The Market and Introductions

When I was a boy I wished I could travel back in time and see how life was “back in the day.” Today I did. 
We woke to the sounds of the town roosters dueling for superiority as the humidity settled in off the mountains. This country is incredibly lush, full of coconut, plantain and banana trees and the ever present hot Caribbean sun egging them on. It’s Divine Mercy Sunday and the people of Sabana Cruz are in the midst of their patronal novena in preparation for the feast of the Holy Cross on May 4th. It must be noted that May 4th was the feast of the Holy Cross according to the old Church calendar but, traditions are traditions. As we made our way to the church for Sunday Mass we banged along on the bumpy dirt roads in a bus full of people from the surrounding villages. Their joys and sorrows are tangible. These are poor people. They own nothing but they have everything- they have each other. The Mass was lively, joyful, full of Easter energy and they sang together with a unity that could rival any well rehearsed choir. They know each other.  They sing the same song. 
After Mass we made our way to the open air market. Market day is on Thursday and Sunday in Banica. Mangos, plantains, potatoes and cabbages flowed out of the cornucopia of the street market. The booths were filled with the daily needs of a small community, food and batteries, medicinal remedies, bullwhips and machetes. There were no touristy booths of woven fabrics for passers-by to take home to friends, these were the stalls of daily merchants and they sold the basics. It was like walking back in time, seeing the same foods and products that have been bought and traded for the last 300 years (minus the batteries). Not much has changed here and they like it that way. 
We continued to Hato Viejo, the town we will be working in throughout the week. This village with dirt floor homes and outhouses behind them is very poor. Children ran out to greet us with bright smiles and an enthusiasm that made them dance with laughter. The older ones had the curious look of any young teen, wondering who these Americans were and what they were about. The youngest ones ran together in little packs, some clothed, some not, but they all were dressed in joy. As we walked from door to door inviting people to celebrations and a soccer game my group turned down a side street, into a lonely dirt road. It had a depressed feel to it unlike the other roads in the town. There was a din in the air, as though a mandatory silence was required in order to be there. The looks on the faces of the people were more suspicious here, there was fear. As we rounded the corner the small store fronts of a mini-market were apparent and the proprietors greeted us kindly. The clientele looked different. I couldn’t place it but they didn’t seem to be like the others. Their facial expressions were more subdued and they didn’t greet us in the same way. As we began to walk down a steep hill I finally understood, we were walking down to the river, the river that serves as the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. These were Haitians coming to buy what staples they could in this poor village and they were not welcomed to stay. Ancient rivalries are rarely broken. 
Tomorrow we return to begin our work and the people of Hato Viejo are excited, and so are we.