The island, Haiti.
When I first met her, she was called “Pearl of the Antilles” and life was running peacefully. Despite the paradox of living under dictatorship.
Lazy beach life, not structured, rather rugged. The kids climbing Mango and Kenep trees, fetching the picnic’s desserts. A toothless farmer goes up a wind-bent coconut tree with rapid moves, monkey-style, then throwing down our refreshing drinks. Coconuts cut with sharp machetes. The first hit cutting off this piece of fiber, ideal to spoon out the nutty flesh, naturally.
Warm, turquoise waters turning into a dark, deep blue far off on the horizon. Glorious views if you squint your eyes through the glaring sun. A boat catching the breeze with patched-up sails in grayish colors, stuffed with charcoal from the mountains to feed the ever-hungry city ovens.
Lambi, grilled on assembled beach stones heated with dry wooden sticks, right there, beside us, waiting for the treat, rum with ice in hand, watching the fisherman completing his sharp-knifed chop-chop-chop, mixing tiny pieces of red fire-hot chili peppers with lemon juice that will burn our throats while gobbling down Lambi, lemon juice dripping off our hands.
Seeking rest under palm trees, beautiful leaf roofs shading our heads. The sea’s lazy wave sounds lulling us into a bellyful sleep on a quiet afternoon.
Filling cars with fruit, big fat melons, hearty mangoes, ready to burst Kenep, fresh from the tree. Getting stuck crossing a river without a bridge. Village men pushing, carrying us out, a car full of babies and toddlers. Laughing, cracking up when first attempts fail. Watching them happily sharing a few dollars on the other side. Waving, “See you then”.
Next river: repeat
Next Sunday, we’ll do it again.
43 years forward.
We have bridges now, and beaches with cash registers.
Too dangerous to sleep in the wilderness under a tree.
On the road, cars racing, horns blowing, angry men shouting, reinforcing their anger with indecent gestures. Hurry, let’s get there. Hurry.
Stop at a mango seller’s stand. No friendly greeting but hostile negotiations for some over-priced, over-ripe mangoes with flaws. Leaving the too-early-harvested melons aside.
A beach buffet, as always. As everywhere.
Driving home. More tedious than at times without bridges. Traffic halts, bumper to bumper. For no reason. Another generation of kids and toddlers, whining, impatient to reach home. Parents tired, upset. Worn after a day at the beach.
Next Sunday, we don’t go again.