Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I was in Haiti. Post #1

River #2 out of #3. The last one was deeper still.

It's hard to believe that it was just on Sunday when we had to face the reality that no cars were coming for us in the Haitian countryside. It had rained intensely the previous day and the rivers were swollen. There are no bridges here, and if the trucks can't cross, you need to wait. Except that we couldn't afford to wait… we had a flight out of Port-au-Prince later in the day and hard deadlines in FL to return to. So we walked miles over hills and through rivers, with the village lending us their donkeys, muscle, time, and encouragement. The equipment trunk weighed about 90 lbs. and I was nervous as I watched it being ferried across the river on someone's head. We almost lost it. We finally met our driver and completed the chaotic drive back to the city before our flight with enough time to change out of our wet clothing and have a couple of cold Prestige in the airport.  

I was in Haiti as part of an interdisciplinary project with an anthropologist to make an ethnobotanical collection in the rural southern peninsula, one of the greenest parts of the country. It involved a combination of hiking to various habitats collecting plants and conducting interviews with local farmers and the Vodou (voodoo)  priest to record Creole names and any medicinal uses the plants have. My collaborator was born and raised in Haiti and we were with 3 other Haitian American students, so I was able to muddle through without speaking Creole, although it's always takes some adjustment to not fully understanding your surroundings. I was told to communicate instead through my eyes and through my smile. A good frisbee throw helped, too, and I was able to have warm interactions with people. 

Practices were dusty, sweaty, and distracted, though they did occur. Some were at 4-5 am, because I couldn't sleep through the sounds of the roosters. Stiff. Others in the middle of the day were strangely open. Generally speaking, my Haitian yoga practice was not as focused for a number of reasons. 

I am grateful to be back home. I am grateful for my bed and to have clean hands again. My first return practice was gentle and restorative, as I picked up a bit a stomach bug as a departing souvenir. The flexibility is there, but my abdomen has been hurting and bandhas have been difficult. I'll ease into it and drink plenty of water with Emergen-c.

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