand beneath my feet.
Finally, the rest of my family came by on the zip line, beaming widely and waving at us. They came back to the beach with a jerk as their lines hit a spring and bounced them backwards to stop their fall. And then it was over.
Mom and I decided to go shopping in the little Haitian artisan while the others returned to the ship. The little shopping market reminded me a lot of Kenya's. Many vendors lined the roads where men would come and call out, “Pretty lady, pretty lady, come and see what I have to show you. Let me give you a gift. Don't you want something nice? Don't you want something beautiful?” It was always very difficult to say no to any of them because not only were we helping them to feed their families, but when we said no, we were also saying no to their artwork. At one point, Mom made the mistake of calling my name and after that, wherever I went, I heard cries of, “Emily! Emily! Emily, come see what I have for you. Beautiful Emily. Where are you going, Emily?”
After buying a few little things, Mom and I returned to the ship, showered, and took a long nap before getting ready for dinner. I had crab cake, sirloin steak, baked potato, steamed vegetables, berrymisu, and lemon tart. Everything was delicious. Our waiters, Faycal and Odonis, are wonderful.
Waiting for us back in our room was a little towel turtle.
I'm writing these words from my bed. It's only 8:30, but we'll probably retire early again because it's been a busy day and we have another long and exciting day tomorrow in Jamaica. Can this trip get any better?