National Geographic : 1976 Jan
room, light candles, and waltz to tunes played on my tape recorder. It is a friendly affair in a place once shadowed by the tyranny of mega lomanic Christophe. In the dead of night I rise and stroll the Citadel's ramparts alone, seeking an audience with Christophe's ghost. But he denies it, leaving me only time's hand-me-down-his tory-to conjure the past. Though never tested in battle, the Citadel now fights for its life, as I later learned from the project manager for its preservation, the young architect Frederick Mangones, son of Albert Mangones. "The fortress is in danger! Vines and tree roots are ripping walls apart," he told me. "Little has been done in a century and a half to mend the ravages of time." As many another would-be preserver of things of value in Haiti, Mangones looks abroad for help. It is one of his nation's assets that many foreign individuals and institutions do, indeed, lend a hand. IKE A GROTESQUE Christmas tree, the huge tropical almond stands laden with the sacks and purses of patients who stash them there while waiting for treatment at the clinic of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. The hospital's U. S. founder-directors, William Larimer Mellon and his wife, Gwen Grant Mellon, have devoted much of their lives and personal fortune to the sick and destitute people in the Artibonite valley. To rest from my tour of the ultramodern 144-bed hospital, I sit beside clinic patients and admire babies, listening all the while to Miss Pete, my guide. A diminutive birdlike woman, Nurse Walborg Peterson came to Haiti to help open the hospital in 1956; she has remained on duty ever since. "We treat some 2,000 patients a week in the clinic alone," she explains. "Much is preven tive medicine ... shots for tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles. We also teach, especially expectant mothers. Since most Haitian babies are born on filthy dirt floors, we ask that the newborn be brought here with placentas attached so that we can do the separating and prevent infection." Another U. S. couple devoting their lives to helping Haitians, Eleanor and Wallace Turn bull, run the Baptist Mission, one of the best of Haiti's many evangelical task forces. Since the Turnbulls arrived in 1946, their work, supported by a Baptist mission group Haiti: Beyond Mountains, More Mountains with headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michi gan, has borne abundant fruit: 60 churches and 57 outstations ministering to 40,000 peo ple, a hospital and a clinic serving 14,000 pa tients a year, 107 literacy schools for 7,400 mountain children, funds for disaster relief, road and farm improvement programs, and the Mountain Maid handicraft center, an out let for the cottage industries instituted by the mission. I walk with Wallace about his headquar ters, 20 acres atop a knoll near Kenscoff, a mountain village near Port au Prince. The plunging slopes on every side remind me of Switzerland, but with an important differ ence: Here most of the plots are brown with parched grasses or sepulchral white with lime stone barren of soil-the dreadful price of erosion after trees have disappeared. "We're literally making soil and reaching countless mountain people with the news of how to do it," says Wallace, introducing a subject close to his heart-terracing. "We started back in 1969 with a dry-wall contour terrace on that hillside. Then it was all gravelly and good for nothing." He points to a strawberry patch red with luscious fruit and shaded by recently planted trees. "We put up the walls with stone taken from the field itself. The compost we added con tributed an acidity that began to break down the limestone. Result: soil." An inventive man, Wallace experiments with a system for capturing methane gas from human sewage to burn as fuel. "With trees virtually gone, I see kids going hungry because there's no way to cook their food," he says. At times there is no food to cook along the Gosseline River, where I go to see earthen dikes and an irrigation canal built with labor paid entirely in food supplied by Church World Service. I borrow a jeep and driver for a hair raising four-hour journey overland from Port au Prince to Jacmel, some 50 miles by road (map, page 79). The difficulty is that the route gets con fused with a winding river and dives into it at frequent intervals. At one wrong turn dead easy with no road signs, much switch backing, and water as an ofttimes running surface-we are dangerously out of fording depth and pushing downstream at the pace of racing current. Like a boat! Stopped by rock, we grind ashore just in time to avert disaster.