Thursday, June 28, 2012

Arrival in Haiti!

It's hard to believe we've been in Haiti for more than 3 weeks! I finally remembered to grab the camera before we took Guita out for her evening walkies, so here is the first round of photo documentation from the (former) Pearl of the Antilles! Ian and I are settling in nicely and getting accustomed to the heat, the security situation (we have a 24-hour guard for our house), and the lifestyle here. Once our truck gets in, we intend to take the country by storm and explore all its nooks and crannies!

Our neighborhood is quite nice to look at, but I realized this afternoon that it's hard to capture via camera! This is looking roughly north, and normally you'd be able to see the big high hills that close off Port-au-Prince from three sides. A storm was rolling in tonight, however, so I'll have to put up another photo later. Our neighborhood is also very good for walking -- a rare commodity in Port-au-Prince. We only really have to watch out for the (amazingly beautiful and shockingly healthy-looking) street dogs and the random driver.

This is our little street!

This is a tree that contains an impressive number of birds' nests of the fancy variety. It also often contains a significant number of significantly yellow birds. I'm tempted to say "wild canaries" (as a family joke), but I think the truth is probably more interesting. This is an invitation for an ornithologist to come visit and remove all doubt!

Our neighborhood is an interesting mix of very nice and clearly inhabited houses, going-to-be-nice unfinished houses that are under construction, would-have-been-nice houses on which construction has stopped (for any number of reasons), and empty lots. This one is near our house, and it's relatively well tended. There are a number of goats who live in the area who play a crucial role in grounds maintenance, but clearly some of the grounds get better attention than others!

There are several mini cornfields scattered through our neighborhood, and it's thus far unclear if they are for private consumption on a regular basis or an investment against bad times. This is a fairly dry time in Haiti's seasons, and hopefully the fields won't always be yellow and brittle!

This sign means "speed bump ahead," though if you thought it meant something else, you'd be forgiven. There are a number of these signs in our neighborhood, and I think most of them are unique (as in non-standard).

Another good sign!

Even though Ian and Guita are impossibly cute, this is actually a picture of the disintegration of the road in our neighborhood. Even though this is an upper-middle class neighborhood, the potholes are amazing. We'll be so glad to have our tall and sturdy truck!

Bougainvillea is everywhere in our neighborhood! It's such a pretty plant, and it's so effective as a barrier.

And for those who don't believe thorny bougainvillea is enough, there's razor wire.

Now for pictures inside the house. They're not great, but you'll get an idea of the space and the shape of things....

The front living room. Our house is very light and airy with lots of windows. The walls all come in at funny angles, so there are lots of odd corners, and the builders put windows in most of them. That makes for an amazing variety of light throughout the day. All the windows are frosted (at least the lower half), and most them are quite high, so poor little Guita is having to adjust her protection style! She likes to see what's going on, and we've had a lot of pointless woofing since we got here about things that may or may not be happening outside, out of sight.

The dining room. We have 9 chairs, so there's plenty of room for guests.... Note the lived in look we've already established: boxes on the chairs for the cats, a stuffed animal on the chair for Guita, and Wheat Thins and laptops for Ian and me. Anywhere is home!

The master bedroom. It also has a security grill that we lock every night and a pink tile bathroom off the side. I've never understood pink tile bathrooms, but in light of their abundance, I think this must be one of my shortcomings.

The second living area. We'll probably put the TV there and use it like a family room.

Our big, light kitchen! We have one fridge/ freezer combo and one big freezer, and when our kitchen islands get here, we should have plenty of counter space. It's a huge improvement on our kitchen in Mexico City!

The security grill leading to the second bathroom and the other bedrooms.

Our cute back patio! It's got a ceiling fan that should keep mosquitoes away nicely. And yes, we keep those gates locked when we're not home and at night.

Our cozy little back yard! The tree in the right front is some sort of citrus (lime or orange, we think), and there's another citrus on the other side. The attractive pile of dried palm fronds is not a permanent installation, but Guita really loves it and has started bringing one palm frond per day into the house to slowly shred it. Life is good!

This is our very own coconut palm! I have no idea how to get coconuts off the palm tree or how to tell when they're ready, but it's pretty exciting all the same....

Several of our palm trees have these funky flowers on them. Bees love them, and on the Embassy's palms, these flowers turn bright red.

We have doves and avocados. Unfortunately, the avocados are above the doves and pretty far away from our grasping little hands! Maybe if we get a gardener he'll find a way....

Here's our grassy side yard. Note the razor wire and security lights! That's the generator in the background - we love our generator in spite of the noise and (sometimes) the smell! The other side yard has laundry lines, a grape arbor, an underground cistern, and an almond tree (technically in the neighbor's yard) that drops almonds in our laundry.

Some of you already saw our ferocious garden tarantula on FB, but here it is again! Luckily it was heading briskly towards our outer garden wall when we detected it, and we haven't seen it since.

Toshiba Tabby: he'll play more than your DVD!

The World's Luckiest Whipperdoodledollie relaxes -- on the couch, no less -- after a tough day of hanging out at home!

Haiti obviously isn't all nice neighborhoods and flowering trees! Last Sunday we volunteered with colleagues from the Embassy at a local orphanage. The kids were full of energy, and our glasses and sunglasses were a huge hit with everybody! True to form, all the kids wanted Ian to take their pictures and then to look at the pictures of them in the viewfinder of the camera. I taught Ian how to say "pa touche" (don't touch, in Creole) to save our lens from the smudges of eager little fingers!

By the end of the two hours, the kids were pretty exhausted and mostly just wanted to be held. It was pretty sad, but it was still nice to bring a little happiness!

Old Rag

In mid-May a group headed out to climb Old Rag, supposedly one of the prettiest hikes in the Shenandoah region. We started out in light clouds in Arlington, and by the time we got to Shenandoah, it was completely socked in! For most of the hike, we couldn't actually see much further than the edge of the trail; the world just dropped away in swirling white. It was spectacular and tough.

Looking up the first steep narrow part. It was child's play compared to the second steep narrow part. We didn't even manage to get pictures of the second steep narrow part because it was too horrible!

This is looking back down the first steep narrow part.

This is Amanda getting ready for the second really steep really narrow part. Note the masses of humanity behind her head: we waited for about 40 minutes to get through.

We ate lunch at the top of Old Rag, overlooking one of the prettiest views in Virginia. It was so densely foggy that we couldn't actually see off the edge of the rocks we were sitting on, and wisps of fog drifted between us during lunch.