Friday, August 14, 2009, Cap-Haitien: Tim’s Journal
It is 2:30 am. The shrill cry of a rooster echoes from blocks away, then another and another. A call and response of rooster shrieks fills the neighborhood and finally the rooster in our backyard lets our sound that resembles a child waking from a terrible nightmare more than a bird. I awake to see that the moon has come out from behind a thick cloud cover—maybe the roosters think it is sunrise? The moon lights up the night sky of Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti, and makes the rooftop upon which we are trying to sleep glow an eerie grey hue.
We are sleeping at Sonje Ayiti (Remember Haiti), a non-profit that facilitates a goat micro-loan program and various other feeding programs for Haitien families. Our hosts Jose and Gabrielle have opened their home and office to us. Their roof is our bedroom and rehearsal space, the six of us share one bathroom with bucket plumbing, and we have a mini-school bus that Sonje Ayiti has made the clown car for the week.
Sun rises between 4:30 and 5:00am and we are up by 6:00am. The bright sun coupled with heat in the mid to high 80’s this early augured well for a hot day. Our day of performances begins around 9:45 when we head out in the bus to a nearby school. The show opens with me getting my foot stuck in a metal bucket and the schoolchildren in the audience shake the walls with laughter and cheers. They devour the pratfalls and Suzanne’s rubber chicken.
After we finish the show we are invited to sit in the audience and watch an interpretive dance depicting the history of Haiti. The 10 students performing all wear costumes pertaining to a different time period of Haiti’s history. The piece ends with a girl dressed in the colors and design of the Haitian flag entering the stage and falling ill. Another girl with stethoscope and medical bag enters flanked by a student dressed as a traditional healer. Together, modern and traditional medicine ‘cure’ Haiti and help the flag rise again.
Our hosts invite us to perform our show a second time because some children came late; unfortunately we are behind schedule for our next performance so we opt to do the introduction and chiarivairi, improvise a little change of status and then run off stage as the audience howls in laughter. We jump back on the bus and rush to meet a group of UN soldiers who have offered to take us to a rural orphanage. Because we’re late we decide to meet them at the orphanage. The problem is no one really knows exactly how to get there.
After an hour of searching in the region where we think the orphanage is and after asking many people on the road, an elderly woman volunteers to jump on the bus with us and show us where she thinks the orphanage is. We continue onwards until we try to maneuver past a hole in the road half the length of the bus and no idea how deep….BAM! We smash the rear bumper on the edge of the whole and compress the tailpipe.
We pull over and a crowd follows. Children are calling out “Blan! Blan!” While our hosts seek out tools from community members to fix the exhaust pipe, Sarah and I jump off the bus in full clown regalia and start an improvised show of bubbles and juggling. 3 generations of community members are watching and cheering us on.
Before we know it the bus is fixed and we go to climb on board. An older gentleman from a nearby house front calls out to me and asks “Ou Pedi?” (Are you lost?) and I tell him we are. He then asks if I am an Olympic athlete from Mexico. I tell him that I’m not, I’m just a clown from the US working with a group called Clowns without Borders. I tell him I wish I was an Olympic athlete and he says to me “With clothes like that, I think you could be!”