With plans changing suddenly last Friday, as they often do in Haiti, several of us found ourselves with 4 extra days in Haiti. I decided to contact Voyages Lumière (VL) and see if we could arrange an overnight trip to Jacmel. VL is a terrific locally owned travel agency in Haiti; Madame Jacqui has helped me many times. She booked us at the fabulous hotel Cyvadier Plage. Try the lobster, we were told by Père FanFan. What an experience. Our room contained several delights, including a pitcher of cold water for drinking, a functioning AC unit, and…wait for it…. HOT WATER in the shower. After a week of lukewarm drinking water, cold showers and hot sweaty nights we were in heaven.
Views of the beach greeted us the next morning. I kept thinking about all the pirate ships that used these islands to hide out from the British Navy. I felt we had stolen away to a secret paradise.
We spent most of the next day visiting art galleries. Jacmel is known for its local art and has an art school with its own display studios. Sonya and I had great fun using our limited Kreyol, our excellent Haitian guide and lots of smiles to meet several artists.
We bought several papier mache items, as that is a local specialty. Our hands and arms were soon full with our purchases. The last stop , however, was our favorite. Art Gallery for Women, it said. About 4 women assisted us in looking at Paintings, carnival masks, jewelry and Veve flags. Veve are a particular style of flag which are hand sewn sequined flags with colorful images. I bought one for our fundraiser in Memphis in December.
One of the women noticed Sonya looking at a dramatic painting with striking colors. The woman realized Sonya was drawn to that painting, just as we realized we had spent most of our cash already. She asked $100 US. Then quickly said she would take $80 for it. Sonya offered $60. Then Sonya and I started counting our cash on hand. Digging through our wallets our bags our pockets, melting into a puddle of sweat mind you, $52 is all we could come up with. One of the women took pity on us and brought us two chairs to sit on and then grabbed a placemat (one of those hard board placemats that are ubiquitous in Haiti) and started to fan us. “That right there’s worth $20 ” Sonya proclaimed. Counting again to my last $1 bill, still only $52. I told Sonya she couldn’t walk out of there without that painting. Finally our guide offered a solution. Pay the travel agency an extra $8 on my credit card, and he would see that the artist gets her money. A very Haitian solution. The shopkeeper was very happy, we were happy, and Sonya gets to take home a beautiful orange painting of a chicken.
Later at the guest house we were figuring out rides to the airport and such. Being completely out of cash, Sonya said “Well, if we have to pay a taxi we could say ‘Would you take this painting?’ as payment for the ride.