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Home Is Where My Heart Is

December 6, 2011


I finally made the move to my new house Saturday.  The Cannons and Carol Ann were sorry to see me go, I think.  The neighbourhood kids in Citè Dalencourt helped me load, and a few of my friends were waiting at my home to help me unload.  As soon as they saw what was going on, some of my neighbours’ kids pitched in to carry my stuff.  My friends helped me set up enough for the night before I had to rush off to celebrate the birthday of a young man who helps out the Cannons regularly.

My day’s schedule was a little too full.  By the time I got the truck back to Pastor Gary it was late evening.  When I went to catch a tap tap I was told that I probably wouldn’t find one; they were done for the night.  Several moto taxi drivers offered to take advantage of the situation, badgering me to let them take me to Pierre Payen at much-inflated rates.

But God was watching over me as always.  A man on a motorcycle pulled up in front of me.  I thought he was just another driver looking for a fare.  He sat there silently for a couple of minutes, and then he said, “You live in Frantz’s house in Pierre Payen, don’t you?”  I was a bit taken aback; I had no idea who he was.  Then he told me he lived directly across from me.

My neighbour offered me a ride home.  It was a very pleasant trip.  He has a very nice bike and it was quiet enough that we could talk comfortably.  The moon was bright and he switched off his headlight so that we could enjoy the moonlight.  The night air was cool.  He delivered me right to my gate.

To my chagrin, I can’t for the life of me remember his name.  Some things about getting older annoy me considerably.  I saw a T-shirt the other day that sums up my experience.  It read, “Sometimes my mind wanders.  Other times it leaves completely.”

As I lay in my bed Saturday night listening to the waves breaking on the beach, I knew I was home.


I have gotten into a bit of a routine here.  I am always awake before first light and spend some time reading or working on my laptop.  On Sunday morning by the time I was actually ready to get up, sunlight was spilling in through the windows of my house.  I love the house’s bright airiness.

I had to forgo a morning shower as there was no water; Fritzner informed me that someone had broken the water main, but they were working on it.  This is a common problem here.  The water pipes are plastic and often uncovered, and therefore easily damaged.

So taking my laptop and a chair out on my patio, I settled in to enjoy my new surroundings.  The tree right outside my door was bedecked with feathery orchid purple blooms, although they were fading fast; the spent petals spiraled earthward, cast off by their eight-inch lime green “pea pod” progeny.    Tangerine butterflies flitted between the flowers that still clung to the branches.  The mango tree was heavy with fruit, still several weeks off ripe.  The palms bowed toward the beach, their rustling yellowing fronds shading clusters of mustard-coloured coconuts.

Fritzner was crouched over a charcoal fire beside his tiny house, preparing himself some breakfast in a chodye, the traditional Haitian cooking pot.  Smoke curled around his head.

The sea was almost monochromatic, a blue, according to the paint colour chart I was looking at on my laptop, most appropriately called Caribbean.  It was calm, the waves swishing gently onto the sand.  The sky was a cloudless light steel blue.  The shoreline shimmered in the sunlight.

A fisherman, his boat pulled up on the beach, pailed water over the hull to swell the strakes together and render it watertight.  His nets lay spread on the beach.  Another boat slid past, three men straining at the oars.  The sails of freight boats glistened white in the distance with the slate blue shadow of La Gonave behind them.

As I soaked in the remarkable world around me, I wondered how a prairie boy has come to love the sea so much.


My home has been a hive of activity, and I’m not alluding to my last post.  It is in the process of being converted from a Haitian house into the home of a Canadian, and a fussy one at that, living in Haiti.  That means some significant changes.  Jean, Olivier’s father, has been working to repair all the chips and cracks in the walls, inside and out.  His work is excellent.  He also built me a base for my little Delco, as generators are referred to here.  A local welder is making me a housing for it so that it doesn’t walk away.  He did the same for my solar panel.

I have been making necessary repairs to the plumbing, putting in a couple of valves so that I can shut the water off to make repairs.  On Sunday I had to fix a pipe that came apart.  Fortunately, most plumbing here is exterior.  But with no way to shut off the water, I got soaked to the skin in the process.  But in this climate, that is no big deal.  Besides, I finally got my shower.  I have also been replacing faucet washers, cleaning the sand out of the screens in the faucets and renewing the works in the toilet tank, formerly held together with string and wire.  I will also replace the corroded taps on the bathroom sink, but that will wait until I can get a thrift store bargain in Canada; taps are very pricy here.  I found a double stainless steel kitchen sink with integral drainboard and single handle faucet in the market; that was a real bargain.

I finally have some of the paint for the interior and that will be started very soon.  I have more than enough volunteers to do the work; everyone here would like the opportunity to make a few dollars.  Unfortunately I don’t think some of my volunteers have any idea of what they are doing.

A case in point is Olivier.  He was at my door bright and early Sunday morning to tell me the house was dirty and he was going to clean it.  I decided it was in my best interest not to argue.  He started by carefully sweeping the floors.  Then he decided to sweep the cobwebs from the rafters and dust off the top of the beams.  In a very short time his clean floor was worse than when he arrived.  He didn’t bother to move or cover anything, so all my stuff will need a cleaning.  He washed the shutters and the windows, but after they dried there was no evidence they had been touched.   At one point I caught him just as he was about to modify my brand new deck mop to make a duster for cleaning the walls; he had no idea how to use a mop and pail.  I think his housecleaning experience has been limited to watching his mother.  But he tries, God bless him.

Kelele, who has become one of my very best friends, is going to put me in touch with a “boss,” as men who operate a business here are called, who will build me kitchen cupboards, shelves and screens for my windows; I have seen some of his work and it is very high quality.  Preval has checked out my roof and will let me know how much it will cost to replace the couple of sheets of roofing that are rusted through.  I scraped the dozens of wasp nests from under the eaves with a length of plastic pipe.  My Haitian friends thought I was crazy and kept their distance, cringing and squealing as they watched.  Haitians seem to be afraid of gèp.

Evens will come on Saturday to figure out what he needs to set up my electrical system and put in a couple extra outlets and another exterior light; there is evidence that what I want was once there but was at some point removed.  It will be nice to have current, but I kind of like my oil lamps; they provide a gentle intimate light that is enough to do most things.

After I return from Canada, Jean will build me steps down to the beach.  These projects sound like a lot, but the six sacks of cement necessary to build the steps will cost me more than the labour involved.  At that time the exterior of the house will get a coat of paint.

I have agreed to purchase a little 3-burner propane “camp stove” from the Cannons, as they purchased a regular stove.  I will do the same some time after returning, but I am in no hurry.   The refrigerator will have to wait for a day when I am in the frame of mind to spend that much money.

I have a long list of little things I will look for in thrift stores in Canada that will make the house a little more functional.  There are many things I am used to that are simply not readily available here.  Then there are those things that are available but are exorbitantly priced.  Heavy items like dishes and pots and pans I will buy in the market; every once in a while I see something of real quality.  On Saturday as I was impatiently waiting to get the truck to move, I wandered through the market and found a professional grade heavy-bottomed stainless steel frying pan.  The vendor knew it had value, but I still got a bargain.  It was filthy with burned on grease, but a little elbow grease got it sparkling.

I was sharing with a good friend what went through my mind as I cleaned the pan.  There is something in me that takes great delight in restoring things that have been neglected and/or abused to new life.  Those who know me well know that I was always working on some piece of “junk” that no one else thought was worth anything.  The same applies to people, as is evidenced by many of the things I have done in my life.

Although I didn’t quite know what to make of the situation at first, I really like having Fritzner around; he is a quiet comforting presence, always so pleasantly warm, always with a smile and a kind word.  I am enjoying having people drop in throughout the day and look forward to some “formal” entertaining.  I love my new home.  To me, making my home my own is one of the great pleasures in life.

Olivier cleaning house










Jean doing concrete work.










Fritzner burning leaves.










I know some of you will be wondering why there are not more pictures.  You will have to wait for the finished product.



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