Sunday, December 15, 2013

A beach vacation in the last place you’d expect

I eat quickly and so does she – so we stand, chatting, as we wait for the others to finish their picnic lunches. We’ve just come from the Saut d’Eau (or Sodo in Creole), a storybook double waterfall in the middle of lush wilderness that is famous for being the site of an apparition of either the Virgin Mary or a voodoo equivalent, Erzulie Dantor, depending on your proclivities. We splashed around for pleasure, but many thousands visit to be immersed and anointed.

This woman, whose name I never manage to catch, is here with her husband. Both were born in Haiti and now live in Montreal. They have returned several times to visit family, but never before for vacation. “It’s beautiful here,” she says, talking about the falls but also where we’ve been staying: the Côte des Arcadins on the central coast, with its white-sand beaches, ancient sugar mills and tourmaline waters, all of which she had grown up hearing of but never seen. She says it with a strange mixture of pride and revelation, the sort a Swiss might use if she were unaccountably seeing the Alps for the first time. I agree with her. This is not the Haiti either of us expected.

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