Saturday 11 January 2014


The best away to start any day is Mass, and Mass with a devoted community is all the more striking.  The trade off with morning prayer and mass at five is bed at 8.40pm which isn't that good for my travel buddy.  It's pitch dark then, the sun hasn't risen and the compelling hillside that is in full view is decorated with bright lights of yellow and gold.  In the convent there are about twenty novices and about twenty experienced nuns.  They are the Sisters of the Poor of St Hyacinthe and being here now, if only for a short visit, is absolutely serene.  I’ve met the sisters before – this is my fourth visit to Haiti – but each time the relationships becomes stronger, I am compelled to help in some naive way and  worry about being in the way, as they include us in their private meals and welcome us with such love and affection.  Today I had a chance to paint – some of the hills of Petionville . . and my first painting from life – extraordinary, given how long I’ve been painting.  I hate to think that I've restricted myself to painting from photographs for so long, and not broadening my experience a little more.  One of the sisters sat with me and we agreed we’d each make a painting and then exchange them at the end for keeps.

The heat is constant and brilliant.  The sky is enamel blue.  I saw one tiny cloud today that remained at the base of the hill all afternoon.  There is a breeze, this stirs the trees and it’s like paradise.   The suffering each year as a direct consequence of the earthquake is receding.  Or so it seems.  We are, admittedly, cocooned in the grounds of the convent in Petionville with its security and high walls.  It’s a beautiful garden and the streets that surround us are mental.  Not so much traffic noise in fact.  And the cockerels compete with one another all day.  I heard them start at four. 

I still love the hustle and bustle – the chaos and disorder are an essential part of Haiti’s energy and drive.  The bubbling and the thriving energy on the streets is like Manhattan, there’s the same relentless surge and conviction.   But in Haiti there is also a genuine spirit and endearing character that is matched nowhere else.