Cher Zanmi yo– This past week I was able to be in Haiti  to visit the teachers in Bwa Chandel, look at the school building site and prepare for English classes in the fall. At dinner at Sarge’s rooftop restaurant (Anse-a- Galet, La Gonave) Saturday night I asked if anyone knew how much the fly boat is to the main island. Someone said —ask Sarge; he owns the fly boat.  You know he’s a very enterprising man. I spoke to him on the way out and he said it was 300 goudes (about 6 bucks). ” Call me,” he said “at 5 o’clock in the morning and I’ll tell you what time to be at the boat dock.”

At 5 on Monday morning I gave him a ring and he said to come down at 5:30. I arrived at the main dock in Anse-a -Galet about 20 past and though still dark the place was beginning to teem with the bustle of people and things going places. Bags of charcoal were being loaded on huge sailing vessels; Haitians were boarding a large passenger ferry that leaves early each day for the main island.  And the fly boys were filling up their 30 passenger, 3 outboard motor boats.  Sarge took my bags and my money, saw that I got a seat and the boat began to fill. I saw that other passengers were giving the driver their cash but then I heard Sarge say he already took the fee from “sa blanche la” — that whitie there.

Life jackets were handed out (apparently a year ago there was a bad accident and 7 people drowned) the dock master cleared us for take off and a list was passed around on which we were to print our names. They’re taking names, I thought—-of the missing at sea. After some struggle with the engine pull cords ( are we taking my lawn mower to the main island?) we were off–directly into the wake of the previous boat.  We hit the first wave, enhanced now by an onshore breeze, et mwen te jete—almost out of the boat.  My bottom left the seat as I caught air and I came down mainly on the floor of the boat with one leg hooked over the wooden cross seat. The woman next to me scooped me up and held onto me tightly. The man next to her held onto my leg. The woman on the other side had me hold her waist and crouch down. And so it went with all the passengers until we were an interwoven human flotilla locked together so as to anchor us inside the fly boat. Each time we hit a swell and slammed back down everyone would let out a yell and then laugh hysterically. One man kept yelling “syel, syel” which means sky, or paradise. I suppose if we really did hit the sky we’d all see paradise too.

We passed the half way point and the swells diminished. The human flotilla began easing and breaking up. We resumed our old forms and spoke casually as if to arrive alive were an everyday occurrence.

I looked behind me at one point to see an interesting fashion statement that many of you would have enjoyed. A woman with a lovely new wig of tight curls took a black plastic bag, put it over her head and tied it on each side in smart little knots. It stood straight up in the wind, but stayed on. And she alone sat up tall in the craft with her arms folded across her chest in full defiance of our perceived danger and with her hair still perfect at the end of the ride.
Mwen renmen nou–Nancy