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Close, Yet So Far: Welcome to Rivyè Mansel

Hello everyone! Hello my dear family and friends, acquaintances, and whoever else has stumbled upon this blog. WOW, it’s been over half a year since my last blog post and man do I feel kind of bad about that. Every time a month ends and a new one begins I am reminded of this. Many a time I sat down in front of my computer to start writing anew with new stories and new thoughts, planning it all out, and then my brain comes crashing down and refuses to form sentences to send down to my fingers to type away. I have come to the realization that I am a stream of consciousness writer and stream of consciousness is what I am going to do. No more planning and outlining for me! No sir!


My last post was back in MAY (wow) where I talked about an alphabet project I did. I have done so much since then it’s not even funny! I’m going to start small though or else I might never be able to finish writing!


So way back in September, I took two trips out to the Parish of Rivyè Mansel. It is about a 45 minute moto ride along and through the River Mansel. 5.3 miles. My chauffer Edmond and I crossed through the river over 25 times on the way to get to the main church in Kalabat. The reason for me going was to take pictures to help make a presentation for a parish twinning program. I received reports on the pharmacies and schools and went about organizing that information to make it easy to understand for people who don’t know much about Haiti or the parish there. When I was asked to do this, I was very excited as I never get the chance to visit other places, even ones not too far away.


Pè Janin of the Parish of Rivyè Mansel

The first day I arrived in Kalabat at 7:00am. The goal was to see the chapel in Provot, Yona, and Chato as well as the school and clinic in Chato. Pè Janin, the pastor of the parish was my guide. Pè Janin estimated we could get to Yona by 10:30. And it’s only accessible on foot. For 2 hours we followed the river, stepping on stones in an effort to keep our feet dry until we arrived in Provot.


After a short visit to the Provot chapel (which was locked and we forgot the key so I took pictures from the windows), we left the riverside in exchange for the mountains and up and up we went. At certain points we would stop and look around with Pè Jadot pointing out Kalabat and other zones of note. Usually it just looked like mountains and trees to me.


For Yona, Pè Janin pointed up in front of us and told me, “See those double peaks?”—you know, the last mountains you can see before all you see is sky? Yeah, sure—“We are past those and following the ridge to the left.” Oh, okay, that seems really far. And it’s all uphill. I’ll just trust you Pè Janin! If you say we will make it, make it we will!


At least the scenery was breathtaking. The air was fresh. You don’t see litter and trash on the ground like you do in town. No traffic or the hubbub people. It’s truly another world. Peaceful. And yet life is very hard up there too. It's not far from Gros-Morne, but the accessibility makes it almost undesireable. Like the water forming into streams and running down the mountain slopes, I could almost picture any accumulated wealth just being drained as well. The only people I really saw up there were either really old or very young. Granted, those in-between were likely traveling on foot to go and sell in the market. What an amazingly strong people.


Looking back towards Provot (not visible) on the way to Yona

At 10:45 we made it to the chapel in Yona. 1 hour and 45 minutes after Provot. Phew! Yona is perched right on the edge of the Artibonite Department of Haiti at the top of a mountain ridge. Had we started descending the other side, we would have been in the North Department. Wow were my legs tired! We took a break thankfully, but unfortunately what goes up must come down.



We took a different path on our way down to Chato. It was a gentler path, if not slightly longer, than the one we went up but I was more tired and it’s easier to slip up when going down. We made it back to the river though and safely into Chato. My legs were shaking and when we arrived at the clinic (closed at the time) around 1:00, I immediately sat down. It took 2 hours. Pè Janin and I ran out of water in up in Yona so we got some water bottles provided by the guardian as well a couple of coconuts!



Waddling around, I took pictures of the clinic, chapel, and school. When we finished we went back down to the river and started walking back. It was a little harder crossing the river without getting our feet wet due to our fatigue. It was a little harder going up and down some of the paths but we made it! God bless Sr. Celine who had food for us when we got back to Kalabat around 3:30 after another 2 hours of walking. The food was so delicious. When I left a little after 4:00 with my moto driver, we stopped in Atrel on the way back to see the chapel and school since it’s along the river and then finally went the rest of the way home. Boy oh boy how sore I was the next day! I also burned my chest, neck, and shoulders pretty good too since I never reapplied the sunscreen. All told, I left the house around 6:00am and got home around 5:15pm.


Thankfully, the second trip was nearly 2 weeks later and I had plenty of time to recuperate.


The second day I went was a Sunday. The plan was to meet Pè Janin in Kalabat, head up the mountain to Danti with him, celebrate the feast day of the chapel up there, head down another way to see Pomtè, and finally skip over Kalabat completely to head directly to the river to head home. And the day pretty much went that way. I brought a change of clothes for church and it’s a good thing I did because my back was completely soaked with sweat. That would have been embarrassing to have for the mass. After mass, I got food and someone gifted with a large bag of peanuts to me. Of course I was grateful but unfortunately my first thought was, I have to carry this back down the mountain. I was still tired and my back hurt, but you bet I carried those peanuts down the mountain!



The way back down first had us walking along the top of the mountain where Danti is. I felt like we were on top of the world! It was amazing! And so beautiful! Unfortunately there aren’t very many trees but that also meant I could see the countryside all around me. The whole walk on the way back down was picturesque. It was a made up of a lot of thin paths clinging to the side of the mountains, winding around, up and down, through gardens with beautiful views of the little valleys and streams that make up the mountains near Gros Morne.


After descending one mountain and going up and around another, we made it to the chapel in Pomtè. Soon we left after some pictures and took a path to get back to the river where Edmond would pick me up. That path… was my least favorite part of the whole day. It was a large path so you would have thought it would be east but no. I didn’t mind the direct sunlight as much as I minded the rough, loose, fist-sized rocks that covered the path. They were the perfect size to step on and roll down like a circus act or just roll your ankle. I thought we could have walked faster as the slope was not too intense and the path well-established but those darn rocks were effective speed bumps. Being tired didn't help matters either.


Eventually, we made it down safely and I went home. The soreness the next day was less palpable than the previous trip so thank goodness for that!


To wrap things up a bit, I spent the first part of October finishing those presentations, incorporating pictures and little tidbits of information where I could to make it understandable to people who have never been to Haiti. I created a map to chronicle my trips as well as created an amateur video slideshow to introduce the parish.


I’m going to stop there for now before I start word-vomiting more things that perhaps really aren’t interesting in the long run or I end up rambling for too long. Again, sorry for taking so long to write! I’ll try to write more often in the future with less content instead of letting months and months build before I pick up the pen again.


As always, you all are in my prayers and I wish the best for you! God bless!


If anyone wishes to see a map of the area, I put some stuff together in Google Earth:

https://earth.google.com/earth/d/1nhC4MN6HGKy5wIhezOHbdO5gXkr2IkcT?usp=sharing


For the video, it’s not public but with the link you can view it on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/AhK4z2cYgAo


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