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Coconut Mango Popsicles

We have mangos! In the last two weeks, our mango tree has finally started to produce ripe fruit.  We must have arrived right as the last mango season was ending, because we’ve been in our house for 8 months (wow, time is flying by) and these are the first mangos we’ve seen.  We have plenty to eat ourselves, and to share with our housekeeper, gardener and friends. We’ve eaten them plain, in smoothies, and this week I made coconut mango popsicles that turned out deliciously.


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Here’s the very simple recipe I used:

1 ¼ cups diced fresh mango

¾ cups light coconut milk

juice from 2 limes

 Mix in a blender, pour into your popsicle molds, freeze, and enjoy.

You could add sugar if it’s too tart for you, although our mangos are plenty sweet without the sugar. And of course, you could add some Haitian Barbancourt Rhum for an “adult” version.

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The one area for improvement would be that our mangos are a bit pulpy and have these tiny hairs that I don’t know how to remove. I’ve tried pushing the mango flesh through a fine mesh sieve, but it was pretty time intensive, and the hairs are so fine that most got through anyway.  Any ideas on how to deal with those tiny mango hairs would be much appreciated!

Arcade Fire comes to Haiti for Carnival

Sorry for the blog silence.  Plenty has happened since November, and somehow I wasn’t inspired to sit down and write.  But last weekend changed that. Arcade Fire + Haiti + Carnival = once in a lifetime awesomeness.

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Arcade Fire came down to Haiti and played Friday, February 21 in Jacmel, a coastal town in the south known for its art and music. We left work on Friday, made the four hour drive from the capital, checked into our hotel with friends, had dinner and got ready for an outdoor concert that we couldn’t quite believe that was actually going to happen.  Arcade Fire recently came out with their new album, Reflektor, which was partly influenced by Haitian music. Specifically, some of the music on the track Here Comes the Night Time is reminiscent of Haitian carnival music.  Carnival season is music season in Haiti. Many established Haitian bands come out with their special carnival song right around this time, often with subtle (or not so subtle) political messages in the lyrics.  And many Haitians form ad-hoc rara bands that are mostly made up of long, single-pitched metal horns and drums, and play in the carnival parade and during Easter week before disbanding until next year.

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The concert was amazing. After several well-known Haitian bands, Arcade Fire got on stage and performed a mix of songs from Reflektor and several favorites from their earlier albums. It was entertaining to watch Haitians listen to Arcade Fire, who were on stage so full of energy with drums and streamers. Honestly, some Haitians just didn’t get it. Some just stood and stared curiously as the Canadians with crazy outfits went all out. And I understand –the songs are in a different language, and probably very few of them had ever heard of the band before. But as the show went on, the crowd warmed up and soon was dancing and waving their hands; they got into a few of the call and response songs and cheered loudly whenever the band said anything in Creole or French. The crowd had fun, but the expat hipster crowd (if the shoe fits) was borderline euphoric. I mean seriously, listening to Arcade Fire perform “Haiti” in Haiti – I may never be able to top that. I wish I had photos to share of the concert itself, but I decided to leave my camera safely at home. So instead, you should click on this article for photos and the set list.  Also, most of the band stayed at our hotel and I finally worked up the courage at breakfast to say hello.

Saturday was a low-key beach day for us, but Sunday was the big day in Jacmel for Haitians: carnival.  The actual, official carnival is this Tuesday in the central town of Gonaives, but Jacmel always does their own carnival a week or two early.  They are known for their elaborate paper mache masks, raucous parades, and great local rara bands.  A friend of ours arranged for a rooftop spot along the parade route so that we could enjoy pizza and beer while watching the explosion of colors and sounds below.  We ventured into the street a few times to take photos and visit some other friends in a balcony a block away, but mostly were happy to be high above the melee.

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Sometimes Port-au-Prince seems dull and monotone. The dusty gray roads, chalky earth and cement cinderblock houses don’t provide much color. But this weekend we enjoyed a totally different side of Haiti. The streets were full of paper mache versions of every creature imaginable – there were zebras in vibrant colors along with bumblebees, butterflies, parrots, panthers, giraffes, goblins, demons, vodou deities, current and former presidents, dinosaurs and dragons.  There were svelte young women dancing with chicken masks on their heads and men covered in molasses and mud threatening to rub their muck on parade watchers.  After the dancers and costumes, the rara bands with their trumpets and drums began to appear as the sun was setting. The streets went from full to completely packed. The crowd became one solid river of people slowly flowing up the hill.  The occasional fight would break out, but mostly it was a mass of people in full party mode. I’ve never seen anything like it, a complete assault on all the senses.  It was hands down one of the most memorable weekends I’ve had, and definitely the best one in Haiti so far.

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Goat in the mist

A day doesn’t go by in Haiti that I don’t see at least one goat. Yes, we’re in the capital of the country, but they are everywhere, as are chickens, pigs and cows. The little goats are about the cutest thing you’ll ever see.

A few weekends ago we decided to drive up into the mountains above Port-au-Prince to the town of Kenscoff and surrounding area. Not only are the views spectacular up there, but I was cold for the first time in Haiti from something other than air conditioning. On the day we went, the mountains were wrapped in mist, keeping things cool and damp. Perfect for a hike.

About half way through our short hike we started to hear the most pitiful cries. They almost sounded like a child throwing a temper tantrum in short, rhythmic outbursts. We couldn’t see very far through the fog, but when we finally got closer we saw a young goat tied up to a stake. He was making a horrible racket. I’m not sure if he was afraid of us, or if he wanted us to save him since he knew his inevitable fate. Either way he eyed us as we walked by, bellyaching the whole time.  I caught a photo of our goat in the mist.

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The hike was beautiful, and afterwards we enjoyed a delicious meal at a nice mountain restaurant. My husband ordered chicken. I ordered goat. It was delicious.

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Speaking of goats (since that’s today’s topic) I want to share 4 goat related proverbs. As I mentioned before, Haitians have tons of proverbs and often use them to make a quick point or give advice. I have to admit I’ve never heard any of these used in Haiti yet (not that my job lends itself to people using proverbs with me), but we learned these proverbs in our Creole class in DC. I’ve included the Haitian Creole proverb, the literal translation, and a similar proverb we have in English. Enjoy!

  • Kabrit ki gen twòp mèt mouri nan solèy.

    • Literal: A goat with too many masters dies in the sun.

    • English version: Too many cooks spoil the broth.

  • Kabrit gade je met kay avan li antre.

    • Literal: A goat looks into the eyes of the master before he enters the house.

    • English version: Look before you leap.

  • Se lè ou fin kite kabrit pase, wap di fèmen baryè

    • Literal: It’s only after you let the goat pass that you close the gate.

    • English version: Closing the barn door after the horse is gone.

  • Pa file kouto, lè ou poko kenbe kabrit

    • Literal: Don’t sharpen your knife when you haven’t yet caught the goat.

    • English version: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Jalousie: City in the Sky

Jalousie panorama

Uphill from Port-au-Prince is the suburb/neighborhood of Petionville. It’s where you’ll find many swanky restaurants, luxury hotels, and beautiful homes with stunning views. It’s also where you find tiny cinderblock houses, even corrugated metal shacks, tucked in between the nice properties. Some of the houses get more spectacular the higher you go up the hill.  But take a different road and you will end up in a totally different neighborhood: Jalousie.

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Jalousie is a slum of about 45,000 residents, perched on the hills behind Petionville.  The residents in Jalousie most likely don’t have cars, so getting home is a long, hot hike up the mountain.  Earlier this year the government initiated a $1.4 million effort titled “Beauty versus Poverty: Jalousie in Colors.”   Over a period of about 6 months, they painted the houses of Jalousie in a rainbow of colors. It was homage to the famous Haitian painter Prefete Duffaut, who created fantastical paintings of multicolored houses floating in the sky.

Many people, including those in and outside of Jalousie welcomed the project. But the project was met a fair amount of criticism too. Many people have questioned why the neighborhood of Jalousie was the first one to benefit from the project.  As this article states,  “Critics have suggested that the choice of Jalousie is as much about giving the posh hotels of Petionville a pretty view as helping the slum’s residents.”

Either way, you have to admit, the houses look really cool. I took these photos from the top of a building in Petionville. Click on the photos for more detail – especially the top photo. It’s actually 3 photos stitched into 1 using the software from photostitcher.com.

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