Since I originally recommended Pandiassou as a place to visit, and since many of you do travel to Haiti, I thought I'd share my thoughts and any of you who wish could add your own. Perhaps we could be a service to others who want information and views.
A word about Pandiassou. This is a tiny village along the main road going west out of Hinche toward Maissade. It is the home of two Roman Catholic religious orders -- Petit Fre Inkarnasyon (Little Brothers of the Incarnation) and Petit Se Inkarnasyon (Little Sisters of the Incarnation.) The brothers were founded by Fre Franklyn Almand and the sisters co-founded by Franklyn and Se Immanuel.
I first visited them in 1984 and have been back many times. I will post an old article I wrote about my visit to Pandiassou, and some about the community.
On Mon, 2 Oct 1995, a subscriber wrote:
" My plans for my first trip to Haiti are slowly coming together. I will arrive in Port au Prince on November 17 and leave December 20. My current plans are to make my way to Pandiassou, near Hinche, stay with the Sisters of the Incarnation there, and join in with whatever work projects they may have going on during my stay. My goals for the trip are to simply learn firsthand a little bit about Haiti, and especially to work on learning to speak creole."
This is a great place to do it. Almost nobody speaks English. There are two retired U.S. brothers, Harry Eccles and John Mahoney, but otherwise, little English spoken here.
I am also interested in food:
When I went there in 1984 there was a brother assigned to the kitchen (kitchen duty revolves) named Fre Balde. He enjoyed teaching me Creole, and I was most anxious to learn to cook Haitian. I learned a LOT and can make a wicked black bean sauce to go over rice.
religion, gardening, and children. I welcome all the advice anyone would like to send.
I like to travel LIGHT. What should I take? What should I buy when I get there? What are good things to bring for presents?
I would EMPHATICALLY recommend you skip the presents. They cause infinitely more harm than do good.
Take little. Clothes, toilet articles, good flashlight and strong batteries -- take extras. Some toilet tissue, bug spray, though your season is low season for bugs. Food is hearty, but simple and not overwhelmingly plentiful. I often pack up a huge 3-4 lb. plastic container of nuts. It can provide some decent nutrition when in need.
What should be my plan when I first arrive in P. au P. Where should I stay? How shall I get there from the airport?
You have two main choices if you don't have contacts:
[To others, let's start a list of places to stay]
You probably should take a taxi from the airport. But CAREFUL, negotiate ahead of time. For Oloffson pay no more than $15.00 U.S. for trip (have exact change). Kinam will be $20.00 to $25.00. International Guest House about $10 to $12.00. St. Joseph's Home $20.00 but get off at Delmas and the intersection of Delmas 93. Walk down Delmas 93 (steep) to LaPlume (on your right) and turn right. It is the last house on your right on the street.
Then, you can take public transportation to Hinche. This is cheap (about $5.00 U.S. or so), but very long, very uncomfortable, and quite unsafe. I take it all the time, my primary means of transport, but it all the things I said above. Get off at the Catholic Cathedral in Hinche and go WEST from the Cathedral. Pandiassou is on the main road about 1 hour's walk out of town.
How about a good lightweight dictionary or phrase book -- for either English-speakers or French-speakers?
I have them for sale. About $18.00 for a decent one.
How much money should I expect to spend on as a low-as-possible-budget trip? Should it be traveler's checks or cash? How should I carry it? Should I change it all in P. au P.?
The Ti Fre or Ti Se will expect about $20.00 a day, US and will give you meals (3 a day), plus room, outdoor showers and decent drinking water. Simple, meager, but adequate and safe.
Bring all cash. You definitely should change some money in Port-au-Prince. I'd recommend a newcomer not change money on the street, but go inside. One good place is STRETCHER at # 10 Rue Pavee. Safe, reliable and he will give you the street value of the dollar, less 5%. That's quite decent.
Tell me some things about being safe as a woman traveling alone. I don't want to shelter myself from everything, but I don't want to be foolish, either. Being in the country at the time of an election is both very interesting and potentially risky, it seems.
I am going to post a general paper I used to post to groups going to Haiti with PEOPLE TO PEOPLE, INC. We no longer do these trips, but these guideline might be of some help and do explicitly address this question. Later.
What should I be sure to do?
Spend lots of time with Haitian peasants and observe their ways. Get the Ti Fre or Ti Se or Harry or John to help you hire a guide (about $10 Haitian a day) to walk the region around Pandiassou.
I've traveled in Mexico and Central America before, so I know much of the standard advice for trying not to get sick. Are there other precautions I should take?
Again, see my general paper on trips.
There's a few questions for starters. I am a total novice, eager for your thoughts and advice.
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