With each day I seem to understand a little more about this place and the people who roam the main street. The nuns continue to amaze us with their absolute generosity and hospitality. And as we relax more and more into this culture of the strange and beautiful; the eye-watering colours of day and the piercing house lights on the hill calling us from the ink black night; all we see and hear are holding us, changing us and keeping us captive.
The sun is burning but we are settling into a very different climate to home and my heart swells when I count the days we still have to enjoy all of this. Thirty-six days, but I know I shouldn't be counting. There are still echoes of concern and worry fading from my mind; vestiges of my impending visit which promised all the discomforts I experienced three times before. And the risks that rarely bear out. But one never can tell. We try to anticipate, as part of the human condition - but I couldn't have anticipated this unique ambiance. I could never have predicted such beautiful surroundings. Haiti has improved too, certainty; still shocking and feral - all that we see seems inadequate. And the corruption, that is worth trying to change - but most of the complexion, the interaction, the messy street life and the gritty character seen everywhere seems acceptable and indigenous. It belongs and there is no reason to want this to end.
Yesterday I noticed the national palace had been completely removed. The pictures of a collapsed white dome featuring repeatedly on the BBC and in the press days and months after the earthquake. Now, its absence speaks of recovery - albeit slow and frustrated.
Saturday - yesterday - was earmarked by Sister Evelyn and me as an acceptable day to start the mural at the school. She thought it would be better to start on a day when there wouldn't be the 700 children in noisy attendance . . I didn't mind this, and actually think it would be a novelty for them. I was reluctant about this day for her sake, much more because it was her day off as the head of the school. She's a wonderful person and perfect for her job. Her explosive effervescence, sing-song voice and broad smile are all in evidence in the character of the school. The children are all a bit wild and free-spirited - and the potential of an over-bearing discipline is replaced by freedom and self-expression, much better for a school, I think. Though there's a place for the other kind too.
The day was earmarked too by Sister Marie-Carmel for a trip to Cavaillon and one of the orphanages there. Something had to give, and there is plenty of time for both so we opted for the road trip.
They have a new 4X4 that speeds along the Caribbean highway - a straight, tree-lined freeway skirting the coast westwards, moderately busy with trucks, buses and bikes. We passed through many small towns and settlements, where vehicles are slowed to a crawl making way for the crowds of shoppers and sellers. Containers double as stores and shop fronts. Painted in dark colours or left to rust. And signed with bright letters of yellow and orange. When the car slows hoards of sellers swarm to the open window: cakes, mangos, bananas, bread, up-turned live chickens, phone charges and windscreen wipers. We buy something then we're off again. Through tropical trees, bends in the roads, rough and smooth, skirting the rocky beach and white surf then under trees again and mottled shards of light and stark shadows. We moved with great speed with nothing in our way. The views of the sea mirroring those we watched passively from the first bus in DR as we entered Santo Domingo.
The children in the orphanage were excited and welcoming. They live in basic surroundings but one can see that they are well cared for and safe. To see see their joy and unconditional love was quite unique. We'll visit again after the container arrives.