Posts Tagged ‘Jacmel’

As I mentioned before, while taking pictures of Carnival in Jacmel, one of the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it, got me in the face while I was traversing the rows of paper mache masks during the parade.  Well, a photographer friend of ours, Allison Shelley, was in the right place at the right time (or the right place at the wrong time), and snapped a photo of the aftermath.


Pretty funny…and she was even kind enough to help me attempt to clean myself up with a piece of cardboard I found on the street while she snickered at how ridiculous I looked.  Our attempt to wash the black soot off didn’t work, and so I had a large black splotch on my face and arm for the remainder of the day.

But what’s even better about this is that I was looking through the photos from the parade the next day and found that I was actually taking a picture of the guy who did this to me, while he was doing it!


Yup! That’s his hand wiping the black gunk all over my face, after which I stepped back, gave him a look trying to say to him, “Come on!!!”, and then he ran away.  If you see this man, please ask him to contact me, as I would like for him to replace my t-shirt, which is now covered in black grease (just kidding…).

But in reality, it came right off.  Jillian had a big black mark on her back from one of these guys doing the same thing to her, and after a quick rinse with soap and water it simply washed away.  No harm, no foul, and a fun time had by all.


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This weekend Jillian, Ben, Alexis and I traveled down to the southern coastal town of Jacmel to see what this whole Carnival thing was all about, and it was pretty amazing.  Hundreds of thousands of people were there to see what had to be thousands of hand made paper mache masks in one of the coolest cultural celebrations I have ever experienced.





Like I said before, Carnival was canceled last year because the earthquake had hit less than two months before, so many of the mask-makers still had the masks that they made for last year but were never able to use.  In addition, many of them made a bunch of new masks for this year, so at times the streets were just packed with them.


The parade lasted for HOURS, with artisan after artisan showing off their creations.  There was also a concerted effort to get out the word about issues that are currently hitting Haiti.  There were a few groups that used their paper maching abilities to portray cholera, and show what people need to do to avoid it.  There was also some political messaging as well, with some groups calling for the return of Aristide, and others showing Preval as an alcoholic devil. (All in good fun, of course…)


But Carnival is actually more than just scary masks, music, and dancing.  There are a number of groups who decorate themselves symbolically in a way that portrays a time in Haiti’s history.  For instance, there are the Chaloska, who “mimic Charles Oscar Etienne, chief of police who in 1915 killed the political prisoners which led to the fall of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and then to the American occupation.” (Thanks Christina Schutt!)  Their enormous red mouths filled with large protruding teeth make them hard to miss, and they march down the roads acting out the prosecution of said political prisoners.  It’s actually kind of creepy, but incredibly interesting at the same time.




Also there was the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it.  They are meant to portray the slaves that made up this country before becoming the first independent nation in Latin America after it revolted in 1804.  The ropes signify their slavery, and they run around blocking roads with their ropes and asking for “ti-kob”, or a little money.  They also run around terrorizing revelers, and spreading the black paint all over the place (I ended the day with a big black splotch on my face and arm).




There were a ton of other groups which I’m not really sure of their origin, or what they tried to signify, but it goes without saying that it was incredibly interesting and made for some amazing pictures.  It was really nice to see the people here stepping back from the normal craziness of life in Haiti and just enjoying themselves and their culture.  The country needed this, they needed to be able to celebrate something, and having Carnival has given them something to be happy about.

Ben and I are working on making a multimedia with pictures and video that we took from the festivities, and once that is finished (and hopefully bought by someone), I will throw that up here for everyone to enjoy.  Until then, feel free to click the link below and check out some more pictures from the weekend!


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A Day at the Beach

Jillian, Karen and I decided to take a break from the busy streets of Port-au-Prince and trekked out to Jacmel for two days to stay at our friend’s beach house.  Jacmel is on the southern coast, a three hour drive snaking through the mountains of Haiti, a tough feat considering you are avoiding roadblocks created by fresh landslides along the way.

We were also driving an old Nissan Sentra, which is by far the WORST car to drive in Haiti, ever.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing they don’t inspect the bottom of the cars at AVIS when you return them, as Haiti now has little pieces of our rental car scattered all over it.  And while many of the buildings in Jacmel were affected by the earthquake too, it was nice to stay somewhere where there was no rubble, no traffic, and just total relaxation.

We spent almost all our time at the beach.  The water was the perfect temperature, the sun wasn’t too hot, and the sand felt great between your toes.  As you can see above, we set up a table on the sand in the shade of the coconut trees, and had breakfast delivered to us from a nearby restaurant.  It was close to perfection.

There are actually two houses on the property, each with two bedrooms.  They both sit about 50 yards from the beach, and you open the windows of each room to a view of the ocean.  It even came with a dog, which we named Samantha, who protected us from all Haitian by barking at them, which was actually slightly awkward.

And as you all know already, you can’t travel anywhere in Haiti without throngs of children surrounding you.  At the beach, there is a group of about 5 kids that just hang out on the property, and right when you are walking from the house to the beach with a hand full of snacks and beer, they ask you for food because they’re hungry.  At this point you can’t tell them you don’t have anything, because that would be a blatant lie, and if you don’t give them food you kinda look like a jerk as you’re having a luxurious beach vacation.

I think they know this, and it works.  They got food, and then came back for more, and more, and more…  But it was actually really frustrating, as I personally had hoped that going to the beach would be an escape from these situations.  I actually didn’t need a break from the rubble, I wanted a break from the begging, and apparently there is no avoiding it.

But the children did actually come in handy, as they have the skill and agility to climb up these huge coconut trees to get you coconuts.  I guess you can’t hate them for that (except they charge you for it…).

Other than that, the trip was perfect.  We ate a dinner of lobster and fresh fish with plantains, and played pinochle under the stars on the beach.  But most importantly we got to spend some much needed time with Karen, and it was really wonderful having her here.  Jillian finds solace in Karen in a way that is unmatchable, so it’s been nice to have this slice of home here in Haiti.  Cheers, Karen!!!

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Well, look who it is!  Jillian, her mom Karen and I took a trip to the southern beach-town of Jacmel for a night, and Jillian is now a gangsta!  While having lunch at a beachfront restaurant, a woman selling hats payed us a visit, and Karen payed her for a hat.  Jillian on the other hand, just tried them on and looked pretty badass in the process.  She went on to chug a beer and then steal a car, a side of her I’ve never seen before…

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