Happy 2nd Day of MoFo! We wanted to share some of our adventure in Haiti since we haven’t written on our blog about it at all yet. As some of you might know, we volunteered this summer for a vegan reforestation intentional community called Sadhana Forest. We lived for six weeks at the project in Anse-A-Pitre, Haiti, near the border town of Pedernales, Dominican Republic. (We also spent ten weeks at Sadhana Forest in India which you can read about here.)
… Feasts and Beasts of Haiti …
Sadhana Forest’ meals are pretty incredible considering the climate and political constraints of Haiti. Haiti is extremely hot, arid, and has very degraded soils and its farmers are mostly out of work due to the massive influx of food aid or cheap food, especially rice, from the US. You can read more about why Haitian farmers want the US to stop subsidizing its own farmers here.
In any case, at Sadhana Forest, we ate tasty wholesome vegan meals cooked over a fire in rocket stoves, and made with as many local ingredients as possible. That meant we ate a lot of lam or bread fruit, cabbage, eggplant, coconut, an amazing tangy creamy fruit called guayabana, and Haitian rice, which is thicker and stickier than the Dominican variety we would usually get from the border market. We also supported a Haitian organic farmer who said he decided by his own intuition to not use chemicals on his land. We even got to tour his lush farm where we got most of our bananas and eggplants.
Jeff and Franzi serving lam with mango and orange wedges
Lam was a versatile component of many meals at SF. For breakfasts, we could top the lam with a sweet coconut cacao sauce (using raw cacao bars sold at the weekly market) or a savory gravy. For hummus nights, lam served as bread.
Custard apples or cherimoya were coveted yummy fruits to be shared!
Jeff and Nikki eatin’ the custard apples
Nikki made Julian’s birthday cake using oat flour, mangoes, cinnamon, dessicated coconut, and raw palm jaggery. Una and Biatsu were very interested in getting first servings.
For days’ off, we usually ate lunch at the King Crab Restaurant in Pedernales, across the border. Beans, rice, plantains, and salad were pretty standard fare (but only King Crab gave you unlimited access to olive oil at the tables!), and this lunch costs the set 150 pesos per plate ($3.80 US). If we were lucky, we could get plantanos maduros, the sweet plantains. If we were double-lucky, we could even get fresh chinolo (passion fruit) juice without sugar added!
We also made rice and beans (a lot!) at SF. Cooking over the super-sustainable rocket stoves means the pots get very sooty!
Snack time in Pedernales: Franzi and I were craving a snack to go with our weekly treat, banana and papaya smoothies (sin leche, sin azucar, con hielo), so we topped cassava bread with Bon guava jelly, raisins, and banana in front of the supermercado.
Like in any “developing” country, the care of animals in Haiti seems to pushed behind the care of humans, but my heart swells equally thinking of the children and animals there.
I know we have the capacity to care for all of them if we were to widen our circles of compassion!
I struggle deeply with the judgements I made when I saw grown men riding small donkeys weighed down with heavy loads, or children chasing the sick kitten below. I hope we can live compassionately anywhere we are by taking care of all animals who come our way by offering them our water, our food, or our attention.
From top to bottom, clockwise: A sick dehydrated kitteh wandering the canals; a dog skull found in the no-man’s-land where he most likely was used in a vodou sacrifice; a wasp carrying a tarantula to his underground nest to eat; a pig presumably to be eaten one day; a donkey who lives every day in the hot sun without shade; and a rooster presumably to be eaten one day.
The poverty of the surrounding Haitian community meant that Sadhana Forest, as the only organization in the area to LIVE on the Haitian side of the border, was frequented by many Haitians who desired free meals, for two hours of volunteering alongside us. I hope that sharing delicious whole foods-based vegan meals with them, especially the children, will encourage Haitians to see those of us blan (white person or foreigner) as more than just people giving them “aid,” but as companions (cum + pani literally “with bread,” or one who eats bread with another), or friends in this harsh environment.