Mountains Beyond Mountains

Jessica always gives me a hard time about not blogging. When went traveling four years ago, I was blogging just about as much as she was. Now it seems I just maintain the blog and let her post away. I’m not sure why this is, but here are some recent thoughts of mine.

I’ve recently been reading Haitian proverbs. Haitian culture is full of proverbs. As I continue to learn Creole I am finding that often times when you ask a question you don’t get a factual ‘American’ answer. What you get is a proverb. For example when we first arrived in Haiti a little over a year ago, while meeting with earthquake survivors who had fled Port au Prince and moved to Port-de-Paix we posed the question to our translator, “How do these people survive?” He replied, “For the donkeys that don’t have tails, God shoos away the flies.” In other words he was saying, I don’t know, it must be an act of God.

So when people ask me how things are going in Haiti with the work that we are doing I find it fitting that I too should answer with a proverb; Beyond the Mountains there are more Mountains(dèyè mòn gen mòn). This proverb is particularly insightful to me for after spending much of my adolescence backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with my Dad. The Sierra Nevada Mountains hold the highest point, Mt. Whitney, in the continental United States and are particularly striking when looked and hiked form the East side where 14,000 plus peaks loom over the desert floor. What you can’t see as you drive highway 395 through the desert with the Sierra Nevadas to the west is that the first set of peaks that you see are just the beginning of a 55 mile wide (East to west) 300 mile long mountain range. All the trails from the east side of the mountains are steep and dry. It is not uncommon to gain 4,000 vertical feet in less than 5 miles as you make your way into the back country. As you crest the first pass, be it Bishop Pass, New Ary Pass or dozens of others you are greeted by a vista of seemly endless mountains. These peaks signal to let you know that you are not at the end of your journey but merely getting started. More than once we have passed inexperienced hikers and backpackers that are completely exhausted frustrated and unprepared for the subsequent hiking after summiting the first pass. Dad and I always give them a bit of a hard time, something to the effect of, ”what did you expect?” If it was easy then the beauty, grander and solitude would be lost to the masses.

I feel like that disillusioned weary hiker. I knew Haiti would be hard, but I though that after we made it over that first pass that things would get easer. Instead we are met by more mountains. We are at the first summit, catching our breath, drinking some water and looking at the task ahead of us. The mountains are large and storms are looming in the distance.  But, thankfully, I am starting to make out the trail as it skirts the side of a mountain and works its way up to the top. That is not to say I know where it leads but only that I can make out a small line, a long ways off, and am going to continue hiking along.

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