I‘ve been in Haiti for a week and just spent the week-end in the mountains near the town of Hinche. We are heading back to Port-au-Prince today and the journey is full of surprises.
This morning, the coffee is so sweet it’s unpalatable. I feel like I’ve had one too many Dominican Benedicta ciders the night before so I opt for the boiled yam instead.
My haitian friend Edeline announces that before we leave, we need to give her a lift and accompany her to a funeral in the region of Sodo (Saut-d'Eau), an important site of Voodoo pilgrimage. One of her employees has suddenly died and she must make an appearance.
Edeline asks me to take my camera. ‘What do you want me to photograph?” “Just take a few pictures of the body”. As we turn up late, the coffin is already sealed; I’m glad as this is not how I had envisaged my sunday.
We enter the church through the back and I find myself on the stage, on the right of the priest and his men. I feel quite strange; I watch the widow in the front row, she’s sobbing. There are about 200 people here. The priest is very dramatic; a few women have already entered a trance. I sing along and feel like I might faint. Finally, we are given the heads up to leave.
Michel is waiting outside, talking to the people who couldn’t fit into the church. He tells me that the deceased started feeling ill after leaving his first wife for another. Neighbours say it’s pretty likely his ex used spells; Voodoo serves well those seeking revenge.
Upon leaving the church, we drive past a lorry packed with beautiful cows, lovely big horns that shine. It may be the vegetarian in me but I find the image deeply shocking. They have been packed in so tightly that some have their legs, broken, protruding out the sides of the truck. Their journey will end on the dusty market stall where their flesh, devoured by flies and maggots, will cook under the 35 degree sun. Should I feel sorry for these cows when their human counterparts live in such destitute conditions? I do. To me, it’s all part of the same problem.
I’m feeling very ill as we return to the capital; the journey is a bit like being sat on a washing machine;
Later, we stop for some petrol; I’m sitting in the car, staring out the window, with my head resting on my hand. One of the young men working here nods and says: ‘’That’s no good. It means you are thinking!’. He’s right. There are some things in Haiti it’s just better not to think about.